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

Moon and Saturn

Just like magic, big “islands” appear to come and go on the lakes and seas of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. They first showed up in radar images snapped 10 years ago by the Cassini spacecraft. And planetary scientists have been trying to explain them ever since. Titan is bigger than the planet Mercury. It has a cold, thick atmosphere. Hydrocarbons at the top of the atmosphere create an orange haze — like the smog that blankets many cities. Methane and ethane form clouds. They also fill the lakes and seas. In most of Cassini’s images, these bodies of liquid looked dark and calm — any waves would be no more than a fraction of an inch high. But occasionally, a bright patch would appear — like an island suddenly rising from the depths. There are several possible explanations: big waves, patches of nitrogen bubbles, and others. And a study this year suggested sheets of ice. In this scenario, particles would drop from the haze layer, forming ice grains along the way. The grains could collect in sheets along the shore. The ice would be porous, like a sponge or a honeycomb. A sheet might break away and float into a lake or sea. Eventually, though, the spaces would fill up, the ice would sink, and the island would vanish — just like magic. Look for Saturn near our own moon the next few mornings. It’ll stand well to the left of the Moon at dawn tomorrow, but much closer to the Moon on Thursday. Script by Damond Benningfield
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Upcoming Topics

  • July 1-7: Far from the Sun

    Earth is farthest from the Sun for the entire year this week, and we’ll explain why that’s the case, and tell you how the distance changes over time. Please join me us this, plus some young-looking moons, “failed stars,” and more.

  • June 24-30: Morning Planets

    Three bright planets are in view in the morning sky right now. Two are in sight well before dawn, while the other is climbing higher into the morning twilight.

  • June 17-23: Summertime

    The June solstice is coming up this week. It marks the start of summer in the northern hemisphere, and we’ll talk about its significance to long-ago cultures.

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