The Star Spot

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

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!

The Star Spot will be off for the next 2 weeks while our team enjoys some rest and relaxation over the holidays. 2017 has witnessed a remarkable year in space and we've enjoyed bringing you news and interviews on the latest developments. We'll be returning Sunday, January 7th, 2018 and looking forward to another exciting year at the final frontier!

The Team at The Star Spot

Category:general -- posted at: 3:08pm EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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 EDT

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.