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Join +Fraser Cain  and +Pamela Gay for a live episode of Astronomy Cast. We'll record our 30-minute show, and then stick around to answer your questions about space and astronomy. 

Astronomy Cast Ep. 372: Becquerel Experiment (Radiation)
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 372: Becquerel Experiment (Radiation)
Tomorrow, March 30, 3:00 PM
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 370: Kaufmann–Bucherer–Neumann Experiments

One of the most amazing implications of Einstein's relativity is the fact that the inertial mass of an object depends on its velocity. That sounds like a difficult thing to test, but that's exactly what happened through a series of experiments performed by Kaufmann, Bucherer, Neumann and others.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 370: The Kaufmann–Bucherer–Neumann Experiments
Mon, March 16, 3:00 PM
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Özge Şahin's profile photomekotaandi's profile photoHELENA LUX's profile photoGuido Bibra's profile photo
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Who Got It Right (Q&A question, author review)

Hal Clement did get it right all the time (with one notable exception, for which he pleaded forgiveness in a later foreword - when can a sailboat move faster than the wind: broad reach - running at a right angle to the wind. (The sail would still need constant trimming, velocity related angle of attack.) Hal Clement is no Andy Weir. A few unrealistic premises are allowed. A typical setting would be a weirdo type exo-planet. Permissible but strange.  Mesklin novel: a flying classroom visits a high-G world. Iceworld: a core family (terrestrial) engages in tobacco smuggling with aliens, their rather inept Yakuza class. (Timeline: Great Depression to Eisenhower Years). Curious notions abound. The circulatory system of the aliens shunts liquid sulfur. It takes all kinds of ichor. Earth is at first perceived as a frozen wasteland. The more recent "Half-Life" novel is set on Titan and deals with bio-engineering (title pun).

Kim Stanley Robinson. That one will take longer. KSR gets his physics right and the poetry is great (Walden and nature related) but the Brecht related insights into deep history are questionable, even as the provided roadmap for a post industrial future, regardless of the provided vistas, which are sweeping enough. For the sake of leverage: the Mars colonists make Brecht's 'Caucasian Chalk Circle' (written in exile in 1944) everything but their national anthem (Hamlet is certainly less en vogue) after they have shaken off the shackles of earth based multi-nationals. It is either 'Oklahoma!' (1943) or 'The Caucasian Chalk Circle'.

Brecht's play is reputedly based on a 14th century Chinese novel. More palpable influence, the big skedaddle in 1921 (who will make it into Wrangel held territory, who not). In particular the anecdote of the grand piano that was packed into the last train to leave town (some deserving fellow refugees were denied seats). Brecht enhancement, the pompous bourgeois/kulak/church-going ci-devant (all timelines are mixed up in  this musical medley), his better half, forgets the first born son, destined for leadership, but salvages various suitcases full of precious, Paris made apparel. The 'chalk circle' in the title refers to the ensuing tug-of-war . The people versus the nobility. The object of the contest is the neonate who is placed in the chalk circle. Preordained outcome, parental custody rights should go to the more deserving party. Some Scriptural overtones (Book of Kings II, Salomon).

The forerunner of the play was the 'The Augsburgian Chalk Circle'. Set against a backdrop of weak central power (exactly what fascism was not) and religious warfare in the 17th century. The play pokes again fun at the well-to-do but ignores the fact that all were bled. The 'oligarchs' first (the free cities were regarded as concentrated source of wealth, ready for plucking, the peasantry only after that had played itself out). The only winners were entrepreneurial warlords (autochthonous as well as introduced). Technical term, in present day lingo: a system exploit. It is hard to do this fact justice if you are beholden to class warfare scripts.

Brown shirts, in the play it becomes iron shirts, were a reality in the 30ties, even as organized hooliganism. The reality of 1944 was manpower shortage and solidarity in misery. Bearing on the political struggles of independent Mars in the 23rd century, I pass. The play does not even discuss underground shelters. The notion that White Russian emigres should parachute into the no man's land between a retreating Wehrmacht and advancing Red Army troops and try to set up shop there is more than surreal. Most emigres would probably have preferred to parachute directly into an active volcano. Some playwrights make time flow backwards for reasons better ignored.

The Swiss banking system figures prominently in Mars trilogy. Stripped of all transcendental trimmings, the Swiss, having invested little into the initial colonization venture, are among the first to recognize the insurgents. The moral is unclear. It is implied that Swiss banks are a completely different kind of animal, in no way beholden to BlackRock principles. What can be conceded, some potential customers rate a free cup of java, others, particularly if they behave like Martian plenipotentiaries, a free walking tour on a nearby glacier (in the occurrence, the 'Jungfraujoch' - whatever is at hand).

Likewise contrived, earth based multi-nationals have to rely on spies to keep taps on advanced aircraft production on Ares. We do things better. Same ploy as in 'Shaman', where the 'hot' issue is snowshoes. Baseline, spiritual Cro-Magnons against materialistic throwbacks. (The 'Shaman' novel is set in a time when the Thames was still a contributory to the Rhine, the big U-turn. A North-Sea outlet was blocked by formidable glaciers. - Incidentally, a golf caddy script. A prisoner of war, prospective shaman, has to hand the Northern priests/chieftains various surgical and not so surgical instruments during arcane power ceremonies. He is allowed to eavesdrop on high level gossip - the right season for sea lion clubbing, we are left with only a two years supply of blubber...  He should have been able to make a fortune at any local commodities market.)

The Mars trilogy contains a dichotomy. KSR wants to keep Mars exclusive. 5 star Swiss hotel rating and rarefied Davos air only. No riffraff, no shanty towns near space elevators. This time we do it right. He also tries to incorporated the mandatory amount of freedom fighting. Armstrong to Houston, we are Free Luna know, see my crossbow, buzz off. Compromise: the protagonist, technically one of the protagonists, round-robin set up, bears a name which would make any Dalai Lama blush with envy.

The Mars trilogy of KSR may be heads and shoulders above purely sentimental Mars scripts (say Ray Bradbury's). To compare apples with apples: it should be lined up with alternative military fiction. A lot of writers are spot on when it comes to the description of historic weapon systems.

Others authors who tried their hand at hard sf: Larry Niven (flawed ring worlds), Karl Schroeder (centrifugal universes), Charles Sheffield (space elevators, in Arthur C. Clarke's footsteps), Robert L.Forward (propulsion by mirrors), Geoffrey A. Landis (Mars crossings).
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 368: Searching for the Aether Wind: the Michelson–Morley Experiment

Waves move through a medium, like water or air. So it seemed logical to search for a medium that light waves move through. The Michelson-Morley Experiment attempted to search for this medium, known as the "luminiferous aether". The experiment gave a negative result, and helped set the stage for the theory of General Relativity.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 368: Searching for the Aether Wind: the Michelson–Morley Experiment
Tue, February 17, 4:00 PM
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Guido Bibra's profile photoElaine Martins's profile photoAndrew Planet's profile photoMark Walker's profile photo
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+Neil Ferguson Andy Weir did plead guilty to one act of 'poetic license' in his Weekly Space Hangout interview. A storm on Mars, even a severe one, would not pack enough punch (torque, momentum) to topple a rocket, particularly one which was fueled up. (Lowered cg to boot.)

The other suspected error is trigonometric. Mark has to reach a launch pad in one of the final chapters and drives into a dust storm. (the weather satellites are on the fritz for whatever reason.) He then has to decide how best to skirt it (solar power is essential). He solves the problem by trekking 100 km (metric measurements only, actual distances may vary) to the North and then to South (at right angles to his approximate route). Surplus space suits are set up as makeshift weather stations at either endpoint. Mark, returning to his point of departure, then compares the synchronous readings. That would work but the third reading is superfluous.

It seems to be tacitly assumed that the storm is made up out of concentric circles of ever increasing opaqueness. The problem is then akin to finding the center of a circle (or at last its approximate direction). Three 'isobaric' circumference readings would pinpoint it exactly but one random measurement at a right angle to the original itinerary would be enough to tell Mark how to skirt its center. There probably is a connection with 'Rolle's Theorem' (elementary calculus) but I refuse to go into that.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 366: HARPS Spectrograph

Almost all the planet hunting has been done from space. But there's a new instrument installed on the European Southern Observatory's 3.6 meter telescope called the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher which has already turned up 130 planets.  Is this the future? Searching for planets from the ground?
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 366: HARPS Spectrograph
Mon, February 2, 3:00 PM
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As always, a fascinating, entertaining presentation!
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 364: COROT Mission

Before NASA's Kepler mission searched for exoplanets using the transit method, there was the European COROT mission, launched in 2006. It was sent to search for planets with short orbital periods and find solar oscillations in stars. It was an incredibly productive mission, and the focus of today's show.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 364: COROT Mission
Mon, January 12, 3:00 PM
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As always, an informative and entertaining presentation! Til Monday Next...
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Ep. 362: Modern Women: Carolyn Porco

It hard to think of a more influential modern planetary scientist than Carolyn Porco, the leader of the imaging team for NASA's Cassini mission exploring Saturn. But before Cassini, Porco was involved in Voyager missions, and she'll be leading up the imaging team for New Horizons.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 362: Modern Women: Carolyn Porco
Mon, December 29, 2014, 3:00 PM
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:-( +Hugo Burnham 
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 371: Eddington Eclipse Experiment

At the turn of the 20th Century, Einstein's theory of relativity stunned the physics world, but the experimental evidence needed to be found. And so, in 1919, another respected astronomer, Arthur Eddington, observed the deflection of stars by the gravity of the Sun during a solar eclipse. Here's the story of that famous experiment.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 371: Eddington Eclipse Experiment
Mon, March 23, 3:00 PM
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Rod Mole's profile photoGuido Bibra's profile photoNancy Graziano's profile photoCosmoQuest's profile photo
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Gravitational Lensing, the two Factors

It was stated, maybe somewhat belatedly, that gravitational lensing would also occur under Newton. (The observed amount of bending will be the decisive factor.) First question, how can something with zero rest mass be affected at all by gravity. Loophole, light (frequency f defined wave trains) can be assigned a virtual mass using E=mc² in conjunction with E=hf (Planck constant). Some restrictions do apply. A stone thrown upward will slow down. The light of a flashlight flashed from the bottom of an gravity well, airless of the sake of simplicity, will not slow down, c is c, but will shift to a slightly lower frequency. Some of the details are discussed at
<A HREF="http://www.desy.de/user/projects/Physics/Relativity/SR/ligh)"
 target=_blank>> Physics FAQ site (SR/light) </A>.
There should be no chromatic aberration due to gravity. A space walking astronaut will not be separated from his capsule due to chromatic aberration. All mass is treated equal. The fact that light is bent only so little under Newton is due to its high speed and not to its infinitesimal mass. (Newton was never forced to assign a specific mass to his proposed light 'corpuscles'. Any mass will do.) Spin off, if chromatic aberration due to gravitational lensing should still be observed it would be due to the added relativistic component of this lensing (and so, incidentally, be one more proof for that theory). If it is too good to be true.

Tinkering. Refraction occurs whenever light interfaces with a medium in which its speed is reduced. This is the basis for Huygens' wave train model (angle of incident, angle of refraction). Ramification, different speed limits are imposed on different frequencies, hence chromatic aberration. This cannot be applied directly to the bending of sun grazing light (no hidden prism, no hidden glass mib atmosphere, only vacuum) but there is again a loophole: Fermat. Light will always choose the shortest path (timewise) to its self defining point of interception (one can produce a point of white light inside a prism but the routes of the red, green and blue components would have to vary ever so slightly). The point, Fermat should hold regardless of the reason for the detouring, diminished speed of propagation or inflation of space. Refraction (detouring) for different prismatic reasons. But because this time there is only vacuum (the carpet is pulled in a different way): same 'c' speed for all colors.

In passing, there would also have been a 'twin paradox' under the pre Relativistic 'ether model' (which in the end was just a synonym for capped velocity without Lorentz Contraction). The Michelson-Morley experiment was based upon an expected time dilation. Most of the more notorious effects attributed to Relativity, be it the bending of light, be it time dilation,  do in fact predate it.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 369: The Fizeau Experiment

Light is tricky stuff, and it took scientists hundreds of years to puzzle out what this stuff is. But they poked and prodded at it with many clever experiments to try to measure its speed, motion and interaction with the rest of the Universe. For example, the Fizeau Experiment, which ran light through moving water to see if that caused a difference.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 369: The Fizeau Experiment
Mon, March 9, 3:00 PM
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Gavitational Lensing

Nancy Graziano did ask (Q&A app) if something equivalent to chromatic aberration could be observed with gravitational lensing. I do not know the textbook answer but it made me think what would happen if the speed of light in vacuum would depend on frequency. A switched on flashlight (very far away) would then first appear blue (it could be any other color but blue packs the most energy of any color in the visible spectrum) and should then step through various Photoshop combinations before it would settle for old fashioned white. The reverse sequence when it was switched off. Selfsame story for eclipses. Once in a blue moon. That was an 'if'. More factual, the Planck-Einstein equation says: E=hf, not all wave trains are created equal, but that does not help very much. A slug of grapeshot packs less mass than a cannonball. Both would still be detoured in very much the same way by gravity, be it under Newton or Einstein.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 367: Spitzer does Exoplanets

We've spent the last few weeks talking about different ways astronomers are searching for exoplanets. But now we reach the most exciting part of this story: actually imaging these planets directly. Today we're going to talk about the work NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has done viewing the atmospheres of distant planets.
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 367: Spitzer does Exoplanets- Rescheduled!
Tue, February 10, 3:00 PM
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Yeah, can't donate directly to LS thru CosmoQuest's PayPal, but donations will help there, too! The info for patreon for LS can be found here: http://cosmoquest.org/x/educatorszone/learning-space/learning-space-patreon-details/ 


+Andrew Planet +Nancy Graziano 
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 365: Gaia
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 365: Gaia
Mon, January 26, 3:00 PM
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CosmoQuest's profile photoTiberiu Igrisan's profile photoAndrew Planet's profile photoDominicG Doyle's profile photo
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Dave B
 
Wish I could ever catch one of these live. Ah well.

Anyways, someone, somewhere, is going to use this data to create a star-faring MMORPG with a scientifically accurate map of our galactic neighborhood.

Beware, Romulans (e.g.): we are only a successful Kick-starter campaign… plus one GAIA mission’s worth of results, of course… away from actively training for your demise at the hands of the Federation (e.g.)!
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 363: Where Did The Earth's Water Come From?

Where on Earth did our water come from. Well, obviously not from Earth, of course, but from space. But did it come from comets, or did the water form naturally right here in the Solar System, and the Earth just scooped it up?
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 363: Where Did The Earth's Water Come From?
Mon, January 5, 3:00 PM
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mekotaandi's profile photoDurgesh Pandey's profile photoBrian Marshall's profile photoChaya ben-dor's profile photo
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Happy new year all, keep going the good work.
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Ep. 361: Modern Women: Maria Zuber

Maria Zuber is one of the hardest working scientists in planetary science, being a part of six different space missions to explore the Solar System. Currently, she's the lead investigator for NASA's GRAIL mission, 
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Astronomy Cast Ep. 361: Modern Women: Maria Zuber
Mon, December 22, 2014, 3:00 PM
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FAR-FIG-NEWTON 
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