#39 – September 2015

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The Discussion: A dismissal of paranoid woo-pedalling, following what seems be an upsurge in space-based pseudoscience this month, and we introduce you to the first in our series of astronaut interviews recorded at Cosmiccon.

The News: This month we get a little disappointed at the lack of news from the New Horizons team after the initial press releases of NASA’s Pluto flyby. We take a look at the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet to Earth, at 21 light years away, and ask ‘could we send a probe there within the span of a human lifetime?’ New evidence from many of the world’s most productive telescopes that shows the steady heat death of the universe. And a happy story to end on as NASA are offering the public the opportunity to send their names to Mars encoded on a microchip on the Insight Mars Lander next year.

The 5 Minute Concept: We follow up on last month’s first back-to-basics 5 Minute Concepts with an introduction to what you can expect to realistically achieve with amateur telescopes – and Paul gives you his own ‘patent pending’ formula to help you decide if you’re likely to resolve that faint fuzzy.

The Interview: This month we wrap the whole show around our interview with 4 time Shuttle astronaut, Dr Don Thomas. Veteran of 4 Space Shuttle missions (STS-65, STS-70, STS-83, STS-94), Don tells us about how he never gave up in his pursuit to become an astronaut, the incredible views from space (including Mount Everest, meteors and Comet Hale Bopp!), what’s in the Lake Eerie water that Ohio produces to many astronauts, flying through the Challenger & Columbia disasters, the future direction of NASA to the moon, asteroids and Mars and hanging out with Neil Armstrong in the run up to a launch.

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 Ralph & Paul answer:

· This blew my mind! With a small telescope you can track some binary stars orbiting each other over the years. If I was going to watch a double star year to year looking for movement, what would be my best bet?Andrew Burns, from Reading, England & Randy Anokye from Kumasi, Ghana via the Facebook Group

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