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New Findings from NASA

By Mary Simon

A new report from NASA on the number of possibly habitable planets in the Milky Way puts the total at more than double the estimate of seven years ago. Supposing that even 7% of our galaxy's four billion sun-like stars have an Earth-size object orbiting in their “Goldilocks” zone—neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water—up to 300 million planets could potentially host life.

“We want to be very conservative in case nature has any surprises regarding habitability,” said one of the authors of the report, which was based on almost a decade’s worth of data collected by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. “So we are low-balling the estimates intentionally.”

If you're like me, this sends chills up my spine and literally blows my mind. So let's see what materials we have to help us understand what this all means.

  • The Universe: A Travel Guide

    2019 by Berry, Oliver

    This is such a unique guide to the "heavens." The follow up to Lonely Planet's bestselling The World was developed with NASA and is the world’s first and only guide to the universe. It explores the planets within our solar system, revealing their surface features, atmosphere, moons, and more, before covering stars, exoplanets, and galaxies light years away. Packed with essential information and awe-inspiring facts and stats, this is the only guide you’ll need for your tour of the universe.

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  • The Milky Way and Other Galaxies

    2020 by Labrecque, Ellen

    This book will help the kids in your household better understand our galaxy through the use of great illustrations and text they can understand. Kid-friendly examples help them understand the awe-inspiring concepts of space, feeding their natural wonder and curiosity about space science, while using a strong, clear connection to life in the outer reaches of the universe.

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  • Stars, Galaxies, and the Milky Way

    2016 by Gifford, Clive

    Oh my! What a delightful way to observe the universe! This volume is a bit dated but is entertaining and educational enough that I wanted to include it. The intended audience is kids ages 8-11 (grades 4-6). While the focus of the book is stars (including our own giant star--the sun), there is also data and information about how we fit into the Milky Way Galaxy. Kids will be intrigued, curious, and ready to set up the backyard telescope.

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  • Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut's Story

    2019 by Collins, Michael

    Another book intended for a younger audience, but if you are interested in space travel, this book is for you. Space traveler Michael Collins recalls his early days as an Air Force test pilot, his astronaut training at NASA, and his unparalleled experiences in orbit, including the first manned lunar landing. You may have read the earlier account by Collins (published in 1974). This is the "fully revised and updated edition" for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

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  • Breakthroughs in Space Travel

    2019 by Mara, Wil

    Intended for kids in grades 4-6, this book keeps readers up to speed on some of the newest developments in space travel, providing young adventurers with hope that space travel will continue. Mara believes that the next major space conquest will be Mars and discusses what is necessary for us to realize that dream.

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  • The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny beyond Earth

    2018 by Kaku, Michio

    This incredible book is Intended for adults, but is certainly In tune with Mara's predictions. Kaku advises that travel to Mars is fast approaching and provides insights on adjusting our thinking for that auspicious moment. A well-respected physicist and futurist, Kaku is a credible, reliable guide for us to turn to with our questions and concerns.

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  • StarTalk

    2016 by Tyson, Neil deGrasse

    This is perhaps my favorite book on the subject of the universe and its complexity. Tyson makes intricate, complicated subjects and concepts easy to understand. Excellent illustrations, illuminating sidebars, and lively dialog make this a perfect companion for your space travels. Tyson’s popular podcast and National Geographic Channel TV show are perfect accompaniments, and this book is excellent as a stand-alone volume.

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  • StarTalk: With Neil DeGrasse Tyson : Everything You Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond

    2017 by Tyson, Neil deGrasse

    This is the Young Readers edition of the previous book. It is intended for ages 12-17, so there is modification in the treatment of some of his subject matter and topics. And again, this companion volume to Tyson's podcasts features interesting photos, smart scientific facts, and witty commentary.

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