Photographs of Mercury have come to earth for the first time. The Messenger spacecraft entered Mercury's orbit on March 17 and has just sent back its first batch of photographs. The very first image received shows a crater near the planet's southern pole, an area that has never been seen before. Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of "Star Talk Radio." He helps explain why these photos are important.
When the space shuttle Discovery lands at Kennedy Space Center later today, its odometer will read somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000,000 miles. The shuttle has flown 39 missions in its 27 year career. After today's landing, it will retire on planet earth. With Discovery's retirement, an era of American space exploration comes to a close; and, due to political and economic realities at home, future chapters remain in doubt. Yesterday, the US National Research Council reported that two planned rover missions to Mars, which NASA intended to launch along with ESA in 2018, may be about $1 billion outside of the U.S. budget.
Today, Leonard talked to Professor Mike Brown about his book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. In the book, Professor Brown recounts how his discovery of a 10th "dwarf" planet in the solar system inadvertently led to uproar in the astronomical community—and the eventual demotion of Pluto as a full-fledged planet. The conversation reminded us of a series of angry letters from Pluto defenders published in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book, The Pluto Files. (Mr. Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum, appeared on our show to discuss his book in December 2009.) These letters came from an unlikely source: third-graders. One letter writer accused him of being a “Pluto-hater”; another offered a carefully drawn picture of Pluto, just in case the director had had a hard time identifying it. Below, we’ve put scans of our favorites, courtesy of NOVA’s website. Let us know your favorite letter in the comments below!
For the first time in over four hundred years, a lunar eclipse lands on the winter solstice. On the morning after this auspicious coincidence, we catch up with some professional star gazers to get a sense of the event’s astronomic and historical significance. We speak with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of NOVA's "Science Now," along with Cameron Hummel, a PhD Student at Columbia University’s Department of Astronomy.
A mysterious case of the topsy turvies and a return to the question of what felines feel when they fall.
We plunge into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, and upend some myths about falling cats.
Two stories of falling in everyday life, and one fantastical leap:
6. Falling Asleep: Professor Frederick Coolidge argues that our tree-dwelling ancestors are to blame for a hiccup in our sleeping patterns.
7. Walking as Falling: David Eagleman explains walking as the act of calibrating our steps to turn falls into forward motion.
8. Falling Apart: Neil deGrasse Tyson takes us on a one-way trip into a black hole.
Eighty years ago an astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh, who worked at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, made a discovery that would capture the imagination of space enthusiasts for generations. He found Pluto.
We ponder our insignificant place in the universe, and boldly go after stories of romance & cynicism in Outer Space.