- 115,00 kr
As a new wave of interplanetary exploration unfolds, a talented young planetary scientist charts our centuries-old obsession with Mars.
'Beautifully written, emotive - a love letter to a planet' DERMOT O'LEARY, BBC Radio 2
Mars - bewilderingly empty, coated in red dust - is an unlikely place to pin our hopes of finding life elsewhere. And yet, right now multiple spacecraft are circling, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium and Mare Sirenum - on the brink, perhaps, of a discovery that would inspire humankind as much as any in our history.
With poetic precision and grace, Sarah Stewart Johnson traces the evocative history of our explorations of Mars. She interlaces her personal journey as a scientist with tales of other seekers - from Galileo to William Herschel to Carl Sagan - who have scoured this enigmatic planet for signs of life and transformed it in our understanding from a distant point of light into a complex world. Ultimately, she shows how its story is also a story about Earth: it is a foil, a mirror, a tell-tale reflection of our own anxieties and yearnings to find - if we're lucky - that we're not alone.
'Elegantly written and boundlessly entertaining' Sunday Telegraph
'Beguiling' The Times
'Johnson's prose swirls with lyrical wonder, as varied and multi-hued as the apricot deserts, butterscotch skies and blue sunsets of Mars' Anthony Doerr, New York Times Book Review
'Elegantly crafted' Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal
Planetary scientist Johnson delivers an enthusiastic and lyrical chronicle of the scientific quest to uncover Mars's secrets. From Mars's prominent place in the night sky, to the water-filled "canali" 19th-century Milanese astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli and 20th-century Mars enthusiast Percival Lowell imagined they perceived on its surface, the red planet has long provoked imagination and speculation. "Before it rusted over, Mars was much more like Earth," Johnson writes by way of explaining why modern scientists, including herself, have searched for life on an apparently barren planet. Evincing a gift for vivid imagery, she shares memories from her own work, including of how computer software transforms images of the Martian surface into detail-packed, "psychedelic swathes of colors." She also provides a general timeline of the four Mars rover missions, detailing the goals and findings of each one, always focusing on the discoveries' implications for the search for alien life, as when a rover discovered traces of the elements required for life: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Johnson's skillful narrative will engage serious students of planetary science as well as armchair adventurers curious about "a wilderness stretching off into the horizon, vast and full of possibility."