The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Jan Cami

Did you know that buckyballs, complex soccer-ball shaped molecules formed from 60 carbon atoms, were recently discovered deep in interstellar space. Atoms and molecules may be small, but they can tell us lot about the very large, from the temperature of stars to the evolution of galaxies to the startling locations where life might be found. For more on the chemistry of the universe, today I’m joined at the start spot by Jan Kami

Current in Space

Think interesting geological events only happen on Earth? Anuj shares groundbreaking new evidence of subduction occurring on Jupiter's icy moon Europa.

About Our Guest

Jan Kami is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. His research is in molecular spectroscopy, dust mineralogy and diffuse interstellar bands. Kami has worked as a research scientist with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI and is deeply involved in astronomy outreach

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_-_Episode_61_-_Jan_Cami.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Pauline Barmby

Just like the cities of our world, galaxies are the busy and over-crowded population centres where so much of the action takes place in our universe. The study of globular clusters and starburst galaxies are providing new insights into the how these cities of the cosmos were built. To share with us new discoveries from the Spitzer space telescope, including gossip about the weird behaviour of our next door metropolis, the Andromeda Galaxy, today I’m joined at the star spot by Pauline Barmby.

Current in Space

If the American can't get back to the moon Earth does have other options. Denise shares excitement over Chinese plans for a lunar sample return mission

About Our Guest

Pauline Barmby is an observational astrophysicist and associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. She worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the Canada France hawaii telescope and is a member of the instrument team for IRAC, the InfraRed Array Camera on the Spitze Space Telescope. In her spare time Dr. Barmby gives public talks clarifying misconceptions about astronomy.  She is a science fiction enthusiast and enjoys listening to podcasts, perhaps including the star spot.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_60_Pauline_Barmby.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Stanimir Metchev

Brown dwarfs: giant planets or failed stars? The debate rages on with comparable intensity to the surprisingly violent storms seen to roil these fascinating bodies. To help settle the debate, and for cutting edge discoveries of brown dwarfs and their startling behaviour, Stanimir Metchev joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

If a brown dwarf is neither a planet exactly nor a star exactly, what is it exactly? What keeps it from collapsing? And since they aren’t necessarily brown, what’s in the name? Metchev and Trottier then discuss the weird and surprising behaviour of brown dwarfs, the ubiquity of their massive storms and their role in helping us study the clouds of extrasolar planets,

Current in Space

Benjamin brings us a ray of sunshine, announcing a breakthrough in the level of efficiency of new transparent solar panels. And super storms are all the rage on today’s episode of The Star Spot as Denise shares discoveries of violent turbulence on the ice giant Uranus.

About our Guest

Stanimir Metchev is Canada Research Chair in Extrasolar Planets and Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. He studies the atmospheres of exoplanets and brown dwarfs, and the formation and evolution of planets. He is principal investigator of brown dwarf research with NASA’s spitzer space telescope.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode59-StanimirMetchev.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: David Pankenier

The scholar of Chinese science Joseph Needham wrote that "astronomy was a science of cardinal importance for the chinese since it arose naturally out of that cosmic religion, that sense of the unity and even ethical solidarity of the universe." To help me understand how the mandate of heaven and astrological portents led to the rise and fall of ancient dynasties, and ruled the life and death of the average Chinese, Professor David Pankenier joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

Current in Space

Benjamin shares the fascinating discovery of the largest gas tail ever found, a trail of gas spanning between galaxies and consisting of more matter than the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies combined!

About our Guest

David Pankenier is a Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh University. He has degrees in Chinese and Asian languages, as well as three years of private study in Chinese classics in Taiwan. His interests are in archaeology, astrology, cosmology and ideology, with an expertise in the role of the celestial in ancient China. He researches the connection between astromical phenoma and pivotal political and military events in ancient China. Pankenier has published two volumes of translations of many hundreds of ancient Chinese astronomical observations. He has written about ancient Chinese cosmology and released a new book in october 2013, Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode58-DavidPankenier2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Paul Delaney

The next time you look up at the night sky, struck dizzy by the sheer number of stars shining down on you, here’s something to consider. On average each star host at least one planet. That’s the accumulated result of our exoplanet hunting efforts to date. To help us explore the implications of this profound discovery and to make sense of our zoo of exoplanets, from Super Earths to Hot Jupiters and everything in between, Professor Paul Delaney joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

We’ve focused much attention on exoplanet discoveries. Today we step back and provide some perspective. Professor Delaney takes us from the earliest planet hunting pioneers all the way to the latest technological developments that are pushing the distance of our planetary discoveries, reducing the size of the objects we are able to detect, and leading us on to the next frontier: exoplanet atmospheres.

Professor Delaney explains his surprise at the ubiquity of so-called “rogue planets” and shares his touching story of becoming an astronomer despite living with albinism. Though in his own words he does not have a good relationship with the sun, he has fostered a great one with the stars, and he works to share his infectious enthusiasm with the world.

Current in Space 

Dave shares the discovery of an exoplanet found near the all important “frost line,” the first time we’ve found a planet with a history potentially similar to that of Jupiter. Benjamin describes how the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope may search the atmosphere of exoplanets for signs of life - including long self-destructed life! Closer to home, Anuj tells of a new spacecraft being sent to sample an asteroid for organics. And Denise wonders if the next space race will be far more crowded than the last one.

About our Guest 

 

Paul Delaney is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at York University. He received his undergraduate degree from the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, and his graduate degree in astronomy from the University of Victoria in Canada. Professor Delaney oversees the York University campus observatory and its public outreach programs, and he appears regularly on York Universe, one of The Star Spot’s affiliated podcasts.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_-_Ep57_-_PaulDelaney.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Robin Kingsburgh 

Albert Einstein once said "After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are always artists as well." To help us understand the dynamic between the arts and the science of astronomy, today Robin Kingsburgh joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

Current in Space 

Some like it hot. But what happens when it gets a little too hot? For those who like to work those tans, Benjamin warns you to beware. Scientists have discovered the highest UV index ever, though not near any beaches you'd probably be travelling to this summer.

Dave shares the mystery of the magic island, a structure that appeared and disappeared within a matter of days on the seas of Titan.

And Benjamin on the fascinating field of archaeoastronomy in which we learn about ancient civilizations down here on Earth by studying the sky the ancients would have seen up above.

About our Guest 

Robin Kingsburgh received her PhD in astronomy from her studies of stars and planetary nebulae. A renaissance woman, she now teaches in the faculty of arts and sciences at the Ontario College of Art and Design and in the division of natural sciences at york university. She combines her love of art and science by introducing astronomy subjects to artists and through her own work curating exhibits like Occam’s Razor: art, science and aesthethics, currently on public display.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode56-RobinKingsburgh.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Scott Menary

Are there anti-matter galaxies out there in space? Will we ever be able to make anti-atoms of heavy elements? How do you trap something that is detroyed immediately upon contact? And of course, will anti-matter become an energy source for space exploration propulsion systems a la Star Trek?

Professor Scott Menary joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss his work studying the properties of anti-matter, the relationship between anti-matter and anti-gravity, and his attempts to answer one fundamental question: where did all the anti-matter go?

Current in Space

Benjamin brings us a whiff of space, helping us add the sense of smell to our repertoire of data on alien worlds.

About our Guest

Scott Menary is professor of physics at York university. He works on the ALPHA experiment at CERN to produce and trap antihydrogen atoms in order to study their properties. He has also worked at fermilab studying neutrino oscillation physics and charm quarks. He is also a recipient of the Polanyi Prize in honour of the 1986 nobel prize winner John Charles Polanyi.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode55-ScottMenary-Version2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Dan Falk

Astronomy meets Shakespeare? An unlikely pair you might imagine, but “There are more things in heaven and earth, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Today on this special audio and video edition of the show we're joined by Dan Falk at The Star Spot at the Toronto book launch of his new Science of Shakespeare.

A special video edition of this interview, featuring a live recording from the book launch, is available on our YouTube Channel: TheStarSpotTV.
https://www.youtube.com/user/thestarspotTV

The Star Spot’s YouTube channel features special additional media from our program, as well as re-released YouTube versions of our regular episodes. 

Current in Space

Surfs Up on Titan? Benjamin revisits a previous report purporting to show a lack of waves on the ocean's of Saturn's moon. Moving on to another gas giant, Arjun wonders if the Great Red Spot is about to lose its greatness. 

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, 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 newly released Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright's Universe

 

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep54.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

International Astronomy Day 2014 occurred on Saturday, May 10. The Star Spot celebrated at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, which boasts the largest telescope in Canada. The Dunlap Observatory was once the second largest telescope in the world, second only to the Hooker Telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory, famously used by Edwin Hubble to discover the expanding Universe. The Dunlap is now used purely for educational and outreach purposes and is maintained by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre, one of The Star Spot's affiliated organizations.   

On this episode of The Star Spot we bring you highlights from our event, Stump the Astronomer, held as part of International Astronomy Day 2014 at the Dunlap Observatory.

How big is space?  Is string theory the end of physics? Will an elevator ever take us into space? what happens if a regular matter black hole comes into contact with an anti-matter black hole? And most critical of all, was our astronomer stumped?

Current in Space

Ben introduces us to the sun's potential first known sibling, a star that is now thought to have formed in the same nursery, or nebulae, as our own. Then Anuj explores the search for hidden ancient impact craters on Earth and what they tell us about the history of our planet - and the evolution of life. And back to Ben for continued breaking news coming from the study of gravitational distortions of the early universe.

About our Guest

We were very fortunate to put on the spot at the star spot our resident amateur astronomer Ed Hitchcock, also known as SciTeacherEd on twitter. Ed Hitchcock is an evolutionary biologist, high school science teacher and volunteer telescope operator at the Dunlap Observatory. He blogs about science education at teachscience.net and amateur astronomy at BudgetAstronomer.ca. He describes himself as a life long science geek

Direct download: TheStarSpot_Ep53_StumpTheAstronomer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Norman Sleep

Have you ever wondered what the massive internal hot core of the Earth has to do with space? Enter the world of neutrino geophysics. It might sound technical, but in probing the nature of the mysterious centre of the earth scientists are getting closer to determining the habitability of other planets in space. Co-host Denise Fong opens the program as Professor Norman Sleep joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

Current in Space

Dave reports on the next stepping stone in our search for Earth's twin, the discovery of the first habitable Earth-sized planet within the habitable zone of its star. Anuj asks if the Martian atmosphere was ever a biosphere, citing studies of the chemical composition of Martian rocks found on Earth that are telling us about changes in the Martian atmosphere over time. And finally The Star Spot's poet-in-residence Benjamin shares a paean to recent geological work that contributes to our understanding of the Red Planet.

About Our Guests

Norman H. Sleep is a professor of geophysics at Stanford University. He has collaborated with NASA on topics related to life on the ancient Earth and on other planets. Dr. Sleep studies how the insides of planets work and he was a member of a committee to advise NASA on planetary habitability. He has made ​​major contributions to problems of plate tectonics and many other areas of geology and planetary sciences. Sleep has won numerous awards and hounours around the world, including the 2008 Wollaston Medal of the Geological Society of London. He is also the author, with Kazuya Fujita, of the book, Principles of Geophysics.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep52-NormalSleep.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT