The Star Spot

Justin Trottier

The Star Spot, with Justin Trottier, is a space themed podcast and radio show focusing on all aspects of astronomy and space exploration. Episodes feature news and interviews with guests of wide-ranging background: scientists, engineers, artists, politicians, and entrepreneurs. Topics are broad, from the latest space mission to how the universe began to why humans explore.

All Episodes

Feature Guest: Brian Fields By now we are all familiar with the theory that an asteroid brought to an end the age of the dinosaurs, a period of domination that had lasted 167 million years. But asteroids are not the only harbingers of doom that lurk in the darkness of space. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Brian Fields, whose research team has found evidence linking supernovae events in deep space to mass extinction events in deep time. Current in Space Tony reports on the mystery of the vanished star. Then Jeff describes electromagnetic flare from a gravitational wave event caused by two merging black holes. And Camilla brings news of two new super-Earths. Finally Amelia and Priyanka offer an explanation for radio waves caused by pulsars. About Our Guest Brian Fields is Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of Illinois

Sep 2020

41 min 50 sec

Feature Guest: Sandro Mereghetti Fast radio bursts are a new mystery in astronomy. These highly energetic events of unknown origin were first discovered in 2007 out in deep space. Now a team is reporting the first fast radio burst to emanate from our own Milky Way Galaxy. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Sandro Mereghetti, whose team is on the hunt for the source of this unusual phenomenon.   Current in Space Camilla shares the remarkable discovery, or rather re-discovery, of the heartbeat of a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy, found still alive and kicking ten years after being first observed. In addition to the supermassive black hole shaping the environment at the centre of our home galaxy, Amelia and Priyanka explain that something else there is also calling the shots (and no, it's definitely not like what we saw in Star Trek V). In other black hole news, Finally, Jeff brings us back down to Earth (though still above Earth), as SpaceX is launching ever more Starlink satellites into orbit to provide high-speed Internet coverage to citizens of our planet. There's only one problem: the future of ground-based astronomy may be at stake. About Our Guest Sandro Mereghetti is research staff member at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Milan.

Sep 2020

41 min 5 sec

Feature Guest: James Slifierz The NASA Space Apps Challenge is a feverish annual hackathon engaging teams of coders, scientists and storytellers around the world. Each year thousands of participants in over 75 countries compete to solve real-world problems in Earth and in space.  As the Challenge celebrates its 10 year anniversary it faces one of the most demanding challenges of our generation: COVID-19. To discuss how NASA is turning the global pandemic from a challenge into an opportunity, today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by James Slifierz, Co-founder and CEO of Skywatch and a 2014 NASA Space Apps global winner.  Current in Space Camille reports on the closest black hole to Earth. Then Jeff announces the Artemis Accords. Anshool shares a new high-resolution infrared image of Jupiter. Finally Amelia and Priyanka describe a planetary system with six planets that orbit in near-perfect rhythm.  About Our Guest James Slifierz is Co-founder and CEO of Skywatch, a private company with a mission to make earth observation data accessible to developers for a wide variety of applications. He is also responsible for bringing the NASA Space Apps Challenge to Waterloo, Ontario, where each year it proves to be one of the top locations in the world.

May 2020

38 min 32 sec

Feature Guest: Jakub Scholtz We’ve long believed that membership in the solar system’s planetary family was limited to those eight planets we learned about in grade school. But then astronomers began to raise the possibility of a new super-Earth-sized planet, five to ten times the mass of Earth, orbiting far off in the outer solar system. Now if you thought the concept of Planet Nine was astonishing, consider if the mysterious body wasn’t a planet at all - but a black hole. That’s right, Planet Nine might be Black Hole One, our own solar system’s very first singularity. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by astrophysicist Jakub Scholtz, co-author of a new study making the case for this fascinating proposal.  Current in Space Tony celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. Then Jeff reports on water loss from mysterious interstellar comet Borisov. About Our Guest Jakub Sholtz is Junior Research Fellow at the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology at Durham University in the UK. He earned his PhD at the University of Washington, where he was awarded the Hadley Fellowship, and performed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University.

May 2020

40 min 20 sec

Feature Guest: Emily Levesque In December 2019, amateur and professional astronomers held their breath as the red supergiant Betelgeuse started dimming beyond anything on record, a sign the behemoth might be preparing to go supernova. But over the ensuing few months, things seemed to be returning to normal for this fascinating star. To solve the mystery, a team set out to investigate this bizarre behaviour and to shed light on the fate of Betelgeuse. Today we’re joined here at the Star Spot by Emily Levesque to discuss their findings.  Current in Space A supergiant haul of stories this week. First Camilla reports on the largest ozone hole ever seen over North Pole. Then Jeff shares evidence of an elusive mid-sized black hole. And Anshool brings news of many more satellite galaxies around the Milky Way. Followed by Amelia and Priyanka’s obituary on the passing of astronomer Margaret Burbidge. Finally Joseph updates us on the proposed mission to Enceladus. About Our Guest Emily Levesque is Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Washington. Previously she worked as a Post Doc at the University of Colorado, during which she held Einstein and Hubble Fellowships. She is a recipient of the Sloan Fellowship and the Annie Jump Cannon Award. Her work focuses on massive stars and galaxy formation.

Apr 2020

41 min 29 sec

Feature Guest: John G. Cramer They are the stuff of science fiction, but wormholes are also the subject of intense scientific debate. Can wormholes provide a mechanism for faster than light travel through space and, even more intriguing, do they open the door to travel through time? Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by one of the world’s foremost authorities on wormholes, Professor John G. Cramer, to share results from his thought experiments on wormholes and his laboratory experiments aimed at changing the past.   Current in Space Jeff starts us off with a bang... the largest bang we've ever seen in the universe. Then Camilla unveils the name of the next generation Mars rover. And Anshool ponders the chances of finding life around a black hole. Finally Amelia and Priyanka pay tribute to pioneering mathematician Katherine Johnson. About Our Guest John G Cramer is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Washington. He has made contributions to the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider project at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the particle accelerator at CERN. He is known for his experiments in quantum retrocausality, which explore the possibility of effects preceding causes. Cramer is a regular guest on the Science Channel and NPR, and he has authored multiple books of hard science fiction.

Apr 2020

51 min 17 sec

Feature Guest: Geoffrey A. Landis When we think of terraforming, we probably envision turning the Red Planet blue. But Mars isn’t the only world in our solar system that ambitious scientists have considered transforming. Imagine a network of floating cities in the clouds of Venus, or sailing ships plying the oceans of a newly thawed moon in the outer solar system. Today we’re going to dream here at The Star Spot with NASA scientist and award-winning science fiction author, Geoffrey Landis. Current in Space After NASA's InSight lander touched down on Mars in late 2018, it's already gathering fascinating data, but as Camilla explains, its latest discovery is literally groundshaking: Mars is officially a seismically active planet! Then Jeff reports on the launch of Solar Orbiter, a new Sun-exploring spacecraft that will enhance our knowledge of the Sun's influence on the entire Solar System. And while Pluto's heart made us fall in love with the famous dwarf planet all over again, Anshool describes an influence that goes far beyond its aesthetic qualities. Wrapping it up with a special double bill on our local star: The most detailed image so far of the Sun's surface has been captured, and Amelia and Priyanka provide the details. About Our Guest Geoffrey A. Landis is a scientist at the NASA John Glenn Research Centre where he works on Mars missions and on developing advanced concepts and technology for future space missions. He has expertise in photovoltaic device design, for which he holds four patents. Landis received bachelors degrees in physics and in electrical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in physics from Brown University. In addition to his pure science work, Landis has published over fifty science fiction short stories, including "Ripples in the Dirac Sea" which won the Nebula award for best short story and "A Walk in the Sun" which won the Hugo award. 

Mar 2020

28 min 4 sec

Feature Guest: Smadar Naoz We’ve long known that most galaxies contain at their core a supermassive black hole that can be millions of times the mass of the sun. But now researchers are discovering galaxies with more than one supermassive black hole at their centre. To understand the implications of this discovery and what it could mean about the history of the Milky Way, should our own galaxy be among this collection, today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by astrophysicist Smadar Naoz. Current in Space Stars like the Sun are a no-brainer when it comes to finding habitable planets, but Amelia and Priyanka say another star is even better; say hello to the orange dwarf. In other habitable planet news, Jeff reports on the discovery of two super-Earth exoplanets that just may be home to life. Finally, Anshool looks to the ancient history of our own planet with the finding of the oldest known asteroid impact, one which may have marked a major climate shift. About Our Guest Smadar Naoz is Howard and Astrid Preston Term Chair in Astrophysics and Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA. She is a member of the executive committee of the Bhaumik Institute for Theoretical Physics. She received her PhD from Tel Aviv University before working as an Einstein Fellow at Harvard University.

Feb 2020

42 min 43 sec

Feature Guest: Guo Qi Dark matter vastly overshadows ordinary matter in our universe. Wherever astronomers turn their telescopes they find galaxies dominated by dark matter. But all that changed recently with the first discoveries of dwarf galaxies suspiciously deficient in dark matter. To make sense of this baffling finding and how it relates to our Milky Way’s own local dwarf galaxies, today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by study lead Professor Guo Qi from the Chinese Academy of Science.  Current in Space NASA's newest planet hunter has made its most remarkable discovery yet: an Earth-sized world in its star's habitable zone, and Anshool provides everything you need to know. Amelia and Priyanka explain a mystery surrounding a particle, and a strange halo around a pulsar may be the key to solving it. And in his debut, Jeff offers more pulsar news in that a new surface map of a particular pulsar may question everything we thought we knew about these lighthouses of the Galaxy. About Our Guest Guo Qi is Professor of Astronomy at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Science. She received her PhD from the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the UK’s Durham University. 

Jan 2020

33 min 55 sec

Feature Guest: Jay Melosh If we should find creatures crawling around Titan or swimming under the ice sheets of Europa or Enceladus, they will almost certainly turn out to be the result of a second genesis, those creatures truly alien in the most profound sense. That startling conclusion follows from a series of groundbreaking simulation that found it exceedingly unlikely that life can be successfully transferred between the worlds of our solar system. To unpack the significance of this conclusion, today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by geophysicist Jay Melosh, who caused an uproar when he presented his findings at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Current in Space Tony does triple duty. He opens with his own 2019 retrospective, featuring a review of some of the impressive achievements made in space science, and to expect more of the same in 2020. Then he and Joseph excite with possible exploration methods for two ocean worlds in the outer Solar System. And for those of you who missed the spectacular "ring of fire" solar eclipse in the eastern hemisphere, Tony and Anshool have you covered, with a review of places impacted, and a preview of similar events in the near future.  About Our Guest Jay Melosh is University Distinguished Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Science at Purdue University. He is the recipient of the Leon Blitzer Teaching Award, the Hess Medal of the American Geophysical Union, and the Humboldt Prize Fellowship, among many other honours.

Jan 2020

43 min 53 sec

Feature Guest: Shelley Sweeney The University of Manitoba has just acquired the largest collection of UFO related material. Prominent Canadian ufologist Christ Rutkowski has made a donation of over 30,000 documents, photos, artifacts and government reports, including files relating to the famous 1967 Falcon Lake Incident, involving a purported physical contact with a mysterious craft. Whether you’re intrigued by the phenomenon of belief or you believe in the phenomenon, the extraordinary human effort to address the UFO question is worth our attention, argues Shelley Sweeney, Head of Archives & Special Collections at the University of Manitoba, who joins us here at The Star Spot. Current in Space In her final broadcast, Dunja literally goes out with a bang as bizarre eruptions of particles have been seen on the asteroid Bennu by orbiting spacecraft OSIRIS-REx.  Then Joseph looks back at our own planet, with a remarkable discovery: a new map of Antarctica that could forecast the future impact of climate change.  In his debut, Anshool describes a star careening through space, shot out by the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way! In other supermassive black hole news, Amelia and Priyanka share a finding that shall surely change the way we understand how huge galaxies form: a galaxy with three supermassive black holes! Finally Tony breaks down two new images of the first interstellar comet ever observed by humanity! About Our Guest Shelley Sweeney is Head of Archives & Special Collections at the University of Manitoba. She is a former Secretary of the international Academy of Certified Archivists and co-authored the code of ethics for the Canadian archival profession.

Dec 2019

41 min 45 sec

Feature Guest: Lachlan Lancaster Quantum mechanics is strange. Until recently we could comfort ourselves with the belief that its odd properties were safely confined to the world of the microscopic. But what if quantum mechanical effects were suddenly magnified to cosmological scales. Imagine the quantum mechanical interference pattern spread across clusters of galaxies. That’s a possibility, according to a new theory of dark matter known as fuzzy dark matter, which imagines dark matter particles as being incredibly minuscule but with astrologically large wavelengths. How can we prove whether this fascinating new theory is correct? Do these ultra small particles give us clues to mysterious string theory? And what does all this mean about the past, present and future of the universe? Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Lachlan Lancaster, co-author of a new paper that sheds light on these questions. Current in Space While NASA's New Horizons spacecraft transformed Pluto from a speck to a world before speeding past, Joseph gets us excited for a proposed second mission that would orbit the dwarf planet and more! Then Dunja asks if a certain particle may be changing the very fabric of the Universe itself! And Amelia and Tony take us back in time to the early Universe with a baffling discovery: the first stars may have formed faster than previously thought.  About Our Guest Dr. Lachlan Lancaster is an astrophysics PhD student at Princeton University studying the intersection of Galactic Dynamics and Cosmology. He receiverd his Masters from Cambridge University after conducting research at the University of California Davis.

Nov 2019

33 min 20 sec

Feature Guest: William Rapin Welcome to Sutton Island, here in the middle of a beautiful and rugged landscape consisting of shallow lakes filled with salts and minerals. It’s a common vista on this world, and while the world in question is not our home, ancient Mars may well have been someone’s home. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by William Rapin, with reports from the latest discoveries of the Mars Curiosity rover and why one of the Principal Investigators of NASA’s Viking mission is now convinced we found life on Mars back in the 1970s, Current in Space Amelia and Tony share exciting news: the most powerful radio dish telescope in the world will soon be ready for widespread astronomical use! Then Joseph excites even more with a stunning discovery: the presence of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, making it the most prominent target yet in the search for habitable worlds. And once again on the subject of habitable worlds, in her debut, Dunja wonders if the size of planets matters to their potential for being habitable. Finally, Amelia and Priyanka report on a remarkable new technique for estimating the mass of black holes! About Our Guest William Rapin is postdoctoral scholar in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech. His research investigates the surface geochemistry of planets to improve our understanding of their origin, evolution, and habitability. Previously he worked as Research Assistant at NASA Ames Research Centre and was Assistant System Engineer with the Centre National d'Études Spatiales  

Nov 2019

43 min 43 sec

Feature Guest: Sherry Suyu The Hubble constant, which measures the expansion rate of the cosmos, may not be a constant after all, and if that’s true it means we’re missing something big in our understanding of the universe. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Sherry Suyu, who leads the aptly named H0LiCOW project which uses the phenomenon of gravitationally lensed quasars to measure the expansion rate of the universe. Current in Space Tony reports on a fascinating yet circumstantial finding that suggests a world literally on fire is out there, and it may excite fans of the Star Wars franchise. Then Amelia and Tony break down a study hinting at the existence of exoplanets that may be even more habitable than Earth!  About Our Guest Sherry Suyu is a Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, an Assistant Professor at the Technical University of Munich, and a Visiting Scholar at the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics.  

Sep 2019

34 min 2 sec

Feature Guest: Jorge Zuluaga Astronomers have yet to confirm a single detection of an exomoon, that is a moon orbiting a planet outside our solar system. Now it turns out at least part of the explanation is that we may have been looking in the wrong place all this time. Introducing ploonets. No, I did not just mispronounce the word planet. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Jorge Zuluaga, whose team coined the name to describe a moon that has gone rogue, and while it may sound exotic, a speculative theory posits that ploonets could have played a key role in the evolution of our very own planet. Current in Space Tony is back with an exciting discovery made in fresh snow in Antarctica: an isotope that can only have been manufactured in one place – the infernal heart of a supernova. Then Joseph and Tony once again ask the cosmic question: what are fast radio bursts, or FRBs, as eight more repeating FRBs have been detected in deep space, and we just may be on the cusp of solving the mystery. Finally, Amelia and Tony talk about a glitch. A software glitch? No. A neutron star glitch! About Our Guest Jorge Zuluaga is Professor of Astronomy at the Institute of Physics at the University of Antioquia in Colombia. His research interests include astrophysics, planetary science and astrobiology. He also enjoys teaching and popularizing Astronomy and Physics in his hometown. 

Sep 2019

41 min 48 sec

Feature Guest: Vikram Ravi They come to us from deep space. They last a tiny fraction of a second. They contain as much energy as the sun’s total output in 80 years. Yet we still haven’t figured out what causes these so-called Fast Radio Bursts or FRBs. I don’t want to say it’s aliens, but... no, it’s probably not aliens. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Professor Vikram Ravi whose team is quickly zeroing in on the origin of these bizarre FRBs. Current in Space Amelia and Tony explain new research stating that worlds with completely frozen oceans, fittingly known as snowball planets, may actually be habitable . . . on the surface! And while the peak of the prolific Perseid meteor shower may have already passed, Simon reminds us that it's still not entirely over, and to get out there and take a look while you still can. Finally, robots are on the International Space Station! Joseph and Tony explain the purpose of three artificial helpers floating in the orbiting laboratory, one of which arrived only in late July. About Our Guest Vikram Ravi is Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology. He received a PhD from the University of Melbourne, then worked as the Millikan Fellow in Astronomy at Caltech followed by the Clay Fellow at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian. He describes his interest as exploring the “ephemeral, unseen universe,” studying phenomena that “vary on time-scales of nanoseconds to years.”

Aug 2019

42 min 23 sec

Feature Guest: Dan Falk Scientists are finding themselves increasingly squeezed between academics sounding the limits of science and a public increasingly taken in by pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. Today we conclude our review of science under attack with science writer Dan Falk. Current in Space NASA is looking to make space exploration a little greener, and Joseph and Tony report on their latest invention: an environmentally-friendly spacecraft fuel that may eventually replace hydrazine, the toxic industry standard for decades. Then Simon terrifies us with the fact that mere days ago, an asteroid nearly hit Earth. Finally Amelia and Tony explain a strange feature found around lakes on Titan.   About Our Guest Dan Falk is an award winning science journalist and broadcaster. He has been published very broadly, including Smithsonian, The Walrus, Cosmos magazine, Scientific American, NBCnews.com, Slate and New Scientist. 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. In spring 2019 he was the Science Communicator in Residence at York University in Toronto.

Aug 2019

46 min 52 sec

Feature Guest: Dan Falk Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by science writer Dan Falk. We’ll start today’s interview with a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the landing of humans on the moon and the internationalism of that critical moment. But then, 50 years after this triumph of science, we’re going to confront head on a set of old and new challenges to the scientific enterprise itself. All the fascinating research and discoveries we share at The Star Spot rests on basic assumptions about the primacy, scope and universality of science. In this two episode series, we take a step back and wrestle with some uncomfortable questions. What if the fundamental reality we probe is merely a simulation? Does science harbour blind spots that will forever limit its ability to build a theory of everything? And even if science is supreme, can it contend with conspiracy theories and pseudoscience - like the moon landing hoax belief - that undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of the wider public. Current in Space Tony explain a remarkable finding from the Curiosity rover on Mars: it's detected the biggest emission of methane on the red planet yet. Then Simon delves into the subject of a black hole so unusual that it shouldn't exist at all! And Amelia and Tony report on a new instrument that's being used to hunt for exoplanets in the Alpha Centauri system.  About Our Guest Dan Falk is an award winning science journalist and broadcaster. He has been published very broadly, including Smithsonian, The Walrus, Cosmos magazine, Scientific American, NBCnews.com, Slate and New Scientist. 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. In spring 2019 he was the Science Communicator in Residence at York University in Toronto.

Jul 2019

38 min 21 sec

Feature Guest: Brian Schmidt Today we offer a best of from our vault here at The Star Spot. We dug back to a fan favourite, our December 2014 interview with Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, who won the biggest prize in science for discovering the accelerating universe.  The 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. Current in Space Tony and Amelia discuss a new finding from the ALMA observatory: a cool ring of gas encircling the supermassive black hole at the center of the Galaxy. Then Simon pulls you in with the measurement of a tiny black hole at the center of a nearby dwarf galaxy. And finally Tony returns with breaking news from the Jovian satellite system: Sodium chloride, aka table salt, has been found on none other than the ice-covered ocean moon Europa! 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.

Jul 2019

31 min 29 sec

Feature Guest: Jane Greaves Remember that nursery rhyme, “Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky?” Well they were on to something, because it turns out diamonds - albeit nanodiamonds - are ubiquitous across the Milky Way galaxy. So-called diamond dust is even here in our own solar system. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Professor Jane Greaves, whose team made the discovery that unexpectedly solved a long standing astronomical mystery. Current in Space Simon explains a tantalizing find: 30 binary stars that have somehow been ejected from their home galaxies! Then Amelia and Tony report on a bizarre discovery: a star that's apparently the merger between two white dwarfs! About Our Guest Jane Greaves is Professor of Astronomer at Cardiff University in Wales. She is the recipient of the 2017 Fred Hoyle Medal from the Institute of Physics of London. In 2008 her team took the first direct image of a proto-brown dwarf candidate. Greaves uses textile art to communicate her passion for astrophysics with the public.

Jun 2019

28 min 6 sec

Feature Guest: Cynthia Phillips In the 1970s, the Viking landers performed historic experiments aimed at detecting life in the Martian soil. The results were disappointing although to this day still not entirely conclusive. Now over 40 years later a new lander with a next generation set of life detection equipment is under assessment by NASA. This time the target is not the Red Planet, but the ocean moon Europa, which has emerged as a prime candidate in the search for life in the solar system. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Cynthia Phillips, Deputy Project Scientist for the Europa Lander mission concept, who tantalizes us with dreams of flying through plumes and digging into an icy crust. Current in Space Tony goes into speculation mode and ponders the chances that interstellar interlopers, like the recent Oumuamua, could actually carry life and deposit it on planets, perhaps even Earth. Then Samantha debuts with a report on a new gravitational wave event, one which may be the result of a type of binary system merger we've been hoping for. Simon troubles us with the disturbing discovery of holes in the Milky Way that were punched by . . . something. And Amelia and Samantha talk the dazzling first-ever discovery of the so-called first-ever molecule in space. About Our Guest Cynthia Phillips is Planetary Geologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a scientist with the SETI League and she also works at the Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. She received her B.A. in astronomy, astrophysics, and physics at Harvard University, and earned her Ph.D. in planetary science, with a minor in geosciences, from the University of Arizona. Dr. Phillips is the co-author of several books, including The Everything Astronomy Book and Understanding Astronomy.

May 2019

52 min 32 sec

Feature Guest: Simona Pirani The planet Jupiter occupies a position today that is far from its home 4.5 billion years ago, a destination resulting from a primeval migration that started way out around the current location of Uranus. Like the god for which it was named, Jupiter enjoys the company of thousands of followers, the so-called trojan asteroids, which have remained by its side all these years, and they now offer a window into the murky origins of the gas giant. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Simona Pirani, lead author of a new study that provides the first ever proof that Jupiter - and perhaps most planets - undertake ancient odysseys around the solar system. Current in Space We have bad news and good news. Simon puts a bit of a damper on things, as the first manned mission to Mars will have to wait longer than initially projected. Then Amelia and Samantha explain a crazy new finding: a pulsar that seems to be speeding through space! And we save the good news for last, as Tony shares new research suggesting that Earth-like planets orbiting red dwarf stars, which have been deduced as unlikely to host life, may actually be habitable after all. About Our Guest Simona Pirani is a doctoral student in the Department of Astronomy and Theoretical Physics at Lund University in Sweden. She is the lead author on a major new study into ancient planetary migrations.

Apr 2019

33 min 29 sec

Feature Guest: Bonnie Buratti The spacecraft Cassini went out in spectacular fashion, travelling through Saturn’s rings for a final death dive into the gas giant. Even in its final heroic moments, Cassini was relaying back data shedding light on the bizarre worlds known as the ring moons of Saturn. The origin of these small bodies, which manage to maintain orbits within the turbulent environment of Saturn’s rings, pose a a puzzle for scientists. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Bonnie Buratti of JPL with updates from her recently published study into this young and dynamic system of oddball worlds.   Current in Space Dave presents a hole of a breakthrough: The much-anticipated Event Horizon Telescope has at last come online, and has already given us the stunning first-ever image of a black hole. Then Amelia and Samantha explore newly proposed possibilities concerning the habitable zone, the region around a star in which planets could support liquid water on their surfaces. And lastly Tony and Simon offer a back to back analysis of how we might save ourselves from a killer asteroid. Spoiler alert! The movies have it wrong, but we’re not entirely without hope.  About Our Guest Bonnie Buratti is a planetary astronomer in the Division of Earth and Space Sciences at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where she leads the Comets, Asteroids, and Satellites Group.  She has worked on the Voyager program, the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, the New Horizons space probe and the Rosetta mission.  She was awarded the NASA exceptional achievement medal for her contributions to the Cassini mission. In 2014 she was elected Chair of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. She is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

Apr 2019

40 min 51 sec

Feature Guest: Fred Adams If you thought the far distant future of our universe was going to be bleak, dreary and dark, well, you’d be right. But remember, the universe is still just a baby and it has many new experiences ahead of it. Over the many trillions of years of its unimaginably long life, new processes will take over, new forms of galactic structure will emerge and types of stars that have never existed will come to populate the galaxy. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Fred Adams, not to mourn the death of the universe, but to celebrate its remarkable potential. The Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto, hosted its annual signature symposium event on Friday, February 15th, 2019. This year’s theme was “Boom to Bust,”with three keynote speakers covering, in turn, the birth, life and death of the cosmos. Once again The Star Spot was privileged to be on location to cover the event. And now we bring you the the conclusion of our special three episode series, featuring each fascinating speaker taking us from before the beginning into the unimaginably distant future of our universe. Current in Space Simon generates excitement following the recent historic unmanned test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, which shall pave the way for astronauts to once again launch into space from American soil. And it turns out we still have a lot to learn about white dwarf stars, as Amelia and Samantha bring you a tantalizing discovery: A white dwarf with an orbiting dust ring! Then we move out to the disk of the galaxy. Astronomers have had trouble measuring the mass of our galaxy, but as Tony explains, we may have finally figured it out thanks to a clever technique.   About Our Guest Dr. Fred Adams is the Ta-You Wu Collegiate Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan. His recent work includes star formation in clusters, the development of a theory for the initial mass function for forming stars, and studies of extra-solar planetary systems.

Mar 2019

36 min 41 sec

Feature Guest: Rosemary Wyse The universe is past its prime, by about 8 to 10 billion years. Sorry if you missed it. From the rate of star formation to the frequency of galactic mergers, the cosmos just isn’t what it used to be. Yet remarkably all is not lost, for there’s an astronomical archeology available to us. It turns out stars retain a memory of their ancient origins and galaxies hold clues to their own violent histories. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Professor Rosemary Wise for the second in our three part series. Our coverage of the Symposium Boom to Bust: The Story of the Universe, continues with a Boom. The Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto, hosted its annual signature symposium event on Friday, February 15th, 2019. This year’s theme was “Boom to Bust,”with three keynote speakers covering, in turn, the birth, life and death of the cosmos. Once again The Star Spot was privileged to be on location to cover the event. And now in a special three episode series, we’re joined by each fascinating speaker as we take you from before the beginning into the unimaginably distant future of our universe. Current in Space Dave reports on a new moon discovered around Neptune known as Hippocamp, and it may have a chaotic history. Then Simon tells us about the finding of the fastest-orbiting asteroid ever discovered! Finally Amelia and Tony revisit Supernova 1987A because this classic supernova event has another story to tell. About Our Guest Dr. Rosemary Wyse is the Alumni Centennial Professor at Johns Hopkins University's Department of Physics & Astronomy. Her research focus is in the field of galaxy formation and evolution, with emphases on resolved stellar populations and the nature of dark matter. She is the recipient of the Annie Jump Cannon Award and the Brouwer Award from the American Astronomical Society.

Mar 2019

32 min 23 sec

Feature Guest: Katrin Heitmann The Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto, hosted its annual signature symposium event on Friday, February 15th, 2019. This year’s theme was “Boom to Bust,”with three keynote speakers covering, in turn, the birth, life and death of the cosmos. Once again The Star Spot was privileged to be on location to cover the event. And now in a special three episode series, we’re joined by each fascinating speaker as we take you from before the beginning into the unimaginably distant future of our universe. First up, on today’s episode Professor Katrin Heitmann tells how scientists are using the most powerful supercomputers on Earth to model the very origin of space and time, and to predict how events at the birth of the universe continue to shape its destiny. Current in Space Tony reports on the discovery of the brightest quasar ever seen in the early Universe, although its perceived brightness may be a trick of a certain phenomenon. Then Simon shocks with new research suggesting that the volatile elements essential for life on Earth were deposited during the apocalyptic planetary collision that formed the Moon. Finally, Amelia surprises with the finding of a circumbinary disk that orbits a binary star system not at the equator as expected, but at the poles! About Our Guest Dr. Katrin Heitmann is a physicist at the United States' Argonne National Lab and a Senior Member of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on cosmology and in particular on extreme-scale simulations of the evolution of the universe.  

Feb 2019

32 min 21 sec

Feature Guest: Ulf Danielsson Our universe is big. But what if all of this was just one of an unimaginably large number of bubble universes. That’s the proposal by a group of scientists who recently introduced a new model for the universe which for the first time links string theory with dark energy and higher dimensions. But how does it compare to rival multiverse theories? Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by physicist Ulf Danielsson to explain how his model, uniquely, provides for universes that far from being isolated might actually come into contact. Current in Space About Our Guest Ulf Danielsson is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University in Sweden. He is the author of four books and engages frequently in public science education on TV and radio. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics.

Jan 2019

40 min 23 sec

Feature Guest: Rayna Slobodian As we dream of space, we must remain anchored to humanity. Space exploration is a human story, and music may be the perfect medium to capture the emotive drama of discovery, risk and the mystery of the unknown. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by singer-songwriter, space ethicist, homelessness researcher and all around geek, Rayna Slobodian, for a far-ranging discussion that, while focused on space music, is ultimately about bringing space exploration down to Earth. About Our Guest Rayna Slobodian is a singer-songwriter whose music combines her love of space exploration with her passion for ethics, justice and human imagination. Her album Space Stories is available on iTunes and YouTube. She is a psychology and anthropology masters student at York University, focusing on research into the reporting of homelessness in Canada.

Jan 2019

27 min

Feature Guest: Darren Grant A one hundred year old astronomical mystery may finally have been solved. Scientists have long wondered just what caused high energy particles called cosmic rays, which arrive on Earth from the far unknown reaches of the universe. But now we have a discovery by the South Pole Neutrino Observatory, appropriately named IceCube, which points the finger at a peculiar phenomena known as blazars. The IceCube Collaboration’s Professor Darren Grant joins us today here at The Star Spot. Current in Space Dave reports on the arrival of the Osiris-Rex mission at the asteroid Bennu. Then, when it comes to climate change, desperate times call for desperate measures, such as the plan we hear from Simon to spray chemicals into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s heat back into space. And Tony explains the possible outcome of an astronomical event so energetic we detected its gravitational waves back in August 2017. Finally Amelia tells us we may have finally come a step closer to understanding what fuels the least-understood type of supernova. About Our Guest Darren Grant is Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Alberta. He is the Spokesperson for the IceCube Collaboration, referring to the South Pole Neutrino Observatory. Grant is Canada Research Chair in Astroparticle Physics and received an E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.  

Dec 2018

49 min 59 sec

Featured Guest: Cameron Smith One of the challenges in building a future where humans are able to explore other worlds are the massive, clumsy and expensive spacesuits currently in use. Now enter into the picture Pacific Spaceflight. They’re a grassroots team with a do-it-yourself attitude and they’re busy perfecting the next generation space suit technology. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by their leader, Professor Cameron Smith, an anthropologist and archeologist who’s research on humanity’s deep past now fuels his determination to take us into the future. Current in Space Could we have missed one of our closest galactic neighbours, asks Dave. Then Tony explains how humans aren’t the only animals effected by a solar eclipse. Simon freaks us out with news that worms are being sent to the International Space Station. And finally, in her big debut, Amelia reports first views of supermassive black holes colliding in galaxy mergers. About Our Guest Cameron Smith is a Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology at Portland State University, author of the book Emigrating Beyond Earth: Human Adaptation and Space colonization, and founder of the thinktank Pacific Spaceflight.

Nov 2018

49 min 33 sec

Featured Guest: Katharina Brinkert On Earth, we can thank the sun for making life possible. Now what if we could harness the power of the sun to make life possible on long duration space missions. Introducing the concept of artificial photosynthesis. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by chemist Katharina Brinkert, whose pioneering experiments on the International Space Station turning sunlight into fuel and breathable air might just pave the way for human exploration of the solar system. Current in Space Water World. No, not the awful movie, but according to Dave, the most common kind of exoplanet in our galaxy. Then Tony and Simon share tributes to NASA missions which ended within days of one another. Tony reflects on Dawn, the first mission to orbit two bodies in the asteroid belt. And Simon discusses the triumphs and legacy of the Kepler Space Telescope. About Our Guest Katharina Brinkert is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology.

Nov 2018

37 min 49 sec

Featured Guest: Cosette Gilmour The proper relationship between science and faith is a core question for the modern age. At the centre of this debate has often been the Vatican observatory. The fascinating history of the Vatican Observatory stretches from the 18th century up to today, controversially combining scientific scholarship and religious tradition. In the last few decades the Observatory hosted a conference exploring the search for alien life and another aimed at a scientific understanding of divine action. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Cosette Gilmour, an alumni of the Vatican Observatory Summer School program, to find out what goes on in this unique institution and whether the Vatican Observatory still has relevance in the modern world. Current in Space Simon says we've found the oldest (so far) massive galaxy supercluster in our universe. About Our Guest Cosette Gilmour is a PhD student in Earth and Space Science at York University. Her research interests include the physical and chemical analysis of meteorites, remote sensing of asteroids, and in-situ resource utilization. In 2016 she participated in the Vatican Observatory Summer School program, on the them of water in the solar system and beyond.

Oct 2018

21 min 11 sec

Featured Guest: Bruce Jakosky Don’t shoot the messenger. The terraforming of Mars has been the dream for many of us who long for a future where humanity has colonized the Red Planet. But is it time to rethink those plans? Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Bruce Jakosky, Principal Investigator of the Martian MAVEN Mission, and he’s got some bad news. Current in Space Dave spotlights the first confirmed detection of an extrasolar moon, and its a whopper. Then Tony shares new research suggesting that a key component of life may have originated in space before landing on Earth. And Simon delivers a tribute to NASA in honour of the agency's 60th anniversary. About Our Guest Bruce Jakosky is Principal Investigator for NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission, which has been studying the Martian atmosphere from orbit. He is Professor of Geological Sciences and Associate Director for Science at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado.

Oct 2018

33 min 18 sec

Featured Guest: Ken Stedman They aren’t pleasant, but viruses are the most common form life on our planet. So why aren’t the world’s space agencies taking viruses seriously in their search for alien life. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by astrobiologist and astrovirologist Ken Stedman who has a plan to change and that and put viruses front and centre as we explore our solar system and beyond.   Current in Space We’re roving around our first asteroid, reports Simon. And if its heading into oblivion, just why is matter falling into a black hole in such a big hurry, asks Dave. About Our Guest Ken Stedman is Professor of Biology at Portland State University and a self-described “extreme virologist” because of his passion for studying viruses in extreme environments. He received his PhD from the University of California Berkeley and is the recipient of the Marie Curie Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. His outstanding teaching has been recognized with a John Eliot Allen Teaching Award.

Oct 2018

34 min 25 sec

Featured Guest: Scott Sheppard On the hunt for the solar system’s elusive Planet X, a team of astronomers accidentally stumbled upon the discovery of 12 new moons of Jupiter. Oops. But it gets even better, because one of these things is not like the others and the way that moon just doesn’t belong might just solve the mystery of lunar origins. To help us understand how one very happy accident is shedding light on the formation of our solar system, today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by the discovery team leader Scott Sheppard. Current in Space Is the universe just a simulation? Simon says maybe. Then Tony settles the question of the habitability of potential water worlds. And speaking of water, Dave ponders the origin of our own planet’s H20. About Our Guest Scott Sheppard is faculty member in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science. He received his PhD from the University of Hawaii. A Hubble Fellow, Sheppard is credited with the discovery of many small moons of the gas giant planets. He has also been part of teams that have discovered comets, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects.  

Sep 2018

32 min 40 sec

Featured Guest: André Müller Astronomers have taken their first image of an infant planet still developing around a newly formed star. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by André Müller, whose team is busy studying this baby world and has already discovered evidence of an atmosphere and possibly even moons, astounding knowledge of such a tiny speck 370 light years from Earth. On a personal note, I want to dedicate this special 150th episode of The Star Spot to my amazing wife Denise and to our own newborn wonder, Lara Fong Trottier. Thank you for being the stars in my universe. Current in Space What secrets are hiding in the darkness on the moon? Tony sheds some light. And have you ever wondered just how we arrive at the mass of those thousands of extrasolar planets astronomers are busy studying? About Our Guest André Müller is a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. He has also conducted research at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. His interests revolve around young stellar objects and extrasolar planets.

Sep 2018

35 min 47 sec

Featured Guest: David Hamilton The recent discovery of a lake of liquid water beneath the Martian south pole culminates a series of stunning discoveries that are forcing us to rethink the question of habitability on the Red Planet. Now two space missions are underway aimed at sites on Mars that may be the best candidates yet for life and boasting the most advanced bio detection instruments ever sent into space. To help us prepare, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by space physicist David Hamilton. Join us at Solar System Social this Thursday, August 23rd The Star Spot will be live on location at an upcoming event hosted by Solar System Social, a prominent Toronto speaker series. Join us for a provocative discussion entitled Who Deserves to Explore Space on Thursday, August 23rd at 6pm at Burdock pub. Visit  solarsystemsocial.com for details. Current in Space Our solar system has been playing host to a foreign tourist and now something is scaring it off. Then great ball of fire! Simon prepares us for a revolutionary new spacecraft that will shine new light on everyone’s favourite star. About Our Guest David Hamilton is a professor at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His research background is in the detection of life signs on Mars. He is also the leading force behind Social System Social, a series of public events aimed at connecting the dots between science, entertainment and storytelling.

Aug 2018

44 min 42 sec

Featured Guest: Chuck Black The Canadian Space Advisory Board was tasked with developing a plan to rejuvenate Canada’s declining world standing in space exploration. In 2017 the Board made a bold proposal that Canada designate space a national strategic asset and increase funding necessary for the “revitalization of Canada’s space capacity.” But when in March 2018 the federal government released its annual budget, these calls were entirely ignored. The chair of the Canadian Space Advisory Board was so disappointed that she took the unusual move of publicly critiquing a government which seemed to be neglecting Canada’s space sector. With little progress following years of industry consultation, where do we go from here? To help us understand how we got to this point and what can be done to reestablish Canada’s vision for space exploration, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Chuck Black, the Editor of the Commercial Space Blog. Current in Space After the most extreme test yet of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, Dave reports on the amazing results that will not surprise you in the least. Then Maya dazzles with news that a long-held theory about black holes has been disproved, leaving a black hole in our understanding of black holes. And Tony shares his joy at the birth of an endearing infant planet. About Our Guest Chuck Black is a journalist, technology advocate, public speaker and activist. He edits and contributes articles to the Commercial Space Blog, the Canadian Aerospace News, and the Space Conference News. He organizes events focused on the commercialization of space-derived technologies which bring together industry experts for detailed in-person discussion, collaboration and networking.

Aug 2018

40 min 20 sec

Today we turn our telescopes back around to study ourself. Our own solar system is undergoing a conceptual revolution. From its chaotic birth to its fiery end, our solar system is no longer seen as static and isolated. It is now understood to change and evolve, to offer great environmental diversity across its many worlds, and it now seems our solar system even interacts with the rest of the galaxy. In this special interregnum here at The Star Spot, today our news team of Tony, Maya and Dave take us on a journey across the history and the destiny of our solar system.   Current in Space We’ve had interstellar asteroid tourists, but Tony wonders if we just found the first interstellar immigrant. Then Maya tackles the existential question of the sun’s ultimate demise. And finally Dave explores how the Earth-Moon love affair has profoundly changed us during our long years together.

Jul 2018

12 min 19 sec

Feature Guest: Brian Thomas We have this impression of our planet as isolated from the rest of the universe, our lives cut off from the drama unfolding elsewhere in our galaxy. But what if the course of life’s evolution on Earth was intimately connected to events well beyond our solar system. It now seems likely that supernovae hundreds of light-years away have profoundly affected our history and may even account for climatic changes just as our species was emerging. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by astrophysicist Brian Thomas to explore this fascinating discovery.   About Our Guest Brian Thomas is Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Washburn University where he leads the Washburn Astrobiophysics research group. His research focuses on the role of high energy astronomical events, in particular supernova and gamma ray bursts, on the atmosphere and biosphere of Earth. He is the principal investigator on a 3-year NASA grant to explore the terrestrial impacts of nearby supernovae.

May 2018

28 min 9 sec

Feature Guest: Stuart Ryder When a massive star explodes in a supernova, it tends to gobble up all the attention. But what happens when that star has a binary companion with its own story to tell? That’s exactly what happened last month when the Hubble Telescope captured the first image of the surviving stellar companion to a supernova, and it turned out to be more than just a passive observer. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by the discovery team leader Stuart Ryder to tell us how sibling rivalry might account for the origin of one unusual type of supernova.  Current in Space Tony details the launch of a new space telescope that will take planet hunting to the next stage. Then Maya shares a tantalizing discovery from Jupiter's largest moon. And finally while we have trouble seeing individual stars in the galaxy next door, Dave reports on a star called Icarus that we just image despite it being 9 billion light-years away! About Our Guest Stuart Ryder is Head of International Telescopes Support at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and is responsible for coordinating Australia's usage of large telescopes around the world. His research interests include core-collapse supernovae and star formation in nuclear rings of galaxies.

May 2018

35 min 40 sec

Feature Guest: Farhad Yusef-ZadehThe gravity, radiation and tidal forces at the very core of the Milky Way is kind of intense. That’s why astronomers have long doubted the possibility of star formation in such a hostile environment. And then everything changed with the discovery last fall of 11 sun-like stars living closer to the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy then the distance between our sun and its closest neighbour. What does this breakthrough mean for our understanding of star formation and the possibility of life in what we once imagined were impossibly extreme environments? Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by the discovery team’s leader Farhad Yusef-zadeh. Current in Space On behalf of The Star Spot, Tony says "Thank you, Stephen." About Our Guest Farhad Yusef-Zadeh received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at STony Brook then performed his PhD work at Columbia University. He worked as a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center before joining the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University. He enjoys performing public lectures on the history of astronomy, science and pseudoscience and how science affects our lives.

Apr 2018

35 min 11 sec

Feature Guest: Xinyu Dai Last month astronomers announced the first ever discovery of extrasolar planets… in another galaxy! We’ve already confirmed almost 4000 planets beyond our solar system, but these have all been in a single galaxy, the Milky Way. But then last month a serendipitous discovery opened the door to a galaxy 3.8 billion light years away and it turns out it’s home to thousands upon thousands of planets. Today we're joined here at The Star Spot by co-discoverer Xinyu Dai to describe the unplanned discovery and whether this is the beginning of a new era in extrasolar extragalactic planetary astronomy. Current in Space The Andromeda Galaxy has tried hard to hide its past, but Dave exposes its dirty secrets. Then Maya numbers our minds with the discovery of the most distant supernova yet. And when psychologists studied the likely ramifications of first contact Tony found the results surprising. About Our Guest Xinyu Dai is assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Department of Physics and Astronomy. He performed undergraduate studies at Beijing University before receiving his PhD from Penn State. He is an expert in gravitational lensing, galaxy clusters, active galactic nuclei and gamma-ray bursts.  

Mar 2018

34 min 40 sec

Feature Guest: Scott Bolton It’s our cosmic backyard, and yet our own solar system is still full of surprises. Now it turns out we were “totally wrong” when it comes to just about everything we thought we knew about Jupiter. That’s not me speaking, it’s Scott Bolton, principal investigator for the NASA Juno mission to Jupiter. From its magnetic field and atmosphere down to its very core, Jupiter is being rediscovered and transformed. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Dr. Bolton to discuss the rewriting of our textbook on the solar system’s biggest world. Current in Space We've discovered a new family of extrasolar planets, and they're in a galaxy far, far away! Dave provides a trailer for the next episode of The Star Spot. About Our Guest Scott Bolton is the Director of the Space Science and Engineering Division at the Southwest Research Institute and Principal Investigator of NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter. In his 24 year career with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he has worked on many of its leading missions, including Cassini, Galileo, Voyager and Magellan He presently leads an international research group focused on modeling Jupiter and Saturn's radiation belts. He is an author of over 60 scientific papers. He has received over twenty NASA Group Achievement Awards including the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.

Feb 2018

39 min 15 sec

Feature Guest: Jason Hessels The one thing we thought we knew about fast radio blasts was that these mysterious one-off phenomena must be associated with some of the most cataclysmic events in the universe. Then everything changed with last month’s announcement of the first ever detection of a source of repeating fast radio bursts. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by co-discover Jason Hessels to rule on an important question: are scientists back to the drawing board or did they just achieve a breakthrough in our efforts to unlock this puzzle. Current in Space Europa is a tantalizing destination for exploration, but Dave worries that if we visit we might quickly find ourselves on thin ice. Then Maya reports on a windy conundrum surrounding hot Jupiters. And Tony brings new insights into the most powerful explosions in our Universe. Care to make your very own gamma ray burst? About Our Guest Jason Hessels is an astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy. He received his PhD from McGill University where he was the recipient of an NSERC Doctoral Fellowship. His research interests include pulsars and neutron stars, globular clusters and radio transients. His hobbies include hiking, camping, sailing and guitar.

Feb 2018

33 min 5 sec

Feature Guest: Susan Strahan While human activity is what created the ozone hole, scientists just announced direct evidence that human activity is now responsible for healing that damage. That makes the Montreal Protocol, which banned the emission of chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, along with other ozone depleting substances, the most successful international environmental agreement to date. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Dr. Susan Strahan, who lead a team that studied the reduction of CFCs, to discuss the fall and rise of the ozone layer and what this means for future efforts to achieve international cooperation on critical environmental issues like climate change. Current in Space Tabby's star may no longer be the megastructure of another species, but as Tony explains, the way in which we figured that out says quite a lot about this one.  About Our Guest Susan E. Strahan is atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where she works in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of California Berkeley. Her research involves making stratospheric trace gas measurements and studying chemistry-climate models. She is a member of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.  

Jan 2018

33 min 5 sec

Feature Guest: Arjun Berera Many of you are familiar with the idea of panspermia, the theory that life spreads itself throughout the galaxy by travelling from one world to another. We often think of big objects like asteroids, comets or spacecraft. But a new idea has emerged, and it’s must smaller: dust. Astronomer Arjun Berera joins me here at The Star Spot to discuss his new study, which considers whether alien life can hitchhike between planets on streams of space dust and if life on Earth might have just such an origin. Current in Space The solar system's first extrasolar asteroid visitor, Oumuamua, is even stranger than we thought, explains Tony. About Our Guest Arjun Berera is Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. He received his PhD from the University of California Berkeley studying aspects of string perturbation theory. His research interests include quantum field theory, statistical physics, early universe cosmology theory and turbulence.

Jan 2018

29 min 33 sec

Feature Guest: Jill Tarter Alien hunting pioneer Jill Tarter often says the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a way for us to hold a mirror to ourselves. Now in a recently released biography, that statement takes on personal significance and reveals the intimate connection between SETI and the life of its most famous icon. Today we’re honoured to have Jill Tarter return to The Star Spot to discuss her life; the tragedies and triumphs of youth, the moment when the alien question became a science question, her pioneering role as a woman in science and as a human searching for non-human contact, and her tireless positive energy to reach an elusive goal that would be the biggest discovery of all time. Current in Space What if dark matter and dark energy do not exist? Maya explains why that might not be as crazy as it sounds. And 40 years after humanity sent a beacon into space with the launch of the twin Voyager space probes, Tony reviews a new documentary aptly named The Farthest, which is now available on Netflix. About Our Guest Jill Tarter, the real life inspiration behind the protagonist in Carl Sagan’s story Contact, is the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI and the former Director of the Center for SETI Research. Tarter graduated with degrees from Cornell and the University of California at Berkeley and she’s won many awards, including two public service medals from NASA and a fellowship of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was named one of the 100 Most influential People of the World of the Year by Time Magazine in 2004 and she won the Wonderfest Carl Sagan prize for science popularization in 2005. She is the subject of a recently released biography, Making Contact: Jill Tarter and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.  

Dec 2017

53 min 51 sec

Feature Guest: Alan Stern There’s an intruder in our solar system. This fall we were invaded by the first interstellar space traveller, an elongated, cigar shaped alien asteroid. The mysterious object was ejected from its distant and unknown home, travelling for millions or billions of years before coming to pass between the Earth and the sun. On today’s episode of The Star Spot we’re joined by Dr. Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons mission to Pluto, to explain how the detection of an interstellar asteroid named Oumuamua is likely the first of many such strange and bizarre objects, and heralds the dawn of a new era in astronomy. Current in Space Proxima b may be the closer exoplanet, but Tony explains why it now has competition for closest Earth twin. And Maya reports how improved technology is helping us find galaxies that are dimmer, further and older than any before.  About Our Guest Dr. Alan Stern is a planetary scientist with an illustrious career. He was principal investigator for eight planetary science missions and is the current PI for NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. He was previously Executive Director of the Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division and past Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. He is currently Chief Scientist at Moon Express, a private enterprise dedicated to mining the moon for natural resources. In 2007, Stern was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Nov 2017

26 min 58 sec

Feature Guest: Cordell Grant On June 17, 2016, the Canadian Space Agency launched the nation’s fourth astronaut recruitment campaign. 3,772 applications were received. One year later only two were chosen. Candidates have described the grueling selection process as the greatest challenge of their lives. To understand how we identify the best of the best, today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Cordell Grant, who neared the finish line and was among the top 72 candidates to become Canada’s next space explorer. Current in Space We like to think we know our solar system well, but Tony warns us to beware intruders. About Our Guest Cordell Grant is Chief Operating Officer at Sinclair Interplanetary where he designs and builds communications and attitude determination hardware for spacecraft. He holds a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies. In 2016 Cordell applied to become Canada’s next astronaut.

Nov 2017

44 min 45 sec