by Dr. Ray Jayawardhana

Princeton University Press, $15.95, 254 pages

As Ray Jayawardhana, professor and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics at the University of Toronto writes in his new book Strange New Worlds, gatherings of astronomers rarely make front page news. But in 2006 such a meeting did garner worldwide attention when a revision of the definition of the word “planet” took Pluto off the list of well-known celestial bodies and officially made it a dwarf planet. This is just one example of the recent advances profiled by Dr. Jayawardhana in his fascinating book. Readers are brought up to date on the search for extrasolar planets and the role technology plays in allowing scientists to make such discoveries. Twenty years ago, we only knew of one solar system – ours. Now there are hundreds of solar systems and nearly 500 planets being studied. During this age of exploration, two of the major goals of scientists are to find an Earth-like planet with conditions hospitable for life and to discover life on other worlds. The author’s writing style is reader-friendly and makes science approachable. This book’s glossary explains unfamiliar terms. Dr. Jayawardhana provides the latest findings including his own research. Surely we’ll be hearing more newsworthy scientific developments in the near future.

Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin