Science Podcasts >

More Information


United Kingdom






33: Goldilocks Zones around Binary Stars

We wish York’s Astrocampus a very Happy 5th Birthday, and welcome our very first guest star to the podcast: Bethany Wootton, recent graduate who has published an actual, proper research paper from her Masters degree research — a pretty amazing feat. Bethany spent a year investigating the habitable zone around binary star systems, where planets are in that Goldilocks position of not-too-hot-but-not-too-cold, where it’s just possible life as we know it could exist. We chat with her about some...


32: A Mysterious Box of Asteroid Stuff

Right now, the Japanese space agency JAXA has a spacecraft, Hayabusa2, in orbit around a near-earth asteroid called Ryugu — and they're doing some crazy stuff up there. First, they're shooting it with pellets and hoovering up the blasted surface fragments. Then they're going to fire a larger projectile to make a crater a few metres across, to get samples from deeper within the asteroid. They've even got cute little rovers beetling around on the rocky surface taking pictures and making maps....


31: LIGO Gets An Upgrade

If space-time can curve, then it can also wiggle. Spotting those wiggles, turns out, is really hard. A hundred years ago or so, Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity which said that space and time aren’t just the background arena for stuff in the universe to do things in — space-time *is* the stuff of the universe. It curves and interacts with matter and energy. As the great physicist J.A. Wheeler put it, “Matter tells spacetime how to curve. Spacetime tells matter how to...


30: Stardust, or Cosmic Poo?

Happy International Year of the Periodic Table, everyone! We’re celebrating 150 years since Mendeleev brought some order to the unruly mess of the elements of matter, organising all of the types of atoms into a system sorted by physics and chemistry: rows of increasing number of protons in the nucleus; columns of similar chemical properties due to the orbiting electrons. This week, Emily takes us through the Astronomer’s version of the table, which really only has three bits to it: Hydrogen,...


29: The Serendipitous Rings of Saturn

Saturn. There's no denying, it's gorgeous. And for 13 years the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, a joint mission by NASA, the ESA and the ASI, orbited the ringed planet, sending back stunning images of the rings, the many moons and moonlets, and the planet surface, as well as copious data that has changed astronomers understanding of Saturn and its system. Some of that data, released recently, shows that those iconic rings aren't as massive as once thought — which also implies they're not...


28: All Exoplanets Are Exciting

We're back for 2019! Welcome to another year of awesome astronomy. In this episode we chat about the Super Wolf Blood Moon (a.k.a. "January-lunar-eclipse-that-was-slightly-bigger-than-average") and the lunar meteorite impacts caught on video during the eclipse. Then Emily gets pretty excited about the First Light data from TESS, everyone's favourite exoplanet-hunting spacecraft — and describes the first three exoplanets found amongst the TESS data. Turns out, all exoplanets are indeed...


27: Up A Mountain In NZ

Emily went back to New Zealand for Christmas. Chris is in Yorkshire. One of them is surrounded by summer sunshine and Middle-Earth mountains. One of them ... isn't. Emily reports from the final day of her observing run on what it's like being an actual, real-life astronomer, before descending from the peak to enjoy the silly season in the antipodes. Whatever your flavour of December celebrations, we at Syzygy wish you a happy one — and a great start to 2019, another year full of astronomical...


26: How To Build A Solar System

The Earth and the Sun and all the other planets feel like familiar friends who've been around forever. Wind the clock back a few billion years though, and things were very different. The infant Sun was prone to highly energetic tantrums, the gas giants were acting like thugs and throwing their weight around, and the rocky planets were just trying to gather enough dust and ice in one place to actually stay in one piece. It's not clear at all how we got from such a chaotic, violent early solar...


25: Picture The Sky

Ever since early humans gazed in wonder at the majesty of the night sky, astronomy has been a particularly visual science. Modern astronomers deal in vast quantities of data, measuring the cosmos with visible light and invisible neutrinos, x-rays and cosmic rays, radio waves and gravity waves. Yet its the glorious images of astronomy — the planets, nebulae and galaxies — that capture our minds and fuels our imaginations. In this episode we discuss what makes astrophotography so important,...


24: Black Holes Feeding On Colliding Galaxies

There are a lot of galaxies in the universe — billions and billions of them, in fact. And many of them are in the process of collision: some collided long ago, some are merging right now, and some will slam together in the distant future. When they collide, the supermassive black holes in their cores can collide and merge too — and that's a pretty extreme event. Studying how fast these mergers take place is changing astronomers’ models of galaxy formation and evolution.


23: Syzygy Live! from YorNight 2018

A very special live event from YorNight 2018, the University of York's celebration of research at beautiful King's Manor. We talked about exoplanets — that is, planets around other stars — and Emily shared her top three exoplanets of all time. Chris finished by strapping on a guitar and going all Chris Hadfield with The Exoplanet Song. A wonderful, enthusiastic audience of young and old (many in astro-themed fancy dress for the occasion!) packed out the theatre, asked brilliant questions and...


22: How To Measure The Universe

We've been so comfortable throwing around facts like "the Sun is 8 light seconds away" and "the nearest star is 4 light years away", it's easy to forget that measuring cosmic distances isn't as simple as pulling out a tape measure. So how *do* you measure how far it is to the moon, or the next star, or a distant galaxy? Emily gives us her top five rungs on the Cosmic Distance Ladder.


21: BepiColombo goes to Mercury

Mercury: closest planet to the Sun, a small, uninteresting lump of rock ... or, an enigma, with a strange tidally-locked orbit, a core that's way too big, and a mysterious origin story that astronomers are slowly piecing together. Which is why it's Emily's favourite planet, and why ESA and JAXA are sending the fabulously-named BepiColombo spacecraft to take a closer look.


20: Photo of a Black Hole

At the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy lies a super-massive black hole. We know it's there, we can detect its effects on the galaxy and see nearby stars whipping around it at high speed. Last year, a worldwide collaboration of astronomers decided to try to take the first direct image of the black hole, merging telescopes spread across the planet into the equivalent of one giant radio dish. Did they succeed? We're still waiting on that image ...


19: Moons, Exomoons & Moonmoons

The Kepler mission found loads of exoplanets, and now astronomers are digging deeper into the data in the search for exo*moons* around those planets. All of which sends Chris and Emily on a deep dive into the detail of definitions: what's a moon, anyway? Do we know what a planet is? Or a star? Do astronomers actually understand anything at all?!


18: Mysterious Planet 9

We're back from our summer hiatus with an appropriately Hallowe'eny story about a goblin. Or rather, The Goblin, a tiny lump of rock far out in the Solar System that might just point to the existence of the long-sought, mysterious Planet 9 ...


17: Quantum Conspiracy Theory

Summer holidays are over, though Emily is still running around overseas enjoying the astronomer lifestyle. So Chris shares a story that tickled him this week, about a bunch of physicists and astronomers who showed that if quantum theory is just a cosmic magic trick played on researchers, that trick had to have been set up before the earth was even formed.


Episode 16: Einstein at the Heart of the Galaxy

There’s a monster deep in the heart of the Milky Way Galaxy. Even though we can’t see it, we know it’s there ... because it has to be. Over two decades, astronomers have pointed very large telescopes, including The Very Large Telescope, toward the galactic centre. They’ve been tracking the motions of a bunch of stars right at the core — ordinary stars doing something extraordinary. They’re moving fast, very very fast, in orbit around something very massive. But when astronomers look to find...


Episode 15: A Salty Lake on Mars

Stop me if you've heard this one before: astronomers announced in July that they'd found water on Mars. No, seriously. I know they've said something that sounds like that before, but this is different — this is *liquid* water. Probably. See, previously they'd found solid ice, and then found evidence for liquid water billions of years in the past, and then signs that sometimes a little bit of water runs across the surface in the Martian summer before evaporating away. But *this* time,...


Episode 14: Total Eclipse of the Moon

Around 9pm (local UK time) on Friday 27 July 2018, the full moon will rise over the horizon. But this full moon will be a bit special: it’ll be a deep red colour, because we’re going to experience a total lunar eclipse! C’mon people, get outside! A lunar eclipse is where the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. That means the Moon, the Earth and the Sun are aligned. We have a word for that: it’s totally going to be a syzygy! So to celebrate, we’re chatting about the eclipse — what it will...