Dr. Issac Smith visits the show to talk about one of Mars’ past ice ages; a time when most of the planet was covered in ice. He talks about how he made this discovery by looking at the layers of ice deposited on the planet’s North pole.
Returning guest Dr. Kelsi Singer talks about two of the icy moons of our solar system, Ganymede and Iapetus. She talks about the types of craters we see on their surfaces, and what they can teach us about the moons themselves.
Jon talks about JPL’s Horizons, an amazing, publicly available system that keeps track of every known object in the solar system. Planets, moons, asteroids, spacecraft, you name it: over 715,000 in total. We discuss how this system is used by engineers, scientists, lawyers, art fans, and marine biologists.
This week’s guest is Dr Paul Chodas, who directs JPL’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies. He explains how predicting where an asteroid is going can get complicated when the asteroid gets close to a planet. He also talks about an app that lets you explore how a hypothetical asteroid could be deflected.
Dr. Kevin Walsh visits the show to talk about a new NASA mission that will launch later this year: OSIRIS REx! This spacecraft will visit an asteroid, grab a bit of surface material, and return the material to Earth for further study. Dr. Walsh talks about the mission and explains how you can help scientists pick the best place on the asteroid for the spacecraft to grab a sample.
Professor Erik Asphaug stops by the show to discuss AOSAT-1, a tiny spacecraft that will contain experiments to study the surface of asteroids. AOSAT-1 will rotate once every minute, creating a force inside that exactly mimics gravity on an asteroid. We discuss how AOSAT-1, a cubesat, is being designed and built, and how it may launched from the space station in a “cubesat cannon”.
Dr. Kimberly Ennico Smith, New Horizons deputy project scientist, stops by the show to talk about the new data currently being transmitted to Earth, what it’s like to work on this mission, and the violent past of Pluto’s moon Charon.
Dr. Alejandro Soto visits the show to talk about the different atmospheres found on planets and moons in our solar system. We talk about wind on Mars, the opening scene of The Martian, Pluto’s thin atmosphere, and what it is like on Saturn’s moon Titan.
Dr. Krista Soderlund talks about the ice giants, Uranus and Neptune. She tells us about their unusual rings and moons, and how studying them can teach us about exoplanets.
Dr. Christiansen stops by the show to talk about exoplanets and the Kepler Space Telescope. We share an Australian beverage and she explains how astronomers look for exoplanets, and how the discovery of “hot Jupiters” was a huge surprise to astronomers.
Dr. Lisa Storrie-Lombardi talks about the Spitzer Space Telescope. She tells us how Spitzer made the first observation of light from a planet outside our solar system. She also describes how engineers are constantly innovating, letting Spitzer make better and more sensitive observations.
Dr. Don Yeomans, head of JPL’s Near-Earth Object office until his recent retirement, describes how the field of asteroid discovery has changed over the decades. He recalls when early data indicated that asteroid Apophis had a small chance of hitting the Earth (spoiler alert: today, with more data, we know that Apophis will not hit the Earth).
Dr. Kimberly Litchtenburg explains what it is like to explore Mars with the Curiosity rover. It involves daily discussions with scientists, careful programming, and sometimes, fantastic discoveries, like the discovery of a stream bed that once had enough
Professor Yan Fernández tells us about several baffling comets, including one comet that has a nearly circular path around the sun. He also talks about comet Hale Bopp, which we’ve got to study now, because it won’t return to our part of the solar system until 7000 AD.
Dr. Kelsi Singer and I drink an unusual beverage while she shares some of the incredible discoveries that she and the New Horizons team are making. We also discuss a contentious issue— should Pluto be called a planet?
Dr. Robert Hurt stops by the podcast to talk about his job making visuals to explain complicated astronomical concepts. We chat about multiverses, gravitational waves, and Cameron Diaz’s love for NASA.
Dr Andy Rivkin and I drink gin and tonics, and Andy explains what spectroscopy is and what it can teach us about minerals on asteroids. He also describes what it’s like to use some of the world’s most powerful telescopes.
Dr. Tim Sphar, CEO of NEO Sciences and former director of the Minor Planet Center, stops by the show to talk about how asteroids are cataloged and monitored. He also talks about his experience the day tiny asteroid 2008 TC3 impacted Earth.
Dr Cable returns to the show to talk about why scientists often assume that water is needed to sustain life. She explains why most life, like us, likely is carbon-based, and talks about where she’d look for lifeforms beyond our planet.
Dr. Katherine Kretke investigates how planets are formed with computer models. Her new research had a surprising result— that pebbles play a key role in forming terrestrial planets like Earth and Mars.
Paulo Younse has spent over 5 years studying hermetic seals for tubes. But these aren’t just any tubes— there the tubes that will travel to Mars and carry rocks back to Earth. He describes the challenges of designing the perfect tubes for this ambitious venture.
Dr. Heather Kaluna talks about space weathering, which changes the surfaces of the moon, asteroids, and Mercury. She studies space weathering in a laboratory, where she can reproduce hundreds of millions of years of weathering in just forty minutes.
The James Webb Space Telescope is the biggest astronomy project in the world right now. It’s an amazingly complex robot, and some of its sensors need to be kept cool. Dr Kris Stone talks about the cooling system, and how it will be tested during the longest continuous test ever conducted at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Dr. Lauren White talks about designing and building instruments for the International Space Station (ISS). She shares a secret about designing instruments for the outside of the space station, and also talks about being the first American to command a laser on the ISS.
Dr Morgan Cable comes back on the podcast to tell us about how she and a team of scientists searched a fresh lava field in Iceland to look for signs of life. They pretended to see the landscape like a rover would, so that the lessons they learned in Icela