Dr. Jessie Christiansen returns to the show to talk about newly discovered exoplanets! She explains why this planetary system was devilishly difficult to observe with ground-based telescopes, and how one of the planets poses a puzzle.
Dr. Raymond Francis talks about a rock-vaporizing laser and the software that controls it. He describes how he and colleagues programmed a computer to make choices like a geologist would, allowing the Curiosity rover to do more science on Mars.
Dr. Bethany Ehlmann returns to talk about Ceres. She tells us what certain types of silicates have in common with phyllo dough, and explains how traces of ammonia on Ceres hint at unusual history for this dwarf planet.
Dr. Tiffany Meshkat describes direct imaging of exoplanets, which astronomers have used to discover enormous, young planets. She also talks about WFIRST, a mission under development that would be able to find and characterize exoplanets.
Dr. Armando Azua-Bustos talks about how he discovered the driest place on Earth— a region in the Atacama Desert not far from where he grew up. He explains how he collects and studies microbial life that live in these extremely dry regions.
Dr. Michele Koppes stops by to talk about her glacier research on planet Earth. She describes how a melting glacier triggered a staggeringly large landslide in 2015, and how glaciers can match even humans in their ability to transform the landscape.
Dr. David Ciardi talks about Vega, a bright star that’s “been a part of human lore forever.” Dr. Ciardi and his colleagues discovered that Vega has a nearby ring of dust, implying the presence of planets. He also describes an encounter with a giant inflatable bumblebee at Palomar Observatory.
John Dailey explains how he uses his software engineering skills to discover asteroids at IPAC/Caltech. He helps solve problems inherent to working with astronomical data, such as the challenge of reading in and out huge volumes of data from hard drives.
Dr. Ingrid Daubar stops by to talk about HiRISE, a camera on a Mars-orbiting spacecraft that takes amazing images of the Martian surface. She explains how she uses these images to search for fresh craters, and how you (yes you!) suggest areas of the planet for this camera to image. (Correction to episode: Mars’ atmosphere is 0.6% that of Earth, not 6%)
Marta Bryan shares her new results on exoplanets! She explains how she tested a theory of hot jupiter formation, and how she figured out that planet rotation rates are likely set early on in the planet’s lifetime.
Dr. Rahul Patel describes his search for undiscovered disks of dust around other stars. He explains how looking for fainter and fainter debris disks may bring us closer to discovering a planetary system similar to our own.
Dr. Ivy Curren talks about Mars’ moon Phobos, and how grooves on its surface indicate that the interior may be fractured. This small, mysterious moon is covered in faults, making it a dicey place for future missions to land.
Dr Roberta Paladini talks about the space-based Herschel Space Observatory, which was the largest infrared telescope ever launched. It looked at the sky in the far infrared, and discovered an abundance of water in star-forming regions.
Dr. Andy Thompson explains how he uses robotic ocean gliders to learn about our planet. He tells us how ocean water interacts with the atmosphere, and how parcels of water can preserve information about that interaction for thousands of years.
As part of the 2016 TED Fellows class, I got to meet cool people and I got to talk about asteroids. My TED talk is now online on www.TED.com (check it out!) and the companion book, “Asteroid Hunters”, by me, is now available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and India. There’s also e-book and audiobook versions. This bonus episode contains an excerpt from “Asteroid Hunters”.
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.