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March 2014 Extra: Inhabitable?

March 2014 Extra

Inhabitable? In the show this time, Dr. Manda Banerji talks to us about dusty quasars, Prof. Ian Browne talks to us about the BINGO telescope in this month's JodBite, your astronomical questions are answered by Dr. Joe Zuntz in Ask an Astronomer and Stuart rounds up the March news, one episode later than usual.

The News

In the news this month we peer deeply into the world of an ancient x-ray mirror.

JodBite with Prof. Ian Browne

Professor Ian Browne is an emeritus professor of radio astronomy at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, and is currently involved in the design of BINGO, a proposed radio telescope with a long focal length and a consequent wide field of view. The aim of this specialised instrument is to map baryon acoustic oscillations (BAOs) using the radio emission of cold hydrogen at a wavelength of 21cm. These oscillations originate from acoustic ripples in the hot, dense plasma of the early Universe, and today appear as an imprint in the separations of galaxies in space. As Prof. Browne explains, BINGO will probe BAOs at a range of relatively recent epochs in the Universe, with the radiation from each epoch stretched to a certain wavelength by the expansion of the Universe. This will complement other measurements of BAOs, helping to determine whether the dark energy that seems to be accelerating the expansion is changing over time.

Interview with Dr. Manda Banerji

Dr. Manda Banerji is a post-doctoral fellow at UCL, and her research is primarily focused on so-called 'dusty quasars'. She starts off by explaining what a quasar is, and why dusty quasars are particularly interesting. She discusses the methods of observing the quasars - using the UKIRT and the VISTA telescopes - and how the study of these, especially at high redshifts, can shed a lot of light on the early stages of galaxy formation. However, dusty quasars are very rare objects and they are very challenging to observe. Nevertheless, Dr. Banerji is very optimistic about the future technologies that will enable even better observations.

Ask an Astronomer

Dr. Joe Zuntz answers your astronomical questions:

Odds and Ends

Timothy Peake, the British ESA astronaut who was selected in 2009 will be carrying out his first mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in November 2015. This will be the first time that a British astronaut will set foot on the ISS, and this mission needs a name! ESA has opened this up as a competition to the general public. The competition is open until early April and the winner will be given a mission patch signed by Tim Peake.

A group of scientists have may have discovered the first liquid waves seen outside the Earth, using Cassini observations of Saturn's largest moon, Titan. They analysed specular reflection (reflected sunlight) from Titan's northern hydrocarbon lakes in several colour filters, finding that some areas were brighter than would be expected from a completely flat surface. The readings were consistent with waves just 2 centimetres high and caused by winds of 0.75 metres per second, but they could also have originated from rippled 'mudflats'. Previous research has always found a surprising smoothness to the lakes, perhaps caused by the viscosity of the fluid, which includes substances such as methane at temperatures of some -180 degrees centigrade. As Saturn moves towards the northern summer solstice of its 30-year orbit around the Sun, astronomers are hoping the winds will pick up and generate larger waves, with forecasts of hydrocarbon rain.

Show Credits

News:Stuart Harper
JodBite:Prof. Ian Browne and Mark Purver
Interview:Dr. Manda Banerji and Indy Leclercq
Ask An Astronomer:Dr. Joe Zuntz and Indy Leclercq
Presenters:Fiona Healy, Mark Purver and Christina Smith
Editors:Indy Leclercq, George Bendo, Stuart Harper and Mark Purver
Segment Voice:Iain McDonald
Website:Indy Leclercq and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Indy Leclercq
Cover art:An artists impression of the planned BINGO radio telescope, which is the subject of this month's JodBite with Ian Browne CREDIT: Bruno Maffei and Adrian Galtras

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