#84 – June 2019 Part 2


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The Discussion: The privations of a PhD student, listeners’ comments sparking a couple of corrections from the last episode, another bout of potaytoes/potartoes and we hear that new revelations about space mirrors cult sci-fi.

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

  • Damage to cartilage from microgravity
  • The big debate in space exploration appears to be ‘is Daniella Westbrook the ideal astronaut experiment’?
  • ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter kills the excitement over methane on Mars.
  • NASA asks for an additional $1.6Bn for getting astronauts to Mars by 2024
  • NASA will be sending a woman to the moon in the Project Artemis crew
  • A look at the return to the moon blueprint

Main news story: The Lunar Gateway, an orbiting platform around the moon.

The Debate: Court is in session for the first round of advocacy for to find the winner in your top ten historic space missions. Which will make it through and which will consigned to the dustbin of history – Cassini Huygens or New Horizons?

Q&A: At 6 million kelvin, is the plasma around the M87 supermassive black hole still a plasma? Andy Burns from the UK

#84 – June 2019 Part 1




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The Discussion: Pint of Science in Cardiff targets canines, Ralph makes a schoolboy error while in Florida and we all eagerly await the publication of a research paper by Jen.

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

  • More disturbing news about the climate on Earth-analogue, Venus
  • TESS discovers a planetary system around a visual binary star in Fornax.
  • The Andromeda & Triangulum galaxies are hiding quasars
  • New research shows the mechanism by how Pluto could harbour oceans
  • A better understanding of past ice ages on Mars
  • More ridiculous ways to not find dark matter
  • The race to analyse meteorites at Arizona State University.

Main news story: Mr Musk’s Splendiferous Starlink.

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

Jen: Mars and Mercury as the stand-out objects in the lighter summer skies of June and a good opportunity to look out for noctilucent clouds at dawn and dusk.

Ralph: A round up of the other bright planets on offer in June and a certain satellite constellation now observable…

Main Object: the Eagle Nebula in the constellation Serpens.

#83 – May 2019 Part 2




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The Discussion: Your last chance to get tickets to join Jen’s at Pint of Science on 20-22nd May in Cardiff, a couple of corrections for the last episode, listeners’ comments about our Moon 2024 musings and a listener’s email takes us into classic 50s sci-fi territory.

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

  • NASA’s new robot assistants and ‘Astrobees’ on the International Space Station
  • Portugal launches its national space agency in the Azores and plans an environmentally friendly rocket
  • Arianespace are to launch 42 satellites on a single rocket
  • NASA Administrator misses his April deadline to provide financial figures for a retirn to the moon in 2024 🙁
  • Space Force will likely cost $1.5Bn more each year than originally thought
  • India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission will launch to the moon in September this year

Main news stories: Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has been developing a giant lunar landing in secret, while Elon Musk’s SpaceX have a setback to their human spaceflight plans

The Debate: A reminder that you can influence the Best Space Mission Ever debate season, starting next month. What do you think is the best current or historical space mission and why? We’ll shortlist the ten most popular and begin advocating to reach a winner.

Q&A: Could a device, with a magnetic field, be placed at the L1 Lagrange Point between the Sun and Mars to help to thicken the atmosphere? And could a device be placed at Earth’s L1 Lagrange point counteract the effect of global warming?

#83 – May 2019 Part 1




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U: Recording from the Mars/Earth-analogue biome cottage at the AstroCamp starparty in the Welsh Brecon Beacons, we start off by discussing stargazing during a hurricane(!) and get ready for Jeni’s Pint of Science events this month.

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

  • The rate of the universe’s expansion is 9% greater than we thought?
  • Greater understanding about the lakes of methane on Saturn’s moon Titan.
  • LIGO gets its jiggy on; giving us gravitational wave detections EVERY week!
  • The value of occultations to modern astronomy
  • A possible discovery of an exocomet!

And a round up of some of the best astronomy April Fool’s gags from last month, including how winter would come on a Game of Thrones type world.

Main news story: 1) The first ever image of a black hole

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

An unwelcome dearth of solar system objects with Jupiter, Mars and Saturn low on the horizon, but dwarf planet Ceres is at opposition and we also have a few nice conjunctions to enjoy in May.

Messier 5 and Palomar 5 globular clusters in Serpens and Messier 57, and the Ring Nebula, and the Double Double in Lyra.

Main Object: the much-overlooked Northern Star, Polaris.

#82 – April 2019 Part 1




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The Discussion: A bumper episode beginning with the April stargazing extravaganza run by the Awesome Astronomy team on 27th – 30th April, a reminder to email us with your best space missions of the last 62 years, a stroll down Rocketry Lane, come along to hear Jeni talk at A Pint of Science on 20-22nd May at Beelzebub’s in Cardiff, and listeners’ emails (including how you amateurs can participate in occultation observation science).

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

  • Did Jupiter’s orbit move 2½ billion miles closer to Earth in the early solar system?
  • An Ice Age and extinction event 12,800 years ago was likely caused by a meteor impact.
  • A vast meteor over the Bering Sea
  • LIGO gets an upgrade for better gravitational wave discoveries
  • Looking for carbon monoxide in the atmospheres of exoplanets
  • Using globular clusters to measure the size & mass of the Milky Way

Main news story: 1) The 1st direct observation of exoplanets using optical interferometry

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

  • A galactic conjunction on 8th/9th and the Lyrid meteor shower peaking on 22nd April.
  • Must observe galaxies in Leo and the jewels of Ursa Major and Canes Venatici.

Main Deep Sky Object: Messier 13, The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules.

The Interview: Jeni talks to Dr Sarah Ragan, a lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy about how to become a professional astronomer, do stars care what conditions they form in and the upcoming Pint of Science talks.

#81 – March 2019 Part 2




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The Discussion: Professor Michelle Dougherty talking Enceladus at the annual Schrodinger lecture, the proficiency (or otherwise) of making science accessible to the layman and emails about inspiring anyone to do the job they want.

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

  • Have SpaceX paved the way for the US to return to human spaceflight?
  • The Japanese Hyabusa spacecraft begins exploring asteroid Ryugu
  • The first Israeli lunar lander makes its way to the moon
  • Virgin Galactic take a long awaited return to commercial spaceflight tests
  • NASA’s science experiments for the moon on their commercial landers
  • Ultima Thule actually resembles a bag of Revels.

Main news story: New Horizons at Ultima Thule

The Debate: We want you to influence the next few debates. We want you to email us with what you think is the greatest space mission of all time (crewed or robotic). We’ll compile a Top Ten and advocate for your choices, court-style, on the coming shows.

Q&A: Listeners’ questions via email, Facebook & Twitter take us on a journey into the astronomy issues that have always plagued our understanding or stretched our credulity. This month we take a look at something we discussed in a recent show, commercialization of space:

Isn’t commercial branding at NASA already here and wouldn’t increased spacecraft branding diminish the science?? Andy Burns, UK.

#81 – March 2019 Part 1




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The Discussion: A worthless victory for the Welsh, Earthling slave John on the BBC’s Sky at Night, Jen’s preparations for A Pint of Science, imaging the sun with a beer can and emails about timestamping & sibilance.

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

  • Modelling of the meteor strikes on the moon during the eclipse
  • Does the moon get bombarded by a meteor shower every 19 years?
  • The brightest gravitationally lensed object ever seen
  • Conditions closer to habitable seen around a white dwarf star
  • Did the Apollo astronauts even leave the Earth’s atmosphere

Main news story: 1) Due to modern data processing techniques Hubble discovers a new moon around Neptune.

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

Ralph: The Galilean Moons, magnitude 8 asteroid Pallas and Messier 67 in Cancer

Jeni: a quadruple planetary Conjunction, Mars and the vernal equinox.

Paul: Mercury visible at the beginning of the month at sunset and the galaxies in Ursa Major.

Main Deep Sky Object: Messier 44, The Beehive Cluster.

Q&A: Listeners’ questions via email, Facebook & Twitter take us on a journey into the astronomy issues that have always plagued our understanding or stretched our credulity. This month we take a look at the bewildering array of theories for one of the greatest spectacles in the night sky:

Will we get any advance warning of Betelgeuse going supernova? Peter Coates, UK.

#80 – February 2019 Part 2




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The Discussion: The film Moon, boring lectures & seminars, the age before mobile telephony, AweAst live shows & drinks with listeners, and listeners’ suggestions for NASA spacecraft branding.

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

  • Growing plants on another world
  • SpaceX launch satellites on reusable rockets
  • How to paint a Mars rover
  • A less than rose-tinted look at SpaceX’ current predicament
  • Scotland’s spaceport’s fight with nature
  • The beginning of the next space arms race

Main news story: New Horizons at Ultima Thule

The Debate: Ralph poses his own question for Jen & Paul to do battle: what spacecraft would you like to see commissioned if money were no object?

Q&A: Listeners’ questions via email, Facebook & Twitter take us on a journey into the astronomy issues that have always plagued our understanding or stretched our credulity. This month we take a look at SpaceX’ next big push:

What’s going on at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas?? Gavin Price, UK.

#79 – January 2019 Part 2




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The Discussion: As 2019 marches forth we discuss a wasted year of practical astronomy due to bad weather, a comet in our skies to enjoy and Jeni begins her first paper on gas masses in redshift galaxies.

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

  • An update on the mysterious hole in the space station
  • SpaceX edges closer to ferrying humans to space
  • Virgin Galactic test pilot gains his astronaut wings
  • Voyager 2 joins Voyager 1 outside the solar system
  • New Horizons exploring the outer solar system
  • An update on NASA’s plans for human space exploration.

Main news story: Chinese exploration of the far side of the moon.

Q&A: Listeners’ questions via email, Facebook & Twitter take us on a journey into the astronomy issues that have always plagued our understanding or stretched our credulity. This month we take a look at how to get a 450 ton space ship out of orbit:

How will the International Space Station be decommissioned? Andy Burns, UK.

The Debate: Lt Col Dave from Florida suggests a debate on which option is better for astronomy: space or Earth based telescopes? Paul & Ralph do battle.

#80 – February 2019 Part 1




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The Discussion: Jeni’s off to La Palma to gather data on dust & gas in the Crab Nebula, did a meteor or two strike the moon during the January eclipse? And what do Europeans think (or know) about the European Space Agency?

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

  • More research suggesting there are no seasonal water flows on Mars
  • Modelling the stellar wind at Barnard’s Star
  • Can interstellar objects survive the journey?
  • The unusual planetary system EPIC24924646
  • Lunar craters show Earth had a brief impact lull 650-300 million years ago
  • The youthful nature of Saturn’s rings
  • More research suggesting there may be no Planet 9
  • The Russian company planning to put billboards in space

Main news story: CERN’s plans for the monster successor to the Large Hadron Collider and what the hell that has to do with astronomy

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

Paul: Mercury at greatest eastern elongation, a conjunction of Uranus and Mars.

Ralph: Asteroid 532 Herculina at opposition and a brand new(ly discovered) comet to view in telescopes

Jen: Venus and Jupiter on show in the early morning and a conjunction of Saturn and Venus

Main Deep Sky Object: Messier 1, the Crab Nebula

Q&A: Listeners’ questions via email, Facebook & Twitter take us on a journey into the astronomy issues that have always plagued our understanding or stretched our credulity. This month we take a look at the bewildering array of theories for one of the greatest spectacles in the night sky:

How did Saturn’s rings form? Scott Jorgensen, Michigan.