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Where the Sun Don't Shine

Wednesday, August 23, 2017 - 10:05 AM

Today we take a quick look up at a hole in the sky and follow an old story as it travels beyond the reach of the sun. We hear from some moon-peeping listeners and then, on the 40th anniversary of their launch, we check in with the Voyager space probes. We revisit the story of the romantic time capsules that were placed onboard, and a question we asked five years ago: where exactly is Voyager 1? 

Original piece reported by Lynn Levy. This update was produced by Amanda Aronczyk and Annie McEwen.

Special thanks to Don Gurnett, Elizabeth Landau, Sarah Mozal, and Andrew Good.

Support Radiolab today at    


Ann Druyan and Merav Opher

Produced by:

Amanda Aronczyk and Annie McEwen


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Comments [44]

Blake from Ho chi mihn

Anyone know who covered this version of ride a white swan? Its definitely not the falling devices. Cant find it anywhere and its driving me crazy! Such a good version

Feb. 19 2018 08:27 AM
Always T. from WASHINGTON

Okay, this is why I do not listen to radiolab anymore, it's so full of these superficial romance donk that it's just hard to listen. No one cares. I'm not a romance podcast listener, I clicked here to learn and be fascinated about space and you know what I get? The narrator's, yet again, squeaky voice and just a woman talking about "love". Come on, how do I teach this to my students?

Dec. 09 2017 12:27 AM
Jennifer G from Vancouver Canada

Have loved all the RL podcasts but there was something special about this one (and the "Genius" one!). Hearing the audio from totality made me teary and filled with all types of emotion. Absolutely loved it so thank you for this one and all of the episodes.

Dec. 03 2017 10:11 PM
Faelan from Miami, FL

AGREE WITH JAY FROM JACKSON, WY. I was about to post how little Sagan's Wife's Story made sense.......reading the above comment, however, ...Jay is probably right. Seems some audio is missing. Please fix. It is confusing, to say the least, as is...

Nov. 30 2017 01:25 PM
Eric P from Traverse City, MI

As an old audio guy I was intrigued by the reference to 8-track tapes, so I did some diving and found the original NASA specs. They do have eight tracks, but the magnetic tape is 1/2" wide and the recording is digital. Consumer-grade "8-Track Tapes" use 1/4" tape and are analog, so the tidbit at 28:00 is... mildly misleading.

Oct. 29 2017 06:29 AM
Didi Kamal from Kenya

Hey Radiolab Team.

Let me begin by saying that I am fascinated by your podcasts and I frequently find myself captivated and inspired. This episode, in particular, left me with chills as I have lately pondered my own significance, or rather, our own insignificance as I immerse myself in a grainy photograph of the "pale blue dot".

I am a multimedia artist and photographer, and many of your podcasts have given me the inspiration to create, and delve into a deeper understanding of what it means to not only be human but what it means to create my art as a simple insignificant human being.

Not only have you opened my eyes and mind to elements of this great pale blue dot that I had never pondered myself, but you have also helped me learn more about myself such as learning about my own tetrachromacy and Grapheme-color synesthesia.

I would like to let you know that I would like to create a series based on my thoughts and feelings on this episode as well others that have inspired me.

Thanks Radiolab

Didi :)

Sep. 17 2017 03:42 AM
Antoaneta from Rotterdam, Netherlands

This is one of the stories about space which has fed my space-travel fantazies since I was a little kid. Great work!

PS. Must be some really confused aliens, if they heard that multitude of recordings out of the blue. Imagine being able to see their faces!

Sep. 13 2017 08:23 AM
Tetyana from Germany

great very atmospheric story, would love to know who made the ambient music playing on the background

Sep. 10 2017 09:18 AM

this was by far the most interesting podcast i've ever heard. funny how we forget sometimes that we're traveling in space, floating

Sep. 08 2017 10:17 AM
Emily from San Antonio

Fantastic! Also, one of my all-time favorite Radiolab productions.

Sep. 06 2017 12:44 PM
Anne Heffron from San Jose

I listened to this three times in one day. It is one of my all-time favorite podcasts of forever. Thank you.
It stirred up so many feelings, I connected it to dating and adoption.

Sep. 03 2017 08:36 PM
Erin from Meridian, Idaho

My parents, my husband and my son and I (three generations!) saw the total eclipse from Emmett, Idaho, about 30 minutes from where we live. It was truly a profound experience. I remember blurting out "oh my God!" when I first saw the corona "bloom" (for lack of a better word.) I love that others had the same experience we did (so many others crying out "oh my God" in the clips you included.) I went to radio lab last night specifically looking for a podcast about the eclipse because I was so moved by it, and found this podcast, which was amazing. I was 10 when Voyager 1 launched and have followed its progress over the years. Gave me goose bumps to hear it leaving the solar system. Well done Radio Lab!

Sep. 03 2017 12:58 PM
Andrew from California

The version of "Ride a White Swan" doesn't seem to be any I can find on the internet, even Falling Devices. Could you post a link or something Radiolab?

Sep. 03 2017 02:49 AM



Wanted to find the general pic that this was taken from, or rather the mosaic created from 60 pics

This is cool story about the interstellar so-called void, BUT if you think it's empty, think again: "Voyager 1's crossing into interstellar space meant it had left the heliosphere -- the bubble of solar wind surrounding our sun and the planets. Observations from Voyager's instruments found that the particle density was 40 times greater outside this boundary than inside, confirming that it had indeed left the heliosphere." So the solar wind, keeps everything else out, and the Intersteller stuff may be more dense, but this is probably all this solar material piled up at the Interstellar Lagrange point, where it isn't pulled in or pushed out, and is much denser. When it reaches a more pristine In terstellar place in 2025, maybe it will become 100x more empty.

One thing I don't get is why it will ever stop- the SNAP Plutonium Thermoelectric generators (maybe one the most perfect engineering creations ever) maybe it degrades from the radiation or heat... but Plutonium's half-life is like 24,000 years. Hah, no the hot isotope- Pl-238 HL is only 84 years- PL is a tremendously complex substance, with 20 isotopes, 5 allotropes (physical forms), and 5 oxidation states. You could stick a piece safely in your pocket, since the alpha particles are stopped by a piece of paper, but it would have to be plastic wrapped to protect from air + moisture- the stuff can spontaneously ignite. But inhale a microgram and you are toast- likely cancer- it never comes out... why I was so horrified when Chernobyl happened- burning plutonium for 5 days. Check out the pic of a nuclear bomb core- 4" 11 lb ring, the seeds of destruction.

And still it goes, a moons orbit every 7 hours, 1 AU every 111 days, into the depths of the Interstellar Void. The most successful human mission of exploration... ever.

Sep. 02 2017 12:41 PM
Michael H from Far Out


I did an article on the Voyager mission in 1979 or 1980, where I toured the Brown U Geoplanetary lab over a few hours, who were one of the few (8?) places receiving ALL the pics from Voyager, and got to pour over huge color pics of these absolutely new worlds- pizza worlds, ice worlds, shattered worlds- breathtaking stunning pics of moons that had been just fuzzy dots before (before telescopic adaptive optics). This was before they had really been released, and was the greatest thrill of my life. I felt like Columbus, seeing the New World, desperate to see it all, before somebody threw me out (or the natives attacked). Chatting with the people at length, one was doing a project on a radar reflective orbiting balloon, for Earth measurements, I said, "Oh yeah, like Echo". He was stunned and thrilled I had actually seen the 100M balloon, a test predecessor to Telstar and instant worldwide TV/radio, as a little kid with my father in 1960... the first human object in space ever visible! Now for all you people enthused by the Ecclipse- you can see the ISS from almost anywhere.. at some point- NASA has a website that will tell you when, with entered lat-long when going overhead; it moves from horizon to horizon in about 4 min (I first saw the docked MIR-Shuttle in Hawaii).

Unfortunately the director was the worst interview I've ever done, maybe burned by journos, he wouldn't say ONE THING, even when I was suggesting "does this mean this, does this mean this?". 30 minutes without a single useful quote or piece of info- if not for that, I would have begged groveled- done whatever I had to to work for them- they also had a big Mars section (Surveyor), and just looking at the various c-u surface pics, I was suggesting things that they hadn't thought of, and thought were useful. But I couldn't work for somebody I had no respect for.

Sep. 02 2017 10:48 AM
C Harper from Utah, USA

I cried listening to this. It brought my totality experience all back. August 21, 2017 was a seminal day. I loved the explanation in this podcast of the "little blue dot" photo. I shared this podcast on my FB wall. I want everyone to hear it. Well done, Radiolab. WELL DONE.

Aug. 31 2017 02:56 PM
Peter Norman from Santa Monica

You realize some billionaire will eventually retrieve the Voyager disc for their own private collection.

And I agree that Kansas gets shafted too often, but I live in LA so keep your secret safe!

Aug. 31 2017 01:24 AM
Sarah from the plains

I loved the episode, but was so saddened to hear Jad's comparison of a span of 14 years to a drive across Kansas. I often have the experience of traveling to other regions and being told, upon hearing I'm from Kansas, "Oh-- then this place must be HEAVEN for you!" I'm sorry so many people's experience of the Heartland is simply an obstacle one must get through, and they have likely only seen the interstate highways. I would love to show you MY truly is magnificent.

Aug. 30 2017 10:35 AM
Tom from Houston, TX

A re-broadcast of the Space episode disguised to look like a new podcast. At least it's better than "Dave and the wire". Time to download more Freakonimics.

Aug. 29 2017 02:11 PM
Ashley from London

I really enjoyed that! Great listen.

Aug. 29 2017 09:19 AM
E. Dignan from Ireland

Thanks for this episode. I loved hearing about Voyager.
It prompted me to go to the cinema to watch Farthest, a really interesting, thought-provoking documentary about Voyager 1 and 2 with comments and observations from the team involved.
The 'pale blue dot' picture of the earth taken from Voyager is amazing.

Aug. 28 2017 07:41 AM
Annie Stratton

Hasn't it occured to any of those people who are so insistant about knowing what Carl said to Annie that it really is a private matter between them, and none of our business? It is sweet as it is, and I like the mystery of it.

Aug. 27 2017 06:51 PM
Helen from Washington, DC

I love this. Thanks for telling such great stories, always.

Aug. 27 2017 10:12 AM
Chris from Wilmington, NC

The reactions of people experiencing the eclipse are medicine for my soul. Could you post them all?

Aug. 26 2017 08:23 PM
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms

The public isn't ready to know what Carl said.

Aug. 26 2017 07:48 PM
George Dennis from London

What is the name of the choral/Celeste track played about 3/4 of the way through? I recognise it, but can't place it and it's driving me mad! Thanks.

Aug. 26 2017 09:59 AM
Jeremiah Baldwin from OR

If you are looking for the content that is missing from 8:48 it is also missing from the original story titled "Space".

To skip to the new content go to 26:00. I don't like how the recycled material is pushed back out like it is new content. A title like "SPACE Updated" would have been much better.

Aug. 26 2017 01:35 AM
Kevin Côté from Williamstown, New Jersey

i cried twice to this. it makes me hope. typical radiolab; amazing

Aug. 24 2017 08:26 PM
Ryan from St. Louis, MO

Same comment as a few others - we are missing audio explaining what Carl said to Annie to start their relationship.

Aug. 24 2017 05:42 PM
niimoy from Washington, DC

Editing mistake at 8:25, audio missing WHAT DID CARL SAY!? we may never know

Aug. 24 2017 04:21 PM
Michelle from Little Silver, NJ

Ride a White Swan worked so strangely perfect in this podcast.

Aug. 24 2017 01:35 PM
rich from london UK

Great episode, Whats is the song used mid way and at the end of the episode? tried to shazam it but no luck. Thank you!


Aug. 24 2017 12:57 PM
Erica from Colorado

Its a tough time on this planet right now - and getting to see the total eclipse was such a moment of magic. I want to thank you guys for this episode - you captured it perfectly in the recordings and you immediately brought the magic back. The journey of Voyager was also such a perfect tie-in and reminder of mystery, magic, insignificance. Thank you all for this episode. It helped me get out off this planet and out of my head for a bit.

Aug. 24 2017 10:44 AM
Devin Greaney from Memphis TN

The eclipse was beautiful. The reactions more so.

Aug. 24 2017 10:43 AM
Anete from Latvia

Hi Radiolab
Thank you for the lovely story!
Can you please share the names of the pieces played in it as all of them were very beautiful!!!

Aug. 24 2017 06:14 AM
BIANCA from Melbourne, Australia

Great episode! Love, love, love!

I agree with some of the comments below - leave politics/American political discussion out of this fabulous podcast. Boring.

Aug. 23 2017 10:11 PM
Pelle from Sweden

The song in the middle you where asking for is a cover of Marc Bolans "Ride a white swan" made by The Falling Devices.

Aug. 23 2017 07:34 PM
Peter from Atlanta, GA

I traveled to the Great American eclipse in Grandview, TN. Do not miss the next one on April 8, 2024! The primal emotion experienced is like nothing else. For a brief period I entered into another world. That is why you hear so many express "Oh My God" in the audio clips on this podcast. That is why many who see their first will travel great distances to experience it again. It's difficult to express in words what came over me. Nothing like it!

Aug. 23 2017 06:52 PM

The song is "Ride a White Swan" but it sounds like a more recent cover version. It's not the T. Rex original version.

Aug. 23 2017 06:00 PM
Andrei from The Great White North

Nick from Santa Cruz, I think it is Ride a White Swan by T Rex.

Aug. 23 2017 01:07 PM
Christine from Los Angeles, CA

Absolutely beautiful. This episode put all of the crazy things going on in this world in perspective and gave me awe and reverence for the cosmos. We are so fortunate to be here and to be able to understand our place. I cried through the entire segment. Thank you for such a touching and thoughtful piece.

Aug. 23 2017 12:56 PM
Ben from Colorado

This was a great segment. I wish Radiolab would return to segments like this and leave politics behind every once in a while. This was a nice respite.

Aug. 23 2017 12:42 PM
Nick from Santa Cruz, CA

What is the name of the song that plays halfway through this episode?

Aug. 23 2017 12:14 PM
Jay from Jackson, WY

Hi there. This episode is missing a pretty significant chunk of audio at about the 8:25 mark. I'd really love to know what Carl says to Annie on that phone call when they realize they are in love! Thanks!

Aug. 23 2017 11:24 AM

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