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Publisher's Summary

Inside the epic quest to find life on the water-rich moons at the outer reaches of the solar system

Where is the best place to find life beyond Earth? We often look to Mars as the most promising site in our solar system, but recent scientific missions have revealed that some of the most habitable real estate may actually lie farther away. Beneath the frozen crusts of several of the small, ice-covered moons of Jupiter and Saturn lurk vast oceans that may have been in existence for as long as Earth, and together may contain more than 50 times its total volume of liquid water. Could there be organisms living in their depths? Alien Oceans reveals the science behind the thrilling quest to find out. 

Kevin Peter Hand is one of today's leading NASA scientists, and his pioneering research has taken him on expeditions around the world. In this captivating account of scientific discovery, he brings together insights from planetary science, biology, and the adventures of scientists like himself to explain how we know that oceans exist within moons of the outer solar system, like Europa, Titan, and Enceladus. He shows how the exploration of Earth's oceans is informing our understanding of the potential habitability of these icy moons, and draws lessons from what we have learned about the origins of life on our own planet to consider how life could arise on these distant worlds. 

Alien Oceans describes what lies ahead in our search for life in our solar system and beyond, setting the stage for the transformative discoveries that may await us.

©2020 Kevin Hand (P)2020 Princeton University Press

Critic Reviews

"Kevin Peter Hand has delivered a beautiful portrayal of the science behind our search for life in alien oceans, and the connection to our precious ocean here on Earth. A must-read for all who gaze at the stars above and ponder the abyss below." (James Cameron)

"Hand humanizes the science behind the search for life on icy worlds in our solar system and beyond." (Gordon Southam, University of Queensland)

"In this delightful book, Kevin Peter Hand takes readers from the depths of Earth's oceans to those of the outer solar system, describing encounters with magical, alien-like creatures at the bottom of the Atlantic and offering informed speculations about what life could be like in the subsurface oceans of faraway moons. Recounting the story of how we discovered these alien oceans, he gives us a peek at the lives and personalities of some of the scientists who pieced together all the clues. His explanations are full of engaging analogies that will help general readers understand the science needed to think rigorously about life as we know it - and as we do not yet know it." (Jill Tarter, SETI Institute)

What listeners say about Alien Oceans

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Well done, up to date, and a good science review!

Just finished this. I wasn't sure what to expect with a new book and few ratings but it turned out great. It is a beginners to mid level examination of the science we have today to explore oceans on Earth and other solar system bodies. It doesn't waste time getting too far into technology we don't currently understand or have but goes with what we already know and use. The explanation of some astronomical or physics or chemistry fact always raises additional questions that the author promptly goes on to examine without getting side tracked on a new topic. Examples would be 'How do we know there is (probably) and ocean below the ice on a Jovian moon without drilling a hole in it?" Answer: We use this machine and this scientific principle and here is a short review of how we know this and how it works (i.e. Rotational characteristics of shell vs. uniform composition ice moons and how to determine this with a space craft). No calculator or PhD required to understand. The science may be a bit much for some but the information is presented in such a manner as to make it understandable with a small dose of faith that some really smart people have been working on these subjects since before PC's and cell phones were around. The presentation was orderly and worked well. There was only a half sentence that got repeated (oops) but the sound quality was good throughout and was consistent. The reading was a presentation of facts for the student to learn from rather than an over dramatic recitation. It would be a great set of lectures to attend especially with added graphics and would be a superb episode for Nova or Nature TV programs or even NASA to present. There's even a great science fiction story opportunity hidden in the lectures (or below the ice). I also appreciate the no nonsense presentation of facts without excessive distraction from the topic with opinion or judgement of motives. Here is what we know. Here is how we know it. Here is where it could lead next. The author should consider another series of lectures that examine more deeply the aspects of robotic vs. piloted exploration of our solar system based on his experiences of examining our own oceans in depth. No pressure, just a thought. Good job with this one.

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So much better than papers, Great listen!

Love that this is an audiobook! I am a PhD student studying biogeochemistry and I have to read so many academic papers that use a lot of scientific jargon and are hard to read all the way through. I have always wished there were audio versions of papers, and this is not only an audio version of academic work it is also written in a way that is friendly to all audiences and is more like a story and I really appreciate that you put this out Dr. Hand! And I also appreciate that you went to the trouble of reading it yourself as well, sometimes the context is lost when a stranger reads your work, so Thank you!

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Exceptional.

Was referred this title from a Tyler Cowen reading list, had to leave a review. Enjoying thoroughly!

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A thorough look into the search for life

This book has a little bit of everything: scientific rhetoric, postulation, history, anecdotes, and above all weaves them together to make an intricate look into the always cutting-edge field of astrobiology, in this case relating to the study of oceans on faraway worlds & moons The only complaint I have, and it is very minor, is that the narrator is a little bland from time to time, or perhaps more accurately lapses into cliches of performance that detract from the quality of the performance (which is altogether quite forgivable given that he's also the author, and therefore a scientist by trade!) Altogether I still rate this book very highly, and I recommend it to anyone passionate about the search for life beyond Earth, the science behind our probing of distant ocean worlds, or who simply wants to take part in a short excursion into the next realm of space exploration

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Kudos to Alien Oceans

Venus is way too hot for any kind of life as we know it to exist there; plus, it has a lethally toxic atmosphere. Though similar to Earth in many ways, Mars lacks any atmosphere at all and seems to be devoid of significant indications that any form of life exists there as well, although there are enticing indications that subsurface water may be present on the red planet. From Mars on out through the asteroid belt past the gas giants of Jupiter and Saturn and the ice giants of Uranus and Neptune to the frigid, frozen worlds of the Kuiper belt, there is no way life could possibly exist on any of these worlds, right? Too cold. Too little sunlight. No life could come into being, evolve and flourish in such inhospitable conditions. So why bother even looking? Well, Kevin Hand has written an absolutely engrossing book detailing exactly how it may be possible for there to, in fact, be life on some of the worlds in the outer reaches of our solar system. Worlds very different from our own, of course, but which could potentially harbor the needed ingredients in just the right measure for life to exist. Ocean worlds. The author is himself a scientist deeply involved in the studies of the environments of these, to us, weird worlds. These worlds are some of the moons of the outer planets and they are believed to be covered with oceans which are, in turn, covered by ice sheets many kilometers thick. How life could possibly exist in such extreme conditions is the subject of this fascinating book. He goes into the reasons why this or that particular moon is regarded as a potential candidate for alien life and how we could do further exploration to be more definitive in a determination of the possibility of life on that particular world. Also, he goes into some of what is involved in the planning, creation, and execution of such amazingly complex and sophisticated explorations. The author reads the book himself, so his familiarity with and passion for the subject comes through in his presentation. He voice is pleasant to listen to. He reads at a relaxed pace but at a tempo that keeps the information coming in such a way that it's easy to understand and absorb. The format of the book is logical, well-thought-out, and with just enough science to get concepts across without shorting out the mental wiring for those of us who are less than scientifically gifted. Overall, it's one of the most professionally produced and enjoyable books that I've listened to - as well as one of the most mind-opening. Kudos to you, Kevin!

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Brilliant

Loved the tour guide search for life on Europa as I daydreamed on my garden bench.

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more like a text book

Overall this wasn't a bad book. It started out pretty good with but by the last half it felt like a high-school chemistry and bio text book. There also was so much speculation and not much conclusion (which I fully understand) but a good amount was so far fetched it could have been left out.

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Very well written

Author does a great job in explaining the complex science and guiding you thru these monumental discoveries. In the end, you feel excited about the future and desiring to read more about planetary science.

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Very Accessible

For a subject very heavy with science, this is very accessible without being too dumbed down. Pace and inflection of author/narrator is great. Highly recommend.

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Left me with a great deal to contemplate about life beyond Earth

Well done narration of a fascinating subject. He did a great job of making a very scientific topic understandable. I’ll anxiously wait for what more we can discover on those moons sometime in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later.

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  • G Rowlands
  • 07-26-20

Excellent book, fascinating subject

A wonderful book on the fascinating oceans on the moons of our solar system and beyond and their potential for life. The author is a passionate scientist and his enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. He also delivers the narration excellently. I hope he writes and narrates further books. I really enjoyed this.

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  • N J Weller
  • 04-22-20

Great listen.

I really enjoyed listening to this. Very interesting indeed. Hope the author writes more books.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-27-20

read this

if you are into space or just science in general you should read this.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-10-20

Excellent book, Great listening.

An excellent book by a scientist who appears to be working in this area at NASA. Very comprehensive and thoroughly enjoyable.