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May 2012 Extra: Photogenic

May 2012 Extra

In the show this time, Nik Szymanek tells us about astrophotography, Dr Thomas Targett tells us about supermassive blackholes, Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons tells us about the NEOShield project. Also, Foteini Lykou tells us about evolved stars in this month's JodBite and your questions are answered by Dr Tim O'Brien.

JodBite with Foteini Lykou

Exactly how Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars (evolved stars) produce their powerful stellar winds is still a poorly understood concept. In this Jodbite, Foteini Lykou, talks about how the Nature paper she co-authored will give new insights into the mechanisms behind AGB stellar winds. She explains how silicate dust grains drive gas out into voids of the interstellar medium but also how not just any dust grain will do.

Interview with Nik Szymanek

Nik Szymanek, as he puts it, 'leads a double life'. For a living he drives a train for the London underground but in his spare time he is one of the best amateur astro-photographers in the world. In this interview, we catch Nik just before he gave his talk at this year's National Astronomy Meeting. He talks about his experiences with observing on the island of La Palma, how he came to help process professional images from the William Herschel Telescope, as well as giving some advice on what is needed to get the best photographs of the night sky.

Interview with Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons

Prof Alan Fitzsimmons talks to us about the NEOshield project (Near Earth Object Shield). He explains what a Near Earth Object is and discusses the potential methods we could explore to avert a threat from a NEO, including gravity tractors, kinetic impacts and nuclear responses.

Interview with Dr Thomas Targett

Dr. Targett, from the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh, talks to us about the relationship between galaxies and their supermassive black holes. Every galaxy, including our own, has a supermassive black hole at its center. In the Local Universe, the mass of the black hole is tightly related to the mass of the galaxies, which brings the question: what came first, black hole or galaxy? By looking at very distant quasar (present 12 billion years ago), Dr. Targett tries to find the answer.

Ask an Astronomer

Dr Tim O'Brien answers your astronomical questions:

Odds and Ends

Astrophysicists at the University of Warwick have studied four stars that were part of a HST survey designed to investigate the chemical composition of the atmosphere of white dwarves. The four objects in question stood out because their surrounding dust, thought to be the remnants of the planets that once orbited them, has a chemical composition similar to that of the Earth. This is seen as evidence that the stars may have once been orbited by Earth-like planets. The dust marks the final stages in the life of these planets, thus, these observations may be showing us what the Earth's future demise might look like.

The SABRE engine, designed to be an engine with both rocket booster and jet engine mode which is currently in development by Reaction Engines Limited as part of the Skylon spaceplane project, is currently undergoing key tests. The technology for the pre-cooler module, which is used to cool oxygen taken in from the atmosphere, is being attached to a Viper jet engine on a test rig to ensure it performs correctly.

The James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope's successor is now one step closer to it's launch date of 2018. The Mid-Infrared Instrument (Miri) has been completed. This 5 billion pound instrument, completed in the UK has just been shipped off to the US. Miri is designed to look at the starlight coming from the universes oldest stars. This 'first light' device is ultra cold (-266 °C) and carries on board a spectrograph (to analyse the chemical present in these ancient stars) and a coronagraph (to block out the bright light of a parent star to reveal it's orbiting planet).

Show Credits

JodBite:Foteini Lykou and Stuart Harper
Interview:Nik Szymanek and Stuart Harper
Interview:Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons and Stuart Harper
Interview:Dr Thomas Targett and Melanie Gendre
Ask An Astronomer:Dr Tim O'Brien
Presenters:Melis Irfan, Cat McGuire and Christina Smith
Editors:Melanie Gendre, Tim O'Brien, Christina Smith and Dan Thornton
Producer:Christina Smith
Segment Voice:Cormac Purcell
Website:Christina Smith and Stuart Lowe
Cover art:Photo-composition of the JKT dome and the Milky Way. CREDIT: Nik Szymanek and Ian King, courtesy of ING, La Palma

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