#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 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 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 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.

#79 – January 2019 Part 1




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The Discussion: Festive cheer, academic hiatuses, magnificent cheeses, a surfeit of meat, space themed presents and listeners’ emails.

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

  • The Milky Way gives birth to around 7 stars per year
  • Watching a star being born from a nearby massive star
  • A new way to map the dark matter in our universe
  • Where’s the methane on Mars?
  • Saturn’s rings are more short lived than we thought
  • The discovery of another outer solar system object

Main news story: 1) The ALMA telescope helps to understand how solar systems form and why newly forming planets don’t spiral into their host star. 2) The International Astronomical Union has its 100th anniversary in 2019 and there will be a series of events (probably near you) to celebrate a century of astronomy.

The Sky Guide: Covering the solar system and deep sky objects on offer to amateur astronomers in the first month of the New Year.

Ralph: The Quadrantids peak on 3rd/4th January, a total lunar eclipse on 21st January, and Comet 46P Wirtanen still in our skies.

Jeni: Mars and Uranus in Pisces, a glimpse of Neptune in Aquarius, Venus blazing away before dawn, and Jupiter in Ophiuchus.

Paul: The Christmas Tree Cluster, Snowflake Cluster, Cone Nebula and the Fox Fur Nebula in Monoceros.

Main Deep Sky Object: M45, the Pleiades 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 USAF’s rocket funding decision:

Could you explain light year, parsec, universal galactic unit and warp one, and how they relate to one another? Steve Parry, Wales.

#78 – December 2018 Part 1

The Discussion: Arthur Eddington, the Caldwell catalogue and a round-up of emails to the show.

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

  • Waiting for a Gamma Ray Burst
  • Watching the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole feeding
  • Finding a massive meteorite under 1km of ice in Greenland
  • The discovery that the Milky Way has another satellite galaxy
  • The Hyades is bigger than we thought – much bigger!
  • Silica dust from supernovae discovered

Main news story: The discovery of an exoplanet around Barnard’s Star just 6 light year away.

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

Ralph: Mars & Neptune conjunction, The Geminds meteor shower & Comet 46P Wirtanen at perihelion

Paul: Venus, Uranus, Mercury & Jupiter

Jeni: The Hyades in Taurus

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 USAF’s rocket funding decision:

What makes a galaxy? When is it a galaxy rather than just a cluster of stars? Wullie Mitchell, Scotland.

#77 – November 2018 Part 1


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The Discussion: Jeni’s tells us about her gig at the Cardiff Book Talk and an upcoming talk at Usk Astronomical Society, Paul had a hairy moment giving a talk on the Herschels only to find their descendants in the room and we run through listeners’ emails

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

  • Low metallicity stars seem to harbour the rocky exoplanets
  • A possible satellite galaxy to Mirach’s Ghost may have been discovered by amateur kit
  • Aliens may not be green but purple
  • A plume-like cloud of water ice over Mars
  • A review of the Galileo data shows no signs of cryovolcanic plumes on Europa
  • The slowest rotating pulsar found
  • Magnetism around Cygnus A supermassive black hole gives us some clues
  • Has the first exomoon been discovered?

Sky Guide: Taking a look at the astronomical objects above our heads this month that you can enjoy with a small telescope or binoculars.

Paul: Saturn, Mars, Uranus, Neptune & a risky greatest elongation of Mercury on 6th November. And Comets 46P Wirtanen and 38P Stephan-Oterma may well provide some distractions too.

Ralph: Northern Taurids meteor shower peaks on 12th November and the Leonids peak on the 17th.

Jen: Mirach’s Ghost in Andromeda and two galactic members of the Local Group NGC147 & NGC185.

And we finish off with a spotlight on Venus which will be its brightest all year at the end of the month.

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 accepted wisdom vs the evidence:

Did a collision with the Earth create the moon? Is it fact or still a hypothesis? Andrew Osborn in London.

#76 – October 2018 Part 1


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The Discussion: Paul has snubbed the show to do astronomy on TV so we’re keeping our spirits up with tales of AstroCamp and the inspirational Libby Jackson from the UK Space Agency. Jeni updates us with the progress of her PhD and invites you all along to her Q&A session at Cardiff Book Talk on 22nd October, before Ralph runs through listeners’ emails

The News: With 3 minutes to round up the astronomy news stories you might have missed, we overshoot the time constraints by about 70%:

Jeni:

  • JAXA and NASA are exploring asteroids
  • Jupiter’s magnetic field gives us yet more surprises
  • Saturn’s hexagonal Jetstream appears to be hovering
  • More ‘research’ trying to get Pluto reclassified… again.

Ralph:

  • Hubble & BUFFALO image of gravitationally lensing galaxy cluster
  • An unusual ring of black holes (or neutron stars) in a distant galaxy
  • The galactic wind in the early universe
  • The 3rd Magellanic Cloud.
  • The big news story:
  • TESS finds its first exoplanet, amidst a little astro-controversy.

The Sky Guide: Jeni and Ralph take you through their picks of the night sky in October:

Ralph covers our solar system:

  • October 8th gives us the peak of the Draconids meteor shower
  • October 21st gives us the peak of the Orionids meteor shower.

Jeni takes a look into the deep sky:

  • Messier 33, the Triangulum Galaxy
  • Messier 34, open cluster in Perseus
  • Imaging target, the Heart Nebula in Cassiopeia.

The main event:

  • Uranus reaches opposition on 23rd October and we run through some Uranus factoids and tell you what to expect from the ice giant.

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 look at distance metrics:

Which point in other galaxies do astronomers measure galactic distances to, the galactic core or the edge? From Steve Brown in Yorkshire

#75 – September 2018 Part 1


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The Discussion: Jeni returns after getting the flu, Paul’s science shows were a wash out at Camp Bestival and Ralph gets a great email about a telescope library service.

The News: In the new revamped show format we have 3 minutes to round up the astronomy news stories you might have missed:

Jeni:

  • New Gaia data shows us the distance and shape of familiar objects like never before
  • India’s Chandrayaan-1 finds water ice in the moon’s north and south pole craters
  • The Andromeda Galaxy’s dwarf companion was canibalised by a galactic collision

Ralph:

  • An ultra-hot 4,000ºC exoplanet
  • An ultra compact dwarf galaxy with a huge supermassive black hole
  • Astronomy favourite Albireo isn’t a binary star after all

The big news story:

  • New Horizons spacecraft confirms Voyager data on the Heliosphere

The Skyguide:

  • Jeni runs through some top facts about the planet Neptune
  • Paul tells you where to find it and what you can expect to see
  • Ralph runs through the autumn equinox, the constellations Cygnus & Lyra and visiting comet 21P Giacobini Zinner
  • Paul finished with this month’s moon phases

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 astronomical time travel:

I’m still trying to get my head around if bigger telescopes looking at the same thing as my 6 inch reflector are seeing it at a different time or in just more detail. Take the Whirlpool Galaxy for example, can it be seen at different stages in its existence? From Peter Coates in the UK.

Episode 75 Part 2 on space exploration comes out in the middle of the month.