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November 2011 Extra: Singularity

November 2011 Extra

In the show this time, Dr Silke Britzen tells us about a recent black hole meeting in Manchester and we find out about supermassive black hole formation from Prof Lucio Mayer and ultra-luminous x-ray sources from Dr Philipp Podsiadlowski. As always, Dr Tim O'Brien answers your questions and we round up some odds and ends from the world of astronomy.

Interview with Dr Silke Britzen

Jen and Stuart caught up with Dr Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy to find out about the Black Holes in Orbit meeting that was held in Manchester at the beginning of November. This meeting was organised by the COST Action MP0905 - Black Holes in a Violent Universe. Silke also tells us about her work, researching the supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies.

Interview with Prof Lucio Mayer

Libby and Christina talk to Prof. Lucio Mayer (University of Zurich) about supermassive black holes at the centres of galaxies. He discusses how they could form from supermassive molecular clouds, created through galaxy collisions at the very early stages of the universe, what evidence we have for that and the possibility of a 'temporary star' being produced between the supermassive cloud and supermassive blackhole stages.

Interview with Dr Philipp Podsiadlowski

Dr Philipp Podsiadlowski studies stellar astrophysics at the University of Oxford. In this interview he explores the extreme side of his research, telling us about ultra-luminous X-ray sources. Some of these are believed to be emission from intermediate-mass black holes, which lie between the stellar-mass black holes produced by supernovae and the supermassive black holes found at the centres of galaxies. He explains how these objects may be able to emit such bright radiation, and tells us why their origin is still open to debate.

Ask an Astronomer

Dr Tim O'Brien answers your astronomical questions:

Odds and Ends

The 2012 London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games recently announced the route for the olympic torch relay around the UK - and Jodrell Bank is one of the national landmarks being visited. The torch is scheduled to be at Jodrell Bank on the 31st May 2012, part way through the torch's 8000 mile journey around the UK. The torch will also be visiting the National Space Centre in Leicester (3rd July) as well as other famous landmarks such as Stonehenge, Loch Ness and the Giant's Causeway.

In November, the Chinese unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8 successfully docked, separated and re-docked with the Tiangong-1 space station. Shenzhou-8 is scheduled to return to Earth on November 17.

On November 14, a Russian Soyuz rocket was successfully launched, despite the snowy conditions in Kazakhstan. The three men on board are the first to travel to the International Space Station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in July this year.

On November 8/9, Russian attempted to launch a probe, Phobos Grunt, to Mars. Although the launch was successful, the spacecraft failed to fire the engine to boost it out of Earth orbit and send it on its way to Mars. At the time of release, it is unclear whether the probe can be saved. A Chinese probe, Yinghuo-1 was launched with Phobos Grunt.

The Mars-500 experiment, intended to simulate a full-length manned mission to Mars, was successfully completed on November 4. This experiment aimed to study the effects of long-term isolation on a six-man international crew; as well as investigating the technical challenges of long-distance spaceflight. This realistic simulation included a Mars landing, space walks, communication delays and resource rationing.

Theorectians from Princeton and Harvard outline a novel method of searching for extraterrestrial life in a recent paper, submitted to an Astrobiology journal. They detail how, using the next generation of telescopes, it should be possible to deduce whether the light from the dark side of a planet is natural or artifical in origin. At the present time though, they explain that it should be possible to detect artifical light emission originating from city-sized constructions on astroids in the Kuiper belt. Although this could be a good examination of our current capabilities,the authors get perhaps a little carried away in the conclusions...

Show Credits

Interview:Dr Silke Britzen, Jen Gupta and Stuart Harper
Interview:Prof Lucio Mayer, Libby Jones and Christina Smith
Interview:Dr Philipp Podsiadlowski, Liz Guzman and Mark Purver
Ask An Astronomer:Dr Tim O'Brien and Libby Jones
Presenters:Jen Gupta, Stuart Harper, Libby Jones and Christina Smith
Editors:Mark Purver, Jen Gupta, Liz Guzman, Tim O'Brien and Christina Smith
Producer:Jen Gupta
Segment Voice:Kerry Hebden
Website:Jen Gupta and Stuart Lowe
Cover art:A multiwavelength image of the Antennae galaxies using data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), the Hubble Space Telescope (gold and brown), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (red). CREDIT: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.DePasquale/JPL-Caltech/STScI

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