Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Black Hole Discovery/A Civil War Love Story

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Jan 13, 2017 4:05 AM

The image is from the Chandra Deep Field-South. The full field covers an approximately circular region on the sky with an area about two-thirds that of the full Moon. However, the outer regions of the image, where the sensitivity to X-ray emission is lower, are not shown here. The colors in this image represent different levels of X-ray energy detected by Chandra. Here the lowest-energy X-rays are red, the medium band is green, and the highest-energy X-rays observed by Chandra are blue. The central region of this image contains the highest concentration of supermassive black holes ever seen, equivalent to about 5,000 objects that would fit into the area of the full Moon and about a billion over the entire sky. Image: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Penn State/B. Luo et al

What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, January 13, 2017:

Penn State Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics Niel Brandt has been studying X-ray images of deep space taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.  The satellite, orbiting the Earth at 65,437 miles, recorded images of galaxies 12.5 billion light years away.  Extrapolating data from these images, coupled with recordings from the Hubble Space Telescope, Brandt and his team have found evidence of billions of black holes - some as massive as 10 billion Suns.

These images give astronomers a glimpse of celestial development about a billion years after the Big Bang.  Last week, the researchers presented their findings to the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society and Dr. Niel Brandt joins us on Friday's Smart talk to explain what can be learned about black holes and what 12 billion year old images can tell us about how the universe came to be.


Dr. Niel Brandt, Penn State / Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Also, most books about the Civil War focus on battles and military strategy.  Those that are about relationships are usually fictional accounts.  In addition, the great majority of Civil War stories take place on the Eastern battlefields of Gettysburg or Virginia.  The new book A Civil War Captain and His Lady: Love, Courtship and Combat from Fort Donelson through the Vicksburg Campaign is unique.

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Gene Barr

Author Gene Barr obtained letters written in the midst of the war to and from a young couple -- Captain Josiah Moore and his 19-year-old sweetheart Jenny Lindsay.  The letters themselves paint a picture of life on the battlefield and the homefront.  Barr writes a historical narrative that describe the events the couple were dealing with that also provides context.

Gene Barr appears on Friday's Smart Talk. 


Captain Josiah Moore and Jenny Lindsay 




on black holes

Q.  Is there a larger black hole @ the center of the universe?        - John

A.  According to our understanding of cosmology, the Universe does not have a "center". For example, the Big Bang was not an explosion in a space that was already there - rather, the Big Bang was the event where space and time themselves came into being.

The largest black holes we know about are those that reside in the centers of massive galaxies. These black holes are found to have masses up to about 10 billion times the mass of our Sun.    

- Dr. Niel Brandt

Q. How do you take an 80-day exposure when the earth is moving?      - Geoffrey

A.  The 80 days of exposure with the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a satellite orbiting the Earth, were obtained over a 16-year period and not in a single continuous observation. Such a long-term accumulative approach is common among astronomers when making the very longest ("deepest") observations at many wavelengths.      - Dr. Niel Brandt

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