Planetary Radio • Nov 15, 2016

Pluto and Titan and Iran, Oh My!

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On This Episode

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S. Sona Hosseini

Research and Instrument Scientist for Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Rosaly Lopes

Senior Research Scientist/Manager for Planetary Science for Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Mike Malaska

Scientist for Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Jani Radebaugh

Professor of Geological Sciences for Brigham Young University

Back to the annual meeting of the AAS Division for Planetary Sciences this week, where Mat Kaplan visited with experts on worlds of ice including Titan and Pluto, with a side trip to the dunes of Iran. Emily Lakdawalla checks in from a planning session for the next camera that will land on Mars. Bill Nye considers the outlook for space exploration in the Trump administration. Our What’s Up segment travels to a moon of Saturn to find characters from the Lord of the Rings.

Pluto’s majestic mountains, frozen plains and foggy hazes
Pluto’s majestic mountains, frozen plains and foggy hazes Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The smooth expanse of the informally named icy plain Sputnik Planum (right) is flanked to the west (left) by rugged mountains up to 3,500 meters high, including the informally named Norgay Montes in the foreground and Hillary Montes on the skyline. To the right, east of Sputnik, rougher terrain is cut by apparent glaciers. The backlighting highlights over a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous but distended atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 18,000 kilometers to Pluto; the scene is 1,250 kilometers wide.Image: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI
‘Lakes’ on Saturn's moon Titan
‘Lakes’ on Saturn's moon Titan Radar images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal many lakes on Titan's surface, some filled with liquid, and some appearing as empty depressions. The data were obtained by Cassini's radar instrument from 2004 to 2013. For more information, click here.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Italian Space Agency (ASI) / USGS

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This week's prizes are a lovely men’s or women’s Planetary Radio t-shirt, a Planetary Society rubber asteroid, and a 200-point astronomy account.

This week's question:

On what date will be the next full moon that is closer to Earth than the one we just experienced on November 14, 2016?

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Tuesday, November 22nd at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What supernova did famous astronomer Tycho Brahe observe?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the week before:

Like the Lord of the Rings? Let’s play “Where in the Solar System.” Where in the solar system is Gandalf Colles?


Gandalf Colles is on Saturn’s moon Titan