Comet Hyakutake Passes the Earth
Comet Hyakutake Passes the Earth

Cosmic Queries: Comets and Asteroids with Dr. Amy Mainzer

Comet Hyakutake Passes the Earth, Credit & Copyright: Doug Zubenel (TWAN), courtesy of NASA APOD

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About This Episode

This episode’s guest host is Dr. Amy Mainzer, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She’s the perfect guide for exploring asteroids and comets – and comic co-host Chuck Nice is the perfect guide to make Amy feel at home on StarTalk Radio. Together, they answer your questions about where asteroids and comets come from, where they’re going, how fast they travel, and what happens when they crash into something – like Earth. Find out about the spacecraft we’ve sent to explore the small bodies in our solar system: NEAR, Rosetta, and even New Horizons – once it’s done visiting the dwarf planet, Pluto. Discover why ISON fizzled, why Apophis isn’t so scary, and why there’s a debate over whether Ceres is an asteroid or a dwarf planet. You’ll also learn about the Kuiper Belt, the Oort Cloud and how playing Asteroids prepared Amy and Chuck for this episode of StarTalk Radio.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Cosmic Queries: Comets and Asteroids with Dr. Amy Mainzer.

In This Episode

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Episode Topics

  • Charles Bell

    Comet 209P/LINEAR wil make an earth close approach at 0.055 AU on May 29, 2014. Some colleagues have calculated that earth passes through its trail on the night of May 23-24, 2014 and possibly give us a meteor display. But all the Afrho reports for months show it has weak dust production with Afrho = 1 cm with aperture rho = 10,000 km. The comet has a short dust tail in latest images by several comet observers. So what is your estimate of this meteor shower?

    Alfons Diepvens image of comet 209P/LINEAR

  • pure1491


    • startalkradio

      Pure1491, are you asking us about a plug-in of some kind? (I tried translating your comment in Google Translate, so forgive me if I’ve gotten it wrong.) Are you having trouble accessing the podcast?

      • RAMM

        Trying to access it from China gives an error message “Oops, we couldn’t find that track. Soundcloud.” I click on the link and the Soundcloud homepage won’t open. Trying to add the podcast to iTunes gives a 404 error and I also tried to add new episodes via my smartphone that is ‘subscribed’ with wifi connection but can’t download due to ‘error’. Are there other options to access the radio show while in China?

  • Morty

    Great episode, also the guest host is great, not to mention gorgeous. (not a pervert I swear) ((well maybe a little))

  • Maximilian

    Is there any way to listen to the show live or is it just this clip?

    • startalkradio

      Maximillian, the podcast you’re referring to is not just a clip, it’s all there is. As for listening to an episode live, you can attend one of our StarTalk Live! performances, but that’s about it. Our recording studio is too tiny to allow much of an audience!

      • Maximilian

        I’m sure we could squeeze in. 🙂 I’d read somewhere that it was on CBS radio which can be accessed online but no worries.

        • startalkradio

          We haven’t recorded there since before I joined StarTalk in Season 3, at least, Maximilian. FYI, we also prerecord shows to accommodate Dr. Tyson’s schedule, so there is that additional complication.

      • NagatoYuki Huntress

        I think the question is more like this. On Friday if you plug into http://www……... .com at 7 pm E.S.T. Star talk will play live . 2 hours later if you come to http://www……com you can listen to the episode again. so The question is is there a time the live episode airs. Smodco a site that is run by kevin smith of Clerks fame . has old episodes of many shows and at certain times in the week there is live episodes one can listen to as they actually are broadcasting and like 2 hours later its available to download and listen to. I believe that is what Maximillian is asking

  • David Messer

    P.S. disregard my last post. Got name wrong, and found the questions tab.

    • startalkradio


  • startalkradio

    We are also on Stitcher and TuneIn. Not sure about their coverage in China, but if you can’t use either iTunes or SoundCloud, try those. You can also try and download the MP3 file directly from our RSS feed here:
    I know the feed is SoundCloud, too, but if you can get to that page, there’s an option to download the MP3 that doesn’t require using the SoundCloud player. Please let us know if any of these options work, so we can tell anyone else who has problems in the future.

    • RAMM

      I tried the MP3 link, but as it is based off the Soundcloud website it isn’t working. Tunein’s site opens but the media isn’t playing (tried two browsers on a MAC), Stitcher works! ( Thanks much 🙂

      • startalkradio

        Excellent. Thanks for getting back to us. Now we can tell anyone who tries to listen to us in China to use Stitcher!

        • debbie

          until china closes that down

  • Ebulfez Eliyev

    It’s fantastic. I’m so interested in to complete information about this.. but I couldn’t watch this clip or podcast.. How can I do it ?

    • startalkradio

      Ebulfez, could you tell us a little more about how you’re trying to listen to the episode? Are you using the audio player on the web page? iTunes? Stitcher? SoundCloud? TuneIn?
      We’ll also need to know what kind of system you want to listen on, and where are you located, in order to help.

  • Mario

    I never ever comment anywhere…. but the dude Chuck, in this episode made me hate him so much that I took the time to let him know…. you are not fukin funny! (sorry)

  • Kirk


  • bogdan

    +1 Chuck for the Avatar

  • Rayk

    Ayreon : DDD

  • Jay Grant

    Hello, after recently finding the StarTalk Radio (love it by the way) I have been thinking of a question for the Cosmic Queries. Dr. Tyson mentioned in the 4th episode of the Cosmos series that in order for our universe to work as it does, light needs to be a finite constant. No matter how fast a source of light is traveling in any direction, for example a star, the light speed remains constant. What propels the light? Running in one direction and throwing a baseball in the opposite direction is very difficult for obvious reasons. How can light be shot out at the constant speed? (If this question has already been answered before, don’t feel obligated to choose it but I would love to hear it answered. Light is a very interesting and strange topic)

  • Perry Lloyd

    There have been lots of Cosmic Queries lately. Will there ever be regular interviews again?

  • karm42yn

    Great stuff. As much as I love Dr. Tyson’s delivery I also like how Dr. Amy is focused on particular questions.

  • Michele Briere

    If the ice from a comet melted, is the water drinkable?

  • Michele Briere

    So if the satellite lands on Cherry Gary, will Gary no longer be Cherry?

  • Michele Briere

    If we sent radioactive materials to the sun for disposal, is there a danger in it? Too much radioactive stuff polluting the planet.

  • startalkradio

    Actually, Perry, great timing on your question. Our current episode is just that… Neil interviewing veteran journalist Miles O’Brien about science reporting. You can listen to Part 1 of the interview here:

  • startalkradio

    Thanks for the clarification, Nagato. So, to answer both you and Maximillian, no, at this point in time we do not broadcast live.

  • Tyler Gipson

    YESSS!!!! Ride The Comet by Ayreon!!! Totally was not expecting that song! 😀

  • PoisonPen

    Look just observed Linear 209p 15 meteors 5 of which were pulses of bright white light 1wextreme arching 5 ” shape of a C very unusual we at peak…3:30am wv country. The bright pulses of light were evn more intriguing than the meteors!! a very rare memorable sighting tonight indeed,I hope some got it all on film. What were these bursts of light w arching like lightning??!! Very exciting n nvr seen before!

  • Cris

    Amy Mainzer AND Ayreon’s music? I’m having a blast! For those who don’t know Ayreon, it’s a proyect by Dutch composer Arjen Lucassen who makes science fiction rock operas with lots of very talented guest singers and instrumentalists. The style is a mix of lots of things including progressive rock, heavy metal, classical, folk and electronica. You can find all of his albums on Youtube.

  • Pyro

    If anyone’s curious, the comet in an animated series that Chuck nice mentions is probably Sozin’s comet from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”

  • Xtraflo Xsane

    She’s so Dorky and Adotable. She should host more often.

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