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April 2013 Extra: Orbit

April 2013 Extra

In the show this time, Prof Paola Caselli tells us about her research into water in the very early stages of star formation , Prof Shude Mao tells us about finding exoplanets using gravitational microlensing in this month's JodBite, and your astronomical questions are answered by Dr Tim O'Brien in Ask an Astronomer.

JodBite with Prof Shude Mao

Prof. Shude Mao is a Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Manchester, and his research interests are in galaxy formation, and gravitational lensing and microlensing. He explains how this technique, originally devised to determine the masses of galaxy clusters, can also be used to find tiny (astronomically speaking!) objects like exoplanets. He also reveals how his first-ever paper turned out to be quite significant...

Interview with Prof Paola Caselli

Prof. Paola Caselli from the University of Leeds tells us about her research into water in the very early stages of star formation. She gives us an outline of star formation and goes on to tells us about dust and molecules in molecular clouds, including grain formation and CO ice formation on these grains. She also explains about her work on semi-heavy water (HDO) and looking at the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio in molecular clouds, measuring the abundance of water molecules and about her future work on measuring the abunance of heavy water so they can accurately calculate the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio in these early stages of star formation.

Ask an Astronomer

Dr Tim O'Brien answers your astronomical questions:

Odds and Ends

Rain is falling from Saturn's rings. The Keck Observatory was used to observe dark bands on the planet's surface. Researchers at Leicester University concluded that charged water droplets are falling from its rings, neutralising glowing ions in the ionosphere, to produce the pattern of bands observed.

To boldly go, and bring back: NASA's latest budget for 2014 includes an allocation of $105 million towards capturing an asteroid and bringing it back to Earth orbit for study. They plan to use a robotic probe, powered by ion thrusters, to capture an asteroid using an as-yet-unspecified net of sorts. The asteroid (of about 8m in diameter) would then be towed back to earth orbit and studied by astronauts, using the Orion vehicle currently in development.

New X-ray data from Chandra looking at solar-mass stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud has been released. It is the first X-ray detection from solar-mass stars outside the Milky Way. The stars detected in the cluster NGC 602a within the Small Magellanic Cloud are thought to produce these X-rays in manner similar to those in our galaxy, despite having a very low metal content (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium).

Show Credits

JodBite:Prof Shude Mao and Liz Guzman
Interview:Prof. Paola Caselli and Christina Smith
Ask An Astronomer:Dr Tim O'Brien and Christina Smith
Presenters:Indy Leclercq, Philippa Hartley and Christina Smith
Editors:Sally Cooper, Liz Guzman, Tim O'Brien and Mark Purver
Segment Voice:Mike Peel
Producer:Indy Leclercq
Website:Indy Leclercq and Stuart Lowe
Cover art:A composite image at multiple wavelengths of the Small Magellanic Cloud released by the Chandra X-Ray observatory. CREDIT: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ.Potsdam/L.Oskinova et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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