We’re back after our mid-summer hiatus with a bit of astrophysics. Everyone loves black holes, and in “Black Hole Flasher” we talk about one that has awakened from 26 years of dormancy to spew out a burst of X-rays that has astrophysicists sputtering with excitement. Meanwhile Tracy and Addie witnessed the unfortunate loss of a Space-X vehicle en route to the ISS, and Josh makes random attempts to sound like a valley girl. All that and more in the latest episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.
Our latest episode discusses some hypothetical situations such as what would happen if the Sun went supernova. We also try to figure out what kind of planet the Game of Thrones world is!
Catch up on past episodes and listen to our latest: A Clockwork Storm!
The story I heard is that the title for A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess was chosen when a friend of Burgess read the novel and said it made about as much sense as a clockwork orange. In A Clockwork Storm!, the latest episode of WtG, Josh, Addie and Tracy eventually get around to talking about two cool discoveries from the Cassini mission at Saturn: the planet itself has giant storms on a clockwork schedule every 32 years, and a new model of its moon Enceladus shows that the production rate of water vapor from its geysers varies with time, perhaps due to changing tidal stresses. But before all that physics, hear about astronomy operas, science fiction epic poems, and Space-X’s epic rocket retrieval attempts.
Josh, Addie and guest Jim Cooney discuss the observation by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of two mysterious white spots on the largest asteroid in the solar system, Ceres. Could they be white monoliths? That’s what we’re rooting for. Water ice is another possibility. Learn about Dawn and what color that damn dress is on this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy. For more about Dawn, JPL has the goods.
Josh, Addie and Tracy look ahead to the violent merger of supermassive black holes, the kind of event that would send out a large ripple of gravitational waves. These waves in space-time are a consequence of Einstein’s theory of gravity known as General Relativity, but measuring tiny ripples in the shape of space-time turns out, oddly enough, to be a bit tricky. Who’d a’ thunk it? Maybe it’s something that can be seen in Second Life, a virtual world where Josh is setting up virtual office hours for his physics students. Now if only he can figure out how to give his avatar a nice head of hair.
Video visualization of the black hole merger from Space.com
A news story about the black hole observations.
We kick off the new year with a look back at the 2014 Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, featuring some 25,000 scientists and at least a handful of not-so-scientists. In episode 27, “Geoengineering and the AGU” we tackle such difficult questions as “which is worse: imagined pollution to prevent the damage from actual pollution, or actual pollution?”. If this question seems senseless to you, then you’ll want to tune in and hear our take on random encounters at the AGU, live sound bites from the meeting, and a peak ahead at exciting spacecraft encounters for 2015. Download episode 27 and all our past episodes on iTunes or at our media blog.
Josh, Addie and Tracy welcome Jürgen Blum from the University of Braunschweig to discuss the exciting landing of the ESA Philae probe on the comet 67/P Churyomov-Gerasimenko. Philae, carried to the comet by the ESA probe Rosetta, is the first spacecraft to land on a comet. In addition to revealing the secrets of the universe, it will also tell us whether the comet depiction in the classic film “Deep Impact” was merely great or the greatest ever.
This week’s episode is dedicated to the late Tom Magliozzi, one of the Car Talk brothers, whose infectious laughter livened up the airwaves for 25 years. In his honor, while discussing the discovery of “ghost stars” in images from the Hubble Space Telescope, we laugh way too much at Josh’s skivvies and Tracy’s home village of New Jersey.
Catherine Neish from the Florida Institute of Technology joins Josh and Addie for a recap of a number of exciting developments in planetary science including the arrival of the Mars Orbital Mission, or MOM, from India, hot on the heals of the MAVEN mission. We agreed that Mars now has altogether too many spacecraft. Ever wonder what a TRL is? Of course not, and now you’ll never have to, because we explain that, and throw more cold water on the BICEP2 now-non-detection of gravity waves from the first second of the universe. As always, episodes can be downloaded here.
The MAVEN spacecraft successfully entered orbit around Mars last weekend. In Episode 18 of Walkabout the Galaxy, Josh, Addie and Tracy make a game effort at being excited about this mission whose primary data will be squiggly lines instead of pretty pictures. The conversation naturally turns to the 1950’s movie cult classic, Cat-Women of the Moon. Plans are brewing for a global watch party and tweet-up for this cinematic masterpiece. Well, piece, anyway. Watch this space for details coming soon! As always you can get episodes and subscribe to our podcast here.