A portion of the first Gaia color skymap of the measured brightness, or flux, of the almost 1.7 billion sources in Gaia DR2. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC, A. Moitinho / A. F. Silva / M. Barros / C. Barata, University of Lisbon, Portugal; H. Savietto, Fork Research, Portugal.
A portion of the first Gaia color skymap of the measured brightness, or flux, of the almost 1.7 billion sources in Gaia DR2. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC, A. Moitinho / A. F. Silva / M. Barros / C. Barata, University of Lisbon, Portugal; H. Savietto, Fork Research, Portugal.

Exploring Our Solar Neighborhood, with Natalia Reagan

A portion of the first Gaia color skymap of the measured brightness, or flux, of the almost 1.7 billion sources in Gaia DR2. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC, A. Moitinho / A. F. Silva / M. Barros / C. Barata, University of Lisbon, Portugal; H. Savietto, Fork Research, Portugal.

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About This Episode

Are you ready to take a stroll through our solar neighborhood? On this episode of StarTalk All-Stars, primatologist and host Natalia Reagan steps outside of her comfort zone as she tackles the world of astrophysics alongside comic co-host Chuck Nice and astrophysicist and AMNH senior scientist Jackie Faherty. To start, Jackie shares the monumental news coming out of the world of astrophysics that we might not be aware of – the GAIA Data Release 2 (GAIA DR2). The GAIA DR2 updates data on distance parameters from 120,000 stars to roughly 1.7 billion stars, allowing us to investigate aspects of the Cosmos that we’ve never been able to before. Discover what research Jackie’s been able to do since the GAIA DR2 and why this represents a massive leap forward in our quest to understand the universe. Next, investigate the mysterious theoretical “Planet 9” and how the theory of Planet 9 originally developed. You’ll explore the strongest theory supporting the existence of Planet 9, which relies on the movements of other objects around it. You’ll also learn about the odd connection between Planet 9 and former Vice President Joe Biden. We answer some fan-submitted Cosmic Queries about Planet 9 including the likelihood of its existence or if it might contain components for sustaining life, and Jackie breaks down the method used to find objects like Planet 9. After that, we tackle brown dwarfs. You’ll learn what makes a brown dwarf what it is, and how they can hide in plain sight. Jackie tells us why she prefers studying “weird” brown dwarfs, as well as why she dislikes the term “planet” and prefers “world” when categorizing objects. Find out more about Backyard Worlds – the citizen science project co-founded by Jackie that gives people the opportunity to “help scan the realm beyond Neptune for brown dwarfs and planet nine.” You’ll also hear why Chuck thinks of Backyard Worlds as a “cosmic archeological dig.” All that, plus, Jackie answers questions in a new game about the future of astrophysics and how she became interested in science, and she gives advice to aspiring astrophysicists. 

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Exploring Our Solar Neighborhood, with Natalia Reagan.

In This Episode

  • Host

    Natalia Reagan

    Natalia Reagan
    All-Stars Host, Primatologist, Comedian, Boas Network CCO
  • Co-Host

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
    Comedian
  • Guest

    Jackie Faherty

    Jackie Faherty
    Senior Scientist and Senior Education Manager in Department of Astrophysics and Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History

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