The Star Spot

Feature Guest: Ravi Desai

It was recently reported that Saturn’s moon Titan harbours complex chemistry the likes of which we’ve never before seen in our solar system. On today’s episode of The Star Spot, the leader of the discovery Ravi Desai explains the implication of discovering these building blocks of life on a world that many are now calling the most habitable location beyond Earth.

Current in Space

Good news from Tony. The ocean worlds of Europa and Enceladus will be prime targets for the James Webb Space Telescope. Then Dave tells us how we finally mapped the surface of a second star - only to learn how little we know about our own sun’s fate. And finally Maya with the weather report: it’s raining diamonds in the outer solar system!

About Our Guest

Ravi Desai is PhD Candidate in Space Physics at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory at University College London. He is a member of the Cassini Science Team and Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.


Feature Guest: Matt Nicholl

If you thought a supernova was powerful, time to meet its bigger brother, the superluminous supernova. They’ve been described as the rockstars of the supernova world and if one were to go off in our galaxy it would outshine the full moon. Yes, you heard that right. Now until recently we thought such stupendous events were confined to fantastically distant dwarf galaxies, far off and unusual parts of our universe. But now a remarkable new discovery has changed everything, bringing superluminous supernovae much much closer to home.  

On today’s episode we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Matt Nicholl whose team was responsible for discovering and characterizing the newest member of this extraordinary family, SN 2017egm

Current in Space

Tony reminds us that if you’re listening to this on the night of our broadcast, Sunday, August 20th, then you still have the chance to prepare yourself for the 2017 solar eclipse. Tomorrow all of North America will be treated to this remarkable spectacle as the moon completely or partially covers the sun. In order to find out when the eclipse will visit you go to https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/. And remember never look directly at the sun except during the moment of totality. Tell us about your experience by emailing info@thestarspot.ca.

About Our Guest

Matt Nicholl is an astronomer and postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He received his PhD from Queen’s University Belfast.  His interest in the dynamic sky are particularly focused on supernovae. He can be found on instagram and twitter @mattnicholl56

Direct download: ep131.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: James Bauer

A team of astronomers studying long-period comets has just reached a startling conclusion. The solar system is home to seven times more of these large icy bodies than we previously thought. This according to team lead James Bauer, who joins us here at The Star Spot. How does this discovery affect our understanding of solar system formation? Were there once supermassive ancient comets which broke apart? And did we just massively increase the chance of a cometary collision with Earth.

Current in Space

Let Tony introduce you to the universe's most powerful explosion since the Big Bang: Gamma Ray Bursts!

About Our Guest

James Bauer is Astronomer at the University of Maryland. He is the Deputy Principal Investigator for the NASA Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) Mission. Dr. Bauer was the first to quantify seasonal surface changes on Triton, one of Neptune’s moons. He is the recipient of the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and is Honorary Officer of NASA’s First Planetary Defense Squadron. The asteroid 16232 Chijagerbs is named after him and his wife.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_130_There_Are_How_Many_More_Comets.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Danny Steeghs 

Gravitational wave astronomy was born less than 2 years ago when scientists made the first ever detection of gravitational waves coming from the merger of two distant massive black holes.

To build on the emergence of this revolutionary new science, a new project has just come online. Meet the Gravitational Wave Optical Transient Observer, or GOTO. This array of intelligent autonomous telescopes is now standing by and at the first sign of gravitational waves they are ready to spring into action, to zero in on some of the most cataclysmic events in our universe.

Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by GOTO Principal Investigator Dr. Danny Steeghs.

Current in Space

For many people a perfect day would involve cruising upon calm and beautiful seas. As Dave explains, that could actually happen - on Titan! Then Tony shares the discovery of an exciting surprise left over from a supernova explosion.  

About Our Guest

Danny Steeghs is an astrophysicist within the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick. He is the Principal Investigator for the University of Warwick in a collaborative project known as GOTO, or Gravitational Wave Optical Transient Observer. He is also involved in a survey of the Kepler field and a survey of the Northern Milky Way. An observational astronomer, his interests include the formation and evolution of interacting binary stars and gravitational wave astrophysics.


Feature Guest: Dan Falk

What if everything we see in our universe is not all that there is. The concept of the multiverse has captured the imagination of both physicists and cosmologists, but for very different reasons. According to the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, every quantum event triggers the creation of new parallel universes. Meanwhile many cosmologists studying the beginning of the universe have come to believe that inflation is an eternal process forever creating new universes.

The quantum mechanical wave-function and cosmological inflation seem worlds apart. But what if these two dramatically different models were pointing to one and the same multiverse? In this second of our two part conversation, science reporter Dan Falk rejoins us here at The Star Spot to discuss this startling possibility.

Current in Space

Today Tony and Dave treat us to a special black hole double bill. First up, black holes were recently tested to determine if they really are every bit as exotic as we thought. And then, what happens to the supermassive black hole at the centres of merging galaxies?

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, The Walrus, 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 Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe. He co-hosts the BookLab podcast

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_128.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Dan Falk 

They once portended the collapse of civilization. Well the solar eclipse visiting North America this summer probably won’t spell the end of days. But as our guest Dan Falk will explain astronomers and lay people alike are in for an unforgettable experience on August 21st, when day literally turns to night.

Current in Space

Data dump? Oh yes just another 200 or so alien worlds discovered by Kepler.

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, The Walrus, 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 Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe. He co-hosts the BookLab podcast

 

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_127_When_Day_Turns_to_Night_with_Dan_Falk.output.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Chris Prophet

SpaceX has blasted into the aerospace world, seemingly overnight, bringing with it a new low cost model for accessing space. But this paradigm shifting company has set its sights much higher, with a promise to send humans to Mars, to live, colonize and even terraform the red planet. And behind it all stands Elon Musk. The visionary futurist claims he will not stop until he’s broken through the government inertia and overwhelming technological challenge in his bid to revolutionize space exploration as we know it.

Now a new book is providing a behind the scenes look at Space X and today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Chris Prophet, the author of SpaceX: From the Ground Up.

About Our Guest

Chris Prophet is a writer of science and science fiction, including the book New Space: Our Shiny Future, and the science fiction series Euphoria. He is trained as an engineer.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_126_SpaceX.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Jason Dittmann

Just last month, April 2017, astronomers announced the discovery of an extrasolar planet that has the best shot at harbouring life outside our solar system. To find out what makes LHS 1140b so special and what steps are planned to learn more about this potential alien home, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by the discovery team’s leader Dr. Jason Dittmann.

Current in Space

The famous nearby star Epsilon Eridani harbours a solar system eerily similar to ours, explains Dave. Then Tony shares what we're learning from the clearest image yet taken of the Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud.

About Our Guest

Jason Dittmann is Postdoctoral Fellow at MIT where he is working with a team led by world famous planetary scientist Sara Seager. Dittmann holds one of the four inaugural 51 Pegasi b Postdoctoral Fellowships, which are provided to scientists studying theoretical, observational, and experimental research in planetary astronomy. Dittmann received his PhD from Harvard University and his research interests are in exoplanets and low-mass stars

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_124_-_The_Best_Candidate_for_Life.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Michael Hudson

If you’re like most people you probably think of galaxies as islands of stars, separate and isolated cities of our universe. But it turns out these cities are connected through a vast web of highways known as dark matter bridges. To help us understand the origin and role of this cosmic scaffolding today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Professor Michael Hudson.

Current in Space

Astronomers have discovered a pulsar that’s coming back from near death, explains Dave. And could the technology for astronaut hibernation be closer than you think? Tony reports.

About Our Guest

Michael Hudson is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Waterloo. His team was the first to capture images of dark matter bridges using a technique called weak gravitational lensing. Hudson holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Cambridge. He received an Outstanding Performance Award from the University of Waterloo and  a Premier’s Research Excellence Award.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_123_Dark_Matter_Bridging_the_Galaxies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Quinn Konopacky

The 14th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontiers symposium was hosted on January 27th, 2017 by the Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto. This year’s unique theme was “What Ifs: Is the Impossible, Possible?”! In this special three episode series, we’re joined here at The Star Spot by the event’s keynote speakers as we explore three provocative questions at the cutting edge of astronomy.

How would things be different if our sun wasn’t an only child? This isn’t a simple exercise in academic speculation for the majority of stars like our sun actually do come with at least one other companion orbiting them. In this third and final segment of our “what if?” series, we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Quinn Konopacky to find out just what would have happened if we gave our sun the sibling it never had, and by implication, what the prospects are for life among the majority of sun-like stars in our galaxy.

Current in Space

The Star Spot is expressing its appreciation to Anuj Rastogi for his invaluable contributions to our show. After producing news for the last three years, Anuj is leaving our team to pursue other opportunities.

In his final broadcast he offers us three important news updates. Are fast radio bursts signs of alien intelligence in far off galaxies? What are the implications of electric sand on Titan? And has Mars enjoyed a longer period of volcanic activity than even our own Earth?

Finally in other news, Dave announces the first detection of an atmosphere around a lower mass extrasolar planet.

 

About Our Guest

Dr. Quinn Konopacky is Assistant Professor at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. She received her PhD from UCLA and performed postdoctoral research at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. Her work focuses on the formation and evolution of stars and planetary systems.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_122_What_if_the_Sun_had_a_sibling.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT