George Conidis is Two Sheets to the Wind: January 27th, 2014

Show notes for Episode 183, January 27, 2014
Hosts: Jesse, Paul, Hugh
Special Guest: George Conidis
Title: George Conidis is two sheets to the wind

We invited York University Ph.D. candidate George Conidis to the show to chat about the local group of galaxies, the local sheet, and finding analogues of those out in the Universe. We also chatted about the supernova in M82, Ceres and Herschel, Chang’e’s challenges, and the local ASX symposium at the University of Toronto. Thanks to Mr. Conidis for joining us on air, and a nod to those of Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia. Podcast and show notes below.

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. January 27, 1967 – Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee die in a capsule fire. The trio were performing an Apollo 1 test run and were scheduled to actually lift-off on February 21, 1967.
2. January 28, 1986 – The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes minutes after take-off, killing 7 astronauts.
3. February 1, 2003 – The Space Shuttle Columbia explodes during re-entry, killing 7 astronauts.
4. January 24, 1986 – Voyager 2 flies by Uranus (first and ONLY to date). Closest approach was 81 500 km (from cloud tops).

Special Guest: George Conidis
Bio: George is a Ph.D. candidate at York University under the supervision of Dr. Marshall McCall. Together they research the Local Sheet of galaxies and have identified similar “sheet neighbourhoods” of galaxies in the nearby universe.
Questions we asked Mr. Conidis:
1. what is the local group? local sheet? local volume?
2. you recently got your masters identifying ‘local sheet analogues’ what does that mean exactly?
3. you visited the OAN (national observatory of Mexico) observatory, tell us about your trip.
4. what were you observing in Mexico? how did it go?
5. before you got to York University what were you working on?

News:
1. M82 supernova! type 1a. A new supernova appears in the sky in the nearby galaxy M82 (aka NGC 3034) located 12 million light years away. The supernova was first found by Dr. Steve Fossey. It has been officially designated SN 2014J. This is the closest type Ia supernova since SN 1972E, which is located in NGC 5253 (11 million light years). Other recent notables are SN 1987A (type II, Large Magellanic Cloud, 168 000 light years), and SN 1993J (type II, M81, 8.5 million light years). The York University Astronomical Observatory has done some imaging of the supernova and compared it with an older image. (Suggested Reading: Universe Today article, Astronomers Telegram info, Transient archive IAU, Bad Astronomy article).
2. Herschel Telescope detects water on Ceres. Using the Herschel Space Observatory, an infrared telescope, scientists from JPL have measured the presence of water vapour on Ceres, the dwarf planet. Herschel operated during 2009 to 2013 from the Lagrange point L2 (the point immediately opposite the Sun. This discovery helps guide future analyses to be made by the NASA mission Dawn, currently en route to Ceres (from its last point of operations at Vesta). Herschel observed the presence of water vapour on 4 out 5 measurements, indicating there may be some sort of variable outgassing mechanisms responsible for the signature. Herschel was even able to isolate the portion of the surface of Ceres it appears the plumes of vapour are coming from. Note though that as far back as 1978, observations by Lebofsky (JPL) suggested the possibility of water (hydrated minerals) (Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 182, Feb. 1978, p. 17P-21P.) (Suggested Reading: JPL Press Release, Science @ NASA article,).
3. Chinese Rover dying/dead? State run news: “Yutu has experienced a mechanical control abnormality, and scientists are organizing repairs” issue occurred due to “complicated lunar surface environment” (I would guess that that means the razor sharp lunar dust that gets in EVERYTHING). The issue started during the second hibernation period (meaning that it passed the first 14 days of -173C temperature without trouble–a feat in and of itself). One theory that’s being bandied about is that the mechanical failure is with the solar panels and the mast, which are designed to be angled towards the rising sun, and also to fold up to protect instruments and keep them warm using heat from the RHU (picture a rabbit curling up to keep warm!). If lunar dust were to have gotten stuck inside these moving parts (which it is likely to do since it is so electrostatically charged that it will stick to anything) then it’s possible that it could obstruct them from moving the way that they need to in order to keep the rover safe overnight. We should know if it’s alright on Saturday the 8th when it will be woken up again. (Suggested Reading: SpaceDOTcom article, )
–Interesting fact about Chang’e from Ralf Lorenz regarding any confusion over the landing zone: apparently prior to landing NASA servers received a bunch of requests for images of the final landing zone from the LRO servers all originating from China. Don’t have to mention this but I found it interesting.
–More interesting facts from Ralf, regarding radioisotopes is that NASA is sort of running out of Pu-238 which is what is usually used to power deep space RHUs (should be worrying to planetary scientists
4. Dreamchaser launch scheduled for Nov 1 2016. Built by Sierra Nevada Corp. (We actually talked about how its landing gear failed back in Fall) it essentially looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle, they’re hoping to have it flying manned missions to LEO by 2017 (Suggested Reading: SpaceDOTcom article).
5. Quick recap of ASX “Into the Cosmos” last Friday, January 24, 2014.  The event had 3 engaging speakers (Anthony Aguirre, Matt Dobbs, Rafael Lopez-Mobilia) covering what we think we know, what we do know, and what we want to know regarding modern cosmology. Hats off to the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society for another enjoyable evening of interesting and informative speakers. (Suggested Reading: ASX website).

Major Topics Discussed:
1. NASA has a new roadmap for its astronomy program: Enduring Quests and Daring Visions
Notes that astronomy has come a long way over the last 3 decades (exoplanets, dark matter, dark energy, stellar/galactic evolution has changed considerably in understanding). So NASA convened a group of who would determine NASA’s astrophysical goals for the next 30 years
The roadmap first notes three defining questions NASA should continue to pursue:
— Are we alone?
— How did we get here?
— How does the Universe work?
Has three categories: near term (stuff already planned), formative (designed and built in the 2020s), and the visionary (looking past the 2030s).
Are we alone?
Near term — Get a sense of demographics of exoplanets
Formative — Characterize surface atmospheres and likely surface conditions
Visionary — Resolved images of Earth like planets, down to continents using interferometry from telescopes hundreds of km apart

How did we get here?
Near term –relying on JWST for proto stars, clusters, and early galaxies
Formative — origins of planets, stars, galaxies. Infrared surveyeor for protoplanetary disks, Xray surveyor will look at supernova remnants. gravitational wave detectors will be working on galaxies/SMBH’s relationship
Visionary — relying on JWST and UV telescopes to hit the very earliest stuff in the universe.

How does the universe work?:
Near term and Formative term — Map out the universe with greater precision (hardly ambitious)
Visionary term — Map out gravitational waves. Also want to measure masses and spins of black holes

(Suggested Reading: Universe Today article, arXiv Road Map)

Thanks for listening!
-YorkUniverse Team
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