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The Search for Extraterrestrial Polluters?

Alien polluters

Air Date: 08/12/2014
Run Time: 28:50

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  • Henry Lin, Student, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Topics: Rosetta and Philae, Pluto, comets, Charon, Future Mission Concepts, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Planetary Radio, life, extrasolar planets, Bill Nye

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Harvard’s Henry Lin led work that determined the soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope may be able to detect an alien civilization by analyzing its atmosphere. Emily Lakdawalla shows us a couple of worlds revolving around one another. One of them is Pluto. Bill Nye examines criticism of the proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission coming from planetary scientists. Mat Kaplan and Bruce Betts explore the night sky and begin yet another space trivia contest.

Alien polluters

Christine Pulliam (CfA)

Alien polluters
In this artist's conception, the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet displays a brownish haze - the result of widespread pollution. New research shows that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope potentially could detect certain pollutants, specifically CFCs, in the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting white dwarf stars.

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Trivia Contest

This week's prize is "Curiosity: An Inside Look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made It Happen" by Rod Pyle, and a Mars Science Laboratory mouse pad.

This week's question:

What two chemical elements, both discovered in 1803, were named after asteroids?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at no later than Tuesday, August 19, at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

Who was the first Mars Rover named after?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

Approximately how long was the Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicle that astronauts drove on the moon?


The Apollo Lunar Roving Vehicles were about 3.1 meters or just over 10 feet long.


No trivia contest spoilers please!

Eric Reger: 08/15/2014 02:31 CDT

Cerium and palladium

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