The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Lynn Rothschild

Are we alone in the universe? Think about it. Whatever the answer, it is one of the most profound and enduring questions humans have ever asked. The fact that we are on the cusp of being able to answer it is incredible. But the challenge is still immense, for we’re not even sure exactly how to define life.

And yet there’s no one better equipped to tackle this mystery then an astrobiologist who is presenting working to recreate life in the lab. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by senior NASA astrobiology Professor Lynn Rothschild who will update us on our search for life in space and our new efforts to build synthetic biology here on Earth.

Today’s episode of The Star Spot is the second in a three part series featuring interviews with the keynote speakers at the 13th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontier’s symposium, this year on the topic Astronomyths: Science or Fiction?, looking at cosmology and alien life, hosted at the University of Toronto this past January. In our next episode we will speak with Brian Trent, award-winning science fiction author and futurist.

The Star Spot Hits the Airwaves!

Coming soon, your favourite astronomy program will be travelling through space… well through the airwaves at least. The Star Spot, broadcast on CJRU, The Scope at Ryerson, will be on the air at 1280AM on the radio dial starting in April. You’ll be able to catch the latest episode every Sunday at 8PM and Tuesday at 6PM Eastern Time. Visithttp://www.thescopeatryerson.ca/ to learn more about our partner radio station.

Current in Space

Anuj asks how today's stromatolites can tell us about the habitability of the ancient Earth. And Tony bring news of cutting edge technology that promises advances in the imaging of planets beyond our solar system. 

About Our Guest

Professor Lynn J. Rothschild is senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and Adjunct Professor at Brown University and the University of California Santa Cruz.

Professor Rothschild is a world authority in the field of astrobiology. She founded and ran the first three Astrobiology Science Conferences, was the founding co-editor of the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is the former director of the Astrobiology Strategic Analysis and Support Office for NASA.

A well-rounded astrobiologist, Dr. Rothschild works on various models for the origin of life, studies the interaction of environment on biology, explores life in extreme environments and looks for signs of life on other worlds.

Recently she has been pioneering the new field of synthetic biology. Her award-winning iGem team is investigating the use of synthetic biology to accomplish space exploration missions, including the future human settlement of Mars.

Professor Rothschild has received the Isaac Asimov Award from the American Humanist Association and the Horace Mann Award from Brown University. She is a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London, The California Academy of Sciences and the Explorer’s Club.


Feature Guest: Fred Adams

Could the very first moments of our universe hold the secret to the eventual emergence of life billions of years later? And can life exist in the unimaginably far future, or does the life of the universe effectively die? From the deep past to the infinite future, today we're joined at The Star Spot by Professor Fred Adams to discuss the intersection of cosmology and life.

The Star Spot Hits the Airwaves!

Coming soon, your favourite astronomy program will be travelling through space… well through the airwaves at least. The Star Spot, broadcast on CJRU, The Scope at Ryerson, will be on the air at 1280AM on the radio dial starting in April. You’ll be able to catch the latest episode every Sunday at 8PM and Tuesday at 6PM Eastern Time. Visit http://www.thescopeatryerson.ca/ to learn more about our partner radio station.

Thinking of moving to Mars?

Then you better attend the upcoming panel discussion, March 16th at the University of Toronto. The event will feature six amazing panelists from the fields of physics, astronomy, philosophy, commerce, environmental science, planetary protection and political science, all brought together to explore the possibilities and implications of Martian settlement. Come join me as I moderate this exciting and unique debate, and meet up with members of The Star Spot and the U of T Astronomy and Space Exploration Society

About Our Guest

Today’s episode of The Star Spot is the first in a three part series featuring interviews with the keynote speakers at the 13th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontier’s symposium, this year on the topic Astronomyths: Science or Fiction?, looking at cosmology and alien life, hosted at the University of Toronto this past January. In our subsequent two episodes we will speak with Professor Lynn Rothschild, senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, and then Brian Trent, award-winning science fiction author and futurist.

Today I’m excited to be joined by Professor Fred Adams. Professor Adams served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics before joining the Physics Department at the University of Michigan, where he is now Full Professor. Professor Adams has won many awards, including the the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society, the Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation, and the Excellence in Education Award from the University of Michigan. In 2014, we was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society.

Professor Adams has an interest in how things form, whether we’re talking the formation of stars, of planetary systems or of the universe itself. Recently he has turned his focus to how things end, with cosmological work that is considering the long term evolution and fate of our universe.   Professor Adams is an author of several astronomy books for the public, including The Five Ages of the Universe: Inside the Physics of Eternity and Origins of Existence: How Life Emerged in the Universe.


Feature Guest: Gil Holder

Have you heard of the Great Attractor or the Great Wall? The universe evolved from a hot dense not quite perfectly uniform state to now contain galaxies in sheet-like structures separated by huge voids. These clusters and superclusters of galaxies make up the largest scale structure in the observable universe. How exactly did they emerge, what role does dark matter and dark energy play in the evolution of structure and just where is our universe headed? To help us answer those questions today we’re joined at The Star Spot by cosmologist Gil Holder.

Current in Space

With the building of the James Webb Space Telescope coming along quickly, Anuj explains how the successor to Hubble will open a new window on the universe? And following the recent 40th anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster, Tony reflect on three major tragedies in the history of space exploration and reflects on why it’s still worth the risk. Finally Dave reports on the groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves via one of the most powerful phenomena in the universe: binary black hole mergers. 

About Our Guest

Gil Holder is Canada Research Chair in Cosmological Astrophysics at McGill University and a Scholar at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Dr. Holder received his PhD from the University of Chicago and was a Keck Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study from 2001 to 2004. His research focuses on unique methods of studying structure formation in the universe.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_95_-_Galaxy_Clusters.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Don Lincoln

Humanoid... grey in colour… almond shaped eyes. You all know exactly what I’m describing, but have you ever wondered just how the public’s perception of aliens came to be? Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Professor Don Lincoln, renowned particle physicist and author of Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos. Does our conversation and beliefs about aliens tell us more about us than them, and how might first contact with an alien intelligence change everything.

Current in Space

Star Trek-like alien interactions might be possible after all... if you live at the centre of a globular cluster. Then, we look at a conspiracy theory that's no longer so out there, because Planet X is back, with a vengeance. And gardening arrives at the ISS, meaning astronauts may eventually enjoy the fruits of their labour. Extremophiles are also heading to the space station, as we test their habitability in Mars-like conditions.

About Our Guest

Don Lincoln is a senior physicist at Fermilab, America’s flagship particle physics laboratory, and adjunct Professor of Physics at the University of Notre Dame. He is co-discover of the top quark and was part of the team that discovered the Higgs boson in 2012. Professor Lincoln is the author of several public science books, including Understanding the Universe: From Quarks to the Cosmos, The Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Things That Will Blow Your Mind and Alien Universe: Extraterrestrials in our Minds and in the Cosmos.

 

 


Feature Guest: Les Johnson

In our last conversation, Pekka Janhunen, inventor of the electric solar sail, joined Denise at The Star Spot to explain the science and engineering behind this advanced spacecraft propulsion technology. Now as we dive into Part 2, it’s time to ask, just how far into deep space will the electric sail take us and will it truly open up a path to the stars? To answer those questions, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Les Johnson, Deputy Manager for NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office.

Current in Space

Death from above. If an object from outer space is going to kill you, Tony tells you which one it's likely to be. And did you know some stars are in a big hurry? Anuj explains the newly discovered phenomenon of runaway stars. 

About Our Guest

Les Johnson is Deputy Manager for NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He is co-investigator of NASA’s Heliopause Electrostatic Rapid Transit System (HERTS), an electric-solar-sail study and development project. Johnson is also a science fiction author whose latest novel, Rescue Mode, describes the first human mission to Mars.


Feature Guest: Pekka Janhunen

The electric solar wind sail, or electric sail for short, is an advanced spacecraft propulsion technology that just might revolutionize space travel, making deep-space exploration at high speeds a reality. Or not. To help us separate fact from fiction today our guest host Denise Fong is joined at the star spot by Dr. Pekka Janhunen, the inventor of the electric sail.

Current in Space

Everyone knows Apollo 11 was the first spaceflight to land humans on the moon. But as Anuj helps us celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, we remember why this mission changed everything. Kicking yourself for having missed that recent supernova explosion? Not to worry. Dave explains how some events in the cosmos get re-played over and over again. And can Mars look forward to its very own ring system? Tony explains.

About Our Guest

Dr. Pekka Janhunen is a space researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. He received his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Helsinki in 1994. Since then Dr. Janhunen has focused his research in various areas of planetary science. He is best known for his 2006 invention of the Electric Solar Wind Sail. This innovation took place at the Kumpula Space Centre, a collaboration between the Finnish Meteorological Institute,the Department of Physics of the University of Helsinki and the School of Electrical Engineering of Aalto University.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_92_-_The_Electric_Solar_Sail.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Henry Joy McCracken

Last month scientists announced the shocking discovery of 574 monster galaxies from the ancient universe. There are surprisingly many such giant galaxies, and they seem to appear more suddenly and earlier than astronomers predicted. How might this finding upend our understanding of galaxy and structure formation in the universe? To help us answer that question we’re joined by the discovery’s co-investigator Henry Joy McCracken.

This episode is dedicated to my wife Denise Fong, on our 6 month anniversary. Denise and I met at the 10th episode celebration of The Star Spot over 3 years ago. It has been a great pleasure to work with you Denise to grow our show and to further public education for astronomy, our common passion. - Justin

Current in Space

Galaxies are alive! Tony explains what makes a galaxy’s heart throb. And Anuj explains how stars can go rogue.

About Our Guest

Henry Joy McCracken has worked as a researcher at the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris in France since 2003. He received his masters from the University of Victoria and his PhD from the University of Durham. His interests include galaxy formation and evolution and the evolving relationship between dark matter and normal matter.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_91_Monster_Galaxies_of_the_Ancient_Universe.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Scott Sheppard

Recently astronomers discovered an object further than anything we’ve ever found in our solar system. This dwarf planet lies all the way out in the mysterious inner oort cloud. Today the object’s co-discoverer Scott Sheppard joins guest host Denise Fong here at The Star Spot, to reveal cutting edge findings from the unmapped edges of our solar system.

Current in Space

Anuj introduces us to the CLASS telescope. Never heard of it? You will. And with everyone seemingly fascinated by Jupiter's moon Europa, Tony asks what it would take to actually explore this intriguing world. 

About Our Guest

Scott Sheppard is faculty member in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science. He received his PhD from the University of Hawaii. A Hubble Fellow, Sheppard is credited with the discovery of many small moons of the gas giant planets. He has also been part of teams that have discovered comets, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_90_Scott_Sheppard.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: David Paige

There was once a time when scientists believed that beyond the Earth there lied a largely dry, barren and inhospitable solar system. But now we think there is likely to be liquid water below the surface of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Europa, a warm salty ocean below the crust of Saturn’s moon Enceladus and recently NASA confirmed that ancient lakes once flowed on Mars.

As the solar system wettens, are we witnessing a paradigm shift with profound implications in our search for life. To help us answer that question today we're joined at The Star Spot by the self-described “professional ice finder” David Paige.

Current in Space

Did you know human beings are not the only life forms aboard the ISS. Anuj explains. Then Tony builds on last episode's description of a Tatooine-like exoplanet by introducing another Star Wars fan favourite. It seems the Kepler space telescope has discovered an object that is been dubbed the "Death Star" for while it is no battle station it may be just as destructive to nearby planets. 

About Our Guest


David Paige is Professor of Planetary Sciences at UCLA. He is Principal Investigator of the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment, an instrument aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission that is currently orbiting the Moon. He made headlines in 2012 for the discovery of water ice deposits and organic material on Mercury using data collected by the MESSENGER spacecraft. Paige is a world authority on water, ices and volatiles in the solar system.  

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_89_David_Paige.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:23pm EST

Feature Guest: Pawel Artymowicz

Star Wars fans will be familiar with the planet Tatooine and its two suns. But as it turns out the majority of stars in the Milky Way galaxy live with a companion. And that’s led scientists to study how multiple star systems form and develop, and whether they can host habitable planets.

To help us understand the behaviour of binary star system and the even more fascinating domain of supermassive binary black holes, the results of merging galaxies, today we're joined at The Star Spot by Pawel Artymowicz

 

Current in Space

Anuj shares new evidence that has pushed back the origin of life by hundreds of millions of years. Tony explains what measures scientists are using to predict the likelihood that newly discovered exoplanets are in fact habitable. Dave updates us on NASA's big water on Mars discovery with new analysis which is leading us to believe the red planet was much warmer and wetter than we had thought. And The Star Spot goes to the movies... off to Mars to be exact as Denise reviews The Martian.

About Our Guest

Pawel Artymowicz is Professor of Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He received his Undergraduate degree in Astronomy from the University of Warsaw and his PhD from the Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Toronto he was Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Stockholm in Sweden. He was the most cited astronomer in Stockholm from 1994 through to 2004. He has also worked as a Research Assistant at the Space Science Telescope Institute and the Lick Observatory in Santa Cruz, California.



Direct download: The_Star_Spot_-_Episode_88_-_Pawel_Artymowicz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST