A weekly Science and Astronomy podcast
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Best Episodes of Spacepod

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Prof. Christopher Snead tells us how he is preparing a very clean laboratory. In this lab, scientists will store and study Hayabusa-2 mission asteroid samples. The samples will be photographed and manipulated without ever touching Earth's atmosphere.
Dr. Lan Jian talks to us about the solar wind, which is ionized gas from the sun. It transfers energy from the sun to the planets, and can impact astronauts and technology. She shares her research, which includes interpreting data from spacecraft and computer modeling.
Dr. Dylan Hickson talks about how he studies the surfaces of asteroids using reflected radio waves. By comparing the reflections to mathematical models and data from Earth, he tries to determine if an asteroid's surface is blocky, dusty, or both.
Dr. Rachel Smith tells us about her research into young stellar objects. These new stars are surrounded by a cloud of dust that may eventually become planets. Dr. Smith also explains why she thinks it is important to physically travel to telescopes when she makes her observations.
Casey Dreier, Chief Advocate of the Planetary Society, stops by to chat about space policy. He explains why human spaceflight is such a challenge, and talks about how scientists decide which planet to explore. He also explains how individual citizens from around the world can influence space policy.
Dr. Anne Virkki talks about the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which recently sustained severe damage. She talks about the discoveries made at the telescope and explains that it could be rebuilt, if there was enough public support.
A quick bonus episode for my American listeners. Voting is the keystone of our democracy, and your voice deserves to be heard. This episode goes over some common voting questions. For more, see
Dr. Varoujan Gorjian returns to the show! He explains what supermassive black holes are and how they work. He also tells us about an elegant technique that astronomers use to determine the size of the debris cloud around black holes.
The tables are turned! Regular host Professor Carrie Nugent talks about her research with guest host Anthropology Professor Caitrin Lynch. We discuss near-Earth asteroids, and how Prof. Nugent is building open-source asteroid hunting software with a team of students.
Dr. Abby Fraeman returns to the show to talk about NASA's Curiosity rover. For the past eight years, Curiosity has been exploring Gale Crater on Mars. Dr. Fraeman talks about a discovery she made on the Vera Rubin Ridge, and we discuss how the Curiosity scientists and engineers have kept the rover running during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prof. Bethany Ehlmann returns to the show to talk about the mission she's leading, Lunar Trailblazer. This low-cost mission will hitch a ride to the moon using the extra space in a large rocket. Once there, it will help scientists learn more about water on the moon.
Many of the discoveries you've heard about on this show were funded by NASA. But how do scientists get money from NASA? Dr. Henry Throop returns to the show to explain how NASA program officers evaluate scientific proposals. This episode was recorded in September 2019.
Dr. Larry Denneau talks about the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, or ATLAS. He talks about how asteroid detection is a data processing problem. Every night ATLAS handles about a quarter terabyte of data. He describes how they find a few asteroids among a billion other sources, and tells us about a unique discovery by the program. This episode was recorded in June 2019, which explains the restaurant noises and the talk of air travel.
Prof Joe Levy talks about his research in the dry valleys of Antarctica. These valleys are dry, irradiated, salty, and cold, which makes them similar to parts of Mars. He explains why planetary scientists get excited about naturally occurring perchlorate. He also describes the changes he's witnessed over several field seasons. This episode was recorded in February 2020, before social distancing measures were recommended.
Dr. Sheyna Gifford describes the experience of being a simulated Martian astronaut, as part of the HI-SEAS experiment. She talks about the experiment and gives us all tips for staying mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy while living in a confined space with limited contact with the outside world.
Dr. Meg Schwamb tells us about the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS). She explains why she doesn't just want to find these distant objects, she wants to figure out what they are made of. We also discuss recent interstellar visitors to our solar system.
Dr. Matthew Tiscareno tells us about Saturn's rings. He describes how scientists measured their mass, and how the rings got their colors. He also explains why scientists are currently debating the age of the rings.
Professor Desireé Cotto Figueroa tells us about her research into the strength of meteorites. This research helps scientists understand the hazards from asteroids, and also will help engineers design asteroid-visiting spacecraft.
Dr. Scott Sheppard tells us about the two most distant objects ever observed in the solar system. He describes the clever techniques he and his collaborators used to spot these objects, and explains why he is searching for an undiscovered planet.
Lillian Cunningham talks about her podcast Moonrise. Moonrise explores why the United States decided to send humans to the moon. She talks about the surprising power of science fiction in shaping policy, and she comments on what might motivate nations to send humans to other planets in the future.
Dr. Jason Soderblom tells us about Titan, one of the largest moons in the solar system. He explains some of its geologic features, including dunes, probable cryovolcanos, and featureless plains that scientists nicknamed "the blandlands." He also tells us about Dragonfly, a new NASA mission that will explore Titan's surface.
Dr. Michele Bannister talks about interstellar objects, including the recent discovery of 2I Borisov. Astronomers are observing this object with every available telescope to answer key questions, such as: what is Borisov made of? Is it like comets from our own solar system, or is it "really weird and different"? Dr. Bannister fills us in on the latest results. This episode was recorded on November 13th, 2019.
Dr. Jessie Dotson talks about her asteroid risk assessment research. She describes how she and her team create comprehensive models of asteroid impacts. Their research shows that the consequences of an impact depends on asteroid size and where it hits on Earth.
Dr. Ross Beyer talks about Pluto's companion, Charon. He describes how he derived a theory explaining how Charon's "wonky" plains formed. He compares being a planetary geologist with a crime scene investigator, and tells us the story about how Charon got its name.
Prof. Christine Hartzell tells us about the bizarre ways dust and rock behave on asteroids. She explains, "asteroids are complicated because our intuition fails." Tools like shovels become useless, forcing spacecraft designers to innovate.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Carrie Nugent
Podcast Status
Aug 2nd, 2015
Latest Episode
Apr 18th, 2021
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
19 minutes

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