Chase, The [discovery] [world Service]

Episodes

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01Eye in the Sky20190128

Science isn't just about pursuing knowledge. Some researchers literally chase down their findings across land, sea and sky. This four-part series of immersive radio documentaries, made for the BBC World Service by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is where science meets adventure.

Each story follows a different group of scientists on a fascinating, high-stakes journey. The audience will travel deep into the outback and far across the Pacific Ocean.

This is science on the run.

The four documentaries are presented by four of Australia's best young science journalists. Each one takes the listener somewhere they would never otherwise get to visit, in the company of memorable characters – from Indigenous elders and researchers to retired air-force pilots and fossil-loving farmers.

Programme One: Eye in the Sky

SOFIA is a very unusual observatory.

It’s a 747 aircraft with a hatch in the side, which opens in flight to reveal a large, custom-built telescope – carefully engineered to work inside a moving jet plane.

Its full name is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and it’s a joint project of NASA and the German space agency, DLR.

On this mission, SOFIA is setting out to study Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, by flying into the faint shadow that it casts as it blocks the light from a faraway star. It’s a phenomenon called an occultation, and if the mission succeeds, it will reveal new details about Titan’s atmosphere.

The catch? That shadow is moving across the earth at 22 kilometres per second.

Join Dr Jonathan Webb from the ABC in Australia for episode one of The Chase: a special four-part series about science on the run.

Following adventurous scientists as they chase down their findings across land, sea & sky.

Explorations in the world of science.

01Eye in the Sky2019012820190129 (WS)

Science isn't just about pursuing knowledge. Some researchers literally chase down their findings across land, sea and sky. This four-part series of immersive radio documentaries, made for the BBC World Service by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is where science meets adventure.

Each story follows a different group of scientists on a fascinating, high-stakes journey. The audience will travel deep into the outback and far across the Pacific Ocean.

This is science on the run.

The four documentaries are presented by four of Australia's best young science journalists. Each one takes the listener somewhere they would never otherwise get to visit, in the company of memorable characters – from Indigenous elders and researchers to retired air-force pilots and fossil-loving farmers.

Programme One: Eye in the Sky

SOFIA is a very unusual observatory.

It’s a 747 aircraft with a hatch in the side, which opens in flight to reveal a large, custom-built telescope – carefully engineered to work inside a moving jet plane.

Its full name is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and it’s a joint project of NASA and the German space agency, DLR.

On this mission, SOFIA is setting out to study Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, by flying into the faint shadow that it casts as it blocks the light from a faraway star. It’s a phenomenon called an occultation, and if the mission succeeds, it will reveal new details about Titan’s atmosphere.

The catch? That shadow is moving across the earth at 22 kilometres per second.

Join Dr Jonathan Webb from the ABC in Australia for episode one of The Chase: a special four-part series about science on the run.

Following adventurous scientists as they chase down their findings across land, sea & sky.

Explorations in the world of science.

01Eye In The Sky2019012820190129 (WS)
20190204 (WS)

On this mission, SOFIA is setting out to study Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon, by flying into the faint shadow that it casts as it blocks the light from a faraway star. It’s a phenomenon called an occultation, and if the mission succeeds, it will reveal new details about Titan’s atmosphere.

SOFIA is a very unusual observatory. It is a 747 aircraft with a hatch in the side, which opens in flight to reveal a large, custom-built telescope – carefully engineered to work inside a moving jet plane. Its full name is the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, and it’s a joint project of Nasa and the German space agency, DLR.

The catch? That shadow is moving across the earth at 22 kilometres per second.

Join Dr Jonathan Webb from the ABC in Australia for episode one of The Chase - a special four-part series about science on the run.

(Photo: SOFIA is a heavily modified 747SP which was acquired by Nasa in the mid-1990s after spending 20 years as a passenger jet. (Credit: Wayne Williams)

SOFIA is a flying observatory setting out to study Titan, Saturn\u2019s biggest moon

Explorations in the world of science.

02Back From The Dead2019020420190205 (WS)
20190211 (WS)

The Night Parrot was supposed to be extinct and became a legend among birdwatchers in Australia: a fat, dumpy, green parrot that lived in the desert and came out at night. The last bird seen alive was promptly shot dead in 1912.

Over 90 years later, a decapitated Night Parrot was found beside a fence in outback Australia, and the hunt for a living bird was on. Ornithologists descended onto the arid plains of Australia’s vast arid interior, but it took another seven years for a single photograph of a live bird.

Incredibly, a population of night parrots had survived. Their exact location is kept secret, and people are still looking for more – or more precisely, listening for more, using acoustic traps to identify calls.

Dr Ann Jones from ABC Australia takes a huge microphone for a spin in the desert to join the hunt for the legendary Night Parrot.

(Photo: Ullala Boss is a Birriliburu Indigenous Ranger, Elder and Traditional Owner and knows the dreaming stories of the Night Parrot. Credit: Dr Ann Jones)

The hunt for the Night Parrot: a fat, dumpy, green parrot that lives in the desert

Explorations in the world of science.

03Trouble In Paradise2019021120190212 (WS)
20190218 (WS)

The atoll of Tetiaro is a string of tiny islands in French Polynesia, about 60km away from Tahiti. The islands – known as ‘motus’ to local Polynesians – are unique ecosystems that are crucial nesting sites for native seabirds.

But invasive species threaten to disrupt these fragile environments – a fate seen across many islands in the Pacific.
Rats arrived with early human settlers and have driven bird species off some of the islands. Meanwhile introduced mosquitoes have thrived in the warm conditions, and now act as vectors for diseases such as the Zika virus.

Rat eradication experts have travelled to one of the uninhabited islands in the atoll, called Reiono, to attempt an experimental eradication of thousands of rats with one mammoth poison bait drop. They’re also using this as an opportunity to better understand why eradication attempts have been less effective on tropical islands.

At the same time, on another island in the chain called Onetahi, researchers are releasing swarms of sterilised male mosquitoes to try to rid this motu of the disease-carrying pest.

Join Carl Smith from ABC Australia for the third episode of The Chase: a special four-part series about science on the run.

Picture: The Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) is smaller than many other invasive rat species, but it’s still been linked to localised extinctions of island birds, Credit: Carl Smith

How scientists are trying to eradicate rats and mosquitoes threatening French Polynesia

Explorations in the world of science.

Science isn't just about pursuing knowledge. Some researchers literally chase down their findings across land, sea and sky. This four-part series of immersive radio documentaries, made for the BBC World Service by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is where science meets adventure.

Each story follows a different group of scientists on a fascinating, high-stakes journey. The audience will travel deep into the outback and far across the Pacific Ocean.

This is science on the run.

The four documentaries are presented by four of Australia's best young science journalists. Each one takes the listener somewhere they would never otherwise get to visit, in the company of memorable characters – from Indigenous elders and researchers to retired air-force pilots and fossil-loving farmers.

Programme Three: Trouble in Paradise

The atoll of Tetiaro is a string of tiny islands in French Polynesia, about 60km away from Tahiti. The islands – known as ‘motus’ to local Polynesians – are unique ecosystems that are crucial nesting sites for native seabirds.

But invasive species threaten to disrupt these fragile environments – a fate seen across many islands in the Pacific.
Rats arrived with early human settlers and have driven bird species off some of the islands. Meanwhile introduced mosquitoes have thrived in the warm conditions, and now act as vectors for diseases such as the Zika virus.

Rat eradication experts have travelled to one of the uninhabited islands in the atoll, called Reiono, to attempt an experimental eradication of thousands of rats with one mammoth poison bait drop. They’re also using this as an opportunity to better understand why eradication attempts have been less effective on tropical islands.

At the same time, on another island in the chain called Onetahi, researchers are releasing swarms of sterilised male mosquitoes to try to rid this motu of the disease-carrying pest.

Join Carl Smith from ABC Australia for the third episode of The Chase: a special four-part series about science on the run.

Picture: The Pacific rat (Rattus exulans) is smaller than many other invasive rat species, but it’s still been linked to localised extinctions of island birds, Credit: Carl Smith

Following adventurous scientists as they chase down their findings across land, sea & sky.

04Tracks Across Time2019021820190219 (WS)
20190225 (WS)

Science isn't just about pursuing knowledge. Some researchers literally chase down their findings across land, sea and sky. This four-part series of immersive radio documentaries, made for the BBC World Service by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is where science meets adventure.

Each story follows a different group of scientists on a fascinating, high-stakes journey. The audience will travel deep into the outback and far across the Pacific Ocean.

This is science on the run.

The four documentaries are presented by four of Australia's best young science journalists. Each one takes the listener somewhere they would never otherwise get to visit, in the company of memorable characters – from Indigenous elders and researchers to retired air-force pilots and fossil-loving farmers.

Programme Four: Tracks Across Time

In a dry creek bed in the middle of the Australian outback is a palaeontological prize like no other: 95-million-year-old footprints stamped in a sandstone slab by three species of dinosaur.

One of the beasts was a massive, lumbering sauropod that measured 18 metres from nose to tail. But the precious trackway is in danger of being damaged by the next floods so must be moved.

In the final episode of the four-part series The Chase, science journalist Belinda Smith from the ABC in Australia discovers what footprints can tell us about the ancient beasts that once roamed this land, and follows a team racing against time and the elements to save this once-in-a-lifetime find.

Because even though these tracks have lasted the best part of 100 million years, they may not survive another one.

Following adventurous scientists as they chase down their findings across land, sea & sky.

Explorations in the world of science.

In a dry creek bed in the middle of the Australian outback is a palaeontological prize like no other: 95-million-year-old footprints stamped in a sandstone slab by three species of dinosaur.

One of the beasts was a massive, lumbering sauropod that measured 18 metres from nose to tail. But the precious trackway is in danger of being damaged by the next floods, so must be moved.

In the final episode of the four-part series The Chase, science journalist Belinda Smith from the ABC in Australia discovers what footprints can tell us about the ancient beasts that once roamed this land, and follows a team racing against time and the elements to save this once-in-a-lifetime find.

Because even though these tracks have lasted the best part of 100 million years, they may not survive another one.

Picture: Footprints made by a sauropod as it walked across a mudflat 95 million years ago, Credit: Australian Broadcasting Corporation/Belinda Smith

Scientists race to save a set of 95-million-year-old footprints