The Star Spot

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

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

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 EST

Feature Guest: Sarah Gallagher

Quasars are among the most energetic and mysterious phenomena of the ancient universe. Spiraling gas is heated to such extremes that the neighbourhood around the quasar glows brighter than the entire surrounding galaxy. In the process, quasars generate dust grains, winds and storms of unimaginable violence. To help us understand the growing pains of the young universe, today Sarah Gallagher joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

 

 

About Our Guest

Sarah Gallagher is assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the university of western ontario. She completed a  Spitzer postdoctoral fellowship in 2006 based on her studies of quasar winds. Since her PhD work she has specialized in X-ray studies of these active supermassive black holes at the centres of distant and ancient galaxies. Gallagher has worked at Penn State, MIT, and UCLA and at NASA observatories Spitzer and Chandra. A well rounded individual, Gallagher has coached soccer and has an interest in art history.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_ep_51_updated.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

 

The Star Spot Episode 50

 

Today marks the 50th time I’ve welcomed you and our guests to the The Star Spot. It is also our two year anniversary. I wanted to thank each member of our great team of volunteers for getting us this far. We’ve had some amazing guests on the show. We hunted extraterrestrials with Jill Tarter and we built a universe from nothing with Lawrence Krauss. We explored saturn with Carolyn Porco and we chased comets with David Levy. We contemplated humanity’s future on mars with chris McKay and we searched for signs of life beyond the solar system with Sara Seager. We’ve talked with some truly fascinating people: astronomers, physicists, engineers, planetary scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, educators, historians, artists, activists, authors, journalists, and even a space travel agent! But the best has yet to come. So thank you for continuing to join us here at The Star Spot.

 

Feature Guest: Marshall McCall


Today we’re joined by Marshall McCall for a special interview originally held in front of a live audience at an event hosted by the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society.

 

In front of a live audience, Professor McCall joins Justin Trottier for a wide ranging discussion on all things galaxies. McCall tells how he wound up as a gardener at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, briefly the largest telescope on Earth, and then off to the opposite corner of the world working at observatories in Australia. A debate with the audience ensues over northern versus southern skies.

 

The two then discuss whether our galaxy is unique, the importance of dwarf galaxies, and get controversial exploring alternative theories of gravity. McCall explains the role of dark matter in giving rise to the superstructure we see as cosmic webs of sheets, filaments and voids. If dark matter dominated our past, the Andromeda galaxy will dominate our future when, in 3 billion years, we collide.

 

The conversation concludes with a focus on McCall’s recent research on our mysterious local sheet of galaxies. Out to 20 million light years galaxies surrounding the Milky Way appear to lie on a surprisingly flat sheet. McCall describes this puzzling structure, which he dubbed the “council of giants,” how work with his graduate student George Conidisis leading to startling revelations that suggest our neck of the woods might have some special qualities after all.

 

Current in Space

 

What effect does microgravity have on an astronauts internal organs? Ben gets to the heart of the matter. Then Anuj introduces us to an object called a Centaur which lives like an asteroid, behaves like a comet and has rings like a gas giant. And finally Dave shares the startling announcement  of an equally puzzling new addition to our family, a dwarf planet in the inner Oort Cloud and the possibility that its discovery could point to a super-Earth far out beyond Pluto

 

About Our Guest

Marshall McCall is Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at York University. After graduating with degrees from the University of Victoria and the University of Texas at Austin, McCall spent two years observing southern skies at Mt. Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories in Australia. His research interests focus on the structure, evolution and formation of galaxies and galaxy aggregates. He was involved in recent discoveries of two hitherto unknown galaxies in the neighborhood of the milky way, research that is providing a new understanding of the puzzling arrangement of galaxies around our own.

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep50-MarshallMcCall.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Mark Halpern

The early universe is a place of mystery and paradox. But the one thing we are sure of is that to understand our far future we must look to our ancient origins. To help us make some progress today Mark Halpern joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

The two focuse on the 2012 Gruber Cosmology Prize which was awarded to Halpern's team for work with the NASA Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe which used sound ripples from the earliest moments of creation to come up with key findings:

- determining the universe's age with better precision than ever before, at 13.8 billion years (while still unresolved is the paradox that quantum mechanics and gravity suggest the universe should live no longer than a single second).

- assigning ratios to the constituents of the universe: ordinary matter, dark matter and dark energy

- studying the overall shape and geometry of the univers

- finding evidence of inflation, a theory that explains additional paradoxes of the early universe

The two then discuss CHIME, a new Canadian mission studying left over ripples from the big bang and evidence of the recent expanstion history of the universe

Current in Space

We're all worried about meteor collision induced apocalypse scenarios, but now Benjamin reminds us that magnetic storms, coronal mass ejections, and other severe solar activity could also prove catastrophic. And does Saturn's moon Titan habour the most eerily calm lakes - and lamest surfing conditions - in the solar system? Then Anuj follows up with more on the sun and the special qualities of our star's much bigger cousins, the yellow hypergiants

About our Guest

Mark Halpern is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia. His focus is experimental cosmology of the early universe, specifically the cosmic microwave background and the history of early galaxy and star formation. He is involved in high redshift research with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and BLAST, a submillimeter telescope that  hangs from a high altitude balloon

Direct download: TheStarSpot-Ep49-MarkHalpern.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

Feature Guest: Olivier Guyon

 

Since he was young his driving passion has been a single mystery: are we alone in the universe? Astronomer Olivier Guyon, who has now been awarded a half a million dollars MacArthur genius grant to answer that question, joins Justin Trottier at The Star spot.

 

Guyon explains why he's so optimistic he pegs habitable planets at well over 1 in 100 stars. Then the two discuss the cutting edge of discovery, from merely detecting planets to incoming data on oceans, atmospheres and in the not too distant future even biosigns.

 

Current in Space

Benjamin reports on the re-emergence of a debate about the plausibility of microbes in Martian meteorities. Plus, exactly how many world are there out there?...

About our Guest

Olivier Guyon is an astronomer who works at the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and at the University of Arizona. Astronomy has been his life for a long time: an amateur astronomer at age 10, then a do it himself type building his own telescopes in the garage, and now at the cutting edge, working with theorists and engineers to design the most advanced equipment to detect extrasolar planets and possibly signs of habitation.

 

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_ep_48.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EST