Once again, we’ve reached the end of a season here on Astronomy Cast, and it’s time for the summer hiatus. But the Universe never takes a break. What can we expect to happen over the summer while we’re catching up on our reading, building our gardens and planning for Season 17
We’re going back to the Moon. In the next few years humans will set foot on the Moon again, ideally this time to stay. But this will be different than the Apollo era, going to the scientifically fascinating, and difficult southern pole of the Moon. What needs to be done to prepare the way back to the Moon?
The permanently shadowed craters on the Moon are the focus of so much research. That’s because they seem to contain vast reserves of water ice. Water we could use for oxygen, propellant and so much more, but also, to help us understand where the Earth’s water came from.
Launching satellites from Earth is counter-productive. You’ve got to make a satellite that can handle Earth gravity, then the brutal flight to space, then deployment in orbit. What if you could build your spacecraft in space?
One of JWST’s top jobs is to peer deeper into the Universe than ever before, watching as the first galaxies came together. Surprisingly, astronomers found galaxies that seemed much more mature than expected, much earlier than it was believed possible. What’s going on and what does it mean for cosmology?
After the cosmic microwave background radiation was released, the Universe returned to darkness, cloaked in this clouds of primordial hydrogen and helium. Gravity pulled these vast clouds into the first stars, and then the first galaxies. This is Cosmic Dawn, and JWST will help us probe this mysterious time.
Astronomers first noticed the strange behaviors of rotating galaxies almost 100 years ago, suggesting there’s an invisible dark matter hold them together with gravity. Or maybe we just don’t understand how gravity works at the largest scales. Observations are much better now, and astronomers have found examples of galaxies that almost entirely made of dark matter. Does this tell us anything?
In 2017, astronomers detected the gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation from colliding neutron stars. This had been long theorized as one of the causes of a certain type of gamma-ray burst. By studying the event and its afterglow, astronomers have learned a tremendous amount about the formation of the heaviest elements in the Universe.
Last week we talked about rogue stars. This week we’re going to take things up a notch and talk about an even more extreme event. Rogue black holes. Astronomers recently discovered a supermassive black hole on an escape trajectory, leaving newly forming stars in its wake. It’s wonderful, terrible, nightmare fuel.
Most stars in the Milky Way are trapped in here with us, doomed to orbit around and around and around. But a few have found a way out, an escape into the freedom of intergalactic space. How do stars reach escape velocity, never to return?
Okay sci-fi writers, today we’re going to give you a guided tour of building planets. How they form, how they grow, and how things can go horribly horribly wrong.
Whenever astronomers discover something surprising, the answer often turns out to be dust. Dust obscuring our view, dust changing the polarity, dust warming things up, dust cooling things down. It’s always dust. Until it isn’t.
We’ve spent a lot of time gushing about Saturn’s rings, but there are other places with ring systems. And not just Jupiter and the ice giants, but asteroids, dwarf planets, centaurs and even exoplanets. Today we’ll gush about them.
Ice is ice, right? You know, what you get when water freezes. Well, maybe here on Earth. But across the Universe, water can be squeezed together at different temperatures and pressures, leading to very different structures. Today we’ll talk about the different forms that ice can take.
The asteroid apocalypse is one of those existential crises that keep astronomers up at night. But the DART mission showed us that we can push an asteroid off its trajectory if we have enough warning. Today we’ll talk about how humanity is building early warning systems to give us time to respond to a dangerous asteroid.
It’s been over 20 years since astronomers first discovered that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating thanks to dark energy. And in these decades, astronomers still don’t have much evidence for what could be causing the increased expansion rate. Maybe there’s something else going on to explain it.
Astronomers have made extremely accurate measurements of the expansion rate of the Universe and come up with different results. And the error bars for the observations don’t overlap, so there’s something strange going on. What’s the answer and how can the Crisis in Cosmology be resolved?
Astronomers came together in January to present their newest research, and not surprisingly, the Winter AAS meeting was heavy on news from JWST. What were some of the new results that were announced?
The Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation tells us so much about the Universe. After that era, the Universe went dark. Then, as gas pulled together into the first stars and eventually galaxies, light returned, beginning the Age of Reionization.
The Sun is a third generation star, polluted with the metals from long dead stars. Astronomers have also discovered second generation stars, with very low metallicity. But theories suggest there must be a first generation, with stars made from only pure hydrogen and helium. Can we ever find them?
We generally save our stargazing suggestions for the summer, when it’s warmer in the northern hemisphere. But you’re tough, you can handle a little cold. And it’s worth it because there are some wonderful things you can see in the night sky this time of year.
Last week we talked about the missions we’re saying goodbye to. This week, we’re going to talk about some upcoming missions to say hello to. Some are brand new ideas, others are, uh, recycled.
It’s always sad to say goodbye, but when we send our robotic emissaries out into the cosmos, it’s just a matter of time before they shut down. Today we’re going to say goodbye to a few missions which have reached the end of their lives. But they were very good robots.
This week we saw the incredible image of DART smashing into asteroid Dimorphos. Beyond avenging the dinosaurs, what can we learn scientifically from this and other asteroid/comet impact missions?
To battle climate change, we’ll need to rapidly move to carbon-free sources of energy. But this technology isn’t a free lunch. They require metals, generate waste and deplete the environment. What’s the best way to balance this shift?