April 25, 2019 7:48 pm

Friday, Neil Tyson and Natalie Starkey Explore Asteroids, Comets, and More

Transporters of life, harbingers of doom, or both? On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson explore the mysterious, wild world of comets and asteroids. Joining him is Natalie Starkey, PhD, science communicator, author, and StarTalk All-Stars host. We also have first time comic co-host Mark Normand completing our astro-trio as we answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries combed from across the social universe.

An artist illustration of the comet 'Oumuamua. Credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser.

Caption: Shown: Comet ‘Oumuamua. Artist Illustration Credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser.

I will try with all my might not to harp too much on Armageddon, a favorite topic of mine to bring up when we have episodes about comets, asteroids, and other relevant information that I can use to batter this seminal film of science madness. But, no time for that here…(darn).

As a baseline, Natalie tells us the classical difference between an asteroid and a comet. You’ll hear more about asteroid mining, and if you can hollow out an asteroid and use it as a star shield. (The likelihood is no, and you’ll find out why.) Discover how much an asteroid might be “worth.” You’ll learn why a massive influx of material from an asteroid could destabilize economies and markets.

Find out why comets can be different colors. We ponder if mining comets could change their orbit. Natalie and Neil discuss ʻOumuamua, the interstellar visitor spotted in October 2017. You’ll hear more about the Oort cloud, and we also investigate whether there are points between stars where comets are under no influence of gravity.

Natalie tells us a little more about the Chelyabinsk meteor that hit in 2013. Then, Neil reminisces about watching asteroids strike Jupiter in the 90s creating a wondrous visual spectacle. We also explore the Panspermia hypothesis and how asteroids and comets would play a role in transporting life from one part of the universe to another. All that, plus, Neil and Natalie give some final thoughts on why studying asteroids and comets can help us answer one of the greatest questions of all – how did we get here?

Please join us tomorrow night for Cosmic Queries – Asteroids and Comets at 7pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 7pm, too.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
– Ian Mullen

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