#87 – September 2019 Part 1


The Discussion: A good old British whinge about the weather and looking forward to our biannual dark sky star party, AstoCamp.

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

  • An experiment in an underground lab in London to understand dark energy
  • Eight new repeating fast radio burst source
  • Help us come up with a cooler name than a pair-instability supernova
  • The late accretion phase of the formation of the solar system
  • The discovery of interstellar radioactive iron in the Antarctica
  • Spitzer reveals surprising exoplanetary details.
  • A new exoplanet discovery of three rocky worlds in the same system
  • Using oceanography to suggest greater exoplanet biodiversity

The main news story discussion: The latest big Juno discovery at Jupiter.

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

Jen: A tour of the planets on offer and the zodiacal light

Ralph: Jupiter Saturn and two meteor showers in September. Then further afield, a double star, an open cluster and a dark Nebula in Cepheus.

Main Object: Messier 27, The Dumbbell Nebula

Q&A: How can Titan have such a thick atmosphere with such a low gravity? From Alastair Frith in the UK

#86 – August 2019 Part 2


The Discussion: Following on from last month’s 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we take a look at the recent movies and documentaries & social media: High Life, 8 Days to the Moon and Back, Apollo 50th, ApolloinRealTime.org. The ongoing inspiration of Apollo, the build-up of Project Artemis, saying farewell to Flight Director Chris Kraft and Mandla Maseko, and an email from our good friend Lee Stevens.  

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

  • Japan’s Hyabusa 2 mission to return asteroid samples to Earth
  • Toyota and JAXA prototype a pressurized lunar rover for launch in 2029
  • India launch Chandrayaan 2 to the lunar south pole
  • ESA propose a comet interceptor for 2028
  • A formation of satellites to study the heliosphere
  • NASA’s Orion capsule completes its abort tests

Main news stories: NASA select 12 new lunar technology investigations.

The Debate: Court is in session for the third round of advocacy to get winner from your top ten historic space missions. This month we have an epic battle of space telescopes as Kepler goes toe to toe with Hubble.

Q&A: Why did NASA choose to send a drone to Titan rather than a submarine to Enceladus? Suki Woods in Norway

#86 – August 2019 Part 1


The Discussion: Space education at science fairs, sweating in space suits, the public attitude towards space exploration while there are so many relevant shows on TV. A correction from a listener and a lesson in Dutch.

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

  • A young stellar system showing us moons being formed around exoplanets
  • Pinpointing a Fast Radio Burst to understand what it actually is
  • An update on the Hubble Constant
  • Neptune-like exoplanets
  • How do stars merge in a stable manner?
  • A planetary nebula formed from a star in that missing 3-8 solar masses.

The main news story discussion: Protest in Hawaii over the Thirty Metre Telescope.

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

Paul: A tour of the planets on offer, the Perseid meteor show, peculiar galaxy NGC7727 and globular cluster NGC6760, both in Aquila.

Jen: How to find Neptune and what to look for. The further afield, the Albireo, Epsilon Lyrae and Izar double stars.

Main Object: Caldwell 4, The Iris Nebula

Q&A: Could multiple space telescopes use optical interferometry to cheaply outperform the vast expensive ground-based telescopes?

The Hubble Tuning Fork and Citizen Science


In this podcast extra episode we talk to Karen Masters, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Haverford College, Pennsylvania about The Hubble Tuning Fork and Galaxy classification. But it’s not only about that canonised galaxy classification system; it’s also about how citizen science, astronomy done by absolutely anybody from their homes, can and do change the accepted wisdom and advance science.

#85 – July 2019 Part 2


The Discussion: An Apollo-fact filled episode to commemorate the 50th anniversary of humanity venturing onto the surface of another body. Paul works on an Oscar performance; we congratulate Jess Wade on receiving a BEM award and we take a look at the latest movie to lionise the efforts of Apollo 11.

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

  • NASA plan to open up the International Space Station to commercial uses & ownership
  • NASA fund two concepts to explore moon craters and asteroids
  • ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter kills the excitement over methane on Mars.
  • NASA’s Dragonfly mission to Titan
  • A solar sail gets tested in space
  • A look at the return to the moon blueprint

Main news stories: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 with Krispy Kreme, Apolloinrealtime.org, @Pilliarscreatio, the best of the Apollo history books, movies and a few fun facts.

The Debate: Court is in session for the second round of advocacy to get winner from your top ten historic space missions. On the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, what else would be doing battle, other than Apollo missions? So it’s the heavyweights: Apollo 8 vs Apollo 11. Only one will survive!

Moon Hoaxes: This is a particularly active time for moon hoax conspiracy theorists so we thought we’d give you some ammunition for the next time someone tells you the flag was waving in the wind or the shadows should all be parallel…

#85 – July 2019 Part 1


The Discussion: Paul pulls a drowning child out of a river and we discuss the BBC’s current astronomy-themed TV programme, The Planets. A drunken and sarcastic Jen is a good Jen and a rather pleasant surprise from listener Lee Stevens

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

  • Taking Spitzer out “like a dog on the moor with a shotgun”
  • The International Astronomical Union launches a competition to name an exoplanet in each of the countries it operates, at nameexoworlds.iau.org
  • The chances of exoplanet habitability may be lower than thought.
  • Two exoplanet discoveries with very good habitability potential
  • NASA announces two more heliospheric missions, PUNCH & TRACERS
  • The Mars Curiosity Rover says, ‘No, there are methane spikes on Mars’.

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

Paul: The King of Planets, Jupiter, on offer all month and a partial lunar eclipse on the night of 16th July. For the deep sky, M10 & M12 globular clusters in Ophiuchus.

Ralph: Asteroid 18 Melpomene at opposition on 3rd July. On the 9th of July we have the Ring World, Saturn, at opposition and the Southern Delta Aquariids peak on 28/29th July. For the deep sky, beautiful binary targets Epsilon Lyrae and Albireo.

Main Object: The Earth’s Moon.

#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.