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The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures Podcasts

Updated about 8 hours ago

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Public lectures by noted astronomers on new developments in our exploration of the universe. These lectures are recorded at Foothill College near San Francisco.

Read more

Public lectures by noted astronomers on new developments in our exploration of the universe. These lectures are recorded at Foothill College near San Francisco.

iTunes Ratings

54 Ratings
Average Ratings
46
7
0
0
1

Really good!

By rwpcola - Jan 01 2015
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Thanks for putting this out there for free

Great podcast

By Dominic Vaiana - May 13 2011
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Sound quality can be a bit of an issue bur otherwise it is fantastic!

iTunes Ratings

54 Ratings
Average Ratings
46
7
0
0
1

Really good!

By rwpcola - Jan 01 2015
Read more
Thanks for putting this out there for free

Great podcast

By Dominic Vaiana - May 13 2011
Read more
Sound quality can be a bit of an issue bur otherwise it is fantastic!

Listen to:

Cover image of The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures Podcasts

The Silicon Valley Astronomy Lectures Podcasts

Updated about 8 hours ago

Read more

Public lectures by noted astronomers on new developments in our exploration of the universe. These lectures are recorded at Foothill College near San Francisco.

How Things in the Universe Came About and How They Ended Up Within Us

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Dr. Tom Abel (Stanford University) takes us on an illustrated journey through the early stages of the universe, using the latest computer animations of how the first (massive) stars formed and died, and how stars built up the first galaxies. He also discusses how the early stars seeded the cosmos with the chemical elements necessary for life. Recorded April 6, 2016.

Jul 25 2016

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The Many Mysteries of Antimatter

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Antimatter is just like matter with all its properties reversed. Scientists think there may have been equal amount of matter and antimatter in the early universe, and yet today we have lots of matter and very little antimatter. How and when that imbalance developed is one of the great mysteries in understanding the underlying properties of the universe. Dr. Helen Quinn, Professor of Physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator and co-author of a popular book on antimatter, discusses the history of our understanding of antimatter and how we use the little bit of antimatter around today to study some of the highest energy processes among the stars and galaxies. (This talk is a bit more technical than our usual lectures, but well worth exploring if you are interested in some of the most exciting frontiers of physics.) Recorded March 10, 2010.

Apr 12 2010

1hr 17mins

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Multiple Universes and Cosmic Inflation: The Quest to Understand Our Universe (and Find Others)

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Our improving understanding of the cosmos points to an early epoch during which the universe expanded at a stupendous rate to create the vast amount of space we can observe. Cosmologist are now coming to believe that this "cosmic inflation" may do much more: in many versions, inflation goes on forever, generating not just our observable universe but also infinitely many such regions with similar or different properties, together forming a staggeringly complex and vast "multiverse". Dr. Anthony Aguirre (University of California at Santa Cruz) traces the genesis of this idea, explores some of its implications, and discusses how scientists are seeking ways to test this idea. Recorded May 18, 2011.

Jun 18 2011

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Einstein’s Blunder Undone: The Runaway Universe

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In the past 20 years, astronomers have shown that the universe is not only expanding, but speeding up. In this talk, Harvard University's Dr. Robert Kirshner, who was in many ways the "godfather" of these investigations, discusses the methods used to discover cosmic acceleration and presents the evidence that we live in a Universe that is only 4% matter like the atoms of the periodic table. Recorded November 11, 2015.

Jan 19 2016

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Black Holes: The End of Time or a New Beginning?

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While black holes are popularly associated with death and doom, astrophysicists increasingly see them as creators, not destroyers -- playing a major role in the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planets. Dr. Roger Blandford of the Kavli Institute at Stanford University (whose research interests include black holes, galaxies, and cosmology) summarizes why scientists now think that black holes of various sizes actually do exist, describes some of their strange properties, and explains their "environmental impact" on the universe at large. Recorded November 14, 2012

Dec 19 2012

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Hearts of Darkness: Black Holes in Space

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Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape! No longer confined to the imaginations of science-fiction writers and theoretical physicists, black holes have recently been discovered in large numbers by observational astronomers. Learn about the remarkable properties of these bizarre objects from Dr. Alex Filippenko (University of California, Berkeley), one of the finest explainers in the field of astronomy. Recorded May 19, 2010.

Aug 03 2010

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Finding a New Earth: Exoplanets and the Habitable Zone

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Over 1500 new planetary systems have now been discovered, many of which include planets quite different from those in our own Solar System. A key step towards finding “Earth 2.0” will be to identify rocky planets that occupy the “Habitable Zone” of their stars. Dr. Stephen Kane (San Francisco State University) describes what the idea of a Habitable Zone means and shows examples of planets that lie in their star’s Habitable Zone (even if the star is not like our Sun.) Recorded May 11, 2016.

Jul 25 2016

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The Dark Side of the Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

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In the last decade or so, astronomers have been forced to accept two mysterious observations. About a quarter of the universe is made of "dark matter," which attracts things with its gravity, but is otherwise invisible. And roughly two-thirds of the universe is composed of "dark energy," which causes space itself to expand at an ever-increasing rate. That means only a small fraction of the universe is made of ordinary matter -- the stuff we understand! In this non-technical presentation, Dr. Patricia Burchat of Stanford University explores the evidence for the dark side of the cosmos, and the experiments that are being developed to investigate it further. Recorded May 20, 2009.

Jun 30 2009

1hr 24mins

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The Dawn of Creation: The First Two Billion Years

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All the great islands of stars got their start in the first billion years after the beginning of time, the Big Bang. Every deep picture of the sky reveals thousands of these galaxies, each made up of billions of stars like the Sun. Modern instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope have made it possible to look back to a time when the universe looked very different that it does today. Dr. Stephen Beckwith of the University of California discusses some of the deepest images of the universe ever taken and shares recent discoveries about the early days of the cosmos. Recorded March 4, 2009.

Apr 01 2009

1hr 55mins

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100 Years of Einstein's Relativity (And How it Underlies Our Modern Understanding of the Universe)

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2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s completion of his General Theory of Relativity, the comprehensive theory of space, time, and gravity. Dr. Jeffrey Bennett (University of Colorado) explains the basic ideas of Einstein’s work (both the special and general theories) in everyday language and shows how Einstein’s remarkable ideas are being confirmed today by astronomical observations. He concludes with four reasons why relativity should matter to everyone. Recorded May 6, 2015.

Jul 07 2015

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Saturn's Moon Titan: A World with Rivers, Lakes, and Possibly Even Life

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Titan, Saturn's largest satellite, is the only moon with a thick atmosphere. In many ways, Titan is a cold twin of the Earth, with liquid methane playing the same role there as water plays on our planet. Life on Earth is based on liquid water; could there be life on Titan based on liquid methane? Dr. Chris McKay from the NASA Ames Research Center (co-investigator on the Huygens probe that landed on Titan) discuss the new picture we have of this alien world, with its lakes, its rivers, and its rocks made of water ice. Recorded March 9, 2011.

Mar 24 2011

Play

The Copernicus Complex: Are We Special in the Cosmos?

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Is humanity on Earth special or unexceptional? Extraordinary discoveries in astronomy and biology have revealed a universe filled with endlessly diverse planetary systems, and a picture of life as a phenomenon intimately linked with the most fundamental aspects of physics. But just where these discoveries will lead us is not yet clear. We may need to find a way to see past the mediocre status that Copernicus assigned to us 500 years ago. Dr. Caleb Scharf from Columbia University helps us to come to grips with the implications of some of the latest scientific research, from the microscopic to the cosmic. Recorded October 8, 2014.

Oct 30 2014

Play

Monster Black Holes: What Lurks at the Center of Galaxies?

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Black holes are among the most fascinating objects in the cosmos, in part because they can grow to monstrous size, swallowing the mass of millions or billions of suns. Dr. Chung-Pei Ma (University of California, Berkeley) describes recent discoveries of record-breaking black holes, each with a mass of ten billion times the mass of the Sun. New evidence shows that these objects could be the dormant remnants of powerful “quasars” that existed in the young universe. Recorded May 24, 2014

Jun 25 2014

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How the Universe Went from Smooth to Lumpy: The Modern Origins Story

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Dr. Eliot Quataert of the University of California, Berkeley, provides an overview of the modern understanding of our origins in astrophysics. The story begins in the infant universe, which we now know was remarkably smooth compared to what we see around us today, with only tiny differences in its properties from one part to another. By contrast, in the present universe there are enormous differences in the properties of matter in different locations. Dr. Quataert describes how the universe has evolved to its current state, emphasizing how gravity reigns supreme and builds up the planets, stars, and galaxies required for biological evolution to proceed. Recorded October 2, 2013

Oct 29 2013

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The Ultimate Fate of the Solar System (and the Music of the Spheres)

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The long-term fate of the planets in our Solar System has intrigued astronomers and mathematicians for over 300 years. Although the planetary orbits are often held up as a model of clockwork regularity, the Solar System is in truth an extremely complex and chaotic system. Dr. Gregory Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz explains how recent advances in computing technology have finally given us a solution to the problem. He also shows how the delicate gravitational interplay between the planets can be interpreted as a true "music of the spheres", and auditions the unsettling compositions that can result in the event that the planetary orbits go haywire in the extremely distant future. Recorded October 20, 2010.

Nov 23 2010

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How Galaxies were Cooked from the Primordial Soup

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The lumpiness of today's universe of galaxies is a fundamental characteristic that took billions of years to grow. Dr. Sandra Faber of the University of California, Santa Cruz and University of California Observatories reviews the prevailing "Cold Dark Matter" theory for galaxy formation (which she helped create) and compares its predictions to present-day observations. It's a remarkable saga involving invisible dark energy and matter, the properties of the Universe an instant after it was born, and the creation of structure from quantum fluctuations. (Just a few days before giving this talk, Dr. Faber received the 2013 National Medal of Science from President Obama, and she shares an anecdote from that ceremony.) Recorded February 6, 2013

Feb 26 2013

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Our Explosive Sun: New Views of the Nearest Star and the Largest Explosions in the Solar System

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Recent satellite missions are giving scientists dramatic new views of the Sun and the huge magnetic explosions in its outer layers that cause flares and the ejections of huge masses of superheated gas. Dr. Thomas Berger of the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Lab takes us on a beautiful tour through our Sun's atmosphere with images and movies from these missions. Recorded April 20, 2011.

May 13 2011

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Report from the Planetary Frontier: The Latest from New Horizons at Pluto

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On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew 7,800 mi above the surface of Pluto and sent back fascinating images of the dwarf planet and its large (and intriguing) moon Charon. Many of the images show unexpected beauty and complexity on Pluto’s surface. Dr. Jeff Moore from NASA Ames Research Center shows the latest photos and fills us in on the current thinking among the New Horizons team members about Pluto, its moons, and the unexplored frontier that lies beyond. Recorded March 2, 2016.

Jun 24 2016

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Innumerable Globes Like This One: The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System

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Our Galaxy probably hosts billions of planetary systems. But how many of those planets are like the Earth and how can we determine whether life has taken hold there, too? In this talk, Dr. Tori Hoehler from NASA Ames Research Center discusses the science of searching for life beyond our immediate neighborhood, and how we will seek evidence of inhabited worlds in the future. Recorded February 3, 2016.

Jun 24 2016

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The Search for Intelligent Life Among the Stars: New Strategies

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A half-century ago, astronomers began trying to "eavesdrop" for radio messages from nearby star systems. However, today, SETI researchers continue to point their telescopes at individual stars, on the assumption that technically advanced societies will inhabit a watery world like our own. Dr. Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute describes these searches, but then discusses some novel ideas for how we might pursue the hunt for "cosmic company" and why it's possible that we might find evidence of sophisticated intelligence out there within only a few decades. Seth Shostak is Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, in Mountain View, California and hosts the syndicated radio show called "Are We Alone?" Recorded January 20, 2010.

Mar 10 2010

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Will the 21st Century be the Time We Discover Life Beyond Earth?

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In 2004, Craig Venter & Daniel Cohen suggested that if the 20th Century was the century of physics, the 21st Century will be the century of biology on our planet. Jill Tarter believes that their idea will be extended beyond the surface of our world and that we may soon have the first opportunity to study biology that developed on other worlds. She talks about her vision of the future of understanding life on Earth and beyond our planet. And she discusses projects that are underway and are planned to learn more about the possibility of intelligent life among the stars. Recorded October 11, 2017.

Oct 11 2017

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The ‘All-American’ Eclipse of the Sun this August

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On August 21, 2017, there will be a rare eclipse of the Sun visible throughout the U.S. and North America. People in a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina will see a spectacular total eclipse, while everyone else will see a nice partial eclipse. Andrew Fraknoi, Foothill College, describes how eclipses work, why they are one of nature’s most spectacular sights, and exactly when and where the eclipse of 2017 will be best visible. He also provides practical tips for how to observe the eclipse and the Sun safely and what experts are worried about for this first U.S. eclipse of the Internet Age. Recorded May 24, 2017.

Jun 28 2017

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The Monster Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

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By measuring the rapid orbits of the stars near the center of our galaxy, Dr. Andrea Ghez, UCLA, and her colleagues have moved the case for a supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way from a possibility to a certainty. She reports on her pioneering observations and discusses some of the surprising results this work has led to. Recorded January 25, 2017.

Mar 20 2017

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Space-time Symphony: Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes

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Gravitational waves are predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. They travel at the speed of light, but are much harder to detect than light waves. On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) received the first direct gravitational wave signals. The event that produced them was the merger of two distant and massive black holes that were in mutual orbit. Prof. Lynn Cominsky, Sonoma State University, presents an introduction to LIGO, to gravitational waves and how they were detected, and to the kinds of black holes that “make waves.” Recorded November 2, 2016.

Mar 20 2017

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The Science and Non-science of Star Wars

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In this wide-ranging, humorous talk, Seth Shostak, SETI Institute, takes a look at Star Wars and other science fiction films from the point of view of a skeptical scientist, tells stories about the movies he has been asked to advise, and muses about aliens from space and how we might make contact with them. Recorded October 12, 2017.

Mar 20 2017

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Is Anyone Out There: The $100 Million Breakthrough: Listen Project

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What is the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe and how might we detect signals from alien civilizations? Dr. Werthimer describes current and future projects searching for such signals, including the new $100-million Breakthrough Prize Foundation Listen project. He shows how new technologies are revolutionizing the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI). He also discusses the SETI@home project, which analyzes data from the world's largest radio telescope using desktop computers and cell phones from millions of volunteers. Recorded March 15, 2017.

Mar 15 2017

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Beyond: Our Future in Space

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DESCRIPTION: Decades after we last set foot on the Moon, and several years after the Space Shuttle was retired, space activity is finally leaving the doldrums. Permanent bases on the Moon and Mars are now within reach, and a new Space Race is brewing, with Asian countries ascendant. Dr. Impey reviews the history and landmarks of the international space program, gives a snapshot of the current situation, and plots the trajectory of the future of space travel. Recorded Feb. 15, 2017.

Feb 15 2017

Play

Finding a New Earth: Exoplanets and the Habitable Zone

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Over 1500 new planetary systems have now been discovered, many of which include planets quite different from those in our own Solar System. A key step towards finding “Earth 2.0” will be to identify rocky planets that occupy the “Habitable Zone” of their stars. Dr. Stephen Kane (San Francisco State University) describes what the idea of a Habitable Zone means and shows examples of planets that lie in their star’s Habitable Zone (even if the star is not like our Sun.) Recorded May 11, 2016.

Jul 25 2016

Play

How Things in the Universe Came About and How They Ended Up Within Us

Podcast cover
Read more
Dr. Tom Abel (Stanford University) takes us on an illustrated journey through the early stages of the universe, using the latest computer animations of how the first (massive) stars formed and died, and how stars built up the first galaxies. He also discusses how the early stars seeded the cosmos with the chemical elements necessary for life. Recorded April 6, 2016.

Jul 25 2016

Play

Innumerable Globes Like This One: The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System

Podcast cover
Read more
Our Galaxy probably hosts billions of planetary systems. But how many of those planets are like the Earth and how can we determine whether life has taken hold there, too? In this talk, Dr. Tori Hoehler from NASA Ames Research Center discusses the science of searching for life beyond our immediate neighborhood, and how we will seek evidence of inhabited worlds in the future. Recorded February 3, 2016.

Jun 24 2016

Play

Report from the Planetary Frontier: The Latest from New Horizons at Pluto

Podcast cover
Read more
On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew 7,800 mi above the surface of Pluto and sent back fascinating images of the dwarf planet and its large (and intriguing) moon Charon. Many of the images show unexpected beauty and complexity on Pluto’s surface. Dr. Jeff Moore from NASA Ames Research Center shows the latest photos and fills us in on the current thinking among the New Horizons team members about Pluto, its moons, and the unexplored frontier that lies beyond. Recorded March 2, 2016.

Jun 24 2016

Play

Einstein’s Blunder Undone: The Runaway Universe

Podcast cover
Read more
In the past 20 years, astronomers have shown that the universe is not only expanding, but speeding up. In this talk, Harvard University's Dr. Robert Kirshner, who was in many ways the "godfather" of these investigations, discusses the methods used to discover cosmic acceleration and presents the evidence that we live in a Universe that is only 4% matter like the atoms of the periodic table. Recorded November 11, 2015.

Jan 19 2016

Play

In the Land of Enchantment: The Epic Story of the Cassini Mission to Saturn

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Since 2004, Cassini has been exploring the giant planet Saturn, its magnificent ring system, and its intriguing moons. Dr. Carolyn Porco shows us many of the magnificent mission images and explains the findings from both the main orbiter and the probe that landed on Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon. She also discusses the geysers on the moon Enceladus and what we have learned about the plumes that erupt. Recorded October 7, 2015.

Jan 11 2016

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The Sentinel Mission: Finding the Asteroid Headed for Earth

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Asteroids, which hit our planet at least twice each year, are the only natural disaster for which we have a technological solution. We are all living with the threat of a 3-minute experience that could transform our lives and our planet forever. Scientists have found 10,000 Near-Earth Objects, yet there are an estimated one million in our inner solar system, and the vast majority of the threatening ones are still undiscovered. In this non-technical talk, Dr. Ed Lu (Former NASA Astronaut; CEO of the Sentinel Mission) describe the threat, and discusses the Sentinel Mission, an orbiting telescope to detect and track asteroids that cross Earth’s orbit. Recorded March 4, 2015.

Jul 07 2015

Play

100 Years of Einstein's Relativity (And How it Underlies Our Modern Understanding of the Universe)

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2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s completion of his General Theory of Relativity, the comprehensive theory of space, time, and gravity. Dr. Jeffrey Bennett (University of Colorado) explains the basic ideas of Einstein’s work (both the special and general theories) in everyday language and shows how Einstein’s remarkable ideas are being confirmed today by astronomical observations. He concludes with four reasons why relativity should matter to everyone. Recorded May 6, 2015.

Jul 07 2015

Play

Now Appearing at a Dwarf Planet Near You: NASA's Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

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Dr. Marc Rayman (Jet Propulsion Labs), the Mission Director for the Dawn exploration of Vesta and Ceres, explains the unusual mission (the first to orbit two different bodies in the solar system), what it found at Vesta, and what it is going to do as it gets to Ceres, the largest asteroid and the first dwarf planet discovered. He also gives a behind-the-scenes tour of the Dawn launch and the ion propulsion that allows it to visit multiple targets. Recorded April 8, 2015.

May 27 2015

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Pluto on the Horizon: Anticipating our First Encounter with the Double Planet

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The more we learn about Pluto, the more interesting it becomes. In the last decade, four tiny moons have been discovered orbiting the central “binary planet,” which consists of Pluto and its large moon Charon. Pluto itself has a thin atmosphere and shows signs of seasonal changes. On July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past Pluto and provide our first close-up look at these distant worlds. Dr. Mark Showalter (SETI Institute), a co-investigator on the mission, describes how he discovered two of the moons of Pluto, explains what we currently know about the Pluto system, and sets the scene for the exploration that is in store. Recorded January 28, 2015.

Mar 05 2015

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Images of the Infant Universe: The Latest Results from the Planck Satellite

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Professor Lloyd Knox (University of California, Davis) leads the U.S. team determining the basic characteristics of the cosmos from the data recently acquired by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite. He shows the detailed images of the sky obtained by Planck, pictures made from light that has been traveling our way for nearly 14 billion years, since the universe was only a few hundred thousand years old. He further explains how such images provide us with our best means of studying events mere fractions of a second after the Big Bang. Recorded November 12, 2014.

Dec 09 2014

Play

The Copernicus Complex: Are We Special in the Cosmos?

Podcast cover
Read more
Is humanity on Earth special or unexceptional? Extraordinary discoveries in astronomy and biology have revealed a universe filled with endlessly diverse planetary systems, and a picture of life as a phenomenon intimately linked with the most fundamental aspects of physics. But just where these discoveries will lead us is not yet clear. We may need to find a way to see past the mediocre status that Copernicus assigned to us 500 years ago. Dr. Caleb Scharf from Columbia University helps us to come to grips with the implications of some of the latest scientific research, from the microscopic to the cosmic. Recorded October 8, 2014.

Oct 30 2014

Play

Monster Black Holes: What Lurks at the Center of Galaxies?

Podcast cover
Read more
Black holes are among the most fascinating objects in the cosmos, in part because they can grow to monstrous size, swallowing the mass of millions or billions of suns. Dr. Chung-Pei Ma (University of California, Berkeley) describes recent discoveries of record-breaking black holes, each with a mass of ten billion times the mass of the Sun. New evidence shows that these objects could be the dormant remnants of powerful “quasars” that existed in the young universe. Recorded May 24, 2014

Jun 25 2014

Play