#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.

#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 2




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The Discussion: It’s almost Halloween and Jeni’s getting the knives out. Paul’s been recording astronomy voiceovers for the Discovery Channel, Jeni’s got the Cardiff BookTalk coming up and Ralph’s excited by the return of Doctor Who.

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

  • ESA tell us that radiation is too dangerous for a Mars voyage
  • The new Nobel Prizes are announced
  • It might be all over for both Kepler and Hubble
  • The Case of the ISS Leak detective story
  • Israel’s SpaceIL has an upcoming moonshot
  • NASA are about to announce their plans for human space exploration
  • Japan’s Hayabusa 2 impresses us all

Black History Month: To honour Black History Month, the crew take a look at the non white, middle-aged males that have pioneered and excelled in making our world what it is today in the fields of astronomy and space science.

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 fate of our sun:

When the sun explodes into a supernovae how far will the ejected material go as a planetary nebulae? Also will any of the planets make it or will they all be shattered into oblivion? Tyler W in the US via email.

#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 2




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The Discussion: Lt Col Dave from Florida gives us his more informed take on Space Force.

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

Jeni:

  • An incredible Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image of Aristarchus Crater
  • New life in the Kepler spacecraft

Ralph:

  • ESA’s Aeolus weather data spacecraft launches
  • NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft enters its science phase
  • China’s Chang’e 4 lander headed for the far side of the moon

The big news story:

  • The Parker Solar Probe on its way to ‘touch the sun’

The Debate: In this section the team debate a pressing question or issue in astronomy or space flight and in this inaugural debate, Ralph takes on Jeni to make arguments for what should be the next big human spaceflight destination: Moon or Mars?

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 powering rovers on Mars:

Will ExoMars be able to survive dust storms? From Mike in Florida