Outer space and stars
Do you enjoy looking at the stars? Have you ever learned about outer space and stars? Are you interested in films about outer space and stars? Can you see many stars at night where you live? Would you ever like to go into space? What would you do if you had a chance to go there?
  • Nebula (noun) - a cloud of gas or dust in space, appearing either bright or dark.
  • Nebulae (plural noun) - plural of nebula.
  • Input (noun) - help, ideas, or knowledge that someone gives to a project, organization, etc.
  • Celestial (adj.) - of or from the sky or outside this world.
  • Heavenly body (noun) - any object existing in space, especially a planet, star, or the moon.
  • Coronal mass ejection (noun) - are large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun's atmosphere.
  • To pursue (verb) - to try to discover information about a subject.
  • Hard and soft science fiction - hard sci-fi deals with sciences such as math, physics, computer science, engineering, and chemistry. Soft sci-fi deals more with sociology, history, politics, psychology, and economics. Both hard and soft science fiction include futuristic technology or elements, but hard sci-fi is more concerned with having realistic science based on currently proven facts about the world.
  • Extraterrestrial (noun) - a creature from outside the planet Earth.
  • Up/down your avenue/alley/street (idiom) - to be the type of thing that you are interested in or that you enjoy doing.
  • Constellation (noun) -any of the groups of stars in the sky that seem from earth to form a pattern and have been given names.
  • To twinkle (verb) - (of light or a shiny surface) to shine repeatedly strongly then weakly, as if flashing on and off very quickly.
  • Orbit (noun) - the curved path through which objects in space move around a planet or star.
  • Spacewalk (noun) - an act of moving around in space outside a spacecraft but connected to it.
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Questions and answers
M: Do you enjoy looking at the stars?

R: When I get the chance I do. And it's not just the stars either. It's the planets and the nebulae. I used to love, and I still do, sitting on the decking at three o'clock in the morning on a Saturday just watching them for ages.

M: Have you ever learned about outer space and stars?

R: Well, we had a few inputs in school, but most of what I know about, well, celestial events and heavenly bodies I've read or watched for myself. I don't think primary or even secondary school children probably need to learn that much about coronal mass ejection or star formation. So it's really something that you have to pursue for yourself outside of the basics, like, you know, what the order of the planets is in the solar system, for example.

M: Are you interested in films about outer space and stars?

R: Oh, absolutely. I love hard and soft science fiction. So anything about extraterrestrials, and space travel is right up my avenue. I really like the plots of films like "Arrival" and "Contact". But I also like the mindless fun of "Starship Troopers" as well.

M: Can you see many stars at night where you live?

R: Well, the light pollution here is quite low. So you don't just see stars and constellations, you can see planets like Mars. And if you move further out to the village where there's almost no people, then you can even see things like the Orion Nebula, for example. I can't think of anything else that you could see, but they're all up there twinkling away. So that's great.

M: Would you ever like to go into space?

R: Well, with the current level of technology, probably not. I mean, if we had a space elevator or a skyhook, for example, to make it safer, then I would absolutely be down for that. But I'm not strapping myself to the top of a rocket filled with fuel and setting it on fire to get there. That's just, it just seems really dangerous.

M: What would you do if you had the chance to go into space?

R: Well, it would be cool to see the Earth from orbit and just see what everything looks like. I'd also really like to do a spacewalk. Just for the novelty in the risk that's involved, to be honest. I doubt I'd make the astronaut fitness requirements though.
M: Houston, Houston, did he use all gorgeous vocabulary? Uh-huh. What about grammar? Ah-ha. The second conditional? Okay. Okay. So, look at the stars, Rory used to gaze at the stars or star gazing. I enjoy star gazing. Like I enjoy looking at the star. Rory, are you a stargazer?

R: I'm an opportunistic stargazer. So whenever the opportunity presents itself, then I will do that, but I'm not an amateur or a professional astronomer with the telescope.

M: So if you enjoy looking at the stars, you can say oh, I enjoy going out to stargaze. So to stargaze, I enjoy star gazing. I'm not a stargazer. Gazer like, I'm like looking at the stars. Rory did use a very specific word about this, you know, a cloud of gas and dust in space. What, what was it?

R: Oh, the nebula. Yeah, well, nebulae, nebula. They're... Oh, everybody thinks they're giant clouds of gas. But it's not just that. It's their collections of material that are spread out across a really large area of space. It's easy to say that they're just gas, but it's not that simple. There are things inside nebula for example, but people think oh, it's like a cloud. There shouldn't be anything solid inside of it. But there are.

M: You can also say I enjoy looking at myriads of stars. Myriads like lots of stars. Like countless. You can't count them. Countless stars. And Nebula. Nebula like is this one and is plural, right? So if we talk about many lots you say...

R: Nebulae.

M: You said that you had some inputs at school about space and stars. So inputs, obviously lessons.

R: Yeah.

M: But a good one. Yeah? Like input sessions, like they put stuff in you, right? Or maybe just they want to put stuff in you, but it doesn't stay in or it doesn't go in. It's just, you know. Yeah. So inputs at school about stars and space. And also which events? Celestial?

R: Yes. So like, well, celestial events or celestial bodies. It really doesn't matter. But they're things that happen in space. So if we talk about celestial, then it's something happening in outer space. Beyond the Earth.

M: The moon is a celestial body.

R: Yes, a heavenly body.

M: And then you can say that, oh yes, I did study astronomy at school, or I had some input on stars and space. And also I remember something about coronal mass ejections, and star formations.

R: That's not from school. That's just something I read about or watched videos about. So a coronal mass ejection is just... It's like... Oh, God, if you're an astronomer, please don't get angry with me. But it's when a lot of hot stuff comes out of the sun and is fired into space. That's what it is.

M: A lot of hot stuff? Hot stuff. Oh, it's hot

R: Plasma.

M: Plasma? Okay.
R: I would call it plasma. I mean, probably there are astronomers right now that are like, oh, my God, this person's an idiot. But that's basically what it is. It's when stuff is fired out of the sun into space. Sometimes it hits the earth. And you can see it in things that look like the Northern Lights, for example, or it can cause power outages, if it's really, really strong.

M: Right, dear listener. So this answer is your chance to show off your space vocabulary. Oh yeah, I remember learning. So I remember learning, right? About Meteors. Meteors. And comets at school. Or also you can say about, I remember learning about the solar system. Rory loves hard and soft science fiction. Hard and soft.

R: Yes. But like hard science fiction is just a way of saying it's more realistic compared to soft science fiction, which is when you can just make up the rules for how things work. So really, the way that we understand physics now, you shouldn't be able to travel faster than the speed of light. So if you have spaceships in your movie that are travelling faster than light, then that's soft science fiction, if the spaceships in your movie are not doing that, then that's harder science fiction. For example, so arrival in "Contact" focus on things like radio waves and the difficulties of communicating with aliens. So that's quite realistic, because they wouldn't just show up starting to speak English. Whereas if you watch Star Trek, and all the aliens are speaking English because of the universal translator that is soft science fiction. And in "Starship Troopers" just the idea that alien insects construct their own spaceships. Yeah, it's very soft science fiction.

M: Extraterrestrial life. Extraterrestrial? Life from outer space. So be careful with pronunciations. Extraterrestrial, right? How do you say it, Rory?

R: Extraterrestrial. Oh, just say aliens. It's hard enough to say that. And also like the... I was just thinking about when I learned the Russian word for aliens as well. It's also difficult to say. So just say aliens.

M: So if you enjoy space, you can say, oh, this is right up my street. This is right up my street. Rory changed the streets into avenue.

R: But it's the same thing.

M: Yeah, so this is right up my avenue. Is this an idiom, Rory?

R: Yes. Yes, it is.

M: Idiomatic language.

R: For a high score.

M: If I don't like space, if I don't like this topic, what do I say? It's not up my street? It's not my thing?
R: Yeah, just it's not my thing. It's not really up my street at all. But I'd suppose you wouldn't really say that, you'd be more likely to say it's not my thing.

M: The light pollution. So if there is a lot of light in your city, you can say whoa, so I've got a lot of light pollution, so I can't see any stars. Rory told us that the light pollution is low, so he actually can see the stars, and constellations.

R: Constellations are just the imaginary shapes that people make by drawing imaginary lines in the sky. The way that stars are placed is not organized that way. It's just how they happen to look for human beings who are trying to find patterns and things that don't necessarily have one. Or if you believe in astrology, then they control your destiny and what kind of food you like.

M: Yeah, there are different kinds of constellations. And you can say, oh, I can spot different constellations from where I live. And I know the names of constellations. Also, I can see planets like Mars. Planets are without article, right? No articles? Mars?

R: I suppose it will depend on what you're talking about. The names of the planets do not have articles. Yes. But if we are talking about the word planet, then you can say the planet Mars.

M: And also you can spot, you can spot Mars. Spot like notice, or you said like, nebula. Again, but Orion. You said the Orion Nebula. The Milky Way.

R: Yes. But that's because... Well, if we talk about the Orion Nebula, it's being used as an adjective there. It's a specific nebula with a specific name to describe it.

M: And you usually see stars on a clear sky, so a clear sky. But if you don't have any clear skies, then you can say the sky is usually hazy, or the sky is overcast, like cloudy, so I don't see many stars. What is twinkling away? Twinkle, twinkle, little star...

R: Oh... It's actually, the reason that stars twinkle is quite complicated. But the first thing to talk about is twinkling. So twinkling is when you see it's not like constantly on it's kind of going. It's intense. And it's not so intense. And it's back to intense again. But the reason that stars twinkle, oh, strap yourselves in, folks. So the reason that stars twinkle is because of, first of all, the stars are not solid things, they move around and change. And they have hotspots and cool spots. And that will affect the intensity of the light. But the other thing that affects the intensity of the light, is you've got your star here, and you're watching all the way over here. And in the middle, there's all kinds of stuff, including something called the Oort cloud, which is a giant cloud of comets and debris from the beginning of the solar system that the light has to travel through. And then there's all the nebulas and gases in between the stars that the light has to travel through as well on its way to your eye. So...

M: Houston! Houston! We have a problem! We have a problem! It's Rory, he's, he's, we should shut him up.
R: This is... No, this is cool. Like, this is why the stars twinkle. Everybody thinks it's just one thing, but it's a whole process. And when you think about the distance that light has to travel and what it has to go through in order for you to be able to see it and appreciate it. Millions of years after you've seen it is, oh, sorry, after it's been emitted is amazing. How can people not find that fascinating? You're rude.

M: How are you? Are you okay? Is it boring for you? Is it boring? Or is it interesting?

R: It is interesting. It's interesting. This is how the mechanics of the universe work. It's cool. You don't look very convinced.

M: Oh, I'm very convinced. I really enjoyed your explanation. I took notes, I wrote it down.

R: Fine. Fine. What's the next piece of grammar and vocabulary that we need to talk about? I'm sure that will be much more interesting.

M: And you kind of, you complained about the level of technology. So you're saying that you wouldn't go into space now because the technology is, you know, like, it's just, I'm not strapping myself to a fuel tank.

R: That is basically what we do. We blow up fuel in order to get into orbit. There are much more efficient ways of getting people into space than doing that.

M: Yeah, like a space elevator. Rory's gonna wait till they invent a space elevator. Elevator? Like lift.

R: Well, they don't need to invent it. They just need to build it.

M: Oh, build it. Just up to space. Okay, so Rory is going to open the door, go inside the lift and... Like a lift in a building. And it goes right up there to Mars.

R: Well, not necessarily to Mars, you probably only need it to get into space. And then from there, you go to Mars and then hook up with another space elevator there.

M: And what did you mean by a skyhook? So kind of like...

R: Okay, I'm just looking at a diagram for a skyhook now. And this is really difficult to explain. In like a minute. But basically what a skyhook is, is, it picks things up from the atmosphere and moves them around and as the Earth is moving, then travels that way and then pops you back down. But it could still be used to get into orbit, I suppose. You just like swing it up the way and then you'd have to make sure that you had something to stop you from floating away because of the momentum. Anyway, look, the point is that there are much safer ways to travel through space and move things around that do not involve blowing up rocket fuel. So use your imaginations, people.
M: The examiner asks you, what would you do? So that's the second conditional. So if I could go into space I'd, I would do something. And Rory told us that it would be cool. It'd be cool to see the Earth from orbit. Orbit like not like Orbit like chewing gum. Orbit. Shouldn't it be the orbit, from the orbit.

R: Well, from the orbit of Earth. But if you're already there in orbit above earth, then you don't need it. Like it's clear that you're in orbit of Earth. Where else would you be in orbit of?

M: And we say the Earth, right? So it would be cool to see the Earth. Not Earth. The Earth?

R: Well, you can say both. It would be cool to see the Earth or it would be cool to see Earth from orbit, it doesn't make a difference. There's only, well, I suppose Earth without the article would be our planet. The Earth would be what you're looking down at. But they're both meaning the same thing. That thing you can see from space.

M: I'd love to do a spacewalk. A spacewalk like when you go out there from the spacecraft and you just like walk on the moon. Or you just like walk out in the space?

R: Well a spacewalk is when you like, let's say the hatch opens and you float out through and you're walking in space.

M: Floating Rory, can you imagine this like floating Rory? Scotland Freedom! Space for everybody! That would be nice. I'd love to be an astronaut. So we say astronauts, right? So people who go into space. In a shuttle or in a spacecraft. In a space vehicle. But Rory doubts that he will meet the astronaut fitness requirements. So like you should be fit, fit to go into space. Maybe not for Rory. If you were a planet, Rory, which planet would you be?

R: I don't know. What planet would you be?

M: Ooh, I'd be Saturn. Because I love the rings. And I actually saw Saturn at the observatory near Baikal Lake. It was this huge telescope. And I looked and I saw this planet like with these eyes. It was amazing. It was I think one of the most breathtaking experiences in my life, when I saw this little like a jewel, like amazing planet. It was unbelievable. And I was deeply touched by Saturn's rings.

R: Jupiter also has rings, and so does Uranus and Neptune, I think. They're very small. But they're there. I know lots about space. I'm not apologizing for it.

M: Thank you very much, dear listener, dear viewer, our favourite fan, for listening, for watching! Please write in the comments, what do you reckon? Like what do you think about this space, stars? Are you a star person? Well, of course, you are a star. Are you into this or not really? Which planet would you like to be? Would you like to go out there and be floating in the outer space like Rory or not? Please let us know! Love, kisses and take care!

R: And watch the stars. Bye!

M: Houston! Houston! We're done. We're done. Okay, everything's fine, yeah. Bye!
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Get exclusive episodes on IELTS Speaking parts 1, 2, and 3
Did you like this episode?
Make sure to subscribe to our social media to see some of the “behind the scenes” stuff!

Our Instagram: bit.ly/instagramswi
Our Telegram: bit.ly/telegramswi
You can support us by donating as little as $5
Energy drinks, protein bars, and YOUR help make this podcast possible!
Show more
Study with us