Several UC Santa Cruz astronomers feature prominently in a new book about the search for habitable planets beyond our solar system. Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars (Current/Penguin Group), by science journalist Lee Billings, delves into the "exoplanet boom" of the past two decades, when astronomers have discovered thousands of planets orbiting other stars.

Greg Laughlin, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, is a key figure in the book, as is Frank Drake, professor emeritus and former dean of natural sciences at UCSC. Drake was a pioneer in the "search for extraterrestrial intelligence" (SETI), and the first two chapters of the book focus on his work. Laughlin, a leading analyst of exoplanet data, inspired Billings to start working on the book in 2007. Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics and a well-known planet hunter, is also featured.