Archive | Observing


Ep. 398 – Seeing Things: Emitting, Reflecting, Ionizing Light

Astronomers gather electromagnetic radiation with the telescopes: mostly visible light. But sometimes they’ve got to be clever about where they look for these elusive photons. Light can get emitted, absorbed, reflected, and each method tells astronomers a little more about what they’re looking at. Download the show [MP3] | Jump to Shownotes | Jump to […]

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Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA

Ep 386: Orbiting Observers

The atmosphere keeps us alive and breathing, but it really sucks for astronomy. Fortunately, humanity has built and launched space telescopes that get above the pesky atmosphere, where the skies are really clear. Let’s take a look at the past, current and future of orbital observation. Download the show [MP3] | Jump to Shownotes | […]

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Voyager 2

Ep. 384: Escaping Probes

The gravity of the Earth is a tough thing to escape, but breaking free from the gravity of the Sun is on a whole other level. But humans have achieved this amazing accomplishment, and right now there are several spacecraft leaving the Solar System and never coming back. Download the show [MP3] | Jump to […]

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Ep. 380: The Limits of Optics

Astronomers rely on the optics of their instruments, and there are some basic limits that you just can’t avoid. Whatever we look at is distorted by the optics, in fact, a basic property of light means that we’ll never get perfect optics. Here’s why we can’t “magnify and enhance” forever. Download the show [MP3] | […]

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Ep. 369: The Fizeau Experiment

Light is tricky stuff, and it took scientists hundreds of years to puzzle out what this stuff is. But they poked and prodded at it with many clever experiments to try to measure its speed, motion and interaction with the rest of the Universe. For example, the Fizeau Experiment, which ran light through moving water […]

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Ep. 367: Spitzer does Exoplanets

We’ve spent the last few weeks talking about different ways astronomers are searching for exoplanets. But now we reach the most exciting part of this story: actually imaging these planets directly. Today we’re going to talk about the work NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has done viewing the atmospheres of distant planets. Download the show [MP3] […]

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Ep. 366: HARPS Spectrograph

Almost all the planet hunting has been done from space. But there’s a new instrument installed on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6 meter telescope called the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher which has already turned up 130 planets. Is this the future? Searching for planets from the ground? Download the show [MP3] | Jump […]

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Ep. 351: Asteroid Adventures

Astronomy Cast’s 2014/15 season begins! With Rosetta’s arrival at Comet 67/P, we’re about to see a comet up close and personal. What will it take to explore, exploit and enjoy the asteroids and comets hurtling around our Solar System. And how does science fiction have it all wrong?? (more…)

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Ep. 337: Photometry

There’s a lot you can learn by just staring at an object, watching how it changes in brightness. This is the technique of photometry, and it has helped astronomers discover variable stars, extrasolar planets, minor planets, supernovae, and much more. Download the show [MP3] | Jump to Shownotes | Jump to Transcript (more…)

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Ep. 334: Chelyabinsk

Around this time last year a space rock crashed into the Earth above Chelyabinsk, Russia. It brightened the skies for hundreds of kilometers, broke windows and injured many people. Let’s look back at the event. What happened, and what did we learn? Download the show [MP3] | Jump to Shownotes | Jump to Transcript (more…)

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