Telescopes are Smelloscopes, or, Farts in Space!

In our first-ever double-digit numbered episode, we welcome Kaitlin Thomas to discuss two aromatic astronomical stories in “Telescopes are Smelloscopes”. Astronomers reported that the center of the Milky Way smells like Rum and separately that Saturn’s moon Titan smells like farts. We think maybe they’ve been sniffing something. Here are links to the original press releases and some press stories about these results:

Cassini Press Release on Titan Atmosphere

Daily Mail (UK) story on Titan’s “sweet aroma”.

A story from the Guardian (UK) on the molecules near the center (or “centre” as the Brits (and French) would have it) of the Milky Way.

Episode 9: The Man in the Moon

Addie, Josh and Tracy welcome “lapsed expert” Eric Robinett, former professional planetary scientist and current purveyor of all things Magic (TM) at Campus Cards and Games, for a free-ranging discussion of the Man in the Moon paradox, more properly known as the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem or the Lunar Highlands Dichotomy. Basically, there are more dark splotches on the near side of the Moon (the side we see from Earth) than the far side. The WtG team explains this with Creme Brulée. There’s also something about isotopes and the giant impact model of the formation of the Moon, but isotopes are boring, so we don’t spend much time on that. This episode is notable for our first ever TWSS. See if you can hear it!

Attack of Mega-Earth!

In episode 8, “Attack of Mega-Earth!”, Josh, Addie and Tracy discuss the new planet exoplanet Kepler 10-C which is 17 times as massive as the Earth but apparently completely rocky and metallic. Previously known planets that massive (or larger, such as our own neighbors Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, aka “the big four”) are gas giants that have relatively small solid cores and get most of their mass from thick atmospheres. Not knowing why or how such a “mega-Earth” could form, we instead discuss whether it would be suitable for baking pizzas or brownies on the surface (surface temperature is 400 F). We also talk about Alan Stern’s challenge to Neil deGrasse Tyson for a debate about the moniker to attach to Pluto (planet, or dwarf planet) and how much more interesting it might have been if it were a challenge for a duel instead of a debate.

For more information about Kepler 10-C, see this press release.

For more information on the Kepler mission, see the Kepler home page.

Episode 7: Black Holes and Red Spots

In this, our silliest episode yet, Josh, Addie and Tracy discuss the following two YouTube videos:
Chimpanzee Riding on a Segway
Hamster on a Piano.
Incidentally, they also discuss the following two astronomical stories:
Jupiter’s shrinking Great Red Spot. First discovered by Galileo Galilei, the large red storm on Jupiter is less than half as long as it was hundreds of years ago. Since we don’t know why, instead we discuss how hurricanes and toilets work.

Unified model of supermassive black holes in Active Galactic Nuclei needs revision. Most galaxies have supermassive black holes at their centers, but a recent survey indicates that the visibility of these supermassive black holes depends on how tightly clustered the galaxies are within their – well – clusters. We don’t understand what is going on here either, so we talk a bit about what a black hole is, and also doughnuts. Or donuts. Also, this black hole.

Walkabout the Galaxy can be found here on iTunes.

Erratum on this episode: Galileo did not identify Jupiter’s Red Spot. It appears to have first been observed by Robert Hooke in 1665 and by subsequent observers including Giovanni Cassini in 1666.