YANSS 258 – What sightseeing among the stars and under alien skies would truly be like according to astronomer Phil Plait

In this episode, astronomer and world-famous science communicator Phil Plait joins us to discuss his new book, Under Alien Skies, in which he describes what it would be like (through human eyes and real physical experiences) to actually travel to Saturn, Mars, asteroids, and distant stars. Also, we discuss the recent surge in UFO sighting as well as his famous talk at The Amazing Meeting more than a decade ago in which he asked all science communicators and critical thinkers to approach those who believe in pseudoscience with empathy and respect instead of scorn and vitriol. And, we run through the history of James Randi’s popularization of the big-S Skeptic movement.

 Stitcher – RSS – Soundcloud – SimplecastAmazon MusicAudible


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.

Phil Plait

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

Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – RSSGoogle Podcasts – Soundcloud – SimplecastAmazon MusicAudibleSpotify

Previous Episodes 

How Minds Change

David McRaney’s Twitter

YANSS Twitter

Show Notes


Phil Plait’s Substack

Under Alien Skies Website