Television: The JWST on NOVA, Again

Credit: PBS

NOVA has a new episode this season on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Unlike last season’s episode, Ultimate Space Telescope, which discussed the creation, launch, and early success of the space telescope, this episode, New Eye on the Universe, goes deeper into the goals of the space telescope as well as the findings since the first images appeared.

Here is a list of the topics covered in the latest episode (and their spot on the recording):

  • 00:00 Introduction
  • 04:11 The James Webb Space Telescope’s First Images
  • 05:47 Searching for Life on Exoplanets: Are We Alone in the Universe?
  • 14:40 Looking for Life in Our Own Solar System: Moons of Jupiter and Saturn
  • 18:52 Adjusting New Images from JWST: Science Meets Art
  • 23:55 Studying Supermassive Black Holes and Merging Galaxies
  • 30:25 Detecting the Oldest Galaxies with the JWST
  • 37:13 Troubleshooting the New Telescope’s Light Measurements
  • 42:12 Detecting the Atmosphere of a Rocky Exoplanet
  • 46:28 Results from the Team’s New Studies
  • 51:05 Conclusion

The section on adjusting the images is interesting in that we would not see these beautiful images as portrayed even if we could fly though space for an up-close look. Our eyes cannot see all of what the JWST can see in infrared. This is further explained in a Scientific American article, “Are the James Webb Space Telescope’s Pictures ‘Real’?

You can watch the latest episode on the PBS internet site, your local PBS station, or YouTube.

Television: The Mandalorian Returns for a Third Season

Image (Credit): Poster for season three of The Mandalorian. (Disney)

On March 1, season three of Disney’s The Mandalorian premiered. It was action-packed throughout. We had plenty of time with the main Mandalorian, Din Djar, as well as his sidekick, Baby Yoda, now known as Grogu. But if you were somewhat confused to see the two together again after the ending of season two, you are not alone. Unfortunately, Disney tried to keep another Star Wars series, The Book of Boba Fett, relevant by throwing in a few episodes with Din Djar and Grogu. I do not like these types of crossovers, and I expect others feel the same.

In those crossover episodes we learn that Din Djar needed to make amends for taking off his helmet for Grogu, and Grogu decided to abandon Luke Skywalker for his Mandalorian friend. These are key points that should have stayed within the series rather than sprinkled into other series.

But back to season three and some spoilers from the first episode, so beware. I guess I was caught up in the slow, meticulous storytelling in Andor, so the attack on the Mandalorian ceremony in the first scene rattled me awake. I asked myself, why would a diminished race of Mandalorians hold a ceremony in such a dangerous spot? Were death wishes part of the ceremony as well?

And it did not get much better from there. We then find Din Djar going back to Nevarro to reclaim an earlier killer robot for his next mission. Yet the killer robot almost killed Grogu again? Is it really that hard to find a good droid that you have to pull down a town statue and play with pieces?

But wait, there’s more. It turns out that the killer robot needs a particular part, so Din Djar shoots off with Grogu to find the piece. Yet that is not what he ultimately does (after fighting pirates, of course). Instead, he spends time with whining, helmet-less Mandalorian discussing bathing spots on Mandalore.

I think you get the point. I see a lot of action with this reunited pair but not a lot of consistency in purpose or basic logic to their approach. Again, maybe Andor took me away from the Wild West for a time and I need to get back into the spirit of things again.

So I look forward to episode two this week to see whether or not the series can find its footing again. The first two seasons had a particular magic that I hope to see again.

Update: The second episode for this season was much better than episode one and more focused. Plus, it is always fun to spend time with Amy Sedaris playing Peli Motto. Moreover, we may have a new R2D2.

Television: UFOs and Star Trek

Image (Credit): Promotion for UFOs: Investigating the Unknown. (National Geographic)

With all the ongoing media chatter about unidentified flying objects (UFO), National Geographic has perfect timing with its new series UFOs: Investigating the Unknown. The new series started on February 13th. You can watch it on Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+.

National Geographic promises that this new five-part series will explore the government’s decades long investigations into UFOs. It seems those investigations just expanded into new areas with the U.S. Air Force recently firing missiles at objects in Canada and the United States. Maybe the new series can help to explain some of these sightings.

If the whole UFO issue has bored you, then tag along with Captain Picard for the third and last season of Star Trek: Picard. The series returned on February 16th. You get to see some of your old favorites joining the cast this season, including Geordi La Forge, Worf, William Riker, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and Deanna Troi.

Here is the basic plot from Paramount+:

In the epic, thrilling conclusion of Star Trek: Picard, a desperate message from a long-lost friend draws Starfleet legend Admiral Jean-Luc Picard into the most daring mission of his life, forcing him to recruit allies spanning generations old and new. This final adventure sets him on a collision course with the legacy of his past and explosive, new revelations that will alter the fate of the Federation forever.

I know, the plot reads like a cover letter on a resume promising everything. That said, I think I will start with Star Trek: Picard and continue to follow UFOs in the daily news. That will be enough drama for me these days.

Image (Credit): Promotional poster for Star Trek: Picard’s third season. (Paramount+)

Television: Hello Tomorrow! Arrives This Week

Credit: Apple TV+

Would you buy a lunar timeshare from Billy Crudup? Be careful how you answer. Or would you simply watch a show about Billy Crudup trying to sell lunar timeshares? I think you can answer yes to that with little risk of disappointment.

While Elon Musk is trying to sell us on Mars, I like how the focus of Hello Tomorrow! is closer to home. It is Artemis III meets Century21. The 10-episode series starts this Friday (February 17). Check out this trailer for more on what awaits you.

The Earth shown in the new series is already pretty different than what we have today with its floating cars and jet packs, so why not shoot for the Moon? For some reason, it appears it will not be that easy, but that is part of the drama. At least they will have their floating cars whatever else happens. We are still figuring out electric cars.

I was disappointed with SyFy’s The Ark, which seems to be a comedy masquerading as a tragedy wrapped in a farce. I am hoping Hello Tomorrow! is a somewhat more straightforward – just pure fun.

Final Update to my Top Astronomy Stories in 2022

Image (Credit): Singing in the “Domino” episode on The Orville: New Horizons. (Hulu)

I cannot let January end without making one update to my “Top Astronomy Stories in 2022” list. I really need to add Hulu’s The Orville: New Horizons as number 11 on the list. The third season has been much more polished and enjoyable than the first two. After jumping to Hulu and renaming itself, the show has really found its way to being a great addition to the scifi universe.

The last two episodes in particular – “Domino” and “Future Unknown” – were the best of the season. We go through war, sacrifice, death, reconciliation, and even marriage with a crew that is now part of our family. I am still not sure what I think about the role of Dolly Parton in the series, but the Orville’s crew singing in episode 9 (“Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall” by Simon & Garfunkel) and episode 10 (“Secret o’ Life” by James Taylor) are reason enough to watch these last two episodes.

So what happens next? Do we see a fourth season? It is unclear, even to creator and actor Seth MacFarlane, who had this to say about the future of the series to Den of Geeks:

If we’re lucky, The Orville reaches a stage where we do multiple uninterrupted seasons, and we can end the season knowing that we’re moving into the next. But this was designed to be a wrap up for the season – a bit of an open-ended piece of narrative that allows the various characters any possible number of futures. At the same time, we wanted to tie things up in a nice little bow as much as we could in case we didn’t get picked up.

I hope we can see a fourth season, but as they said in the very title of the last episode – Future Unknown.