Astronomy Cast

40 Episodes
Subscribe

By: Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay

Take a fact-based journey through the cosmos. Tune in to hear weekly discussions on astronomical topics ranging from planets to cosmology. Hosted by Fraser Cain (Universe Today) and Dr. Pamela L. Gay (SIUE), this show brings the questions of an avid astronomy lover direct to an astronomer. Together Fraser and Pamela explore what is known and being discovered about the universe around us. Astronomy Cast is supported through individual donations and the sponsorship of Swinburne Astronomy Online.

Astronomy Cast Ep. 600: Looking Ahead
#600
03/29/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 600: Looking Ahead by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Today we are gonna gaze into the future of space and astronomy. What upcoming missions & events are we excited about?


Astronomy Cast Ep. 599: Zodiacal Light
#599
03/22/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 599: Zodiacal Light by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Pamela has told us in the most flowery terms about the diffuse dust across the inner solar system left over from the formation of the inner planets. well, it turns out she was wrong. Super wrong. Time to update!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 598: How You Could Overturn Cosmology
#598
03/15/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 598: How You Could Overturn Cosmology by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay You've probably heard of dark matter and dark energy, but maybe you don't fully understand what they are. Or maybe the idea itself just rubs you the wrong way and you'd like to know why scientists think they can just make stuff up like this. So you'd like to overturn cosmology? Here's all you need to do.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 597: The Expansion of the Universe
#597
03/08/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 597: The Expansion of the Universe by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay It's been a while since we checked to make sure the Universe was still expanding. Yeah, apparently, that's still a thing. But in the last few years powerful new telescopes and expansive surveys have given us much more knowledge about what's happening. Especially at the earliest times.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 596: The Universeā€™s Background Noise
#596
03/01/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 596: The Universeā€™s Background Noise by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay You might be familiar with the cosmic microwave background, but that's just one of the background radiations that astronomers look at. Some are well known and cataloged. While others are just starting to be possible to see at all. All of them tell us more about our Universe.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 595: Planet Hunting - Revisited
#595
02/15/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 595: Planet Hunting - Revisited by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay This is gonna be another one of those evergreen topics where we come back again and again. Finding planets. Every time we talk about this now it seems like we've gained thousands of new planets. Well, buckle up! New techniques will grow that by tens of thousands and even millions!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 594: Juno - Primary Mission Highlights
#594
02/08/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 594: Juno - Primary Mission Highlights by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Pamela is always loath to talk about spacecraft until the mission's in space and the science is rolling. NASA's Juno Mission just received a mission extension, adding Jupiter's moons to the menu. Now, finally, we can talk about Juno! [Ed. Juno what I mean?]


Astronomy Cast Ep. 593: Stellar Parasites
#593
02/01/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 593: Stellar Parasites by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Stars often come in groups of 2 or more. And if they're orbiting close enough to each other one star can feast on the other and when that happens, well, mayhem ensues!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 592: Gamma-Ray Bursts - Updated
#592
01/25/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 592: Gamma-Ray Bursts - Updated by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Some of the most powerful explosions in the Universe are gamma-ray bursts, capable of blasting a beam of death half way across the galaxy. In just the last few years astronomers have discovered a tremendous amount about these blasts and what's actually causing them. The answer, of course, is that it's more complicated than we originally thought. The old Gamma-Ray bursts show:


Astronomy Cast Ep. 591: What Are We Gonna Do With All That Space Junk?
#591
01/18/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 591: What Are We Gonna Do With All That Space Junk? by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Remember the good old days when there were only a few thousand living and dead satellites? Well, those days are long over. We're now entering an era where there will be tens of thousands of satellites. Not to mention the spent rocket boosters and other space junk. What kind of risk do we face and what can be done about it?


Astronomy Cast Ep. 590: Lunar Hazards: Dust, Radiation and More
#590
01/11/2021

Astronomy Cast Ep. 590: Lunar Hazards: Dust, Radiation and More by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay 2024 can't come soon enough. You know, that's the year when humans will set foot on the Moon again. Now don't you roll your eyes! That's the plan. Unless the plan changes. But my point is, explorers going to the Moon will need to be concerned about all kinds of hazards, like dust, radiation and gigantic Moon worms. I believe.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 589 - Lunar Resources: Water (Update) & Other Volatiles
#589
12/21/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 589 - Lunar Resources: Water (Update) & Other Volatiles by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay We've talked about the Moon and its water many times here on Astronomy Cast, but there've been a bunch of big updates thanks to new research from NASA and others. Today we're gonna give you an update on the state of water on the Moon and the plans to take advantage of it.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 588 - Lunar Resources: Lava Tubes
#588
12/14/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 588 - Lunar Resources: Lava Tubes by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay All eyes are on the Moon. We're going back, this time to stay, right? One of the best resources on the Moon will be the lava tubes that criss-cross the subsurface of the Moon. These can provide protection from space, and a look at the geologic history of the Moon, and they can be enormous!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 587: The Artemis Accords
#587
12/07/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 587: The Artemis Accords by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay So the Moon is about to become a very busy place with multiple countries and private companies planning missions in the next few years. It's been decades since the Outer Space Treaty was negotiated. It's time for the Artemis Accords!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 586: Life As We Know It: Habitable Exoplanets & Extremophiles
#586
11/30/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 586: Life As We Know It: Habitable Exoplanets & Extremophiles by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay As scientists continue to explore the Earth, they're discovering life, surviving and even thriving in extreme environments. What hints can this give us about what we might find as we search for live on other worlds.


Astronomy CastĀ  585: Super Earths, Mini-Neptunes & Gas Dwarfs
#585
11/23/2020

Astronomy CastĀ  585: Super Earths, Mini-Neptunes & Gas Dwarfs by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Astronomers are finding even more new extrasolar planets and they're starting to discover entirely new categories. There are classes of planets out there that we just don't have any analog here in the solar system. Let's talk about them!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 584: Sample Return Missions From Asteroids
#584
11/02/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 584: Sample Return Missions From Asteroids by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay So with a sample of asteroid Bennu firmly inside OSIRIS-REx's return capsule, it's time to bring this treasure home. So scientists can study the composition and history of the space rock. But it's not the only sample return mission out there, with Japan's Hyabusa II mission also bringing asteroid debris home. So today, let's talk about the missions and what we've learned so far.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 583: The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics
#583
10/26/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 583: The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay This year's Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to three brilliant researchers who worked out some of the secrets of black holes. Today we're going to talk about the chain of discoveries that led to this award.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 582: Building Bigger Black Holes
#582
10/19/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 582: Building Bigger Black Holes by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Did you hear the news? Nobel prizes for Black Holes! Now, we know there are stellar mass black holes and supermassive black holes, but how do you get from one to the other? How do black holes get more massive?


Astronomy Cast 581: Other Kinds Of Novae
#581
10/12/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 581: Other Kinds Of Novae by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Don't ever accuse us of not comprehensively covering every kind of exploding star. This week we gather up all the left over ways that stars partially or fully explode or don't. Probably. Enjoy!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 580: Exploding Dwarfs
#580
10/05/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 580: Exploding Dwarfs By Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay So you think that a white dwarf star is the end of a stellar life, and it's all downhill from there, a long, slow cool down towards the end of everything. But in some situations even dead stars can get exciting again, briefly becoming some of the brightest objects in the Universe. And maybe, just maybe, the last exciting thing that'll ever happen in the Universe.


Astronomy Cast 579: White and Black Dwarf Stars
#579
09/28/2020

Astronomy Cast 579: White and Black Dwarf Stars by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay I've got some bad news for you. Stars die. At some point in the next few billion years or so our Sun is going to start heating up, using up all the fuel in its core, and then eventually die, becoming a white dwarf. It'll then slowly cool down to the background temperature of the Universe, becoming a black dwarf. Let's learn about this fascinating process.


Ep. 578: Venus Updates - or - Life on Venus?!?
#578
09/21/2020

by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay So have you heard the news? Of course you have. Evidence of phosphene on Venus. Which could be a biosignature of life on our evil twin planet. There have been a lot of surprising stories about Venus, so let's get you all caught up!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 577: Mars in Opposition
#577
09/14/2020

Astronomy Cast 577: Mars in Opposition by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Every 2 years or so Mars lines up nicely with the Earth. It takes only 2 minutes to communicate with the rovers. You can see the polar ice caps in a small telescope. And it's the best time to send your spacecraft to the Red Planet.Ā  Oct 3rd: Moon & Mars conjunction, 1.1Ā° separation. Oct 6th: Mars opposition. Dec 21st: Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, 0.1Ā° separation! Feb 18th "Percy" lands on Mars' Jezero crater.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 576: Summer Stargazing Special
#576
06/29/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 576: Summer Stargazing Special by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay It's time once again for Astronomy Cast to go on hiatus. You've got a couple months on your own to explore the night sky. But before we say goodbye, we'd like to make a few suggestions.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 575: Observing The Moon
#575
06/22/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 575: Observing The Moon by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay As amateur astronomers, we curse the Moon every month. Seriously! Why doesn't someone get rid of that thing! This week, something occurred to us. What if we actually pointed our telescopes at the Moon? What would we see? The Lunar "X" that Fraser talked about will be visible this Friday, June 26th! So go out with binoculars or a telescope and enjoy!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 574: Trojan Asteroids
#574
06/15/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 574: Trojan Asteroids by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay We imagine the asteroid belt as a place where all the rocks hang out in the solar system. But there are 2 huge bands of asteroids that orbit the Sun with Jupiter called the Trojans. And soon we may actually get a chance to see them up close!


Astronomy Cast Ep. 573: Exoplanet Atmospheres
#573
06/08/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 573: Exoplanet Atmospheres Not only have astronomers discovered thousands of exoplanets, but they're even starting to study the atmospheres of worlds thousands of light years away. What can we learn about these other worlds and maybe even signs of life.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 572: Twists in Planet Formation
#572
06/01/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 572: Twists in Planet Formation by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay We're all looking to the next generation of exoplanetary research where we get planets directly. But astronomers are already making great strides in directly observing newly forming planets help us understand how our solar system might have formed.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 571: Extreme Binaries
#571
05/25/2020

Streamed live on May 22, 2020. So we're familiar with regular binary stars. Two stars orbiting each other. Simple. Of course the Universe has come up with every combination of things orbiting other things, and this week we look at some extreme examples.


Astronomy Cast Ep. 570: Discovering Comets
#570
05/18/2020

Astronomy Cast Ep. 570: Discovering Comets Discovering comets is one of the fields that amateurs can still make a regular contribution to astronomy. But more and more comets are getting found by spacecraft, automated systems and machine learning. This week we'll talk about how comets are discovered and how you can get your name on one!


Ep. 569: Ethics of Commercial and Military Space, Part 1: Private Space Flight
05/11/2020

Every year, more and more people are making their way to space. Some private citizens have already gotten their astronaut wings, paying for a trip to space out of their own pocket. What are the ethical implications of this as the costs of spaceflight come down?


Astronomy Cast Ep. 568: In Situ Resource Utilization
05/06/2020

The key to surviving in space will be learning how to live off the land. Instead of carrying all your fuel, water and other resources from Earth, extract them locally from your destination. It's called In Situ Resource Utilization, and if we can figure it out, it'll change everything.


Astronomy Cast 567: When Satellites Need a House Call
04/27/2020

567: When Satellites Need a House Call Astronomy Cast 567: When Satellites Need a House Call by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Space is really far away, so when you send a satellite out into the void, that's pretty much the last you're going to be able to work on it. And if anything goes wrong, too bad, you're out a satellite. But a new test has shown that it's possible to actually visit and fix a satellite in space. Maybe we don't have to throw them all away after all.


Astronomy Cast 566: When Comets Fall Apart
#566
04/20/2020

566: When Comets Fall Apart Astronomy Cast 566: When Comets Fall Apart by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay As everyone knows, the Universe owes us a bright comet. There have been a lot of promising candidates, but in the end, they always fail to live up to our expectations. Comets keep on breaking up with us.


Ep. 565: When Worlds Collide
04/13/2020

565: When Worlds Collide Astronomy Cast 565: When Worlds Collide by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay So much of our Solar System has been shaped by enormous collisions early on in our history. Seriously, the nature of every planet in the Solar System has some evidence of massive impacts during some point in its history.


Astronomy Cast 564: Mini Moons
#564
04/06/2020

564: Mini Moons Astronomy Cast 564: Mini Moons by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Last month astronomers announced that they had detected a tiny asteroid that had been captured by the Earth's gravity well and had been sharing our orbit for a few years. Today, let's talk about the smallest moons in the Solar System.


Astronomy Cast 563: White Dwarf Mergers
#563
03/30/2020

563: White Dwarf Mergers Astronomy Cast 563: White Dwarf Mergers by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay White dwarfs are usually about 60% the mass of the Sun, so it was a bit of a surprise when astronomers found one that was almost exactly twice that. What happens when white dwarfs merge?


Astronomy Cast 562: Dealing with COVID-19 and the Changes it will Bring
#562
03/23/2020

562: Dealing with COVID-19 and the Changes it will Bring Astronomy Cast 562: Dealing with COVID-19 and the Changes it will Bring by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay Pamela and Fraser discuss the implications of COVID-19 and it's changes on the world, and what we all can do during this time.


Astronomy Cast 561: Remembering Katherine Johnson
03/06/2020

561: Remembering Katherine Johnson Astronomy Cast 561: Remembering Katherine Johnson by Fraser Cain & Dr. Pamela Gay We lost a bright star here on planet Earth last week. NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson passed away at the age of 101, after an incredible career of helping humans land on the Moon. If you saw the movie Hidden Figures, you'll know what I'm talking about.