Radio’s Guide to the Universe

StarDate host Billy Henry

StarDate debuted in 1978, making it the longest-running national radio science feature in the country. It airs on more than 300 radio stations. It has been hosted by Billy Henry since July 2019.

StarDate tells listeners what to look for in the night sky, and explains the science, history, and skylore behind these objects. It also keeps listeners up to date on the latest research findings and space missions. And it offers tidbits on astronomy in the arts and popular culture, providing ways for people with diverse interests to keep up with the universe.

StarDate is a production of The University of Texas McDonald Observatory, which also produces the bi-monthly StarDate magazine.

The Voice of StarDate

Billy Henry, a voice talent, musician, composer, and college lecturer in Austin is the third narrator of the StarDate radio program. Read more »

The Music of StarDate

The StarDate background music was written by Bill Harwell and Patterson Barrett specifically for StarDate.

More Than 40 Years and Counting!

StarDate is radio’s longest-running nationally aired science program. It began in 1977 as a daily telephone message service by McDonald Observatory. It was picked up by Austin radio station KLBJ-FM, and aired as “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?” beginning in June 1977. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, the program became “Star Date,” and began airing nationally, seven days per week, on October 1, 1978. It quickly reached more than 1,000 stations across the country. Read more »

Today’s Episode

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant is best known for his ideas about philosophy, from ethics to the nature of knowledge. But he also played a role in the development of an idea about how planets are born. And while many of the details were off, his basic idea was sound.Kant was born 300 years ago this week, in the German state of Konigsberg. And during his 80 years, he never left it.He enrolled in the University of Konigsberg at age 16. But his father died, and he was forced to leave the university. He became a tutor for well-to-do families. He was able to return and finish his education in 1755.Kant was interested in just about everything — including science. Soon after completing his degree, he wrote about earthquakes, the weather, and more. One of his early works was “Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens.” In it, he described a “nebular” hypothesis for the formation of planets.A scientist in Sweden had conceived the idea a couple of decades earlier. Kant developed it further. He wrote that the Sun and planets were born from a nebula — a giant spinning cloud of gas and particles. Gravity caused the cloud to flatten, forming a disk. Material in the disk stuck together to make larger and larger chunks — eventually forming planets.Today, scientists have worked out more of the details. But the basic idea remains the same — Kant’s hypothesis provides a basic description of how planets are born.Script by Damond Benningfield
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Upcoming Topics

  • April 29-May 5: Planet Parade

    The Moon will pass by a parade of planets in the dawn sky late this week, and we’ll have details. We’ll also talk about a protective “blanket” around Earth, a small discovery, and more.

  • April 22-28: Taking a Trip

    A trip around the world would take a while, even in a passenger jet. But it’s the blink of an eye compared to the time it would take to go around a supergiant star.

  • April 15-21: A Cosmic “Dusting”

    Earth is headed through a ribbon of “comet dust” — debris that causes the Lyrid meteor shower. And some of that dust may have been found at the bottom of a river, and we’ll have details.

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