Astronomy, Pythagorean Astronomy

Pythagorean Astronomy: Cartwheeling snowmen

High-res photo of 2014 MU69

High-res photo of 2014 MU69. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Chris North and Edward Gomez discuss the latest events from around the Solar System. At the start of the year, the Chinese Space Agency successfully landed their latest lander (Chang’e 4) on the far side of the Moon. The lander also carried a rover, Yutu 2, which has begun exploring the lunar surface, and a radio telescope.

Further from the Sun, new analysis of data from the Cassini spacecraft has indicate that the magnificent rings of Saturn might be much younger than previously thought – and perhaps that we’re lucky to be able to see them at all. There are plans for more missions to the Saturnian system, with the Dragonfly mission being proposed to fly around the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, exploring its mountains, lakes and rivers.

The most prominent space news at the start of the year was the flyby of the New Horizons probe past the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (sometimes called “Ultima Thule”). Located 6 billion miles from the Sun, the first tantalising images show a very oddly-shaped object, with a notably wintery appearance. Cardiff’s Professor Jane Greaves studies the outer solar system, and tells us what we know about MU69 so far, and why it is similar to a cartwheeling snowman…

An extended edition of an original broadcast on 31st January 2019 as part of Pythagoras’ Trousers on Radio Cardiff.