WXXI AM News

astronomy

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

NASA says it's time to "touch the sun." In 2018, the agency will send a spacecraft close to the sun's surface. NASA says the mission could help us understand some of the mysteries involving the star: why its atmosphere is hotter than its surface; what allows it to fling winds out at supersonic speeds; and more.

Our guests walk us through the details and explain what they mean for the future of space research and travel. In studio:

  • Brian Koberlein, senior lecturer of physics at RIT, and blogger for Forbes and One Universe at a Time
  • Roger Dube, research professor and director of the Science Exploration Program at RIT

NASA researchers recently announced that they've discovered the future home of Earthlings, after climate change leaves this planet uninhabitable. Okay, not exactly, but it's a tantalizing discovery: a star system not too far away with seven Earth-like planets.

Should we be looking to the stars for future homes? Could we ever get to this star system in a human lifetime? The RIT Science Exploration students are learning to predict what type of life might appear on exoplanets -- if there's life there at all. Our guests:

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

Early Monday morning, in the pre-dawn hours, a fiery meteor was seen streaking across the sky in the Midwest. No one was hurt and it was largely harmless, but it was so large that it could be seen as far away as Nebraska and New York. The sighting left many people asking where it came from.

NASA researchers study meteors and other Near-Earth Objects, as well as the possibility of these objects hitting the Earth and causing larger scale disasters. However, funding for this research may be in question under the Trump administration. We discuss all of this with our guests:


What's going on with the strangest star in the galaxy? Aliens! Okay, probably not, but let's be serious for a moment: if an alien Dyson Swarm exists, this is probably what it looks like to our technology.

We talk to Yale's Tabetha Boyajian, the scientist leading the team that discovered the star known in the scientific community as the WTF Star (Why the Flux, of course). So what is really surrounding this star, if not alien megastructures? Our guests:

We may not be not the universe's first advanced civilization.

University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank is the co-author of a new paper that puts some numbers on how likely it is that humans are unique. His conclusion? Other intelligent life has very likely come before us. How often?

We discuss how Frank modified the famous "Drake Equation" of 1961, and why it's so likely that other intelligent life is either out there -- or has been out there, at one time or another.

Wait, there's a ninth planet? A ninth planet that's not Pluto?

Apparently there is, according to researchers who say the evidence is mounting that a big, super-Earth sized planet is hanging out on the far corners of our solar system. So if it's real, how come no one has officially discovered it yet? How do they know it's there? What does this mean for our group of planets? Is Pluto going to sue over its status or what?

In our Monthly Science Roundtable, we explore the search for Planet Nine, and we talk all things space. Our guests:

  • Brian Koberlein, RIT senior lecturer of physics
  • Michael Richmond, RIT professor of physics and director of the RIT Observatory
  • Kevin Cooke, a Ph.D. student in the astrophysical sciences and technology program at RIT