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astronomy

Elon Musk says humans will land on Mars by 2026 and could eventually move there in large numbers. But science writer Shannon Stirone says that Mars is "a hellhole" and argues that Musk has it seriously wrong. Stirone writes in The Atlantic that the newest images and video from Mars offer more evidence that Earth is the current and future home of human beings.

So can human beings ever move to another planet? Should we try? Our guests discuss it:

  • Shannon Stirone, science writer and contributor to The Atlantic
  • Adam Frank, astrophysicist and author of "Light of the Stars: Aliens Worlds and the Fate of the Earth"

Astrophysicist Adam Frank says that science has united us during this very difficult year. Writing for NBCNews.com, Frank argues, "It is no overstatement to say that science saved our lives and our hope for the future. And it did so by overcoming all the denialists who attack its validity, dismiss its honesty and power, and repeatedly call for its funding to be cut."

He discusses those ideas, and he joins colleagues to explain how scientists are using "football field-sized lasers to recreate conditions deep inside alien worlds." This is how scientists could decide, in the future, which planets to zero in on... in the search for other civilizations. Our guests:

  • Adam Frank, Helen F. and Fred H. Gowen Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Rochester
  • Gilbert 'Rip' Collins, professor of mechanical engineering and physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, associate director for the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and director for the Center for Matter at Atomic Pressures
  • Sarah Stewart, professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Davis

Scientists say they don’t know what to make of a pattern of fast radio bursts that’s coming from space every 16 days. While it’s known that the signal is coming from a spiral galaxy 500 million light-years away, the exact source is a mystery. Some researchers speculate that the bursts could be sent by aliens.

Meanwhile, a massive asteroid that could have caused planet-wide devastation came close to Earth earlier this month. While scientists say there was no danger and that they know the asteroid’s orbit well, the news stands as a reminder of our precarious place in the universe.

This hour, we sit down with two physicists who discuss all of this and more. In studio:

  • Brian Koberlein, astrophysicist and science writer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory
  • Roger Dube, experimental physicist, and professor emeritus at RIT

It has been 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing, and we discuss what it took for the U.S. to meet John F. Kennedy's goal. What kind of technology did we need to develop? And what did we learn from the mission?

Our guests share the legacy of the moon landing, and discuss the current state of the space program and research. We also preview a number of local events and exhibits commemorating the moon landing. In studio:

Astrophysicist Adam Frank joins us to discuss his new book, "Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth." Frank writes about how our planet relates to the billions of other planets that are suitable for intelligent life, and why climate change is a problem that crosses the universe. It's a call to understand our world in context, and to understand the challenge facing our civilization... if we want that civilization to continue for a long time.

We discuss the recent asteroid that nearly missed hitting Earth. Our guests discuss techniques that we can use to protect ourselves, how much warning we’d need before a strike, and if we should redirect the space budget to prepare for these kinds of events.

In studio:

  • Brian Koberlein, senior lecturer of physics at RIT
  • Roger Dube, research professor and director of the Science Exploration Program at RIT

It's a name you haven't heard, but Dave Stevenson is a "legend" in the world of interplanetary science. That's according to the U of R's own Adam Frank.

Stevenson is visiting Rochester for a series of lectures this week, and our discussion covers the very nature of how planets are formed, and where life can exist. It's particularly poignant, as human beings continue to struggle with the climate on our own planet. Is there anywhere else we could go hang out for a while?

In studio:

There’s a dark, mysterious object visiting our solar system, and astronomers in Hawaii say its behavior has them wondering if it could be an artificial object. They’ve named it Oumuamua – Hawaiian for “messenger” – and it’s the first object of its kind to be observed by humans. Researchers say it behaves oddly and has a strange shape. They argue that while it is probably made of natural materials, they haven’t yet ruled out that it could be a spaceship. Scientists will soon probe the object for signs of technology, and we’ll learn more in the coming weeks about its size and composition. But in the meantime, if it is more than a lifeless rock, what will humans do if we aren’t alone in the universe? 

University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank joins us to discuss that, and some news surrounding Mars and beyond.

Are we alone in the universe? China has custom-built the world’s first observatory designed to listen for messages from extraterrestrial life. That country's preeminent science-fiction writer, Liu Cixin, argues that making contact with outside civilizations might lead to our extinction because they may perceive us as a threat. Yet, others say that making contact would lead to advances in science, ethics, culture, and more.

So as scientists continue to develop advanced telescopes and technologies, what kinds of messages should we be prepared to send, if any? What are the implications? And how likely is it that we will make contact at all? Our guests weigh in:

  • Brian Koberlein, senior lecturer of physics at RIT
  • Roger Dube, research professor and director of the Science Exploration Program at RIT

Did you have an opportunity to catch Monday’s solar eclipse? If not, hang in there until 2024 or join us for this hour of post-gaming the event, where we'll share all the highlights. Our panelists discuss their eclipse-hunting experiences and the science behind the event. Our guests:

  • David Meisel, distinguished professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at SUNY Geneseo
  • Brian Koberlein, senior lecturer of physics at RIT
  • Dan Menelly, president and chief science officer for the Rochester Museum and Science Center
  • Carrie Andrews, eclipse hunter

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