The Star Spot

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 EST

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 EST

Feature Guest: Jim Cline

Dark matter. Dark energy. String theory. At the frontiers of fundamental physics science seems confronted with mystery and progress is grinding to a halt. But can studying the early universe provide the answer? To help answer that question we're joined at The Star Spot by Jim Cline. We’ll dive into esoteric concepts like string cosmology and cosmic strings, lumps of massively energetic space time fault lines left theorized to be left over from the Big Bang. 

Current in Space

Denise shares an update on the voyage of comet Siding Spring, followed by a stargazer's report for the coming weeks. 

About Our Guest

 

Jim Cline is professor of theoretical and particle cosmology at McGill University. He works at the intersection of cosmology and fundamental physics, studying the cosmic microwave background radiation, dark matter, and particle physics coming out of the large hadron collider. He received his phd from Caltech and performed his postdoc at Ohio State University before joining the faculty at McGill University in Montreal in 1995.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Episode63_JimCline-fixed.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Gioia Massa

Imagine enjoying a romantic and nutritious picnic - on Mars! If such a dream is ever to be realized, we're going to have to learn how to grow plants in space and on other worlds. Today we're joined at The Star Spot by space biologist and NASA scientist Gioia Massa to discuss the building of a green oasis in space.

Current in Space

Today's news team on all the Red Planet developments:

MOM is on Mars. Dave explains how India became the first nation to successfully reach Mars on its initial attempt with MOM, a mission the budget of which is less than a hollywood Mars blockbuster.

After 2 years Curiosity has arrived at its primary destination: Mount Sharp. Celine gives us a retrospective on the rover's history and shares excitement over upcoming drilling operation in the mountain promised land.

Finally Anuj introduces us to the newest NASA member of the Mars exploration family: MAVEN, an orbiter designed to study how the Martian atmosphere evolved over hundreds of millions of years, seeking to determine whether liquid water was around long enough for life to evolve.

About Our Guest

 

Dr. Gioia Massa is NASA project scientist at the kennedy space centre. Massa studied plant and space biology at Penn State University and worked as a research scientist at Purdue University. Her expertise is in space life sciences, advanced life support and agriculture. She is supervising a project called VEGGIE, the most advanced vegetable garden, or salad bar, ever grown on the international space station.

Direct download: TheStarSpot_Ep62_GioiaMassa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST