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July 2014: Mundo

July 2014

In the show this time, we talk to Dr Clem Pryke about the results from the BICEP2 telescope and we find out what we can see in the July night sky from Ian Morison.

Interview with Dr Clem Pryke

Dr Clem Pryke, of the University of Minnesota, is one of the principal investigators for the BICEP2 experiment, which recently found evidence of gravitational waves in the very early Universe by analysing the cosmic microwave background. In this interview, Dr Pryke talks about how the discovery supports the theory of cosmic inflation and whether there might yet be a twist in the tale of the detection of gravitational waves.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere night sky during July 2014.

The star Arcturus, in the constellation of Boötes, is setting in the west around midnight. The circlet of stars called Corona Borealis is up to its left, with Hercules higher up still. Continuing around the sky, the bright star Vega appears in Lyra the Lyre. Deneb, in Cygnus the Swan, is up to its left, and the five brightest stars of Cygnus can be seen to form a cross known as the Northern Cross. The lowest and faintest of these, Albireo, is revealed to be a double star of blue and gold colours when observed with a telescope. Coming down through the constellations of Vulpecula and Sagitta, we reach Aquila the Eagle and its bright star, Altair. The three stars of Vega, Deneb and Altair comprise the Summer Triangle. Below this, in the constellations of Serpens Caput, Ophiuchus and Serpens Cauda, Sagittarius is lying in the south. It contains the asterism of the Teapot, which is home to many star clusters and nebulae. The tiny constellation of Delphinus the Dolphin is to the lower left of Cygnus and Lyra.

The Planets

Highlights

Odds and Ends

NASA launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) in early July, to take a first look at the distribution of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. Making 100,000 spectroscopic measurements each day, OCO-2 will map the areas where carbon dioxide is released into, and drawn from, our atmosphere by natural and man-made processes. The mission will improve our understanding of the effects of climate change on our planet, and will operate as part of a synchronised fleet of instruments called the A-Train, monitoring the health of the terrestrial environment.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been used to find evidence that dark material on the asteroid Vesta was left by small meteorite impacts. The presence of minerals of the Serpentine group, which can only exist at temperatures below 400 degrees celsius, argued against volcanic eruptions or larger impacts as the source of Vesta's craters.

At the 2014 National Astronomy Meeting in Portsmouth, UK, Professor Martin Barstow from the University of Leicester gave a talk calling on governments and space agencies to support a new space telescope project called the Advanced Technologies Large-Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST). The telescope would have a primary mirror with a diameter of 20 metres, making it not only the largest ultraviolet/optical/near-infrared telescope in space but also larger than any ground-based optical or infrared telescope currently in existence. ATLAST is currently only in the concept stage with a plan for launch in 2030.

Show Credits

Interview:Dr Clem Pryke and Chris Wallis
Night sky:Ian Morison
Presenters:George Bendo, Cristina Ilie and Mark Purver
Editors:Indy Leclercq and Mark Purver
Segment Voice:Iain McDonald
Website:Indy Leclercq and Stuart Lowe
Cover art:Composite image of Vesta, the second-largest asteroid in our Solar System, as seen by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCAL/MPS/DLR/IDA

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