The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Brian Thomas

We have this impression of our planet as isolated from the rest of the universe, our lives cut off from the drama unfolding elsewhere in our galaxy. But what if the course of life’s evolution on Earth was intimately connected to events well beyond our solar system. It now seems likely that supernovae hundreds of light-years away have profoundly affected our history and may even account for climatic changes just as our species was emerging. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by astrophysicist Brian Thomas to explore this fascinating discovery.

 

About Our Guest

Brian Thomas is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Washburn University where he leads the Washburn Astrobiophysics research group. His research focuses on the role of high energy astronomical events, in particular supernova and gamma ray bursts, on the atmosphere and biosphere of Earth. He is the principal investigator on a 3-year NASA grant to explore the terrestrial impacts of nearby supernovae.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_146_Supernovae_and_the_Evolution_of_Life.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Stuart Ryder

When a massive star explodes in a supernova, it tends to gobble up all the attention. But what happens when that star has a binary companion with its own story to tell? That’s exactly what happened last month when the Hubble Telescope captured the first image of the surviving stellar companion to a supernova, and it turned out to be more than just a passive observer. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by the discovery team leader Stuart Ryder to tell us how sibling rivalry might account for the origin of one unusual type of supernova. 

Current in Space

Tony details the launch of a new space telescope that will take planet hunting to the next stage. Then Maya shares a tantalizing discovery from Jupiter's largest moon. And finally while we have trouble seeing individual stars in the galaxy next door, Dave reports on a star called Icarus that we just image despite it being 9 billion light-years away!

About Our Guest

Stuart Ryder is Head of International Telescopes Support at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and is responsible for coordinating Australia's usage of large telescopes around the world. His research interests include core-collapse supernovae and star formation in nuclear rings of galaxies.


Feature Guest: Farhad Yusef-Zadeh

The gravity, radiation and tidal forces at the very core of the Milky Way is kind of intense. That’s why astronomers have long doubted the possibility of star formation in such a hostile environment. And then everything changed with the discovery last fall of 11 sun-like stars living closer to the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy then the distance between our sun and its closest neighbour. What does this breakthrough mean for our understanding of star formation and the possibility of life in what we once imagined were impossibly extreme environments? Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by the discovery team’s leader Farhad Yusef-zadeh.

Current in Space

On behalf of The Star Spot, Tony says "Thank you, Stephen."

About Our Guest

Farhad Yusef-Zadeh received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at STony Brook then performed his PhD work at Columbia University. He worked as a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center before joining the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University. He enjoys performing public lectures on the history of astronomy, science and pseudoscience and how science affects our lives.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_144_A_Rough_Upbringing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Xinyu Dai

Last month astronomers announced the first ever discovery of extrasolar planets… in another galaxy! We’ve already confirmed almost 4000 planets beyond our solar system, but these have all been in a single galaxy, the Milky Way. But then last month a serendipitous discovery opened the door to a galaxy 3.8 billion light years away and it turns out it’s home to thousands upon thousands of planets. Today we're joined here at The Star Spot by co-discoverer Xinyu Dai to describe the unplanned discovery and whether this is the beginning of a new era in extrasolar extragalactic planetary astronomy.

Current in Space

The Andromeda Galaxy has tried hard to hide its past, but Dave exposes its dirty secrets. Then Maya numbers our minds with the discovery of the most distant supernova yet. And when psychologists studied the likely ramifications of first contact Tony found the results surprising.

About Our Guest

Xinyu Dai is assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Department of Physics and Astronomy. He performed undergraduate studies at Beijing University before receiving his PhD from Penn State. He is an expert in gravitational lensing, galaxy clusters, active galactic nuclei and gamma-ray bursts.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_143_Planet_Hunting_Goes_Extragalactic.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Scott Bolton

It’s our cosmic backyard, and yet our own solar system is still full of surprises. Now it turns out we were “totally wrong” when it comes to just about everything we thought we knew about Jupiter. That’s not me speaking, it’s Scott Bolton, principal investigator for the NASA Juno mission to Jupiter. From its magnetic field and atmosphere down to its very core, Jupiter is being rediscovered and transformed. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Dr. Bolton to discuss the rewriting of our textbook on the solar system’s biggest world.

Current in Space

We've discovered a new family of extrasolar planets, and they're in a galaxy far, far away! Dave provides a trailer for the next episode of The Star Spot.

About Our Guest

Scott Bolton is the Director of the Space Science and Engineering Division at the Southwest Research Institute and Principal Investigator of NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter. In his 24 year career with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he has worked on many of its leading missions, including Cassini, Galileo, Voyager and Magellan He presently leads an international research group focused on modeling Jupiter and Saturn's radiation belts. He is an author of over 60 scientific papers. He has received over twenty NASA Group Achievement Awards including the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_142_Jupiter_Transformed_with_Scott_Bolton.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Jason Hessels

The one thing we thought we knew about fast radio blasts was that these mysterious one-off phenomena must be associated with some of the most cataclysmic events in the universe. Then everything changed with last month’s announcement of the first ever detection of a source of repeating fast radio bursts. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by co-discover Jason Hessels to rule on an important question: are scientists back to the drawing board or did they just achieve a breakthrough in our efforts to unlock this puzzle.

Current in Space

Europa is a tantalizing destination for exploration, but Dave worries that if we visit we might quickly find ourselves on thin ice. Then Maya reports on a windy conundrum surrounding hot Jupiters. And Tony brings new insights into the most powerful explosions in our Universe. Care to make your very own gamma ray burst?

About Our Guest

Jason Hessels is an astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. He received his PhD from McGill University where he was the recipient of an NSERC Doctoral Fellowship. His research interests include pulsars and neutron stars, globular clusters and radio transients. His hobbies include hiking, camping, sailing and guitar.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_141.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Susan Strahan

While human activity is what created the ozone hole, scientists just announced direct evidence that human activity is now responsible for healing that damage. That makes the Montreal Protocol, which banned the emission of chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, along with other ozone depleting substances, the most successful international environmental agreement to date. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Dr. Susan Strahan, who lead a team that studied the reduction of CFCs, to discuss the fall and rise of the ozone layer and what this means for future efforts to achieve international cooperation on critical environmental issues like climate change.

Current in Space

Tabby's star may no longer be the megastructure of another species, but as Tony explains, the way in which we figured that out says quite a lot about this one. 

About Our Guest

Susan E. Strahan is atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where she works in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of California Berkeley. Her research involves making stratospheric trace gas measurements and studying chemistry-climate models. She is a member of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_140.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Arjun Berera

Many of you are familiar with the idea of panspermia, the theory that life spreads itself throughout the galaxy by travelling from one world to another. We often think of big objects like asteroids, comets or spacecraft. But a new idea has emerged, and it’s must smaller: dust. Astronomer Arjun Berera joins me here at The Star Spot to discuss his new study, which considers whether alien life can hitchhike between planets on streams of space dust and if life on Earth might have just such an origin.

Current in Space

The solar system's first extrasolar asteroid visitor, Oumuamua, is even stranger than we thought, explains Tony.

About Our Guest

Arjun Berera is Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. He received his PhD from the University of California Berkeley studying aspects of string perturbation theory. His research interests include quantum field theory, statistical physics, early universe cosmology theory and turbulence.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_139.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

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