Universe Today

http://www.universetoday.com

Universe Today is a daily summary of the latest space and astronomy - I've been publishing it daily since 1999. In this audio edition, I interview astronauts, astronomers, and scientists about their latest research.

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Copyright: 2005 Universe Today

  • Universe Today - Planetary Disk That Refuses to Grow Up
    [Duration 00:12:21, 5.7 MB]
    Wed, 3 Aug 2005 12:12:00 -0800
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    With new instruments, astronomers are filling in all the pieces that help to explain how planets form out of extended disks of gas and dust around newborn stars. This process seems to happen quickly, often just a few million years is all it takes to go from dust to planets. But astronomers have found one proto-planetary disk that refuses to grow up. It's 25 million years old, and still hasn't made the transition to form planets. Lee Hartmann is with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the lead author on the paper announcing the find.

  • Universe Today - Summer at the Lake... on Titan
    [Duration 00:12:16, 5.6 MB]
    Tue, 7 Jul 2005 11:45:00 -0800
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    Ah, summer. Long relaxing days spent at the lake, just swimming, fishing, and enjoying the scenery. Think you can only enjoy lakes here on Earth? Well, think again. NASA's Cassini spacecraft might have turned up a lake on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. It might not be the kind of lake you're used to though. The average temperature on Titan is only a hundred degrees above Absolute Zero, so it's probably a lake of liquid hydrocarbons. Carolyn Porco is the leader on the imaging team on the Cassini mission to Saturn and the director for the Center of Imaging Operations at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. That's where the images from Cassini are processed and released to the public.

  • Universe Today - Interview with Story Musgrave
    [Duration 00:20:54, 95.7 MB]
    Thu, 30 Jun 2005 10:45:00 -0800
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    How many times have I been to space? Well, I lost count at, oh, none. So I, and nearly every other human being on Earth can't compare with Story Musgrave, a legendary NASA astronaut who flew on the space shuttle six times, including leading the team that fixed the Hubble Space Telescope's vision in 1993. He's the subject of a recent biography called Story: the Way of Water, and has a new CD called Cosmic Fireflies, which sets his space inspired poetry to music. Story speaks to me from his home in Florida.

  • Universe Today - Having a BLAST in the Arctic
    [Duration 00:09:45, 4.5 MB]
    Mon, 27 Jun 2005 12:15:00 -0800
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    If you're an astronomer and you want to escape the Earth's hazy atmosphere, you need a space telescope... right? Not necessarily, sometimes all you need is a balloon, and some clear arctic skies. An international team of researchers traveled to Sweden and deployed a 33-storey tall balloon carrying the BLAST telescope, designed to study the birth of stars and planets. Gaelen Marsden is a member of the team, and researcher at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

  • Universe Today - Into the Submillimeter
    [Duration 00:10:22, 4.7 MB]
    Tue, 21 Jun 2005 10:35:00 -0800
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    When you look into the night sky with your eyes, or through a telescope, you're seeing the Universe in the spectrum of visible light. Unfortunately, this is a fraction of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, ranging from radio waves to gamma radiation. And that's too bad because different wavelengths are better than others for revealing the mysteries of space. Technology can let us "see" what our eyes can't, and instruments here on Earth and in space can detect these different kinds of radiation. The submillimeter wavelength is part of the radio spectrum, and gives us a very good view of objects which are very cold - that's most of the Universe. Paul Ho is with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and an astronomer working in world of the submillimeter. He speaks to me from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • Universe Today - Get Ready for Deep Impact
    [Duration 00:12:38, 5.8 MB]
    Mon, 13 Jun 2005 22:30:00 -0800
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    July 4th is Independence Day In the United States, and Americans typically enjoy their holiday with a few fireworks. But up in space, 133 million kilometres away, there's going to be an even more spectacular show... Deep Impact. On July 4th, a washing machine-sized spacecraft is going to smash into Comet Tempel 1, carve out a crater, and eject tonnes of ice and rock into space. The flyby spacecraft will watch the collision from a safe distance, and send us the most spectacular pictures ever taken of a comet - and its fresh bruise. Dr. Lucy McFadden is on the science team for Deep Impact, and speaks to me from the University of Maryland.

  • Universe Today - Homing Beacon for an Asteroid
    [Duration 00:12:52, 5.9 MB]
    Tue, 7 Jun 2005 11:00:00 -0800
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    Asteroids have been roughing up the Earth since it formed 4.6 billion years ago. Hundreds of thousands of potentially devastating asteroids are still out there, and whizzing past our planet all the time. Eventually, inevitably, one is going to score a direct hit and cause catastrophic damage. But what if we could get a better idea of where all these asteroids are or even learn to shift their orbits? Dr Edward Lu is a NASA astronaut, and a member of the B612 Foundation - an organization raising awareness about the threat of these asteroids and some potential solutions.

  • Universe Today - Microlens Planet Discovery
    [Duration 00:12:50, 5.9 MB]
    Wed, 25 May 2005 13:40:00 -0800
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    Professional astronomers have got some powerful equipment at their disposal: Hubble, Keck, and Spitzer, just to name a few. But many discoveries rely on the work of amateurs, using equipment you could buy at your local telescope shop. And recently, amateurs helped discover a planet orbiting another star 15 thousand light-years away. Grant Christie is an amateur astronomer from Auckland New Zealand, and is part of the team that made the discovery.

  • Universe Today - Unlikely Wormholes
    [Duration 00:09:28, 4.3 MB]
    Mon, 23 May 2005 22:00:00 -0800
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    Wormholes are a mainstay in science fiction, providing our heroes with a quick and easy way to instantly travel around the Universe. Enter a wormhole near the Earth and you come out on the other side of the galaxy. Even though science fiction made them popular, wormholes had their origins in science - distorting spacetime like this was theoretically possible. But according to Dr. Stephen Hsu from the University of Oregon building a wormhole is probably impossible.

  • Universe Today - NASA Tests a Solar Sail
    [Duration 00:10:39, 4.9 MB]
    Thu, 12 May 2005 12:00:00 -0800
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    Imagine a solar powered sail that could propel a space craft through the vacuum of space like a wind that drives a sail here on Earth. The energy of photons steaming from the Sun alone would provide the thrust. NASA and other space agencies are taking the idea seriously and are working on various prototype technologies. Edward Montgomery is the Technology Area Manager of Solar Sail Propulsion at NASA. They just tested a 20-meter (66 foot) sail at the Glenn research center's Plum Brook facility in Sandusky, Ohio.

  • Universe Today - Alpha, Still Constant After All These Years
    [Duration 00:09:39, 3.3 MB]
    Wed, 20 Apr 2005 23:00:00 -0800
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    There's a number in the Universe which we humans call alpha - or the fine structure constant. It shows up in almost every mathematical formula dealing with magnetism and electricity. The very speed of light depends on it. If the value for alpha was even a little bit different, the Universe as we know it wouldn't exist - you, me and everyone on Earth wouldn't be here. Some physicists have recently reported that the value for alpha has been slowly changing since the Big Bang. Others, including Jeffrey Newman from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have good evidence that alpha has remained unchanged for at least 7 billion years.

  • Universe Today - Oldest Star Discovered
    [Duration 00:06:57, 2.4 MB]
    Sun, 17 Apr 2005 23:00:00 -0800
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    Let's say you're browsing around the comic book store and happened to notice a perfect copy of Action Comics #1 on the rack mixed in with the current stuff. It's in mint condition, untouched since it was first printed almost 70 years ago. Now imagine the same situation... except with stars. Anna Frebel is a PhD student at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University. She's working with a team of astronomers who have found the oldest star ever seen - possibly untouched since shortly after the Big Bang.

  • Universe Today - Best Spot for a Lunar Base
    [Duration 00:08:09, 2.8 MB]
    Thu, 14 Apr 2005 13:00:00 -0800
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    In case you missed the news, NASA is headed back to the Moon in the next decade. A permanent lunar base could be down the road, so scientists are starting to consider where we should build. Ben Bussey, with Johns Hopkins University in Maryland likes the Moon's North Pole. It's got everything you might need for a long-term stay: permanent sunlight, relatively stable temperatures, and lots of lunar soil. And as an added bonus, there might be plenty of frozen water hiding in lunar craters.

  • Universe Today - Wolf-Rayet Binary System
    [Duration 00:11:50, 4.1 MB]
    Wed, 13 Apr 2005 10:30:00 -0800
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    Wolf-Rayet stars are big, violent and living on borrowed time. Put two of these stars destined to explode as supernovae in a binary system, and you've got an extreme environment, to say the least. Sean Dougherty, an astronomer at the Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics in Canada has used the Very Long Baseline Array radio telescope to track a binary Wolf-Rayet system. The two stars are blasting each other with ferocious stellar winds. This is one fight we're going to stay well away from.

  • Universe Today - Dark Energy Stars
    [Duration 00:14:00, 4.9 MB]
    Mon, 11 Apr 2005 22:30:00 -0800
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    Black holes... you know. Cosmic singularities that can contain the mass of billions of stars like our Sun. Where the pull of gravity is so strong, nothing, not even light can escape their fearsome grasp. They're the source of much discussion, indirect observation and science fiction speculation. But according to George Chapline from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, they don't exist. Instead we have dark energy stars, which are connected to that mysterious force accelerating the expansion of the Universe.

  • Universe Today - Sedna Loses Its Moon
    [Duration 00:11:00, 3.8 MB]
    Fri, 8 Apr 2005 11:00:00 -0800
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    Remember Sedna? It's that icy object uncovered last year in the outer reaches of the Solar System. When it was first discovered, astronomers noticed it rotated once every 20 days. The only explanation that could explain this slow rotation was a moon, but a moon never showed up in any of their observations. Scott Gaudi is a researcher with the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. He and his colleagues have been watching the rotation of Sedna with a skeptical eye, and think it's only rotating once every 10 hours or so. As for the moon? Easy come, easy go.

  • Universe Today - Welcome to Universe Today
    [Duration 00:00:59, 0.5 MB]
    Thu, 7 Apr 2005 11:00:00 -0800
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    Universe Today is a daily summary of the latest space and astronomy - I've been publishing it daily since 1999. In this audio edition, I interview astronauts, astronomers, and scientists about their latest research. The podcasts are short (10-15 minutes long) and very focused.