Envisioning Exoplanets: Searching for Life in the Galaxy by Michael Carroll, Foreword by Elisa Quintana; Smithsonian Institution Press; 224 pages; November 13, 2020; Hardcover; $24.60.

This multi-talented author has produced a stunning look at distant worlds beyond our solar system. This book is well-written and is a visual feast that uses more than 200 illustrations from Carroll and other members of the International Association of Astronomical Artists.

There are more than 4,000 confirmed exoplanets and this volume spotlights the string of “way out there” discoveries and the prospect that some of those faraway worlds are abodes for extraterrestrial life.

Structured using five robust sections, the reader is taken through early thoughts about exoplanets and the first findings to exotic exoplanets around stranger stars and looking for islands of life.

“Do the exoplanets teach us lessons to help us understand and care for our home world…is there life among the exoplanets, primitive or intelligent? It’s time to embark on a search for life in the galaxy,” Carroll writes in the book’s introduction.

The book’s foreword is written by Elisa Quintana, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and deputy project scientist for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). “As we learn more about stars and planets, new scientific fields evolve and grow that help us understand what these worlds might look like,” she writes.

This captivating, coffee-table-style book is absorbing and is chock-full of sidebar features that propel the book to an exceptional echelon contrasted to other books on this topic. If you don’t have a coffee-table, get one to showcase this volume to friends and family!

The text is written in a wonderful style, drawing upon Carroll’s own wit and open-ended speculative mind, such as how hard is it to make life?; the search for biosignatures; and life in the extreme.

“Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn in our search for Earth 2.0 is that our planet is a very special place in a critical location with a balance of many factors,” Carroll concludes.

Readers will find this book adventuresome, exploratory, and fact-filled – all wrapped in full-color images that include striking renderings of scientifically accurate exoplanets.

For more information about Envisioning Exoplanets: Searching for Life in the Galaxy, go to: https://www.smithsonianbooks.com/store/recent-releases/envisioning-exoplanets-searching-life-galaxy/

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