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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#216 - Brian Cox

This week in our Christmas week special. Jamie returns to interview one of our heroes Brian Cox. Jamie, Julio and Chris also join Matt, to discuss the round-up of space news and of course the Space 2020 Awards.

"My old grandmother always used to say, 'Summer friends will melt away like summer snows, but winter friends are friends forever." — George R.R. Martin (a brother of the Night's Watch) Mully

Brian Cox CBE FRS

Needs no introduction, he is an English physicist and former musician who serves as professor of particle physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester.

He is best known to the public as the presenter of science programmes and for popular science books, such as Why Does E=mc²? and The Quantum Universe. He has been the author or co-author of over 950 scientific publications.

Brian was also a keyboard player for the British bands D:Ream and Dare.


Winter solstice (hiemal solstice or hibernal solstice )

  • The winter solstice occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun.

  • The shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky

  • winter is reckoned as beginning about three weeks before the winter solstice.

  • symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun.

  • The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days.

Bonus: Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction best today ...but good all week.

ESA News

An ESA-funded study has highlighted the challenges and benefits of launch services based on reusable hypersonic spacecraft to complement Europe’s launch capabilities beyond 2030. The proposed system uses a hybrid air-breathing rocket engine called SABRE.

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer has been assigned to his first flight to the International Space Station during a meeting of representatives from the US, Russian, Japanese, Canadian and European space agencies at the beginning of December.

Name of mission : Cosmic Kiss

The Cosmic Kiss patch takes inspiration from the Nebra sky disc (“Himmelsscheibe von Nebra”) – the oldest known realistic illustration of the night sky – as well as the Pioneer plaques and Voyager Golden Records that were sent into the unknown carrying messages from Earth.

ArianeGroup signs contract with ESA to develop Themis reusable stage demonstrator

  • The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded ArianeGroup the contract for the initial development phase of the Themis reusable rocket stage demonstrator

  • This first contract, worth 33 million euros, was awarded to ArianeGroup following preparatory work done by ArianeWorks, the innovation accelerator platform created by the French space agency CNES and ArianeGroup

  • Themis, powered by the Prometheus engine, will enable Europe to develop technologies for future low-cost reusable launchers

UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway was welcomed to ESA by the agency’s Director General Jan Wörner last week to discuss UK-related space activities.

The visit took place at ESA's European Centre for Space Applications and Technology (ECSAT) and British space research and technology development facility RAL Space, both based at Harwell in the UK. During the visit, ESA astronaut Tim Peake launched a campaign to mark five years since the beginning of his historic mission to the International Space Station.

Today, the ESA Council appointed Dr Josef Aschbacher as the next Director-General of ESA, for a period of four years. He will succeed Prof. Jan Wörner, whose term of office ends on 30 June 2021. Director Earth observation. Staff, not a politician, grown into role.

Space Awards 2020!!!

Best Space Event

  • 3rd Starship Hop

  • 2nd Chang’e 5 landing on the moon

  • 1st Crew Demo-2 and Crew-1 - large margin

Best Space Legend

  • Joint 2nd Christina Koch and Victor Glover

  • 1st ElonMusk - by a long way

Best rocket

  • 3rd Electron

  • 2nd Long March 5

  • 1st Falcon 9 - by a long way!!

Best bit of Space Science

  • 3rd Finding a FRB in our own galaxy

  • Joint first totally split vote

Hayabusa Sample Return and Phosphene in Venus’s clouds

Special thanks to everyone who left lovely comments

Todd Barnell - “Thanks so much for all you do - all the energy you put into this show and all the hope and awe you help us feel. I'm awfully proud to be a Patreon so I can be a tiny part of the awesomeness”

Other News

Astra very nearly reaches orbit.

  • On Tuesday, at a spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska,

  • Rocket 3.2 did not reach orbit ... the booster peaked at an apogee of 390km

  • The company had not quite gotten the mixture of kerosene to oxidizer correct, if upper stage burnt kerosene for a few more seconds, the upper stage would have reached orbit.

  • The company's next launch, of Rocket 3.3, is likely within a few months.

  • Also, NASA Winners of fixed-price awards are Astra Space ($3.9 million), Relativity Space ($3.0 million), and Firefly ($9.8 million) for demo flights.

Virgin Galactic space plane fails to ignite the engine.

Second Angara-5 rocket lifts off

U.S. sets a record for licensed commercial launches. The U.S. Department of Transportation said this week that it supported a record of 35 commercial launches so far in 2020.

Falcon 9 sets commercial reuse record

  • Sirius XM-7 satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

  • this Falcon 9 first stage was making its seventh flight (used also for Crew-1)

NASA says New Glenn eligible to compete for launch contracts. But still no maiden launch date!!!

The Delta IV Heavy Dec. 10 mission followed a series of scrubs it was rolled out to the pad in November 2019.

The Delta 4 Heavy probably retired after launching four more NRO missions

Long March 8 about to fly?

Pavel Vinogradov told Sputnik on Saturday that the new air leak on the ISS Zvezda module did not pose any serious danger. On Friday, experts from the Moscow Region-based Mission Control Center asked the ISS crew to help locate the air leak in the Russian module Zvezda, as the station's gas reserves to compensate

The Chang'e 5 lunar mission has been declared a complete success after the reentry capsule carrying rock and soil samples from the moon landed safely in the designated area early on Thursday.


Tantalising ‘signal’ appears to have come from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the sun

Guardian reported pre paper!!

  • The narrow beam of radio waves was picked up during 30 hours of observations by the Breakthrough Listen project at the Parkes telescope in Australia in April and May last year

  • named BLC1

  • Analysis has yet to identify a terrestrial culprit such as ground-based equipment or a passing satellite.

  • Almost certain to have a mundane explanation too, however, the direction of the narrow beam, around 980MHz, and an apparent shift in its frequency said to be consistent with the

“The Breakthrough Listen team has detected several unusual signals and is carefully investigating. These signals are likely interference that we cannot yet fully explain. Further analysis is currently being undertaken.”
Pete Worden
“The chances against this being an artificial signal from Proxima Centauri seem staggering,” “We’ve been looking for alien life for so long now and the idea that it could turn out to be on our front doorstep, in the very next star system, is piling improbabilities upon improbabilities. The chances of the only two civilisations in the entire galaxy happening to be neighbours, among 400bn stars, absolutely stretches the bounds of rationality.”
“But I’d love to be proved wrong.”
Lewis Dartnell



Australian researchers from Western Sydney University, Macquarie University, and Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, have contributed to the first observation of a gas filament with a length of 50 million light years - confirming current 'big bang' ideas about the origin and evolution of the Universe. The model 'Lambda Cold Dark Matter', uses the combination of Dark Matter and Dark Energy to explain the way structures in the Universe should appear

  • Published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, this research led by the University of Bonn, was the result of a collaboration between an Australian-led team of scientists using CSIRO's Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope and German scientists, using the new eROSITA space telescope.

  • The ASKAP telescope observations were made as part of the "early science observations" for a project called the Evolutionary Map of the Universe, also known as 'EMU' - one of nine major survey programs planned with ASKAP.

  • "These observations of a system of galaxy clusters 700 million light years away from us detect a gaseous filament of the cosmic web, which is thought to pervade the Universe, but has so far eluded our telescopes," Professor Norris said.

  • ,

  • "This is a great example of two international next-generation telescopes working together to do science that was not possible in the past."

  • EMU is an international team of more than 400 researchers led by Professor Andrew Hopkins of Macquarie University. Team members include Thomas Reiprich, of Bonn University, who led the analysis of the eROSITA data, and former EMU project leader, Professor Ray Norris from Western Sydney University.

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