Book Review: Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer’s Guide to the Universe by Philip Plait

Cover of the book Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer's Guide to the Universe by Philip Plait
Under Alien Skies: A Sightseer’s Guide to the Universe
by Philip Plait
Norton, 2023

This review was first published by Booklist on March 15, 2023.

What would it be like to stand on Mars or experience sunset on a world with multiple suns? To visit a stellar nursery or orbit a black hole? What would you see? How would it feel? Plait takes readers on a tour of the cosmos, from the moon to the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, and paints vivid descriptions of what these objects are like, using the best observations and theories we currently have. It’s an effective framing device to explore what we know about the strange and wonderful things we’ve discovered, from exoplanets to nebulae. His realistic depictions, grounded in human senses, awaken a feeling of wanderlust and make the esoteric feel real. What elevates this above similar books about our universe is Plait’s sense of wonder and joy. He clearly never lost his childhood glee for discovery, and it’s refreshing for a scientist to be so open about it. He shows that science requires creativity and imagination and rewards curiosity and the urge to explore. It’s a remarkable journey.


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