NEOSSat and a Fireball Splat: Feb 26, 2013

Show Notes: February 26th, 2013 (GMT)

Title: NEOSSat and a fireball splat
Hosts: Jesse, Ryan

Ryan (@AstroInAction) and Jesse (@jesserogerson) were live-to-air! YorkUniverse took last monday 18 February 2013 off because of Family Day in Ontario Canada. Many great topics covered this week including a look at This Week in Space/Astronomy History, the publication of the website (thanks to @liannemanzer), The Canadian Space Agency‘s new satellite NEOSSat, and of course the meteor that airburst over Chelyabinsk, Russia on the 15th of Feb 2013.

That and much more in the show notes below. Thanks for listening all. Feel free to contact us through our website or twitter (@YorkUniverse).

This week in space/astronomy history:

News Items:

1. YorkUniverse has a new website!
Co-host of the program, Lianne Manzer, has dilligently toiled to give us a brand new beautiful website complete with weekly show notes, host bios, contributing blogs, as well as all the show podcasts from here on out! It is a great place to catch up on what we do, see what we’ve done in the past, as well as send us your input!

If you have any suggestions/comments/inquiries regarding our content, our website, or anything else please feel free to use the contact form on the ‘contact us’ portion of our site. You can also send an email to info[at]

If you would like to request a topic for us to chat about you can use the site, email us, or tweet us at the twitter handle @YorkUniverse.

2. Curiosity doing is still doin its thang
Ryan (@AstroInAction) gives us an update on the happenings of the Curiosity Rover. Just recently it drilled into the surface of Mars.

3. India launches swarm of satellites, including the CSA’s NEOSSat
You can check out NEOSSat’s page:
The news is clear, Status: Launched successfully, 25 February 2013. NEOSSat’s mission is to search for Near Earth Objects/Asteroids. This is the first telescope of its kind! NEOSSat will be dedicated to looking for the very object that smacked into Chelyabinsk, Russia on 15 Feb 2013 (see below). It has the capability of looking to within 45 degrees of the Sun, which is the hardest place to look for asteroids, and will be working 24/7 up in space.
NEOSSat will be orbiting at roughly 800 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. Its mission is to determine the locations of as many NEOs as possible, which would be possible destinations for future space missions, and also help us track asteroids that may collide with Earth. It will also be tracking space debris and operational satellites, attempting to stop any possible collisions, both damaging satellites and creating more space debris. And it’s only the size of a briefcase!
Go Canada!

Major Topics Covered:

1. The Year of the Comets
This year shall be known as the ‘year of the comets.’ That is because there are number of comets that may become very visible/bright over the course of their orbits thowards the sun. Particularly, comet ISON (officially: and comet PanSTARRS (officially:, are expected to very bright. Comet ISON may get as bright as the planet Venus!

It is of course important to note that comets are inherently variable objects; while we can calculate their orbits and closest approach to the Sun rather precisely, we have no idea exactly how bright these objects will get. This is entirely dependent on the amount of volatile chemicals, the size of the coma created by their sublimation, and various other parameters of each individual comet. See this article from the Royal Astronomical Society published by Oxford Press:

2. The ages of stars and the Universe
here’s the arxiv post:
Astronomers out of Penn State, STSCI, University of Victoria, CHARA Array, Georgia State, and the NOAO have discovered a star who’s age is 14.46 +/- 0.31 billion years, which is equal to (within the uncertainties) to the age of the Universe (~13.77 billion years as measured by WMAP). The star’s name is HD 140283 and is considered a ‘Population II’ star (a star that formed AFTER the first supernovae went off in the Universe).
How do you measure the age of a star?
In this method, the star must be nearby and have a well determined chemical composition. It must be nearby because that allows us to measure its parallax, or the apparent shift of its position with respect to the background stars as a result of observing the star from to different locations. By measuring a stars parallax, you can determine its absolute Luminosity. Knowing this can allow you to measure the stars effective temperature, which then helps you in modeling the star. Stellar evolution models include temperature and measured abundances of metals. The best modeling to date then places this star at 14.46+/-0.31 billion years old.
Metal content [Fe/H] = −2.40 ± 0.10).
Why is this important?
Measuring the age of the Universe can be done using the CMBR, Baryon Acoustic Oscillations, as well as using Globular Clusters. Metal-poor stars can be used as a proxy for age of the Universe because metals are a way of measuring age. The further back a star formed in time, the less metals it will have. This can help astronomers constrain the total age of the Universe.

3. Chelyabinsk, Russia surprised by Massive Fireball/Meteor/Airburst – Nature Article
Due to Family Day, a holiday in Ontario Canada, YorkUniverse was not live-to-air on Monday th 18th of February 2013. As a result we were unable to cover the amazing story of the Meteoroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere and airburst near the town of Chelyabinsk, Russia on 15 February 2013. While we admitted that the story has been covered extremely well by so many groups (including Astronomy.FM, the Voice of Astronomy), we wanted to at least mention it!

Size: ~17m
Mass: ~10 000 tonnes
speed on impact: ~18 km/s (~40000 km/h)
explosion strength: 500 kiloton of TNT
NOT associated with 2012 DA14, an asteroid 50m in size that passed by Earth the same day.

Thanks for listening!
YorkUniverse is a co-production of Astronomy.FM and the York University Astronomical Observatory. For more information on us, check out the following links:
York Universe – on twitter @YorkUniverse
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