#93 – March 2020 Part 2


(Warning: please skip this episode if you’re offended by occasional Tesla-based puerile humour)

The Discussion: Balancing the argument between love and hate of SpaceX and drawing a line under the argument over when the current decade starts and what constitutes a decade.

The News: Rounding up the space exploration news this month we have:

  • SpaceX is cleared for a crewed launch in April
  • Further problems for Boeing
  • Christina Koch takes the female spaceflight record.
  • The dullest space news story ever (involving biscuits/cookies)
  • A Japanese mission to return samples from Phobos!
  • ESA’s launch & deployment of the Solar Orbiter.

Main news story: The import of NASA’s 2021 FY Budget.

The Electromagnetic Spectrum: The radio part of the spectrum. How it became so important for astronomy and by whom.

Q&A: What do you think was the greatest astronomical/scientific advancement that came about due to a dubious past, and do you think it was worth it? By email from Alan Beech in the UK.

#93 – March 2020 Part 1


The Discussion: Paul’s favourite bit of the coronavirus, the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s upcoming Apollo 13 anniversary event, a @CunningCosmos space art exhibition and a talk from Jen in Bromsgrove for British Space Week, from the sublime to the ridiculous with the passing of Katherine Johnson and Mad Mike Hughes, and listeners’ emails.

The News: Rounding up the astronomy news this month we have:

  • Finding the remnants of the progenitor star after a Type 2b supernova
  • Solving the puzzle of giant planets orbiting low mass stars
  • More clues to Mercury’s oversized iron core
  • A galaxy that has stopped producing stars after a period of prolific star birth
  • Mars seems to be more active than we thought
  • Debate over Mars’ very long formation history

Main News story: ESO images of Betelgeuse and the more recent evidence for why the star’s dimmed so impressively.

The Sky Guide: This month we’re taking a look at the constellation of Cancer with a guide to its history, how to find it, a couple of deep sky objects and a round up of the solar system views on offer in March.

A guide to the electromagnetic spectrum: In this series we take a look at the electromagnetic spectrum, what, it is, what is shows us and why it’s so important to astronomers. This month we explain the radio part of the spectrum and its relevance to astronomy.

#92 – February 2020 Part 2


The Discussion: The reason we have leap years; a look at Ad Astra, Lucy in the Sky and Picard; and the history of the Stonewall Riots (don’t think it’s just astronomy here – you get a fully rounded education, dear listener); and a look at your reviews and emails.  

The News: Rounding up the space exploration news this month we have:

  • Direct TV’s ticking timebomb in space
  • DARPA’s XS-1 reusable spaceplane gets cancelled
  • ESA’s Solar Obiter heads off to the sun
  • NASA ask you to vote for the official name of their Mars 2020 rover (www.mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/name-the-rover/)
  • NASA’s costs for the 2024 moon landing are imminent

Main news story: SpaceX gears up for crewed spaceflight following successful abort tests

The Electromagnetic Spectrum: How parts of the EMS outside visible light were discovered, who discovered them and what that means for us today.

Q&A: Have the crew of the ISS (or any other spaceflight with room to try it) propelled themselves through their craft using flatulence? From Brychan James from Wales on Twitter (@BrychanJames)

#92 – February 2020 Part 1


The Discussion: Ralph visits and records from The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island, New York, we enjoyed some great skies with good weather in the UK, Betelgeuse still hasn’t gone pop – though we’re still watching, and NASA have an open day that you can attend.

The News: Rounding up the astronomy news this month we have:

  • An evidence based look at Starlink
  • Tracking molecules from birth to arrival in our solar system
  • An enigmatic Type 1a supernova
  • An interesting 14 millisecond gravitational wave detection
  • Goodbye Spitzer Space telescope

The Sky Guide: This month we’re taking a look at the constellation of Lynx with a guide to its history, how to find it, a couple of deep sky objects and a round up of the solar system objects on offer in February.

A Guide to the Electromagnetic Spectrum: In this series we’ll take a look at the electromagnetic spectrum, what, it is, what is shows us and why it’s so important to astronomers. This month we start with a quick and simple explanation.

From the Cradle to the Stars


This is the history of flight told from the perspective of the amateurs and hobbyists who allowed humankind to slip the surly bonds of Earth and set out towards the stars.

To tell this story Ralph journeyed to the Cradle of Aviation museum in Garden City, New York, to get a tour of the early flight and exhibits from the museum’s curator and speak with an engineer who worked on the lunar modules before they flew.

Our thanks in making this episode goes to the wonderful people at https://www.cradleofaviation.org/.

#91 – January 2020 Part 2


The Discussion: New Year resolutions, veganism, a little spoiler-free chat about the latest/last Skywalker movie and the new series of Dr Who, before some listeners’ emails.

The News: Rounding up the space exploration news this month we have:

  • Christina Koch racks up a flight time record on the ISS
  • China’s moon rover breaks a lunar endurance record
  • Ethiopia becomes the 10th African nation to send a satellite into orbit
  • ESA launches their CHEOPS Exoplanet characterising spacecraft
  • Space Force is go – and the world joins in
  • NASA’s new (22nd!) intake and what skills are needed to become an astronaut
  • OSIRIS-REx now has a target for return samples on asteroid Bennu

Main news story: Boeing’s test of its Starliner space capsule

Q&A: Why does NASA search for signs of life rather than directly looking for life? From Gavin Price in the UK on Twitter (@pilliarscreatio)

#91 – January 2020 Part 1


The Discussion: As we begin the new decade we struggle to find a consensus on whether it actually is a new decade. We discuss the busy Xmas period and thank any listeners who helped Dartmoor Skies reach their funding target for a new telescope. Then we take a look at a few listeners’ emails and tweets.

The News: Rounding up the astronomy news this month we have:

  • An old galaxy containing as much dust as one third the amount of its stars
  • Mapping the magnetic fields around the Whale Galaxy
  • An interstellar comet makes its way back out of the solar system
  • A burst of supernovae in the Milky Way’s not-to-distant past
  • Is Betelgeuse about to go supernova?

The Sky Guide: Shaking up the format of the sky guide, we’re taking a look at the constellation of Monoceros with a guide to its history, how to find it, a couple of deep sky objects and a round up of the solar system objects on offer in January.

Q&A: If there are no plate tectonics on the moon, how did the lunar mountain regions form? from @gkt_wales on Twitter

The 2019 Xmas Special


A pantomime look back at the biggest and most exciting news and events from 2019; a look forward to the best astronomy and space exploration events of 2020; the science of Santa’s deliveries and the traditional outtakes.

#90 – December 2019 Part 2


The News: Sharing our news picks from the space exploration and astronomy world this month we have:

  • A late risk of Exomars being cancelled
  • Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft abort test and cost controversies
  • Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser shuttle gets a trailer

Main news story: Far from being unlikely, Tatooine worlds turn out to be very common

The Interview: This month Jeni has a sit down chat about the discovery of the collapsed neutron star from supernova 1987a with Dr Phil Cigan of Cardiff University.

#90 – December 2019 Part 1


The Discussion: A look at the BBC’s new Martian invasion documentary, The War of the Worlds; the recent transit of Mercury; Celestron’s new phone adapter; Jen’s upcoming talks in Wales, an update on Jen’s research paper, a new research project and a debate over the start and end of a decade. Then we take a look at a couple of listeners’ emails.

The News: Rounding up the astronomy news this month we have:

  • Water vapour geysers on Europa
  • Ultima Thule loses its Nazi moniker
  • Locating the stellar remnant from the closest supernova to Earth
  • Are Axions dark matter particles? (no)
  • And a round up of spaceflight news from NASA, ESA, India, New Zealand & UK

The Sky Guide: Covering the solar system and deep sky objects on offer to amateur astronomers in December:

  • Jen: A round up of the planets available to northern hemisphere observers in December, and a look at the Pleiades in Taurus.
  • Paul: The best meteor shower of the year and naked eye visible open cluster Messier 35.

The Debate: A look back at the debates and votes over the past year with your result for The Best Space Mission of All Time.