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

First ‘Spacecraft’

Since the dawn of the Space Age, in 1957, the United States and other countries have sent tens of thousands of objects into space — some into orbit, and others far beyond. Yet the first object known to have reached space did so well before the Space Age — 75 years ago today. It didn’t go into orbit, but it did reach 244 miles — well above the altitude needed to reach “outer space.”

The flight was conducted by the U.S. Army, at White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. At the end of World War II, the American military captured tons of parts from Germany’s V2 rockets. It also captured key German rocket experts, including the most prized of all, Wernher von Braun. He later led the development of the rockets that sent American astronauts to the Moon.

The military built its own versions of the V2, and started launching them in 1946. Early flights took the first pictures that showed Earth’s curvature, and carried fruit flies to study the effects of rocket flight.

On February 24th, 1949, the military launched a mission known as Bumper 5. It consisted of a V2 first stage, and a small second stage. It reached the highest altitude recorded up to that time, and the greatest speed — 5,150 miles per hour. And although its main goal was to study the rocket itself, it also studied the upper atmosphere and beyond — the first observations made from outer space.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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Upcoming Topics

  • February 26-March 3: “Leaping” Ahead

    Every day of the year after this Thursday will “leap” ahead on the calendar. That’s because Thursday is leap day — an extra day with lots of history and some complicated rules. Please join us for leap year and much more.

  • February 19-25: Solar-System “Vermin”

    Asteroids are objects of intense interest these days. In decades past, though, they were considered a big nuisance — the “vermin of the skies.” Please join us for asteroids, plus living on the Moon and much more.

  • February 12-18: A “Classy” Star

    The Sun is a class “G” star — one that’s fairly big and bright. We’ll talk about this class, and point out a nearby example. Please join us for class G stars, plus a deep ocean on a big moon and much more.

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