Dr. Erin Burkett tells us what prairie dog research has to do with an earthquake early alarm system. She also talks about how to motivate people to prepare for earthquakes, and emphasizes the importance of storytelling in science communication.
Dr. Robert Hurt returns to the show to talk about artistic depictions of interstellar travel. We discuss the images of the seven-planet TRAPPIST-1 system he and Tim Pyle created— images that graced the cover of Nature and the front page of the New York Times. We also talk about Star Trek: The Next Generation, and what that TV show got right (and wrong) about the visuals of cruising through outer space.
Professor Mansi Kasliwal talks about the GROWTH project, which uses international teamwork to watch astronomical events around the clock. An individual observer is thwarted by sunrise, but together, an international team can continuously monitor supernovae, neutron stars, and asteroids over 24 hours.
Dr Linda Billings talks about the importance of clear communication across the expert/non-expert boundary. She describes the difference between the words “risk”, “hazard” and “threat,” as applied to near-Earth objects and gives advice to scientists who want to communicate their research accurately.
Dr. Marcia Burton stops by the show to talk about radio waves from Saturn, as measured by the Cassini Spacecraft. We listen to some audio clips, and she explains why it is so difficult to measure the length of Saturn’s day.
Dr. Luisa Rebull explains why it is vital to archive astronomical images. NASA archives, such as the ones at IPAC, are accessible everyone on Earth at no cost. Luisa also describes how you can take a tour through archived data via the Dustier, Messier, Messier Marathon.
Eric Christensen, head of the Catalina Sky Survey, talks about how he and his team hunt asteroids and comets. He explains how astronomers can distinguish between individual asteroids and how new upgrades will let the survey discover more asteroids than ever before.
Dr Jeff Rich stops by the show to talk about variable stars. Some variable stars change brightness dramatically over several hours, and certain types can be used to measure distances. Jeff also explains what it’s like to propose for, and get, time on the Hubble Space Telescope.
Brother Guy Consolmagno shares a Coke and talks about the Vatican Observatory, a discovery that got him in trouble with the Voyager team, and why being next to a dairy farm was convenient when he wanted to measure the properties of meteorites.
Dr. Norna Robertson shares a drink from her home country and talks about a specific part of LIGO. She explains that LIGO’s eighty-pound mirrors are suspended by four, incredibly thin, silica fibers that were developed just for this project.
Dr. Kanner explains how gravitational waves could teach us about the big bang, and how we might be on the cusp of discovering new phenomena that are so unusual, theorists haven’t even predicted their existence.
Dr. Kanner talks about gravitational waves, which were detected for the first time by LIGO last year. He explains how studying neutron stars with gravitational waves can tell us how everyday elements like gold came to be.
Dr. Abby Fraeman returns to the show to talk about Opportunity, the rover that won’t quit. Along with its sister rover, Spirit, Opportunity has discovered Mars rocks that could have only formed in the presence of water.
Eric Rice talks about systems engineering and we drink what turns out to be the most disgusting beverage yet. He talks about what it is like to control a spacecraft, and explains why predicting what can go wrong with a spacecraft is a lot simpler than predicting what can go wrong at a wedding.
Dr. Joe Masiero returns to the podcast to talk about asteroid families, which are groups of asteroids that astronomers think are fragments from ancient collisions. He describes how he identifies these families, and how this work can help us understand how the solar system used to be millions of years ago.
Dr Debbie Weiser explains the importance of building an early warning system in the US before a major earthquake hits. Even a few seconds warning is enough to stop elevators, pause surgery, and give peace of mind to everyday folks experiencing aftershocks. To support this program, contact the California Governor’s office or your congressional representatives.
Dr. Debbie Weiser talks about human-made earthquakes on my favorite planet, Earth. She explains how seismologists try to distinguish between natural earthquakes and those caused by human activity, and why the earliest seismometers in California were installed by astronomers.
Dr. Driss Takir stops by the show. He explains how he looks for water that’s molecularly bound up in the rocks on asteroids. He also tells us about the Hayabusa-2 mission, which will put rovers on the the surface of asteroid Ryugu.
Dr Jennifer Scully talks about the geology of Ceres and Vesta, two large asteroids in the main belt that have been visited by NASA’s DAWN mission. She’s talks about the experience of getting to know each and every crater, and why the first images from Ceres surprised some people.
Dr. Shantanu Naidu tells us about planetary radar. Using large telescopes in California and Puerto Rico, he bounces radio waves off of asteroids and “listens” for the return signal. With this technique, he’s discovered moons on several asteroids.
Dr. Sona Hosseini talks about spectroscopy, a technique that allows scientists to determine what celestial bodies are made of. She’s developing new spectrometer that will allow her to look at an entire planet, or comet, all at once.
Dr. Dave Reitze, the Executive Director of LIGO, talks about how each source of noise at LIGO must be meticulously accounted for— from wolves howling, to tidal flexing of the Earth’s surface, to the motion of the atoms in the observatory’s mirrors.
Dr. Dave Reitze, the Executive Director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) talks about the extraordinary detection of gravitational waves earlier this year, and the incredible engineering that made it possible.
Dr. Varoujan Gorjian thoroughly debunks a misconception he hates— the idea that black holes suck. Find out what would happen to the Earth if our Sun was suddenly replaced with a black hole of the same mass, and why is is so challenging to send a probe to Mercury.