Dr. Rosalie McGurk talks about her quest to find pairs of black holes. She explains how she used several different telescopes to solve this problem, narrowing the list of potential candidates from hundreds of thousands to about twenty.
Dr. Thomas Connor stops by the show to talk about massive galaxy clusters and the CLASH project. We talk about naturally occurring gravitational "telescopes" that allow us to see even farther into space, and Dr. Connor makes some fun analogies to cupcakes and crime bosses.
Image: Gravitational lensing as seen by Hubble. Read more here.
Dr. James Tuttle Keane discusses why Pluto probably has a huge underground ocean. To make this discovery, he used images of Pluto taken by the New Horizons spacecraft, computer simulations, and good old-fashioned pen and paper.
Don't miss Dr. Keane's planetary illustrations on his twitter feed.
Dr. Barbara Cohen returns to the show to talk about meteorite collecting in Antarctica. These trips, which involve weeks of camping on the ice, provide invaluable scientific samples. She talks about what it's like to search for the rocks that "don't belong" in the frozen desert.
NASA put out a great article on her work as well, read it here! Also check out Dr. Cohen's Wikipedia page.
To celebrate Earth Day, Dr. Kate Marvel talks about models of Earth's climate. She compares many models to learn more about the way our climate works, and how it might change in the future. She also offers advice for those of us who may feel overwhelmed by climate change.
Dr. Patrick Michel talks about comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which was visited by the Rosetta spacecraft. This comet's shape was puzzling. It looked like it had survived a collision, but how could a fragile icy comet survive a high-energy impact? A new study by Dr. Michel and his team sheds light on this mystery.
Dr. Miho Janvier talks about her work studying solar storms, and tells us about the ways these storms have impacted humans in the past. She explains why they are challenging to model and says why she's interested in "garbage" data from planetary missions.
Chase Childs tells us about satellite remote sensing. He explains how near-infrared images can expose underground structures, and why plant health is of surprising interest to archeologists. He also talks about GlobalXplorer, and some of the site's power users who have painstakingly mapped Peru.
Dr. Sarah Parcak explains how she uses satellite images to locate archeological sites, and how it's her job to be a detective, piecing together clues to uncover the past. She also talks about GlobalXplorer, a non-profit that lets everyone be a space archeologist.
Dr. Jeff Rich returns to the show to talk about the interstellar medium— all the rocks, dust, and particles that exist between the stars. After some beer, we end up talking about black holes and how Jeff studies nearby galaxies to learn about the early universe.
Dr. Kelly Fast tells us about the Planetary Defense Coordination Office, which finds asteroids before they find us. She talks about a recent exercise involving the tiny asteroid 2012 TC4, where asteroid hunters across the world coordinated to observe this object on a recent fly-by. We also talk about ‘Oumuamua, the first interstellar asteroid ever discovered.
Dr. Mark Panning tells us all about “earthquakes” on other worlds. He talks about the InSight mission to Mars, which carries a seismometer to detect Marsquakes. He also explains how a seismometer on Europa could teach us about the interior of that icy moon.
Mario Cabrera tells us about the specialized detectors used in professional telescopes. He talks about how he’s helping to develop new detectors that don’t require coolant and provide more science for less money. He talks about the ways a detector is tested, and how he’s walked through miles of waist-deep snow (both ways!) in the name of science.
Dr. Jonah Kanner talks about LIGO’s spectacular detection of two neutron stars merging together. This merger was not only detected by gravitational wave detectors in the US and Europe, it was also seen by many telescopes across the world and in space. This new discovery will help unlock many longstanding mysteries in astronomy and fundamental particle physics.
Cassini’s spacecraft operations team manager, Julie Webster, stops by the show to reflect on Cassini. We chat about the time Cassini dove through Titan’s atmosphere, how Julie monitored thousands of channels of telemetry at once, and how she’s happy that she doesn’t have to spend her time thinking through worst-case scenarios (or “awfulizing”) now that the spacecraft is no more.
Julie's view of her desktop while she was monitoring Cassini's telemetry.
Credit: Julie Webster
Cassini's loss of signal, as described by Julie on the show.
Dr. Morgan Cable returns to the show to chat about the end of the Cassini Mission. We find solace in the fact that there’s still a tiny bit of Cassini in orbit around Saturn. Dr. Cable also describes Cassini’s discovery of hydrogen, “the easiest food for a microbe to digest,” in Enceladus’ plumes.
Top: Portrait by Dan Goods. Below: Dr. Cable on NASA TV!
Sagan Prize winner Dr. Henry Throop tells us how scientists look for micron-sized dust that’s millions of miles away to protect the New Horizons spacecraft. This search involves computer modeling, occultation observations, and plenty of teamwork.
Henry Throop at the 2.12-meter telescope at San Pedro Martir, Mexico / Photo: Eduardo de la Fuente
Dr. Cindy Hunt returns to the show to talk about the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 100 inch Hooker Telescope on Mount Wilson. She explains why this telescope looks like a battleship and tells us how it “completely upended our understanding of the universe”. Also: poetry!
Dr. Lisa Storrie-Lombardi returns to the show to discuss NuSTAR, Spitzer, and what it feels like to end a mission you’ve been working on for decades. Cassini’s Grand Finale has us reflecting on the upcoming demise of the Spitzer Space Telescope.