Local Density low; Astronomers Hopes HIGH!

Show notes for episode 194 – April 28, 2014
Hosts: Paul, Jesse
Title: Local Density low; Astronomers Hopes HIGH!
Paul and Jesse expounded eloquently on all matters of astronomical news (and Cricket scores) this evening, starting with the Tito controversy in space tourism and the birthday of Jan Oort. They chatted about local Toronto events, with a little pat on the back for the wonderfully involved York Observatory Team. Of course, no chat about space is worth its moxy without a short list of how space can kill all humans. Finally, Jesse wrapped by testing Paul’s knowledge of the local stellar systems…Paul did very well. Thanks for tuning in everyone, show notes and podcast below.

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Comets and Asteroids and TNOs: Oh My!

Show notes for Episode 191, March 31, 2014
Hosts: Paul, Julie, Jen
Title: Comets and asteroids and TNOs: Oh My!

Tonight’s show featured a wealth of observational projects from Messier Marathons through to lunar eclipses and lunar occultations.  The outer solar system was featured with Centaur’s with rings not to mention far flung Kuiper Belt objects spanning the gap between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud.  A new segment debuted: Observatory Astro Log, featuring brief appearances by a member of the York Observatory Team.

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. March 25, 1655: Christiaan Huygens discovers Titan, moon of Saturn. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn and is the second-largest moon in the solar system. It has a dense atmosphere where lots of interesting chemistry happens. There is evidence for it having stable bodies of liquid on its surface (liquid methane).
2. March 25 1996: Comet Hyakutake closest approach to Earth.  Bright and fast moving, this was a spectacular object easily visible without any optical aid.
3. April 1 1997: Comet Hale-Bopp’s closest approach to Sun

The Observatory Log Book, hosted by Jen Zomederis
– AstroCATS – Astronomy Telescope Show May 3rd and 4th. (Tickets)
– Observatory Calendars available for a $10 donation.  Send a request to observe@yorku.ca and we will drop one in the mail!
– PV & OPV hours change as of April.  Check out yorkobservatory.com for all the details.

News:
1. Lunar Eclipse on April 15th, the first of a tetrad of eclipses, 4 total lunar eclipses in a row all visible from North America!  For This month’s eclipse,  1:58 AM is when the partial phase of the eclipse begins with totality starting at 3:06 AM EDT.  The next 3 total eclipses are October 8 2014, April 4 2015 and September 28 2015. http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/27mar_tetrad/
2. Ringed asteroid: The asteroid Chariklo has two dense, narrow rings. It’s the smallest body in our solar system by far to be found with rings (the others being the gas giant planets). Chariklo is the largest of the asteroids known as Centaurs, which orbit the Sun between Jupiter and Neptune. Chariklo’s orbit is between Saturn and Uranus. The rings were discovered when the asteroid occulted a star (UCAC4 248-108672). Observations were made from 7 different observatories in South America. The rings were likely the result of an earlier collision and their configuration indicates they are either very young or that they are affected by yet-to-be-discovered small moons of the asteroid. Suggested reading ESO media release,
3. Sedna-like body discovered: 2012VP113 (nick-named Biden) is only the second object of its kind to be discovered. The first was Sedna, discovered in 2003. Both pretty far from the Sun and have highly elliptical orbits (perihelion of 76 AU for Sedna and 80 AU for 2012VP113). The solar system can be divided into 3 regions: the inner, rocky planets and asteroids (0.39 – 4.2 AU from the Sun), the gas giants (5 – 30 AU) and the Kuiper belt objects (30 – 50 AU). Sedna and “Biden” would be a part of the inner Oort cloud, the outermost grouping of objects in our solar system and the place comets come from. These objects could be the link between the Kuiper belt and the hypothesized outer Oort cloud about 10 000 AU from the Sun. There are two main models for the formation of the inner Oort cloud, as we discover more objects like Sedna and Biden, we will be able to determine which is the more likely to have happened. Suggested reading Discovery article
4. Global Astronomy Month (April is starting off with an online Messier Marathon  Check out astrowebtv.org starting from 1800 hours UT April 1 to catch all of the action, both telescopic and commentary!  Messier marathons are an exciting opportunity to see wealth of diverse non-stellar objects first found by Charles Messier over 200 years ago.  Not for the faint of heart, these marathons can result in all 110 objects being observed in one night.  It is a lot of work but a lot of fun!
5. Lunar occultations this Thursday April 3 with the Moon traversing through the Hyades star cluster.  The advancing dark limb of the Moon will occult a series of 4th and 5th magnitude stars in teh late evening (EDT).  As with all occultation measurements, accurate timing of such events can yield useful positional data on the star or the Moon and can potentially detect heretofore unknown companions.  skyandtelescope.com
6. Planet roundup for the night sky.  From the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn adorning the evening sky to the terrestrial worlds Mars (evening) and Venus (morning) there is no shortage of planets (shining with steady untwinkling light) visible to the naked eye.
7. Cosmos wrap up from last night.  Delighted to see more astronomers from history making their way into the narrative of the show.  John and William Herschel for example.  We enjoyed the discussion and description of the relationship between distance and time.  We also appreciated the tribute to Carl Sagan towards teh end and the role he played in influencing Tyson when he was just embarking onto his astronomy career.

Thanks for listening!

-YorkUniverse Team

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YorkUniverse is a co-production of Astronomy.FM and the York University Astronomical Observatory. For more information on us, check out the following links:

webpage: www.yorkuniverse.com

twitter: @YorkUniverse

AFM page: astronomy.fm/yorkuniverse

Observatory webpage: www.yorkobservatory.com

Observatory twitter: @YorkObservatory

Cosmos YES, Congress NO

Show notes for Episode 188, April 10th 2014
Hosts: Paul, Rob C, Hugh, Julie(background)
Title: Cosmos YES, Congress NO

Tonight’s show is full of people!  Starting with the birthday shout-out to Yuri Gagarin (first man in space)  we progress quickly to all the amazing women who have contributed so significantly to modern astronomy (celebrating International Women’s Day).  On the downside, we lament the cuts in the NASA budget and the impact that a world crisis can have on astronomy and space science.  On the upside, we revel in the reboot of Cosmos, commenting upon the opening episode this past week.

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. March 7th, 1962 – Launch of OSO 1 (Orbiting Solar Observatory), first astronomy satellite; main mission was to study the Sun but also to look at celestial sources of UV light, X-rays and gamma-radiation (Suggested by Jen) NASA, wiki
2. March 10th, 1977 – The rings of Uranus were discovered (Suggested by Jen) – although William Herschel apparently observed them in 1789, it is debated whether or not he could have seen them because they are so faint wiki
3. March 10th, 1814 – Spectral Analysis – first observed by Joseph von Fraunhofer (Suggested by Jen) DW, wiki
4. March 9 1934 birthday for Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, April 12, 1961.

News:
1. International Women’s Day: March 8th, 2014. Shout-out to astronomers past and present:  Jocelyn Bell Burnell (b. 1943), Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941), Sandra Faber (b. 1944), Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), Helen Sawyer Hogg (1905-1993), Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921), Cecila Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979), Vera Rubin (b. 1929), Carolyn Shoemaker (b. 1929), and Jill Tarter (b. 1944).
2. Asteroids whizzed by Earth.  At distance of roughly 350 000 kilometers, placing its passage inside the orbit of the Moon (385 000 km), th 25-30 metre-wide asteroid DX110 passed the Earth on March 5th, 2014.  DX110 is bigger than the Chelyabinsk meteor (20 metres) but smaller than Tunguska (60 metres). Two other asteroids, 2014 EC and 2014 EF,  also passed even closer, but were slightly smaller at about 10 metres in diameter.  These flybys are not rare, but NASA’s JPL Near-Earth Object Program is constantly watching for these objects. (Suggested Reading: 2014 DX110 Wiki, Bad Astronomy article, NASA)
3. New NASA budget request to the White House. The 2015 NASA Budget proposal has about a 1% cut compared to the 2014 budget; but when your total budget is billions of dollars, as NASA’s is, a 1% cut is 100millions of dollars (in context, the total national budget is trillions of dollars – so NASA’s total budget is less than 0.5% of that).  Areas that may receive more money: space technology (e.g., asteroid capture), commercial spaceflight (e.g., buying launches from SpaceX), heliophysics, new Europa mission (see below).  Areas that may receive cuts: earth science, astrophysics, planetary science, and education.
MER Opportunity and LRO are not on the actual request for funding, they’re on the “wish list” so they’ll probably be gone, CASSINI, CURIOSITY (obviously) and most of the other planetary missions will stay. NASA has committed to a new discovery mission starting in FY15, not sure what it will be these are the “small” 450 million dollar missions like DAWN, GRAIL and Kepler (my favourite!) Pu-238 production will continue to be funded! Yay! This is important for missions to the outer regions of the solar system, so it’s great to see that NASA is going to keep making this. They will be funding 133 million for an asteroid redirect mission, of which details are fairly limited, but 20 million will go to observing near earth objects. SOFIA got mothballed. This is bad! Education funding down by ¼, which is also bad. (Suggested Reading: NASA Fiscal Year Request Summary, Bad Astronomy article,)
Better breakdown from planetary society
Details on SOFIA
4. Ukraine-Crimea influencing astronomy? The impact of the Ukraine-Crimea conflict and a possible “sanctions showdown” with the US could imperil the ISS and indeed other NASA/DoD ;launches.  Soyuz remains the only way for people to reach the ISS and the Atlas 5 main engine is supplied by Russia.  Thus, could US space efforts be a casualty of the current eastern European crisis?
5. Europa Clipper.  One of the missions earmarked for funds in the above budget is the probe to Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa.  The launch date could be as early as the 2020s, and would see the Clipper flyby the moon many times with distance from the surface from 25 km to several thousand kilometres.  Two instruments of particular interest: an infrared spectrometer to study the icy surface, and radar to penetrate the surface ice.  It would also potentially flyby Ganymede and Callisto along the way.  Total estimated cost is about $2 billion.  Europa Clipper follows in the footsteps of Saturn’s Cassini-Huygen’s mission – although there is no mention of a lander for the Clipper.(Suggested Reading: NASA)
6. Mars rock mission. NASA Ames internal study concludes that the SpaceX Dragon capsule would have the capability to perform a sample return mission from Mars. The mission would launch from Earth in 2022, a modified Dragon capsule dubbed the Red Dragon (How cool is that?) would perform a soft landing on the martian surface, collect a sample (possibly a drilled sample!), load it up into a Mars Ascent Vehicle which would ascend out of Mars and come straight back to Earth, landing in a High Earth Orbit where it would be picked up by a second Dragon capsule and delivered safely back to Earth. NASA estimates that the Red Dragon could land up to two metric tonnes of useful payload on Mars (i.e. the equivalent of two Curiosity rovers). (Suggested reading: Space.com article)
In more SpaceX news, next week they’re launching again this time with landing legs. Still landing in the ocean but it’s all progress on the road to reusable rockets.
(Suggested reading: UniverseToday article)
7. Yutu lives! (Sort of)  The YUTU Rover (Jade Rabbit) survived its encounter with the dreaded lunar night and was able to move its instruments around even if the rover itself didn’t move. As we suspected it was an issue with the rover being able to position its solar panels correctly. At night the rover hunkers down around its warm radioactive core to keep sensitive equipment and electronics safe from the harsh environment of the lunar night, however with the disabled mechanical equipment they aren’t able to fold down the sensitive pieces of equipment on the rover’s mast. All this aside, the rover was able to wake up 48 hours behind schedule and while it’s not currently moving it is still able to take panoramic and infrared images and the ground penetrating radar is still functioning normally. They should be just coming out of their third lunar night in the next few days, hopefully everything is still in good shape!
(Suggested reading: UniverseToday article)
8. Using bonded molecules to determine exoplanet atmospheric pressure. Never ceases to amaze me what we can learn just from looking at stuff! They measure the broadening of the 1.06um absorption line corresponding to vibrating and rotating O2-O2 dimers, basically two O2s that are covalently bonded together. The theory goes that as the atmospheric pressure increases you get significantly greater broadening effects from these O2-O2 dimers than you would from a simple O2 monomer. By comparing the relative levels of the two you can determine the effect of atmospheric pressure on the O2, and thereby determine what the atmospheric pressure of the planet is likely to be.
(Suggested reading: UniverseToday article, ArXiV article)
9. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos premiered this past week.  A fitting tribute to Carl Sagan’s original series and wonderfully update images and graphics, Cosmos delivered!  Apart from an overcrowded steroid Belt graphic (and an over populated Oort Cloud) there was little to be disappointed in.  For those of us who saw the original series, this promises to be both a ride down memory lane as well as a wonderful modern tribute to teh state of modern astronomy.

Thanks for listening!
-YorkUniverse Team
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YorkUniverse is a co-production of Astronomy.FM and the York University Astronomical Observatory. For more information on us, check out the following links:
webpage: www.yorkuniverse.com
twitter: @YorkUniverse
AFM page: astronomy.fm/yorkuniverse
Observatory webpage: www.yorkobservatory.com
Observatory twitter: @YorkObservatory

York Universe Ice Storms the Airwaves: December 23, 2013

Show notes for Episode 179, December 23, 2013
Hosts: Rob B., Harrison, Jesse, Lianne
Title: York Universe ice storms the airwaves

Broadcasting from beneath a 200km layer of solid ice, the York Universe crew proves that life can exist on Europa, since it still exists in similar conditions here in Toronto. They recap the most interesting and exciting stories of 2013, with too many to list here.

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Dinosaurs: The Original Citizen Scientists! November 25, 2013

Show notes for episode 176
Hosts: Paul, Rob B., Ryan, Pat
Title: Dinosaurs: The Original Citizen Scientists!

The anniversary of the first Australian satellite is approaching, which makes our resident Australian smile. Comet ISON is continuing to stay in the headlines (first it outbursts, now it might be fragmenting). Ryan and Rob were at the Science Teachers Association of Ontario (STAO) conference; they fill us in on everything from critical thinking to Steve Spangler. Asteroids, comets, and dinosaurs (the original citizen scientists)…we could talk about this stuff for hours (but don’t worry…we don’t). Thanks for tuning in, podcast and show notes below.

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Weird Quasars Have Extra Suck: November 18, 2013

Show notes for the 18th of November 2013

Hosts: Jesse, Pat, Rob B., Harrison
Title: Weird Quasars Have Extra Suck

A busy night with lots to talk about on ‘the Universe.’ Live guest, friend of the show, and all around good guy Randy Attwood joined the crew to chat about his new venture: Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Org. This is a group that focuses on astronomy outreach in the Greater Toronto Area. York Universe host Dr. Patrick Hall was also on this evening, and chatted about his new discovery that was getting some ‘rounds on the internet. Hold onto your butts.

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The Sequester Walks The Planck: Mar 26 2013

Show Notes: March 26th, 2013 UTC

Hosts: Paul, Jesse, Lianne
Title: The Sequester Walks The Planck

A little extra time on the show tonight allowed us to pontificate on the political strife in the United States. The sequestration has caused a massive amount of public funding cuts, including NASA public outreach and education. Of course the Planck Telescope delivers its news that Universe is slightly older than we once thought. Paul, ‘the dean,’ gripes over his failing Aussie cricket team (but mostly off-air). Astronomy Night in Canada starts with York Universe, thanks for listening! See our show notes and podcast below.

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