Date: December 31, 2011
Title: One More Time!
Podcaster: Nancy Atkinson
Organization: 365 Days of Astronomy
Description: We’re closing out 2011 today, and it’s been a great year. So great, in fact, that we are continuing on in 2012, which we’re very excited about. But before we move on, let’s take a look back at this year and highlight some of the great podcasts that have been submitted by people all around the world.
Additional music if from the podcasters linked below, and the song “Float” by Michael Joy.
Bio: Nancy Atkinson has been the Project Manager for the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast for the past three years, but now is handing the reins over to Avivah Yamani. But you won’t get rid of Nancy that easy — she’ll still be hanging around as an Advising Producer, as well as producing podcasts for the NASA Lunar Science Institute. You can also find Nancy’s work at Universe Today, where she is the Senior Editor.
Nancy would like to thank all the podcasters who have contributed to 365 Days of Astronomy the past three years!
Sponsors: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is brought to you by no one.
[Music from Far!]
Nancy: Hi, this is Nancy Atkinson from the 365 Days of Astronomy team. We’re closing out 2011 today, and it’s been a great year. So great in fact that we are continuing on in 2012, which we’re very excited about. But before we move on, let’s take a look back at this year and highlight some of the great podcasts that have been submitted by people all around the world.
Yes, we pondered the Universe…. Such as wondering about life on Titan, as professor Chris Impey from Arizona State University did on January 31.
[clip]: But Titan, if life exists there, might not be like life on Earth, and would be an example of Life 2.0 or independent origination of biology.
Cassini/Huygens was not equipped to look for biology or complex organics. But it did show an environment on Titan that’s very similar to the environment theorized for the primordial Earth.
Nancy: Or how about galactic and extra galactic buckyballs, with Robb Sparks and Letezia Stanghellini from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory:
[clip]Rob: Okay, so I see you made some recent discoveries about Buckyballs. First, what are Buckyballs?
Letezia: So Buckyballs are one of the very few molecules that are composed only of carbon in the universe. Those are big molecules that are composed of 60 carbon atoms and they are shaped as a ball with a hole inside, with a vacuum inside. The are very sturdy and very resilient and they can even carry around other atoms and molecules in their middle so they are used, for example they are used in medicine and engineering and other applications to transport chemicals around without interacting.
Nancy: And you can’t ponder the Universe without talking about the Big Bang, which Steve Nerlich did on May 20.
[clip] Suddenly, something happened. Quantum physics suggests that gravity split out from the other fundamental forces – the strong, weak and electromagnetic forces – which still remained in a state of unified equilibrium. General relativity, preferring to maintain that there is no such thing as a force of gravity, suggests that a singularity began to unravel into space-time. A yet to be articulated theory of everything would presumably say both those things, but perhaps in a whole different way.
Nancy: There was a lot of action taking place in our solar system this year. Emily Lakdawalla from the planetary society tells about the former Stardust spacecraft visiting Comet Tempel 1.
[clip] When mission planners realized it’d be possible to send Stardust on to Tempel 1, it was a no-brainer. Stardust would be the first spacecraft ever to visit a comet for a second time. In the six years separating the Deep Impact and Stardust encounters, comet Tempel 1 completed one orbit around the Sun, passing through perihelion, when solar heating made it most actively spit out jets. Scientists looked forward to seeing how the comet had changed after perihelion passage. And they also wanted a second chance to see that crater.
Nancy: And the MESSENGER Spacecraft entered into orbit around Mercury. Bob Hirshon from the American Association for the Advancement Science reported live from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory spacecraft successfully arrived at Mercury.
Nancy: The Juno spacecraft launched to Jupiter this summer. Solar system Ambassador Tony Rice provided an overview of the mission.
[clip] So why an 8th mission to visit our biggest neighbor?
As our solar system was in it’s infancy, Jupiter is believed to have been the first planet to form. Understanding the makeup and formation of Jupiter is key to understanding the origin of our solar system. There is much left to learn about Jupiter. Galileo taught us much but it brought new questions that Juno seeks to help answer:
1. What’s really under all those clouds? Does Jupiter have a core of heavy elements, and if so how large is it? How does it rotate?
2. How much water is in Jupiter?
3. How deep into the atmosphere do the Great Red Spot, as big as 2 or 3 Earths and 300 or more years old, reach?
4. How different is the composition of Jupiter from the original solar nebula, and if it’s different, what is the cause?
Nancy: This year we found we had some very creative and musical podcasters. In march, astronomer Carolyn Collins Petersen shared the music that her husband Mark creates for Planetarium shows.
[clip] This is Carolyn Collins Petersen, TheSpacewriter, and today, we’re going to explore astronomy through music. The last time you went to a planetarium you probably enjoyed a wonderful mix of astronomy and spacey sounds while you were there. Chances are that the music you heard was composed by an artist who goes by the name of Geodesium.
Nancy: In August, Darren Landrum told about his love of writing songs about space travel and manned orbital flight.
[clip] For this song, I tried to imagine the trepidation a first-time astronaut must feel when he or she boarding for his or her first flight. So why do I write about these things? Well, I know I didn’t just want to write love songs, even though technically I still have. I think, more than anything, it’s about having a deep-seated love for science, for science fiction, and fantasy.
Nancy: And podcaster Adrian Morgan responded to challenge by Bob Hirshon to write songs about the solar system.
[clip] Music. This verse introduces the history of astronomy from when we looked up with curious eyes. Now, most lights in the night sky are stars, not planets, of course, but the key is in the words: we’ve been watching them move. You probably know the word ‘planet’ comes from Greek for ‘wanderer’, because to ancient observers the planets were distinguished by the fact that they move differently from the stars. And from pinpoints of light, how far we’ve come to see the planets as worlds.
Nancy: And speaking of creative, astronomer Megan Argo wrote a short fictional story using Doctor Who, explain the science of meteor impacts.
[clip] “Do you hear that?” asked the Doctor.
Niko listened. Just audible over the wind was a new sound, like nothing he’d ever heard before, and it was getting louder rapidly.
“It’s here, look!” the Doctor almost shouted in excitement.
Niko looked up and saw a fireball rushing through the atmosphere, too fast for him to follow it as it moved. It looked as though it was heading straight for them and he ducked in fright as his reflexes took over.
It smashed into the line of hills the Doctor had indicated, and debris was scattered high into the air. Several seconds later, there was a frighteningly loud explosion as the sound waves arrived, travelling slower through the air than the light. Niko clamped his hands tightly over his ears and gritted his teeth, it felt like his head was about to explode as the pressure wave buffeted them. Clouds of dust rose into the sky in great swirling patterns, casting tenuous slow-moving shadows across the landscape while the clouds above continued to fly past.
Nancy: But of course, one of the mainstays of the 365 Days podcast is people sharing their love of astronomy. Jeff Wood described watching the December 2010 lunar eclipse with his family.
[clip] Skies were cloudy, it was cold out, and I wasn’t expecting much. But clouds began to clear as the eclipse started, just before midnight, so I fired up the clay stove and set up my telescope, a user friendly 8 inch dobsonian. Just before totality I woke the rest of the family up, dragged them out of their beds and outside, hot water ready for tea and hot chocolate.
My eldest daughter lasted about a half an hour, until totality began, then stumbled back to bed, familial obligations fulfilled. …
And then it was down to me and my youngest daughter. We snuggled close to the stove, talked a little, went to the telescope a couple times, but mostly just watched as the moon turned eerie red, then dull brown as the moon slid fully into shadow. It was a long, cold wait for light after that, but light, when it came, was dramatic.
Nancy: We were lucky to have teacher Robb Webb from Pennsylvania share things to watch for in the night sky each month, something he hopes to continue for next year’s podcast.
[clip]Welcome to Observing With Webb for December of 2011. This month I’m taking a different tact by talking first about what planets you can see in the night sky and when. Then we’ll track the Moon throughout the month to see how it moves throughout the constellations as it changes phases and has some close encounters with the planets.
Well, that’s just a sampling of the wonderful podcasts we had this year, how we’ve explored the cosmos through all of your eyes. And don’t worry for year 4, we won’t run out of things to share, stories to tell, and songs to write. The universe keeps offering up new discoveries and surprises. As so, let’s go on, one more time!
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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