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Possible Future Topics

(Pawling Public Radio 103.7 FM)


Show Format (Sections)


1. Show Outline

  1. Old Business - devoted to answering any questions from the previous episodes or to correct anything I may have said in error.
  2. Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary - devoted to defining astronomical terms.
  3. What's Up in the Sky This Week? - from planets to meteor showers to the space station and more!
  4. Astronomical Curiosities - exploring unique aspects of the world of astronomy.
  5. Did You Know? - a fun-filled trivia section.
  6. The Buffer Zone - personal recollections from my life as an amateur astronomer.

2. Expanding Your Astronomical Vocabulary

  • Magnitude, Absolute Magnitude, Apparent Magnitude (Episode 1)
  • Celestial Coordinates (Right Ascension, Declination) (Episode 2)
  • Astronomical Unit (AU), Parsec (Episode 3)
  • Bayer Designations (Episode 4)
  • Positional Astronomy [Conjunction (Inferior, Superior), Opposition] (Episode 5)
  • Transit (Episode 6)
  • Earthshine (Da Vinci Glow) (Episode 7)
  • Aphelion, Perihelion, Apogee, Perigee (Episode 8)
  • Libration (Episode 9)
  • Synodic, Sidereal Rotation (Episode 10)
  • Revolution, Rotation (Episode 11)
  • Phase (Episode 12)
  • Retrograde Motion (Episode 13)
  • Ecliptic (Episode 14)
  • Twilight (Astronomical, Civil, Nautical) (Episode 15)
  • Meteoroid (Meteor, Bolide, Meteorite) (Episode 16)
  • Parallax (Episode 17)
  • What Defines a Planet? (Episode 18)
  • Albedo (Episode 19)
  • Lunation (Episode 20)
  • Occultation (Episode 21)
  • Asterisms (Episode 22)
  • Binary Stars, Double Stars (Episode 23)
  • Evolutionary Stages of Stars (Episode 24)
  • Polar Alignment (Episode 25)
  • Variable Stars (Episode 26)
  • Comets (Episode 27)
  • Sidereal Day (Episode 28)
  • The Year (Episode 29)
  • Aperture (Episode 30)
  • Shadows (Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra) (Episode 31)

  • Elements (Besselian, Keplerian, mean, orbiting, osculating, rotational)
  • Gibbous

3. What's Up in the Sky This Week?

  • Full Moon information

  • Evening sky highlights
    N/A No evening highlights
    21 Jun 2018 Longest day, 15 hours 1 minute at latitude 40 degrees North
    24 Jun 2018 Latest twilight
    26 Jun 2018 Saturn reaches opposition
    27 Jun 2018 Latest sunset
    6 Jul 2018 Earth is 94,507,803 miles from the Sun (aphelion), 1:00 PM EDT
    9 Jul 2018 Regulus lies 0.9 degrees from Venus
    11 Jul 2018 Mercury is 26 degrees east of the Sun
    26 Jul 2018 Mars reaches opposition
    27 Jul 2018 Total lunar eclipse for Europe, Africa, and Asia
    30 Jul 2018 Mars is nearest Earth and shows a disk 24.3 minutes across
    17 Aug 2018 Venus is 46 degrees east of the Sun
    1 Sep 2018 Spica is 1.2 degrees to the right of Venus
    7 Sep 2018 Neptune reaches opposition
    22 Sep 2018 Fall equinox, 9:54 PM EDT
    23 Oct 2018 Uranus reaches opposition
    6 Nov 2018 Mercury lies 23 degrees east of the Sun
    4 Dec 2018 Earliest end of evening twilight
    7 Dec 2018 Earliest sunset
    7 Dec 2018 Neptune is 0.3 degrees to lower right of Mars
    21 Dec 2018 Shortest day, 9 hours 20 minutes at latitude 40 degrees North
    21 Dec 2018 Winter solstice, 5:23 PM EST

  • Morning sky highlights
    N/A No morning highlights
    14 Jun 2018 Earliest sunrise
    17 Jun 2018 Earliest morning twilight
    21 Jun 2018 Summer solstice, 6:07 AM EDT
    13 Jul 2018 Partial solar eclipse for the southeastern tip of Australia and a tiny bit of Antarctica
    11 Aug 2018 Partial solar eclipse across northern Europe and Russia, and northeast Asia
    26 Aug 2018 Mercury reaches greatest elongation, 18 degrees west of the Sun
    26 Oct 2018 Venus reaches inferior conjunction, 6 degrees south of the Sun
    14 Nov 2018 Spica is 1.2 degrees upper right of Venus
    15 Dec 2018 Mercury is at greatest elongation, 21 degrees west of the Sun
    21 Dec 2018 Mercury is 0.9 degrees to upper left of Jupiter

  • Upcoming meteor showers
    4 Jan      Quadrantid meteor shower
    22 Apr Lyrid meteor shower
    5 May Eta-Aquarid meteor shower
    29 Jul S Delta-Aquarid meteor shower
    12 Aug Perseid meteor shower
    9 Oct Draconid meteor shower
    22 Oct Orionid meteor shower
    4 Nov S Taurid meteor shower
    13 Nov N Taurid meteor shower
    17 Nov Leonid meteor shower
    14 Dec Geminid meteor shower
    23 Dec Ursid meteor shower

4. Astronomical Curiosities

  • The Painted Globe (Episode 1)
  • Different Types of Telescopes (Episode 2)
  • Astronomical Apps (Episode 3 & Episode 4)
  • Messier Objects (Episode 5)
  • Caldwell Objects (Episode 6)
  • The Moon (Episode 7)
  • The Supermoon (Episode 8)
  • The Lunar Terminator (Episode 9)
  • The Sun (Episode 10)
  • The Planet Mercury (Episode 11)
  • The Planet Venus (Episode 12)
  • The Planet Mars (Episode 13)
  • The Planet Jupiter (Episode 14)
  • The Planet Saturn (Episode 15)
  • The Planet Uranus (Episode 16)
  • The Planet Neptune (Episode 17)
  • The Dwarf Planet Pluto (Episode 18)
  • The Asteroid Belt (Episode 19)
  • The Kuiper Belt (Episode 20)
  • The Oort Cloud (Episode 21)
  • The Constellation Orion (Episode 22)
  • The Northern Constellation Group (Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia) (Episode 23)
  • Why Does a Star Twinkle? (Episode 24)
  • Observatories (Episode 25)
  • Navigating the Sky (by Fists and Fingers) (Episode 26)
  • The Number of Stars in the Sky (Episode 27)
  • Using a Planisphere (Episode 28)
  • Using Star Charts (Episode 29)
  • Deep Sky Objects (Episode 30)
  • Backyard Astronomy (Episode 31)

  • Atmospheric Phenomenon (Halos, Sun Dogs, Light Pillars, Parhellic Circles)
  • Calendar (Anomalistic, Besselian, Calendar, Eclipse, Julian, Sidereal, Tropical)

5. Did You Know?

  • Light from distant stars and galaxies takes so long to reach us that we are actually seeing these objects as they appeared in the past. As we look up at the sky, we are really looking back in time. For example, the Sun's light takes almost 8.5 minutes to travel to Earth, so we see the Sun as it looked 8.5 minutes ago. The nearest star to us, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away, so it appears as it was 4.2 years ago. The nearest galaxy is 2.5 million light-years away, and it looks as it did when our australopithecus hominid ancestors walked the planet. The farther away something is, the further back in time it appears. (Episode 1)
  • Galileo Galilei is often incorrectly credited with the invention of the telescope. Historians now think the Dutch eyeglass maker Johannes Lippershey was its creator. Galileo was probably the first to use the device to study the heavens to make his discoveries. (Episode 2)
  • Uranian Axis of Rotation: The Uranian system has a unique configuration among those of the planets because its axis of rotation is tilted sideways, nearly into the plane of its solar orbit. (Episode 3)
  • Earth's Shadow at Sunset / Sunrise: At sunset the Earth's shadow is visible opposite the sunset in the eastern sky, just above the horizon. The shadow shows as a dark blue band that stretches over 180° of the horizon. At sunrise, the Earth's shadow can be seen to set as the sun itself rises, and at sunset, the Earth's shadow rises as the sun sets. (Episode 4)
  • The Crab Nebula was produced by a supernova explosion that appeared in our skies in the year 1054 A.D. The Chinese and Arab astronomers at the time noted that the explosion was so bright that it was visible during the day, and it lit up the night sky for months. It was likely also observed by the Anasazi people of the U.S. southwest. (Episode 5)
  • Belt of Venus: Also known as Venus's Girdle, twilight wedge, or antitwilight arch is an atmospheric phenomenon visible shortly before sunrise or after sunset, during civil twilight, when a pinkish glow extending roughly 10 - 20 degrees above the horizon surrounds the observer. (Episode 6)
  • The Moon (or Luna) is the Earth's only natural satellite and was formed 4.6 billion years ago around some 30 - 50 million years after the formation of the solar system. The Moon is in synchronous rotation with Earth meaning the same side is always facing the Earth. (Episode 7)
  • The technical term for a Supermoon is perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. In astronomy, the term syzygy refers to the straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies. When the Moon is close to the lunar nodes of its path during syzygy, it causes a total solar eclipse or a total lunar eclipse. (Episode 8)
  • The Apollo crews landed when the Sun was low in the eastern sky, a configuration that gave good shadow definition of the landing site terrain. Solar phase angles (0 degrees at local sunrise, 90 degrees at noon) at landing ranged from 4.7 degrees (Apollo 12) to 14.7 (Apollo 16). (Episode 9)
  • The Sun's core releases the equivalent of 100 billion nuclear bombs every second. All that energy works its way out through the various layers of the Sun, taking thousands of years to make the trip. The Sun's energy is emitted as heat and light and it powers the solar system. The Sun is 400 times larger than the Moon but is 400 times further away from Earth making them appear the same size. (Episode 10)
  • Even though Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, temperatures there can range from -173 to 427°C (-279.4 to 800.6°F) on its surface. How can this happen? Since Mercury has almost no atmosphere, there is nothing to trap heat near the surface. So, the dark side of Mercury (the side facing away from the Sun) gets very cold. (Episode 11)
  • Thomas Mantell was a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard and he would become the first pilot to lose his life while pursuing an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO). The pilot was chasing the planet Venus. Venus is considerably hotter than Mercury, even though it is farther away from the Sun. The thickness of Venus's atmosphere traps heat near the surface of the planet. Venus also spins very slowly on its axis. A day on Venus is 243 Earth-days long, while Venus's year is only 224.7 days. Even weirder, Venus spins backwards on its axis compared to the other planets in the solar system. (Episode 12)
  • The temperature on Mars can be as high as 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) or as low as about -225 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius). How hot or cold the surface varies between day and night and among seasons. Mars is colder than Earth because it is farther from the sun. (Episode 13)
  • After the Juno spacecraft takes an image, the download of just six megabytes of data collected (during the two-hour transit) can take one-and-a-half days! Jupiter is also wide enough to fit 11 Earths across its disk. (Episode 14)
  • Hexagonal Storm at Saturn's North Pole: Saturn's hexagon is a persisting hexagonal cloud pattern around the north pole of Saturn, located at about 78°N. The sides of the hexagon are about 13,800 km (8,600 mi) long, which is more than the diameter of Earth (about 12,700 km (7,900 mi)). Saturn would float if you would put it in water. (Episode 15)
  • A scale solar system based on the human body as a scale. If the Sun is the size of a small piece of dandruff on the top of your head (0.4 mm), and Pluto is on the bottom of your foot (assume 6 feet tall) the entire inner solar system would be within your head, Jupiter at your chin, Saturn in the middle of your chest, Neptune at the top of your shin, and Uranus ... well ... where you would expect it ... really. (Episode 16)
  • When the Moon is at apogee, you could stack all of the planets between the Earth and the Moon. (Episode 17)
  • A person who weighs 100 lbs. on Earth would weigh the least on Pluto than on any other planet, at 6.7 lbs. on Pluto. The sky is so dark on Pluto that a person would be able to see stars during the day. Because Pluto's moon Charon and Pluto orbit each other, Charon appears to stand still in Pluto's sky. Additionally, the same sides of Pluto and Charon always face each other.
    Haumea of the Outer Solar System. One of the strangest objects in the outer Solar System has recently been found to have a ring. The object, named Haumea, is the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake. Haumea's oblong shape makes it quite unusual. Along one direction, Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away. Haumea is a cratered ellipsoid surrounded by a uniform ring. Originally discovered in 2003 and given the temporary designation of 2003 EL61, Haumea was renamed in 2008 by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Besides the ring discovered this year (2017), Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, named Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess. (Episode 18)
  • An astrobleme is a scar on the Earth's surface produced by the impact of a meteorite or asteroid. Lake Manicouagan in northern Quebec, Canada, lies in one of the largest impact craters still preserved on Earth's surface. The lake itself surrounds a central uplift of the impact structure, which is about 70 kilometers in diameter and composed of broken fragments of minerals and rock. Overtime glaciation and other erosional processes have reduced the size of the crater. The impact that formed Manicouagan is thought to have occurred about 212 million years ago, and some scientists believe it may have been responsible for a mass extinction that wiped out more than half of all living species. Today, Lake Manicouagan serves as a reservoir and is one of Quebec's most important regions for Atlantic salmon fishing. (Episode 19)
  • Only 55% of all Americans knows that the Sun is a star.
    Because of the speed the Sun moves at, solar eclipses can last at most 7 minutes and 58 seconds.
    Lunar eclipses, however, can last 1 hour and 40 minutes. (Episode 20)
  • The United States has approximately 3,500 astronomers, but over 15,000 astrologers.
    The odds of being killed by falling space debris is 1 in 5 billion.
    Neutron stars are so dense that a single teaspoon of a neutron star would be equal to the weight of the entire Earth's population. (Episode 21)
  • The stars in Orion are gradually moving apart, but they are located at such great distances from us that the constellation will remain recognizable a long time after most of the other constellations, whose stars are closer to earth, have morphed into new shapes. One event which could cause a dramatic image change, however, would be Betelgeuse going supernova, which is predicted to happen sometime in the next million years. This will initially cause a light to shine as bright as the full moon in Orion, but a few weeks later that will fade, leaving a dark place where Orion's shoulder once lay. (Episode 22)
  • For anyone staring at the heavens 100,000 years from now, the constellations will look very different. The Big Dipper will change its shape from looking like a plough to something that looks more like duck. (Episode 23)
  • The Pistol Star is the most luminous star known 10 million times the brightness of the Sun. (Episode 24)
  • A full Moon is nine times brighter than a half Moon. When the Moon is directly above your head or if you stand at the equator, your weight is slightly less. (Episode 25)
  • Only half a billionth of the energy released by the Sun reaches Earth. (Episode 26)
  • The average galaxy contains only 40 billion stars; and depending on where you are, you can see anywhere between 35 to 4,548 to 190 million stars. (Episode 27)
  • Neutron stars can rotate up to 500 times in 1 second. (Episode 28)

  • Uranus is a real oddball in our solar system. Its spin axis is tilted by a whopping 98 degrees, meaning it essentially spins on its side. No other planet has anywhere near such a tilt. For example, Jupiter is tilted by 3 degrees; Earth by 23 degrees.
  • Shooting stars really aren't stars. They are usually just tiny dust particles falling through our atmosphere and they vaporize due to the heat of friction with the atmospheric gases. Earth sometimes passes through cometary orbits. As comets travel around the Sun, they leave behind dust trails. When Earth encounters that dust, we see an increase in meteors as the particles travel through our atmosphere and are burned up.
  • If you would place a pinhead sized piece of the Sun on the Earth you would die from standing within 145 km (90 miles) from it.
  • Space is not a complete vacuum, there are about 3 atoms per cubic meter of space.
  • Only 5% of the universe is made up of normal matter, 25% is dark matter and 70% is dark energy.
  • The star Lucy in the constellation Centaurus is a huge cosmic diamond of 10 billion trillion trillion carats.
  • Seasons last 21 years on Uranus while each pole has 42 years of sunlight followed by 42 years of darkness.
  • Venus,on the other hand, does not have any seasons at all.
  • 1 year on Mercury consists of less than 2 days on Mercury.
  • There are as many oxygen atoms in a breath as breaths of air in the atmosphere.
  • Helium is the only substance in the universe that cannot be in solid form.It can’t be cold enough.
  • The coldest place in the universe is on Earth. In Wolfgang Ketterles lab in Massachusetts. 0.000000000001 degrees Kelvin.
  • Saturn's moon Titan has liquid oceans of natural gas.
  • All the planets are the same age: 4.544 billion years.
  • Earth's Moon was most likely formed after an early planet named Theia crashed into Earth.
  • 8000 stars are visible with naked eye from Earth. 4000 in each hemisphere, 2000 at daylight and 2000 at night.
  • 90-99% of all normal matter in the universe is hydrogen.
  • All the coal, oil, gas, wood and fuel on Earth would only keep the Sun burning for few days.
  • A single Quasar produce the same amount of energy as 1 trillion suns.
  • Just after the Big Bang, everything in the universe was in liquid form.
  • A planet nicknamed "The Genesis Planet" has been found to be 12.7 billion years old making it the oldest planet found.
  • The shape of the universe looks a lot like a brain cell.
  • Every year, the Moon is moving away from Earth by 3.8 centimeters.
  • The Moon spins around its axis in the same time it goes one lap around the Earth which makes us always see the same side of it.
  • Upsilon Andromeda B also only face one side to its star. One side is hot as lava while the other one is cold below freezing.
  • While in space, astronauts can get taller, but at the same time, their hearts can get smaller.
  • Mars surface is covered with iron oxide (rust)
  • Rogue planets are not bound by any star, brown dwarf or another planet which makes them free-float around the galaxy.
  • Sweeps 10 is the planet with the shortest orbital period found. It orbits its star in only 10 hours.
  • 85% of all stars in our galaxy are part of multiple-star systems.
  • Some brown dwarfs have liquid iron rain falling down on them.
  • The light emitting from the Sun is actually 30.000 years old.
  • Of the over 20 million meteors that are observable every day only one or two reach the surface of Earth.
  • The closest black hole to Earth is only 1.600 light-years away.
  • There are at least 10^24 stars in the universe.
  • Certain “star quakes” have been found to tear apart the surface of neutron stars.
  • Any free-moving liquid in outer space will form itself into a sphere due to surface tension.
  • The odds of being killed by falling space debris is 1 in 5 billion.
  • The largest structure found in the universe is the Sloan Great Wall, a super cluster of galaxies 1.37 billion light-years wide.

6. The Buffer Zone

  • Astronomy is "free". (Episode 2)
  • Beggar's Night, Jokes and Halloween (while growing up in Iowa). (Episode 5)
  • Leonid meteor storm (1999); an annual Leonid shower may deposit 12 or 13 tons of particles across the entire planet. (Episode 6)
  • "Reading a Book" under the light of the full Moon. (Episode 7)
  • Resources and Links at The Astronomical Almanac website. (Episode 8)

  • "Sleeping out" under the stars.
  • Comet Bennett at 4:00 in the morning.
  • Before "smart" telescopes.
copyright © 2017-2018 Robert A. Antol