Virtual Event: Philip Plait


Under Alien Skies:
A Sightseer's Guide to the Universe

in conversation with DR. JESSIE CHRISTIANSEN


April 19, 2023
6:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome author and astronomer PHILIP PLAIT for a discussion of his new book Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer's Guide to the Universe. He will be joined in conversation by DR. JESSIE CHRISTIANSEN— astrophysicist and Deputy Science Lead at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute.

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About Under Alien Skies

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the universe? How would Saturn’s rings look from a spaceship sailing just above them? If you were falling into a black hole, what’s the last thing you’d see before getting spaghettified? While traveling in person to most of these amazing worlds may not be possible―yet―the would-be space traveler need not despair: you can still take the scenic route through the galaxy with renowned astronomer and science communicator Philip Plait.

On this lively, immersive adventure through the cosmos, Plait draws ingeniously on both the latest scientific research and his prodigious imagination to transport you to ten of the most spectacular sights outer space has to offer. In vivid, inventive scenes informed by rigorous science―injected with a dose of Plait’s trademark humor―Under Alien Skies places you on the surface of alien worlds, from our own familiar Moon to the far reaches of our solar system and beyond. Try launching yourself onto a two-hundred-meter asteroid, or stargazing from the rim of an ancient volcano on a planet where, from the place you stand, it is eternally late afternoon. Experience the sudden onset of lunar nightfall, the disorientation of walking―or, rather, shuffling―when you weigh almost nothing, the irritation of jagged regolith dust. Glimpse the frigid mountains and plains of Pluto and the cake-like exterior of a comet called 67P. On a planet trillions of miles from Earth, glance down to see the strange, beautiful shadows cast by a hundred thousand stars.

For the aspiring extraterrestrial citizen, casual space tourist, or curious armchair traveler, Plait is an illuminating, always-entertaining guide to the most otherworldly views in our universe.

Praise for Under Alien Skies

"A rollicking, wondrous, and awe-inspiring introduction to the universe. Philip Plait’s writing transports us to other worlds and in the process helps us to appreciate our own world." —John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and The Anthropocene Reviewed

"Reading Under Alien Skies is the next-best thing to traveling through space and time. Philip Plait is a funny, warm, and welcoming guide to the most marvelous places in the universe . . . You’ll experience what it would be like to actually be there, while learning some of the most mind-expanding science humans have ever figured out. When you look up at the night sky, you’ll think of this book and smile." —Laura Helmuth, editor-in-chief of Scientific American

"Philip Plait takes us to nearby worlds and star systems far, far away, where we do plenty of exploration, a bit of astronomical science, and a lot of marveling. But it’s the descriptions of your spaceships and suits that will keep you strapped in and reading on. His flights of science fiction fantasy are scientific and absolutely spectacular. Enjoy the rides." —Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society

"As charming and personal as it is detailed and accurate, Under Alien Skies is a wonderful guide to what we know about the universe and how we know it." —Zach Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and New York Times best-selling co-author of Soonish

Dr. Jessie Christiansen
Dr. Jessie Christiansen

Dr. Jessie Christiansen

Dr. Jessie Christiansen is an astrophysicist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech, where she searches for, characterises and catalogues planets orbiting other stars. She is the lead scientist on the NASA Exoplanet Archive, and has worked on the NASA Kepler, K2, and now TESS missions to characterize populations of exoplanets, and to find and study the nearest planetary systems to Earth – systems that will be perfect for further study with the next generation of ground- and space-based telescopes. Her goal is to find Earth 2.0 with the next generation of NASA flagship missions.

Phil Plait
Phil Plait

Phil Plait

Philip Plait is an astronomer, sci-fi dork, TV documentary talking head, and all-around science enthusiast. The author of Bad Astronomy and Death from the Skies!, Plait writes the Bad Astronomy newsletter and lives in Colorado.

Photo credit: Marcella Setter


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Harvard Science Book Talks

The Harvard Science Book Talks series is a collaboration between the Harvard University Division of Science, the Harvard Library, and Harvard Book Store. The series features talks by the authors of recently published books on a variety of science-related topics and is open to both the Harvard community and to the general public. Typically, lectures are followed by a book signing with the author and refreshments. Learn more and watch recordings of past talks here

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