Planets


Ep. 223: The Transit of Venus


Posted on Jun 24, 2011 in Planets

Since the planet Venus is closer in to the Sun than Earth, there are rare opportunities to see it pass directly in front of our parent star. This is known as a planetary transit, and thanks to the geometry of the Earth and Venus, they only happen a couple of times a century. The transits of Venus have been used by astronomers to unlock the scale of the Solar System, and there’s another one just around the corner.

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The Earth seems like a safe place, most of the time. But we have evidence of terrible catastrophes in the ancient past. Times when almost all life on Earth was wiped out in a geologic instant. What could have caused so much devastation? And will something like this happen again?

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Ep. 203: Europa


Posted on Oct 20, 2010 in Our Solar System

Europa is the smallest of the Jovian satellites, but it might be one of the most exciting spots in the Solar System. When NASA’s Voyager spacecraft flew past the moon, they discovered huge cracks in its icy surface. Is it possible that Europa has a huge ocean of liquid water, and maybe even life? This is a world that needs more investigation.

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With the discovery of a planet in the habitability zone of Gliese 581, the chances of finding life on other worlds is just getting better and better. Let’s take a look at the discoveries made at Gliese 581, provide some perspective on the real chances of life, and talk about what might come next.

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Ep. 201: Titan


Posted on Oct 4, 2010 in Our Solar System

Titan is Saturn’s largest moon, and the second largest moon in the Solar System. It’s unique in the Solar System as the only moon with an atmosphere. In fact, scientists think that Titan’s thick atmosphere – rich in hydrocarbons – is similar to the early Earth, and could give us clues about how life got started on our planet.

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Ep. 195: Planetary Rings


Posted on Aug 27, 2010 in Our Solar System

Saturn is best known for its rings. This huge and beautiful ring system is easy to spot in even the smallest backyard telescope, so you can imagine they were a surprise when Galileo first noticed them. But astronomers have gone on to find rings around the other gas giant worlds in the Solar System – the differences are surprising.

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