77 episodes

Podcast by Ethan Siegel

Starts With A Bang podcast Ethan Siegel

    • Science
    • 4.8 • 44 Ratings

Podcast by Ethan Siegel

    Starts With A Bang #77 - Stellar Destruction

    Starts With A Bang #77 - Stellar Destruction

    Some stars, as they go through their life cycles, will die of natural causes. They'll burn through their fuel until they can fuse elements no longer, and then will die, becoming a white dwarf below a certain mass threshold, or experiencing a core-collapse supernova that leaves behind a neutron star, a black hole, or perhaps something even more interesting above that mass threshold. But some stars, while just going about their lives, can suffer a wildly different fate: they can be murdered by other objects in the Universe. Stellar destruction can take many forms and can give off many different unique signals, and it's only by examining a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, as well as other types of sources, that we can decode what's actually going on across the Universe.

    I'm so pleased to welcome Dr. Yvette Cendes to the program, who specializes in radio astronomy and the behavior of exotic objects that change their behavior over time: transient signals. There's so much to explore and I hope you enjoy this fascinating 90 minute discussion right here on the Starts With A Bang podcast!

    (Credit: Alak Ray, Nature Astronomy, 2017; ACTA/ALMA/ESO/Hubble/Chandra composite)

    • 1 hr 34 min
    Starts With A Bang #76 - Supermassive Black Holes

    Starts With A Bang #76 - Supermassive Black Holes

    When it comes to the black holes that populate the Universe, they range from the very tiny, of only ~3 solar masses or so and with event horizons that span only a few kilometers, all the way up to the incredibly supermassive, many billions of times as massive as our Sun, with event horizons on the scale of the entire Solar System. These black holes are fascinating not only for how they form and exist, but how they impact and shape the entire galaxies that they inhabit. At all different wavelengths, from X-ray to radio, as well as in gravitational waves, we're only starting to uncover the previously elusive science about these cosmic behemoths, and while we're all the richer for it today, it's fascinating to consider what questions we'll be answering decades down the line, too.

    Come have a listen to all of these topics and much, much more as we go on a fascinating journey concerning supermassive black holes with Dr. Adi Foord of Stanford, and expose the mysteries of the largest single structures in the entire Universe!

    (Image credit: NASA)

    • 1 hr 30 min
    Starts With A Bang #75 - Instruments And Mega - Cameras

    Starts With A Bang #75 - Instruments And Mega - Cameras

    You know how it works, right? Point your telescopes at the sky, collect the data, and then send it off to the scientists for analysis and to compare with the predictions of your theories. Only, if that's what you do, you'll miss a crucial first step: you have to handle your data correctly. That means understanding the nuances of your telescope, the sensitivities of your instruments and optics across different filters and wavelengths, and so many other considerations before that data you've collected could ever be responsibly used for any scientific purposes at all.

    But this is not a hopeless task; there are entire careers in telescope and instrument support sciences that, in many ways, are the unsung heroes of the entire enterprise of astronomy. In this edition of the Starts With A Bang podcast, I'm so pleased to get to bring Dr. Heather Fleweling onto the show, where she talks about her experience and expertise doing precisely this for observatories such as Pan-STARRS, which she helped build herself, to the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), where she currently works, specializing in the MegaPrime instrument. Get a behind-the-scenes peek at a corner of astronomy that most people don't even know exists!

    • 1 hr 32 min
    Starts With A Bang #74 - Galaxy Clusters And Their Environments

    Starts With A Bang #74 - Galaxy Clusters And Their Environments

    In the science of astronomy, it's important to see both the forest and the trees. Galaxy clusters, in many ways, serve as both. They're rich environments with stars, gas, dust, dark matter, black holes and more. The diversity of stars and stellar populations found within them, as well as found within galaxies of different shapes, sizes, and properties within those clusters, are part of a remarkable and coherent cosmic story. But sometimes the cosmic story can help us understand what's going on in these environments, the converse of the way we normally think about it: where we use the environment to learn about the universe.

    Come take a fascinating journey into these cosmic behemoths that are the gathering grounds for the greatest collections of large galaxies in the universe, and enjoy a delightful conversation with Gourav Khullar as we go along on this wild ride!

    (Image credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA, H. Ebling)

    • 1 hr 32 min
    Starts With A Bang #73 - Ocean Worlds And So Much More

    Starts With A Bang #73 - Ocean Worlds And So Much More

    If you want to understand the origin of life in the Universe, you have three basic ways to do it. One is to search for intelligent aliens directly: through a program such as SETI. Another is to search for life in Solar Systems beyond our own: looking for bio-signatures, or perhaps bio-hints, on extraterrestrial worlds many light-years away. But within our own Solar System, there are a plethora of worlds, including the ice-and-liquid-rich bodies we have, that are fascinating candidates for life of non-Earth origin.

    There's so much to explore and so many different aspects of what's out there that I went into an incredibly far-ranging conversation with our podcast guest, planetary scientists and NExSS postdoc Dr. Jessica Noviello, that we wound up talking for nearly two full hours, and still couldn't cover everything we wanted to! Still, it was an amazing conversation for me and I hope it is for you, too. Enjoy it!

    (Image credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk, of Europa with its uniquely curved stripes, for the Galileo mission.)

    • 1 hr 53 min
    Starts With A Bang #72 - The Central Cores Of Galaxies

    Starts With A Bang #72 - The Central Cores Of Galaxies

    Practically every galaxy in the Universe has a supermassive black hole at their core. Ranging from millions to many billions of solar masses, these cosmic behemoths are capable of behaving as engines: accreting and accelerating matter to tremendous speeds and temperatures, where they emit enormous amounts of radiation. Galaxies can remain in this active state for hundreds of millions of years, where they appear to us as active galactic nuclei or quasars, depending on their specific properties.

    But why are some galaxies active while others aren't? How long will the active ones we see remain active, and will some of the inactive ones turn on? What about flares? As it turns out, there's a powerful connection between the surrounding galaxy, the processes occurring at the core, and the activity levels of the central black hole. Here to help us put it all together is Dr. Yashashree Jadhav, who takes us on a fascinating and far-ranging discussion about black holes, gas, stars, and much, much more! Enjoy it all on this edition of the Starts With A Bang podcast!

    (The image here is a multiwavelength view of the galaxy Centaurus A: the closest active galaxy to the Milky Way. Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: Rolf Olsen; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech.)

    • 1 hr 33 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
44 Ratings

44 Ratings

John Willa ,

Challenging in the best way

Challenging me to investigate new areas of physics and well conducted interviews with comprehensive and digestible explanations. At times I rewind portions to make sure I’m understanding for no other reason that it’s interesting and I’m engaged.

ccshatz ,

Precious resource

You are grounding me and launching me. Thank you.

clint wolf ,


A great, very interesting podcast. Thanks.

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