The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World

A young planetary scientist intimately details the search for life on Mars, tracing our centuries-old obsession with this seemingly desolate planet.

Mars was once similar to Earth, but today there are no rivers, no lakes, no oceans. Coated in red dust, the terrain is bewilderingly empty. And yet multiple spacecraft are circling Mars, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium, and Mare Sirenum—on the brink, perhaps, of a staggering find, one that would inspire humankind as much as any discovery in the history of modern science.

In this beautifully observed, deeply personal book, Georgetown scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson tells the story of how she and other researchers have scoured Mars for signs of life, transforming the planet from a distant point of light into a world of its own.

Johnson’s fascination with Mars began as a child in Kentucky, turning over rocks with her father and looking at planets in the night sky. She now conducts fieldwork in some of Earth’s most hostile environments, such as the Dry Valleys of Antarctica and the salt flats of Western Australia, developing methods for detecting life on other worlds. Here, with poetic precision, she interlaces her own personal journey—as a female scientist and a mother—with tales of other seekers, from Percival Lowell, who was convinced that a utopian society existed on Mars, to Audouin Dollfus, who tried to carry out astronomical observations from a stratospheric balloon. In the process, she shows how the story of Mars is also a story about Earth: This other world has been our mirror, our foil, a telltale reflection of our own anxieties and yearnings.

Empathetic and evocative, The Sirens of Mars offers an unlikely natural history of a place where no human has ever set foot, while providing a vivid portrait of our quest to defy our isolation in the cosmos.

Title:The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World
ISBN:9780241216002
Format Type:

    The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World Reviews

  • Andreas

    When one thinks of life on Mars, those little green aliens tend to come up in the imagination. Loads of Science Fiction authors have written about it, be it Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles ...

  • Jaksen

    I won this book from Goodreads Giveaway program. Thank you soooo much!A wonderful, not-too-long book about Mars! And life on other planets! And life on Earth! And where it all comes from/came from, pl...

  • Kelly

    he book explores the history of science as it relates to our understanding of our closest planetary neighbor, Mars. It’s chronological, from about the 1950s until now, but it goes much further back ...

  • Margaret

    I should start by saying there should be many more books like this--books by actual scientists recounting how especially complex collaborations, like spacecraft missions, work, written in their own wo...

  • Chris

    This book provides an excellent survey of the scientific exploration of Mars, set against the author's engaging personal story of interest and professional work in that exploration. What I found parti...

  • Mark

    Superb. There are books that indulge fully in the epic grandeur of exploration and this is one. Anyone immune to the wonder and dynamism and allure of science after reading this, frankly has no imagin...

  • Sophie Brown

    Throughout July, GeekMom is preparing for the planned launch of the Perseverance rover on July 20th with Mars Month, a month filled with Mars-themed content. Be sure to follow the Mars Month tag to fi...

  • Kristan

    In honor of today’s launch of the Perseverance Mars rover, I bring you “The Sirens of Mars: Searching For Life on Another World” by Sarah Stewart Johnson (thanks to Crown Publishing for the #gif...

  • Lynne

    Nicely flowing history of the development of ideas about Mars. I was most interested about the recent advances but the approach using the observations and discoveries of people like Schiaparelli provi...

  • Stephanie

    I grabbed this on a lark and I’m so glad I did. It was a beautiful, accessible overview of the search for life on Mars. It’s absolutely worth your time to read. ...