Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of Under Alien Skies by Philip Plait

Under Alien Skies

A Sightseer's Guide to the Universe

by Philip Plait

Under Alien Skies by Philip Plait X
Under Alien Skies by Philip Plait
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2023, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2024, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Katharine Blatchford
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

A rip-roaring tour of the cosmos with the Bad Astronomer, bringing you up close and personal with the universe like never before.

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.

ONE SMALL STEP

THE MOON

It's midnight, local time—not that that's useful; everyone goes by Coordinated Universal Time anyway, for convenience—and you're outside, lying down on a specially built chair. It's more of a chaise longue, to accommodate the bulky suit and support you in the correct position: basically, looking straight up. The other tourists in your group surround you in their own chairs, but there were over a dozen others already here when you arrived. Their spacesuits identified them as members of the south polar mining teams; apparently, all the space agencies and companies gave nonessential personnel special dispensation for this event. After all, no one would want to be working the ice mines now of all times.

This particular wide pad outside the big group airlock of Alpha was specially designed as an exterior observation deck for just this purpose. The chairs are adjustable but permanently mounted into fixtures embedded in the pad. They're made of some sort...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The tone is warm and friendly, and often quite funny. Each chapter includes sections of fictionalized descriptions of what it would be like if the reader could actually visit these alien worlds. These are charming, but also might be considered the weakest part of the book. The descriptions of what the hypothetical "you" is seeing and doing are fascinating, but "your" responses to these experiences start to feel a bit repetitive. Under Alien Skies allows readers to connect with astronomy in a very personal way. It not only makes difficult science understandable, but also helps to translate that science into an amazing voyage it's unlikely anyone alive today will get to see firsthand...continued

Full Review (620 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Katharine Blatchford).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Plait takes readers on an awe-inspiring tour of the cosmos in this dazzling outing…This will change how readers think about space.

Booklist
[Plait's] realistic depictions, grounded in human senses, awaken a feeling of wanderlust and make the esoteric feel real…It's a remarkable journey.

Kirkus Reviews
Amusing experiences of a space armchair traveler and a good astronomical education.

Author Blurb Bill Nye, CEO, The Planetary Society
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.

Author Blurb John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars and The Anthropocene Reviewed
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.

Author Blurb Laura Helmuth, editor-in-chief of Scientific American
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.

Reader Reviews

Isha Bisht

Book Review
It explores the exciting and varied planets that exist outside of our planet. It covers a wide range of astronomical and space science-related themes, from creating planets and stars to the look for extraterrestrial life. Each chapter of the book ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Life Cycle of a Star

Brightly colored image of the remnant of a supernova explosion in space with bluish glowIn Under Alien Skies, Dr. Philip Plait takes readers on a tour of the universe, including discussing what it might be like to live on planets in a variety of different star systems. A major factor to consider for this thought exercise is the mass of the star or stars involved, and what point they are at in their life cycles.

Stars are formed out of nebulae, huge clouds of dust and gas drifting in space. When areas of these clouds become dense enough, gravity will begin to pull them together. Once this process has begun, large clumps of raw material will condense. The center of these clumps heats up, forming protostars, while material that develops an orbit around them without being drawn in may eventually become a planet or other ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Under Alien Skies, try these:

  • The Blue Machine jacket

    The Blue Machine

    by Helen Czerski

    Published 2024

    About this book

    A scientist's exploration of the "ocean engine"—the physics behind the ocean's systems—and why it matters.

  • Alien Earths jacket

    Alien Earths

    by Lisa Kaltenegger

    Published 2024

    About this book

    Riveting and timely, a look at the research that is transforming our understanding of the cosmos in the quest to discover whether we are alone.

We have 8 read-alikes for Under Alien Skies, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Philip Plait
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Books with similar themes


Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Demon of Unrest
    The Demon of Unrest
    by Erik Larson
    In the aftermath of the 1860 presidential election, the divided United States began to collapse as ...
  • Book Jacket: Daughters of Shandong
    Daughters of Shandong
    by Eve J. Chung
    Daughters of Shandong is the debut novel of Eve J. Chung, a human rights lawyer living in New York. ...
  • Book Jacket: Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    Anita de Monte Laughs Last
    by Xochitl Gonzalez
    Brooklyn-based novelist Xochitl Gonzalez is an inspiring writer to follow. At forty, she decided to ...
  • Book Jacket: Icarus
    Icarus
    by K. Ancrum
    The titular protagonist of K. Ancrum's young adult novel Icarus lives a double life that mixes the ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Romantic Comedy
by Curtis Sittenfeld
A comedy writer's stance on love shifts when a pop star challenges her assumptions in this witty and touching novel.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Daughters of Shandong
    by Eve J. Chung

    Eve J. Chung's debut novel recounts a family's flight to Taiwan during China's Communist revolution.

  • Book Jacket

    This Strange Eventful History
    by Claire Messud

    An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history.

Win This Book
Win Only the Brave

Only the Brave by Danielle Steel

A powerful, sweeping historical novel about a courageous woman in World War II Germany.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

F T a T

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.