In this show we talk to the presenters of BBC Stargazing Live: Dara Ó Briain, Mark Thompson and Professor Brian Cox. As always, Dr Tim O'Brien answers your astronomical questions and we report on some odds and ends from the world of astronomy.
Interview with Dara Ó Briain
Dara originally trained in Mathematical Physics and has a degree from University College Dublin. During his studies he also found time to become the Irish National debating champion in both the English and Irish languages. It is clear from the interview that Dara has the gift of the gab. He then went on to host children's television (Echo Island, a bi-lingual Blue Peter type show) before becoming renowned for his stand up comedy, TV presenting and writing. He later moved to the UK where he has become a household name, after working on numerous well-known BBC television shows, such as Mock the Week.
As discussed in the interview, his scientific curiosity has never left him and he is well known for debunking bad science and is not afraid to stand up and use his considerable debating powers to argue the case for common sense. His experience of BBC Stargazing Live seems to have brought out the amateur astronomer in Dara and hopefully we will see him around Jodrell again in the future.
Interview with Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson is The Peoples Astronomer and shares his passion for stargazing with a wide range of audiences, from Norwich Astronomical Society to viewers of the BBCs The One Show. Having spent much of the past 25 years staring up at the night sky, he tells us why seeing it for yourself is the best way to look at the Universe, and speaks about the ease with which anyone can make beautiful images of space with simple equipment. He discusses how todays connected World allows people to share the excitement of astronomy, even when it means they are talking about him missing a meteor on live television. Along the way, Mark talks about stargazing from a plane, being the real astronomer on Stargazing Live and why you shouldnt call him an astrologer.
Interview with Professor Brian Cox
Professor Brian Cox is a particle physicist at The University of Manchester. In this interview, he gives a brief introduction about particle physics, describes some of his work at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and explains some of the links between particle physics and astrophysics.
One area of research that brings particle physics and astrophysics together is the study of neutrinos, elusive fundamental particles that are extremely hard to detect. Most of the neutrinos passing through the Earth are produced in the Sun, although they are produced elsewhere, including in supernovae. In order to detect neutrinos, huge detectors are built underground, such as the Super Kamiokande experiment in Japan (which took this picture of the Sun in neutrinos) and SNOLAB in Canada.
If you want to find out more about neutrinos, check out Dave's SNOLAB interview in the August 2010 Extra show. Or if you need a more detailed explanation of the fundamental forces, Astronomy Cast covered them in episodes 102 (gravity), 103 (electromagnetism) and 105 (strong and weak forces).
Ask an Astronomer
Dr Tim O'Brien answers your questions:
We had many questions about planets, including: Where is the surface of a gas giant planet? Why is Pluto not a planet? Why are gas giants bigger, with stronger gravity yet have no density, when the smaller planets are much denser? Why are the gas giants further from the Sun and how can they be gas in such a cold environment?
Tim mentioned that we covered the definition of planets and Pluto's status as a dwarf planet in the IAU 2006 episode.
How are images created from radio signals?
How do you turn the radio signal from a pulsar into a sound?
During Stargazing Live Tim played the sound of a pulsar. This is created by changing the strength of the radio signal into volume. You can hear more "Sounds of Space" in the August 2008 Extra episode of the Jodcast.
How far away are objects that we can see in the night sky?
Many stars we can see in the sky are within the local arm - the Orion spur - of our Galaxy but there are quite a few objects visible to the naked eye that are much further away. Using observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope, an artist's impression of our Galaxy as seen from above was made.
We had a question asking what was the bright star near Venus in the December morning sky
Odds and Ends
A partial solar eclipse was visible from much of Europe, Africa and Asia on 4 January 2011. The eclipse saw many stunning images produced by astrophotographers, most of which were in visible light. However, Niko Lavonen, at the Helsinki University of Technology's Metsähovi Observatory, observed the eclipse at radio wavelengths and has produced several images, as well as an animation, of the eclipse. Other impressive eclipse photos include Thierry Legault's picture of the Sun being eclipsed by the Sun and the International Space Station, a collection of photos on the NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre Flickr group and a movie of the eclipse from the Hinode satellite.
The 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society took place in early January 2011. We will have a full report of the results presented at the meeting in the February show, including a new image of Hanny's Voorwerp from the Hubble Space Telescope, the first rocky planet found by the Kepler mission and antimatter from thunderstorms detected by the Fermi satellite.
The first scientific results from Planck were released at a press briefing in Paris on 11 January 2011. Chris discussed some of the results, more details can be found at the Jodrell Bank press release.
|Dara Ó Briain and Evan Keane
|Mark Thompson and Mark Purver
|Professor Brian Cox and Jen Gupta
|Ask An Astronomer:
|Dr Tim O'Brien
|Jen Gupta, Evan Keane, Mark Purver and Chris Tibbs
|Adam Avison, Jen Gupta, Stuart Lowe and Tim O'Brien
|Stuart Lowe and Jen Gupta
|The Jodcast team with the presenters of Stargazing Live! Credit: Mike Peel
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