Walkabout the Galaxy

While terrestrial matters were frequently dark and depressing, 2017 was a banner year for the cosmos, or at least for our understanding of it. From Cassini's Grand Finale to LIGO's detection of neutron stars colliding, the astroquarks review the highlights of the year and a new story about a very old black hole from the dawn of the universe. A supermassive black hole formed before the universe was a billion years old, suggesting galaxy formation was off to a robust and early start. Join Josh, Addie and Jim for all that, nerd news and space trivia to wrap up 2017.

Direct download: 2017_-_A_Great_Year_for_Space.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:22am EST

Antimatter, the stuff that lets the USS Enterprise fly about the galaxy is the topic of this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy because it's made in your garden variety thunderstorm. Lightning strikes have enough energy to drive nuclear reactions that produce antimatter electrons. Join the astroquarks for this and other heady topics such as the wobble of the Earth's axis in space trivia.

Direct download: Antimatter_from_Your_Local_Thunderstorm.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 6:26pm EST

Disappointed that we don't have jetpacks and flying cars? Dr. Amanda Hendrix joins the Astroquarks to suggest an alternative: colonize Saturn's moon Titan, where a thick atmosphere and weak gravity mean we could all just fly like birds! Really! But, wait, there's more! Tune in to this episode of Walkabout for discussions of nearby moons and planets to colonize, space trivia and more.

Direct download: Fly_Me_To_The_Moon_Of_Saturn.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 2:31pm EST

Stars have a voracious appetite, gobbling up most of the stuff in their immediate neighborhood, leaving just a few scraps to make planets. Sometimes, though, even the planets do not escape the stellar maw. In this episode of Walkabout, the astroquarks discuss a neat observation that shows a star likely gobbled several rocky worlds at some point in its past. Plus, help NASA name a Kuiper Belt Object, and find out the link between the planet eater and Greek mythology in this episode's trivia.

Direct download: Kronos_the_Planet_Eater.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:41pm EST

That asteroid is rogue, and that's hyperbolic, but not hyperbole. The astroquarks welcome Dr. Dan Durda to discuss the first detection of a planetary object passing through our solar system that definitively came from another planetary system. All those Star Trek episodes where there is a wandering planet or comet or asteroid in space are now officially validated! 

Direct download: Rogue_Asteroid.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 11:12am EST

If two neutron stars collide in a galaxy 130 million light years away and no one has a gravitational wave observatory to detect it, does it make a sound? Well, that's a silly question, but it happened, and not only was this cosmic catastrophe observed in the high energy light it emitted, but the rippling of spacetime was detected as well. Astronomy now has two independent ways of observing energetic events, and for the first time, something was seen using both techniques: electromagnetic waves (light) and gravitational waves. Join the astroquarks to hear about the first "kilonova" observed this way and what it has to do with your gold jewelry.

Direct download: To_Kilonova.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 7:53pm EST

The astroquarks welcome noted science blogger and author Dr. Ethan Siegel whose new book Treknology takes a look at the intersection of science and science fiction. While you may already have a tablet computer, warp drive is probably still a few years away. But Elon Musk may be sending missions to the moon in less time than it takes the U.S.S. Enterprise to complete its 5-year mission (so, less than 5 years, get it?). Tune in for the latest news on exploration of the solar system as well as a look back to some classic Trek-nology with Dr. Ethan Siegel on this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: I_Left_My_Communicator_on_Sigma_Iotia.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 11:15pm EST

The astroquarks welcome WMFE space reporter Brendan Byrne who recounts his flight on the SOFIA airborne observatory. They hen vent about how the Nobel Prize committee has unaccountably once again passed them over. Here about this year's winners in physics, and a discussion of the history of the Kuiper Belt in this episode's space trivia. 

Direct download: SOFIA_Nobel_and_Kuiper__Whats_in_a_Name.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 11:00pm EST

How exactly (and why) does a spacecraft get a "gravitational assist" from a planet en route to another planet? Where does that energy come from? The Astroquarks take a look at gravity assists and the OSIRIS-REx mission to grab some bits of a Near-Earth Asteroid and bring them back to Earth. Plus, the field of gravitational wave astronomy expanded now with the detection of a new black hole collision by two separate gravitational wave observatories. It's a weighty episode.

Direct download: OSIRIS-REx_Gets_the_Gravity_Assist_and_Scores.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 3:43pm EST

Josh recounts experiencing the end of the Cassini mission and recalls more than a quarter century of involvement with the project in this episode. Then the astroquarks take a look outward toward our galaxy and its retinue of dwarf galaxies and what that may say about how typical, or not, the Milky Way is in the grand scheme of things. All that plus Cassini trivia, nerd news, and a meteorological sponsor on this episode of WtG.

Direct download: To_Be_Cassini_Or_Not_To_Be.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 10:37am EST

Asteroid Florence with her two mini-moons pays a visit to the Earth, while Tabby's Star continues to mystify with its unpredictable fluctuations in brightness. The astroquarks also cover the latest LIGO rumors about the detection of neutron star collisions, expanding the realm of gravitational wave astronomy. Plus Nerd News and Space Trivia!

Direct download: Florence_and_the_LIGO_Machine.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:37pm EST

New experiments have created diamonds in the conditions expected in the interiors of Uranus and Neptune. Former Top Astroquark Tracy Becker joins Josh, Addie and Jim to discuss diamond rain deep in the atmospheres of these giant planets. Join the astroquarks for nerd news, space trivia, and a bit of planetary science for good measure.

Direct download: Are_Those_Diamonds_on_Uranus_.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:52pm EST

The astroquarks tell their eclipse stories from the Great American Eclipse. The Sun and every star has weather, spots, oscillations, flares and all sorts of activity. Some of this is revealed during an eclipse to the naked eye. Now, telescopes have enabled us to map the appearance of the red supergiant, Antares. Join Josh, Addie and Jim for this stellar episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: Starspots_and_Eclipses.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:32pm EST

The weight on that box of breakfast cereal ultimately traces back to "le grand K", a metal sphere in a vault in Paris, a wonderfully archaic standard for how much stuff makes a kilogram. We'll talk about the efforts to update that standard, the next Kuiper Belt Object to be explored by the New Horizons spacecraft, eclipses and occultations, and of course Zombies. Join the astroquarks for the latest astro-news, nerd news, and this episode's trivia about the length of the month!

Direct download: Of_Zombies_Comets_and_Kilograms.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 12:49pm EST

The Sun doesn't just shine, it rings like a bell, or a drumhead wrapped into a ginormous ball of incandescent plasma. The astroquarks talk about how helioseismology tells us about the interior of the Sun, and new research shows some surprising changes in the Sun's outer layers. And the disappointing news from the realm of cosmology is that dark matter is probably not warm and fuzzy, depriving us of endless opportunities for jokes, not to mention that it would be awesome if we had fuzzy dark matter throughout the universe. Catch up on the latest astronomy, nerd news, and space trivia with the astroquarks on this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: Cold_and_Hard_not_Warm_and_Fuzzy.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:47am EST

If the controversy over Pluto's planetary status weren't already enough, what do you call a planet that is not even orbiting a star? The astroquarks explore rogue planets in this episode, planets that wander interstellar space, without a fire to keep them warm. We discuss how they nevertheless have been detected. Also, Addie's favorite body (rhymes with loon) and Jim's new favorite name, nerd news, space sponsor, and space trivia.

Direct download: Going_Rogue.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 3:38pm EST

Dr. Kristen John of NASA's Johnson Space Center joins the Astroquarks for a wide-ranging discussion on topics from Jupiter's Great Red Spot to teleportation (yes, it's a real thing) and just what that means (not at all clear, but don't get ready to step into that transporter beam just yet). 

Direct download: Teleport_me_to_the_Great_Red_Spot.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:36am EST

The astroquarks are joined by Dr. Phil Metzger who spends a lot of time thinking about how our civilization can make the great leap into space. We may not be that far away from truly moving off our home planet and becoming a "Type 1 Civilization" that inhabits the solar system and not just one planet. We discuss how we'll get there, how long it might take, the challenges we face, and of course the latest nerd news and trivia from the world of Pandora (the Avatar one, not Saturn's moon).

Direct download: Where_No_One_Has_Gone_Before.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 11:06am EST

Planet 9, also known as Egotron in honor of its supporters, has never been seen. A new statistical analysis of a deep sky survey suggests that's because it doesn't exist. The object's existence has been proposed to explain an apparent clustering of the orbits of some objects that have the charming quality of actually having been directly observed. The astroquarks discuss the arguments for Egotron and how statistics and observation bias play into all this. Speaking of statistics and planets, Kepler's list of planet candidates keeps growing. Hear about the latest discoveries, nerd news, space trivia and more on this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: Is_Planet_9_Lost_in_Space_.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 10:02am EST

The astroquarks take a look at new indications of water ice on the Moon, evidence that Jupiter formed in less than a million years, and the third detection by LIGO of gravitational waves from a black hole merger. All that, NASA's new astronaut class, New Horizons, and the summer sci-fi blockbuster and blockbuster wannabes on this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: Leggo_my_LIGO.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:15am EST

How many jokes can the three astroquarks make about the pronunciation of the seventh planet? You'll have to tune in to this episode of WtG to find out. Josh, Addie and Jim discuss how aurorae on planets are made and why seeing them on Uranus is surprising. Also, is there a new type of planetary object, or is it just more hot gas? Find out about the Synestia, Uranus, nerd news and Star Trek trivia on this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: Uranus_Gets_Bedazzled.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 5:21am EST

You may think of inflation as prices creeping higher, but to a cosmologist it's been an important idea to explain why the universe is so uniform on very large scales in every direction we look. But does inflation pass muster as a testable scientific theory? The astroquarks review what inflation is all about as there is renewed discussion in the scientific community about the theory and its predictions. Plus, nerd news and the Great American Eclipse. 

Direct download: Is_That_Inflation_Or_Are_You_Just_Happy_to_See_Me_.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 10:54am EST

The Juno mission is studying Jupiter's interior, but its citizen-scientist JunoCam is returning stunning images of the largest planet. Hear the astroquarks Josh Colwell, Addie Dove and Jim Cooney provide equally stunning descriptions of those pictures. You will hear color! If you're on mind-altering substances. Otherwise it will be a tour of the solar system, from Jupiter to Mars to Comet 67P. All that plus nerd news and space trivia.

Direct download: Juno_What_I_Mean.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 10:02pm EST

Josh and Addie welcome two special guests for this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy where we learn about a new and clever measurement of the size and shape of the heliosphere. Cooler still, some of the critical data came from our old friend Cassini and even older friends the Voyager spacecraft. All this, plus trivia, nerd news and a galaxy-sized wave of hot gas. 

Direct download: The_Solar_System_is_a_Bubble_in_Space.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 8:55am EST

No, that ain't no negative mass, but yes, for Cassini the end is nigh. The series of 22 Grand Finale orbits has begun, providing unique views of Saturn and its rings and a way to probe the planet's interior and magnetic field. The astroquarks also check out yet another exoplanet in the habitable zone of a nearby star and discuss the headline about a discovery of "negative mass". 

Direct download: The_Grand_Finale_is_Finale_Here.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:16pm EST

The astroquarks dissect the latest news from Saturn's intriguing moon Enceladus. Molecular hydrogen in its geysers suggest that Enceladus' ocean floor has the same kinds of hydrothermal energy sources that may have powered the origin of life on Earth. Plus, lots of Star Wars nerd news, and from the cosmological realm the first map of dark matter bridges connecting pairs of galaxies. 

Direct download: Enceladus_is_a_Little_Bit_Gassy.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 4:06pm EST

The Large Hadron Collider announced five new subatomic particles recently. Top astroquark Jim Cooney is our go-to quark for all things quarky, so he explains what's going on with these new particles. Charm astroquark Addie Dove gives us the latest rocket news, and Strange astroquark Josh Colwell discovers that there's something good about "Starship Troopers". Tune in for the latest news in astronomy, from the planetary to the cosmological, nerd news, space trivia, and "what's on Josh's whiteboard" on each episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: Thats_Quite_a_Hadron_Youve_Got_There.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 10:17pm EST

What are gravitational waves good for? Getting rid of that pesky supermassive black hole that's outstayed its welcome, for one thing. Join the astroquarks, Josh Colwell, Addie Dove and Jim Cooney, for a journey from a comet with landslides to a distant galaxy that is losing its central black hole. All that, nerd news, and more on this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: The_Great_Black_Hole_Escape.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 9:56pm EST

On this Pi-Day recording of WtG, the astroquarks have a special trivia question and science topics ranging from interplanetary dust to Saturn's intriguing ravioli-shaped moon Pan, and antimatter. Find out how much more energetic you'd feel if you metabolized food the way Star Trek's antimatter engines work instead of through boring chemical reactions.  

Direct download: Space_Dust_Keeps_Falling_on_my_Head.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 4:50pm EST

There are black holes and interferometry in this episode, but the nerd news segment on Patrick Stewart either sets a new standard or a new low. You be the judge as the astroquarks, Josh Colwell, Addie Dove and Jim Cooney take a look at advances in imaging the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Direct download: The_One_About_Patrick_Stewart.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 6:23pm EST

A system of seven Earth-sized planets has been observed orbiting a (relatively) nearby star. At least three of these planets are in the habitable zone, or as Top Astroquark Jim Cooney would say, the haBITable zone. That's where there may be liquid water on the surface of the planet. The star for these planets is tiny and not so hot, so the planets are huddled around it like campers around the embers of a dying fire. Tune it for that plus: Star Wars! Note to Star Wars and Star Trek: next movie have some planets that are, like these, so close to their star that they have synchronous rotation, with a permanent dayside and a permanent nightside!

Direct download: Strange_New_Worlds.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 12:50pm EST

It's the plural episode of Walkabout as the Astroquarkae discuss the formation of White Dwarfs and Planetary Nebulae, what they have to do with each other, planets, and the price of tea in China (answers: lots, something superficial, and nothing at all). Also in this episode: nerd news, fishing advice, space trivia, and an imperial sponsor. 

Walkabout the Galaxy is a fun and informative discussion of news in astronomy hosted by astronomers Josh Colwell, Addie Dove and Jim Cooney.

Direct download: White_Dwarfs_and_Planetary_Nebulae.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 12:37pm EST

The astroquarks welcome Brendan Byrne from WMFE 90.7 to discuss the some jaw-dropping images of Saturn's rings as Cassini begins working its way in towards its fateful plunge into Saturn on September 15, 2017. Along the way we'll dissect F/X no-no's in Star Wars and find out from Brendan if we're there yet. There = Mars, by the way, and time's a wastin'. 

Direct download: Stripey_Buggers_1.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 10:43pm EST

One of these rocks is not like the other. One is a meteorite, and one is an asteroid, and we know that meteorites come from asteroids. So how come they look so different? The astroquarks discuss new research into ancient meteorites that shows how the tumultuous history of the asteroid belt is to blame. Plus charm quark Addie Dove points out that one rock is on the ground and one isn't, so there's a pretty big different right there. Strange quark Josh Colwell gets very strange with the sponsor message, and top quark Jim Cooney tells us that if you'd like to age about 1 second slower than everyone else you just have to move to the center of the Earth's core. In other words, just another episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: A_Space_Odyssey.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 8:24pm EST

Venus continues its record-setting warm streak now at over 1 billion years and counting, while the Earth just set its own modest record for the hottest year in the last 150 for the third record-setting year in a row. We've got a lot of work to do if we want to catch up with Venus. Speaking of Venus, something weird happened in its atmosphere that's probably the result of a gravity wave, not to be confused with gravitational waves which are a different beast altogether. Let the astroquarks take you on a journey from Venus to distant galaxies, and from greenhouse warming to non-Newtonian dynamics in this episode of Walkabout the Galaxy.

Direct download: The_Hottest_Year_in_a_Row.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 4:37pm EST

In this piece of time of "Walk About the Great Big Group of Stars" we talk about two stars that will run into each other and make a big bright red thing five years from now. We also talk about two new big boxes with computers and stuff inside. The space team for our land will put these big boxes on two up-goers in years ahead to study things made of rock and also made of stuff that is like rock but heavier than rock that we use to make cars. These things go around the Sun and are smaller than our world, but are still a lot bigger than a person.

Direct download: Walk_About_the_Great_Big_Group_of_Stars.mp3
Category:Science -- posted at: 5:12pm EST

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