The Star Spot
Feature Guest: Christian Ott

What do all massive stars have in common. They go boom. Today I’m joined at The Star Spot by Professor Christian Ott. Behind Ott’s highly technical work in numerical relativity and nuclear astrophysics is his love affair with things that explode. 

And could the missing pulsar population at the centre of the milky way be explained by, of all things, dark matter? From supernovae, hypernovae and gamma ray bursts to Professor Ott’s self-described “crackpot theory,” you’ll be blown away.

Current in Space

Ganymede has now been added to the short but tantalizing list of moons harbouring internal oceans, following the discovery that the solar system’s largest moon may contain more water than the oceans of Earth. Plus an update on the Dawn spacecraft’s mission to probe the solar system’s early years as it arrival at the dwarf planet Ceres. 

About Our Guest

Professor Christian Ott is computational and theoretical Astrophysicist at Caltech. He received his PhD from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics before performing his postdoctoral work at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics at the University of Arizona. He was a 2012-2014 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow. Professor Ott’s diverse research areas include black holes, neutron stars, supernovae and the hunt for gravitational waves.

Direct download: TheStarSpot_Ep73_ChristianOtt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Kevin Shortt

In the second part of their conversation on the international state of space exploration, Kevin Shortt and Justin Trottier tour the globe. They explore the contributions coming from the four corners of our world. China has high ambitions, but can they succeed by going it alone? How do the geopolitical challenges for Israel provide it with unique opportunities? What consequences will a return to a quasi-Cold War state have for international relations between NASA, Russia and the European Space Agency? And as new nations become major players how will our efforts to explore the unknown change in 2015 and beyond? 

Current in Space

With news of the chemical simulations of a cell membrane unlike anything we've ever seen, Anuj asks whether we have the capabilities of searching for life as we don't know it. 

About Our Guest

Kevin Shortt has worked in the space industry since 1996 and has participated in some of Canada’s largest space missions. He was Mission Planner for the RADARSAT-1 program at the Canadian Space Agency and a member of the design team responsible for the lidar instrument on board NASA’s Mars Phoenix Scout mission. He currently works at the Institute for Communication and Navigation at the German Aerospace Center in optical communications. Kevin served as President for the Canadian Space Society from 2008 until 2012 and is currently its International Relations Officer.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep72-KevinShortt-Part2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Kevin Shortt

It’s a year that saw ups, such as the Dawn mission which became the first to study a dwarf planet. It was a year that experienced downs, like the tragic explosion of SpaceShipTwo and questions over the incident’s implication for space tourism. Through the ups and downs 2014 has been one fascinating year for space exploration. For a retrospective on the year that was, and a look at what’s on the horizon in 2015, today i’m joined at The Star Spot by Kevin shortt, the International Relations Officer for the Canadian Space Society.

And on the next episode Kevin Shortt will rejoin me here at The Star Spot for an international survey of the world’s contribution to space exploration. As new nations become major players how will our efforts to explore the unknown change in 2015 and beyond. 

Current in Space

Tony and Anuj both wax poetic. Tony explains how the door has just opened on the road to Europa, Jupiter's ocean world and a candidate int he search for life. Then Anuj on the very long road of Voyager, 40 years travelling and just getting started.

About Our Guest

Kevin Shortt has worked in the space industry since 1996 and has participated in some of Canada’s largest space missions. He was Mission Planner for the RADARSAT-1 program at the Canadian Space Agency and a member of the design team responsible for the lidar instrument on board NASA’s Mars Phoenix Scout mission. He currently works at the Institute for Communication and Navigation at the German Aerospace Center in optical communications. Kevin served as President for the Canadian Space Society from 2008 until 2012 and is currently its International Relations Officer.

Direct download: TheStarSpot_Ep71_2014AnAmazingYearInSpaceExploration.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guests: Aaron Sigut and Carol Jones 

The disks of matter that form around mysterious B emission stars are providing astronomers with a unique place to study a ubiquitous phenomenon in our universe. Disks are everywhere and on every scale, from the birth of solar systems to the structure of galaxies. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Carol Jones and Aaron Sigut to conclude our two part series on dynamic and lively B emission stars and the disks that excite them.

Current in Space 

Why did asteroid belt member Ceres never form into a fully fledged planet? That's what Dawn may soon find out when it arrives next month. Is the moon the 8th continent? Anuj explains how mining is getting closer to reaching the final frontier. And worried about aging? Dave shares the discovery of an 11 billion year old planet, still alive and well.  

About Our Guests

Let’s pick up where we let off with our two guests from Western University. Dr. Carol Jones is Associate Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in the Faculty of Science, as well as associate professor and associate dean in the physics and astronomy department. Aaron Sigut is Associate Professor of Astronomy in the Physics and Astronomy Department.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode70-CircumstellarDiskPart2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guests: Aaron Sigut and Carol Jones

Disks are ubiquitous in our universe. They are found in the spiral arms of galaxies. They are found among new and old stars, whether in the protoplanetary gas associated with stellar births or the black holes which follow many stellar deaths.

Today we have a special treat. I’m excited to be joined by both Carol Jones and Aaron Sigut here at The Star Spot for the first of a special two-part series. We’ll find out why disks are such common features of our universe, and how they figure prominently into a mysterious phenomenon known as B emission stars, which are among the hottest, most energetic and most mysterious of stellar phenomena.

Current in Space

Dave reports the probability of exoplanet habitability may have just increased significantly with scientists rethinking the once assumed life-preventing effect of planetary tidal locking. Then Laura explains the famous Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula seem to be eroding away, and may have already vanished. Anuj shares new evidence that the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs was a truly global event. And has Beagle 2 been resurrected? Celine with new images from Mars that are shining light on the tragic fate of a spacecraft whose trip was no more smooth than that of its namesake.

About Our Guest

Today two distinguished astronomy scholars from Western University are joining us here at The Star Spot. Dr. Carol Jones is Associate Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in the Faculty of Science. Aaron Sigut is Associate Professor of Astronomy in the Physics and Astronomy Department. They both share research interests in circumstellar disks around hot stars, which we will get into in a series of conversations with both academics.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode69-Dynamic_Stars_and_Ubiquitous_Disks-Part1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Jayanne English

 

We've all been blown away by those jaw dropping majestic images of the cvosmos. But would you feel deceived to know that few of those images show what the eye would truly see? Today guest host Dave Kirsch welcomes Professor Jayanne English at The Star Spot to discuss the tension between art and science in astronomy.

Current in Space

Dave alerts us to the likelihood of future collisions between our sun and its nearby stellar neighbours, explaing why a near miss can still make a big impact. The debate about the status of Pluto is sure to heat up as Tony reports on the New Horizons mission which recently came out of hibernation in preparation for its final approach to the dward planet. And Anuj shares new insights into the cause of mysterious high altitude aurora.

About Our Guest

Jayanne English is Professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manitoba. Her interests are in the origin of structure in galaxies, including galactic halos. She held a post-doctoral position at the Space Telescope Science Institute and was Visitor at Oxford University (2013) and Visiting Scholar at the Australian National University (2009). She is also highly involved in merging the arts and the sciences through astronomical imagery. Professor English led an interactive art project in honour of the Internal year of Astronomy entitled Seeing is Believing.

Direct download: TheStarSpot_Episode68_JayanneEnglish.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Brian Schmidt

The 1929 discovery of the expanding universe by Edwin Hubble forever changed our picture of the cosmos and our understanding of our place in the universe. In 1998 we learned that wasn’t the only surprise. That’s when two teams of astronomers announced that the expansion of our universe isn’t slowing down as everyone assumed. Its speeding up. Today we're joined at The Star Spot by Distinguished Professor Brian Schmidt who won the Nobel Prize for discovering our accelerating universe.

Current in Space

Anuj describes the Orion spaceflight, the first mission since Apollo eventually aimed at deep space. Then Tony wonders if the stuff of life could seed itself on other worlds following the disocvery that DNA returned from the exposure to the vacuum of space in good working order. And Dave extends the lifetime for Mars’ watery past after learning an ancient lake may have lasted tens of millions of years. Finally Celine explains how “cliff-bots” now being tested in the Moroccan desert may one day dig up deposits left over from such long extinct bodies of water.

About Our Guest 

Dr. Brian Schmidt is Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory and holder of an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship. In 2011 Schmidt received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his co-discovery that the universe isn’t merely expanding, it’s actually accelerating in its expansion. Shmidt is Fellow of the Royal Society, a recipient of the Pawsey Model, the Dirac Medal and the Shaw Prize in Astronomy.

 

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode67-BrianSchmidt-TheAcceleratingUniverse.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Alison Sills

 

It’s a phenomenon so mysterious one astronomer wondered if it could be evidence of an advanced extraterrestrial intelligence. Meet blue straggers, the black sheeps of the stellar family. Today we're joined at The Star Spot by Professor Alison Sills to learn all about the stars that shouldn’t exist.

Current in Space

Dave mesmerizes us with the carnival funhouse like effect around black holes, where the warping of space and time is so intense you can see the front and back of blackholes simultaneously. Celine discusses an upcoming unmanned mission to drill the moon for lunar samples and establish the viability of a future human outpost. And while you may have heard of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, Tony wonders if the entire spot is red, why it's red and why so little else on the gas giant shares the iconic colour. Finally Yonna brings us news of Europe's first space plane set to launch shortly.

 

About Our Guest

 

 

Alison Sills is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She received her PhD from Yale University and held postdoctoral positions at the Ohio State University and the University of Leicester in the UK. She studies weird stars in odd places, utilizing computation tools to model the evolution of stellar populations. Along with researchers from Canada, the US and Europe, she is an active member of the MODEST collaboration, which stands for MOdelling DEnse STellar Systems.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep66-Dark_Stragglers-Alison_Sills.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Gordon Sarty

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, has become a vital technique for diagnosing, treating and monitoring disease. The technology has saved countless lives. But can we ever get MRIs into space where they can help keep astronauts alive and well on the long duration missions of the future? To help us answer that question today we're joined at the star spot by Gordon Sarty

Current in Space

Anuj explains why some researchers now think dark matter may not be so much exotic as strange... as in strange quarks. Then Celine reports what's next from the Chinese lunar exploration program following the success of their first round-trip probe to the moon. And Tony brings a startling discovery from studies of primitive meteorites that suggest water was present on our planet much earlier than we thought.

 

About Our Guest

 

Gordon Sarty is Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. A renaissance man, Dr. Sarty is also associate member of the university’s departments of physics, medical imaging, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. He combines those interests as a member of a pioneering team working to design portable and eventually space-based MRI machines.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode65-BringingMRIsIntoSpace-GordonSarty.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Doug Welch

Imagine being able to go back centuries to study the great supernova of the past. Tycho’s nova of 1572 for example. Now we may be able to do the next best thing. Astronomers have discovered a phenomena known as light echoes which allow us to study long ago supernova events from our past and find supernova we never even knew occurred. To help us understand these mysterious light echoes, which can give the illusion of superluminal speeds, Doug Welch joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

Current in Space

The key mechanism for triggering solar flares - potentially harmful events for our civilization - may have been discovered, explains Anuj. Then Tony shares new developments in futuristic skintight shape remembering materials that could revolutionize spacesuits. In an unusual response to the building of a telescope, Celine tells how the Thirty Metre Telescope has been attracting controversy and even opposition. And Dave gives us an update on mysterious organic clouds discovered on Saturn's moon Titan, the only moon in solar system with an atmosphere.

About Our Guest

Doug Welch is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University and formerly served as Chair of the department. He received his PhD from the University of Toronto, worked at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, BC. He has been awarded the McNeil Medal of the Royal Society of Canada for the promotion and communication of science and is currently Vice Chair of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Corporation. His research has led him from studies of dark matter to a current focus on supernova light echoes.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode64-DougWelch.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT