The Star Spot

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

Feature Guest: David Kipping

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?”!

And now in a 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.

We are either the first civilization in the galaxy or we’re about to meet our doom. Today Professor David Kipping joins us here at The Star Spot to offer his startling - and troubling - resolutions to the famous Fermi Paradox.

Current in Space

There is a weirdness at the heart of the Andromeda Galaxy, and Tony shares some exotic explanations.

About Our Guest

David Kipping is Professor of Astrophysics at Columbia University. He is well known for his work developing the latest exoplanet detection techniques, and is a pioneer in the field of exo-moonology. He is the Principal Investigator (PI) of The Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler Project.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_121_Scary_Resolutions_to_the_Fermi_Paradox.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Gurtina Besla

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?”!

And now in a 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.

First up, on today’s episode Dr. Gurtina Besla asks, what if humans are around to witness the awesome collision of the Milky Way with the Andromeda Galaxy? What would that look like and how would it affect life on Earth?

Current in Space

We always knew life on Earth started soon into the planet's history, but scientists have just set the clock back, and Anuj tells us how unbelievably far back. Then Tony explains how Breakthrough Starshot would design a starship that could travel between stars within a single generation. And while you may have heard about that new exoplanet system with 3 planets in the habitable zone, Dave tells us you won't believe what the sky would look like from the surface!

About Our Guest

Dr. Gurtina Besla is Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona and Principal Investigator of the outreach project TIMESTEP. She is part of a number of collaborations, including TiNy Titans, which aims to quantify the role of dwarf interactions and mergers as drivers of galaxy evolution at the low mass end, and also SMASH, which is studying the Magellanic clouds, our Milky Way Galaxy's largest satellite galaxies. Dr. Besla received her PhD from Harvard University.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_120_When_Galaxies_Collide.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Paul Sutter

Imagine travelling a very long way in space only to return just where you started, but upside down.  Or consider living in an exotic donut-shaped universe, or one with far more than our usual three dimensions. The amazing thing is that we very well may. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Paul Sutter who will explain the crazy possibilities for the shape of our universe.  

Current in Space

Imagine the view from an Earth-size object that spun on its axis once every minute? According to Dave, that’s what you get with a recently discovered new object, a mysterious white dwarf pulsar. Then Anuj explains why the mass beaching of whales is not only undeniably tragic, but critically important to all inhabitants of planet Earth. And from death on the beach to death from above. Tony shares the terrifying aftermath of a devastating asteroid collision!

About Our Guest

Paul Sutter is an astrophysicist at The Ohio State University and the chief scientist at the Center for Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio. Sutter hosts the show Ask a Spaceman where he welcomes your questions on the nature of space and time.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_119_-_Exotic_Shapes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Terry Kucera

We see it there in the sky every day of our lives. And yet our own local star, the sun, is still in many ways a mystery. What causes the solar cycle? How does the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, reach a staggering temperature of over 1 million degrees. And could a really big solar storm turn back the clock on our technology and civilization? You’ll never look at the sun the same way again after we’re joined here The Star Spot by NASA astrophysicist Dr. Terry Kucera

Current in Space

As we focus today's feature interview on the Sun, Tony reminds us not to forget about the moon, and he competes for our attention with a startling new conjecture that rivals the mainstream theory for the origin of our close companion.

About Our Guest

Terry  Kucera is an astrophysicist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Solar Physics Laboratory. She is Deputy Project Scientist for STEREO, the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory. STEREO is the third mission in NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes program and for the last decade has been revolutionizing our understanding of the Earth-sun system. Dr. Kucera has a PhD from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_118_The_Sun_Our_Local_Mystery_with_Terry_Kucera.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Matt Malkan

Was the early universe green? That’s the startling discovery by a team of UCLA astronomers studying the youngest galaxies in our universe. Why green? That’s what I’ll try to find out when Professor Matt Malkan joins us here at The Star Spot.

Current in Space

As 2017 gets underway, Anuj teases us with a trailer for space missions we can look forward to this year. In case that puts us in too ecstatic a mood, Dave quickly reminds us that nothing lives forever, and that includes exocomets which were recently detected dying in a fiery plunge into a far off star. And Tony closes with a mixed message. We’re moving forward with a Europa lander - but the challenges are significant!

About Our Guest

Matt Malkan is Professor of Astronomy at the University of California at Los Angeles. He’s interested in power, cosmological power. Malkan studies the primary sources of energy in the universe and galaxy formation in the early universe.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_117_Is_the_Universe_Going_Green.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

Feature Guest: Suzanna Nagy

Suzanna Nagy is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Vancouver Centre. In May 2016 she took advantage of a rare and unusual aerial phenomena - a clear sky in downtown Vancouver - to share the wonders of our solar system with hundreds of people. The event was the transit of planet Mercury in front of the sun. In case you missed it, we’re going to have Suzanna joining us here at The Star Spot to describe her experience and to explain to us how astronomy educators use these naturally occurring marvels to provide others with a way into the world of astronomy.

Direct download: The_Star_Spot_Episode_116.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00pm EDT

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