Looking Up

FINE MUSIC RADIO  |  Podcast , ±5 min episodes every 1 week  |  Broadcast schedule  | 
Five minutes at the end of each week explores the big and the small questions in astronomy, cosmology, and space science. Hosted by Kechil Kirkham, no subject is too big or too small, and experts are regularly brought on board to illuminate and excite. Cape Town is the place to be for astronomy, with some of the largest telescopes in the world housed or being built not too far away. Looking Up takes advantage of the shoals of scientists and engineers working on the planet’s most advanced astronomy projects, who live and work right here in the Mother City. Kechil has recently acquired an MPhil in Space Studies at the University of Cape Town, and works in South Africa’s space industry on the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

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Looking Up - 25 Jan 23

Pamela Kassen, an astronomer from Edinburgh, is here in Cape Town and talks to Kechil about the latest from the James Webb Space Telescope, a telescope up in space whose data she works with. Here she describes that the universe has far more galaxies than originally thought, and it is a colourful place.

Looking Up - 18 Jan 23

A satellite launch recently failed from the UK on 9th January. Satellites were to be released from a rocket fired from a jumbo jet which took off from Cornwall, a southern county in England. This was the first ever satellite launch from the UK, but they will try again. Learn about some other failures, and how bad space can be for your teeth!


There is a comet arriving in our neighbourhood, listen out for announcements in early February. There are new lunar landers created by private industry, on their way to the Moon. These pave the way for more ambitious undertakings.

Looking Up - 28 Dec 22

How is it that the Earth is not the center of the solar system? It does look like the Sun, Moon and planets move around us. Retrograde motion, epicycles, these are explained in 5-minutes, with some history thrown in.

Looking Up - 14 Dec 22

The Orion capsule splashed down last Sunday, as part of NASA's Artemis programme, which will send humans back to the Moon. Find out how it's going.

Looking Up - 07 Dec 22

Sumari Barocci-Faul, a Masters student at the University of Cape Town, tells Kechil about her research in cataclysmic variable stars: exploding stars - more great balls of fire.

Looking Up - 30 Nov 22

Great balls of fire! A fireball, or bolide, was seen by many above Kirstenbosch Gardens at the concert last weekend. And other fiery topics: the eruption of Mauna Loa in Hawaii and volcanism on other planets in, and out of, our solar system.

Looking Up - 23 Nov 22

Chris Forder has spent a lifetime building telescopes, a very worthy hobby. He tells Kechil about the changes that have occurred in telescope design and materials over the last 60 years.

Looking Up - 16 Nov 22

South Africa is to host a ground station for NASA to communicate with the Artemis lunar exploration programme at Matjiesfontein. This is great news for SANSA. Also a plug for the 2023 Sky Guide Southern Africa published by Penguin Random House / Struik Nature.

Looking Up - 02 Nov 22

Kechil mentions a couple of new space engineering endeavours: how to get heavy objects through tricky atmospheres on other planets, and launching hypersonic planes from other massive planes. Also something scary for Halloween: a large asteroid missed us. Phew!

Looking Up - 26 Oct 22

An ancient text has been found and accurately dated, to the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in 129 BCE. This is a major historical breakthrough as it shows that people were accurately measuring the stars at that time, and using charts to predict their positions and movements.

326 episodes

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