These are audio recordings of recent non-technical talks by noted astronomers. The lectures are presented on six Wednesday evenings during each school year at Foothill College, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. Speakers over the years have included Nobel-prize winners, members of the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman in history to discover a planet, an astrophysicist who is an award-winning science fiction writer, and many other well-known scientists explaining astronomical developments in everyday language.

The Monster Black Hole at the Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

20 Mar 2017 at 11:36am
By measuring the rapid orbits of the stars near the center of our galaxy, Dr. Andrea Ghez, UCLA, and her colleagues have moved the case for a supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way from a possibility to a certainty. She reports on her pioneering observations and discusses some of t... Read more...

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Space-time Symphony: Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes

20 Mar 2017 at 11:26am
Gravitational waves are predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. They travel at the speed of light, but are much harder to detect than light waves. On September 14, 2015, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) received the first direct gravitational wave signa... Read more...

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The Science and Non-science of Star Wars

20 Mar 2017 at 11:16am
In this wide-ranging, humorous talk, Seth Shostak, SETI Institute, takes a look at Star Wars and other science fiction films from the point of view of a skeptical scientist, tells stories about the movies he has been asked to advise, and muses about aliens from space and how we might make contact... Read more...

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Finding a New Earth: Exoplanets and the Habitable Zone

25 Jul 2016 at 11:16am
Over 1500 new planetary systems have now been discovered, many of which include planets quite different from those in our own Solar System. A key step towards finding “Earth 2.0” will be to identify rocky planets that occupy the “Habitable Zone” of their stars. Dr. Stephen Kane (San Francisco Sta... Read more...

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How Things in the Universe Came About and How They Ended Up Within Us

25 Jul 2016 at 11:16am
Dr. Tom Abel (Stanford University) takes us on an illustrated journey through the early stages of the universe, using the latest computer animations of how the first (massive) stars formed and died, and how stars built up the first galaxies. He also discusses how the early stars seeded the cosmos... Read more...

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Report from the Planetary Frontier: The Latest from New Horizons at Pluto

24 Jun 2016 at 11:16am
On July 14, 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft flew 7,800 mi above the surface of Pluto and sent back fascinating images of the dwarf planet and its large (and intriguing) moon Charon. Many of the images show unexpected beauty and complexity on Pluto’s surface. Dr. Jeff Moore from NASA Ames Resear... Read more...

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Innumerable Globes Like This One: The Search for Life Beyond the Solar System

24 Jun 2016 at 11:16am
Our Galaxy probably hosts billions of planetary systems. But how many of those planets are like the Earth and how can we determine whether life has taken hold there, too? In this talk, Dr. Tori Hoehler from NASA Ames Research Center discusses the science of searching for life beyond our immediate... Read more...

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Einstein’s Blunder Undone: The Runaway Universe

19 Jan 2016 at 10:16am
In the past 20 years, astronomers have shown that the universe is not only expanding, but speeding up. In this talk, Harvard University's Dr. Robert Kirshner, who was in many ways the "godfather" of these investigations, discusses the methods used to discover cosmic acceleration and presents the ... Read more...

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In the Land of Enchantment: The Epic Story of the Cassini Mission to Saturn

11 Jan 2016 at 10:16am
Since 2004, Cassini has been exploring the giant planet Saturn, its magnificent ring system, and its intriguing moons. Dr. Carolyn Porco shows us many of the magnificent mission images and explains the findings from both the main orbiter and the probe that landed on Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon. ... Read more...

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100 Years of Einstein's Relativity (And How it Underlies Our Modern Understan...

6 Jul 2015 at 9:16pm
2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s completion of his General Theory of Relativity, the comprehensive theory of space, time, and gravity. Dr. Jeffrey Bennett (University of Colorado) explains the basic ideas of Einstein’s work (both the special and general theories) in everyday languag... Read more...

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