In this show we talk to Dr Leigh Fletcher about storms on Saturn, Robert Franke about neutrinos and Professor Iwan Williams about comets and asteroids in the last of our interviews from this year's National Astronomy Meeting. Dr Iain McDonald answers your astronomical questions, and we report on some odds and ends from the world of astronomy.
Interview with Dr Leigh Fletcher
In December 2010, a storm on the surface of Saturn was spotted by amateur astronomers. Dr Leigh Fletcher (Oxford University) is one of the professional astronomers who has been studying this storm, mainly using the Cassini spacecraft. In this interview Leigh tells us about the physics that is thought to be happening in Saturn's atmosphere, recent results using Cassini and the Very Large Telescope and how amateur astronomers can get involved.
Interview with Robert Franke
Robert Franke is a member of the IceCube collaboration based at the DESY Institute Zeuthen (and sometimes the South Pole). IceCube is a an enormous neutrino observatory at the South Pole that looks through the Earth for rare high-energy neutrino crashes. Here, Robert tells us all about using neutrinos to view the universe and why we need massive sensors arrays in the ice to detect them. He also tells us what life is like at the South Pole.
Interview with Iwan Williams
Professor Iwan Williams of Queen Mary University, London is an expert in the physics of comets and asteroids. In this interview, he discusses the differences between these objects and how the long-held views on this may require some modification. He talks about the importance of the so-called "snowline", as well as the formation of the solar system. Iwan also addresses the question of where asteroids originate from, as some of those he has observed seem to be comets which have been captured by the asteroid belt.
Ask an Astronomer
Dr Iain McDonald answers your astronomical questions:
- Gareth Toye asks via e-mail: When are we going to have our first interstellar telescope? I'm sure we could get one out there quicker than it has taken Voyager. Maybe 10 years?
- Jeffrey, aged 9, asks via e-mail: What is the closest star to the Sun? Is it alpha Centauri or Proxima Centauri?
- Jodatheoak asks via e-mail: If the Moon pulls the Earth's crust and causes the tides to flow, why couldn't the Moon cause earthquakes?
- National Geographic article on the same subject.
Odds and Ends
A new supernova in the Whirlpool galaxy, or M51, was discovered at the beginning of June. Given the name SN2011dh, the supernova has since been imaged by both professional and amateur astronomers.
On June 7, the Sun released a spectacular coronal mass ejection, also known as solar flare. The event was observed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, where you can see the really cool video they made. A video has also been made comparing this solar eruption with the destruction of Alderaan in Star Wars. Both videos are definitely worth watching!
NASA has released images of the space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in May. They were taken by Paolo Nespoli as he left the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz supply ship, an unusual situation as two spacecraft are not normally at the space station at the same time.
Entry for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2011 competition, run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, closes on July 13.
|Interview:||Dr Leigh Fletcher and Jen Gupta|
|Interview:||Robert Franke and Libby Jones|
|Interview:||Professor Iwan Williams and Evan Keane|
|Ask An Astronomer:||Dr Iain McDonald and Libby Jones|
|Presenters:||Megan Argo, Melanie Gendre, Jen Gupta and Mark Purver|
|Editors:||Jen Gupta, Libby Jones, Cat McGuire and Mark Purver|
|Segment Voice:||Liz Guzman|
|Website:||Stuart Lowe and Jen Gupta|
|Cover art:||A sensor descends down a hole in the ice as part of the final season of IceCube. CREDIT: NSF/B. Gudbjartsson|