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140 episodes - English - Latest episode: 2 days ago -

Podcast about astronomy and the joys of watching the skies at night--and sometimes during the day

Astronomy Science
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Dichotomy defies definition

May 28, 2023 05:00 - 7 minutes - 6.94 MB

Mercury and Venus are approaching their greatest elongations--Mercury in the morning and Venus in the evening. That's when they're farthest from the sun in the sky and can be seen most easily. The two planets are also predicted to be at dichotomy around June 4. But an unexplained phenomenon is likely to make one appear to be in its semi-circle phase around the middle of this week and the other around the middle of next week. Why do the appearances of Mercury and Venus defy geometry? Mars ma...

What a woman gets for all her toils under the stars

May 21, 2023 05:00 - 5 minutes - 5.16 MB

The moon passes by Venus and Mars. The moon goes through northern lunistice. Saturn rules the morning while Jupiter creeps in and Mercury tries. A Cambridge University student worked for two years helping build a radio signal detecting apparatus. She spent hours poring over the data it produced. And after she discovered the first known pulsar, two other people got a Nobel prize for it. Find out how well Jocelyn Bell took it in the conclusion to the series on unexpected discoveries in radio ...

Hey, the sun emits radio waves!

May 14, 2023 05:00 - 5 minutes - 5.28 MB

Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn are our morning planets. Venus and Mars are in the evening with Venus passing very close to Mebsuta. And hey, the sun emits radio waves. James Stanley Hey figured that out in World War II. But he couldn't talk about it for a few years. This is part two in the series on unexpected discoveries that advanced radio astronomy.

The happenstance birth of radio astronomy

May 07, 2023 05:00 - 4 minutes - 4.48 MB

Mars and Venus straddle Gemini. The moon goes as far south as it can this month. Saturn and Jupiter greet us in the morning. Uranus goes through conjunction while Mercury emerges from it. Scientists tried for a few decades to detect radio waves from outer space. Their crude equipment didn't find any. After the discovery of the ionosphere, some concluded that radio astronomy would never be possible. It's been nine decades since a telephone company engineer's happenstance discovery proved oth...

Eta Aquariids, Mercury disappears, and penumbral eclipse reminder

April 30, 2023 05:01 - 4 minutes - 4.07 MB

This week's full moon comes with a penumbral eclipse. Mercury goes through inferior conjunction. The Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks. Watch Venus and Mars continue a dual reign in the evening sky. Jupiter and Saturn share the morning.

Virgo; Astronomy Day

April 23, 2023 05:00 - 4 minutes - 4.15 MB

Vanishing Mercury. The moon and Venus. Mars by Pollux. Saturn in the morning. And still no Jupiter. Virgo is a constellation of many identities. Just who she is depends on who's telling you. Astronomy Day is this week.

An eclipse, a meteor shower, and more

April 16, 2023 05:00 - 4 minutes - 3.75 MB

Mercury sinks sunward. Uranus goes with it. Venus plows past the Pleiades. Mars in Gemini. A Saturn-moon pairing. Jupiter still too close to the sun to see. A reminder about the hybrid solar eclipse. And a comet that last came close to the sun in 1861 provides the annual meteor shower called the April Lyrids. The shower peaks at the end of this week.

Hybrid solar eclipse

April 09, 2023 05:00 - 7 minutes - 6.75 MB

Mercury at greatest elongation with Uranus nearby. Venus slides by the Pleiades. Mars makes way through Gemini. Saturn stays in Aquarius. Jupiter greets the sun. Last quarter moon. A hybrid solar eclipse--annular in some places, total in others--happens next week. Learn why it's that way and where you can see it.

Dark skies matter

April 02, 2023 05:00 - 4 minutes - 4.03 MB

Mercury marches into the evening. Venus approaches the Pleiades. Jupiter heads toward the sun. Full moon. Do what you can to preserve dark skies. Light pollution isn't just ruining astronomy. It's bad for nature.

Neptune in a new light; the raspberry taste at the center of the galaxy

March 26, 2023 05:00 - 3 minutes - 3.15 MB

The James Webb Space Telescope captured an image of Neptune that some describe as ghostly. A chemical compound detected near the center of the Milky Way galaxy is partly responsible for a fruit's taste. Jupiter disappears into the sunset and has a close call with Mercury along the way. Venus passes by Uranus. Mars passes by Castor's feet.

Aries at the equinox; the first asteroid at opposition

March 19, 2023 05:00 - 5 minutes - 4.87 MB

Mercury joins Jupiter and Venus in the evening. Equinox is this week. The sun isn't entering Aries now, no matter what you've been told. A daytime occultation of Venus. And Ceres is at opposition.

First photographs of the moon and stars

March 12, 2023 06:00 - 3 minutes - 3.28 MB

Venus dominates the early evening. Mars remains up until around midnight. Jupiter and Vesta are close. Mercury's at superior conjunction. The anniversary of the first detailed picture of the moon is coming up. That was more than 180 years ago.

Distance on the sky dome

March 05, 2023 06:00 - 7 minutes - 6.42 MB

Mercury's already in retreat in the morning. Venus marches more into the evening. There's still time to see Jupiter while it begins a long goodbye to the evening sky. And learn what is meant by the different ways of measuring how close two objects are when they're in conjunction.

Venus and Jupiter paired, Saturn and Mercury trade mornings

February 26, 2023 06:00 - 4 minutes - 4.27 MB

Venus and Jupiter will appear very close this week. Saturn relieves Mercury of morning duty.

Venus keeps climbing, Cetus the sea monster, and the incredible inedible egg

February 19, 2023 06:00 - 4 minutes - 4.32 MB

Venus keeps climbing the evening sky. Cetus the sea monster sets. At the heart of Leo is a star shaped like an egg.

Venus passes Neptune very close! And the unicorn

February 12, 2023 06:00 - 5 minutes - 5.21 MB

Venus has a super close conjunction with Neptune this week. This is a good time to look at them in a telescope. And a beast who appears in fables going back thousands of years somehow never got a constellation until somewhat recently. There's a unicorn on the celestial dome now.

The radio sun

February 05, 2023 06:00 - 4 minutes - 4.35 MB

Most of the planet watching is in the evening this week. Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) passes by Mars in our sky. Learn about how someone discovered that the sun emits radio waves and why that was kept a secret for a few years.

Catch sight of the comet

January 29, 2023 06:00 - 5 minutes - 5.38 MB

Saturn sinks toward sunset. Venus climbs toward Jupiter. And a comet crosses the sky.

The little dog and the first Pluto pictures

January 22, 2023 06:00 - 4 minutes - 4.16 MB

The brightest star in Canis Minor (the little dog) has some things in common with the brightest star in Canis Major (the big dog). This week is the anniversary of Clyde Tombaugh taking the pictures that led to the discovery of Pluto.

Venus meets Saturn, the moon has a close perigee, and more

January 15, 2023 06:00 - 3 minutes - 3.46 MB

Venus climbs Capricornus for a close call with Saturn. Jupiter's at perihelion. Mars moves eastward again. The moon occults Zubenelgenubi and has its closest perigee in five years. Mercury moves to the morning. Pluto's in conjunction with the sun.

Mercury moves to the morning

January 08, 2023 06:00 - 5 minutes - 4.91 MB

Venus climbs Capricornus toward Saturn, Jupiter reigns above them, Mars turns around, Mercury is coming out of inferior conjunction and moving to the morning.

Two planets at perihelion, Venus climbs toward Saturn, and moon over Mars again

January 01, 2023 06:00 - 4 minutes - 4.2 MB

Two planets are at perihelion this week. Some people have a hard time believing it about one of them. Mercury says so long to the evening sky. Venus climbs toward Saturn. And the moon occults Mars again.

The asteroid belt's not densely packed and why planets don't twinkle--usually

December 25, 2022 06:00 - 4 minutes - 3.94 MB

Mars at equinox. Martian clouds. The asteroid belt isn't nearly as dense as shown on TV. Planets don't twinkle--usually.

Mercury at greatest elongation and the longest days of the year

December 18, 2022 06:00 - 5 minutes - 5.34 MB

Mercury's at greatest elongation and near Venus. Jupiter and Saturn are easy evening sights. So is Mars. Earth's at solstice. These are the longest days of the year as measured by high noon to high noon.

The so-called lunar standstill and the Geminid meteor shower

December 11, 2022 06:00 - 4 minutes - 4.51 MB

Mercury and Venus trek across the northern part of Sagittarius as they barely make it into the evening sky. The moon goes farther north and south each month as it approaches a so-called major lunar standstill. The Geminid meteor shower peaks this week. The first astronomers who saw this shower described it as not very active, but things have changed.

The moon hides Mars

December 04, 2022 06:00 - 5 minutes - 4.92 MB

Venus and Mercury step into the evening sky. The moon hides Mars for observers in North America and Europe.

Alrighty Auriga! And a DART on target.

November 27, 2022 06:00 - 6 minutes - 5.61 MB

The legend of the constellation Auriga tells of a man who succeeded in winning a royal bride after 18 suitors failed. They had to race the princess's father. If they lost, they lost big. The DART mission to nudge an asteroid into a different orbit worked. Why bother? The day may come when our lives depend on it.

Calculating planets' positions

November 20, 2022 06:00 - 7 minutes - 6.46 MB

Have you ever wanted to figure out where the planets would appear? I won't go into the details you'll need to do the math. But I'll tell you something to help you decide if you want to get started.

Start looking for Leonids and try to spot the crane

November 13, 2022 06:00 - 6 minutes - 5.97 MB

The Leonid meteor shower peak is coming. Actually, we could have multiple peaks as Earth passes through three old trails. A southerly bird on the celestial dome is a little hard for northern hemisphere observers to see, but you can try.

Lunar eclipse, Leonids, and the sun, stars, and stripes.

November 06, 2022 05:00 - 6 minutes - 6.01 MB

There's a total lunar eclipse this week. Start looking for Leonids. Earth is expected to pass through a few dense streams from hundreds of years ago. The designers of a monument to veterans in Arizona used astronomy to make something special happen at 11:11am on November 11.

Total lunar eclipse and how a nova shone new light on the nature of stars

October 30, 2022 05:00 - 9 minutes - 8.29 MB

Mars is turning around. Get ready for next week's total lunar eclipse. It's been 450 years since a supernova shone new light--literally and figuratively--on the true nature of stars.

Mercury Hidden and the Goat-Fish

October 23, 2022 05:00 - 7 minutes - 7.2 MB

An almost new moon hides an almost full Mercury this week. Learn how they can both be in the same part of the sky but in different phases. Capricornus is often recognized as a goat, but did you know it's half fish?

This month's solar eclipse and next month's Uranus opposition

October 16, 2022 05:00 - 6 minutes - 6.33 MB

Parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia get a partial solar eclipse this month. If you're where you can see it, make sure you see it safely. Uranus will be at opposition next month. Learn how it got its name and some other ways to say it if you find it embarrassing.

Orionids, Hyades, and the stellar royal family

October 09, 2022 05:00 - 6 minutes - 5.69 MB

Comet Halley is almost as far from us as it gets, but we're about to pass through its trail. Meet the Hyades, half-sisters of the Pleiades. Not much is said about the king going around the celestial north pole. The queen going around with him likes it that way. Learn about them and their daughter.

Sirius by day and DART

October 02, 2022 05:00 - 7 minutes - 7.09 MB

The brightest night star can be seen in the daytime at certain times of the year if you know exactly where to look. And observations are underway to determine if human technology can nudge an asteroid.


September 25, 2022 05:00 - 6 minutes - 5.64 MB

Your idea of how the moon affects the tides is probably incomplete. Here's the rest of the story.

A crab, donkeys, and bees

September 18, 2022 05:00 - 4 minutes - 4.05 MB

One of the fainter constellations is named for a crustacean, even though two of its stars are donkeys and one of its star clusters is described as a beehive.

Jupiter's Great Red Spot

September 11, 2022 05:00 - 4 minutes - 3.77 MB

The most famous whirlwind in the solar system has been spinning for almost 200 years. Some think it's been around more than 360 years. You can see it for yourself in a telescope--if you look at the right time.

A once-in-a-lifetime opposition

September 04, 2022 05:00 - 6 minutes - 5.88 MB

Jupiter will soon be the closest it's been to Earth since 1963! The next time it's this close will be in the next century. Mercury exits the evening sky and moves to the morning. Venus slowly leaves the morning. Mars marches eastward. And the equinox.

Awful astrology questions

August 28, 2022 05:00 - 2 minutes - 2.48 MB

Mercury begins its retreat from the evening sky. Venus also heads sunward. Mars moves by the Hyades V. And how do I take it when people ask me astrology questions?

The Great Square

August 21, 2022 05:00 - 4 minutes - 4.23 MB

Learn about the Great Square of Pegasus and some star names that maybe don't make horse sense.

The swan and the eagle

August 14, 2022 05:00 - 4 minutes - 4.07 MB

Mercury maintains evening status. Saturn goes through opposition. Jupiter stands strong for most of the night. Mars meets the Pleiades and Hyades. Venus sinks sunward. Two legendary birds, a swan and an eagle, fly alongside the Milky Way stream and are easily seen on August evenings.

A martyr's tears streak the sky

August 07, 2022 05:00 - 3 minutes - 3.09 MB

Some people knew before scientists did that meteor showers are somewhat regular events. Meteor streaks seen in August have been described for centuries as the tears of a Christian martyr burned alive in Rome more than 1,700 years ago. However, astronomers didn't pay much mind to meteors until less than two centuries ago. What's left of the morning planetary lineup is spreading out as Saturn crosses into the evening sky one way and Mercury has already arrived there from the other.

Eclipse timing

July 31, 2022 05:00 - 4 minutes - 4.31 MB

Mercury's moving into the evening sky. The other planets are still merry in the morning. And in case you wondered about eclipses seemingly occurring at regular intervals, you're right.

Mercury emerges into the evening; the lover's crown over your head

July 24, 2022 05:00 - 5 minutes - 5.33 MB

Mercury went through superior conjunction recently. Now it's emerging in the evening sky. A lover's crown goes over our heads on July evenings. The old stories tell of a woman hurt by a lover who left her and a god who wanted to be her rebound.

Galactic coordinates and the Delta Aquariid meteor shower

July 17, 2022 05:00 - 5 minutes - 4.62 MB

Not a lot of astronomy guides use it, but some astronomers like the galactic coordinate system. And try to see some Delta Aquariid meteors.

Robert Goddard's vindication

July 10, 2022 05:00 - 5 minutes - 4.79 MB

A well reputed newspaper published a scathing editorial putting down the founder of rocket science for his idea that a rocket can be controlled in space and even made to land on the moon. The paper said anybody with a high school education should know better. The newspaper eventually published a retraction, but not before people were actually on their way to the moon.

The moon moves through the evening, Saturn's shadow, eccentricity

July 03, 2022 05:00 - 6 minutes - 5.65 MB

The moon moves through the evening sky this week, while most of the planets are still visible in the morning. Over the next few weeks, you can see Saturn's shadow move from one side of its rings to the other. And there's a way to describe just how non-circular an object's orbit is.

Mercury leaving the morning meeting, lunar orbital points converge, and Earth at aphelion

June 26, 2022 05:00 - 5 minutes - 5.47 MB

Mercury's on the way out of the morning meeting of planets. Three of the moon's orbital points come together this week. And Earth is farthest away from the sun.

The loneliest star and the arrow

June 19, 2022 05:00 - 6 minutes - 6.39 MB

A southern star is known as the loneliest star, although it's well liked by navigators who perform their craft with sextants. And an arrow flies overhead, but it doesn't come from the constellation known as the archer.