Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty
Multimedia IconMultimedia

Tasting the Air of Distant Worlds

HR 8799 Four Planet System From Project 1640

Air Date: 06/03/2013
Run Time: 31:50

Listen to the full show:

Or Download mp3


  • Ben R. Oppenheimer, Associate Curator/Astrophysics Department Chair, American Museum of Natural History, Division of Physical Sciences

Topics: explaining science, podcasts and videos, interview, Planetary Society People, Bill Nye, Planetary Radio, extrasolar planets, optical telescopes, astronomy and astrophysics spacecraft, astronomy, solar system formation

Support Planetary Radio

There will soon be one thousand confirmed exoplanets, but how do we learn more about such distant worlds? We talk to the leader of a team that has recently developed technology capable of revealing the spectra of these planets, which allows us to tease apart their composition. Emily Lakdawalla invites you to find the next “face” on Mars, while Bill Nye says another asteroid flyby is good news.  Our special What’s Up space trivia contest prize will put your picture in orbit!

Related Links

Trivia Contest

This week's prize is a HD Space Selfie to be taken by the Planetary Resources Arkyd 100 citizen space telescope!

This week's question:
Approximately how many jellyfish flew on STS-40?

To submit your answer:
Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at no later than Monday, June 10th, at 2pm Pacific Time.  Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:
In what year did more humans launch into space than any other year?

The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:
What planet in our solar system has the longest solar day?

Mercury has the longest SOLAR day.


No trivia contest spoilers please!

SpaceManJosh: 06/06/2013 11:13 CDT

Very exciting! I would love to see this technique (mentioned by Oppenheimer in the interview) applied to some of the closer star systems. Would it be possible to use this technique on the Alpha-Centauri system? Can you block out more than one star with this instrument?

Mat Kaplan: 06/13/2013 11:15 CDT

Hi, Josh. Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Your question about using this technique for a nearby, multi-star system like AC is great. I'll send it to Ben. Thanks for listening!

Mat Kaplan: 07/19/2013 11:51 CDT

Hey, SpaceManJosh! Here's the nice reply Ben sent me while I was on vacation: Hi Mat, Huge apologies for taking so long to reply. We can actually observe very close binary stars, and we do. Unfortunately Alpha Centauri is too far south in the sky to be visible from Palomar, but we are about to commission a new instrument, very similar to Project 1640, in Chile later this year. That system is called the Gemini Planet Imager.

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Planetary Radio Search

Planetary Defense

An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.


Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join The Planetary Society

Let’s explore the cosmos together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!