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February 2015 Extra: User-friendly

February 2015 Extra

In the show this time, we talk to Prof. Chris Lintott about the Zooniverse project, Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharyya tells us about her search for nature's best clocks in this month's JodBite, and your astronomy questions are answered by Dr. Iain McDonald in Ask an Astronomer.

JodBite with Bhaswati Bhattacharyya

Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharyya is a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellow at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. Dr Bhattacharyya is working on a project known as 'Clocks and Bursts' with a team of pulsar scientists, searching for nature's best clocks. In this interview, Dr Bhattacharyya tells us about what these objects are, how the searches are being made, what makes this study unique and interesting, and also about the team's discoveries and their importance.

Interview with Prof. Chris Lintott

Professor Chris Lintott from the University of Oxford talks to us about his citizen science project 'The Zooniverse' in this record-breaking, sixth interview. On becoming the most interviewed person on the Jodcast, he talks about the research, participants and unexpected discoveries in The Zooniverse. We learn about the variety of projects available, including new ones outside of Astronomy, and why citizen science is so valuable to the scientific world. He also discusses The Sky at Night and in particular the Rosetta Special. If you want to take part in one of many Zooniverse projects, the link is available here.

Ask an Astronomer

Dr. Iain McDonald answers your astronomical questions:

Odds and Ends

Interstellar was the first Hollywood movie to attempt an accurate depiction of a black hole. The visual effects team collaborated with a physicist, Kip Thorne, to solve the equations for the deflection of light through the gravitational field of a spinning black hole and visually render it for the movie. The team have since written a paper, to be published in the jounal Classical and Quantum Gravity. They describe how the depiction of the gravitationally-lensed accretion disk is 'moderately' accurate; it does not include the effects of Doppler shift and gravitational frequency shift, to make the view more understandable to the movie's audience. The preprint article can be found here.

Astronomers have managed to observe a multiple-star system in the early stages of its formation. Using the Very Large Array and the Green Bank Telescope, as well as the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii, a group of researchers from several universities - including Prof. Gary Fuller from the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics - have managed to image clouds of gas in the process of forming multiple stars. Using simulations to predict the future behaviour of these protostars, it was found that they would end up in a stable three-star system. This was the first time a configuration like this had been observed at such an early stage in its life, and represents a big step forwarding inour understanding of stellar formation. The discovery resulted in a Nature paper.

On 11 February, the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) was launched by Cape Canaveral on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The spacecraft will operate at the L1 Lagrange point between the Earth and the Sun where the gravitational forces from the two bodied balance out. The instrumentation on the spacecraft will be used for two purposes. Instrments facing the Sun will measure solar winds and magnetic field strength, which can be used to study the Sun and warn astronomers on Earth about an impending solar storms. Instrumentation facing the Earth will produce whole-planet images every two hours and will also measure the spectra of light reflected and radiated by the planet, which can be used to study the Earth's climate. Originally conceived by Al Gore in 1998 when he was Vice-President of the USA, the project was opposed by Republican politicians. When George W. Bush became President in 2000, the program was cancelled, and the spacecraft was put into storage. After Barack Obama became president in 2009, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wereable to secure new funding for the project, refurbish the spacecraft, and finally launch it into space. More details on the spacecraft launch are available from the NOAA press release and the SpaceX press release, while the history of the politics behind DSCOVR is discussed in much more detail in this article from Air & Space magazine.

Show Credits

JodBite:Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharyya and Prabu Thiagaraj
Interview:Prof. Chris Lintott and Josie Peters
Ask An Astronomer:Dr. Iain McDonald and Indy Leclercq
Presenters:George Bendo, Hannah Stacey, Indy Leclercq
Editors:Mark Purver, Sally Cooper, Ben Shaw, Charlie Walker
Segment Voice:Tess Jaffe
Website:Indy Leclercq and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Indy Leclercq
Cover art:A simulation image of a triple star system forming from a dense gas filament CREDIT: University of Manchester

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