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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...


Episode 13: Neutrino Messenger from a Distant Blazar

In September 2017, two kilometres deep beneath the South Pole, a tiny but very speedy neutrino collided with an atom in the ice and created a flash of light. The flash was picked up by a few of the more than 5,000 photodetectors that comprise the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and immediately the banks of computers at the surface sent out an alarm to astronomers across the globe: we’ve found one! Astronomers pointed their telescopes back along the neutrino’s path, and searched for a source....


Episode 12: The Light Fantastic

A question from a listener leads us into some very tall weeds as we ponder the nature of light: what is it, exactly? It is a wave? Or a particle? Or, somehow, both at once? And photons, the massless particles that apparently make up all light: if they've got no mass, how can they be affected by gravity — like around a black hole, for example? Oh, it's all very tricky stuff, but we have lots of fun unpacking it all. Because in the end, you can't do much astronomy without light, so it's best...


Episode 11: Black Hole Eats Star, Then Burps

Black holes: a staple of quality science fiction for decades now ... but what actually *are* they? Awesome, is one answer. Astronomers reported a few weeks ago fresh evidence for a black hole tearing a star apart in a distant galaxy — gruesome, sure, but fascinating too. In this eipisode we chat about black holes and come to the conclusion that they warp our brains like the fabric of space-time itself.


Episode 10: So you want to be an astronomer?

It's episode 10! We celebrate with cake and a chat about how how astronomers become astronomers. Emily describes her (slightly unusual and a bit cheeky) path to her current career as Astronomer Extraordinaire and Director of the University of York's Astrocampus. Then we explore all the different skills and job titles that fall under the broad umbrella of "working in Astronomy". And of course, even if you don't want to do it as a job, there's a very long and distinguished history of amateur...


Episode 09: Life on Mars?

A few weeks ago NASA gathered journalists from across the globe for an announcement about something they'd found on Mars. Naturally, the collective imagination went *nuts*, because surely, SURELY this was going to be The Big Announcement: finally, the discovery of Life Elsewhere In The Universe! Turns out, nope ... but NASA did have some very cool things to talk about. Curiosity, the Mars Rover that just keeps on keeping on, has found seasonal changes in methane levels, which *could* be...


Episode 08: The Frozen Dunes of Pluto

At the XXVIth General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, held in Praague in August 2006, a new set of three criteria were decided to define what is — and what is emphatically *not* — a planet. Infamously, Pluto fulfilled only two of the three criteria, and so was unceremoniously dumped from the planet club, and reclassified as a "dwarf planet". A decade later, the New Horizons spacecraft swung past this tiny, frozen rock on the outskirts of the Solar System and reported back...


Episode 07 (supplemental): Octopuses from Space!

So, apparently, octopuses come from space. Or something. Emily and Chris chat about a ... curious ... paper that came out recently, which proposes an explanation for the Cambrian Explosion, the huge increase in diversity of life across the planet 500 million years ago. The suggested cause? Possibly viruses from space ... possibly octopus eggs in a meteor ... oh, who knows? It all seems a tad speculative but it's fun to discuss anyway.


Episode 07: Plumes of Ice on Europa

Some astronomers found signs of great plumes of water erupting from the surface of Europa, one of the larger moons of Jupiter — and water could mean life, which has everyone jumping around in excitement. The best bit? They found the evidence buried deep in archived data from a 20-year-old space mission. See, *that's* why you don't just throw away old files — you never know what you'll find!


Episode 06: Galaxy Pile Up Causes Cosmic Chaos!

Astronomers have spotted a cluster of 14 galaxies far, far away, so piled up on top of each other, and so soon after the Big Bang, that they’re forcing the theorists to check back over their models and simulations of how the universe evolved. It’s an episode chock-full of big things, from galaxies, to clusters of galaxies, to superclusters, to filaments of superclusters … It’s all a bit overwhelming really.


Episode 05: Diamonds from Space!

Back in 2008 a large chunk of rock hurtled into the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of it burned up on the way down, but some fragments of the meteorite landed in the deserts of Sudan. When scientists open up those fragments and examined them under a microscope, they found something very interesting: tiny, tiny, diamonds. Nanodiamonds! Ten years later, in April 2018, planetary scientists published a paper in Nature arguing that the structure of those nanodiamond crystals could only have come from...


Episode 04: The Music Of The Stars

TESS made it! The little satellite with the big heart is now in space, gradually getting into its final orbit to start gathering data. And Emily is excited, because alongside all the exoplanet data TESS will be taking, it's going to collect all sorts of information about her favourite topic: Wobbling Stars. Or as she would prefer to call it, Asteroseismology.