How to Find a Habitable Planet, by James Kasting, Distinguished Professor of Geosciences and Meteorology at Penn State

cover of the book How to Find a Habitable Planet

Can other planets harbor life? Do we have company out in the far-flung universe?

Earthlings since Aristotle have pondered these questions. Now, writes James Kasting, a planetary scientist at Penn State, "Astronomers are on the verge of being able to answer [them] observationally."

Over the last two decades, Kasting has been a world leader in developing the concept of the habitable zone, that window of distance from a parent star within which a planet can sustain liquid water. In this engaging book he discusses how Earth came to be habitable and why it has remained so throughout a sometimes tumultuous history. Then he lays out the ways in which today's scientists are looking for life in all the right places.

Like the late Carl Sagan, whose footsteps he has followed, Kasting is optimistic that extraterrestrial life exists. And like Sagan, he acknowledges a youthful debt to science fiction for firing his own ability to imagine.

James F. Kasting, Ph.D., is distinguished professor of geosciences and meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences; kasting@essc.psu.edu.

Last Updated March 01, 2011