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

Cosmic Queries – Navigating the Cosmos

Aurora seen from above. Image Credit: NASA.
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About This Episode

On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Harrison Greenbaum are back together again to answer your fan-submitted Cosmic Queries on navigating the cosmos. What’s the best route through the stars? How was GPS invented? Why is the North Star the North Star? We answer these questions and more.

Neil tells us how the North Star is used to navigate. Find out what the North Star looks like at the North Pole, and, why you won’t see the North Star in the southern hemisphere. You’ll learn some different ways to find longitude and latitude. We discuss early maps of the world and their distorted representations of the coastlines. 

In a slight tangent, you’ll learn the history behind our famous phrase “Keep Looking Up.” Then, it’s back on course. You’ll hear why there were no conquering cultures before the rise of proper navigation. You’ll also learn about the construction of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island. 

Discover more about geomagnetic reversal: what it is, why it changes, and how it impacts Earth. You’ll find out if all compasses will need to be reset when the next reversal happens. We investigate what will happen to the aurora borealis and aurora australis when the reversal kicks in. Neil explains how we can uncover the history of Earth’s magnetic field by studying volcanic deposits.

Explore the government’s role in the creation of GPS. Neil dives into the alliance of astrophysicists and governments. We ponder how pirates from the 1700s would react if they came across a modern-day GPS device. Lastly, you’ll get details on how early space probes like Voyager 1 navigated without hi-tech computers or cameras. All that, plus Neil tells us how to form the best coordinate system using quasars. 

Thanks to this week’s Patrons for supporting us: Stella Burkey, Derek Pavan, Travis Dunn, Michael Jonsson, Chad Hunt.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons and All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

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