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This month, we're joined by two people who've just been elected to prestigious roles in science here in the UK. Professor Mike Edmunds has just become President-elect of the Royal Astronomical Society, while Professor Bernard Schutz has recently been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.Both these societies have a long history, and we discuss thei…
 
Last September, a team of scientists led by Professor Jane Greaves announced the detection of a rare gas, phosphine, in the atmosphere of Venus. With no plausible explanations of how it could be there, one possibility remaining was that it was being produced by some sort of microbial life floating in the cloud decks of Venus. The idea was seen as p…
 
Where were you on 28th February 2021, just before 10pm? If you were in parts of Wales, or the west of England, you may have seen a bright flash streaking in the sky. This was a fireball - a bright kind of meteorite which is a special sight in its own right. But this was a very special fireball, as the object that created it landed on the ground and…
 
The idea of life elsewhere is not a new one. Hundreds of years ago it was assumed that there were beings everywhere, before such views were considered heretical, and the determination that places like the Moon were dry airless worlds started to reduce the possible places life could thrive. But even as recently as the mid-20th Century, the idea of v…
 
Over the course of the next month, we'll see the arrival at Mars of not one, not two, but three spacecraft: Nasa’s Perseverance Rover, with its little helicopter Ingenuity; the Chinese Space Agency's Tianwen-1 mission, which comprises an orbiting spacecraft, a landing platform and a rover; and the UAE's Hope mission, which is an orbiting spacecraft…
 
With the end of one of the craziest years in living memory, we start with astronomical reflections on the last 12 months - and how far we've come over the course of the last decade.A new results has been published about the structure of our own Milky Way Galaxy, using the emission from carbon monoxide gas. The results, from the SEDIGISM team, show …
 
A show of two halves, this month, starting with watery moons. One isn't so surprising - Jupiter's icy Europa. Known to have an ocean under the thick ice shell, models suggest that the plumes that have been observed may not be from the global reservoir, but from smaller briny pools within the icy crust. The second moon is perhaps more surprising, be…
 
Chris North and Edward Gomez give a round-up of the month in astronomy. Towards the end of October, NASA's Osiris Rex spacecraft grabbed a sample from the asteroid Bennu. What happens next, and what might we learn from these samples? Chris and Edward discuss.There's also an update on Betelgeuse (however you chose to pronousne it), which is not esti…
 
This is a special episode - released a couple of weeks earlier than normal – that’s because we’ve got a very special story to talk about this time. A team of astronomers has detected hints that indicate the possibility that there may be life in the clouds of Venus. Despite the maybes and possibilities, this is an astonishing statement, and we’ll ex…
 
If there’s anything that pricks up the ears in astronomy, it’s black holes. And this month we have not one, but two black hole stories. And, depending on how you count them, four black holes, though two of them no longer exist – if that sounds confusing, then don’t worry, it’ll become clear!Regular listeners will be no stranger to black holes, with…
 
In astronomy, the month of July has been the month of two things: comets, and Mars. Comet Neowise, or to give it it’s full title C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, has graced the skies of the northern hemispheres, becoming the first naked eye comet for some time. Some have even argued it’s the best comet for decades.In terms of new missions, then this summer marks…
 
Science news stories normally revolve around something new that's been learned, or some question that’s been answered. But sometimes, and these are often the most interesting times, there’s an observation or discovery that raises a whole new set of questions – and the mystery deepens. This month we discuss two such discoveries.First of all, an unus…
 
Amid the turmoil of not only coronavirus, but also anti-racism protests across the US and now internationally, it's been a notable month for spaceflight. At the end of May, SpaceX launched their first crewed Dragon capsule, which became the first private vehicle to dock with the International Space Station. But the private space sector is much bigg…
 
The Hubble Space Telescope is 30 years old - something that even its most enthusiastic supporters couldn't have dreamt of when it launched in 1990. With the help of a host of astronomers and space scientists, Chris North explores the history of the mission and the revolutionary discoveries that have been made. Prof Anu Ojha, Director of the Nationa…
 
In these unprecendented times, it's hard to argue that much of space science and astronomy is key infrastructure, or its staff key workers. And while that's true, like many organisations work cannot simply stop altogether.The European Space Agency runs a multitude of missions, from space observatories to interplanetary explorers, and from solar pro…
 
Betelgeuse is still misbehaving, though we're starting to get more information in from observations by some of the largest telescope. Astronomers are narrowing in on the possible explanations.While the dimming of Betelgeuse isn't anything to do with aliens, the SETI programme is still going with a new project designed to focus on planets around sta…
 
The astronomy world has been a-buzz with news of Betelgeuse, the bright red star in Orion, which appears to be dimming. Chris North, Edward Gomez and Claudia Antolini discuss how unusual this is, and what it means for the star's future.Further afield, there's a newly identified wave in our Galactic neighbourhood, changing our understanding of the n…
 
The final episode of 2019 includes a look back at a few things that have happened this year, and a look forward to the future.Chris North and Edward Gomez discuss the developments in exoplanet discoveries, and what future missions (such as CHEOPS, Plato and Ariel) may be able to tell us about the wide range of planets out there. We've also had the …
 
This month saw the announcement of two follow-up discoveries of two explosive events. Firstly observations of one of the highest energy ever gamma ray burst ever seen, detected back in January, have identified where it originated. Meanwhile, colleagues in Cardiff University have been searching for signs of a remnant neutron star at the heart of Sup…
 
October 2019 saw the first all-female spacewalk, and the discover of 20 new moons of Saturn. There were also more observations of interstellar comet Borisov, and evidence for the Milky Way's black hole having sent out a violent flare several million years ago. Chris and Edward discuss these latest stories.October also saw a planned hiatus in operat…
 
The space news cycle was dominated for a while this month with the discovery of water vapour in the atmosphere of planet K2-18b. The planet is in the habitable zone of its star, but is somewhat larger than the Earth - what does that mean for its habitability?Meanwhile, radio astronomers have discovered the most massive neutron star found to date - …
 
The summer might be "silly season" in the press, but not so in astronomy. With peroxide on moons and belching black holes there's lots of sensible research going on for us to discuss.A number of recent rocket engine tests lead us to consider what the near future of space travel might look like, with a proposed "lunar gateway" providing a staging po…
 
July 1969 was the month that the first people walked on the Moon. 12 people walked on the surface of our celestial neighbour between 1969 and 1972. Since then, humanity has been confined to low-Earth orbit. There is talk of sending people back to the Moon, on timescales that vary depending on who you talk to. There’s also talk of missions to Mars, …
 
Mars is covered in craters, but most of them are very old. But new ones do appear from time-to-time, created when objects hit the surface of the red planet. That's just what happened at some point a couple of years ago, producing one of Mars' youngest craters. Higher up in Mars' atmosphere, scientists are also learning about the role the micrometeo…
 
A roundup of the month's news from around the Solar System - and beyond. You don't think of mars rovers having drawers, but that's exactly what has just been installed on the Rosalind Franklin Rover, part of ESA's ExoMars mission. This is no ordinary drawer, of course, but the "Analytical Laboratory Drawer", designed to test martian soil for the pr…
 
14th May 2009 marked the the launch of the Herschel Space Observatory. Herschel was a cornerstone mission for ESA, the European Space Agency, with the goal of unveiling the hidden Universe. In this special bonus edition of Pythagorean Astronomy, marking 10 years since Herschel's launch, Cardiff University's Dr Chris North finds out how it did this,…
 
A roundup of the month's news from around the Solar System - and beyond. Starting with the Moon, where the first attempt by a privately funded organisation to land on the Moon has ended in a crash-landing. Despite the sad end, the Beresheet mission was otherwise a success, and a promising start for privately funded missions around the Solar System.…
 
In December 2018 an object hit the Earth's atmosphere at over 100,000 kph over the Arctic Ocean, entirely unnoticed, until the orange streak was spotted in satellite imagery. Meanwhile, two missions are currently exploring much larger asteroids - Japan's Hyabusa-2 mission to Ryugu and NASA's Osiris-REX mission to Bennu. Chris North and Edward Gomez…
 
Chris North and Edward Gomez discuss the latest events from around the Solar System. Hayabusa 2 has successfully hopped down onto the surface of Ryugu, meanwhile an Israeli lander has been launched to the Moon, where it will also hop about. Further afield, there are new clues to the origin of Neptune's odd little moon Hippocamp.Down hear on Earth, …
 
Chris North and Edward Gomez discuss the latest events from around the Solar System. At the start of the year, the Chinese Space Agency successfully landed their latest lander (Chang'e 4) on the far side of the Moon. The lander also carried a rover, Yutu 2, which has begun exploring the lunar surface, and a radio telescope.Further from the Sun, new…
 
Chris North, Mat Allen and Sarah Roberts discuss the highlights of 2018, and look forward to 2019. From missions to the inner Solar System, landers on Mars, and rovers on asteroids, lots has happened.In 2019, we're looking forward to New Horizon's flyby of Ultima Thule out in the Kuiper Belt, more results from the asteroid belt, courtesy of both Ha…
 
Chris North, Matt Smith and Sarah Roberts discuss the landing of NASA's Insight probe, which is set to investigate the interior of Mars and search for Mars-quakes. Closer to home, we're celebrating 20 years of the International Space Station this month. In astrophysics research, Cardiff researchers, including Matt, were involved in a study of explo…
 
Chris North, Sarah Roberts and Mat Allen discuss the launch of Bepi Colombo, which is on its way to study the planet Mercury. Meanwhile, the Hayabusa 2 mission continues its exploration of the asteroid Ryugu, while the Hubble Space Telescope has experienced a problem with its gyros - we discuss what that means for the telescope. (Update: the Hubble…
 
Chris North, Sarah Roberts and Mat Allen discuss a number of recent news stories. One of the latest planets to be discovered, "40 Eridani A a", seems to be a lot like the fictional planet Vulcan, home to Spock in Star Trek. The RemoveDEBRIS mission has test-fired its net, and the Hyabusa 2 mission has successfully sent to rovers bouncing around the…
 
Earlier this month it was announced that an entrepreneur would like to launch an "artificial star" into orbit, adding to the mass of space junk. Chris North and Edward Gomez give their views on the matter, and how missions such as RemoveDEBRIS might help. Further afield, there's more water on Mars - or in this case beneath its surface - and ice nea…
 
July's astronomy update from Chris North and Edward Gomez. It was announced this month that Jupiter has got even more moons than previously thought, with its total haul now coming in at 79! We discuss why the new moons are odd. The Very Large Telescope in Chile also made a new discovery – a very young planet forming in the dusty disk of material ar…
 
There were new results about organic compounds from two places in the Solar System this month: the planet Mars and the dwarf planet Ceres. We discuss what organic compounds are, and why their discovery doesn’t mean we’ve found life, but is still an interesting find. Further afield, the ALMA telescope has been finding planets orbiting other stars. W…
 
In May 2018 we welcomed to Cardiff a Nobel Prize winner: Professor Barry Barish, who was one of the scientists who founded the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, As regular listeners will remember, LIGO made the first direct detection of gravitational waves a few years ago. Barry’s been involved with the experiments for many years, and as such was one …
 
This month has seen missions large and small launch towards Mars, and new results from the Gaia satellite. Meanwhile, astronomers have been using machine learning to address a number of problems – we discuss a couple of examples which have been published recently. Finally, there have been exciting new signs of plumes from Europa, one of Jupiter’s m…
 
April saw Liverpool host the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science, from which there were a many new developments and discoveries, a few of which we discuss this month. The conference came just days after the NASA and ESA made the announcement that the largest astronomy project in recent times, the James Webb Space Telescope, will be delayed…
 
Earlier this month the world was saddened to hear of the death of Professor Stephen Hawking, arguably one of the most famous physicists of recent times. He died peacefully at the age of 76, having lived with the debilitating condition of motor neurone disease which he was diagnosed with in his early 20s. Despite that he contributed hugely to scienc…
 
Ever taken a selfie on your birthday? Well, that's just what the Mars Rover Opportunity did to celebrate its 5000th "sol" (martian day) on Mars. This doesn't sound like much, but 5000 sols is about 14 years - not bad for a rover that was only expected to last about 3 months! The selfie - the first one Opportunity has ever taken - was thought up and…
 
Space is getting crowded, so the recent launch of a space glitterball (called the “Humanity Star”) by RocketLabs has irked astronomers. Our suggestion: why not go and look at the space station instead? And if you’re interested in things to not get too hyped up about, the so-called “Super Blue Blood Moon” was another example – we have suggestions on…
 
To some, astronomy is a purely a curiosity-driven activity, trying to understand more about the Universe around us. While that is the primary reason for a great many astronomers, there are many ways in which it benefits life down hear on Earth – including the saving of lives.Most recently, this became relevant in the late summer 2017, when s a numb…
 
Artist’s impression of the star that would not die. Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STSci)When a star explodes in a supernova, it’s generally assumed that once the afterglow has faded the star will never be seen again. But astronomers at Las Cumbres Observatory have found a star that seems to have refused to die. This month, Edward Gomez chats t…
 
Artist’s impression of the collision of two neutron stars. Image credit: NSF/LIGO/SSU/A.SimonnetOn 16th October a huge team of astronomers announced to the world that they had detected, for the first time, gravitational waves and light from the same event. That event was the collision of two neutron stars in a galaxy around 130 million light year a…
 
Cassini at Saturn. Image credit: NASAThe 15th of September marked the Cassini spacecraft’s final plunge into Saturn’s gaseous atmosphere. This grand finale marked then end of a 20 year journey, 13 of which were spent orbiting Saturn, studying the ringed planet and its extended family of moons. Here in Cardiff, Dr Emily Drabek-Maunder has been close…
 
The Total Eclipse of 2017. Copyright: Martin RatcliffeAugust marked one of the most publicised astronomical events of 2017 – a total eclipse of the Sun which was visible the US. Totality, where the Moon completely covered the Sun, was visible from a narrow strip stretching from Oregon in the northwest to South Carolina in the southeast, while the p…
 
Artist’s illustration of Supernova 1987A. Image credit: Credit: A. Angelich / NRAO / AUI / NSFIt’s been a busy month for Cardiff astronomers (and their colleagues). From gravity’s role in star formation to molecules found in a supernovae explosion, and from debris around neutron stars to organic molecules emitted from one of Saturn’s moons, there’s…
 
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