Compass - Stargazing, The [world Service]

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0120170823

Dava Sobel explores our fascination with the cosmos, from the early revelations of Copernicus to the latest developments.

Dava Sobel uncovers the brilliance of her hero, the 16th century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who revealed the true model of the universe by putting the Sun, rather than the Earth, at its hub. He observed the heavens with his naked eyes, using only rudimentary tools.

In the Cathedral town of Frombork on the Baltic Sea in Northern Poland, we’ll hear how he served as a canon his entire career and how he kept his astronomical findings like a terrible secret, fearful of being denounced by the Catholic Church. He published his life’s work, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, on his deathbed, but it would be the touchstone for great early scientists including Galileo, Kepler and Newton.

(Photo: Monument of great astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, Torun, Poland. Credit: Getty Images)

01Stargazing: Copernicus' Heavenly Spheres20180228

How the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus revealed the true model of the universe: 1/5

Dava Sobel uncovers the brilliance of her hero, the 16th century Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, who revealed the true model of the universe by putting the Sun, rather than the Earth, at its hub. Episode one of five.

In the Cathedral town of Frombork on the Baltic Sea in Northern Poland, we hear how he served his entire career in the church and how he kept his astronomical findings a secret, fearful of being denounced by the Catholic Church. On his deathbed, he published his life’s work, "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres".

(Photo: Monument of great astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, Torun, Poland. Credit: Getty Images)

02Stargazing: Astronomy From The Edge Of The World20170830

ALMA, the remote observatory high in the Atacama Desert in Chile, tracks the 'radio sky'

Dava Sobel hears from telescope operators at ALMA, the remote observatory high in the Atacama Desert in Chile, talking to us with their oxygen tanks at the ready. As we hear, the ‘radio sky’ presents an alternate universe, in which the Moon and planets are barely detectable. In their place are clouds of interstellar gas and other exotic celestial sources which reveal different aspects of our history and astronomy. At ALMA, the radio astronomers do not need to wait until dark to make their observations, but can work at any hour, day or night.

(Photo: The ALMA Observatory is located in the Chajnantor Plateau over 5,000 metres above sea level. Credit: ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

0320170906

Dava Sobel explores our fascination with the cosmos, from the early revelations of Copernicus to the latest developments.

Dava Sobel travels to Edinburgh, to catch sight of the most ambitious telescope currently being made. This time next year, the James Webb Space Telescope will begin its long journey to a stable orbit at a place called L-2, one million miles beyond the Moon. There, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, the James Webb will unfold the components of its huge, intricate body and look back in time, to probe events that occurred nearly 14 billion years ago.

The James Webb is a Nasa-led project, with the telescope named after the Nasa administrator who ran the young space agency during the Apollo program of the 1960s. This is also a landmark collaboration between the European and Canadian Space Agencies, in all elements of its design and construction. With Gillian Wright who is leading the project here, Dava learns about the intricacies of the British component being made, the MIRI – the Mid Infrared Instrument – which will intercept invisible light waves in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, to study the earliest stars and galaxies and ultimately discover how our universe came to be.

(Photo: A full scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope sits on the National Mall, 2007,Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images)

0420170913

Dava Sobel explores our fascination with the cosmos, from the early revelations of Copernicus to the latest developments.

Science writer and author Dava Sobell travels to Hawaii to ascend Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world, with its huge base sunk into the Pacific. Among the observatories on the summit is also the proposed Thirty Metre Telescope, but as she discovers, the prospect is creating a terrible rift between astronomers and local Hawaiians. TMT will be able to discern gases in the most remote atmospheres, which may indicate extra terrestrial life, but the site is sacred for the Native Hawaiian community. As we hear, the story echoes the tension between science and faith that has played out for centuries.

(Photo: Astrophotography of The Great Orion Nebula, in the constellation Orion. Credit: Getty Images)

05Stargazing: South Africa's New Generation Astronomers20170920

We meet the scientist running the Square kilometre Array, the world's biggest telescope

The scientist running the Square Kilometre Array, the world's biggest telescope. Episode five of five.

The telescope's antennae spiral across the African continent. In the remote North Karoo town of Carnarvon in South Africa, the next generation of astronomers is training to run this major telescope facility.

(Photo: South Africa’s Karoo-based KAT-7 radio telescope array are pictured at sunset at The Square Kilometre Array. Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP)

05Stargazing: South Africa's New Generation Astronomers20170920

We meet the scientist running the Square kilometre Array, the world's biggest telescope

The scientist running the Square Kilometre Array, the world's biggest telescope. Episode five of five.

The telescope's antennae spiral across the African continent. In the remote North Karoo town of Carnarvon in South Africa, the next generation of astronomers is training to run this major telescope facility.

(Photo: South Africa’s Karoo-based KAT-7 radio telescope array are pictured at sunset at The Square Kilometre Array. Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP)

Science writer and author Dava Sobel reports on the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s biggest telescope, with its antennae spiralling out across the African continent. In the remote North Karoo town of Carnarvon in South Africa, she meets the next generation of astronomers, training to run this major telescope facility, currently under construction.

And as we discover, since Copernicus’ naked eye observations through the mists on the Baltic Sea, there are more scientists, more knowledge, more support.. but the new technologies today, no matter how complex, are still fuelled by the pull of the heavens on the human heart and mind.

(Photo: South Africa’s Karoo-based KAT-7 radio telescope array are pictured at sunset at The Square Kilometre Array. Credit: Alexander Joe/AFP)