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Rank #38 in Natural Sciences category

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Natural Sciences

StarDate Podcast

Updated 25 days ago

Rank #38 in Natural Sciences category

Science
Natural Sciences
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StarDate, the longest-running national radio science feature in the U.S., tells listeners what to look for in the night sky.

Read more

StarDate, the longest-running national radio science feature in the U.S., tells listeners what to look for in the night sky.

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112 Ratings
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4

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By tgsmith0 - May 08 2020
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Billy and gang: The show views outward from our "rock" are very educational. Thanks! The shows views and thoughts on our management of our "rock," earth are solid. Thank you and please proceed! Cheers, Tim G. Smith

I grew up on this show

By skipjack_margot - Nov 03 2019
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Sandy Wood made my life on this earth just a little bit better!

iTunes Ratings

112 Ratings
Average Ratings
95
7
4
2
4

Views

By tgsmith0 - May 08 2020
Read more
Billy and gang: The show views outward from our "rock" are very educational. Thanks! The shows views and thoughts on our management of our "rock," earth are solid. Thank you and please proceed! Cheers, Tim G. Smith

I grew up on this show

By skipjack_margot - Nov 03 2019
Read more
Sandy Wood made my life on this earth just a little bit better!
Cover image of StarDate Podcast

StarDate Podcast

Latest release on Oct 20, 2020

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StarDate, the longest-running national radio science feature in the U.S., tells listeners what to look for in the night sky.

Orionid Meteors

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Halley’s Comet won’t return to the inner solar system for another four decades. But it makes its presence known tonight with a meteor shower. The shower isn’t named for the comet, though. Instead, it’s named for the region of sky in which its meteors appear to “rain” into the atmosphere — the constellation Orion.

A meteor shower takes place when Earth flies through the orbital path of a comet, which is a big ball of frozen water and gases mixed with bits of rock and dirt. As the comet gets close to the Sun, some of the ices vaporize, releasing some of the solid particles. Over time, these bits of dust spread out along the comet’s path.

Halley has made many trips around the Sun, so it’s shed a lot of debris. The comet dust has spread out all along its orbit. Earth flies through this path every October. As the particles hit the atmosphere they vaporize, forming the incandescent streaks known as meteors.

The Orionids are pretty reliable, although not usually spectacular. At their peak, they produce a couple of dozen meteors per hour.

This year’s shower will be at its best tonight, although a few Orionids punctuate the sky for several nights after the peak. The Moon is a crescent in the early evening sky tonight, so it sets well before the shower starts to speckle the night — providing dark skies for the “calling cards” of Halley’s Comet.

Tomorrow: the Moon and some bright companions in the evening sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 20 2020

2mins

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Ready for Touchdown

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Osiris-Rex should be just about ready to touch down. The robotic craft will make contact with the asteroid Bennu as early as tomorrow. It’ll gather a small amount of dust and pebbles for return to Earth.

The probe is scheduled to deploy a sample collector at the end of its robotic arm, then inch toward the surface. It will compare real-time images of the surface to a map of its landing site to make sure it’s on target.

When the arm makes contact, it’ll fire a burst of gas to kick a few particles into the collector. After just five seconds, Osiris-Rex will back away to evaluate its catch. If the attempt worked, it’ll return to orbit. If not, it’ll try again. It can try three times.

Once the sample has been verified, it’ll be placed in a capsule for return to Earth in three years.

Osiris-Rex arrived at Bennu in December 2018. It’s compiled a thorough dossier on the asteroid, which is about a third of a mile wide.

The notes include details on how Bennu’s orbit changes as the asteroid absorbs solar energy on its dayside and radiates it back into space on the nightside. Those observations are important because Bennu comes close to Earth about every six years. It has a 1-in-2700 chance of hitting Earth in the 22nd century. And it’s large enough to cause major damage. Better models of the orbit will help scientists refine the odds — and perhaps leave enough time to fend off a possible cosmic collision.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 19 2020

2mins

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Getting Close

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Osiris-Rex is ready to kick up some dust. It’s been flying along with an asteroid for almost two years. And next week, if all goes according to plan, it’ll execute a quick touch-and-go. It should snag at least two ounces of pebbles and dust grains, then stow them for return to Earth.

Bennu is classified as a “primitive” asteroid. That means it hasn’t changed much since it formed about four-and-a-half billion years ago. So samples of the asteroid should reveal details about conditions in the early solar system, when Earth and the other planets were born. And they may contain organic molecules like those that led to the creation of life on Earth.

Osiris-Rex will touch down inside a crater near Bennu’s north pole. Its target landing site, called Nightingale, is only a few dozen feet wide. The site appears to offer a good supply of small particles for capture. The particles look like they’ve been excavated from below the surface by a recent collision with another space rock. That would provide samples untouched by cosmic rays or the solar wind, which can alter their chemistry.

Osiris-Rex arrived at Bennu — named for an Egyptian god of rebirth — in December of 2018. It’s compiled maps of surface features, the asteroid’s composition, and more. It’s scheduled to remain close to Bennu until spring, then head for home. The samples will parachute to Earth in September of 2023.

We’ll have more about Osiris-Rex tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 18 2020

2mins

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Separated at Birth

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A Japanese spacecraft is on its way to Earth with samples of an asteroid called Ryugu. And an American craft is scheduled to gather samples of the asteroid Bennu in a few days. When scientists examine the samples, they won’t be surprised if they find that the asteroids were separated at birth.

The asteroids look alike. Both of them are shaped like spinning tops, with a ridge around the equator. Ryugu is twice the size of Bennu — about two-thirds of a mile in diameter. But Bennu appears to contain more water-bearing minerals.

A study released a few months ago said the two asteroids could have been born when a larger asteroid was hit by another space rock. The impact blasted debris into space. Some of the debris coalesced to form smaller bodies — including Ryugu and Bennu.

The difference in water suggests they formed from different parts of the parent asteroid. Bennu might have come from material near the surface, for example, with Ryugu coming from deeper inside. On the other hand, Ryugu might have formed from debris close to the impact site, with Bennu from debris on the opposite side of the parent.

Scientists will know more about the heritage of the two asteroids when the samples are brought to Earth. The Japanese craft is scheduled to return home in early December. And the American craft, Osiris-Rex, will gather samples from Bennu as soon as next week, and bring them to Earth in late 2023.

More about Osiris-Rex tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 17 2020

2mins

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Mars at Opposition IV

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You can find Mars in many places.

In the night sky right now, it’s in the east as night falls and arcs high across the south later on. It shines like a brilliant orange star all night long.

But you can also find Mars here on Earth — or at least some reasonable facsimiles, known as analogs. Scientists have found Mars-like conditions in the Arctic and Antarctic, in the mountains of Chile and Hawaii, in a riverbed in Spain, on the glaciers of Iceland, and in several other locations.

Mars is extremely cold and dry. You can’t get all of those conditions on any one spot on Earth. But you can get some of them at different spots.

The closest Mars analog is Antarctica. It’s as cold as much of Mars, and its interior is one of the driest deserts on Earth. Psychologists have studied how people who spend the winter in bases there react to living in a Mars-like environment.

Other Mars analogs have been used to check out robotic rovers and their instruments. And still others are used to evaluate spacesuits, habitats, and other gear for human explorers.

One Mars-analog expedition has been scheduled for this week — COVID-19 permitting. Known as AMADEE, it’ll take place in a crater in the desert of Israel. It’s sponsored by the Austrian Space Forum, which has organized a dozen Mars campaigns. “Astronauts” in spacesuits will conduct experiments like those real astronauts might do on Mars itself — working on Mars without leaving Earth.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 16 2020

2mins

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Mars at Opposition III

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“Polar vortex” is a phrase that’s entered the American lexicon in recent years. It’s a swirling low-pressure system centered on the winter pole. If it becomes unstable, it can sweep outward, bringing bitter misery — something that’s happened a few times here in the northern hemisphere.

Earth isn’t the only planet in the solar system with a polar vortex. Venus has double vortexes at its poles. The vortex around the north pole of Saturn forms a hexagon. And the vortex at the north pole of Jupiter is surrounded by a half-dozen other cyclones, so the whole array looks like a pan of cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven.

The poles of Mars are encircled by vortexes as well. They’re elliptical — like squashed circles. The transition zone around them is turbulent, and plays a role in circulating dust around the planet. But the vortexes themselves seem to be pretty stable.

Studies suggest the vortexes form when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere freezes on or around the pole where it’s winter. The process pumps energy into the atmosphere, which powers the vortex. And it happens so quickly that the vortex is stable — it doesn’t have time to wobble around. That keeps the coldest air locked near the poles.

And Mars is shining at its best this month. It’s low in the east at nightfall, and looks like a bright orange star. It arcs across the south during the night, and is low in the west at first light.

We’ll have more about Mars tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 15 2020

2mins

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Visiting Venus

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Venus will receive a visitor tonight — a spacecraft on its way to Mercury. And a lot of folks here on Earth will be looking on.

BepiColombo was launched two years ago. Its mission is to orbit Mercury. But getting there isn’t easy. The craft needs to slow down and sculpt its path around the Sun to intersect Mercury at the right speed and time. So it will fly past Venus twice and Mercury six times, honing its orbit with each pass.

The first Venus encounter comes tonight. BepiColombo will swing just 6600 miles from the planet. And it’ll use most of its instruments to observe it. Among other things, it will measure Venus’s magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind.

The craft also will peer into the middle layers of Venus’s blanket of clouds — something that no craft has done in decades. Something in that layer absorbs certain wavelengths of light. And some scientists have speculated that it could be microscopic life.

Another craft is orbiting Venus, so the two missions will coordinate their observations. Several observatories on Earth will be studying the planet as well. And so will quite a few amateur observers, whose work can provide a more complete picture of Venus during the encounter — a quick visit en route to another planet.

Venus is the “morning star,” so you don’t need a telescope to see it. By the time Venus rises tomorrow, BepiColombo will have left it behind — until the next encounter, in August.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 14 2020

2mins

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Mars at Opposition II

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If you follow Mars across the night sky, you’ll see some odd goings-on. For one thing, it gets brighter and fainter over a period of 26 months. For another, over the same period it stops its normal motion against the sky, moves in reverse for a while, then stops and resumes its usual course. For centuries, that drove scientists loopy.

Until the mid-1500s, most thought Earth was the center of the universe. In 1543, though, Nicolaus Copernicus showed that Earth and the “planets” all orbit the Sun. That explains most of Mars’s behavior. As Earth and Mars follow their own paths around the Sun, our viewing angle changes, so Mars appears to switch directions.

Yet Copernicus assumed the orbits of the planets were perfect circles — an idea that math couldn’t confirm.

The final answer was provided by Johannes Kepler. He pored over decades of observations of Mars. After eight years of effort, he figured it out: Mars and the other planets follow elliptical orbits — like circles that have been stretched out. When it’s close to the Sun, a planet moves faster than when it’s far from the Sun. Kepler’s laws of planetary motion revealed what was happening with Mars — and all the other planets, too.

And Mars is shining at its best this week because it lines up opposite the Sun. It’s in view all night, and shines at its brightest. It’s low in the east at nightfall, and looks like a brilliant orange star.

More about Mars on Thursday.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 13 2020

2mins

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Mars at Opposition

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The night sky offers some especially beautiful sights this week. Mars is shining at its best for the entire year. And over the next couple of mornings, the crescent Moon slips past the star Regulus and the planet Venus.

Venus is the brilliant “morning star.” It’ll stand below the Moon at first light tomorrow. At the same time, Regulus — the heart of the lion — will be roughly the same distance to the upper right of the Moon.

By Wednesday morning, the Moon will have dropped past Venus. The Moon will be an even thinner crescent then. So if you look before dawn, you’ll see a brighter glow on the dark portion of the Moon, illuminated by “earthshine” — sunlight reflected from our own Earth.

Mars is in view all night. It’s at a point called opposition. That means it lines up opposite the Sun in our sky. It rises around sunset and remains in the sky all night. And it shines at its brightest — like a brilliant orange star. In fact, this month it outshines everything else in the night except the Moon and Venus.

This is an especially good opposition for Mars. The planet’s distance from the Sun varies by quite a bit. Right now, Mars is fairly close to the Sun. So as Earth moves past Mars in our smaller, faster orbit, the Red Planet is fairly close to us as well — less than 40 million miles. That’s just about as close as it ever gets, so it shines especially bright — all night long.

More about Mars tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 12 2020

2mins

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More Aquarius

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Most of the stars that look like the Sun are like the Sun. In other words, stars that shine with the same yellowish color as the Sun are about the same size and mass as our home star. But a few oddballs are much bigger and heavier than the Sun, and much later in life. And two of them stand close together in the night sky. They’re the brightest stars of Aquarius, which is low in the southeast as night falls.

As seen from Earth, Alpha and Beta Aquarii aren’t all that impressive. But that’s only because the stars are more than 500 light-years away. In reality, they’re some of the brightest stars in our part of the galaxy.

Both stars are yellow supergiants. Estimates of their mass say that both stars are about five times as heavy as the Sun. And if you dropped either star in the Sun’s place, it would extend roughly to the orbit of Mercury.

The stars are only about 50 million years old — about one percent of the Sun’s age. Yet because they’re so heavy, they’re already nearing the ends of their lives. They’ve burned through the original hydrogen fuel in their cores. Now they’ve started to burn the “ashes” of those reactions. That causes their outer layers to puff up to huge proportions.

Before long — astronomically speaking — Alpha and Beta Aquarii are likely to expel those outer layers into space. That probably will leave only their hot but dead cores — a pair of white dwarfs shining feebly through the long cosmic night.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 11 2020

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Aquarius

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Aquarius drifts across the southern sky on autumn nights. Tonight, it’s in the southeast as the sky gets good and dark, and due south a couple of hours later.

The constellation is known as the water-bearer. It represents a man or boy pouring water from a vase or cup.

Aquarius is one of several constellations in that region of the sky associated with water. Long ago, those constellations made key appearances during the rainy season in the Mediterranean, where the constellations were first drawn. In Egypt, for example, Aquarius heralded the annual flooding of the Nile River — an event that assured a good harvest.

It’s hard to see a water-bearer in the stars of Aquarius. In fact, it’s hard to see any pattern at all — its stars are faint and scattered.

One of its treasures is visible through good binoculars or a telescope: the Helix Nebula. It’s the final gasp of a dying star. As the star used up the nuclear fuel in its core, it blew its outer layers into space. Today, those layers span about six light-years. They’re zapped by intense radiation from the dying core, causing the nebula to glow.

The Helix is actually shaped like a barrel, and we’re looking down the center. The barrel is tilted a bit, so we see its top as one ring, and its bottom as another, shifted slightly to the side. Bright colors and intricate detail show up in images of the nebula — one of the highlights of the water-bearer.

More about Aquarius tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 10 2020

2mins

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Monster Black Hole

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The black holes at the hearts of galaxies are described as “supermassive.” The one in the middle of the Milky Way, for example, is about four million times the mass of the Sun.

Yet “supermassive” doesn’t feel even close to adequate for describing one of the biggest black holes yet discovered. It’s roughly 34 billion times the mass of the Sun — heavier than many entire galaxies. At that mass, it would be about 20 times wider than the orbit of Neptune, the most remote major planet in the solar system.

The black hole sits at the center of a galaxy called SMSS J2157. It’s along the border between the constellations Grus and Piscis Austrinus — a point that scoots low across the south on October evenings.

The black hole is “eating” the equivalent of one Sun every day — more than any other black hole yet discovered. That surrounds the black hole with a disk of hot gas. The disk glows thousands of times brighter than the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Such bright, compact objects are known as quasars.

J2157 is so far away that we see it as it looked when the universe was less than one-tenth its current age. And that’s a problem. Current models can’t really explain how a black hole could get that big in that short a time.

So J2157 is an unexplained super-bright quasar powered by a super-supermassive black hole — a super-interesting monster near the edge of the observable universe.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 09 2020

2mins

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Frank Herbert

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From the far-southern United States, the two brightest stars in the night sky stairstep up the south at dawn. The brighter one is Sirius, which is visible from the entire country. The other is Canopus, which is just above the horizon.

Canopus was host to the planet Arrakis in the novel Dune. Its author was born 100 years ago today, in Tacoma, Washington.

Frank Herbert was interested in books from an early age, and in science fiction. And he was a free thinker. He didn’t graduate from college, for example, because he didn’t want to take the required classes to complete a major.

Herbert spent three decades as a journalist. He published his first science-fiction work in 1952. He didn’t make much money, though, so his wife wrote ads for department stores to support them.

Dune was first published in a magazine in the early 1960s. Herbert then rewrote it and shopped it to book publishers. About 20 rejected it before it was picked up by a company that mainly sold auto-repair manuals.

Dune told the story of galactic intrigue. It centered on Arrakis, a desert planet that contained the most valuable commodity in the galaxy: a spice that made interstellar navigation possible. The novel was one of the first to promote the idea of protecting the environment.

Dune became one of the best-selling sci-fi novels in history. Roughly 20 million copies have been sold — all set on a world around the second-brightest star in the night sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 08 2020

2mins

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Cosmic Weapons

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The Draconid meteor shower should be at its best late tonight. Bits of comet dust will burn up as they slam into the atmosphere, forming the streaks of light known as meteors. Unfortunately, though, the Moon will be in the way at the shower’s peak, so only a few meteors will shine through.

The shower gets its name from Draco, the dragon. All its meteors appear to “rain” into the sky from that direction.

Meteors sometimes survive their plunge through the atmosphere. On the ground, they become known as meteorites. Some of them are made of iron and nickel. For many cultures, these were a precious resource. And if the meteorite was actually seen to fall from the sky, then it held mystical qualities as well.

Some meteorites were made into knives, axes, and swords — perfect for killing dragons.

Egypt’s King Tutankhamen, for example, was buried with an iron knife made from a meteorite. And in ancient Rome, a meteorite was flattened to make a shield.

In 1621, a ruler in India had two swords and a dagger made from a meteorite. And in 1898, five swords were made from a single large meteorite found just a few years earlier. One of them was presented to the crown prince, Yoshihito, who later became emperor.

And in 1814, a British meteorite expert had a sword made for Alexander the First of Russia. It was intended to honor the emperor for his role in ending a war with France — giving him a truly cosmic reward.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 07 2020

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Moon and Aldebaran

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It’s been 44 years since any new samples of the Moon were brought to Earth. But a new delivery could arrive in a few months. A Chinese mission scheduled for launch by the end of the year could scoop up several pounds of rock and dirt.

It’ll be China’s fifth lunar mission. The second was just settling into lunar orbit 10 years ago today.

Chang’e-2 compiled one of the best maps of the Moon to date. It also scouted possible landing sites for the next mission.

After that, Chang’e-2 left lunar orbit. It orbited a point in space where the gravitational pull of Earth, Moon, and Sun are balanced. Then it headed out again, to tag along with an asteroid that passes close to Earth.

A lander and a rover followed Chang’e-2. And Chang’e-5 will continue that progression by bringing samples to Earth.

It will land atop a large mound on the edge of the Ocean of Storms, one of the dark markings on the lunar surface. The mound includes several volcanic cones. So the samples could include rocks that same from deep inside the Moon.

Chang’e-5 will scoop up dirt and rocks at the surface, and drill for more rocks from several feet below the surface. It’ll store the samples in a small rocket, which will link up with an orbiter for the trip home.

Look for the Moon climbing into good view by 10:30 or 11 tonight. Aldebaran, the bright eye of the bull, will rise to the right of the Moon, and perch below the Moon at first light.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 06 2020

2mins

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Close Mars

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This month is all about Mars. The Red Planet lives up to its nickname, shining orange or red all month long. And it’s the third-brightest object in the night sky this month, after only the Moon and the planet Venus.

Mars looks so bright because Earth is passing by the planet. So Mars will spend October at or near opposition, when it lines up more or less opposite the Sun. That means it’s in view pretty much all night. And it’s closest to Earth not only for this year, but for many years to come.

Mars will be at its absolute closest tomorrow morning on American clocks — about 38.6 million miles away. We won’t be this close to Mars again until September of 2035.

Mars reaches opposition every 26 months or so, when Earth moves past the planet on our smaller, faster orbit around the Sun. Mars’s orbit is quite lopsided, though. So its distance at opposition varies by tens of millions of miles, depending on what time of year it takes place.

The best oppositions come in late summer. The opposition in August 2003, in fact, was the closest in almost 60,000 years.

This year’s is quite good as well — only about four million miles farther than the one in 2003. So Mars will be a brilliant red jewel sparkling all month long.

Tonight, look for the Red Planet in the east shortly after the sky gets good and dark, shining like a brilliant star — and remaining in view for the rest of the night.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 05 2020

2mins

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Draco

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Draco is a pretty well-known constellation. Or at least its name is. Just about anything that’s called “the dragon” is going to attract people’s attention.

But the star pattern itself is tough to follow. It’s a meandering trail of stars that curls around the Little Dipper. But most of the stars are faint, so you need dark skies to see them. From light-polluted cities, Draco is more of a stealth dragon — hard to see in the skies above.

In Greek mythology, the dragon protected a magical apple tree planted by Hera, the wife of Zeus, the king of the gods. One of the 12 labors of Heracles — better known by his Roman name, Hercules — was to steal some of the apples. To do so, he had to kill the dragon. Hera placed the dead creature in the sky.

The head of the dragon is marked by a four-sided figure. It’s high in the northwest as night falls, far to the upper left of the Pole Star, Polaris. A couple of the stars in the head are fairly bright, but the other two are faint.

In the skylore of ancient Arabia, the four stars were mother camels. They were protecting a baby camel, which was represented by an even fainter star at the center of the quartet. The baby was being threatened by jackals or hyenas — a pair of stars that stands below the camels in early evening.

Look for the long, sinuous body of the dragon curling to the left and upper left of Polaris as darkness falls. It rotates down toward the northern horizon during the night.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 04 2020

2mins

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VV Cephei

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A star system in Cepheus is big and messy. And every couple of decades, it fades considerably.

VV Cephei is about 5,000 light-years away. It’s a binary — two stars locked in a mutual orbit around each other. Both stars are about 20 times the mass of the Sun. But their sizes are vastly different. One is perhaps 15 or 20 times the diameter of the Sun. But its companion is more than a thousand times the Sun’s size — one of the biggest stars in the galaxy.

The difference is caused by their stage in life. The smaller star is still in the prime of life, “burning” the hydrogen in its core to make helium. But the larger star has moved on to the next stage. That’s caused its outer layers to puff up to gigantic proportions. And a strong “wind” of charged particles blows from the star out into space.

In addition to the wind, a ribbon of gas funnels from the bigger star to its companion, forming a wide disk around the companion.

Every 20 years, the bigger star passes in front of the smaller one. Each eclipse lasts more than 21 months. That makes the system shine a good bit fainter than average. The most recent eclipse ended last year, so VV Cephei won’t fade again until 2039.

When it’s not in eclipse, the system is just visible to the unaided eye. It’s at the center of a four-sided figure that forms the body of Cepheus, the king, which is high in the north-northeast at nightfall. You need dark skies to spot this big, messy star system.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 03 2020

2mins

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Bright Pairings

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The night sky offers three beautiful pairings as we head into the weekend. They include the four brightest objects in the night sky.

As night falls, the planets Jupiter and Saturn are in the south. They look like a pair of bright eyes, although one glistens far brighter than the other.

Jupiter is the brighter one. For now, it’s the fourth-brightest object in the night sky. Saturn is to the left of Jupiter. It’s not nearly as bright as Jupiter, but it outshines all but a few other objects.

Jupiter and Saturn are moving closer together, and will appear to almost touch each other in December.

The second pair climbs into good view by a couple of hours after sunset: The Moon and, quite close by, the planet Mars. Mars is the third-brightest night-sky object right now. And it’ll keep that ranking for several weeks. That’s because Earth and Mars are passing close to each other this month.

The Moon will move well past Mars by tomorrow night, although they’ll still be within shouting distance.

The final pair is well up in the east at first light: the planet Venus and the star Regulus. Venus is the “morning star” — the brightest object in the night other than the Moon. Regulus, the heart of Leo, the lion, stands just a whisker above it.

Venus will drop away from Regulus over the coming mornings. But they’ll stay within a few degrees of each other for a few days longer — a beautiful pairing for the dawn sky.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 02 2020

2mins

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Harvest Moon

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The Harvest Moon lights up the sky tonight — the most popular full Moon of the year. In earlier eras, farmers used its light to harvest crops long into the night. And even today it doesn’t hurt.

There are several methods for figuring the date of the Harvest Moon. One says it’s the full Moon of September. And this year, the Moon was full on September 1st.

The most common rule, though, is that the Harvest Moon is the full Moon closest to the fall equinox. That took place on September 22nd. September’s full Moon came a full three weeks before that. By contrast, October’s full Moon is nine days after the equinox, so it wins the “Harvest Moon” honors.

One thing that makes the Harvest Moon so helpful is that, from high northern latitudes, it rises only a few minutes later each night. So for several nights in a row, the Moon is already up and shining by the time evening twilight fades away. That allowed farmers to keep right on working without a break.

The Harvest Moon won’t be the only full Moon this month. The average gap between full Moons is 29 and a half days. Since October has 31 days, that leaves enough time to squeeze in another one, on the 31st — a Blue Hunter’s Halloween Moon.

As you watch the Harvest Moon tonight, you’ll see a bright companion following it across the sky. That’s Mars, which rises to the lower left of the Moon. The planet looks like a brilliant orange star.

More about the Moon and Mars tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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Oct 01 2020

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By tgsmith0 - May 08 2020
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Billy and gang: The show views outward from our "rock" are very educational. Thanks! The shows views and thoughts on our management of our "rock," earth are solid. Thank you and please proceed! Cheers, Tim G. Smith

I grew up on this show

By skipjack_margot - Nov 03 2019
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Sandy Wood made my life on this earth just a little bit better!