Receding Horizons

Receding Horizons is a podcast hosted by the South Texas Astronomical Society. Join our hosts for a deep dive into topics related to astronomy and space exploration.

About the podcast

Welcome to Receding Horizons, a podcast for exploring topics in astronomy and space science. Since antiquity, humans have gazed at the night sky, attempting to decipher its mysteries, and find our place within it. As astronomer Edwin Hubble once remarked, the history of astronomy is a history of receding horizons. Our podcast will attempt to answer some of the biggest questions from the oldest of sciences.

The mission of this podcast is to explore topics of astronomy and space exploration, and share them with the community of Brownsville, Texas. Our valley is entering into the next phase of human space exploration and participating in the era of multi-messenger astronomy. We are providing a forum of discussion among people of all ages and expertise to bring awareness about our role in this next exciting era.

These are Receding Horizons.

On today’s episode we have Emmanuel Zamora, or Alex, as his friends call him. Alex is currently an electrical engineer working at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He was born and raised in the great city of Brownsville, Texas, graduated from Hanna High School, and received a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at San Antonio. His experience as an electrical engineer includes an internship at the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, a job at CPS Energy, and then landing an opportunity as a sub-contractor for NASA on the International Space Station program, where he provided engineering support for the space station’s electrical power system, or EPS. More specifically, for the Spartan Controller at Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Alex recently stepped into his new role as a NASA civil servant in January of this year 2021, where he oversees and implements policies over numerous programs. His long-term goal is to become a flight director.

Recorded on 2 April 2021.

00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:14 – Space travel
00:04:33 – Interstellar
00:09:06 – Star Wars and movie technology
00:14:15 – NASA film restoration
00:17:28 – Excerpt from Scott Kelly’s “Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery”
00:25:48 – Emmanuel Alex Zamora
00:28:52 – The Star Wars Expanded Universe
00:32:09 – Path to NASA
00:45:30 – PHOENIX, SPARTAN Flight Controller, ISS ATCS/EPS
00:59:19 – Spacesuits and EVA
01:05:21 – Building 9
01:08:28 – Astronaut safety and daily lives
01:13:11 – ISS electrical power system and solar arrays
01:19:10 – Yeet
01:21:30 – Orbital speed and microgravity
01:28:04 – Spotting the ISS
01:31:25 – Expeditions into space
01:36:15 – SpaceX
01:43:56 – Exploration of the unknown
01:50:59 – A one-way ticket to Mars?
01:56:16 – Mission control and Gene Kranz
01:59:11 – Tungsten Flight
02:01:48 – Meeting astronauts
02:07:07 – Artemis, Orion, and Gateway
02:15:57 – Space station occultations and observing
02:21:56 – Imaging technology
02:27:41 – Martian pyramids and extremophiles
02:37:33 – Rocket launches
02:41:40 – Future plans
02:47:14 – Outro

This is Receding Horizons, Episode 2, where we talk about the exciting era of gravitational wave observations and multi-messenger astronomy. Brina Martinez is an undergraduate studying physics and computer science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She is currently a research assistant at the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy and in the Time Domain Astronomy Group operating the Cristina Torres Memorial Observatory, both under the mentorship of Dr. Mario Díaz. Brina is a published scientist. Her research focuses on characterizing noise sources intrinsic to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO. She has participated in a research experience for undergraduates at Louisiana State University under Dr. Guillermo Valdes and Dr. Gabriela González, and was a LIGO undergraduate fellow at Caltech under Dr. Derek Davis. Brina is a board member and resident astrophysicist at the South Texas Astronomical Society, as well as a board member and secretary at the Brownsville Chapter of the Society of Physics Students. She was the recipient of several awards including a scholarship from the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science, and a Victor M. Blanco Fellowship from the LIGO Lab and National Society of Hispanic Physicists. She is a gifted public speaker, and I’ve had the privilege to work with her (and make a lot of memories) during my time in Brownsville.

Recorded on 26 February 2021.

00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:14 – Excerpt from “Black Hole Blues”
00:02:48 – Brina Martinez
00:15:53 – LIGO
00:32:41 – Gravitational wave events
00:44:06 – Lacking belief and scientific leakage
00:52:37 – Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy
01:02:35 – Multi-messenger observations
01:13:27 – Scientific discovery
01:20:43 – Daily life at Livingston
01:24:10 – Analyzing thunderstorm noise
01:29:15 – Black holes
01:32:49 – Primordial gravitational waves
01:35:22 – Unification
01:38:02 – Singularities and horizons
01:45:03 – Distorting spacetime
02:00:20 – LISA
02:11:40 – Future plans
02:14:38 – Outro

This pilot episode is hosted by Richard Camuccio and Victor De Los Santos, both co-founders and board members of the South Texas Astronomical Society (STARS). Richard is an astronomer earning a doctorate in physics at Texas Tech University. He recently graduated with a masters in physics from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Victor is the president and CEO of STARS. He has a business degree from Texas A&M University, and a background in project and software development.

Recorded on 15 January 2021.

00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:15 – Excerpt from Edwin Hubble’s “Realm of the Nebulae”
00:04:21 – Introductions
00:12:27 – What is STARS?
00:14:05 – Star Parties
00:15:40 – The Climate of the Rio Grande Valley
00:21:08 – Gateway to the Cosmos
00:22:18 – Gravitational Waves and the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy
00:27:08 – Cristina Torres Memorial Observatory
00:33:00 – Southmost Library Observatory
00:36:55 – Super Blood Wolf Moon of 2019
00:38:51 – The STARS on Tap Trilogy
00:43:00 – Brownsville: Crossroads and Space City
00:47:30 – Texas Southmost College Solar System Walk
00:52:26 – Brownsville Space and Science Museum
01:01:40 – Dark Sky Initiative
01:06:27 – SpaceX and United Launch Alliance
01:08:25 – NASA Downlink
01:09:19 – Space Tech Companies
01:12:52 – STARS Website
01:13:47 – Perseverance
01:15:00 – Conclusion
01:15:42 – Outro

Our guest this episode is our collaborator, colleague, and friend, Moises Castillo. A Brownsville and Los Fresnos native, Moises attended university and earned a bachelor of science in physics from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, during which he also worked as lab manager in the Physics Department. Moises earned a masters of science in physics from UTRGV in 2019. He’s been the assistant director of the Cristina Torres Memorial Observatory, where he observed and studied eclipsing binary star systems, as well as a researcher for the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at UTRGV working under Mario Diaz. Currently he’s stepping into his role as the Event Coordinator for the Space and Science Team of the South Texas Astronomical Society. He’s a curious explorer of the world, a talented engineer and astronomer, the authoritative MC voice, and a great travel partner and friend.

Recorded on 12 March 2021.

00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:14 – Mate
00:12:42 – Excerpt from Sean Carroll’s “The Big Picture”
00:15:52 – Moises Castillo
00:33:33 – Like a swimming duck
00:42:02 – Moises Castillo
00:46:00 – Nompuewenu
00:56:37 – Farming telescopes
01:09:01 – A new way of teaching astronomy
01:21:23 – CTMO
01:32:30 – Spectrographs and lasers
01:46:30 – Greek mythology
01:48:42 – Eclipsing binary light curves
01:54:04 – Sharing an observatory
01:59:18 – Astronomical protocols and platforms
02:13:37 – Can stars change colors?
02:31:57 – What is space?
02:49:57 – Cool space facts
02:54:20 – Wrapping it up with Texas
02:56:32 – Outro

This is Receding Horizons, Episode 1, where we talk about biology, the science of life, both on Earth and in the realm of the cosmos. We also talk about dinosaurs. Our guest in this episode is Andrew Maurer. Andrew has a bachelor of science in biology from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received in 2016. His research interests span comparative herpetological phylogenetics and paleobiological studies, as well as genomic mapping and comprehensive studies in Aves, Lissamphibia, and Squamata. He is currently a data entry worker at MicroGenDX in Lubbock, TX. Previously, he’s been a shift lead and veterinary assistant at Banfield Pet Hospital in North Wales, Pennslyvania, and was an intern at the Harleysville Veterinary Clinic.
Recorded on 8 February 2021.
00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:13 – Andrew Maurer
00:04:22 – Paleobiological detective work
00:12:04 – What’s your favorite dinosaur?
00:14:42 – How do you determine past behavior?
00:17:14 – Paleontology and astronomy
00:18:40 – Dinosaur constellations
00:19:53 – Oldest surviving DNA
00:22:26 – Extraterrestrial reptiles
00:23:39 – Yoshi
00:24:45 – The definition of life
00:31:26 – A Prime Directive for humanity
00:37:06 – Why carbon?
00:44:51 – Life on moons
00:47:14 – A forum of scientific discussion
00:51:21 – Memetics
00:57:16 – Replicators
00:59:18 – Not the climax of creation
01:02:53 – Fermi paradox
01:05:52 – Earliest life on Earth
01:08:50 – Photosynthesis
01:10:51 – Nucleosynthesis
01:13:51 – The biomass distribution on Earth
01:21:01 – Extraterrestrial plants
01:27:44 – Cosmological natural selection
01:36:33 – Cosmological metal bands
01:39:15 – The frontiers of science