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July 2013: Planet-builders

July 2013

In the show this time, we talk to Dr. Zoë Leinhardt about planet formation, Stuart rounds up the latest news and we find out what we can see in the July night sky from Ian Morison and John Field.

The News

In the news this month: Astroseismology and Astroarcheology.

Interview with Dr. Zoë Leinhardt

Dr. Zoë Leinhardt from the University of Bristol, UK, talks to us about her research on the formation of and evolution of planets, asteroids, and comets through the use of numerical simulations. She explains how these planetary bodies form and produce the diversity of extrasolar planets observed with Kepler.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere night sky during July 2013.

Leo is setting in the West, along with Bootes containing the bright star Arcturus. To it's left we see Corona Borealis and further left, we can see Hercules. Still further to the East, we have the constellations of Cygnus, Aquila and Lyra containing the stars Deneb, Altair and Vega which, together, make up the Summer Triangle. Down to its lower left is a small constellation called Delphina the dolphin.

The Planets


Southern Hemisphere

John Field from the Carter Observatory in New Zealand speaks about the southern hemisphere night sky during July 2013.

The brightest part of the Milky Way is visible in the south-east after sunset, in the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius. It hosts many bright star clusters and nebulae that can be observed during the long winter nights. At the apex of the Milky Way is Crux, or the Southern Cross, a diamond-shaped quartet of stars with a fifth, fainter star within. To MĔori in Aotearoa (New Zealand), it is Te Punga, the Anchor. To one side of this is a dark patch called the Coalsack Nebula, which is a cold and dark cloud of interstellar dust and gas that may one day form new stars. Running along the Milky Way to the east are the two bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri, which point the way to Crux and also mark the hooves of Centaurus, a creature with a human torso and the body of a horse. The faint glow of Omega Centauri, a globular cluster containing millions of stars, is to the north of Beta Centauri, and its structure can be seen with binoculars or a telescope. Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan are found along the Milky Way to the north. Deneb, the brightest star in Cygnus, is on the northern horizon marking the Swan's tail. A line of stars lead up to Albireo, the Swan's head. A small telescope reveals this to be a double star with yellow and blue components. Cygnus is sometimes referred to as the Northern Cross. Aquila, to the east, is marked by a line of three stars, the brightest of which is the central star, Altair. NGC 6709 and NGC 6755 are two open star clusters among several within Aquila, and a number of planetary nebulae may also be seen with a telescope. Nearby is the bright star Vega, in the constellation of Lyra. Vega, Deneb and Altair form the Winter Triangle, known as the Summer Triangle in the northern hemisphere.

The Planets

Odds and Ends

Voyager has almost left the solar system. Its next objective is locating the heliosphere and heliosheath, where the solar system comes to an end. There are three criteria for having passed these, solar particles decrease, the number of cosmic rays increases, and the solar magnetic field reverses direction. Recent Science papers have confirmed the first two (cosmic rays and solar particles), but the magnetic field has not been observed to reverse. The current region has been re-named the heliosheath depletion zone.

NASA have produced an image of the surface of Mars with more than 1 billion pixels. It is composed of more than 900 exposures from 3 cameras aboard the Curiosity rover. The image is taken from the Rocknest region with Martian mountains visible in the distance.

The European Space Agency (ESA) and artist Katie Paterson are attempting to bring art and science closer together with a fascinating project. Paterson's latest installation, Campo del Cielo, Field of the Sky involved recasting a melted-down meteorite into its original shape. After getting in touch with ESA, a small fragment of the piece is a candidate for going up to the ISS on the automatic transfer vehicle (ATV) Georges Lemaitre, thus "completing the cycle".

Show Credits

News:Stuart Harper
Interview:Libby Jones and Zoë Leinhardt
Night sky:Ian Morison and John Field
Presenters:Indy Leclercq, Philippa Hartley and Chris Wallis
Editors:Stuart Harper, Indy Leclercq, Mark Purver, Christina Smith and Dan Thornton
Segment Voice:Mike Peel
Website:Dan Thornton and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Dan Thornton
Cover art:Artist's impression of the binary-star system HD 113766 where it is suspected a rocky planet is forming. CREDIT: NASA/JP-Caltech

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