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The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know Lecture

The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know

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Publisher's Summary

As recently as 1990, it seemed plausible that the solar system was a unique phenomenon in our galaxy. Thanks to advances in technology and clever new uses of existing data, now we know that planetary systems and possibly even a new Earth can be found throughout galaxies near and far.

We are living during a new golden age of planetary discovery, with the prospect of finding many worlds like Earth. Most of the thousands of planets we've detected can't be imaged directly, but researchers are able to use subtle clues obtained in ingenious ways to assemble an astonishing picture of planetary systems far different from our own. We are in the midst of an astronomical revolution, comparable to the Copernican revolution that established our current view of the solar system - and we invite you to take part.

Embark on this unrivaled adventure in 24 lectures by a veteran planet hunter. Designed for everyone from armchair explorers to serious skywatchers, The Search for Exoplanets follows the numerous twists and turns in the hunt for exoplanets - the false starts, the sudden breakthroughs, and the extraordinary discoveries. Explore systems containing super-Earths, mini-Neptunes, lava worlds, and even stranger worlds. You also get behind-the-scenes information on the techniques astronomers used to find evidence of planets at mind-boggling distances from our home base. Learn how astronomers determine how many planets are in a system as well as how large they are and the characteristics of their atmospheres. You will feel like Dr. Watson in the presence of Sherlock Holmes as Professor Winn extracts a wealth of information from a spectrum, a light graph, a diffraction pattern, and other subtle clues.

©2015 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2015 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 01-08-16
    Mark Raglan, New Zealand 01-08-16 Member Since 2015

    I love listening to books when cycling, paddleboarding, etc but I press pause when I need to concentrate. Its safer & I don't lose the plot!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun across the universe"

    This lecture series is interesting and fun. As a non-astronomer, with close to zero knowledge about stars and planets beyond our own solar system, I was curious to find out what could possibly be known about unimaginably distant planets, when the only data we have to inform us are tiny dots of light in the night sky. And those tiny dots of light aren’t even planets, they are stars, so how the heck can we know if these stars even have planets orbiting them, when these can't be seen by the most powerful telescopes.

    But, quite a lot is known, or rather, has been deduced, by a bunch of extremely clever space geeks who have analysed the light emanating from distant stars and noticed that this light changes ever-so-slightly whenever a planet crosses in front of a star. This event, called a ‘transit’, is relatively rare, because the planet has to be positioned exactly between us and the star for this to occur. So it is roughly as rare as an eclipse would be in our solar system. But, fortunately for us, there are billions of stars out there - and so even a relatively rare event will occur enough times to supply the astronomers with lots of information about the size, orbit periods (‘years’) and composition of these planets.

    So there’s lots of good stuff in this lecture series, narrated in an excellent and interesting style, and, unlike other lecture series I’ve listened to, this one is right up to date - recorded in 2015.

    I learnt that the majority of solar systems in the universe have two or more suns orbiting around each other, rather than just the one as in our solar system. How come we can’t see these twin or triplet stars? Because, from a great distance they appear as just one blob of light.

    And I also learnt that stars are classified by their luminosity according to this sequence of letters: o,b,f,g,k,m,l,t and y, in descending order of brightness where 'o' is the brightest and 'y' is the faintest (our sun is a 'g' star). This sequence is easily committed to memory using the mnemonic 'Old Bald Fat Guys Kiss More Ladies Than You'. This proves two things: Firstly, that space geeks have a sense of humour, and secondly, that the first sentence of my review is true.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DullingWine CT, USA 10-24-15
    DullingWine CT, USA 10-24-15 Member Since 2013
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    "awe-inspiring!"

    Great course, literally and metaphorically. Enjoyed listening to this immensely. A very detailed survey of the field of exoplanets but I never felt lost. In fact some of the more general physics concepts here where more clearly explained than any other course I've listened to. Hugely accessible.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Daryle C. Taylor Orlando, FL 12-04-15
    Daryle C. Taylor Orlando, FL 12-04-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Wonderful and exciting"

    If you have an interest in science and astronomy, this is the course for you. Some of the math went over my head but it didn't take away from the enjoyment and I definitely feel better informed on the subject now. I wish I could take a test and see how much I retained but it was a wonderful introduction to this relatively new area of science.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason 12-04-15
    Jason 12-04-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Just complex enough."

    This is a great book. Don't be intimidated by the math. The formulas are given but only for the sake of a complete explanation. The ideas are clear even with my rather limited understanding of mathematics. Very up to date and interesting.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trevor 07-17-16
    Trevor 07-17-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Fascinating!"

    If you 1) love looking at the night sky, 2) love wondering what or who is out there, and 3) take interest in technical details at least of middle-level sophistication (for example, there are five different methods of planet-hunting, each treated in detail and involving their own brief physics lessons), I would recommend this listen for sure! The professor is very well-spoken and genial. And the subject matter is treated with an eye to the future — no arrogance at all in assuming that what's known today is anything close to what we'll know some day. It's the past, present and future of the exoplanet search. One note: if you are interested especially in the search for intelligent life, you may be left wanting more. The bulk of the course is the nuts and bolts of exoplanetary science, and it so happens that many planets found are not thought to be life candidates. But all the background knowledge will help you appreciate why it's so challenging to find life candidates. Our technological challenges so far have actually seemed biased against detecting such planets. I think it's a fascinating story, well-told.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rj 07-08-16
    Rj 07-08-16 Member Since 2016
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    "wow"

    full of detail that was very educational and I am planning on listening to it again

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Beaverton, OR 03-22-16
    Amazon Customer Beaverton, OR 03-22-16 Member Since 2016
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    "It's not just an Awful Lot of Space"
    Any additional comments?

    When the astronomer and science popularist Carl Sagan wrote, “The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space,” it was still unknown whether any planets even existed outside of our solar system. With brilliant, yet child-like fascination, Professor Joshua Winn's 24 lecture series on The Search for Exoplanets, explores the tools and the techniques which have led to the discovery that most of the stars you see have distance worlds orbiting them. Learn about systems containing super-Earths, mini-Neptunes, hot Jupiters, lava worlds, worlds orbiting binary stars and how techniques such as the doppler method, the transit method, the radial velocity method and direct imaging have different strengths and weaknesses that make them suited to discovering different types of worlds.Only 12 hours long, this lecture series is very entertaining for anyone who wonders about the universe above.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ingrid Boatright 11-17-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Outstanding"

    I've listened to quite a few lecture series now and this is the best yet. At a similar time in its development, Joshua Winn does for astronomy and exoplanets what Richard Dawkins did for evolutionary biology and genetics in the 1980s and 1990s. In addition to down to earth concept presentation, his delivery and narration style are as good as most accomplished actors. Looking forward to more lectures from Dr Winn.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 09-09-16 Member Since 2011
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    "WOW! Lives up to the name "Great Courses""

    I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook. Professor Winn's enthusiasm for this exciting field is infectious. So much of modern science is inaccessible to all but a learned few. The study of exoplanets is remarkably fresh, with discoveries coming on a regular pace, and this course brings that all together in an easily understood package.

    I've got an undergrad degree in physics. My son is just starting community college and hope to study astronomy some day. This course engaged us both at our own levels. He didn't dumb down the explanations our shy away from challenging topics, which kept my interest peaked, but he didn't burden it with too much math our other technical details that would obscure the topics for my son. This course reaffirmed his decision to pursue astronomy, and his desire to be an exoplanet hunter himself someday.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristoffer Stockholm, Sweden 09-07-16
    Kristoffer Stockholm, Sweden 09-07-16 Member Since 2010
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    "Enthusiastic and well-structured"

    A great introduction to the quest for knowledge about exoplanets, explaining all the different methods in use and detailing different exciting findings with an enthusiasm that is contagious.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Diwotti
    UK
    5/10/16
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    Performance
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    "A wonderful listen. Highly recommended!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Search for Exoplanets: What Astronomers Know to be better than the print version?

    I'm just an ordinary chap with an interest in many subjects including astronomy. I found this audible book very informative and even very exciting in places. Professor Winn explains everything with clarity and enthusiasm. I will, in the near future, revisit this audible book and listen to it again. Highly recommended!


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    Cupar, Scotland
    1/2/16
    Overall
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    "Outstanding and up to date (2015) overview"
    Any additional comments?

    I find exoplanets fascinating and it is changing so fast that it's great to hear the latest as well as getting all the history.

    One thing that doesn't quite work is having the formulas laboriously spelt out in the audio version. Didn't really need them.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Michael McDaid
    12/5/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Coming to a planet near you"

    This was a well structured romp through the very topical and exciting field of extra solar planetary science by a research scientist working in the field. As such it was highly informative, detailed and broad ranging, covering the historical background and recent (at the time of presentation) developments in this fast changing area. Pretty much everything you need to know to follow current and future discoveries is here.

    The course does not require extensive prior knowledge or higher mathematics, but neither does it try to oversimplify...it attains a kind of intellectual Goldilocks level of comfort! The performance as also excellent making this a real gem of a course for those interested in the subject matter. Strongly recommended!

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Rufus
    5/25/16
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    "Wonderful!"

    I'd recommend this series of lectures to anyone with an interest in the search for planets other than our own. I particularly liked the relaxed pace but rich content which really seemed to hit the sweet spot, for me at least, of information and assimilation time. My own interests in this stem from an interest in Exobiology and the search for exoplanets is, of course, intrinsically linked. Highly recommended; could fault it at all.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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