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April 2015 Extra: Buzzing

April 2015 Extra

In the show this time, we talk to Dr Matt Taylor about landing a probe on a comet and to Dr Buzz Aldrin about landing a person on the Moon, Jamie Sloan tells us about the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in this month's JodBite, and your astronomical questions are answered by Dr Iain McDonald in Ask an Astronomer.

JodBite with Jamie Sloan

Jamie Sloan is the Education Manager at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre, a public science centre based around the Lovell Radio Telescope. Jamie tells us about the opportunities for school groups and the general public to learn about astronomy and space, recounts his experience of last year's Stargazing Live and looks forward to upcoming events at the Discovery Centre.

Interview with Dr Matt Taylor

Dr Matt Taylor is the Project Scientist on the Rosetta Mission, which currently has a spacecraft in orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and a probe on it. He describes the dramatic landing of the probe, Philae, and talks about the scientific findings of the mission to a relic of our early Solar System.

Interview with Dr Buzz Aldrin

Dr Buzz Aldrin worked as an astronaut for NASA from 1963 to 1971, after completing his PhD thesis on the guidance of manned spacecraft for orbital rendezvous. In 1966, he completed a spacewalk of over two hours as pilot of the Gemini 12 mission, using a handrail, foot restraints and other tethers to cope with the physical strain of working in a weightless environment. During the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, he and Neil Armstrong became the first humans to land on the Moon, and he is one of only 24 people ever to travel more than 1000 miles from the surface of our planet. Walking on the Moon, just under 400,000 kilometres from Earth, he set up a solar wind experiment and described the environment as "magnificent desolation". In this interview, Dr Aldrin talks about his doctoral research, how he came to be an astronaut and the pragmatic view he takes of space travel.

Ask an Astronomer

Dr Iain McDonald answers your astronomical questions:

Odds and Ends

A theoretical study presented at the 2015 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference has found that there may be natural tunnels on the Moon that are up to 5 kilometres wide. Caused by ancient volcanic eruptions, evidence for these 'lava tubes' comes from long channels called sinuous rilles on the Moon's surface.

Recent simulations of how the Moon may have formed from a giant impact between the young Earth and another proto-planet have shown that it is possible for such a scenario to produce a Moon composed mostly of Earth-type rock, rather than a more equal mixture of materials from the two colliding bodies. Since the Moon is similar in composition to the Earth, these simulations provide evidence for the impact theory over the competing idea that the Earth and Moon formed at the same time.

Sky-watchers who were treated to a lunar eclipse in early April have been debating whether or not it was truly total. The Moon was predicted to pass entirely into the Earth's shadow for just a few minutes, creating a total lunar eclipse, but some observers reported seeing sunlight reflected from the edge of the Moon during this period. Since the Moon's edge was so close to the outside of the Earth's shadow, it seems that totality hinged on the exact shape of the shadow cast. The slight non-sphericality of the Earth and the Moon, caused by oblateness, mountains and atmospheric variations, make the Earth's shadow and the Moon's disc very subtly non-circular, meaning that observers on some parts of the Earth could have seen totality while others saw a partial eclipse.

Show Credits

JodBite:Jamie Sloan and Mark Purver
Interview:Dr Matt Taylor, Sally Cooper, Mark Purver and Charlie Walker
Interview:Dr Buzz Aldrin, Sally Cooper, Mark Purver and Charlie Walker
Ask An Astronomer:Dr Iain McDonald and Indy Leclercq
Presenters:Sally Cooper, Indy Leclercq and Christina Smith
Editors:Mark Purver and Indy Leclercq
Segment Voice:Tess Jaffe
Website:Indy Leclercq and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Indy Leclercq
Audio clips:Buzz Aldrin gives instrument readouts as Neil Armstrong lands the Apollo 11 Lunar Module onto the Moon, while Charlie Duke provides information from Mission Control on Earth. CREDIT: NASA www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/apollo11_audio.html
Cover art:Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon, photographed by Neil Armstrong. CREDIT: NASA

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