The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Shawn Bishop

We’ve long known we’re made of star stuff, but now it turns out that life on Earth might be even more intimately connected to events in deep space than we imagined. Scientists recently reported the first ever discovery of supernova ash - atoms forged in the catastrophic explosion of dead stars - found buried in fossils created by bacteria right here on Earth. And most surprising of all these findings hint at a possible role for supernovae in bringing about mass extinctions, events which have changed the course of life on Earth and may do so again in our future. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by the discovery team’s Professor Shawn Bishop.

Current in Space

We worry whether our search for extraterrestrial intelligence is looking in the right place. Tony tells us a better question might be whether we're looking at the right time. But might we be able to catch life ejected into space? Dave shares exciting evidence of enormous water jets coming from Jupiter's icy moon Europa. Finally Anuj provides an update on an exciting future space telescope that might just be built by little, green... robots. 

About Our Guest

Shawn Bishop is an experimental nuclear astrophysicist at the Technical University of Munich in Germany. Bishop studied at McMaster University and the University of Victoria and received his PhD from Simon Fraser University in 2003. He has worked at TRIUMF National Laboratory in Vancouver and the RIKEN National Laboratory in Saitama, Japan. He studies nuclear physics, nucleosynthesis and supernovae.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_111_Shawn_Bishop.mp3
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Feature Guest: Nico Hamaus

Astronomers are no longer avoiding the void. Between the overdense zones of our universe, where most galaxies live, there exist vast regions of near emptiness that can stretch for hundreds of millions of light years. But these voids are not nearly as inconsequential as you might imagine and now they are finally getting the attention they deserve. Astronomers are peering into the void in the hopes of solving a variety of cosmic mysteries, from gleaning critical insights into dark matter to studying unique galaxies found in the voids. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Nico Hamaus as we study the spaces between.

Current in Space

Just as we're learning more about our solar system's own Kuiper Belt, we're also discovering that extrasolar systems may harbour similar structures. Dave helps us understand just where such disks may originate. And while it may be just a little world, Anuj tells us dwarf planet Pluto has a surprisingly complex inner (and surface) life.

About Our Guest

Nico Hamaus is research fellow in the Cosmology Group at the University Observatory and Professor of Physics at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_110_-_Peering_Into_the_Voids.mp3
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Feature Guest: Gerardo Aldana

No the ancient Maya did not predict the end of the world. But they were among the world’s most advanced astronomers. Now some anthropologists believe they’ve found evidence that the Maya achieved a remarkable innovation in mathematics and science. To share with us his revolutionary view of the famous Mayan Dresden Codex, the oldest book ever written in the Americas, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Gerardo Aldana.

Current in Space

About Gerardo Aldana

Gerardo Aldana is a Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara with a joint appointment to the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies. He holds degrees in both engineering and the history of science. His research interests include Mayan hieroglyphs, culture theory and experimental archaeology.  

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_109_Rethinking_Ancient_Mayan_Astronomy.mp3
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Feature Guest: Guillem Anglada-Escudé

Recently headlines buzzed with news of the discovery of the nearest exoplanet that we will ever find. And it looks like it could very well be habitable. Proxima b, at just over 4 light years from Earth, is quickly fuelling the imagination, with one foundation already planning a spacecraft mission to the world within a single generation. Today we’re excited to be joined at The Star Spot by Guillem Anglada-Escudé, head of the team responsible for this amazing discovery.

Current in Space

About Our Guest

Dr. Guillem Anglada-Escudé is Lecturer at the School of Physics and Astronomy at Queen Mary University London in the UK. His research interests range from exoplanets to fundamental physics. He received his PhD from the University of Barcelona. Dr. Anglada has served as "Councillor of Culture, Citizen participation and Youth" for the city council of Ullastrell, a small village near Barcelona.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episosde_Episode_108_-_Guillem_Anglada.mp3
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Feature Guest: Ludovic Van Waerbeke

Large scale surveys of the universe are quickly becoming key to making new discoveries at the cutting edge of astronomy. Case in point is the Cosmic Evolution Survey (or COSMOS), which incorporates data from 446,000 galaxies.

Today we're joined at The Star Spot by Ludovic Van Waerbeke whose survey-based research has helped us expand our understanding of the expanding - and accelerating - universe, confirming the existence of an unknown source of energy, or dark energy, and providing a map of the large scale dark matter distribution of the cosmos.

About Our Guest

Ludovic Van Waerbeke is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia and Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research in the Cosmology and Gravity program.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episosde_107.mp3
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Feature Guest: Aaron Boley

Is our solar system unique? That's becoming a major question for researchers. It turns out solar system formation is a far more complex process than anyone imagined. Gas giants migrate in and out. Planets swap places with each other. And bodies of all shapes and sizes appear at every conceivable distance from their star. To make sense of what might literally be a chaotic system today I’m joined at The Star Spot by Aaron Boley, Canada Research Chair in Planetary Astronomy.

Current in Space

About Our Guest

Aaron Boley is Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Planetary Astronomy at the University of British Columbia. He studied at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Switzerland before holding a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship from the University of Florida. Boley is a frequent guest at public science events, having presented to Café Scientifique, Vancouver’s VanCityBuzz and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.  

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_106_Aaron_Boley-updated.mp3
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Feature Guest: Zachary Fejes

Imagine a starship that could take us out into the galaxy. Meet Icarus Interstellar, a nonprofit foundation working to achieve interstellar travel by the year 2100. Is this science fiction? That’s what I’ll ask Zachary Fejes. His team is tasked with preparing a map that will take us to the stars, and he joins Justin Trottier here at The Star Spot.

Current in Space

We know supernova are among the most destructive and violent events our universe is capable of producing. Now Tony tells us why they may have played a creative role in Earth history. Then Dave shares news of the first exoplanet discovered, alive and well, in a triple star system.

About Our Guest

Zachary Fejes is Project Lead for Project Voyager at Icarus Interstellar, a research and development project to create next generation space exploration mission planning and simulation software. If you’re like to join his team, which draws heavily from student volunteers, connect with him on twitter @zachfejes. He is a recent electrical engineering graduate from the University of Toronto.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_105_Zachary_Fejes.mp3
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Feature Guest: Chuck Black

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating questions in which science meets science fiction. The great terraforming Mars debate. 

We were joined by a 5 member panel of experts, representing a wide range of backgrounds. We approached the issue from all angles: physics, astronomy, philosophy, ethics, commerce and politics.

Now over the course of 4 episodes I’m being joined at The Star Spot by each of our guests from that event.

We covered the science of Mars with planetary scientist Paul Delaney. We then turned questions of Martian and Earthling biology with Dr. Olathe MacIntyre. Finally, switching gears, we asked NASA’s planetary protection officer John Rummel if we should terraform a lifeless world.

These have been weighty discussions so in this fourth and final interview with journalist Chuck Black of Canadian Aerospace News we’re going to have a little fun. We’re going to dream of our loftiest vision of a Martian colony and we’re going to ask, if we do opt for colonization, how would we choose who to send as ambassadors of our species.

Current in Space

 

About Our Guest

Chuck Black is a journalist, technology advocate, public speaker and activist. He edits and contributes articles to the Commercial Space blog, the Canadian Aerospace News, and the Space Conference News. He also organizes and produces events focused on the commercialization of space- derived technologies which bring together industry experts for detailed in-person discussions, collaboration and networking on a wide variety of topics for various groups.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_104.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: John Rummel

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating questions in which science meets science fiction. The great terraforming Mars debate.

We were joined by a 5 member panel of experts, representing a wide range of backgrounds. We approached the issue from all angles: physics, astronomy, philosophy, ethics, commerce and politics. Now over the course of 4 episodes I’m being joined at The Star Spot by each of our guests from that event. We covered the science of Mars with planetary scientist Paul Delaney. We then turned questions of Martian and Earthling biology with Dr. Olathe MacIntyre.

Now it’s time to switch gears. Even if we could make Mars habitable, we must confront the equally profound question, should we do it? If Mars already habours life, even just microbes, does that make terraforming off limits? If Mars has dormant life, should we reawaken it? And do humans have an imperative to spread life to the barren worlds of our solar system and beyond?

To tackle these biggest of questions today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Professor John Rummel of NASA’s Planetary Protection Subcommittee.

Current in Space

What’s the best way to study the largest volcano in the solar system? Anuj explains. And while every major galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its centre, have you ever wondered just where do they come from? Tony sheds some light.

About Our Guest

John Rummel is a Senior Scientist with the SETI Institute and a Visiting Scholar at McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law. A retired Professor of Biology at East Carolina University, he has been a member of the NASA Advisory Council’s Planetary Protection Subcommittee. He previously worked at NASA Headquarters, as Senior Scientist for Astrobiology and Exobiology Program Manager. Rummel is Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received the Life Sciences Award from the International Academy of Astronautics. He received his PhD in community ecology and evolution from Stanford University.

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_103.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Olathe MacIntyre

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot recently did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we recently co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating questions in which science meets science fiction. Can we terraform Mars to make it habitable? And if we can, should we?

We were joined by a 5 member panel of experts, representing a wide range of backgrounds in order to approach the issue from all angles: physics, astronomy, philosophy, ethics, commerce and politics. Now over the course of 4 episodes we're joined at The Star Spot by each of our guests from that event.

We started, appropriately, with the red planet itself. In our last episode planetary scientist Paul Delaney updated us with the most current understanding of the characteristics of Mars pertinent to the planet’s suitability for life.

Today we look at the biology, turning the focus on us, that is, the biota of Earth. We’ll be asking what we need to change about Mars to make it friendlier to our kind of life? What techniques are available toward that end? And could Earth life itself play a key role in transforming the red planet?

Current in Space

Did you know dung beetles use the Milky Way galaxy for navigation. Don't believe us? Anuj will explain how it works. Then Tony shares how supermassive black holes may unlock the secrets of distant galaxies. 

About Our Guest

Dr. Olathe MacIntyre received a B.Sc. in Biology at Dalhousie University.  After working as an Onboard Marine Biologist in Alaska, she completed her M.Sc. in Space Science at the International Space University in France, and co-authored “Visysphere Mars: Terraforming Meets Engineered Life Adaption.” She received an internship at the world-class Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility at the University of Guelph, where she earned a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences. Her thesis explored the implications of hypobaric conditions for plant-microbe interactions in a Lunar or Martian greenhouse. She followed with a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph. She is currently with Science North, a science education centre, working to inspire the next generation of scientists through the wonders of space exploration.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_102.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT