Lucas Ellerbroek

Planet Hunters

The search for extraterrestrial life

The fascinating story of the birth of a new field of study and the human struggles that have accompanied it.

Astronomers are on the verge of answering one of the most profound questions ever asked: are we alone in the universe? The ability to detect life in remote solar systems is at last within sight. Its discovery, even if only in microbial form, would revolutionize our self-image. Planet Hunters by Lucas Ellerbroek helps us to prepare for such a paradigm shift.

For centuries it has been impossible to tell whether or not our solar system is unique. Since 1995, however, astronomers have discovered more and more planets orbiting stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets. The latest results of NASA’s Kepler space telescope tell us that Earthlike planets are plentiful, and future giant telescopes, whether in space or on the ground, will be able to detect ‘biosignatures’ in their atmospheres, molecules that betray biological activity on their surfaces.

Ellerbroek describes the search for extraterrestrial life in its proper historical perspective, making this a book that will retain its value for years to come.

A European author, he takes an international approach that is sometimes lacking

in American books on the subject. He is part of a Continental tradition that includes early ideas about extraterrestrial life by Giordano Bruno, mathematical studies by Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens, and the very first discovery of an exoplanet by Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz.

As its title suggests, Planet Hunters is as much about the people behind the discoveries as it is about extraterrestrial life. Ellerbroek has travelled the world to talk to leading scientists in the field, including Principal Investigator for NASA’s Kepler mission Bill Borucki, astrobiologist Sara Seager and radio astronomer Jill Tarter, one of the pioneers of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Their passion and perseverance make for an exciting and compelling read.

Ellerbroek is a natural storyteller. A professional astronomer with broad educational experience, he takes readers on a fantastic voyage through space, time, history and the future. Planet Hunters is a delightful mixture of stories about smart-alec nerds, the search for extraterrestrial life and the history of an academic discipline.

Thousands of planets resembling Earth, hundreds of light years away, await discovery. The gripping adventure has reached a new stage, described colourfully in this book.

Gerard ’t Hooft, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics

Ellerbroek is a gifted author. In clear, short sentences he guides his readers through a complex subject. He is rare among professional astronomers in his ability to inhabit the world of the public at large.

De Volkskrant

Are we alone in the universe? In Planet Hunters, Lucas Ellerbroek traces the story of this question from its beginnings during the age of Copernicus and Galileo to the present day, teaching us the relevant science as he goes. Ellerbroek is particularly skilled at inserting the “astronomy backstory,” giving accessible introductions to both historical ideas and cutting-edge research, and showing how big questions are teased into empirical science.


Lucas Ellerbroek

Astronomer Lucas Ellerbroek (1984) studied Theoretical Physics and obtained a PhD in Astrophysics at the University of Amsterdam. He is well known in the Netherlands for his television appearances, TedX talks and for co-founding Nerd Nite Amsterdam. Currently, he works as a strategy consultant for…

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Planetenjagers. Op zoek naar buitenaards leven (2015). Non-fiction, 288 pages.
Words: 76,994
Copies sold: 5,000

Themes: planets astronomy



Herengracht 48
NL - 1015 BN Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 624 19 34

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