A stunning and inspiring memoir charting a life as an astronomer, classically-trained actor, mother, and Black woman in STEM, searching for life in the universe while building a meaningful life here on Earth
As a kid, Aomawa Shields was always bumping into things, her neck craned up at the sky, dreaming of becoming an astronaut. A year into an astrophysics PhD program, plagued by self-doubt and discouraged by a white male professor who suggested that she—a young Black woman who also loved fashion, makeup, and the arts—didn’t belong, she left astronomy and pursued acting professionally for a decade, before a day job working for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope drew her back to the stars. She was the oldest and the only Black student in her PhD cohort. This time, no professor, and no voice in her own head, would stop her. Now an astronomer and astrobiologist at the top of her field, Dr. Shields studies the universe outside our Solar System, researching and uncovering the planets circling distant stars with just the right conditions that could support life—while also using her theater education to communicate the wonder and magic of the universe with those of us here on Earth. But it’s been a journey as winding and complex as the physics she has mastered.
Life on Other Planetsis a journey of discovery on this world and on others, a story of creating a life that makes space for joy, love, and wonder while being driven by one of our biggest questions: Is anybody else out there? It is about the possibility of living between multiple worlds and not choosing—but instead charting a new path entirely.