#28 – October 2014




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The Discussion: Enjoying dark skies at the National Trust, Paul’s astronomy outreach endeavours with Sirius Astronomy and predictions for the upcoming AstroCamp.

The Tour: In this special episode, Ralph and Paul bring record from the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey in Guildford. We tour this world leading centre of excellence for low cost satellite design and innovation and explain the sights and work being conducted in the Ground Station and laboratories from where 30 satellites have already been launched and many more are currently in design.

The News: In the news we have the latest on the European Space Agency’s ambitious Rosetta spacecraft as it circularises its orbit around Comet Churyumov Gerasimenko; Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission to return pristine asteroid samples; watching asteroids colliding 1,000 light years away and yet another reminder of the asteroid lottery we’re playing.

The 5 Minute Concept: Recording from the UK centre of satellite design and construction, what else should Paul be talking about this month, but the physics and history of satellites.

The Interview: This month the seat is filled by the Surrey Space Centre’s Head of the Planetary Environments Group, Professor Craig Underwood as we discuss satellite innovation, the UK space industry and the future of space exploration.

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:

  • I understand Jupiter has no solid mass inside, so how come it’s classed as a planet and stays planet shaped? Mike Joy from Wales via Facebook
  • Can you guys successfully explain the proton-proton chain in under 20 seconds?? Vicky Dews, @Woozydewsy via Twitter

#27 – September 2014




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The Discussion: Sirius Astronomy and The Knowledge Observatory’s educational outreach and preparation for our dark sky observing weekend in Wales: AstroCamp.

The News: In the news we have the latest on the European Space Agency’s ambitious Rosetta spacecraft as it settles into it’s science program at Comet Churyumov Gerasimenko; details of the science payload for NASA’s ‘Curiosity 2’ Mars rover; revealing images of the Pluto system from the New Horizons spacecraft; China’s lunar orbit & spacecraft return mission and turbulent happenings on Uranus (sorry).

The 5 Minute Concept: Distant radio sources that reveal unknown monsters from the past, unleashing hell from afar. In this month’s 5MC, Paul takes us billions of light years away from home to explain one of the brightest and most energetic objects in the universe. Quasars.

The Interview: This month we return to the most exciting current space mission. In an attempt to understand the life of comets and unlock the secrets of the birth of the solar system, Ralph speaks to the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission Project Scientist, Matt Taylor.

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:

  • Why does Venus rotate retrograde? Dave Bood from Scarborough, UK & Beatriz Caicedo, Guatemala .
  • With the idea that all that is the universe originated in a speck with the big bang, and that the universe is expanding, how is it that things such as galaxies collide? Kurt Green, Chicago Illinois via email.
  • How much would my 20 stone (280lbs) wife weigh on each of the planets in the solar system? Darren Knight .

#26 – August 2014




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The Discussion: Enjoying the delights of July’s skies, writing articles for Astronomy magazine, STEM education and Paul becomes a European Space Agency ambassador.

The News: In the news we have the Rosetta spacecraft’s approach to the almost unpronounceable comet Churyumov Gerasimenko – revealed to be a binary comet, and the Very Large Telscope in Chile takes a 2.5 year study of a supernova to crack the riddle of how dust is created and survives the extreme temperatures of its birth.

The 5 Minute Concept: In this month’s 5MC, Paul looks at the summer phenomenon of noctilucent clouds and asks ‘why is there no record of them before 1885’?

The Interview: We welcome back the General Secretary of the International Astronomical Union, Professor Thierry Montmerle to tells us about the International Year of Light, the IAU’s new look communications strategy and their new project to allow the public to name exoplanets and their host stars.

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:

  • Oolaaa Martian overlords. Where in your opinions does the solar system truly end. Thanks, your faithful servant Lee? Lee Garner from Norwich, UK.
  • What’s a Vampire Star? @TweetsByLou via Twitter

And we finish with the winners of last month’s competition to win three DVD copies of the new film Gagarin – First in Space, and a copy of the book Yuri Gagarin – The First Spaceman.

#25 – July 2014




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The Discussion: Looking back over Sirius Astronomy outreach events in June, a bit of a rant over peer-review and science by press conference and our own pathetic attempts to get awarded a Nobel Prize or two.

The News: Modelling of Pluto’s moon Charon ahead of the flyby of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft next year, aerobraking an orbiter through Venus’ upper atmosphere and radio imaging a Near Earth Asteroid.

The 5 Minute Concept: How comets are far from the traditional portents of doom and may well be the harbingers of life.

The Interview: Beginning a regular series of interviews with Dr Joe Liske about each of the key facilities in the European Southern Observatory’s arsenal, starting with the 3.6 meter telescope.

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:

  • Hey you mad martians, I have a question for the podcast. When we look at other galaxies we can clearly see the glowing bulge at their centres. Why is it when we look up at the milky way we don’t see one. Thanks for all your efforts? Lee Garner from Norwich, UK via Facebook .
  • Should the BICEP2 team have made their announcement pre-peer review? Mark Cullen (@Mokwepa) from the Buckinghamshire, UK via Twitter .

And we finish with a competition to win a DVD copy of the new film Gagarin – First in Space

#24 – June 2014

This month we’re outside recording under red light as we bag the latest meteor shower to grace planet Earth – the Camelopardalids.

We start with reminisces about our April AstroCamp star party, radio detection of meteors and the engineering & imaging prowess of our captured Earthing slaves John & Damien.

In the news we discusses the new discovery of Earth 2.0(ish), the sad shrinkage of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and Ralph gets a little bit ranty about NASA research into the melting of ice sheets.

Paul shows us that size IS everything in his 5 Minute Concept as he takes us on a tour of the sun and then whisks us away to some nuclear monsters – our sun’s bigger stellar brothers.

Instead of an interview this month, we have higlights of Dr Chris Lintott’s talk at AstroCamp where he covers Life, The Universe & Everthing in a shade over 13 minutes – and still manages to include a question from the audience (all hail Chris Lintott!)

Ralph answers a listener’s question on fleas, the Earth, the sun and UY Scuti (trust us… it’ll all make sense).

And we finish with a return to the Camelopardalid meteor shower and more discussion on how best to observe, understand and measure meteors.

#23 – May 2014




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The Discussion: Astronomy in the late 18th Century and the increased sense of hope we, as amateur astronomers, get from the work of early astronomical observations.

The Field Report: This month we record from the Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath, England and take a tour of the Georgian townhouse to investigate the many objects, telescopes and handwritten observations of William and Carline Herschel.

The News: In the news, we have more exciting inferences about the watery composition of Saturn’s moon Enceladus; a new moon forming in the outer rings of Saturn and a round up of the current tally in exoplanetology.

The 5 Minute Concept: In the 5 Minute Concept, Paul sits in the very spot where William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus and explains the Herschels’ contribution to astronomy.

The Interview: This month, Paul speaks with the curator of the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, Debbie James, about the life and works of the Herschels, the museum and Georgian life.

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:

  • Why does the planet Uranus spin on its side? Thea Hutchinson from London, UK via email
  • How did Caroline Herschel record her observations? Eric Emms @EmmsStarGaze in London, UK via Twitter & email

#22 – April 2014




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This month we talk National Astronomy Week and have an audio report from the outreach we conducted.

In the news, we have a discussion with Jeni Millard and Sebastian Khan from Cardiff University about the discovery of gravitational waves; we discuss the auroral display that lit up Europe and the ensuing scandals caused by the Daily Mail; we have a possible way of detecting dark matter and a theory that dark matter may have killed the dinosaurs; a new minor planet emerges beyond the orbit of Pluto and a yet another minor planet is found to have its own ring system.

In the 5 Minute Concept, Paul poetically explains the history and science behind that false dawn that plagued observers for centuries, the zodiacal light.

We interview Dr Chris North, Astrophysicist at Cardiff University and presenter of the BBC’s Sky at Night programme, about the detection of gravitational waves and what it means for wider cosmology.

And in Q&A, we answer listeners’ questions on Transient Lunar Phenomena and what happens on the boundary of a black hole.

#21 – March 2014




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This month we talk science outreach in Wiltshire and have an audio report on the aurora from Iceland

In the news, we have a supernova for amateur observers in a ‘nearby’ galaxy and Europe’s Herschel Observatory finding water plumes on dwarf planet Ceres. China’s Chang’e-3 moon mission finds itself in trouble (in more ways than one!) and the European Space Agency gives the green light to the exoplanet and star characterising PLATO mission.

In the 5 Minute Concept, Paul poetically explains the history and science behind one of astronomy’s greatest ever discoveries, as he unwraps the concept of redshift.

We interview Carole Mundell, Professor of Extragalactic Astronomy at Liverpool John Moore’s University, about the most violent explosions in the universe and promoting equality in science & astronomy.

And in Q&A, we answer listeners’ questions on the likelihood of fatalities from the M82 supernova and why the sun doesn’t just float away.

#20 – February 2014




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This month, our captured Earthling Damien brings us a stargazing report from Pakistan.

News includes a new planet hunting instrument in Chile, a best-yet candidate for a naked-eye visible supernova, the progress of commercial space-flight and public access to space, China’s Chang’e-3 rover’s discoveries and ESA’s Rosetta and Gaia missions.

In his 5 Minute Concept, Paul explains our solar systems ring of icy debris – the Kuiper Belt – and the need for a good publicist!

We have lots of goodies to give away to one listener in our European Southern Observatory competition and Ralph interviews Dr Joe Liske, from ESO, about the world’s biggest telescopes and finding ET in our lifetime.

And in listeners’ Q&A we answer questions about ice on Mercury and the expansion of the universe.

#19 – January 2014




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Happy New Year!

The sky guide has Jupiter at its very best, Venus, Saturn & Mars on offer along with the deep sky objects in Orion and Canis Major.

The news has a Comet ISON saga round-up, China’s Chang’e-3 moon lander, Jupiter’s moon Europa spewing water into space & new exoplanet updates.

In the 5MC, Paul explains the mystery and awe of Pulsating Stars – Pulsars.

Ralph interviews astrophysicist & The Sky at Night host, Dr Chris Lintott.

And the Q&A has questions on Martian meteor showers and the difference between open and globular clusters.