Universe Today show

Universe Today

Summary: Universe Today is a daily summary of the latest space and astronomy - I've been publishing it daily since 1999. In this audio edition, I interview astronauts, astronomers, and scientists about their latest research.

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  • Artist: info@universetoday.com
  • Copyright: Copyright 2005 Universe Today


 Universe Today - When White Dwarfs Collide | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:12:09

There's a certain kind of supernova that's totally dependable. Let a white dwarf accumulate 1.4 times the mass of the Sun, and it'll detonate in an explosion visible clear across the Universe. When astronomers saw supernova 2006gz, that's what they thought they were dealing with, but hold on, the explosion was much more powerful than you would expect from just a single white dwarf. Maybe two came together in a colossal explosion.

 Universe Today - Rising Winds from Supermassive Black Holes | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:13:57

Astronomers now believe there's a supermassive black hole lurking at the heart of every galaxy. When these monsters are actively feeding, an accretion disk of material builds up around them, like swirling water waiting to go down the drain. For the first time, astronomers have detected winds rising up from this disk of doomed material. And it turns out, these winds have a profound impact on the surrounding galaxy.

 Universe Today - HiRISE View of Mars | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:12:08

If you want to get a good view of something, you'll want a big telescope, or you want to get close. NASA has decided to both, equipping its new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter with the largest spacecraft telescope ever built, and then flying it closer to Mars than any previous spacecraft. This telescope is called the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, and returning the most detailed images ever seen of the Martian surface. Dr. Alfred McEwen from the University of Arizona is the Principal Investigator on the HiRise instrument, and he joins me from Tuscon Arizona.

 Astronomy Cast - Hot Jupiters and Pulsar Planets | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:28:13

You have lived on the Earth all your life, so you’d think you know plenty about planets. As usual though, the Universe is stranger than we assume, and the planets orbiting other stars defy our expectations. Gigantic super-Jupiters whirling around their parent stars every couple of days; fluffy planets with the density of cork; and Earth-sized fragments of exploded stars circling pulsars. Join us as we round up the latest batch of bizarro worlds.

 Astronomy Cast - In Search of Other Worlds | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:30:06

Look down at your feet. There… you're looking at a planet. Now look into the night sky and you should be able to spot a few more. After that, spotting additional planets becomes really hard, especially when you're trying to find them orbiting other stars. This week we discuss the techniques astronomers use to locate distant worlds.

 Astronomy Cast - Pluto's Planetary Identity Crisis | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:25:00

Pluto. It's a planet, then it's not. This week we review Pluto's history, from discovery to demotion by the International Astronomical Union. Learn the 3 characteristics that make up a planet, and why Pluto now fails to make the grade.

 Universe Today - A Puzzling Difference | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:16:14

Imagine looking at red houses, and sometimes you see a crow fly past. But every time you look at a blue house, there’s always a crow flying right in front of the house. The crow and the house could be miles apart, so this must be impossible, right? Well, according to a new survey if you look at a quasar, you’ll see a galaxy in front 25% of the time. But for gamma ray bursts, there’s almost always an intervening galaxy. Even though they could be separated by billions of light years. Figure that out. Dr. Jason X. Prochaska, from the University of California, Santa Cruz speaks to me about the strange results they’ve found, and what could be the cause.

 Universe Today - Inevitable Supernova | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:11:26

Consider the dramatic binary system of RS Ophiuchi. A tiny white dwarf star, about the size of our Earth, is locked in orbit with a red giant star. A stream of material is flowing from the red giant to the white dwarf. Every 20 years or so, the accumulated material erupts as a nova explosion, brightening the star temporarily. But this is just a precursor to the inevitable cataclysm - when the white dwarf collapses under this stolen mass, and then explodes as a supernova. Dr. Jennifer Sokoloski has been studying RS Ophiuchi since it flared up earlier this year; she discusses what they've learned so far, and what's to come.

 Universe Today - See the Universe With Gravity Eyes | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:16:25

In the past, astronomers could only see the sky in visible light, using their eyes as receptors. New technologies extended their vision into different spectra: infrared, ultraviolet, radio waves, x-rays and gamma rays. But what if you had gravity eyes? Einstein predicted that the most extreme objects and events in the Universe should generate gravity waves, and distort space around them. A new experiment called Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (or LIGO) could make the first detection of these gravity waves.

 Universe Today - We're Safe From Gamma Ray Bursts | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:12:36

We live in a dangerous Universe. Our tiny home planet is at risk from many extraterrestrial threats: asteroid strikes, solar flares, rogue black holes, supernovae. Now add gamma ray bursts to the list - those most powerful explosions in the Universe. Even 10 seconds of radiation from one of these events would be a deadly setback to life on Earth. Before you start looking for another planet to live on, Dr. Andrew Levan from the University of Hertforshire is here to explain the probilities of a nearby explosion. It looks like the odds are in our favour.

 Universe Today - There Goes New Horizons | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:09:04

Take a look through any book on our Solar System, and you'll see beautiful photographs of every planet - except one. Eight of our nine planets have been visited up close by a spacecraft, and we've got the breathtaking photos to prove it. Pluto's the last holdout, revealing just a few fuzzy pixels in even the most powerful ground and space-based telescopes. But with the launch of New Horizons in January, bound to arrive at Pluto in 9 years, we're one step closer to completing our planetary collection - and answering some big scientific questions about the nature of objects in the Kuiper Belt. Alan Stern is the Executive Director of the Space Science and Engineering Division, at the Southwest Research Institute. He's New Horizon's Principal Investigator.

 Universe Today - Galactic Exiles | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:13:21

Young hot blue star - the supermassive black hole has spoken, it's time for you leave the galaxy. When binary stars stray too close to the centre of the Milky Way, they're violently split apart. One star is put into an elliptical orbit around the supermassive black hole, and the other is kicked right out of the galaxy. Dr. Warren Brown from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics was one of the astronomers who recently turned up two exiled stars.

 Universe Today - Gravity Tractor Beam for Asteroids | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:10:02

Forget about nuclear weapons, if you need to move a dangerous asteroid, you should use a tractor beam. Think that's just Star Trek science? Think again. A team of NASA astronauts have recently published a paper in the Journal Nature. They're proposing an interesting strategy that would use the gravity of an ion-powered spacecraft parked beside an asteroid to slowly shift it out of a hazardous orbit. Dr. Stanley G. Love is member of the team and speaks to me from his office in Houston.

 Universe Today - Plasma Thruster Prototype | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:11:35

If you're going to fly in space, you need some kind of propulsion system. Chemical rockets can accelerate quickly, but they need a lot of heavy fuel. Ion engines are extremely fuel efficient but don't generate a lot of power, so they accelerate over months and even years. A new thrusting technology called the Helicon Double Layer Thruster could be even more efficient with its fuel. Dr. Christine Charles from the Australian National University in Canberra is the inventor.

 Universe Today - Dark Matter Maps | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:11:06

What's the Universe made of? Don't worry if you don't have a clue, astronomers don't either. The Universe is dominated by a mysterious dark matter that seems to form the true mass of a galaxy, not the regular matter - like stars and planets - that we can actually see. Dr. James Jee from Johns Hopkins University used the Hubble Space Telescope to create a detailed map of dark matter concentrations around two galaxies. And astronomers just got some new clues.


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