The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Brian Thomas

We have this impression of our planet as isolated from the rest of the universe, our lives cut off from the drama unfolding elsewhere in our galaxy. But what if the course of life’s evolution on Earth was intimately connected to events well beyond our solar system. It now seems likely that supernovae hundreds of light-years away have profoundly affected our history and may even account for climatic changes just as our species was emerging. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by astrophysicist Brian Thomas to explore this fascinating discovery.


About Our Guest

Brian Thomas is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Washburn University where he leads the Washburn Astrobiophysics research group. His research focuses on the role of high energy astronomical events, in particular supernova and gamma ray bursts, on the atmosphere and biosphere of Earth. He is the principal investigator on a 3-year NASA grant to explore the terrestrial impacts of nearby supernovae.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_146_Supernovae_and_the_Evolution_of_Life.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Stuart Ryder

When a massive star explodes in a supernova, it tends to gobble up all the attention. But what happens when that star has a binary companion with its own story to tell? That’s exactly what happened last month when the Hubble Telescope captured the first image of the surviving stellar companion to a supernova, and it turned out to be more than just a passive observer. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by the discovery team leader Stuart Ryder to tell us how sibling rivalry might account for the origin of one unusual type of supernova. 

Current in Space

Tony details the launch of a new space telescope that will take planet hunting to the next stage. Then Maya shares a tantalizing discovery from Jupiter's largest moon. And finally while we have trouble seeing individual stars in the galaxy next door, Dave reports on a star called Icarus that we just image despite it being 9 billion light-years away!

About Our Guest

Stuart Ryder is Head of International Telescopes Support at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and is responsible for coordinating Australia's usage of large telescopes around the world. His research interests include core-collapse supernovae and star formation in nuclear rings of galaxies.