May 21st: Orion and the Pretty Cool Universe

By on May 21, 2013 in

Podcaster:  Pamela Quevillon

Title:  Orion and the Pretty Cool Universe

Organization: Speak Easy Narration


Description:  This is the 1st audio from Space Scoop, a product of “Universe Awareness”. Our goal is to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

Bio: Pamela Quevillon is a voice actress who most often lends her voice to science and science fiction content. You can find her work on the “Escape Pod” and “365 Days of Astronomy”, as well as on her site

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2013, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at


This is 365 Days of Astronomy. Today we bring you Space Scoop, a product of “Universe Awareness”. Our goal is to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

One nice side effect of inspiring the kids, is often you can awe the adults as well.


credit: ESO

The Universe is a pretty cool place.
If you hopped on a tour bus for a complete tour of the cosmos, it would take you past a number of “hot” attractions, like the Sun, monster black holes and billions of shining stars. But mostly, space is incredibly cold. The empty blackness that makes up most of the Universe is on average minus 270°C! That’s just a couple of degrees above “absolute zero” — which is minus 273°C, the coldest possible temperature.

If you go to the Universal Awareness website or view the album art for this podcast you’ll see an odd strip of red, orange and yellow gas cutting through the blackness of space. It might look like a ribbon of hot fire stretching through space, but this is actually a cold cloud of gas and dust, which is -250 °C! That’s freezing!

The red colour is the faint glow of light that our eyes can’t see. This is easier to understand if you imagine light is like sound: some sounds are too low for our ears to hear, but other animals, for example whales, can still hear them. The invisible light being emitted by the red cloud in this picture is called radio light — it’s the same light used to send information to your radio and mobile phones. In the same way that our ears can’t hear very low sounds, our eyes can’t see radio light. However, some of our telescopes can. Astronomers make pictures from the data collected by these telescopes and colour them, so we can enjoy these otherwise-invisible objects.

The image was taken with the APEX telescope in Chile using a special camera that can see wavelengths of light that are shorter than a millimeter. That may seem tiny, but the color red has a wavelength nearly 10,000 times smaller! Since red is the longest wavelength our eye’s can see, scientists colored the image shades of red and orange.

It might seem strange that they chose to colour something so cold in red. Normally we associate red with hot things, like the hot-water tap or fire, and cold things with blue. But in space it works the opposite way around. The bright blue points scattered around this picture are stars – very hot young stars. As these stars cool, they will actually become more red!

Cool Fact
Where’s the coldest spot in the Universe? Not the South Pole, where the temperatures plunge to a mere average of -62°C. Not even in deepest outer space. As far as scientists can tell, the lowest temperature ever reached was right here on Earth! Scientists in a laboratory managed to create temperatures astonishingly close to absolute zero!

Want to see this region for yourself?
These glowing region on the sky is part of a star forming region in the constellation Orion the hunter. A mixture of bright nebulae, hot young stars and cold dust clouds, this region is hundreds of light-years across and located about 1350 light-years from us. The orange, submillimetre-wavelength glow comes from the cold dust clouds.

Astronomers have used these and other data from APEX along with images from ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, to search for protostars — an early stage of star formation. They have so far been able to identify 15 possible baby stars. These newly discovered rare objects are probably among the youngest protostars ever found.

The Constellation Orion is setting shortly after Sunset, can can be seen laying on the western horizon.

According to greek myth, this is the constellation of Orion the Giant

A long time ago, a giant named Orion lived in Greece. He spent his life hunting with his dogs. he lived in a large cabe close another cave where a giant named Atlante lived with his wife and his seven daughters, the Pleiades.

One day Orion saw Merope, one of the Pleiades. She was sunbathing. Orion was overwhelmed by Merope’s beauty and fell in love with her. Merope saw him and fell in love too. But Atlante had other plans for Merope. He planned to marry her to the son of a very rich giant who lived far away in another forest.

One day Atlante saw Orion and Merope out walking together and they love made him furious. He prepared a portion that he gave Orion. Atlante wanted to make Orion blind so that he could not see Merope anymore. Orion drank the mixture and lost his sight. Atlante told him, “You will not recover your sight until you find the light of dawn. Walk until you find it. Then, when you return, you will have to fight all of the animals you meet on the way.”

The blind Orion could not travel alone, so he sought the help of a young boy. Perched on Orion’s shoulders, the boy led him East until they found beautiful color of the light of dawn. Then Orion was able to see again.

On the journey home, Orion confronted a hare and a bull. he defeated both, but when he was close to his cave a scorpion stung him in the foot and left its poisonous stunk stuck in his skin. Feeling that he was going to die, Orion asked Zeus, the father of all the gods, to transform him into a constellation of stars so he could see his beloved Merope. Zeus kindly fulfilled Orion’s wish. When Merope found out, she and her sisters asked to be close to Orion. Zeus obliged and turned them into stars too. He did the same to Orion’s dogs and the animals that had crossed giant’s path on the way back from the seeking the light of dawn.

Since that time, on calm winter nights, it is possible to see Orion with his drawn bow, his two dogs, the rabbit and the bull. Close to them, the Pleiades watch the giant, What never appears in the sky at the same time as Orion is the constellation of the Scorpion, Orion’s enemy. When one is visible, the other is not. In the sky these eternal enemies will watch over us forever.

Thank’s for listening. This episode uses content from Space Scoop for May 13, and Orion the Giant education module by Llorenc Puig Mayolas. Both can be found on the Universe Awareness site at Additional content was adapted from the European Southern observatories Press Release for May 15: Orion’s fiery Ribbon.

Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to go out and look up.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by the New Media Working Group of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Audio post-production by Preston Gibson. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. Web design by Clockwork Active Media Systems. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at In the new year the 365 Days of Astronomy project will be something different than before….Until then…goodbye.

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