April 19, 2023

Phil Plait

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 was joined in conversation by DR. JESSIE CHRISTIANSEN— astrophysicist and Deputy Science Lead at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute.


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.

About Author(s)

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.
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.