A weekly discussion of what's new and interesting in astronomy with astronomer Derrick PittsMore from Skytalk »

Most Recent Episodes

Spin Cycle

Larry Molnar, an astronomy professor at Calvin College, announced last week that he and his students are following a one-in-a-million opportunity astronomy event. They predict that a binary star in the constellation Cygnus is showing behaviors that suggest the two will collide and explode, possibly between 2021 and 2023.

On the Lookout for Life

Dave Heller and Dr. Pitts start by discussing some amazing exoplanet discoveries. In 2017, we can look forward to NASA launching TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite). This satellite was designed to search for exoplanets on its two-year mission. Commercial Space test flights continue - Blue Origin says it will conduct crewed flights this year. They have completed 5 flights up to space and back.

Greatest Astronomy Hits of 2016

Join us as we recap the top astronomy-related stories of 2016.


December 25 marks Christmas Day and December mini-moon day! The moon was at apogee, or the greatest distance from Earth (for the month). This week also marks the anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission (Dec. 21- 27 1968) – the first manned spacecraft to leave Earth's orbit, reach the Earth's Moon, orbit it and return [...]

Welcoming Winter

The Winter Solstice arrives on Wednesday at 5:44 am. It marks the northern hemisphere's greatest axial tilt away from the sun, producing the fewest number of hours of daylight. We gain 3 minutes at sunset this week but that's offset by the 3 minutes we lose with later sunrises. So all in all, Wednesday is [...]

This package sold by weight, not by volume

Astronomers at Yale University and University of Toronto have identified something very new over in the Coma Cluster of galaxies 300 light years away – a surprising number of galaxies with masses comparable to Milky Way-type galaxies (large spirals loaded with stars) but with just 1% the number of stars. Sometimes called 'dark' or 'ultra-diffuse' [...]

Reality mars plans for manned mission to Mars

Space exploration is fraught with danger, as evidenced in the National Geographic series MARS. Reinforcing that message, the recent ESA/Russian mission to Mars, Schiaparelli, crash-landed on the Red Planet last month. A Japanese company proposing a study of how meteors enter Earth's atmosphere now plans an artificial meteor shower using ball-bearing-sized pellets dispensed by a tiny [...]

Outta Sight!

A supercluster of galaxies was recently found lurking on just the other side of the Milky Way. Only 800 million light years out, it is similar in size to the neighboring Shapley supercluster, itself home to more than 8,600 galaxies. Given that galaxies can have between 100 and 400 billion stars each, researchers are estimating [...]

Planets, pretty as a picture

Direct imaging of exoplanets is now possible – a new instrument on the 8m Subaru telescope in Hawaii is imaging exoplanets. The challenge has always been how to isolate light reflecting from planets. The Blue Dot Campaign seeks crowd-sourced funding for a space telescope capable of imaging the exoplanets planets discovered orbiting the nearby stars [...]

Meteor shower? Or meteor drizzle?

With clear skies, the Leonid Meteors are available to be viewed from November 15 – 20, peaking on the 18th. The Leonids are typically a weak shower of minimal numbers. However, it periodically erupts in a major storm; the 2002 storm showed 3,000 meteors per hour. 'Supermoons' Explained- including the supermoon optical illusion. Venus and [...]

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