March 28, 2020

The Universe of Astronomy Podcasting.




Technology has changed nearly every aspect of astronomy. We’ve gone from auto guiding long exposures on hyper-sensitized film to automated observatories that patrol the skies while we sleep. Technology is just plain cool. It’s hard to imagine that slightly more than a decade ago, the Internet was non-existent, processors were measured in kilobytes, and the latest issue of Sky & Telescope was telling us about that brief comet that had already come and gone.

Today’s news cycle is measured in hours (or minutes!) via the latest RSS feed or Twitter…it’s no longer enough to “just have an email account.” Not that I would give up our arsenal of toys for one second. I got my first notification that Comet Holmes had brightened to naked eye visibility via RSS, and I have no doubt that when the killer asteroid with our name on it heads our way, Twitter will be telling us about it. (That is, if we’re still Tweeting!) Technology is a tool and its here to stay. Anyhow, one of the fastest growing realms is the world of Podcasting. A few years ago, a friend gave us a toy that was more addictive than liquid crack: an Ipod Nano. I’ve barely listened to AM radio since! It took me some scanning around to find any podcasts I cared to subscribe to: now I’m hooked. The genre is still evolving; some podcasts are very professionally done, and some sound like they were done in a college dorm laundry room. As with all pioneers, you have to pan a lot of dirt to find a gold nugget.When it comes to any media, three types of audience listeners abound;

1. “I have an Ipod and listen to everything under the Sun”

2. “I have an Ipod and every other piece of imaginable technology, but haven’t gotten around to figuring them out, or getting them out of the package.”

3.”What’s an Ipod? Computers will be the ruination of the world.”

If you can think of it, there’s a podcast out there for you.

So, what’s on the Astroguyz’ pod-catcher? Here’s a quick list of some of our faves;

Astronomy Cast: One of our weekly faves; host Fraser Cain and astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay serve up discussions of various astronomical topics. The knowledge base represents a broad spectrum, and is accessible to beginning dabblers, but still interesting to advanced types. I learn something new nearly every week from this podcast! Dr. Pamela Gay in particular is a superb popularizer of astronomy, a resource the field desperately needs!

The Naked Scientists: A British production, this is a grab bag of science news stories that often touches on the astronomical. “Kitchen science” is also a fun piece, and you can access them in 2nd Life, as well. And they personally answer emails!

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe: A fun weekly segment, this skeptical podcast is also primarily science news based and can venture into astronomy. Hosted by Dr. Steven Novella and friends, who also runs the NeuroLogica blog, the podcast can also be had in a shortened “5×5″ format and on YouTube. (when do they sleep?) The “Science or Fiction?” segment is the high point of our week as we like to test wits with the “panel of skeptics”. These guys also are part of the tight knit skeptical community which serves the incalculable function of watchdogs against the dark forces of fallacy.

Skepchick Podcast: And speaking of which, the gals at have recently launched a podcast as well! Cool for their name alone, the Skepchicks may singularly make critical thinking hip. Kudos to Rebbecca Watson (who has an asteroid named after her,) on this one! The podcast currently has only a few episodes, and is still looking for a niche. Now is the time to get in on the ground floor! All they need is their own show (ala Mythbusters), and the Skepchicks would be set to rule!

EscapePod: If you only can have one podcast per week on a desert island, this would be our pick. We’ve tried many science fiction podcasts, and this is the only one that made us push the “subscription” button. The format is straight forward but effective; each week, host Steve Eley narrates one new story by some of the hottest Scifi writers out there. It’s also a wonderful way to get in on whats hip in grassroots Scifi. The releases have been a bit “spaced out” (pun intended!) this year, so now is a good time to catch up on the back log. And be sure to also checkout the companion sites Pseudopod (horror), and Castlepod (fantasy). Expect a larger post/review of EscapePod from ye ole Astroguyz sometime this season!

365 Days of Astronomy: With the International Year of Astronomy well underway, this project seeks to bring astronomy to the masses. One podcast a day, submitted on the topic of astronomy from a variety of sources. I particularly like the weekly roundup format. Several of the biggies, such as the AAVSO podcast and, can be found under this umbrella. Also present is…

Slacker Astronomy: I like this podcast, although not enough to subscribe to it. It turns up on 365 Days…and we’ve downloaded it of and on.  Like Skepchicks, it seems to be searching for a groove.

Some Cool non-science podcasts; Hey, astronomy and Scifi is not our entire life, right? We also are addicted to The Moth podcast, which features hilarious life stories, and The Rest of Everest, a video podcast about traveling and climbing in the Himalayas.

Some honorable mentions: The Astronomy of Ireland Weekly Radio Show, and Mountain Radio Astronomy, are both competent podcasts.  Restless Universe, The podcast of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, has also been resurrected for the IYA and can be found on the 365 days… compilation.

A word on large corporate Podcasts… we’ve tried to love podcasts via the big names, such as Sky & Telescope, Astronomy Magazine, and PBS’s Nova, we honestly have. At best they just seem to be snippets, enticements to buy their main product. Like blogs, the best podcasts seem to be done by the starving souls that produce them as a labor of love. Of course, maybe we’re just biased to that effect! It just seems that some entities put out a podcast or a blog just to appear on the cutting edge, but the meat ‘n potatoes tend to be missing!

What, no good Amateur Astronomy Podcasts? What I have yet to hear is an engaging podcast targeted towards the Amateur Astronomy scene. Could this be an Astroguyz call to arms? Most seem aimed at beginners (here’s how to spot Sirius tonight!) which is a necessary service, (Hey, we do it too!) but some advanced stuff would be cool, as well! David and Wendy Levy have a wonderful radio show called Let’s Talk Stars that would transpose well into this format… anyone want to brainstorm this concept with me? I would do it, but I’m just (let me check) one guy…



  1. There’s a radio astronomy show on on Tuesdays 9pm to 11pm called Musical Universe, that is put together by an astrophysicst. It might be what you are looking for.

  2. Leonor says:

    I started Podcasting about a year ago and it is more exciting than blogging. I love podcasting maybe because i love music so much and radio programs when i was still a kid.

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