The Star Spot (general)

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.


Feature Guest: Dan Falk

What if everything we see in our universe is not all that there is. The concept of the multiverse has captured the imagination of both physicists and cosmologists, but for very different reasons. According to the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, every quantum event triggers the creation of new parallel universes. Meanwhile many cosmologists studying the beginning of the universe have come to believe that inflation is an eternal process forever creating new universes.

The quantum mechanical wave-function and cosmological inflation seem worlds apart. But what if these two dramatically different models were pointing to one and the same multiverse? In this second of our two part conversation, science reporter Dan Falk rejoins us here at The Star Spot to discuss this startling possibility.

Current in Space

Today Tony and Dave treat us to a special black hole double bill. First up, black holes were recently tested to determine if they really are every bit as exotic as we thought. And then, what happens to the supermassive black hole at the centres of merging galaxies?

About Our Guest

Dan Falk is an award winning science journalist and broadcaster. He’s been published very broadly, including in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Walrus, Cosmos magazine, and New Scientist, and has contributed to CBC and TV Ontario science programming. Dan Falk is also the author of three books, including In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension, Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything, and The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe. He co-hosts the BookLab podcast

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_128.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Dan Falk 

They once portended the collapse of civilization. Well the solar eclipse visiting North America this summer probably won’t spell the end of days. But as our guest Dan Falk will explain astronomers and lay people alike are in for an unforgettable experience on August 21st, when day literally turns to night.

Current in Space

Data dump? Oh yes just another 200 or so alien worlds discovered by Kepler.

About Our Guest

Dan Falk is an award winning science journalist and broadcaster. He’s been published very broadly, including in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Walrus, Cosmos magazine, and New Scientist, and has contributed to CBC and TV Ontario science programming. Dan Falk is also the author of three books, including In Search of Time: Journeys Along a Curious Dimension, Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything, and The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe. He co-hosts the BookLab podcast

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_127_When_Day_Turns_to_Night_with_Dan_Falk.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST