January 26, 2020 10:17 pm

Monday, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Harrison Greenbaum Navigate the Stars

How do compasses work? Why is the North Star such a staple in navigation? What would the world look like without GPS? On this episode of StarTalk Radio, we explore these questions and more as Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Harrison Greenbaum answer fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on navigating the cosmos.

NASA’s Image of the Aurora from above the Earth.

Aurora seen from above. Image Credit: NASA.

We start with the most famous navigational star for humans on Earth – the North Star. How did the North Star become the North Star? You’ll learn how the North Star is used for navigation. Find out what the North Star looks like when you’re at the North Pole. We discuss early maps of the world and their distorted versions of coastlines. Neil explains why it wasn’t until navigation that cultures began conquering the world.

Discover more about geomagnetic reversal, which is when Earth’s magnetic field flips and magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged. You’ll hear if all compasses need to be changed when the next reversal happens. Find out the impact geomagnetic reversal has on the aurora borealis and aurora australis.

We investigate whether there is a truly good coordinate system for finding stars in three-dimensional space. Neil shares the history behind the government’s involvement in inventing GPS. We ponder how pirates from the 1700s would react if you showed them a modern-day GPS.

Lastly, you’ll find out how early space probes like Voyager 1 navigated over precise distances without hi-tech computers or cameras. All that, plus, discover what landmarks we can share with aliens to give them our location and Neil tells us why a quadrant system with quasars would create the most powerful form of celestial navigation.

Please join us tomorrow for Cosmic Queries – Navigating the Cosmos at 3pm ET right here on our website, as well as on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re a StarTalk+ Patron or an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free at 3pm, too.

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

Get the most out of StarTalk!

Ad-Free Audio Downloads
Ad-Free Video Episodes
Stickers & Mugs
Live Streams with Neil
Priority Cosmic Queries
Early-Access Videos
Learn the Meaning of Life
...and much more