StarDate Podcast

by McDonald Observatory · · · · 10 subscribers

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

Robert McCall Dec. 23, 2019

Robert McCall was not only inspired by spaceflight, he helped inspire others to achieve it. He produced magazine illustrations, murals, postage stamps, and other artwork about space, both real and imagined. McCall was born 100 years ago today, in Columbus, Ohio. During World War II he wanted to be a pilot. But he was colorblind, so the Army made him a bombardier instead. After the war, he produced artwork for several magazines. And in the early 1960s, he illustrated articles on the space program for Life magazine. That led to an invitation from NASA to join its art program. He …

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Tags: dark matter', skywatching, natural sciences, stars, dark energy, science & medicine, space travel, moon, stargazing, milky way, constellations, planets, 'itunes:owner', astronomy, solar system, black holes

Older Episodes

The Footstool Dec. 22, 2019
Orion strides across the southern sky this evening. The hunter climbs into good view in the east and southeast shortly after nightfall. His brightest star, Rigel, stands to the right of his three-star belt. If the hunter ever gets tired during his never-ending journey across the sky, he can always …
Moon and Mars Dec. 21, 2019
It’s likely to be many years before people land on Mars — and decades before they begin to settle there. Yet engineers and artists are already pondering what living on the Red Planet might be like. They’ve come up with ideas for habitats, rovers, space suits, and many other components …
Winter Solstice Dec. 20, 2019
The Sun is making itself scarce as seen from the northern hemisphere right now. That’s because tomorrow night marks the winter solstice, so the next couple of days are the shortest of the year — the days with the shortest interval between sunrise and sunset. Astronomically, the solstice marks the …
Moon and Spica Dec. 19, 2019
In the final day of its life, the core of a massive star is a busy factory. It churns out new chemical elements at an incredible rate. And when that day ends, the star explodes. That scatters some of the newly formed elements into space, where they might someday be …
Delta Cephei Dec. 18, 2019
One of the brighter stars in Cepheus, the king, is between 850 and 900 light- years from Earth. Knowing that range is especially important because the star is like a mile-marker. Its distance helps astronomers measure the scale of the entire universe. Delta Cephei is high in the northern sky …
Fact and Fiction Dec. 17, 2019
The final installment in the nine-movie “Star Wars” saga is set to open in theaters this week. Reports say the budget for production, marketing, and distribution will top 300 million dollars. And the movie is almost certain to rake in more than a billion dollars at the box office. That’s …
Moon and Regulus Dec. 16, 2019
Here on Earth, the poles are a lot colder than the equator — by a couple of hundred degrees. And it’s the same for most of the other planets. That’s because the Sun shines more directly on the equator than the poles, pumping in more energy. But for some stars, …
Auriga Clusters Dec. 15, 2019
The bright yellow-orange star Capella stands about a quarter of the way up the northeastern sky at nightfall. It’s the leading light of Auriga the charioteer. Capella links with the constellation’s other major stars to form a hexagon, which spreads out below and to the right of Capella at that …
WISE Dec. 14, 2019
Exactly 10 years after its launch, a small space telescope has discovered stars and galaxies galore — not to mention asteroids, star clusters, and many other intriguing objects. WISE — the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer — was designed to look at the sky in wavelengths that are blocked by Earth’s …
Friday the 13th Dec. 13, 2019
Just about everybody has some sort of superstition. Many of us carry good-luck charms or avoid black cats. And football fans will wear the same pair of socks for a month if they think it’ll help their team. One big superstition is today’s date: Friday the 13th. It’s been considered …
Venus and Saturn Dec. 12, 2019
The planets Jupiter and Saturn are locked in a bit of a battle — a battle over moons. A recent announcement brought the number of Saturn’s known moons to 82 — three more than Jupiter. But the search for moons around both worlds continues, so the lead may change hands …
Long-Night Moon Dec. 11, 2019
December’s full Moon is known by several names. One is the Cold Moon, while another is the Moon Before Yule — good descriptors of the time of year. And it has another name that’s every bit as obvious — but only when you think about it: the Long-Night Moon. It …
Moon and Aldebaran Dec. 10, 2019
You don’t need a thermometer to take the temperature of a star — at least not a bright one. All you need is your eyes. Cooler stars look orange or red, hotter stars are blue or white, and in-between stars are yellow. A star on the cool end of the …
More Tabbies Dec. 9, 2019
Sometime in the last million years, Tabby’s Star may have swallowed a planet. One of the planet’s moons survived the encounter, though, entering its own orbit around the star. But the star’s heat is causing the moon to evaporate. That’s leaving a trail of dust around the star. As seen …
Emptiness Dec. 8, 2019
It’s lonely out here in the galactic suburbs. The closest neighbors are light- years away — distances that are truly astounding. The distance to the Sun’s closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is almost 29 million times the Sun’s diameter. At that same scale, if you lived in a house 50 …
Pollux Dec. 7, 2019
There’s no formula for predicting just how long a person will live. Genetics, nutrition, exercise, and other factors all play a role. But you can’t just plug in a few numbers and come up with an exact lifespan. But that’s not the case with stars. A single number determines how …
51 Pegasi Dec. 6, 2019
A discovery that was announced a quarter of a century ago set off an astronomical Gold Rush. Two European astronomers reported finding a planet orbiting a star in the constellation Pegasus. It wasn’t the first “exoplanet” ever found — and not even the first confirmed planet. But it was the …
Pulsar Planets Dec. 5, 2019
The first confirmed exoplanets were shockers. They orbit the remnant of an exploded star. And astronomers are still trying to figure out how they were born. The star is a pulsar. It formed when the core of a massive star collapsed, causing its outer layers to blast into space. The …
First Planet Dec. 4, 2019
Gamma Cephei has a couple of distinctions. For one thing, it’s a future North Star. A thousand years from now, it’ll be closer to the north celestial pole than Polaris, the current North Star. In fact, you can find it standing directly above Polaris at nightfall at this time of …