In the show this time, Dr Elisabetta Valiante talks to us about talks to us about the Herschel-ATLAS survey, Josh Hayes and James Stringer tell us about multi-band searches for fast radio bursts and your astronomical questions are answered by Iain in Ask an Astronomer.
Jodbite with Josh Hayes and James Stringer
We have had similar questions from a number of listeners: "Why do we not observe or search for Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) with optical telescopes?" To help answer the question we talk to two researchers from JBCA, Josh Hayes and James Stringer. Josh and James are developing a system to observe and record images from the same patch of sky that the Lovell radio telescope is looking at. The concept being, that if an FRB is detected an astronomer can search the optical images for co-incident events. Once developed the LovellCam system can be used in conjunction with any radio telescope in the world - as long as it's dark out!
Interview with Dr Elisabetta Valiante
Dr Elisabetta Valiante from the University of Cardiff speaks to Monique Henson and Tom Scragg about the Herschel ATLAS survey, which is the largest extragalactic sub-millimetre survey. She gives an introduction to the dusty Universe and explains why dust is the key to studying star formation in distant galaxies.
Ask an Astronomer
Iain answers your astronomical questions: Neutron star shapes, planet formation and the Big Bang timeline
- Mark Leach has a question about neutron star deformation
- Phil Rushton asks about order in the Solar System
- Frances Cairns asks, "Is the Big Bang still happening?"
Odds and Ends
- The main assembly of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been shipped to Houston, TX for its final stage of testing. Over the next few months, the telescope optics and sensors will be tested in a vacuum at 50K, in order to simulate the conditions the telescope will operate in. Meanwhile, the mounting and heat shield is being constructed in California, with final assembly anticipated for spring 2018. The full story can be found here
- Using images taken during NASA'S New Horizons flyby of Pluto, scientists are trying to figure out how the large red whale shape on its surface was formed. Some of them think that the whale's distinctive red colouring indicates that it's older than the material around it, based on experiments performed here on earth on chemicals that would have been present on the surface of Pluto shortly after it formed. Others disagree, saying that Pluto's whale may have formed much later due to an impact from a very large body (they suggest Pluto's moon Charon). Who is right? Only time (and more simulations and observations) can tell! Find out more here.
- A group of astronomers led from the University of Kansas has computed that one or two supernovae occured nearby in the last 3 million nears. The evidence lies in the abundance of a radioisotope of iron in the crust of the Earth. Iron-60 has a relatively short half-life and so must have been deposited here well after Earth formed. The only known environment that can produce such a neutron rich radioisotope is an exploding star. This prompted them to calculated how close a supernova would have to be in order to do real damage to the Earth's biosphere. It's further than we previously thought! You can read more here.
- Observing infant star systems tells us about how they form. The current theory is simple in principle: giant gas clouds collapse over millions of years due to gravity, spinning up and forming a star surrounded by a giant protoplanetary disk of debris. The material in this disk collides, and clumps of dust or ice stick together, eventually forming planets. In practice, however, complexities dictate the final architecture of a solar system - and while they fit in with many observed systems, they don't match our own so well. Rocky dry planets are harder to form than once supposed because rocky dust is not that sticky, so it is thought that they only arise where the disk is sufficiently hot. However protoplanetary disks usually only reach these 1000-degree temperatures close to their parent stars - making the existence of Earth itself a puzzle! Dr. Alexander Hubbard at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, suspects the answer to our own Solar System's layout lies with a certain infant star, known as FU Orionis. In 1936 this star began to brighten, becoming 100 times brighter, and much hotter than before. Since then this sort of outburst has been documented in multiple systems and Dr. Hubbard theorizes that this behaviour could have driven up the temperature of the disk around our Sun at Earth's location, allowing it to form, and explaining other peculiarities about our Solar System to boot.
|Interview:||Josh Hayes and James Stringer with Tom Scragg|
|Interview:||Dr Elisabetta Valiante with Monique Henson and Tom Scragg|
|Ask An Astronomer:||Dr. Iain McDonald and Benjamin Shaw|
|Presenters:||Charlie Walker, Fiona Healy, Jake Morgan and Benjamin Shaw|
|Editors:||George Bendo, Mateusz Malenta, Tom Scragg and Damien Trinh|
|Website:||Benjamin Shaw and Stuart Lowe|
|Cover art:||A bright flash of light CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons|