Current Event May 21, 2019
The job of an astronaut on the International Space Station is demanding, and those interested in the job must have many skills and qualifications. Astronauts must be prepared for spacewalks, science experiments, station maintenance, and many other tasks. Like any job, being an astronaut has its own special quirks and challenges. Listen to hear from some astronauts on the International Space Station about their experiences orbiting the earth for science.
Current Event March 13, 2019
An astronomy writer has written a new book about “hazards to life in our universe,” in which he describes exploding stars, nuclear meltdowns, viral epidemics, natural disasters, and other phenomena with potentially cataclysmic impact on earth. Listen to this interview with the book’s author to hear what he learned from his research about past, present, and future threats to life on earth.
Current Event January 16, 2019
On New Year’s Day, a NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) spacecraft made history by encountering the most distant object ever visited, over 4 billion miles away. The piano-sized spacecraft has already transmitted images of an icy rock known as Ultima Thule, which scientists believe to be a pristine vestige of the early days of our solar system. Listen to this interview with a planetary scientist to learn why this event is so exciting and how the mission may further our understanding of our solar system’s origins.
Current Event December 12, 2018
A new NASA probe called InSight recently landed on Mars after traveling 300 million miles from Earth. The success of this mission was a very exciting accomplishment, as it involved a complex process of slowing down the probe very quickly in order to make a smooth landing. Listen to this story to learn about this important engineering achievement and what NASA hopes the probe will do now that it has safely landed on Mars.
Current Event November 1, 2018
NASA recently sent a probe into space aiming to get closer to the sun than ever before. The spacecraft is the first ever NASA has named after a living person. The Parker Solar Probe is named after solar science rock star Eugene Parker, who is a legend in the field. Listen to hear about Parker’s breakthrough discoveries that earned him fame, as well as what mystery he and other scientists are hoping the new probe will help them solve.
Current Event April 5, 2018
NASA scientists now know more about how space travel affects the human body. They were able to study the genes of identical twins. One who went into space for a year and one who stayed on Earth. Since they share the same DNA profile, scientists had a chance to study changes to their bodies as well as changes to their DNA. The study showed that genes do change in space and remain changed even months after returning to Earth. Listen to learn more about how space travel can change human DNA.
Current Event February 22, 2018
Traveling in space for months at a time may be possible soon. Packing all of the food and water needed would take a lot of space and fuel. American crews on the International Space Station already recycle their own sweat and urine, and now scientists are finding ways to recycle other waste products including feces. Bacteria helps to break down human waste and at the end of the process make it into food that can supplement an astronaut’s diet. Listen to hear more about the next steps in making recycling poop in space a reality.
Current Event December 20, 2016
The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn, also had a political career as a U.S. senator. After his historic space flight, he served in Congress for 24 years. At the end of his political career, at the age of 77, he went back into space and became the oldest person to fly in space on the shuttle Discovery. Listen to hear more about the extraordinary life of John Glenn.
Current Event December 7, 2016
Dark matter is invisible and barely interacts with anything else. Finding dark matter and proving it exists is a difficult task. There are a few theories about what dark matter is but no one has found a way to detect it. It could be that the universe is mostly invisible. Listen to hear more about dark matter and what it can tell us.
Current Event November 2, 2016
Astronomers have noticed blobs of eerie light glowing in outer space and have been puzzled by them since their discovery. Astronomers were studying galaxies in the distant universe, when they noticed strange glowing clouds of gas that were 10 times the diameter of the Milky Way. They have been looking into the source of light coming from the blobs and have recently made an interesting discovery that reveals why the blobs produce a glow.
Current Event August 31, 2016
Scientists have discovered evidence of gravitational waves, which show ripples in space and time. A new machine has made it possible for scientists to observe space in a whole new way. Recently, the machine picked up vibrations from the collision of two black holes. The discovery comes a few months after the very first detection of gravitational waves. With these tools, scientists can look at the universe in a new way. In this story you will hear the signal from the black holes converted from gravitational waves to soundwave.
Current Event August 17, 2016
NASA is preparing to launch a spacecraft that will measure and report space weather and provide live images of Earth. The idea to provide Earth’s images for the public to view started with former Vice President, Al Gore, in 1992. He believed everyone should be able to view and study the earth. The satellite’s ability to measure space weather will help prevent against damaging effects on earth from things like solar storms that can damage electric power grids. After more than a decade, Gore’s vision is becoming a reality. Listen to hear more about this new satellite.
Current Event May 26, 2016
Scientists recently made an exciting discovery. They spotted three, earth-sized planets beyond our solar system. Though scientists have found many planets in the past, these particular ones are special because they may potentially support life. They each orbit a reddish “dwarf star” that is smaller than our sun and much cooler. Scientists used to ignore these dwarf stars, but now we know that such stars can produce planets worth studying. Scientists will continue to analyze these planets to find out more about their atmospheres and properties. Listen to hear more about these three newly-discovered worlds.
Current Event April 18, 2016
Astronauts live and work in small spaces. If they were to stay in space for years at a time, they would need a larger place to live. The problem has been how to pack something large into a small space capsule. The solution may be an inflatable room. NASA is now ready to test a new inflatable habitat. It will be sent to the International Space Station for a trial. Listen to hear more about this invention.
Current Event March 10, 2016
After living in space for almost a year, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned safely to Earth. Kelly stayed aboard the International Space Station, conducting experiments and taking photographs of Earth. Throughout the year, he was able to communicate with people at NASA and update them on his activities and status. Researchers at NASA have also tracked Kelly’s physical and mental health after one of the longest missions in space. Listen to the story to hear more about this astronaut’s admirable and historic journey.
Current Event November 10, 2015
This story is about astronaut Ronald McNair, as told by his brother Carl. They grew up in racially-segregated South Carolina. Carl tells about when Ron came up against segregation laws that he didn’t understand as a child and how that shaped his life as a young African-American in the rural south. But his life ended tragically. Listen to this story of Ronald McNair’s journey.
Current Event November 6, 2015
Every spring and fall Americans turn the clocks back or forward one hour to make the best use of the daylight. It’s called Daylight Savings Time. When the clocks are turned back in the fall, it will be brighter in the mornings as we go to school and to work. New research shows this time change has a big downside: an increase in crime. By looking at crime patterns, researchers discovered that robbery rates increase when it's darker for a longer time in the evenings. Listen to this story and have students gather evidence for a debate about whether or not we should keep Daylight Savings Time.
Current Event October 8, 2015
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows dark streaks flowing down Martian slopes. When the streaks are widest, there is evidence of water molecules. When the streaks shrink in the cold, water disappears. The water is not the same as a stream on Earth, but more like a hint of wetness. Although scientists are not entirely sure where the water source is, they say it could be from a salty underground reservoir or soaking up moisture from the atmosphere. Listen to hear how water can be important for future explorations on Mars.
Current Event April 10, 2015
Individuals who make extraordinary contributions to science often begin as regular people with a passion. This was certainly the case for Alan Guth, the physicist responsible for our understanding of how the universe formed after the Big Bang. Guth’s love for physics was sparked in high school and continues to drive his work today as a professor at MIT. Listen to learn more about his journey from a small town in New Jersey to physics textbooks around the world.
Science Middle School
Gravity keeps our feet on the ground, it creates a curve ball, and it can also be used to find new planets. The star at the center of our solar system maintains life on Earth and its gravitational pull creates the orbit of planets. But our sun is just one of many stars in an ever expanding universe. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our solar system and new technology is allowing us to better understand our neighbor. Observations of Alpha Centauri date back to 1592, but it wasn’t until 2012 that astronomers in Chile were able to identify a planet orbiting one of the stars in Alpha Centauri because of its gravitational wobble. Listen to learn more about the properties and potential of this new planet.