A Very Short Introduction
Oxford University Press, 2022, 144 pp., Paperback. $11.95. www.global.oup.com
Not long ago, the solar system was the only example of a planetary system – a star and the bodies orbiting it – that we knew. Now we know thousands of planetary systems and have even been able to observe planetary systems at the moment of their birth. This book explores this new frontier, incorporating the latest research, and takes the reader on a journey through the grand sweep of time, from the moment galaxies begin to form after the Big Bang to trillions of years in the future when the universe will be a dilute soup of dim galaxies populated mostly by red dwarf stars. Throughout, the author introduces the latest insights gained from a new generation of telescopes that catch planetary systems at the moment of formation and the theoretical advances that attempt to make sense of these observations. He explains how the elements that make up life and the planets on which life can live are forged in the interiors of dying stars and make their way into rocky planets. He also explores the vast array of newly discovered planets orbiting stars other than our own and explains the factors that determine their climates. Finally, he reveals what determines how long planetary systems can live, and what happens in their end-times.