Podcast by Ethan Siegel
Starts With A Bang #63 - Exoplanets, TESS, And Beyond
Over the past 30 years, we've gone from zero exoplanets to thousands. With each new generation of telescopes, observatories, and scientists, we build upon our previous finds to make enormous advances that go beyond what any one person could ever produce. The ESA's Gaia mission has surveyed more than a billion stars, identifying the closest ones that would make potentially great targets for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, if they had potentially habitable planets around them. NASA's TESS is doing the preliminary work of observing these stars, most of which are red dwarf (M-class) stars, to find which ones actually have interesting planets that transit across their parent star's face.
So far, we've found some fascinating candidates, some of which just might be humanity's first discovery of biosignatures beyond our Solar System if we get lucky. This month, we're so fortunate to be joined by astronomer and TESS scientist Emily Gilbert, a Ph.D. candidate who specializes in exoplanets. (And who has the delightful Twitter handle: @EmDwarf.)
Come learn where we are, what we know, and where this rapidly evolving scientific field is headed today!
(Image credit: ENGELMANN-SUISSA ET AL.NASA'S GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER)
Starts With A Bang #62 - Black Holes And ALMA
It was only back in the early 2000s that scientists were struggling to identify and weigh the small number of supermassive black holes that we'd been able to identify in the known Universe, but the past 15-20 years have led to a revolution in what we know about them. We've identified tens of thousands of active galaxies, pinned down the masses of some of the closest ones to us through a variety of techniques, and even observed the event horizon of our first black hole directly.
These powerful advances were mainly enabled by superior observatories and instruments, and the spectacular Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (ALMA) of telescopes, which was indispensible to measuring the mass and imaging the event horizon at the core of the largest massive galaxy in our neighborhood: M87.
I'm so pleased to welcome astronomer and Ph.D. Candidate Kyle Kabasares onto the show, where we talk about black holes, mass measurements, ALMA, and the future of black hole-related astronomy! Kyle is also passionate about science outreach, and you can check out his YouTube channel here.
(Image credit: EHT Collaboration; acknowledgement: ESO)
Starts With A Bang #61 - Astronomical Instruments And Injustices
When most of us think of astronomy, we think about two types of scientists: the observers who point their telescopes at the sky and collect data, and the theorists who put together the physical rules of the Universe to both make critical predictions for what those observational results ought to yield and to interpret the data that comes in. But in reality, there are other important types of astronomers that we don't talk about frequently: analysts who focus on dealing with these literally astronomical data sets and the people who work on (and with) the instrumentation itself. This includes telescope and instrument builders, telescope operators and system specialists, and many other vital roles.
Additionally, the science of astronomy isn't just about the science itself, but also questions important for the interplay of science and society. Whose land are these telescopes on? What does responsible stewardship look like? Who has access to these facilities, and who has equal (and unequal) access to the career paths of becoming a scientist?
I'm so pleased to have astronomer Jess Schonhut-Stasik on the show, for a wide-ranging discussion about astronomy, from instruments to injustices and how the big questions about science and society are creating not only incredible dilemmas for astronomy, but an incredible opportunity to get things right. Have a listen today, and check out the fabulous Mauna Kea Scholars program that she's involved with here: https://maunakeascholars.com
(With permission, her email address associated with inquiries about the program is here: email@example.com)
[Image credit: UKIRT / University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy]
Starts With A Bang #60 - The End Of The Dark Ages
When we look out at the Universe today, we see that it's full of stars and galaxies. And yet, we can only see those stars and galaxies because the space between those galaxies and ourselves doesn't block that starlight before it gets to our instruments, observatories, telescopes, and eyes. But early on, that's an enormous problem: there is light-blocking gas and dust, and the record-holder for most distant galaxy ever discovered is still not a pristine, first-generation galaxy at all.
But there are new observatories and cutting-edge techniques that will reveal them, teaching us how the Universe grew up: from a collection of neutral atoms with no stars and galaxies at all to the structure-rich Universe we see today. Joining me on this special, bonus edition of the Starts With A Bang podcast (because don't we all need a bonus?) is extragalactic astronomer and PhD candidate Rebecca Larson from the University of Texas - Austin, in a rich conversation that takes us all the way back to the edge of the Universe as we can observe it.
Find out what lies at, and perhaps beyond, our current cosmic frontiers!
(Image credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Kang (STScI))
Starts With A Bang #59 - Active Galaxies
When we look out at the galaxies in the Universe, almost all of them have supermassive black holes at their centers: millions or even many billions of times more massive than our Sun is. Most of the time, these black holes are relatively quiet, but every so often, a black hole can be spotted emitting enormous amounts of radiation over a large range of the electromagnetic spectrum. These "active galaxies" come in many different flavors, from blazars to AGNs to quasars and many others, but they're very closely tied to both the age of the Universe and how rapidly a galaxy forms stars.
There's an awful lot that we've learned about these objects, and yet, still so many more mysteries to solve and uncover. This month, as the first of two podcasts, I'm so pleased to bring PhD candidate Alyssa Sokol, from the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, onto the program, as we enjoy a far-reaching conversation that takes us beyond the limits of what we know.
(Image credit: X-ray - NASA, CXC, R.Kraft (CfA), et al.; Radio - NSF, VLA, M.Hardcastle (U Hertfordshire) et al.; Optical - ESO, M.Rejkuba (ESO-Garching) et al.)
Starts With A Bang #58 - Gravitational Waves From Space
When it comes to gravitational waves, our terrestrial laser interferometers have provided us with unparalleled success in terms of direct detection. But they have some strong fundamental limits: their laser arms are short; their sensitivity is limited to low-mass, small-radius objects; the signals they detect last for mere seconds, at most. Most importantly, seismic noise, and even the fact that we live on a planet with tectonic plates, place restrictions on how sensitive we'll ever be able to get.
But in space, all of these stories change dramatically, and the upcoming European Space Agency mission LISA is aiming to open up our eyes to a realm of gravitational wave astronomy like we've never experienced before. On this edition of the Starts With A Bang podcast, we're joined by Dr. Ira Thorpe of NASA as we explore the future of gravitational wave astronomy in an entirely new realm: in space!
(Image credit: EADS ASTRIUM)
Customer ReviewsSee All
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.
You are grounding me and launching me. Thank you.
A great, very interesting podcast. Thanks.