Science & Astronomy
6. January 2014

In October 2012, I had written a blog post with a collection of Google+ Hangouts, which I had last updated and translated into English about a year ago. Since it’s been a while and some things have changed, it’s time for another updated and revised edition, which now includes not only on-air hangouts, but also a couple of Podcasts from an earlier article I had originally written in German only. It does not matter if you have time to watch hangouts live, because everything is archived and together with the enormeous archives of the podcasts there is a lot to discover. With this collection, you can fill your media player queues for years!   

Astronomy Cast has already existed since September 2006 as an audio podcast, but Fraser Cain of Universe Today and Pamela L. Gay from the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville had discovered the possibility of group videochats using the Hangouts on Air of Google+ in December 2011 and since then have been broadcasting the recording of their podcast as a live hangout. First the half-hour podcast is recorded and then in another 30 minutes or so audience questions are answered, which can be asked in the comment sections on Google+, Youtube or even Twitter. The subject area is very wide and not limited to pure Astronomy – even after over 300 episodes Astronomy Cast is still interesting, educational and always entertaining. It’s not a dry scienctific lecture at all, but a certain scientific basic knowledge and curiosity is, of course, required. All audio episodes of Astronomy Cast are archived on the Podcast Website and in addition the archival recordings of the hangouts, which are often several episodes ahead of the podcasts, can be watched in the Youtube-Channel of Universe Today and are later archived in this playlist of Astrosphere Vids.
» Where: +AstronomyCast, +Fraser Cain, +Pamela Gay, +Universe Today
» When: Mondays at 20:00 UTC

The Virtual Star Party had its beginnings in January 2012 as an idea of Fraser Cain to hook up a telescope into a hangout. After a second test hangout the Virtual Star Party was born and became a regular feature, which depending on the weather and the participants, is taking place nearly every week now and is hosted together by Fraser Cain and Scott Lewis. Invited are not only astronomers from the USA, but often from the whole world, who are streaming their telescopes directly into the hangout and provide fascinating images of the moon, the planets and even of galaxies, nebulas and other objects – mixed with extensive comments and a lively and often funny conversation. This is not only interesting for amateur astronomers, but for everybody who is interested in astronomy. Because of the time difference it is not easy to watch these hangouts live from Europe, unless you stay up very late or get up very early – but the recordings of the hangouts are of course available at the Virtual Star Party Archive.
» Where: +Virtual Star Party, +Universe Today, CosmoQuest Hangouts
» When: Sunday/Monday, depending on the seasons, in winter 02:00-03:00 UTC

The Weekly Space Hangout from CosmoQuest and Universe Today is a hangout news show by space, astronomy and science journalists who report about the current news in their fields. The hangouts are usually hosted by Fraser Cain, with Scott Lewis or Nicole Gugliucci sometimes guest hosting. Regular contributors at the moment are Nancy Atkinson, Elizabeth Howell, Jason MajorDavid Dickinson, Matthew FrancisAmy Shira Teitel, Alan BoyleAlessondra Springman, Thad Szabo, Ian O’Neill, Brian Koberlein and sometimes also Emily Lakdawalla or Casey Dreier of the Planetary Society and Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy join in. The hangouts are archived in the Weekly Space Hangout playlist on the Universe Today Youtube channel. The hangout was on hold during summer 2012 because of time constraints, but has been happening almost weekly since the end of January 2013.
» Where: +CosmoQuest, +Universe Today, CosmoQuest Hangouts
» When: Fridays at 20:00 UTC

Learning Space was started as a new series of hangouts in January 2013, in which the education initiatives of CosmoQuest and other educators and organisations in science, astronomy and space research are presented. Nicole GugliucciPamela GayGeorgia Bracey and others from the CosmoQuest team talk with their guests about their programs and demonstrate their methods and ideas how education in the STEM (science-technology-engineering-math) fields can be improved. This is not only relevant for other American educators, but for anyone with an interest in science and astronomy – and the hangouts are always worth watching because of the great public outreach engagement of CosmoQuest. The hangouts are usually archived in Nicole Gugliucci’s Youtube channel and the Learning Space Playlist of Astrosphere Vids.
» Where: +CosmoQuest, CosmoQuest Hangouts
» When: Wednesday/Thursday 00:00 UTC

The Hubble Hangouts have been started in January 2013 by the EPO team of the Hubble Space Telescope and are hosted by Tony Darnell, who talks with scientists involved with the operation of the space telescope about their projects and research. While this is often very technical, the participants always take great care to explain everything in an easily understandable manner and the view behind the scenes of one of the most famous space-based telescopes is always interesting and astounding.
» Where: +Hubble Space TelescopeHubble Hangouts Website
» When: Semi-monthly, variyng times.

The Space Fan News and Space Fan Hangouts are produced by Tony Darnell with the occasional help from Scott Lewis. The weekly shorter space and astronomy news videos get brilliantly to the point and are welcome summaries of current events. They are sometimes accompanied by live hangouts like the new series about telescopes with many familiar guests from the CosmoQuest and Universe Today folks.
» Where: +Space Fans
» When: Weekly video uploads, hangouts at variyng times.

The Universe Today Explainer Videos are not actually Hangouts, but short videos written and presented by Frasier Cain with occasional guests. The topics are like a space and astronomy FAQ laundry list and are basically an extension of both Astronomy Cast and the Weekly Space Hangout, so they are more geared towards people who still want to broaden their knowledge, but at the same time are still interesting for “insiders”.
» Where: Universe Today Youtube Explainer Playlist
» When: Usually uploaded Mondays

The Cosmic Ray Show by astronomer Ray Sanders is a talkshow in a hangout format about space, astronomy and everything related. In a very entertaining and funny way Ray Sanders together with his guests – often people from CosmoQuest and Universe Today – talks about news in space exploration and astronomy. The show is archived in Ray Sanders’ Youtube channel and on the website of the Cosmic Ray Show.
» Where: +The Cosmic Ray Show,
» When: On hiatus at the moment, but will probably be back sometime in 2014.

365 Days of Astronomy is an initiative of podcasters all over the world to provide astronomy-related audio each day, which has been online since the beginning of 2009 and became part of CosmoQuest in 2013. The project incorporates many different podcasts including those of CosmoQuest themselves, notably there are audio versions of the Weekly Space Hangout and Learning Space which are usually not part of the Astronomy Cast audio feed.
» Where: +365 Days of Astronomy, Official Website
» When: Daily

Planetary Radio is the radio station and podcast of the Planetary Society with a weekly show hosted by Mat Kaplan with many different guests not only from the ranks of the Planetary Society itself. The show is not broadcast live, but the recordings are usually uploaded Mondays as a MP3 podcast and are available from the website, as a RSS feed and from iTunes.
» Where: Planetary Radio Website
» When:  Weekly on Mondays

The Infinite Monkey Cage has absolutely no relation with all of the above podcasts and hangouts, but I felt it still should be included here – it’s the comedy-science radio talk show from Professor Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince! The unlikely, but highly funny and intelligent pair talk with their amazing guests about just anything vaguely science related and despite all the fun are still very educational and interesting. The show is pre-recorded live with an audience and then broadcast on BBC Radio 4, but is also posted as a freely downloadable podcast in MP3 format on the show’s website. At the moment there are 48 roughly half-hour episodes in the archive and the show is usually broadcast in series of six episodes during the summer and in late autumn. Dates are usually announced on the show’s Twitter account.
» Where: The Infinite Monkey Cage Podcast Website
» When: Summer and Autumn, six episodes each

Star Talk Radio with astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson is a mix of a science and comedy radio talk show. Although Tyson is very much interested in the earnest popularization of science and astronomy, he and his group of rotating co-hosts, among them the comedians Chuck Nice and Eugene Mirman, are also having a lot of fun and never let the conversation become boring. Often there is a spliced-in guest interview, but there are also the Cosmic Queries, the occasional live show and more. The format is an actual radio show with some music and also commercials, but considering the great content, this is not really annoying and of course always skipable in the MP3s. There have also been occasional video podcasts on the Nerdist Channel since late 2012, but these have been very infrequent. The podcast archive is extensive and includes all shows from season 2, 3 and 4 for free download as MP3s, while the shorter season 1 is for some reason only available to buy.
» Where: Star Talk Radio Website
» When: Uploaded on Wednesdays

Some of these hangouts and some other events are listed in the CosmoQuest Calendar, which can be imported into a private Google calendar to show the dates and times in the local time zones. When logged into Google+, the local time will be shown on G+ event pages.

All these podcasts and hangouts should be worthwhile for everybody who is interested in science and astronomy. Apart from a healthy dose of curiosity and a solid basic knowledge no special requirements are necessary to follow the podcasts and hangouts, there is certainly no science degree needed. One thing is, however, absolutely necessary: very good English skills. Events like these in German language are virtually nonexistent, especially in German television, but if you want to catch up with current news in astronomy, space exploration and science generally, these podcasts and hangouts and their related websites are the right place.

Updates in January 2014:
• Changed all the times to UTC
• Removed the Planetary Society Hangout which is not happening anymore
• Added Hubble HangoutsSpace Fan News & HangoutsPlanetary Radio, Star Talk Radio

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