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July 2011: Transmission

July 2011

In this show we talk to Dr Giovanna Tinetti about exoplanet atmospheres. Megan rounds up the latest news and we hear what we can see in the July night sky from Ian Morison.

The News

In the news this month:

Interview with Dr Giovanna Tinetti

Dr Giovanna Tinetti (University College London) researches exoplanets - planets orbiting around other stars. At the time of release there are 564 known exoplanets and Dr Tinetti begins this interview by explaining the different methods used to detect these planets. Instead of just trying to find these planets, Dr Tinetti's research is focused on characterising exoplanet atmospheres by observing them as they pass in front of, and behind, their parent star. She explains how studying the atmospheres can give us information about how the planets formed and even if there is life on them. We also talk about work done by Dr Tinetti's former PhD student, Dr David Kipping, looking at the possibility of detecting exomoons, especially using data from the Kepler mission. Finally Dr Tinetti tells us about a proposed future mission, EChO, which would be dedicated to studying exoplanet atmospheres. EChO is one of four missions currently under review by ESA and, if selected, would be launched between 2020 and 2022.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere night sky during July 2011.

The nights are getting slightly longer. One effect of this is that the night we see soon after sunset stays sort of the same throughout the late summer and autumn because as the stars move round a bit earlier by about 4 minutes per day, the sunset also gets a bit earlier so the same sort of things are visible. The brightest star in the July night sky is Arcturus in Bootes, which is the second brightest star in the northern night sky after Sirius. Up to the left of Arcturus is a little circlet of stars called Corona Borealis and over to its left, towards the bright star Vega in Lyra, is the constellation of Hercules. There are four stars at the heart of Hercules which form an asterism known as the keystone because of its shape. With binoculars or a small telescope, up the right hand side is a fuzzy object called M13, which is the best globular cluster we can see in the northern night sky. Often overlooked, just above the keystone, is a second globular cluster called M92, which can be found by scanning to the west from Vega. Below Hercules is a large constellation called Ophiuchus. Over to the east, fairly high up at 11pm in the middle of month, is Cygnus the swan with Deneb its brightest star, Lyra with Vega and Aquila with Altair - those three bright stars make up the summer triangle. Down to the left of Cygnus, across from Altair, is a nice trapezium of stars with a couple more making a tail, this is Delphinus the dolphin. All through the month, the Moon is at very low declination so doesn't rise very high above the horizon, resulting in the illusion that the Moon looks larger.

The Planets

Highlights

Southern Hemisphere

Unfortunately, the Carter Observatory have been unable to supply us with a southern night sky segment this month. We apologise for this and suggest you check out the night sky podcast from the Sydney observatory instead. Hopefully we will be back to normal in August.

Odds and Ends

The last ever space shuttle launch is scheduled for July 8. Space shuttle Atlantis will be launched on a 12 day mission (STS-135) to the International Space Station.

Show Credits

News:Megan Argo
Interview:Dr Giovanna Tinetti, Jen Gupta and Mark Purver
Night sky:Ian Morison
Presenters:David Ault and Jen Gupta
Editors:Jen Gupta, Megan Argo and Melanie Gendre
Intro/outro:Dr Chris Lintott
Segment Voice:Liz Guzman
Website:Jen Gupta and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Jen Gupta
Cover art:Image of the asteroid 2011MD on its near approach to Earth. CREDIT:: Nick Howes/Faulkes Telescope South/LCOGT

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