September 26, 2023
'Once you break the walls that's been holding you captive, your journey to explore the world can finally begin.'

“Under Alien Skies: A Captivating Journey through Cosmic Landscapes” by Philip Plait

Astronomer and science writer Philip Plait takes readers on a mesmerizing journey through the cosmos in his latest book, “Under Alien Skies.” This captivating voyage transports readers aboard futuristic starships to distant landscapes, unveiling what the skies might look like above these alien worlds.

Plait skillfully combines vivid descriptions of these extraterrestrial environments with scientific explanations to bring these fantastical worlds to life. From the moon to Mars, Pluto, and beyond, he delves into the intricate details, including the necessary space suits one would require to stand and gaze at the skies of each celestial body.

Some views are easier to envision than others. Thanks to rovers, we have witnessed actual images of Mars’ sky, which typically appears rust-colored due to the planet’s dusty atmosphere that scatters red light. In contrast, Pluto’s sky presents a stark contrast. Being significantly farther from the sun, even at midday, its sky remains pitch black, offering a canvas for the visibility of stars.

Contrary to some online articles, Plait clarifies that the sun would not resemble any other star in the sky from Pluto’s perspective. It would appear only one-fiftieth of its size as seen from Earth, yet it would emanate as a “painfully bright” dot, approximately 160 times brighter than the moon. The sun would also exhibit a faint, deep-blue halo caused by Pluto’s thin atmosphere, which scatters short, blue wavelengths of light.

Among the captivating stops on Plait’s cosmic tour is comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, a two-lobed object resembling a giant rubber ducky. Plait guides readers to land on the larger lobe, allowing them to gaze upon the rocky landscape of the smaller lobe, which appears like an entire planet looming overhead. Notably, he highlights the presence of Philae, the lander that touched down on the comet in 2014, describing the profound impact it made on the comet’s fragile structure. The aftermath of the crash reveals shattered rocks and ice resembling delicate piles of pixie dust.

See also  Global Paper Recycling Chemicals Market Poised for Growth as Environmental Concerns Rise 2030

The book concludes with a thought-provoking final chapter titled “The Last Sky You’ll Ever See,” which contemplates the view from close proximity to a black hole. While entering a black hole would be disastrous, Plait suggests that a starship at a safe distance could observe the event horizon, the black hole’s point of no return, with the aid of telescopes. From this vantage point, stars appear to jostle along the rim, with one sliding along the curve until its light fades into the blackness. This front-row seat showcases the bending of starlight by the gravitational pull of the black hole, providing a mesmerizing and slightly unsettling experience.

For those daring enough to journey to the center of a black hole, Plait tantalizingly leaves readers with the promise of even more astonishing discoveries. To uncover these mysterious phenomena, one must embark on the thrilling adventure of reading the book firsthand. It is highly recommended to dive into the pages of “Under Alien Skies” and embark on a cosmic exploration like no other.