#90 – December 2019 Part 2


The News: Sharing our news picks from the space exploration and astronomy world this month we have:

  • A late risk of Exomars being cancelled
  • Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft abort test and cost controversies
  • Sierra Nevada’s Dreamchaser shuttle gets a trailer

Main news story: Far from being unlikely, Tatooine worlds turn out to be very common

The Interview: This month Jeni has a sit down chat about the discovery of the collapsed neutron star from supernova 1987a with Dr Phil Cigan of Cardiff University.

#90 – December 2019 Part 1


The Discussion: A look at the BBC’s new Martian invasion documentary, The War of the Worlds; the recent transit of Mercury; Celestron’s new phone adapter; Jen’s upcoming talks in Wales, an update on Jen’s research paper, a new research project and a debate over the start and end of a decade. Then we take a look at a couple of listeners’ emails.

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

  • Water vapour geysers on Europa
  • Ultima Thule loses its Nazi moniker
  • Locating the stellar remnant from the closest supernova to Earth
  • Are Axions dark matter particles? (no)
  • And a round up of spaceflight news from NASA, ESA, India, New Zealand & UK

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

  • Jen: A round up of the planets available to northern hemisphere observers in December, and a look at the Pleiades in Taurus.
  • Paul: The best meteor shower of the year and naked eye visible open cluster Messier 35.

The Debate: A look back at the debates and votes over the past year with your result for The Best Space Mission of All Time.

#89 – November 2019 Part 2


The Discussion: Ralph’s been in Washington – which, of course, means a visit to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, we say goodbye to Russian cosmonaut, Alexi Leonov, and take a look at listeners’ emails.

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

  • James Webb Space Telescope inches ever closer
  • The USAF’s autonomous space plane sets a new record
  • SpaceX are back on the right path with its crew capsule
  • NASA are sending a viper to the moon and an orbiter to Pluto
  • Plans are revealed about Scotland’s new spaceport.
  • Project Artemis technologies being funded by NASA
  • The findings and recommendations of NASA’s Planetary Protection Review

Main news story: NASA’s new moonsuit is revealed.

The Debate: Now that we’ve whittled down the contenders for the greatest space mission of all time (the last fifty years anyway), it’s your time to crown the winner!.

#89 – November 2019 Part 1


The Discussion: Before we start the show proper, we discuss Jeni’s encounter with Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne, her new research paper undergoing a painfully slow peer review and we take a look at Chris Lintott’s book, The Crowd and the Cosmos: Adventures in the Zooniverse. Then it’s over to the listeners for a few emails suggesting cooler names for the phenomenon of the Pair Instability Supernova.

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

  • An enigmatic radio burst opens up a new method of probing the universe
  • Hubble takes a look at interstellar comet
  • Hygiea becomes the latest candidate to be recategorized as a dwarf planet
  • Spiral galaxies give more clues to discredit the MOND theory of dark matter
  • Venus going pop and perhaps a 2 billion window of habitability
  • More confusion over the age of Saturn’s rings

The big news story: perhaps heavier elements in the Universe are not only forged in supernovae, but also from neutron star mergers.

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

  • Paul: A round up of the planets available to northern hemisphere observers in November, a tour of the comets currently in our skies and Vest at opposition. In the deep sky, Paul recommends a few overlooked objects in Cetus and Sculptor.
  • Jen: The upcoming Transit of Mercury on 11/12th November.
  • Ralph: 3 lunar/planetary conjunctions and a couple of meteor showers. Then further afield, the Orion Nebula

 Main Object: The innermost planet, Mercury

Q&A: What actually is the solar wind? From our good friend Andrew Osborne.

#88 – October 2019 Part 2


The Discussion: As a reward for good behavior, we’ve dispensed with wittering on about us and gone straight into the news.

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

  • The last of the Delta IV mediums
  • India’s Vikram lunar lander failure
  • ESA move a satellite to avoid crashing with a SpaceX satellite
  • NASA award funding for a Lunar Gateway pathfinding cubesat
  • Australia & Japan commit to supporting NASA’s moonshot, Project Artemis
  • NASA place orders for the first of possibly 12 Orion moon capsules.

Main news stories: A roundup of Elon Musk’s Herculean benevolent/malevolent efforts to get giant phalluses on Mars.

The Debate: Court is in session for the fifth and final round of advocacy to get a winner from your top ten historic space missions. This month Judge Damien presides over arguments between the International Space Station and the Pioneer missions.

Q&A: With the news of a near collision between a SpaceX and an ESA satellite, does that mean more satellite collisions in the future? From our good friend Noah Kraus in Bremen Germany.

#88 – October 2019 Part 1


The Discussion: A look back at our 50th anniversary of the moon landings-themed dark sky star party, AstroCamp, and some wonderful suggestions as an alternative name for a ‘pair instability supernova’.

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

  • Discovery of an exoplanet stripped of its atmosphere
  • Understanding more about the features you can observe in Jupiter’s storms
  • Gaia tells us more about the evolution of open clusters
  • Chandra probes black hole clusters
  • Planet 9 (groan…) could be a tiny black hole (it couldn’t)
  • Amateur astronomer discovery of an interstellar comet
  • Understanding the evolution of globular clusters
  • NASA’s Insight lander suggests weird magnetic chirping at midnight on Mars

The main news story discussion: Water vapour in the atmosphere of an exoplanet in its habitable zone – leading to discussions on the importance of science journalism and the search for Earth 2.0

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

Paul: A round up of the planets available to northern hemisphere observers in October and a tour of the comets currently in our skies. In the deep sky, we recommend a look at globular cluster Messier 2 and the NGC7009 planetary nebula in Aquarius.

Ralph: 3 lunar/planetary conjunctions and a glut of meteor showers. Then further afield, the Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies.

Main Object: Messier 44, The Beehive Cluster

Q&A: Advice on upgrading telescopes for our good friend Jeremy Hanson in Wisconsin, USA.

Also this month, a close friend of Jen’s, Chris Duffield, got ill and died in China aged 27. The foreign office have told his family that the ballpark figure for getting him home will be between £15,000-£20,000. If you’d like to help repatriate the friend’s body, please do consider giving a donation to the gofundme account at tiny.cc/lpvgdz. Thank you.

#87 – September 2019 Part 2


The Discussion: Nuking hurricanes and the lessons of Chernobyl.

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

  • A new adaptor on the ISS making two emergency exits
  • Russia sends a gunslinging robot into space (no, really!)
  • ESA’s ExoMars mission is in hot water again
  • NASA’s Europa Clipper on track to meet its mid-2020s launch window
  • The companies being funded to develop tech for NASA’s moonshot
  • Ramping up of commercial assistance to Project Artemis

Main news stories: A NASA astronaut accused of a crime in space, issues of jurisdiction and what happens to sock dust in space.

The Debate: Court is in session for the fourth round of advocacy to get winner from your top ten historic space missions. This month we pit Mars against the Outer Limits as Spirit & Opportunity take on the Voyagers.

#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?