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An Introduction to Astrobiology Paperback – 24 May 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (24 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521546214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521546218
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 2.1 x 26.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 602,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


'Finally, an undergraduate level textbook on astrobiology that provides the perfect entry for students interested in this burgeoning field. The profuse and well-chosen illustrations, charts and tables, the clearly written text, and the comprehensive and balanced coverage make An Introduction to Astrobiology a standout. After twenty five years of teaching an undergraduate course in astrobiology, I finally will be able to use a single book that is authoritative and yet will captivate the student readers. Beautifully written and produced, An Introduction to Astrobiology is certain to become the gold standard for introductory astrobiology textbooks.' Professor John Scalo, University of Texas, Austin

'The diverse interdisciplinary threads that make up the fascinating science of astrobiology are brought together in this outstanding introduction to the science. The study of the planets in our Solar System, including the Earth, and the discovery of planets orbiting distant stars has forced us to try and understand life in its cosmic context. This book provides a beautifully illustrated and clearly described reference for existing and new scientists in the field of astrobiology.' Dr Charles Cockell, British Antarctic Survey (Chair, Astrobiology Society of Britain)

'The authors of this book are to be congratulated on bringing scientific rigour to the concept of 'astrobiology' … The text is always clear, there are definitions in the margins; there are many questions and answers (indeed, some of the most interesting discussions are in the 'answers' at the back); and all mathematics is confined to separate boxes or exercises. There are plenty of clear and colourful diagrams, and excellent images with preference for the most illuminating rather than the most familiar ones.' Journal of the British Astronomical Association

Book Description

Designed for elementary university courses in astrobiology, this textbook starts by looking at the origin of life on Earth before reviewing the evidence for possible life on Mars, Europa and Titan. The potential for life in exoplanetary systems and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence are also discussed.

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Shortly after the formation of the Earth some 4.6 Ga ago, our planet was a lifeless and inhospitable place. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 1 May 2011
Format: Paperback
It is very hard to complain about the OU books on any science subject. This book is part of their course on planetary science. It builds on previous course books and prepares the student for the next level. Having said that it can be read on its own as a one off and the reader will benefit enourmously from its clear and easily read content. It you ever wondered about astrobiology then this is a good place to start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Claudio on 31 May 2010
Format: Paperback
Excellent textbook for self-study, it does not require a deep biology knowledge.
Though it has been published before the most recent planetary missions (i.e. Cassini and Phoenix Mars Lander), it provides a wide background for interpreting their results.
A useful text to understand astrobiology, both in the solar system and in the exoplanets research field.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stuart on 1 Jun 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought used - very good condition.

Not the latest edition but all the fundamentals are there to bring you into a fascinating world which ties in neatly with interests in cosmology, epistemology, philosophy of science and metaphysics - if you so wish, at least!

Good stuff, and handy cross reference to lead you into further study.
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Format: Paperback
Good Undergrad book for Astrophysics
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
More astro than biology 22 Oct 2004
By Jill Malter - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent textbook, with straightforward problems ... and answers! There's plenty of solid material here and very little fluff. The information is well presented, up-to-date, and easy to read.

Three of the nine chapters are about the potential for life elsewhere in our planetary system, in particular on Mars, Europa, and Titan. Another three chapters are on extrasolar planets: how to find them, what we've discovered so far about them, and what signatures of life we might try to look for on them in the future. There's also a chapter on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). That leaves two chapters for the definition and origin of life, the Earth's acquisition of the necessary water and carbon, and so on. I'd prefer to see quite a bit more on biology here. I'd like to see much more discussion of the development of multicellular life, the changes in the Earth's environment caused by the production of oxygen, and the evolution of humans.

That said, I really liked the chapter on the origin of life. It was illuminating to read about the origin of chirality, written by a specialist in organic matter in meteorites. And I also especially liked the chapters on exoplanets.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Introduction into Astrobiology 15 Jan 2010
By Jim - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Twenty-five years ago the study of astrobiology was quite "fringe". Much has occurred since then, as technology has continually improved and we have taken further, somewhat less tentative steps off this planet. We now have claims of life in a Martian meteorite (not yet accepted), the discovery of over 400 exoplanets to-date (and counting), and interesting possibilities for possible life that may yet be found on Mars (under the surface), Europa (in a putative ocean) and possibly on Titan (assuming life could adapt to the extreme cold there).

This book by Gilmour and Sephton presents the study of Astrobiology in a very straightforward and concise way, offering the reader an introductory look into this burdgeoning area of study. In particular, the textbook includes (a) early chapters on the origin of life and on habitability (ie., in "water" zones about planets and otherwise based on other mechanisms about planetary satellites), and (b) a great overview of Earth's extremeophiles. The textbook includes expanded chapters on Mars, Europa and Titan, where the authors go into greater detail on the possibilities for life on these bodies. The book concludes with chapters devoted to the potentiality of life on exoplanets, including yet-to-be-discovered exo-Earths.

I read the Gilmour text alongside three other books on this subject - (a) "The Living Cosmos" by Chris Impey, (b) "Astrobiology: A Multidisciplinary Approach" by Jonathan Lunine, and (c) "Looking for Life: Searching the Solar System" by Clancy et. al. The Gilmour and Lunine books would - in my view - be properly classed as true "textbooks" on this subject, while the Impey and Clancy books are presented as more general reading. The Gilmour text is the best introductory textbook to the subject of astrobiology that I have found, and assumes the reader is just starting into the area with limited knowledge. For even greater detail (in a textbook), one can then move on (after Gilmour) to the Lunine text which gives far greater detail, although you will hate all the typos in it.

The two other books cited are great expositions of the area in and of themselves, but are presented in a less formal way. Both have been prepared by persons directly involved in the area and both are extremely well-written and a joy to read. These latter books are packed with up-to-date information and indeed go deeper than the Gilmour text does. As such, the latter two references are most easily read for general interest, enjoyment and overview, while the Gilmour text is best used as a clear and concise "textbook" source that organizes all the materials in an introductory and very cogent way.

I am sure there are many other texts and sources on their way vis a vis this area, but if you are just starting out, the Gilmour textbook is a good introductory textbook, while the Impey and Clancy books are great reads for people interested in a less formalistic presentation. All four books will give you a good "introductory library" into the field of astrobiology. Enjoy.
By Rich - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What I liked most about this book, and one of the reasons I gave it five stars, is that the author wrote/designed it in such a way as to be a self-teaching book as well as a text for students in astrobiology. I am not a student and this is a valuable approach for folks like me. Answers to all of the non-mathematical and mathematical questions/problems can be found on the back pages. The worked examples provided excellent guidance as well. Further, the content would be of interest to students of astronomy, geology, chemistry, planetary sciences, and biology or anyone interested in the subject of astrobiology.

The readers who would get the most from this text are likely those that have one basic college course in each of: astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, plus at least college algebra with trig-a highly motivated technically oriented individual could also do well. The material is not mathematically intensive, but provides a good balance with non-math material.

The academic content/material is superb (see contents for details). Many of the fundamental concepts comprising the field of astrobiology are covered. Much use is made of graphs, charts, tables, mathematical analysis, and really spectacular photos. I love the way these pros can examine a photo of a planetary body or moon and read the surface like a story book telling the past and present conditions that created the features observed. It is worth the read.

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