#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.

#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 2




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The Discussion: As it’s the holiday season, we get all Christmassy and take a brief detour from space into seasonal songs, the unseemly side of glam rock and Bavarian burn hazards. Ralph reviews the Mars inspired TV show, The First, and we run through some listeners’ emails.

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

  • Farewell Kepler
  • Farewell Dawn
  • Apollo 2 gets a step closer
  • NASA send a new mission to Mars
  • Where is SpaceX’s Starman now?
  • The International Space Station turns 20 years old.

Main news story: NASA’s Mars 2020 rover now has a landing site.

The Interview: Physicist and Associate editor at Nature, Dr Dave Abergel joins us in the studio to discuss crystals, graphene, peer review, magnetic monopoles and dark matter.

Physics of Christmas Q&A: We take our regular seasonal look at the issues that aren’t important enough to care much about any other time of year. This year we ask Why is Rudolph’s nose red?

Christmas: and as it’s Christmas, we have our usual yearly outtakes for your enjoyment/displeasure.

#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 2




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The Discussion: Jeni talking exoplanets and aliens at Cardiff Museum and we take a no spoiler look at the Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man.

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

  • Commercial spaceflight update
  • New Zealand’s Rocket Lab build a new launch site in the US
  • The winners & losers in USAF’s launcher funding competition
  • China’s Long March 5 rocket failure induces delays
  • The death of the Kepler space telescope
  • Russian Soyuz failures risk human access to space
  • Hubble dead? Don’t believe the hype
  • OSIRIS-Rex begins its final manoeuvres to land on an asteroid

Main news story: Europe and Japan’s Bepicolumbo mission to Mercury.

The Interview: Jeni interviews Bethan James, astronomer & astrophysicist currently working as an ESA/AURA Astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) on the Hubble instrument team.

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:

Why wasn’t SpaceX funded in the latest US military space funding round while Blue Origin was? Mark De Vrij, UK.