Astrophiz 98: Dr Belinda Nicholson

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Today’s feature interview is with planet hunter Dr Belinda Nicholson, Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the University of Oxford, Department of Physics.
Belinda’s current research involves exoplanet hunting using exotic telescope data. Previously she has investigated the behaviour of ‘teenage’ stars, and her work has taken her all over Australia and the world, from presenting her work at conferences in Europe and the United States, to collecting data on mountains in New South Wales and South America. Right now, she’s in Oxford / London.

In the sky for observers and astrophotographers:

Our regular feature ‘What’s Up Doc’ is with Dr Ian ‘Astroblog’ Musgrave. He previews the excellent observing opportunities over the next two weeks, and he gives us a good look at fernickety Betelgeuse.

In the News:

First up, some more bad news for professional and amateur astronomers.

As predicted on this show last year, more companies are launching huge fleets of satellites to compete for the global Internet market.

Today Thursday February 6th 2020, following in Elon Musk’s inglorious footsteps, OneWeb launched 34 satellites from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. These satellites join the six already in orbit as the first phase of their 648 fleet constellation, which will eventually become 5,000 satellites in orbit.

This is not philanthropy to make the Internet freely available to all. This is maverick entrepreneurship, which is stealing the heritage of humanity’s ability to clearly see the night sky. A pox on all their houses.

Next, Vale Spitzer.

Last week, NASA’s  Spitzer infrared space telescope has been retired after 17 glorious years. Again, it was designed for a two and a half year mission but it provided such stunning data and discoveries, it just kept on going. A credit to the scientists, designer and engineers.

In its time it produced over half a million hi res images at 4 separate infra red wavelengths, it found protostars with crystal rain, it found a gas giant planet orbiting a star 13,000 light years away, and despite never being designed as a planet hunter it has found an impressive haul of exoplanets, including 5 of the famous TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets.

Congratulations SPITZER, and all who sailed in her. Your legacy data is a rich trove, which keeps on giving.


Another great Astro podcast to catch is ‘The Skyentists’ with Dr Angel Sanchez-Lopez and Kirsten Banks, and for all your Space news, check out SpaceAustralia-DOT-com with Rami Mandow and his team.


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