Phil Plait

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Philip Cary Plait

Phil Plait at The Amazing Meeting on January 20, 2007.
BornWashington, D. C.
ResidenceBoulder, Colorado
CitizenshipUnited States of America
FieldsPhysics, astronomy, science communication
InstitutionsSonoma State University
Bad Astronomy Website
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Philip Cary Plait

Phil Plait at The Amazing Meeting on January 20, 2007.
BornWashington, D. C.
ResidenceBoulder, Colorado
CitizenshipUnited States of America
FieldsPhysics, astronomy, science communication
InstitutionsSonoma State University
Bad Astronomy Website

Philip Cary Plait, Ph.D. (a.k.a. The Bad Astronomer) is an American astronomer and skeptic who runs the website He formerly worked at the physics and astronomy department at Sonoma State University. In early 2007, he resigned from his job to write Death from the Skies. On August 4, 2008, he became President of the James Randi Educational Foundation.[1] He served in that position until January 1, 2010, when he was succeeded by noted skeptic D. J. Grothe.[2]


Early life

Plait grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. He received his Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Virginia in 1994 with a thesis on SN 1987A, which he studied with the Supernova Intensive Study (SINS). He first worked with the COBE satellite and then with the STIS on the Hubble Space Telescope for five years. He currently resides in Boulder, Colorado[3] and writes full time, but often hosts special events and serves as an adviser and commentator in several capacities, including events focusing on skepticism, such as SkeptiCamp.[4]


Plait performed web-based public outreach for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and other NASA-funded missions while at Sonoma State University from 2000 to 2007. Prior to that, during the 1990s, he was part of the Hubble Space Telescope team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, working largely on the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph.

Plait has been featured on TV and on such websites as He has also appeared on two Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episodes. On season 3 he argued against the Apollo moon landing conspiracy theory and on season 7 against astrology. His work has also appeared in the Encyclopædia Britannica Yearbook of Science and the Future and Astronomy magazine. He has a regular column in Night Sky magazine called "Straight Talk", which has appeared since the magazine's first issue. Plait is also a frequent guest on the SETI Institute's weekly science radio show Are We Alone?.

His first book, Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" deals with much the same subject matter as his website. His second book, Death from the Skies, describes ways astronomical events could wipe out life on Earth and was released in October 2008.[5] Bad Astronomy was the first in a science book series on myths and misconceptions that includes the book Bad Medicine.

In 2004, Plait served the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry as one of their fellows.[6]

In March 2008, Plait had an asteroid named after him by the late astronomer Jeff Medkeff. Asteroid 2000 WG11 was renamed 165347 Philplait.[7][8]

On July 22, 2010, Discovery Channel released a short video on YouTube of an upcoming television series called Phil Plait's Bad Universe.[9] Plait later announced it was a three-part documentary series first airing in the United States August 29, 2010.[10][11]

Phil Plait (center) during TAM9 in 2011, with Richard Wiseman and Joe Nickell

The final slide to Phil's presentation at the JREF's TAM6 The Amazing Meeting convention is a website dedicated to clearing up public misconceptions about astronomy and space science in movies, the news, print, and on the Internet. Plait also debunks several pseudoscientific theories related to space and astronomy, such as Planet X, Richard Hoagland's theories, and most famously, the moon landing "hoax". In March 2006, Science magazine's NetWatch feature lauded the Bad Astronomy website, praising in particular the Bad Astronomy Blog, which Plait began in March 2005. This blog was also a finalist for the 2006 Blog award (the "Bloggie"), in the "best topical weblog" category since the Bloggies, like many blog awards, do not have a specific science category. Plait used to write the occasional science article for The Huffington Post.[12] However he claims that he was "embarrassed" by this and now criticizes them for their stance on anti-vaccination and New Age antiscience.[13][14]

On January 28, 2007, a new segment of the blog called Q & BA[15] was announced. The feature consists of a video blog where questions sent by the blog's readers are answered. New videos were originally posted every Monday, but because of time management issues, Plait decided to temporarily stop making new videos.

In early September 2005, the Bad Astronomy message boards were merged with the Universe Today message boards to form a more robust, combined site, titled BAUT forum, standing for the "Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Message Board".[16]

Plait is interviewed on the Monster Talk podcast, with Blake Smith, Karen Stollznow, and Ben Radford. Plait talks Martian bacteria, Godzilla, and about the movie Five Million Years to Earth.[17]

Bad Astronomy was a co-winner of best science blog in the 2007 Weblog Awards.[18] The website was also named's 25 Best blogs 2009.[19]

Personal life

Plait is married and has one daughter.[20]


Media appearances

Plait has appeared on many documentary television programs.

2012How the Universe Works"Megaflares"TV series documentary
2011Captain Disillusion: Fame Curve CollectionVideo short
2010Bad Universe"Death Stars"
"Alien Attack!"
"Asteroid Apocalypse"
TV series documentary
Known Universe"Stellar Storms"
"Cosmic Collisions"
TV series documentary
2008Naked Science"Hubble's Amazing Universe"TV series documentary
2007Is It Real?"Life on Mars"TV series documentary
The Zula Patrol"Larva or Leave Me/Egg Hunt"
"There Goes the Neighborhood"
TV series
2006Nova"Monster of the Milky Way"TV series documentary


  1. ^ Randi's big shoes to Phil from Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
  2. ^ James Randi Educational Foundation Names New President from
  3. ^ Phil Plait gets own space rock from
  4. ^ Plait, Phil. "Camp Skeptic". Discover Magazine, Bad Astronomy blog. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  5. ^ Big Announcement Part 1: My next book! from
  6. ^ "CSI Fellows and Staff". Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  7. ^ Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, and (165347) Philplait from Blue Collar Scientist
  8. ^ JPL Small-Body Database Browser from 165347 Philplait from NASA
  9. ^ Bad Universe - Sneak Peek | New Series, Discovery Channel official YouTube channel
  10. ^ My Sooper Sekrit Project: REVEALED!, Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
  11. ^ Bad Universe Preview on Discovery News
  12. ^ HuffPo still pushing antivax nonsense from Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
  13. ^ Antivaxxers make me sick from Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
  14. ^ Jim Carrey loves the pro-disease movement from Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine
  15. ^ Q & BA - Announcing a new feature on the Bad Astronomy Blog!
  16. ^ Fraser Cain, Pamela L. Gay, Thomas Foster; Phil Plait; Gay; Foster; Plait (2008). "It Takes an e-Village". ASP Conference Series 369: 69. Bibcode 2008ASPC..389...69C. ISBN 978-1-58381-648-6. 
  17. ^ "They Came From Outer Space!". Skeptic Magazine. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-22. 
  18. ^ Best Science Blog from the Blog award
  19. ^ McNichol, Tom. "25 Best Blogs 2009". Time magazine. 2009. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
  20. ^ Dr. Phil Plait, aka "The Bad Astronomer" PR Kit: Biography. Bad Astronomy. Retrieved December 20, 2011.

External links