Prof Jenny Whitten tells us about VERITAS, a NASA mission that will orbit Venus. She explains how scientists will use radar to learn about the surface, and how they picked exactly which radar band to use. She also talks about how VERITAS will shed light on Venus' evolution, the history of water on the planet, and its geologic processes.
Larissa Markwardt talks about Trojan asteroids-- asteroids that orbit the sun a little before or after planets. She describes the special technique she uses to find these asteroids, and why not finding any is an interesting result.
Professor Catherine Neish explains why there's so few craters on Saturn's moon Titan. She explains why Titan's craters may contain the organic molecules needed for life, and how the Dragonfly mission will test that hypothesis.
Dr. Stephanie Getty tells us about DAVINCI, which will go to Venus. DAVINCI will scan the planet during three flybys, and will deploy a probe. She explains how engineers will protect the probe's instruments from Venus' harsh environment, and how you can't build a spacecraft without meetings and emails.
Dr. Federica Spoto tells us how she found millions of high-precision observations of comets and asteroids. She explains how these observations let her turn back time and study the history of the main belt of asteroids in our solar system.
Professor Barmby tells us how a group of astronomers created the Canadian Astronomy Long Range Plan. This plan outlines the priorities of Canadian astronomers for the next decade. It covers telescopes, computing resources, diversity and inclusion in astronomy, and the need to consider the environmental consequences of astronomy.
Planetary defense researcher Tyler Linder talks about the benefits of using automated telescopes. He tells us the difference between an automated and a robotic telescope, and explains that inexpensive telescope time lets students learn, experiment, and fail. He describes the work he does with students, and why it is important to him.
Prof. Abel Méndez tells us about his Planetary Habitability Lab. He talks about the chances of discovering extraterrestrial life, explaining that we are "alone by isolation and distance." He also tells us about his team's Visible Paleo-Earth project, as well as the proposed plans to rebuild the Arecibo Radio Telescope.
Dr. Jessica Noviello tells us a story about the power of interdisciplinary science: the time geologists, physicists, archeologists, chemists, paleontologists, and petroleum engineers all came together to solve a big mystery. This story focuses on a layer of clay that divides the "dinosaur part of time" from the "non dinosaur part of time."
Kevin Gill explains how he transforms raw spacecraft images into stunning planet photos. He describes how he turns black and white images from the Juno spacecraft into full color mosaics of Jupiter. He also tells us about his experiences with the "King of Cameras" on Cassini.
Prof. Christopher Snead tells us how he is preparing a very clean laboratory. In this lab, scientists will store and study Hayabusa-2 mission asteroid samples. The samples will be photographed and manipulated without ever touching Earth's atmosphere.
Dr. Lan Jian talks to us about the solar wind, which is ionized gas from the sun. It transfers energy from the sun to the planets, and can impact astronauts and technology. She shares her research, which includes interpreting data from spacecraft and computer modeling.
Dr. Dylan Hickson talks about how he studies the surfaces of asteroids using reflected radio waves. By comparing the reflections to mathematical models and data from Earth, he tries to determine if an asteroid's surface is blocky, dusty, or both.
Dr. Rachel Smith tells us about her research into young stellar objects. These new stars are surrounded by a cloud of dust that may eventually become planets. Dr. Smith also explains why she thinks it is important to physically travel to telescopes when she makes her observations.
Casey Dreier, Chief Advocate of the Planetary Society, stops by to chat about space policy. He explains why human spaceflight is such a challenge, and talks about how scientists decide which planet to explore. He also explains how individual citizens from around the world can influence space policy.
Dr. Anne Virkki talks about the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which recently sustained severe damage. She talks about the discoveries made at the telescope and explains that it could be rebuilt, if there was enough public support.
A quick bonus episode for my American listeners. Voting is the keystone of our democracy, and your voice deserves to be heard. This episode goes over some common voting questions. For more, see www.ballotpedia.org.
Dr. Varoujan Gorjian returns to the show! He explains what supermassive black holes are and how they work. He also tells us about an elegant technique that astronomers use to determine the size of the debris cloud around black holes.
The tables are turned! Regular host Professor Carrie Nugent talks about her research with guest host Anthropology Professor Caitrin Lynch. We discuss near-Earth asteroids, and how Prof. Nugent is building open-source asteroid hunting software with a team of students.
Dr. Abby Fraeman returns to the show to talk about NASA's Curiosity rover. For the past eight years, Curiosity has been exploring Gale Crater on Mars. Dr. Fraeman talks about a discovery she made on the Vera Rubin Ridge, and we discuss how the Curiosity scientists and engineers have kept the rover running during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prof. Bethany Ehlmann returns to the show to talk about the mission she's leading, Lunar Trailblazer. This low-cost mission will hitch a ride to the moon using the extra space in a large rocket. Once there, it will help scientists learn more about water on the moon.
Many of the discoveries you've heard about on this show were funded by NASA. But how do scientists get money from NASA? Dr. Henry Throop returns to the show to explain how NASA program officers evaluate scientific proposals. This episode was recorded in September 2019.
Dr. Larry Denneau talks about the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or ATLAS. He talks about how asteroid detection is a data processing problem. Every night ATLAS handles about a quarter terabyte of data. He describes how they find a few asteroids among a billion other sources, and tells us about a unique discovery by the program. This episode was recorded in June 2019, which explains the restaurant noises and the talk of air travel.