The Planet-Girded Suns: The Long History of Belief in Exoplanets

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Synopsis

Interest in extrasolar worlds is not new. From the late 17th century until the end of the 19th, almost all educated people believed that the stars are suns surrounded by inhabited planets--a belief that was expressed not in science fiction, but in serious speculation, both scientific and religious, as well as in poetry. Only during the first half of the 20th century was it thought that life-bearing exoplanets are rare.

This is not a science book--rather, it belongs to the category known as History of Ideas. First published by Atheneum in 1974, it tells the story of the rise, fall, and eventual renewal of widespread conviction that we are not alone in the universe. In this updated edition the chapters dealing with modern speculation have been revised to reflect the progress science has made during the past 40 years, including the actual detection of planets orbiting other stars. However, it is not intended to be more than a brief introduction to today's views; its focus is on little-known facts about those of the past.

More poetry from earlier centuries, source notes, and an extensive bibliography have been added in this 2012 edition. In addition it contains a new Afterword, "Confronting the Universe in the Twenty-First Century," discussing the relevance of past upheavals in human thought to an understanding of the hiatus in space exploration that has followed the Apollo moon landings.

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