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Holiday Break Entertainment Guide

Holiday Break Entertainment Guide

Holiday Break Entertainment Guide


The holiday season is here, and what better time to curl up with a good book or gather the family together for a movie? This holiday entertainment guide pulls together some of the best SETI-inspired films, documentaries, books, and games.





Contact (1997)
We can’t leave this movie off the list! Carl Sagan wrote the book of the same name, and the SETI Institute's own Jill Tarter inspired the main character who makes contact with a mysterious alien race.


Avatar (2009)
While not scientifically accurate, this movie was a cultural phenomenon, and the sequel just hit theaters. Give it a shot if you’re looking for a pretty, action-packed movie.

Mars Attacks

Mars Attacks (1996)
For those looking for an off-beat comedy, try this film about Martian spaceships that arrive on Earth and the ridiculous chaos that ensues.


WALL-E (2008)
A classic, this Disney movie about a robot cleaning up Earth after humans have migrated to a spaceship is perfect for the whole family.


Alien Worlds

Alien Worlds (2020)
This Netflix show is zany but based on science. Ever wondered what life on a planet orbiting a red dwarf might look like? What about a planet near a star that’s about to die? If you’re looking for something different, check this one out.

The Hunt for Planet B

The Hunt for Planet B (2021)
This documentary captures the tense lead-up to the lunch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and the female scientists—including Jill Tarter—who have dedicated their careers to finding an Earthlike planet.

The Wonderful

The Wonderful (2021)
With its striking visuals and interviews, this documentary captures what it’s like to live and work on a space station.

Good Night Oppy

Good Night Oppy (2022)
The heartwarming documentary chronicles Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity--affectionately known as Oppy. This rover was expected to last 90 days on Mars and exceeded everyone's expectations by conducting science on the Red Planet for 15 years.

SETI Talks Replay


UAPs: Are they worth scientific attention?
From November 2021, with Jacob Haqq Misra, Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, and Ravi Kopparapu, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Where Is the Origin of Life on Earth?

Where Is the Origin of Life on Earth?
From May 2019, with David Deamer and Bruce Damer, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Mysterious Signals in the Milky Way

Mysterious Signals in the Milky Way
From April 2022, with Tara Murphy, Institute for Astronomy at the University of Sydney, and Natasha Hurley-Walker, Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.


Three Body Problem

Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
Considered a classic, this is a must-read for science fiction lovers. Amidst China’s Cultural Revolution, scientists send signals into space to contact aliens, and the message is intercepted by another civilization that plans to invade Earth.

The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
This book tells the story of an alternate history where a meteorite crash makes Earth uninhabitable, and the future of humanity hinges on a group of talented pilots and scientists—including a group of scientifically minded women.

Other Minds

Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith
What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be intelligent? These questions are critical to SETI and astrobiology and covered in detail in this book, which explores the mind and experience of the octopus.


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
If you’re looking for a shorter read, try this novella, which tells the story of a woman from a planet-bound culture who travels through space to a university and finds herself mixed up in an ancient war.


The Crew Game

The Crew
In this card game, you and your friends are a space crew that must complete missions by capturing cards. It’s easy to set up and learn and great if you don’t have hours to dedicate to a more complicated game.

Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars
This board game is more of a commitment. Each person plays an organization terraforming Mars, and you must work together to raise the temperature, oxygen level, and ocean coverage.

Sky Highlights

Five planets on display
In the last two weeks of December, all five planets will be visible just after sunset in the Northern hemisphere. Look to the southwestern horizon to find Mercury and Venus, which will be pretty low and bright. As the sky darkens, look to the left of Mercury and Venus to see Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.


Gemini meteor shower
Don’t miss out on the annual Geminid meteor shower. While it peaked on December 13, you should still be able to see shooting stars in areas with little light pollution.


Lex Fridman

Nathalie Cabrol: Search for Alien Life | Lex Fridman Podcast #348 (2022)
Listen to Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, director of the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center, talk about the search for alien life.


Webb Feat | Big Picture Science (2022)
Astronomers share their reactions to stunning JWST images and their hopes for the telescope's future science endeavors.


Space: Ann Druyan and Neil de Grasse Tyson | Radiolab (2020)
The wonderful Radiolab podcast goes "boldly after stories of romance and cynicim in Outer Space." This is a touching, profound discussion of our place in the universe and connection with each other.


Astrobiology (ALIENS) with Dr. Kevin Peter Hand | Ologies (2019)
Join charming host Ali Ward as she interviews Dr. Kevin Peter Hand about all things astrobiology related.

Happy holidays from the SETI Institute

Thank you for being a part of the search for life beyond Earth! If you enjoyed this guide, please consider a gift to the SETI Institute this holiday season. The SETI Institute is a non-profit, so our programs—including the search for intelligence beyond Earth—depend on support from people like you.


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