The Star Spot (general)

Feature Guest: Jill Tarter

Alien hunting pioneer Jill Tarter often says the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a way for us to hold a mirror to ourselves. Now in a recently released biography, that statement takes on personal significance and reveals the intimate connection between SETI and the life of its most famous icon.

Today we’re honoured to have Jill Tarter return to The Star Spot to discuss her life; the tragedies and triumphs of youth, the moment when the alien question became a science question, her pioneering role as a woman in science and as a human searching for non-human contact, and her tireless positive energy to reach an elusive goal that would be the biggest discovery of all time.

Current in Space

What if dark matter and dark energy do not exist? Maya explains why that might not be as crazy as it sounds. And 40 years after humanity sent a beacon into space with the launch of the twin Voyager space probes, Tony reviews a new documentary aptly named The Farthest, which is now available on Netflix.

About Our Guest

Jill Tarter, the real life inspiration behind the protagonist in Carl Sagan’s story Contact, is the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI and the former Director of the Center for SETI Research. Tarter graduated with degrees from Cornell and the University of California at Berkeley and she’s won many awards, including two public service medals from NASA and a fellowship of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was named one of the 100 Most influential People of the World of the Year by Time Magazine in 2004 and she won the Wonderfest Carl Sagan prize for science popularization in 2005. She is the subject of a recently released biography, Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_138_Making_Contact_with_Jill_Tarter.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Alan Stern

There’s an intruder in our solar system. This fall we were invaded by the first interstellar space traveller, an elongated, cigar shaped alien asteroid. The mysterious object was ejected from its distant and unknown home, travelling for millions or billions of years before coming to pass between the Earth and the sun. On today’s episode of The Star Spot we’re joined by Dr. Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons mission to Pluto, to explain how the detection of an interstellar asteroid named Oumuamua is likely the first of many such strange and bizarre objects, and heralds the dawn of a new era in astronomy.

Current in Space

Proxima b may be the closer exoplanet, but Tony explains why it now has competition for closest Earth twin. And Maya reports how improved technology is helping us find galaxies that are dimmer, further and older than any before. 

About Our Guest

Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist with an illustrious career. He was principal investigator for eight planetary science missions and is the current PI for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. He was previously Executive Director of the Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division and past Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. He is currently Chief Scientist at Moon Express, a private enterprise dedicated to mining the moon for natural resources. In 2007, Stern was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_137_An_Alien_Asteroid_in_Our_Solar_System.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Cordell Grant

On June 17, 2016, the Canadian Space Agency launched the nation’s fourth astronaut recruitment campaign. 3,772 applications were received. One year later only two were chosen. Candidates have described the grueling selection process as the greatest challenge of their lives. To understand how we identify the best of the best, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Cordell Grant, who neared the finish line and was among the top 72 candidates to become Canada’s next space explorer.

Current in Space

We like to think we know our solar system well, but Tony warns us to beware intruders.

About Our Guest

Cordell Grant is Chief Operating Officer at Sinclair Interplanetary where he designs and builds communications and attitude determination hardware for spacecraft. He holds a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. In 2016 Cordell applied to become Canada’s next astronaut.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_136.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:42pm EST

Feature Guest: Michael Landry

The alchemists never did succeed in turning elements into gold and silver, and now we know why. It takes the merger of two neutron stars to produce these and other precious metals. That was the headline just two weeks ago when astronomers reported the first ever detection of gravitational waves from this so-called kilonova event. With this discovery we enter a new era. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Dr. Michael Landry, head of the LIGO observatory at Hanford where this landmark discovery was made, to discuss the dawn of  multi-messenger astronomy.

Current in Space

The original of high energy cosmic rays is still a mystery, but now Tony reports that the answer may be more far out - literally - than we imagined. Then Maya  has an important lesson for us: don’t judge a book by its cover, or a planetary interior by its surface. And as we gaze up at the moon in our sky, Dave wonders if the moon once had skies of its own.

About Our Guest

Dr. Michael Landry is Detection Lead Scientist at the LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, in Hanford, Washington. The LIGO observatories have been responsible for the first ever discoveries of gravitational waves, for which the Nobel prize in physics was recently awarded. Landy is also a physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He earned his PhD at the University of Manitoba in strange quark physics and performed graduate work at TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, as well as Brookhaven National Laboratory in the United States.


Feature Guest: Bill Diamond

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, is undergoing a revolution. There was once a time when the search for alien signals involved an exhausting and painstaking point by point search of each and every possible location in the sky, one at a time. Now with a new project called Laser SETI we have the first-ever all-sky all-the-time search. And today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by SETI Institute President Bill Diamond to discuss the promise and challenge of SETI’s paradigm-shifting new effort to make contact with extraterrestrial intelligence.

Current in Space

About Our Guest

Bill Diamond is President and CEO of the SETI Institute. Prior to joining SETI, he was a technology executive and Silicon Valley veteran, with over 20 years of experience in the photonics and optical communications industry, and a decade in X-ray and semiconductor processing technologies.  He holds a B.A. in physics from Holy Cross College and a masters in business administration from Georgetown University.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_134_Searching_for_Aliens_All-Sky_All-the-Time.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Marco Delbo

The main belt asteroids are among the most ancient of all bodies in the solar system. This summer astronomers announced the discovery of what’s being called a primordial asteroid family. These asteroids are so old that their formation predates the migration of Jupiter, which may have passed through the asteroid belt while travelling to its current location in the solar system. Today the discovery team leader Marco Delbo joins us here at The Star Spot to explain how we can learn about the biggest objects in the solar system by studying some of the smallest.

Current in Space

Tony goes a little apocalyptic when he discovers that a barrage of comets are heading toward the inner solar system… in a little over a million years. Then Maya reports on the exotic and diverse names now officially assigned to Pluto’s recently discovered surface features. Here’s a hint: the underworld is a popular destination on this little world.

About Our Guest

Marco Delbo is an Astronomer with the Observatory of Cote d'Azur and with France’s National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy, located at the University of Nice-Sophia.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_133.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Ravi Desai

It was recently reported that Saturn’s moon Titan harbours complex chemistry the likes of which we’ve never before seen in our solar system. On today’s episode of The Star Spot, the leader of the discovery Ravi Desai explains the implication of discovering these building blocks of life on a world that many are now calling the most habitable location beyond Earth.

Current in Space

Good news from Tony. The ocean worlds of Europa and Enceladus will be prime targets for the James Webb Space Telescope. Then Dave tells us how we finally mapped the surface of a second star - only to learn how little we know about our own sun’s fate. And finally Maya with the weather report: it’s raining diamonds in the outer solar system!

About Our Guest

Ravi Desai is PhD Candidate in Space Physics at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London. He is a member of the Cassini Science Team and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Feature Guest: Matt Nicholl

If you thought a supernova was powerful, time to meet its bigger brother, the superluminous supernova. They’ve been described as the rockstars of the supernova world and if one were to go off in our galaxy it would outshine the full moon. Yes, you heard that right. Now until recently we thought such stupendous events were confined to fantastically distant dwarf galaxies, far off and unusual parts of our universe. But now a remarkable new discovery has changed everything, bringing superluminous supernovae much much closer to home.  

On today’s episode we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Matt Nicholl whose team was responsible for discovering and characterizing the newest member of this extraordinary family, SN 2017egm

Current in Space

Tony reminds us that if you’re listening to this on the night of our broadcast, Sunday, August 20th, then you still have the chance to prepare yourself for the 2017 solar eclipse. Tomorrow all of North America will be treated to this remarkable spectacle as the moon completely or partially covers the sun. In order to find out when the eclipse will visit you go to https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/. And remember never look directly at the sun except during the moment of totality. Tell us about your experience by emailing info@thestarspot.ca.

About Our Guest

Matt Nicholl is an astronomer and postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He received his PhD from Queen’s University Belfast.  His interest in the dynamic sky are particularly focused on supernovae. He can be found on instagram and twitter @mattnicholl56

Direct download: ep131.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: James Bauer

A team of astronomers studying long-period comets has just reached a startling conclusion. The solar system is home to seven times more of these large icy bodies than we previously thought. This according to team lead James Bauer, who joins us here at The Star Spot. How does this discovery affect our understanding of solar system formation? Were there once supermassive ancient comets which broke apart? And did we just massively increase the chance of a cometary collision with Earth.

Current in Space

Let Tony introduce you to the universe's most powerful explosion since the Big Bang: Gamma Ray Bursts!

About Our Guest

James Bauer is Astronomer at the University of Maryland. He is the Deputy Principal Investigator for the NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) Mission. Dr. Bauer was the first to quantify seasonal surface changes on Triton, one of Neptune’s moons. He is the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and is Honorary Officer of NASA’s First Planetary Defense Squadron. The asteroid 16232 Chijagerbs is named after him and his wife.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_130_There_Are_How_Many_More_Comets.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Danny Steeghs 

Gravitational wave astronomy was born less than 2 years ago when scientists made the first ever detection of gravitational waves coming from the merger of two distant massive black holes.

To build on the emergence of this revolutionary new science, a new project has just come online. Meet the Gravitational Wave Optical Transient Observer, or GOTO. This array of intelligent autonomous telescopes is now standing by and at the first sign of gravitational waves they are ready to spring into action, to zero in on some of the most cataclysmic events in our universe.

Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by GOTO Principal Investigator Dr. Danny Steeghs.

Current in Space

For many people a perfect day would involve cruising upon calm and beautiful seas. As Dave explains, that could actually happen - on Titan! Then Tony shares the discovery of an exciting surprise left over from a supernova explosion.  

About Our Guest

Danny Steeghs is an astrophysicist within the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. He is the Principal Investigator for the University of Warwick in a collaborative project known as GOTO, or Gravitational Wave Optical Transient Observer. He is also involved in a survey of the Kepler field and a survey of the Northern Milky Way. An observational astronomer, his interests include the formation and evolution of interacting binary stars and gravitational wave astrophysics.