Show cover of EVSN: Escape Velocity Space News

EVSN: Escape Velocity Space News

Get your weekly dose of all that's new in space and astronomy with Escape Velocity Space News. The sky is not the limit, as we bring you the latest scientific discoveries and rocket launches. EVSN is brought to you by the team behind CosmoQuest at the Planetary Science Institute, and features hosts Dr. Pamela L. Gay and Erik Madaus with special guest interviews by Beth Johnson and audio engineering by Ally Pelphrey. EVSN is supported through Patreon at


Carrington 2024
In this episode, we’re taking a closer look at Sunspot complex 3664 and the beautiful chaos that it’s been creating. And because we’re in a planetary science kind of mood, we’re also looking at stories related to observing weather on alien worlds, the history of Mars Climate, and even how solar storms might affect that particular Red Planet.
28:38 5/22/24
Io and Juno Begin to Part Ways
In February, on the closest approach, NASA's Juno spacecraft was within 930 miles of the closest moon Io’s surface. Since then, Juno’s orbit has been shrinking, bringing the mission closer to Jupiter and away from the circling Galilean moons. Io and Juno have parted ways, and Juno is now snuggling down into tighter orbits around her Jupiter.
23:53 5/8/24
Catch the (Alien) Rainbow
As scientists discover and explore the atmospheres of more and more planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, we are learning that if you can imagine it, it probably exists. In a new paper discussing the planet WASP-76b, researchers describe what appears to be a giant rainbow in the atmosphere of another world... a circular rainbow... and it's not caused by refracted starlight!
31:00 4/25/24
Following the Water Toward Climate Change
This week’s episode is brought to you by last week’s terrible weather. While experiencing hail and thunder IRL, we also saw press release after press release and article after article discussing climate change. This one-two punch of new science and the need for a new roof means we will touch on climate change in our closer look this week. We apologize in advance; it’s not pretty out there -- unless you like storm chasing, then it’s kind of the stuff of dreams at the moment.
30:25 4/10/24
Planet Formation is (Still) Not Well Understood
One of our recurring topics is “Planet formation is not well understood,” and a trio of new papers is making it clear why planet formation continues to... not be well understood. Put simply: the universe likes to create more diverse solar systems than an entire planet’s worth of sci-fi writers can imagine.
30:52 3/29/24
SPECIAL SHORT: How NASA Budget Cuts Will Hurt Space Science
Earlier in March, Congress voted into place the FY2024 budgets for multiple agencies, including NASA. The agency is being asked for an overall 2% cut. Combined with inflation rates over 3%, we are looking at a fairly significant cut to the U.S. budget for space science. Dr. Pamela Gay breaks down what these cuts will affect, including people and missions, as we move forward with this already stressful fiscal year. (This episode was recorded on March 14, 2024)
14:15 3/26/24
Grindavik, Iceland, and Volcanoes with Dr. Melissa Scruggs
As you know, our team loves volcanoes, and since we’ve been focused on Iceland for months, we brought in Dr. Melissa Scruggs (aka VolcanoDoc on Twitch) for a chat about Grindavik and all things volcanic in Iceland.
38:26 3/14/24
Stability, Instability, Drama, and How We are Space Stuff
It is possible to buy stickers, sweatshirts, mugs, and other stuff and things emblazoned with the simple phrase, “We are star stuff”. This phrase was popularized by Carl Sagan, and it serves as a gentle reminder that all the complex atoms - by which I mean most everything heavier than helium - found their start either in the nuclear core of a star or in the nuclear explosions of a dying star or stars. But, as with so many things, the truth is much more complicated than the meme.
33:54 3/7/24
Early Black Holes Formed Before Stars?
One of the unexpected realities of JWST is the discovery that we have really been asking the wrong questions in many astronomy areas. For instance: we generally asked how supermassive black holes and galaxies formed, with a basic assumption that these things happened in some interrelated process. We thought stellar mass black holes came from stars and that there might have been tiny primordial black holes that evaporated away, but that was it. Closed case. Black holes formed with all the normal structures we experience today. Except that now, JWST’s observations require us to find a way to accelerate the formation of those structures, and one way to do that is to seed the universe with black holes.
36:16 2/22/24
Yes, Scientists DO Look at the (Dark Energy Survey) Data
Every time I get the digital “why can’t you scientists just look at the data” lecture, I wonder what people think scientists do. All we do is look at data, and when that data tells us our understanding of the universe is wrong, we’re pretty good at accepting the data and throwing out our false understandings… even when the data makes our life a whole lot harder. Such is the case with the accelerating rate of expansion of the Universe...
33:49 2/14/24
Celebrating the Mars Robots that Could
Robots on Mars have a long history of exceeding all possible expectations. From Spirit and Opportunity lasting far beyond their planned 90-day missions to Ingenuity lasting 72 flights out of a planned five, these craft have become so beloved that we mourn their missions ending. Today, while we recognize NASA's Day of Remembrance, we also celebrate all the Mars missions that have done more than expected.
32:36 2/7/24
The Compass (Sometimes... Kinda) Points North
If you take a compass and follow its pointy little needle, you will end up in Northern Canada but not at the North Pole. If you have a boat, you'll end up on Ellesmere Island wondering where Santa is hiding. The fact that the rotational north pole of the Earth and the magnetic pole of the Earth don’t align means that if you want to actually get to the Earth’s rotational North Pole - the one the pole sticks out of on your globe - you have to look up corrections online and veer a little bit in whatever direction the correction happens to be at the moment. And if you are catching this show sometime far, far in the future, then Ellesmere Island that is true in early 2024 is likely no longer true.
33:10 1/24/24
Spooky Season Space Images
From October 25, 2023: Around our parent collaboration, CosmoQuest, Halloween is, hands-down, the most beloved season of the year. Costumes are worn. Yards are decorated. We are here for all the strangers that knock on our door - the weirdos, the witches, and the oh-so-many werewolves - and there will be as much candy as we can afford given out. We know we are not the only ones. With about a week to go, we know that any day now, NASA, ESA, ESO, and others will begin releasing their spooky season images. There will be nebulae cropped with the contrast adjusted just so to reveal witches' hats, and others rotated to reveal ghosts and maybe - I can hope - a goblin or two.
54:05 1/11/24
Making Anti-Matter... Matter
In this episode, we look at what tree rings can teach us about past earthquakes, and how well machine learning can identify life, like trees, from carbon-rich materials that were never alive to distant galaxies and spinning black holes. We even take a deep dive into anti-matter, but not a literal deep dive… just a conceptual deep dive.
40:46 1/3/24
Whales and (Possible) Space Whales
As the Thanksgiving leftovers reach the stage of possibly gaining intelligence in the back of our refrigerators, we’re going to take a look at the origins of life, how we might find simple life on icy moons, and even how we can practice learning to communicate with other civilizations by chatting up a humpback whale.
26:56 12/29/23
Blast From the Past: Watch the Annular Eclipse on October 14!
When we headed into recording this episode, I didn’t know if there would be a government shutdown or not, and I have to admit, on Saturday, September 30, I spent more than a few hours binge-watching TV shows while frequently updating my news feeds. This episode would have looked very different with a shutdown. Since we got a budget, today’s episode focuses on science. In the first segment, I get to talk about something I never thought I’d even read about -- the effects of spawning anchovies on energy dissipation in the ocean. Along with that fishy story, we have news from the Mars rovers, pretty images, and information on watching the October 14th annular eclipse. (This episode was originally released on October 4, 2023.)
37:35 12/21/23
Solar Cycle to the Maximum, 2025
Researchers currently think solar maximum - when the Sun is most active - will occur sometime in late 2024 to early 2025. With this cycle, we will experience just what a good blast of solar radiation can do to the small sats, CanSats, and other satellites in low-earth orbit. If history is to be listened to, it’s only a matter of time before a solar event wreaks havoc on satellites and our ground-based society.
29:51 12/13/23
Planetary Formation Leads to Strange New Worlds
We keep tweaking our format a little bit every episode, trying to find the right mix for YouTube, podcasts, and now, short-form video. We think we the setup is on the mark now and thank you for your patience as we made adjustments. Soon, we will have content to share on TikTok and Reels. For now, enjoy this week's deep dive into planetary formation and all the ways scientists have tried to explain stellar systems. (This episode was originally released in video format on December 1, 2023.)
30:55 12/6/23
It's Not Aliens (We Also Want Aliens)
There are some news cycles that are just plain weird, and this news cycle tried really, really hard to be one of them. Headlines last week highlighted that JWST observed methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet, which is entirely true. This headline was followed by stories that the reason could be aliens… and there is not enough data to be aliens. We want there to be definitive signs of life on other worlds. We want to know that life is common. We want the universe to thrive with societies capable of art, exploration, empathy, and science. We want our universe to not be a tremendous waste of space. And it is really frustrating to see these stories that inevitably imply that researchers are trying to cover up the truth. We’re not; we’re impatiently waiting for there to be enough evidence that we can say, yes, there is life out there among the stars. And that evidence isn’t here. (This episode was originally released on YouTube September 27, 2023.)
47:00 12/3/23
The Volcano That Could... But Didn't
Dr. Pamela is big on volcanoes, and she hoped we’d have an awesome new eruption to report, but we don't. There is, however, still a lot of news this week that doesn’t include an Iceland eruption. Instead, the news includes the first images from a new spacecraft, updates on Lucy’s discovery of a contact binary, and more on the OSIRIS-REx sample return. (This episode was originally released in video format on November 24, 2023.)
29:35 12/1/23
More (Failed) Observations of Dark Matter
In this week's episode, we look at the upcoming solar maximum, how solar activity affects Neptune, the robotic invasion fleet on Mars, and how some of the weirdest star systems in reality have been able to form. In our closer look, we fail to see dark matter - like everyone - but observe its gravitational impact on light from objects we can see. (This episode was originally released on YouTube September 13, 2023.)
38:58 11/22/23
A River Runs Through It - Mars and Titan
This episode reminds you to look up, look out, and reflect on what we see around us. Stories cover a weird white dwarf that is doing things our Sun may do billions of years from now, how satellite images can now be used to measure river flows here and on Mars, and Titan, as well as the emerging field of planetary geoarcheology, that will help us understand just how long it will take for Mars rovers to become buried relics. And also climate change. Buckle up, the news isn't good. (This episode was originally released on YouTube August 9, 2023.)
44:09 11/20/23
Satellite Constellations and Early Warning Systems
According to satellite cataloger Jonathan McDowell, there are now 18 satellite constellations, like Starlink, being planned. These constellations will contain 543,811 satellites. This is a whole lot of missions to try and keep from colliding and all it takes is one particularly bad collision to transform the more than half-million objects from useful technologies to a shield of shrapnel that protects our universe from us by trapping us here. In our closer look today, we are going to look at early warning systems that are being developed, and how future - more highly mobile satellites, can both do good and create chaos. (This episode was originally released on YouTube July 29, 2023.)
41:31 11/15/23
The Universe is (Still) Trying to Murder Us
In today’s episode, we’re going to look at everything from how past Earth couldn’t support photosynthesis because the days were just too short, to current Earth letting us get hit by more Cosmic Rays prior to Earthquakes going off, and to supernovae threatening our world while alien stars eat other planets. Science, sometimes, is just kind of violent. (This episode was originally released on YouTube July 8, 2023.)
41:49 10/26/23
Once and Future Life on Venus, Earth, and Mars
Each week, when we set off to do this show, we start with one core idea: We want to tell you what is new in space and astronomy… and remember Earth is a planet too. When we select stories, we try to find the ones we’re excited to talk about over coffee, or the ones we know we will be sharing randomly with strangers who make the mistake of asking, “What do astronomers do?” We are here, week after week, to inflict space on others, and we hope that when we do you will return the favor and inflict this show on others. (This episode was originally released on YouTube June 24, 2023.)
41:55 10/25/23
Earth Science is Planetary Science
In this episode, we need to take one of our periodic looks at our planet's science and understand what it means to life as we know it. But we will only look at Earth for the first two segments. Then we’re going to race away to enjoy an interview by Beth Johnson with Dr. Kat Volk about the icy Trans-Neptunian Objects that fill the spaces around Neptune and beyond Pluto. In our final segment, we look at all the amazing - and in one case alarming - launch attempts of the past two weeks. (This episode was originally released on YouTube June 3, 2023.)
51:41 10/24/23
A New Space Race?
Space science isn’t where the money is… at least not yet. Astronomy and planetary science in the U.S. are funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and a variety of smaller foundations and extremely wealthy individuals. And this means that sometimes science can only advance at the speed Congress is willing to budget. The U.S. is in a new space race with China, and our ability to remain competitive in low-earth orbit is now an economic issue, with communications and imaging satellites powering multiple sectors. If a multi-year authorization is passed, there is hope folks will be able to dream, focus on research, and maybe, just maybe, spend less time asking for money. (This episode was originally released on YouTube May 20, 2023.)
48:49 10/6/23
The History of Life As We Know It
In this episode, we’re going to look at how we now work to understand the history of life - including human life - on Earth by studying the geology of our planet, and we’re going to take those lessons learned and apply them to Mars, and exoplanets beyond our solar system. (This episode was originally released on YouTube May 13, 2023.)
40:17 10/4/23
Meteors, Meteor Showers, and their Parent Bodies
In this episode, we’re going to be talking more about meteors - including the source of the Geminids meteor shower, asteroid Phaethon - as well as hot planets, hungry black holes, and how we’re working to uncover the identity of dark matter. (This episode was originally released on YouTube May 6, 2023.)
42:56 9/12/23
SETI and the Very Large Array
While we could spend an entire episode on Earth, there is just too much going on in the universe to linger anywhere too long. From our world, we journey out to look at the super massive black hole in the core of M87, and then Beth Johnson will join us with an interview of the SETI Institute’s Dr Chenoa Tremblay and how radio astronomers are one step closer to simultaneously looking for life and doing science with the very large array. This interview highlights how advances in signal detection and processing will now allow researchers to both study the science of distant stars and look for potential signals of alien civilizations. (This episode was originally released on YouTube April 29, 2023.)
53:08 9/11/23

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