Episode 7, October 29, 2020

Why The Galactic Times Went Silent @1:12
     It wasn’t a planned vacation……you might say it was a stroke of misfortune….

The Cosmic Halloween Sky @ @3:18
     An audio version of our new newspaper astronomy column.  Halloween, October 31st, has a few colorful and rare astronomical treats.  A Full Moon that is also a Micro-Moon and a Blue Moon, the second Full Moon of the month!  It is also making a triangle with two red stars, neither of which is always visible…Mars which wanders, and Mira which fades.  To the right will be Jupiter and Saturn. 

Skies Over Earth November 1 – 15th @11:35
     The first 10 days of November are astronomically quiet, a good time for constellation study, if you can handle the bright moonlight of Full diminishing to Last Quarter over the time frame.  Find the flying horse disguised as a baseball game, and a ghoulish star hidden in a celestial group that looks like the Greek letter Pi.  Higher up is the site of Tycho’s Supernova, the anniversary of its blast being the 11th easily located in Cassiopeia the Queen that looks like an M or W.  The 1572 explosion looked like Venus; our Venus finishes the night at dawn, and its neighbor Mercury makes a rare nighttime appearance, rising in the dark just before dawn for a week, the 7th through 15th.

Episode 6S, September 7, 2020

US Labor Day Special Episode –

Unusual Astronomers, Unusual Astronomy Jobs:
     Alice Gorman, Space Archaeologist  @1:08
         Maybe you “dig space” but how can you do that if you can’t GO there?  Let’s go ask  Alice…..
     Richard de Grijs, Museum Guide Channelling Captain James Cook  @33:22
          A professor of Astrophysics, a Dean, and a weekend (18th century) warrior-explorer who shows visitors how astronomy was done, including the Transit of Venus 200+ years ago by one of the first Europeans to visit the South Seas, Captain James Cook.
      Erik Stengler, Quasar Scientist Running Science Museum Studies Program  @45:27
          Many astronomers teach, too.  A percentage get to use planetariums.  Quasar astrophysicist runs a unique program, teaching students how to run science museums.

Skies Over Earth for September 15 – 30  @58:45

     The second half of September is pretty quiet.  The Moon goes from New to Full, we have a Super Moon Crescent, just nearby Mercury as it briefly comes into view for northern hemisphereans (better for southern Earthlings) near the Moon and Spica), Luna spends a day passing the gas giants.  The Sun takes up a LONG residence in Virgo and has an equinox on the 22nd. WInter, er, Autumn, is coming…..

{Art credit, Naval Research Laboratory}

– Taking a short break, next regular The Galactic Times will be September 30/October 1st. –

Episode 6, September 1, 2020

Astronomy News From Earth to the Ends of The Universe:

Was Mars the Solar System’s Largest Glacier Park?, or Graduate School Could Be A Lot More Fun Than We Thought! @1:12

     It’s a late night in Barcelona and Dr. Anna Grau Galofre, stuck by Covid away from the University of Arizona, is reminiscing over glasses of red wine about those good ol’ days in Canadian grad school — free breakfasts with guest astronomers, riding ATVs over arctic glaciers, getting insights that lead to a PhD on how many of those Martian river channels…aren’t from rivers at all.  Most actually were runoff drainage pathways from ancient glaciers, running uphill, and found only in the Martian southern hemisphere.

A Star’s Last Cry At The Event Horizon  @34:18

     It may sound like science fiction but the reality is that stars do fall into supermassive black holes in the center of some galaxies.  Dr. Tiara Hung of UC Santa Cruz watches for them and hears the cries as part of the star falls in and part is ejected from the system in high energy Tidal Disruption Events seen in Xrays, or optical or UV light…but not both.  She thinks she knows why.

Skies Over Earth September 1 – 15th  @47:03

     The first half of September is a time of division, when before a particular date, something happens, and afterwards, something else, but no gradual change.
     See the Moon pass Mars, now the fifth brightest star in the sky, on the 5th, but Mars is more than 150,000 times farther away.  How long does it take light to get from Mars if light from the Moon takes only 1.5 seconds? If you are in the right place, the Moon *covers* Mars.
     On the 7th, Labor Day in the US, Uranus can be found near the Moon.  Both Mars and Jupiter switch directions of motion in the sky.  And as Saturn sets, Venus rises–around 3AM the evening shift of bright planets Jupiter and Saturn ends and the morning shift with Venus begins but no overlap anymore.

Next episode is the Galactic Times Labor Day Special, Unusual Astronomers, Unusual Astronomy Jobs, uploaded by September 7th.

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Episode 5, August 16, 2020


Need Strong Teeth? Blow Up A Star! @1:12

     A supernova in the galaxy M100 was a rare one–a calcium  supernova.  Though only a few percent of all supernovae are rich in this element, these provide 50% of universe’s supply.  Some of that ended up in our solar nebula…and human bones and teeth.  Wynn Jacobson-Galan of Northwestern University led a 70 person, multi-institution, multi-wavelength and telescope team investigating this ‘nearby’ fountain of calcium.

A Galactic Times Editorial on Changing Celestial Object Names @18:19

     NASA joined the culture wars this week, stating it would stop using names for objects which might be considered offensive.  But if you try to satisfy everybody you just might end up with more trouble than you can imagine!

InSight into Mars’ Insides  @23:41

     Early results from the single seismometer on NASA’s InSight lander confirm expectations of the sizes of crust, mantle and core of Mars, using a unique method—seismic waves of random noise.  Dr. Alan Levander of Rice University explains how.

Skies Over Earth for August 19th through 31st  @46:22

     The Moon, from New to Full, takes us through the skies of the second half of August.  Similarly, we follow a moon halfway through its orbit for each of Jupiter and Saturn, getting estimates of their orbital periods.

{Next Episode will include some US Labor Day special segments–Unusual Astronomers with Unusual Astronomy Jobs.}

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Episode 4, August 5, 2020

Episode 4, August 5, 2020

Over The Solar System’s Horizon — The View of Stars Beyond Pluto @1:12
     
The New Horizons probe that visited Pluto a few years ago has now gone so far from Earth that some nearby stars have actually shifted positions in the sky, the first “alien” skies we have seen.  Dr. Tod Lauer of NOAO and the New Horizons team describes how they took photos of these ‘star shifts’ or parallaxes and what they tell us.

The Phoenix Stream — How the Death of a Globular Cluster Tells Us About the Birth of the Milky Way @25:49
     
The Milky Way galaxy has a surrounding halo of matter–stars, gas and other things–and threaded through it are star streams, the shredded rivers of stars made from destroyed satellite or dwarf galaxies and globular clusters, spheres of hundreds of thousands of stars once tightly packed into a few light years.  The massive gravitational tides of our galaxy rip them apart when these star groups  get pulled into us.  But one stellar river, the Phoenix Stream, has stars so deficient in atomic metals that it appears to come from a time before the Milky Way was formed.  The research of Carnegie Institute astronomers Alexander Ji, Ting Li, and University of Sydney grad student Zhan Wan reveals how the destruction of this globular starts to explain how the Milky Way was actually created.  And how halo streams may reveal clues about dark matter!

Skies Over Earth for August 6 thru 20  @1:06:09
     
Jupiter and Saturn dominate the evening sky, and point where Pluto and New Horizons would be. Venus lights up the dawn, and so does the waning moon which will curtail all but the brightest Perseid meteors.  Find Mars near the Moon on the 9th, when the Moon appears smallest in diameter, at its apogee.  Lots of Mars anniversaries this month, and Mars probes on its way.  When you look at Mars and the Moon this month, you are looking at the Earth’s path direction in space.

{Artwork–courtesy, Dr. Ting Li, S5Collab}

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Episode 3, July 22, 2020

Supernova in a Lab – Don’t Try This At Home @1:14
     Explosive research!  In a Georgia Tech lab, a science team led by Dr. Devesh  Ranjan recreates the moment a star explodes in order to reproduce the swirls of gas seen in the most famous supernova of all time, the Crab nebula, which exploded this month 966 years ago.  Hear what their supernova sounds like!

Comet NEOWISE – What We’ve Learned, Where It Will Be @15:36
     This unexpected and bright comet has bedazzled North American skywatchers after it rounded the Sun this month and sported a long tail and a head visible to the unaided eye.  What have scientists learned about this comet discovered only four months ago, and where and how can you view this comet, before it quickly flies back into the far ranges of the Solar System.

Black Holes Hidden in Plain View? @20:25
     When you look into the sky, you see the bright stars.  But you may also be seeing black holes.  Among some of the brightest stars may lie black holes in orbit around them, hiding in their light as invisible companions, revealed only by the orbital motions of their companions, that don’t otherwise seem to follow Newton and Kepler’s laws.  The astronomer Thomas Rivinius in Chile explains.

Skies Over Earth @32:47
     We start this fortnite by seeing all five bright planets, Jupiter and Saturn starting at sunset, Mars around middle of the night, Venus and then Mercury before and after morning twilight.  The Delta Aquarid meteors peak on the 28th.  The Moon pass the planets one by one.

{comet image, courtesy Rich Stillman, Winchester, MA}

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Episode 2, July 3, 2020

A Star’s Medical Report–How Betelguese Got The Chills  @1:14
     
Orion’s got two bright stars, blue Rigel and…what happened to red Betelgeuse??  The giant star faded dramatically over the past winter into a pale shadow of former self, altering the winter sky.  Sri Lankan astronomer Thivasha Dharmawardena, at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany explains how she and colleagues took the star’s temperature and discovered this may be a periodic thing, like the sun’s sunspot cycle, only the whole star becomes one giant spot!

Coming Soon, Observatories on the Moon?  @16:19
 
  It has been a staple of science fiction for decades, moonbases with telescopes observing the universe.  The first such bases with observatories may be closer than you think.  Stephen Durst of the International Lunar Observatory Association discusses plans for the placement of telescopes and a moonbase at the South Pole of the Moon over the next four years.

Three Stars, Two Planets, First Stop–A Tour of the Alpha Centauri System  @33:04
   
 If humankind ever goes to the stars, the first place we’re likely to visit is the nearest star system, the three stars that make up Alpha Centauri.  Recent discoveries of planets around Alpha Centauri C, or Proxima Centauri, and how they were found, are described by Texas astronomer Fritz Benedict, along with where other planets there might or might not be found.

Galactic Skies for July 5th through 19th  @46:26
   
 There’s a lunar eclipse this two week period…but don’t waste your evening.  No blood red moon, it is just a slight outer shadow eclipse.  A solar eclipse will be visible if you are in the southern hemisphere, but it is an annular or ring eclipse, because the Earth is at aphelion, its farthest distance from the Sun.  Kind of puts the lie to why it is the Northern hemisphere summer, doesn’t it?  Meanwhile Venus crawls over Taurus the Bull’s face, and Venus and the Moon make a right triangle with now-restored Betelgueuse around the 19th.  Jupiter rises at sunset, at its brightest and biggest, and Saturn rises a short time later.  Also, starting now, if you stay up all night, you can see all five bright planets at some point, Mercury rising before the Sun.

{Photo: Annular eclipse, 2012, courtesy Larry Krumenaker}

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Episode 1, June 20, 2020

The Sounds of Stellar Cannibalism–When a Pulsar Has Lunch  @1:12
     Pulsars aren’t always due to supernovae.  Sometimes that clockwork radio signal is due to hotspots on rotating neutron stars caused by infalling gas from a companion star.  And when that happens, the pulsar “powers up.”  Usually astronomers miss the actual start of the power up but Adelle Goodwin, of Monash University, Australia, and her team caught one in the act.  And in a first, The Galactic Times had her take her data and turn the explosion of energy and X-rays into a sound file so we can here five weeks of celestial fireworks as 30 seconds of music!

Mars and Its Chameleon –The Moon That Thinks It’s a Ring  @16:40
     Did you know that Mars used to have a ring?  Dr. Matija Cuk of the SETI Institute shows how Phobos has at least a half-dozen times metamorphosed itself into and out of being a ring because of Mars’ tidal forces, and the outer moon Deimos.

Drawing Blinds Over the Universe  @34:47
     Drs. Patrick Seitzer of the University of Michigan and James Lowenthal of Smith College discuss the ramifications onto astronomy of mega-constellations of satellites, notably the proposed 100,00s belonging to StarLink and OneWeb, and others, on astronomy.  How these can put million dollar observatories out of operation, destroy whole areas of astronomical research, and what astronomers are trying to do, with some cooperation from at least StarLink.

Editorial–What Happens When 100,000 Satellites Go Obsolete? @55:20
     What will happen when there are 100,000 satellites, including StarLinks from SpaceX, making it impossible for observatories to view the universe, just so you can stream Netflix and view your social media from anywhere.

The Galactic Skies from June 20th to June 30th.  @58:01
     We start our time with the Solstic, which also includes a solar eclipse across central Africa, and the Sun then entering Gemini.  The eclipse is partial in parts of Europe and Asia but not a trace to be seen in the Americas. The northern hemisphere’s latest twilight and sunsets’s are this week.  The planets are split between Jupiter and Saturn rising after Sunset, and Venus reappearing in the dawn sky after rounding past the Sun from the evening.  Mars appear between midnight and dawn.

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