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!
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
What's the deal with Leap Years?
Today's episode is the first Science Explainy Bit of the season, and it's another basic, classic topic: Leap Years. As a reminder, I love looking at the questions that seem simple because we think of them as the sorts of things that children ask their parents, but the thing about these questions is that they never are simple. These are things that took humanity centuries or longer to figure out, and that most of us still don't really understand because we first asked these questions as kids ourselves, and got the sort of answer which people give small kids, and nobody ever asked again! Last season we talked about about the tides and what happens if you shoot a gun in space, and why it is that we sometimes see the Moon during the day when we all expect to see it at night. And today, we talk about how leap years, how they relate to Easter and politics, and why they even exist.
A few weeks back, we were featured as guests on Podcast Insider, the official podcast of the Blubrry podcasting platform. Although this show doesn't live on their hosting platform, we do use their software to make it all work on our own servers, and it was a bit of an honour to be invited onto their show. Give it a listen here.
Interview with Dr Tony Lelliott on Astronomy education
At long last, the third season of the Urban Astronomer Podcast has kicked off! We thought the last season went so well that we've decided to keep things much as they are, with perhaps the occasional news segment added in whenever something interesting has happened. So for the most part, that means twelve episodes, alternating between interviews with people who have some sort of a connection to South African astronomy, and science explainy bits where I answer the questions that listeners like you have emailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
But this episode is all about the Interview with Dr Lelliott. Tony is an Honorary Assoc. Professor at Wits University. He has spent much of his career researching science communication, and has a special interest in astronomy, and human evolution. You can follow him on twitter at @drtoeknee