The Urban Astronomer podcast is the audio version of the popular Urban Astronomer website, which has been sharing news and information about space science and astronomy since the year 2009. The website has undergone several facelifts, and changes in editorial style and focus over the years, but it's always stayed true to its principles of honest science presented simply, without oversimplifying.
While Urban Astronomer is not the largest or most popular astronomy website on the internet, we've managed to retain a small, loyal following who have stuck with us through both good times (Allen won a special commendation in a science journalism award ceremony), and bad (when output slowed to about one new posting per month, thanks to increased family and work pressure).
This podcast is the next chapter in the Urban Astornomer story, and features News, Science, Interviews, and the occasional rant on the role and perception of science and astronomy in the modern world.
We at Urban Astonomer expect to become one of South Africa's leading science and astronomy podcasts within the year. If we think we deserve that position, you can help us by simply listening the the episodes, and sharing them with your friends. And if we don't meet your standard, we're definitely open to criticism.
Thanks for listening!
Impossible exoplanets and Rhetoric
This is episode 62 of the Urban Astronomer Podcast, our first release of 2022. Happy New year!
In this episode, we're doing something a little different. Traditionally we alternate between interviews and Science Explainy Bits, but the second segment here is a bit more philosophical than usual, and ran a bit short, so I've added something a bit more topical - some astronomy news!
As covered previously on this website, the science media were very excited to report the discovery of an impossible exoplanet. I thought it was a bit silly to describe something as being "impossible" when you've literally just proved that it exists and is real, so I wrote a report - Giant exoplanet upsets theories on how planets form - to try and take a more balanced look at what's actually going on. I still had more to say, though, and you'll find it in the first half of the podcast.
Rhetoric and the scientific method
Scientists and skeptics alike are often a bit scornful about rhetoric. They don't trust what they see as clever arguments and manipulative words to persuade an audience. Why stoop to such methods when you have truth, facts, and evidence on your side? But I think that's unfair, and try to explain why rhetoric not only has a place, but should actually be used when communicating science.
Dr Julia Healy and the evolution of galaxies in dense environments
This episode features an interview with Dr Julia Healy, a post-doctoral fellow at Astron, working on the MHONGOOSE survey
How do we know what things in space are made from?
This is episode 60 of the Urban Astronomer podcast! Is that a milestone? Sure, but we'll save the party hats for episode 75. Today we'll just get on with the job at hand, and bring you a science explainy bit. Today's question: How can astronomers be so certain about what things in space are made from?
On Earth it's relatively easy to send geologists out to different places with their hammers, and have them collect samples from interesting rock formations and bring them back to the lab for analysis, but astronomers hardly ever get to do that with planets, comets, the Sun and distant galaxies. So how do they know, and how can they sound so confident? Listen below to find out!
Dr Imogen Whittam and the evolution of galaxies
This is the 5th episode of season 3 of the Urban Astronomer Podcast. Today we feature an interview we recorded earlier this year, before we went into pandemic lockdown, featuring Dr Imogen Whittam. Imogen studied for her PhD in the Cavendish Astrophysics group at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Dr Julia Riley. Her research used data from a range of telescopes to better understand the nature of faint, extragalactic radio sources.She then spent five years in Capr town, holding an SKA Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of the Western Cape. She is current back in the UK, with a Hintze Research Fellowship in the Astrophysics group in the Physics Department in Oxford.
North vs South
It's another Science Explainy Bit episode, and today we answer a question asked by another podcaster while interviewing us for their show. The host wanted to know how the view of southern skies compares to that of the northern hemisphere. I gave a quick answer before we moved on to another topic, but I would have liked to give a more detailed and complete answer. Which brings us to this episode, in which I describe how there really isn't a single sky for the North or the South. But the sky in the USA does still look different to what we have here in South Africa, and I explain why.
Interview with Carol Botha
In this episode we interview Carol Botha, an amateur astronomer from South Africa who remembers seeing Sputnik as a little girl in a small town, and who currently serves as a product ambassador for the Slooh network of robotic telescopes