In this episode we talk to Dr Fraser Clarke about the E-ELT and HARMONI, Dr Lisa Kaltenegger about massive rocky planets, and Dr Michelle Collins about dwarf galaxies. We also talk to Kim Mance about life as a telescope controller at Jodrell Bank Observatory in this month's JodBite, and your astronomical questions are answered by Dr Iain McDonald in Ask an Astronomer.
JodBite with Kim Mance
Kim Mance is one of six controllers who operate the telescopes at Jodrell Bank Observatory and its outstations. The controllers ensure that the telescopes are used safely, check that data are being received and monitor the instruments for any problems or adverse weather. Kim tells us what this unusual job entails, what it is like when a film crew invades your office and how it feels to drive a 3200-tonne telescope. For a technical tour of the Jodrell Bank control room, listen to Megan's interview with controller Mark Roberts from September 2006.
Interview with Dr Fraser Clarke
Dr Fraser Clarke, from the University of Oxford, tells us a bit about the European Extremely Large Telescope, and the HARMONI integral field spectrograph. HARMONI will be a camera that captures a spectrum for every pixel, and will be used to study a diverse range of objects in unprecedented detail.
Interview with Dr Lisa Kaltenegger
Dr Lisa Kaltenegger from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and Harvard talks to us about characterising the atmospheres of rocky exoplanets. In her interview, she discusses what Super-Earths are, what the habitable zone is and what it means for planets in terms of potential for life. She also mentions the different compositions of the atmospheres of the Earth, Mars and Venus and talks about the future telescopes (E-ELT and James Webb Space Telescope) which will be able to be used for examining the atmospheres of exoplanets.
Interview with Dr Michelle Collins
In this interview from NAM 2012 we talk to Dr Michelle Collins from the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy about her work regarding the motions of stars within spherical dwarf galaxies. She talks about what a dwarf galaxy is and about the role they play in the formation of larger galaxies like the Milky Way, as well as how they can be used to study the properties of dark matter halos. She explains how these dwarfs galaxies make for excellent probes of the dark matter distribution within galaxies and how this can be used to test our understanding of star formation processes and galaxy evolution.
Ask an Astronomer
Dr Iain McDonald answers your astronomical questions:
- Scott McKee asks: "If you have telescopes that can see other galaxies, millions and millions of miles away, then surely the moon being so close, you should be able to get brilliant close up pictures of the moon?"
- The next question is from Les French who asks: "As I was looking at the night sky, a dim star suddenly became extremely bright and then suddenly disappeared like a lightbulb blowing. Could you please give me some further information?"
In his answer, Iain refers to some publicly available tools that can be used to track satellites: Heavens-Above and SpaceWeather.
- Pat O'Grady emailed us and asks: "For exoplanets, the search is to find stars with planets but why not start from the opposite assumption? Why is a planetless star not the exception rather than the rule?"
- And finally, Susan Kelly asked us on Twitter: "Would a 5 solar mass star exert the same gravity as a much more compact 5 solar mass neutron star?"
Odds and Ends
Scientists investigating the effects of space travel on human physiology have compared the development of Caenorhabditis elegans worms in orbit on the International Space Station with a control sample on Earth. The spaceborne worms were found to have longer lifespans and lower levels of an age related protein, suggesting that spaceflight may slow the ageing process.
The Hubble Space Telescope this month made its fourth discovery of a moon of Pluto, spotting a satellite of just a few kilometres in diameter that has been nicknamed P5. Pluto is now known to have five moons in a compact configuration, information that will be of use to NASA's New Horizons probe when it flies by the system in 2015.
|JodBite:||Kim Mance and Mark Purver|
|Interview:||Dr Fraser Clarke and Leo Huckvale|
|Interview:||Dr Lisa Kaltenegger and Christina Smith|
|Interview:||Dr Michelle Collins and Stuart Harper|
|Ask An Astronomer:||Dr Iain McDonald and Mark Purver|
|Presenters:||Jen Gupta, Libby Jones, Cat McGuire and Mark Purver|
|Editors:||Dan Thornton, George Bendo, Mark Purver and Christina Smith|
|Producers:||Christina Smith and Dan Thornton|
|Segment Voice:||Cormac Purcell|
|Website:||Dan Thornton and Stuart Lowe|
|Cover art:||An artist's impression of the E-ELT optical telescope in Chile. CREDIT: Swinburne Astronomy Productions/ESO|