Deep Astronomy

From the Moon to Mars

An episode of Deep Astronomy

By Deep Astronomy
Welcome to Deep Astronomy, a podcast dedicated to helping us understand our place in the universe.
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A Cautionary Science Tale: BICEP2 and the Perils of the Nobel Prize
Remember all the commotion about the BICEP2 mission back in 2014?  Cosmologist had announced the observation of polarized "B-mode" waves that, if connected to the universal cosmic microwave background, would lend credence and observational support to the Inflationary Theory of Cosmology, this period just after the Big Bang when astronomers think the universe expanded exponentially and faster than light. The story made the front page of the New York Times and we were hearing about it everywhere.  While I doubt that very many people understood what was being said, clearly something big was happening and so everyone paid attention.  Dr. Brian Keating from USCD was a member of the BICEP2 team and talks about that time with me along with other really interesting goings-on in the world of science, including whether having something like the Nobel Prize is hurting science. Brian Keating's Book: "Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition and the Peril of Science's Highest Honor" is available on the Deep Astronomy Amazon Page here:
October 11, 2019
Using Nuclear Power for Deep Space Exploration
It turns out that NASA and others have been thinking about the inefficiencies of using chemical rockets to go to the Moon, Mars and the Outer Planets.  One very attractive solution is Nuclear Thermal Propulsion, a technology that was begun in the 1960's and considered as a viable method of propelling Apollo astronauts to the Moon, but was abandoned in favor of chemical rockets.  Fast forward to the twenty first century and we are back thinking about using this promising propulsion to get humans and space probes to the outer solar system quickly.  This podcast is the audio version of a Future in Space Hangout sponsored by the American Astronautical Society.
October 3, 2019
The Apophis Asteroid: Should You Be Worried?
Let's talk about the potentially hazardous asteroid known as Apophis.  In April, 2029 this 320 meter rock will get so close that it will pass under the orbit of geosynchronous satellites!  Astronomers held a conference in late April of 2019 to discuss the science that can be done as it passes so close to the Earth.
June 3, 2019
Was the Event Horizon Telescope Black Hole Image a Waste of Time?
In this podcast: an essay on whether the effort that went into making the black hole image in the distant galaxy M87 by the Event Horizon Telescope was worth it; an interview with star mapper Wil Tirion and more!
May 20, 2019
The Large Millimeter Telescope
This podcast features science and technology from the Large Millimeter Telescope.  Our guests Nat DeNigris and David Sanchez will be on hand to discuss this amazing facility being operated in Mexico. The Large Millimeter Telescope is the world's largest single-aperture telescope in its frequency range, built for observing radio waves in the wave lengths from approximately 0.85 to 4 mm. It has an active surface with a diameter of 50 metres and 1,960 square metres of collecting area.
May 17, 2019
Just How Fast is the Universe Expanding EXACTLY? ...and how do we know this?
We've known since Edwin Hubble's time that the universe has been expanding.  What we've only recently learned (like, in the past 10 years or so) is that the universe is accelerating as it expands.  Measuring this expansion rate has been problematic and while there are at least two different ways to make the measurement, they don't always agree. This episode features Ed Macauley from the University of Portsmouth UK, and a member of the Dark Energy Survey collaboration.  He and his team have been using a calibrated version of the 'standard candle' method of determining the rate of universal expansion, also known as the Hubble Constant or H0 to get a better answer that agrees with other measurement techniques. You can read Ed's paper on here:
April 1, 2019
Life in the Universe? We May Be It!
I'm not convinced that life is everywhere in the cosmos.  It is entirely possible, based on what we know today, that we are the only life there is.  Anywhere.  This episode is a brief discussion of that idea.
March 28, 2019
Women in Science w/ Carol Christian
Welcome to the first in a series of monthly discussions about topics in astronomy with Carol Christian, a colleague and friend of mine that has cohosted Astro Coffee Hangouts with me for years. This month we talk about what it's like for women in science.  Why aren't more qualified women in science?  What are the obstacles?
March 21, 2019
The Exolife Finder Telescope (ELF)
Members of the PLANETS Foundation are working hard to secure funding for a telescope specifically designed to look for life on other worlds.  In this episode, we discuss the capabilities and design of this exiting telescope
February 11, 2019
The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT)
The next generation of world-class ground based observatories are being built right now.  Among them, The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT).  Learn about this amazing telescope that will become the world's largest by mid-2020's
January 23, 2019
Building Huge Telescopes in Space Using Robots
Astronomy’s Future Will Be Built: New Capabilities to Assemble in Space the Largest Observatories. Scientific performance of telescopes depend strongly upon the observatory’s aperture, its capability to collect faint light. Eventually, the challenging goals of astronomers will require telescope mirrors larger than can be deployed in space without the capability to assemble them, either with astronauts or with robots, enabled by the decreasing cost of commercial launch vehicles. Join Tony Darnell as he discusses the promise, the challenges, and the capabilities being assessed to assemble the largest future space observatories with Drs. Nicholas Siegler (NASA JPL), Bradley Peterson (OSU/STScI) and Gordon Roesler (Robots in Space LLC). Come hear about a new NASA-chartered study that is looking into this potentially enabling capability. Future in Space Hangouts are endorsed by the American Astronomical Society and the American Astronautical Society.
January 18, 2019
From the Moon to Mars
For decades advocates of the exploration of the Moon have argued that this will make possible subsequent exploration of Mars. But is this really true? Recently several dozen experts critically examined whether astronaut exploration of the Moon could be used to feed forward to a human mission to the martian surface by the end of the 2030s. Their findings may surprise you. Join Tony Darnell and Alberto Conti as they discuss the findings of a recent Moon-to-Mars workshop with Clive Neal (Notre Dame), Steve Mackwell (USRA), and Joseph Cassady (Aeroject Rocketdyne).
January 3, 2019
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)
Did you know there is an effort underway to actually see the event horizon of a black hole?  Right now, astronomers around the world are processing data taken earlier of the center of our galaxy in attempt to see the boundary between normal space and that of Sag A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The results are due out soon and this hangout is your chance to learn about one of the most amazing astronomy endeavours ever attempted from Geoff Bower, Chief Scientist for Hawaii Operations for the Event Horizon Telescope.
December 21, 2018
Using Resources in Space to Sustain Human Exploration
NASA has for decades been assessing options to utilize the resources available in space – often on the Moon and Mars – to sustain long-duration human operations. It will be prohibitively expensive to send from Earth to either location sufficient resources for astronauts to carry out priority mission goals, to say nothing of eventual settlement. With NASA’s human space flight program focusing on lunar operations and technologies to enable eventual human missions to Mars, in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) has become a high priority in NASA’s technology investment plans. Join Tony Darnell and Harley Thronson as they discuss the current status of ISRU with Jerry Sanders and Stephen Hoffman, both of NASA Johnson Space Center. Future in Space Hangouts are endorsed by the American Astronomical Society and the American Astronautical Society.
December 18, 2018
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)
The largest ground-based telescope is now being built on the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a new class of extremely large telescopes that will allow us to see deeper into space and observe cosmic objects with unprecedented sensitivity. The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO), a non-profit organization, was established in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT Project. The Members of TIO are Caltech, the University of California, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada); the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a TIO Associate. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. Please join Tony Darnell and Christian Ready as they discuss the status of this project with Dr. Christophe Dumas, TMT Observatory Scientist & Head Operations Department.
December 6, 2018
The Origin of Life w/ PZ Myers
Had a great discussion yesterday with biologist PZ Myers about the origin of life on Earth. What is our current knowledge of how life began on our planet? Is life easy or hard to make? We also extend the discussion to life on other worlds.
November 29, 2018
Amazing Astronomy at the European Southern Observatory
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has been on the forefront of astronomy discovery for decades. They operate telescopes primarily in South America, in Chile, and their astronomers have made groundbreaking observations in exoplanet research, cosmology, black holes, galaxy formation, etc. Please join us to learn about this amazing institution and what they are doing.
November 12, 2018
Clarke Exobelts: A Technosignature for finding Alien Civilizations
Clarke Exobelts, appropriately named after Arthur C. Clarke, are belts of satellites around and exoplanet that are in a geosynchronous orbit around it. These belts have distinct characteristics that can show up in space telescope transit surveys looking for planets around other stars.
October 25, 2018
Using Robots to Explore and Repair in Space
Did you know there is a commercial effort to design robotic spacecraft to go into orbit and repair/replace/remove old, broken and damaged satellites? The future is very bright in space exploration, especially if you're a robot!
October 17, 2018
Possible Exomoon Around Kepler-1625b
This week we are talking with Alex Teachey from Columbia University whose recent paper using observations from the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that there might be an exomoon around Kepler-1625b, an exoplanet that itself is rather interesting.
October 12, 2018
HabEx and Future Earths: New Concept to search for Earth-like Worlds
HabEx is one of four concept missions being considered for the next generation of space telescopes. HabEx will search for rocky worlds like Earth in orbit around other stars and it will have unique capabilities to detect atmospheres and even the components of those atmospheres. The idea is to look for biosignatures on planets for signs of life!
October 8, 2018
Stop Being a TESS Hater!
Lots of people are expressing disappointment that TESS won't be looking at the sectors of the sky long enough to see anything. I disagree. Please use the Discord server to let me know what you think!
October 3, 2018
Finding Neutrinos with (an) IceCube
Super energetic neutrinos can be formed in exotic places, for example the accelerators in the core of galactic supermassive black holes. The IceCube neutrino detector array was built and deployed at the South Pole. The detectors are designed and positioned to find specific particles in a background of myriad charged particles bombarding the Earth. A particular event called IceCube-170922 was detected with an energy of 300 trillion electron volts and pointed back to a specific point in the sky. Join Tony Darnell and Carol Christian during Afternoon Astronomy Coffee on Thursday, 9 August 2018 at 3:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (19:00 UTC) as they discuss with the investigators, including Erik Blaufussi (University of Maryland), how IceCube works, what the researchers hope to find, and the detection of IceCube-10922.
October 1, 2018
Have Astronomers Found Vulcan?
What would the planet Vulcan be like? It might be like the "super-Earth" planet orbiting a nearby star (16 light years) called HD 26965. The planet is only 2 times the size of Earth and the parent star is much like the sun. The planet orbits the star in a mere 42 days - but it is just inside the habitable zone where life might form. The star is a little smaller and cooler and has other attributes similar to the Sun. The object was found with the Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope (DEFT), a 50-inch telescope located atop Mt. Lemmon in southern Arizona near Tucson. The astronomers think the planet just might be suitable for life and even an advanced civilization. Several publications about Star Trek actually referred to this planetary system as the home of Mr. Spock known by its other name, 40 Eridani. Visuals used in Hangout available here:
September 28, 2018
The Lynx Space Telescope: The Next Generation of High-Energy Observatories
This is the second is a series of discussions surrounding the next crop of space telescope concepts being considered by the National Academy of Sciences to follow in the footsteps of WFIRST. This episode features Lynx, a large, x-ray telescope designed to being the same field of view as Chandra, but with a higher resolution. Click here to get access to the visuals from today's podcast:
September 26, 2018
The ORIGINS Space Telescope
The ORIGINS Space Telescope is one of four concept missions designed to compete as the follow-up mission to WFIRST, which launches after JWST. These missions are a look forward and present promising results to some of the biggest questions in astronomy. Today we talk with members of the ORIGINS Space Telescope Team to learn about what this mission is designed to do.
September 25, 2018
What's with all this Exoplanet Hype?
Astronomers are getting as bad as the press these days with making statements that are designed to garner attention than anything else. In this episode, let's talk about exoplanet hysteria.
September 22, 2018
The Square Kilometer Array: The Largest Radio Telescope in the World
The Square Kilometer Array is currently being designed and construction will start soon on a radio telescope that promises to revolutionize our understanding of the universe by looking at radio wavelengths in the highest resolution ever obtained. #astronomy #telescopes
September 20, 2018
Making Mars Easier
Detailed scenarios for human exploration of Mars have been developed and debated for decades, although many of them have been too technically challenging or unambiguously unaffordable. However, are there scenarios that are specifically developed to be affordable and less technically challenging? We’ll see . . .
September 18, 2018
JWST Update w/ NASA's Jon Gardner & Paul Geithner
The successor to the Hubble Space Telescope is making progress. The James Webb Space Telescope has suffered many cost overruns and delays but the mission is now ontrack for launch in March 2021. Let's see how things are going...
September 13, 2018
Telescope Talk: Imaging with Your Telescope w/ Tom Pickett
Telescope Talk is back! Are you interested in getting started in the awe-inspiring hobby of amateur astronomy? If so, this hangout is for you! Every other Tuesday, we get together and give advice to beginners and advanced amateurs alike to help get them started and improve their observing experience. This week, we discuss imaging with advanced amateur Tom Pickett who tells his amazing story of how he takes images through his telescope.
September 12, 2018
NASA's New Gateway to Human Space Exploration
The International Space Station (ISS) has been the first successful step in long-duration human operations in space. If astronauts are to travel eventually to Moon, Mars, and deep space, technical capabilities must be developed beyond those demonstrated on ISS. This is one of the priority goals of the Gateway, a facility and human operations site in the vicinity of the Moon, which in addition offers multiple opportunities for scientific programs that require the presence of astronauts. Please join our Hangout, when our regular moderators, Tony Darnell and Harley Thronson will discuss with Nicole Herrmann and Ben Bussey, both of NASA Headquarters, current plans and schedule for this next step in humanity’s journey into space.
September 10, 2018
Is Climate Change a Great Filter?
Is climate change inevitable on worlds with technological civilizations? Is planetary feedback from such a civilization a great filter? Our guest Dr Adam Frank will discuss his paper on the effects of planetary feedback on any possible alien civilizations out there. Could it be possible that many (or even all) technological civilizations out there must face the consequences of climate change brought on by their technology? Does this prevent galactic colonization? Please join Tony Darnell and Adam Frank as we explore this very interesting topic. We invite you to interact with us as well and provide questions and comments!
September 7, 2018
The Search for Planet 9: So, Where is it?
Astronomers believe there is an undiscovered super-Earth Sized planet lurking in our outer solar system. If it exists, then astronomers think it would have an estimated mass of ten Earths, a diameter two to four times that of Earth, and an elongated orbit lasting approximately 15,000 years. So far, efforts to find this planet have failed. They are calling it Planet Nine and astronomers are seriously trying to find it. Our guests today have written a paper outlining efforts to locate this planet using WISE and NEOWISE data. They think that Planet Nine, if it exists, should be self-luminous enough and potentially bright enough in the near infrared that the NEOWISE telescope should be able to see it. Today we’ll talk about those efforts along with what WISE and NEOWISE is, why we think Planet Nine is there in the first place, and whether or not it will have any adverse effect on the Earth anytime soon.
May 25, 2018
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