Episode 67: The Accelerating Universe, with Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Brian Schmidt

220px-Brian_SchmidtThe 1929 discovery of the expanding universe by Edwin Hubble forever changed our picture of the cosmos and our understanding of our place in the universe. In 1998 we learned that wasn’t the only surprise. That’s when two teams of astronomers announced that the expansion of our universe isn’t slowing down as everyone assumed. Its speeding up. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Distinguished Professor Brian Schmidt who won the Nobel Prize for discovering our accelerating universe.

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

Current in Space

Anuj describes the Orion spaceflight, the first mission since Apollo eventually aimed at deep space. Then Tony wonders if the stuff of life could seed itself on other worlds following the disocvery that DNA returned from the exposure to the vacuum of space in good working order. And Dave extends the lifetime for Mars’ watery past after learning an ancient lake may have lasted tens of millions of years. Finally Celine explains how “cliff-bots” now being tested in the Moroccan desert may one day dig up deposits left over from such long extinct bodies of water.

About our Guest

Dr. Brian Schmidt is Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory and holder of an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship. In 2011 Schmidt received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his co-discovery that the universe isn’t merely expanding, it’s actually accelerating in its expansion. Shmidt is Fellow of the Royal Society, a recipient of the Pawsey Model, the Dirac Medal and the Shaw Prize in Astronomy.

Links

Brian Schmidt Website

Nobel Lecture: The path to measuring the accelerating universe

 How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 66: Blue Stragglers: The Stars That Shouldn’t Exist, with Alison Sills

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Alison Sills

sillsIt’s a phenomenon so mysterious one astronomer wondered if it could be evidence of an advanced extraterrestrial intelligence. Meet blue straggers, the black sheeps of the stellar family. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Professor Alison Sills to learn all about the stars that shouldn’t exist.

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

Current in Space

Dave mesmerizes us with the carnival funhouse like effect around black holes, where the warping of space and time is so intense you can see the front and back of blackholes simultaneously. Celine discusses an upcoming unmanned mission to drill the moon for lunar samples and establish the viability of a future human outpost. And while you may have heard of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, Tony wonders if the entire spot is red, why it’s red and why so little else on the gas giant shares the iconic colour. Finally Yonna brings us news of Europe’s first space plane set to launch shortly.

About our Guest

Alison Sills is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She received her PhD from Yale University and held postdoctoral positions at the Ohio State University and the University of Leicester in the UK. She studies weird stars in odd places, utilizing computation tools to model the evolution of stellar populations. Along with researchers from Canada, the US and Europe, she is an active member of the MODEST collaboration, which stands for MOdelling DEnse STellar Systems.

Links

Alison Sills Website

Globular Clusters Are Real Oddballs (University Today)

Clusters May Unlock Secrets of Star Formation (SpaceRef)

 How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 65: Bringing MRIs Into Space, with Gordon Sarty

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Gordon Sarty

sartyMagnetic 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 Gordon Sarty joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

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.

Links

MRIs in Space Project

A Compact Canadian MRI for Everyone. Even Astronauts! (The Commercial Space Blog)

Wrist-Sized Bone Scanner Could Fly To The Space Station In 2016

 How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 64: Echoing Through Space, with Doug Welch

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Doug Welch

doug

Imagine being able to go back centuries to study the great supernovae 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.

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

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.

Links

Doug Welch Website 

‘Light echoes’ replay long-ago star show: CBC news

Video of Doug’s talk on his art installation at the McMaster Museum of Art entitled “Light Echo” which ran between September 17 and October 31, 2009. 

How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 63: The Dark Stringy Universe, with Jim Cline

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

We apologize for a technical problem with an earlier upload of this episode. The episode now available below has been fixed.

Feature Guest: Jim Cline

jimcline

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.

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

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.

Links

McGill University webpage

Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics talk on Nonabelian Dark Matter

How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 62: Gardening the International Space Station, with Gioia Massa

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Gioia Massa

gioiaImagine 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.

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

 

Current in Space

Today’s news team on all the rousing 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.

Links

Gioia Massa on LinkedIn

Massa makes space for gardening in space (NASA)

Plant Growth Chamber Being Sent To ISS, Could Provide Astronauts With Fresh Lettuce

How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 61: Molecules: Where Chemistry Meets Astronomy, with Jan Cami

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Jan Cami

cami_300-115x150Did you know that buckyballs, complex soccer-ball shaped molecules formed from 60 carbon atoms, were recently discovered deep in interstellar space. Or that the centre of the Milky Way galaxies tastes like raspberries and smells like rum? And what about recently discovered WEIRDOS? 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 we’re joined at The Star Spot by Jan Cami

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

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

Links

Jan Cami Faculty Page

Space Buckyballs (SETI Talk)

Buckyballs detected in space (CBC)

How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 60: Building the Cities of our Universe, with Pauline Barmby

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Pauline Barmby

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.

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

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.

Links

UWO Researchers: World Isn’t Ending This Month (CHRW 94.9FM)
Andromeda Adrift in Sea of Dust in New NASA Image (NASA Mission News)
NASA Spitzer Space Telescope

How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browserThe Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Episode 59: Brown Dwarfs: Super Planet or Failed Star?, with Stanimir Metchev

For more info on the podcast, please see our About page.

Feature Guest: Stanimir Metchev

metchev_115x150Brown 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,

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD

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.

Links

Faculty Page at University of Western Ontario

Stormy Stars? NASA’s Spitzer Probes Weather on Brown Dwarfs (JPL News)

Stanimir Metchev and team find evidence of great storms on brown dwarfs

Brown Dwarfs Racked By Planet-Sized Storms Of Molten Iron (Popular Science)

How to Listen to the Show

LISTEN NOW OR DOWNLOAD
Subscribe for free with itunes
Use feedburner in your browser

The Star Spot is also broadcast on The Scope at Ryerson. The show airs every Tuesday and Sunday at 6:00PM Eastern Time. Listen live here

If you have interesting news and story ideas, as well as topics or potential interview guest, please send them to starspotpodcast@gmail.com

Sharing my fascination with the cosmos: The Star Spot partners with Rexdale Summer of Innovation Camp

Over the last couple of years we have had some remarkable accomplishments here at The Star Spot. We’ve interviewed leading scientists, we’ve covered major conferences, we’ve formed meaningful partnerships and we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with our audience directly at many wonderful events.

This month I had another unique opportunity. As a sign of the growth and maturity of our program, The Star Spot came to the attention of the Rexdale Summer of Innovation Camp, a project of the Rexdale Community Hub. The camp is the brainchild of Amra Munawar, a dedicated community activist and a champion of youth education. Working with major sponsors United Way and IBM, she pioneered the idea of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) focused summer camp for students in the Rexdale neighborhoods. Rexdale is one of Toronto’s priority neighborhoods, having been identified as a vulnerable community due to higher rates of school drop out  and other metrics. As with so much the answer is education.

On two separate Monday mornings in August I was invited in to lead a 2-hour session on astronomy and space exploration before groups of grade 9 and 10 students. My goal was to give the students some new Canadian role models to emulate by showcasing actual Canadians contributing to the adventure of space. This was easy to do since I have had the pleasure of interviewing several great Canadian leaders in this area: Paul Delaney, Sarah Seager, Bob McDonald, Ralf Gellert, to name a few. But I also wanted to demonstrate how a youth might consider contributing to astronomy and space exploration through both typical and unusual channels. My co-host Denise Fong’s interview with artist Catherine Hazin made for an ideal example.

My first go at this was a good learning experience. It turned out when attempting to wake students up with the early bird Monday morning presentation, best to lead in with engaging icebreakers. On my second attempt I shortened the interview excerpts, but opened with some good old fashioned space trivia followed by a clip of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s overview of the scale of the universe from the first episode of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey. That got them hooked.

The experience at Rexdale reminded me of my camp counsellor days, where you aim to be simultaneously entertaining and insightful. Ultimately the goal is less the transfer of particular bits of information and more the desire to leave youngsters with a fascination for a new area of exploration and a thirst for a lifelong adventure of learning and engagement.

The mere report that at least a few of the students were heard considering careers in astronomy and space was enough to tell me I had done my job.

- Justin