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The Urban Astronomer Podcast

Science Podcasts

Twice monthly show, explaining science and interviewing South African astronomers. Now with extra Science Explainy Bits!

Twice monthly show, explaining science and interviewing South African astronomers. Now with extra Science Explainy Bits!


South Africa


Twice monthly show, explaining science and interviewing South African astronomers. Now with extra Science Explainy Bits!






How do we know what things in space are made from?

This is episode 60 of the Urban Astronomer podcast! Is that a milestone? Sure, but we'll save the party hats for episode 75. Today we'll just get on with the job at hand, and bring you a science explainy bit. Today's question: How can astronomers be so certain about what things in space are made from? On Earth it's relatively easy to send geologists out to different places with their hammers, and have them collect samples from interesting rock formations and bring them back to the lab for...


Interview with Imogen Whittam

This episode of the Urban Astronomer Podcast features an interview with Dr Imogen Whittam, an astrophysicist at Oxford University


Southern skies and Northern skies

It's another Science Explainy Bit episode, and today we answer a question asked by another podcaster while interviewing us for their show. The host wanted to know how the view of southern skies compares to that of the northern hemisphere. I gave a quick answer before we moved on to another topic, but I would have liked to give a more detailed and complete answer. Which brings us to this episode, in which I describe how there really isn't a single sky for the North or the South. But the sky...


Interview with Carol Botha

The Urban Astronomer interviews noted South African amateur astronomer Carol Botha about her science outreach work. Carol has become quite well known on Slooh, the robotic telescope and astronomy service which I know quite well because I've provided a few video streams of eclipses and the like for them over the years. Be warned though, this is a long episode so make some popcorn and find a comfortable seat before you start!


What’s the deal with Leap Years?

Today's episode is the first Science Explainy Bit of the season, and it's another basic, classic topic: Leap Years. As a reminder, I love looking at the questions that seem simple because we think of them as the sorts of things that children ask their parents, but the thing about these questions is that they never are simple. These are things that took humanity centuries or longer to figure out, and that most of us still don't really understand because we first asked these questions as kids...


Interview with Dr Tony Lelliott

At long last, the third season of the Urban Astronomer Podcast has kicked off! We thought the last season went so well that we've decided to keep things much as they are, with perhaps the occasional news segment added in whenever something interesting has happened. So for the most part, that means twelve episodes, alternating between interviews with people who have some sort of a connection to South African astronomy, and science explainy bits where I answer the questions that listeners like...


Season 3 launching next week

This is just a short note to let you know that we're still here, and that the new season launches next week! Long-time listeners have been waiting for this since February, but I don't think there's anybody left on Earth who couldn't guess which world-changing event caused our schedule to slip! Still, after eight weeks in lock-down, it's time to start delivering on our promises. Tune in next week to hear the first exciting episode of the new season of the Urban Astronomer Podcast!


Season Three coming soon…

Since our last episode aired, in early December last year, I've had people ask me when the third season will begin. Well the good news is: Soon! Guests have been booked, interviews will be recorded over the next few weeks, and science explainy bits... well. That's where you come in! If you've got questions you'd like to hear answered in one of the Urban Astronomer Podcast Patented Science Explainy Bits then why not put them in an email and send to for me? It's...


Star colours and what space is like

The Urban Astronomer Podcast's season 2 finale examines the colours of stars, and ponders what it's actually like out in space


Interview with Nicole Thomas

In this episode, we interview Nicole Thomas, a PhD student at the University of the Western Cape with an interest in the evolution of galaxies, and the super-massive black holes that lie within. We recorded this conversation only a week ago, and I really enjoyed speaking to her. I found her childhood interest in how the universe worked very relatable, and especially her need to understand what's going on underneath it all. Sadly, this is the final interview with a real astronomer of this...


Guns in Space and Why Venus is so Hot

Episode 10 of Season Two answers listener questions: What happens when a spaceship shoots its gun in space, and why is Venus so hot?


Interview with Dr Tana Joseph

This is episode 9 of the 2nd season of the Urban Astronomer Podcast, featuring an interview with Dr Tana Joseph. It's been an interesting two weeks since the last episode - I've settled further into my new home and adjusted from rural to suburban life. What I gained in access to basic utilities and saving several hours off my commute has been paid for with a loss of the sky - not to light pollution, but to a canopy of trees shading the entire property! Regular listeners would be expecting...


Why did I defend the geocentric model?

In this eighth episode of the second season, I defend my defense of the Ptolemaic geocentric system of crystal spheres! I hadn't even realized till I started recording that this is our 50th ever episode. I really should be so blown away that I've kept things going this long, but I'm not, somehow? Perhaps it's just become a habit, and I stopped noticing milestones! But anyway, 50 episodes, I think that's pretty amazing and I'm very proud to have made it this far. I'd like to thank every one...


Interview with Dr Jarita Holbrook

In Episode 7 of the second season of the Urban Astronomer Podcast, I chat with Dr Jarita Holbrook of the University of the Western Cape about her interest in cultural astronomy. This was one of the longer and more interesting interviews of my career, and our conversation continued for some time after the microphones were turned off! Unfortunately, the audio quality isn't as good as I'd hoped. There's a terrible echo on my voice which comes and goes as the recording plays. I've done my best...


Why do planets orbit in the same plane?

In episode 48 of the Urban Astronomer Podcast, we're doing another Science Explainy bit! These segments are where you get to hear my droning voice explain some fundamentals and answer listener questions. Today we get asked why it always is that planets orbit in the same plane, and why the Moon can be seen during daylight. If you like what you hear, don't forget to tell a friend about the show, and make a small donation on our Patreon account. Why do planets orbit in the same plane? 1:50 This...


Interview with Dr Rosalind Skelton

This is episode five of this season of the Urban Astronomer Podcast. As usual, this being the 4th show of the month, we have an Interview episode today, and this is the one that gets us back to our scheduled order of things. You'll remember two episodes ago, we were supposed to interview Dr Rosalind Skelton of the South African Astronomical Observatory. Unfortunately, I messed up somewhere and the recordings we'd made well in advance of the show were lost. Luckily we were able to shuffle the...


How do orbits work?

Welcome to another Science Explainy Bit episode of the Urban Astronomer Podcast. Today we try to figure out just what an "orbit" actually is. Is it really as simple as they said in primary school? How does gravity, which normally pulls things down, work to keep the Moon in space? Download this episode now, to find the answer, and also learn a little about my upcoming appearance at ScopeX! What is an Orbit? (1:28) This turns out to be quite a simple topic - much simpler than why planets are...


Interview with Dr Daniel Cunnama

Welcome to the 3rd episode of the Urban Astronomer Podcast, season 2, featuring Dr Daniel Cunnama. We almost didn't make it this week, thanks to a major technical hitch, but we worked around it and here we are. If you listened to the last episode, then you're probably expecting this to be an interview episode, featuring Dr Rosalind Skelton of the South African Astronomical Observatory. I spoke to her in June last year and we recorded an interview specifically for this episode. But when I...


Why are planets always round?

Welcome to the second episode of this second season of the Urban Astronomer Podcast! Two of Two, sounds like it should be special... and it kinda sort of is, because this week we're presenting the first of our unique patented Science Explainy Bits! Now to be clear, it's the name that's new, not the science explaining, because I've done explainy stuff for science concepts before on this show, back in our super-extended 42 episode long first season. I got quite a lot of feedback from listeners...


Interview with Dr Wendy Williams

This is Episode 1 of our brand new second season! This is the 43rd episode since the podcast was first launched, back in February 2017, and I'm thrilled to be back on the air with you. The New Season We're mostly keeping things the same, but there are some important changes. From the beginning, I've always been pretty disorganized in how I ran the show. There was no fixed schedule or plan, so I'd release episodes as they became available. This meant that new episodes would only come out...