Exoplanets by Karen Latchana Kenney

Exoplanets: Worlds Beyond Our Solar System by Karen Latchana Kenney. March 1, 2017. Twenty First Century Books, 88 p. ISBN: 9781512400861.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

As of March 2016, planetary scientists have discovered almost 2,000 exoplanets – planets that orbit stars other than the Sun. Readers will learn about high-powered orbiting telescopes such as NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope; observatories such as the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland; and upcoming missions such as the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, all of which aid scientists in their work to discover more solar systems and exoplanets. Profiles of and quotes from top planet hunters include those of Debra Fischer, Gordon Walker, and Geoffrey Marcy, among others.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 8-11. As space exploration technology steadily advances, astronomers are discovering vast new reaches of space, and this slim, accessibly written volume sheds some light on a particularly thrilling area of research: planets far outside our solar system. After a tidy history of our ever-expanding understanding of the universe, Kenney clearly explains the many ways exoplanets are detected and some of the limitations of current tools and methods. The real star of the show, though, is the mind-­boggling number of exoplanet discoveries—more than 3,000 confirmed—and the wild variety of planets scientists have found, such an exoplanet with so little density it could float in water. The implications of these discoveries, such as habitable planets and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, will likely dazzle the imaginations of space-mad students, and a closing chapter on the future of exoplanet research, including citizen science projects accessible to anyone with a home computer, puts the science easily in reach of enterprising teens. Though the text is occasionally dry, illustrations, photos, diagrams, and the fascinating content add plenty of verve.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
An enticing overview of tools, techniques, and discoveries in what the author rightly characterizes “a red-hot field in astronomy.”Alas; it is perhaps too red-hot. Not only is Kenney’s count of accepted and potential exoplanets (as of May 2016) well out of date already, but her claim that “Wolf-1061” (sic: that’s actually the name of the star and its system) is the nearest Earthlike planet in the habitable “Goldilocks Zone” has been trumped by the recent discovery of a closer candidate orbiting Proxima Centauri. Still, along with describing in nontechnical terms each tool in the researcher’s kit—from space- and ground-based telescopes of various types to instruments that detect subtle stellar wobbles, spectrum changes, microlensing, and other telling signs—the author fills in the historical background of exoplanet research and profiles some of its weirder findings. She also casts side glances at extremophile life on Earth and other, at least tangentially related, topics. The small format gives the assortment of photos, artists’ renditions, diagrams, and generic star fields a cramped look, but readers curious about how researchers could possibly detect such dinky, distant objects as planets belonging to other star systems will come away satisfied and intrigued. A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010). (index, source notes, bibliography, websites) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

My favorite book as a child was an educational book titled I Want to Be a Reporter. It was about the job of a reporter and described the skills needed to tell stories in writing. I asked my mom to read it to me every night. It was fascinating to me! Since discovering that book, I have loved the idea of writing for a living.

As a K-12 educational writer and editor, I get to work on books and teaching materials that inform and inspire students. I have written about everything from the underwater home of a spider to the history of hip-hop music and WWI history. While I love researching and writing about all kinds of subjects, my experience so far has been mostly in science, social studies, biographies, music, and arts and crafts topics.

Her website is latchanakenney.wordpress.com.

Teacher Resources

Exoplanets Lesson Plans from NOVA

Around the Web

Exoplanets on Amazon

Exoplanets on Goodreads

Exoplanets on JLG

Exoplanets Publisher Page

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