Chasing Shadows – Stellar Occultations and the Outer Solar System

Shadow Chasers (Photo: Jack Jewell)

Shadow Chasers
(Photo: Jack Jewell)

Chasing Shadows [starts at 9:40]  Astronomy is a science that depends on watching things happen in the universe that we don’t have control over: supernovae, formation of stars, orbits of planets, and the spectacle of solar eclipses.  You can’t grab a distant galaxy and bring it into the lab for experiments, so astronomers have to depend on studying the light that fortuitously comes to them from distant objects.  However, by studying just that light, we can learn much about the objects in the universe and how they formed and evolved.  For example, studying solar eclipses have taught us about the corona of the sun and about general relativity.   To make those observations and measurements, scientists have to chase the shadow and set up their laboratory in remote places to catch it.  In this edition of How on Earth we talk with one such shadow-chaser: astronomer Dr. Marc Buie from the Boulder office of the Southwest Research Institute.  Marc organized a set of expeditions around the Earth to observe occultations of the Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69, which is is the next flyby target of the New Horizons space mission that flew past Pluto in July 2015.  He explains the science of occultations, what can be gleaned from these shadowy observations of 2014 MU69, and talks about planning for observation expeditions to remote places around the world.

Hosts: Joel Parker, Chip Grandits
Producer / Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Alejandro Soto

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2016 Retrospective

2016-resetFor this end-of-the-year How on Earth show, we look back to 2016 with clips from some of our features from the past year: selections from the Our Microbes, Ourselves series, research about Zika, gravitational waves, and carbon farming.  Those are just a few of the topics we covered in 2016, which also included: electric cars, electric airplanes, renewable energy, climate change, using the microbiome as indicator of length of time after death, star gazing, pesticides, life on other planets, planets around other stars, stars in other galaxies, eggs, plant diversity, marine animal sex, wildfires, recent science graduates describing their thesis work, PTSD, light pollution, pollinators, lead in water supplies, Alzheimer’s research, the Rosetta mission, the New Horizons mission, missions to Mars – past, present, and future, sleep, cell phones, and more!

Hosts: Joel Parker, Chip Grandits
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Joel Parker
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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The Universe Within // De-Extinction

The Universe Within (starts at 4:40) Within each and every one of us is the history of life on this planet, the planet itself and the entire universe.  This is the theme of a new book “The Universe Within.”  The author, Neil Shubin, is a professor of Paleontology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.  Starting with what physically constitutes a human being and what makes a human life possible, Shubin surveys many domains of science to find out what we can learn about what’s out there from what’s inside of us.   It’s a fantastically broad scope, bringing together the common history of Rocks, Planets and People.  As professor Shubin explains to How On Earth’s Chip Grandits, it is the very concept of this common history that binds all of these topics, which are normally found scattered throughout disparate domains of science and academia.

Image by Jonathan S. Blair, National Geographic

De-Extinction (starts at 14:15) You may think that when a species dies, it’s gone forever.  But with enough motivation, scientists might be able to return some species to life.  Popular science writer Carl Zimmer has written about “de-extinction” in the cover story of April’s issue of National Geographic magazine. So, is the movie Jurassic Park a good primer on de-extinction?

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jim Pullen
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Tech aspects of Boulder utility municipalization

In November Boulder will be asking the voters to approve the conversion of the electrical utility from one run by Xcel Energy to one run by the city.  While there are many, many political issues associated with this vote, there are technical ones as well.  We have on our show today Ken Regelson.  Ken is a sustainable energy consultant and member of the steering and tech modeling committees of RenewablesYes.org.  He holds a masters degree in electrical engineering.  And he tells us he’s available to speak on Boulder’s clean energy future at your neighborhood group, business, or at your next dinner party.

Link to the Trojan Asteroid animation.

Co-hosts:  Chip Grandits and Tom McKinnon
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Producer: Tom McKinnon

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How On Earth is produced by a small group of volunteers at the studios of KGNU, an independent community radio station in the Boulder-Denver metro area. KGNU is supported by the generosity and efforts of community members like you. Visit kgnu.org to learn more.

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