Astronomy: The Horeshead Nebula, Jupiter's mysterious clouds and alien space junk

Weekend Variety Wireless 17/03/2018
Photo: Getty.

Stardome Astronomer Dr Grant Christie sits down with Ryan Bradley to look at this week’s revelations in Astronomy.

The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, and sometimes the astronauts on board take image sequences that are then made into videos. These videos show many visual spectacles of the Earth. Grant looks at the importance of these videos and what they show.

Then we head to the Horsehead Nebula, which you can now witness from a wider view. Combined image data from both the VISTA telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope were used to create a wide perspective image of the interstellar landscape surrounding the Horsehead Nebula.

Left to right the image spans just over 10 light years, at the Nebula’s estimated distance of 1,600 light years.

Photo: NASA.

Dr Christie looks at the fate of exomoons when planets scatter. Planet interactions are thought to be common, as solar systems are just forming and settling down. A new study suggests that close encounters such as these could have a significant impact on the moons of giant exoplanets. This may generate a large population of free floating exomoons.

A recent paper presents a new potential way to detect moderately advanced civilizations. A civilization that has reached a higher level of technological advancement may have a greater number of satellites in orbit around its planet, meaning this could be the new way to detect alien civilizations.

Photo: Getty.

And NASA’s Juno spacecraft has measured Jupiter’s gravity field 200 times better than before. It shows that the clouds we see from the outside extend down around 3000 km and make up about 1 % of the mass of the giant planet.

The new discoveries made by NASA demonstrate that the very precise measurements of a planet’s gravitational field can reveal complex and detailed information about its interior, which is a massive leap.

Dr Christie also gives Ryan an insight into Stephen hawking’s passing, changes in the eye structure of astronauts and the latest on the Universe's expansion.   

Listen to the full audio with Grant Christie above.

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