A Standard Candle in the Dark

Show notes for Episode 192, April 7, 2014
Hosts: Paul, Rob C., Jesse
Title: A Standard Candle in the Dark
This week, we traversed the Solar System discussing a new way to age our own Moon, checking in on the “swimming pool” suspected by Cassini gravity measurements to exist beneath the south pole of Enceladus (satellite of Saturn) and finally meandering out to the realm of the Trans Neptunian Objects.  We then set sail for the gamma ray signatures in our own galaxy (dark matter anyone) before charging off to the distant shores of AGNs and the possible (and exciting) new standard candle method involving accretion disks and dust disks around massive central black holes.

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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.

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
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

Planets Near and Far

Show notes for Episode 187, March 5th, 2014
Hosts: Paul, Jesse
Title: Planets Near and Far

Surprisingly, it took Paul upwards of 55 min before he mentioned the southern hemisphere. Though it was probably Jesse’s fault as he brought up the Large Magellanic Cloud.

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. March 5th, 1979 – Voyager 1 makes its closest approach to the planet Jupiter at 349 000 kilometers (roughly the Moon-Earth distance). It began photographing Jupiter in January 1979, and finished in April 1979, however most of the discoveries were made in the week centred on the closest approach. A short list of discoveries made my Voyager 1: Jovian cloud vortex and movements, Jovian lightning and Aurora, the Jovian ring system, Io’s volcanism, Ganymede’s tectonic activity, Europa’s surface features, impact craters on Callisto. Voyager 2 followed on July 9th, 1979.
2. March 6th, 2009 – The Kepler Space Telescope is launched from Cape Canaveral en route to an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit.

1. The 715 new planets of Kepler. On Wednesday February 26th, 2014, NASA released the latest from the, now defunct, Kepler Space Telescope. They have found 715 new planets around 305 different stars. About 95% of these planets are smaller than Neptune, and 100 or so are roughly Earth sized. Most interesting, four of these planets are less than 2.5x the size of Earth and orbit in their star’s habitable zone. The data presented in this new crop represents data taken from May 2009 to March 2011 and is specific to multi-planet systems. With these new planets, the total known is now over 1700. (Suggested Reading: Bad Astronomer Article. NASA Press Release, Science @ NASA article, Universe Today Article).
2. Moon occults Lambda Gemini
3. A preliminary report out regarding Astronaut Luca Parmitano’s space suit malfunction. The report indicates that Mission Control did not send the endangered Astronaut back to the airlock in a prompt enough fashion. Parmitano warned the controllers multiple times that the water accumulating in his suit was not a result of the drinking bag (the expected issue at the time). The report also indicates that drinking bags don’t leak as often as originally cited. In fact, the report says there has never been a case of a drinking bag leaking during space walk. Parmitano was sent back to the airlock 23 min after he first indicated a problem, and he was sent back alone. Further, station push for science may have made the astronauts overlook a possible leak (found in the suite on a previous space walk). (Suggested Reading: Universe Today article, Luca Parmitano Wiki, NASA termination note).
4. NASA offering free Space Systems Engineering courses. Today was the first day of a free Space Systems Engineering course offered online by NASA and the Saylor foundation. The course will run for 6 weeks and aims to give the public an understanding of the systems engineering challenges that NASA scientists and engineers do battle with every day. The course is going to culminate in a final project to design a sample return mission to Mars, the student who produces the best project will win a trip to go and see the Goddard flight centre. Anyone who is interested in how NASA projects work should sign up for the course. Today (March 5th) was the first day so you won’t be too far behind. After completion of the course, you will be able to explain the value and purpose of systems engineering, the systems engineering project life cycle, and relate the roles of systems engineers in complex space missions. You will also identify the roles and concepts of operations, requirements, and trade studies in the project lifecycle and demonstrate the ability to apply these concepts to a real NASA mission. (Suggested Reading: http://www.saylor.org/sse101/, syllabus).
5. Mapping the Large Magellanic Cloud in 3D.
distance 163000 lightyears
key rung on cosmic distance ladder
used hubble to measure actual 3D rotation of the LMC in space
all about measuring stellar motions
relatively easy to get rotation, one side of galaxy is moving away, other is moving towards
however proper motions are harder to measure, you actually have to WAIT for the stars to move measured average proper motion of 6790 over 7 years, in 22 different fields, with quasars able to measure change in position at resolution of 0.03 milliarcsecond (60 000 000 times smaller than the full moon). equivalent to watching an astronauts hair grow 5cm over the course of a year on the moon combine this with the doppler rotation to get fully 3D view
awesome because the proper motions lead to indications of interaction with SMC and MW
NOTE: Hipparcus and Gaia
(Suggested Reading: Sky and Telescope article)

Major Topics Discussed:

1. Population III stars
Population III star SMSS J031300.36-670839.3, or SM0313 for short  found using the 1.35 metre SkyMapper telescope in Australia. This object some 6,000 light years from our Sun has the lowest metal abundance yet detected. It seems to be the result of an early universe low energy 60 solar mass supernova blast that expelled the outer atmosphere of its envelop while trapping most of its synthesised heavy elements in its black hole core. The implication is that the early universe may not have been as dominated by hypernova as originally suspected.
Keller et al suggest that apart from H and He, only 4 other elements exist in this tsar (Ca, Mg, Li, C).  There is 15 million times less Fe in SMSS than in our Sun! The actual age of this star remains to be determined but is suspected to be of order 13 billion years old.
S. C. Keller et al. “A single low-energy, iron-poor supernova as the source of metals in the star SMSS J 031300.36-670839.3” Nature, 2014

Thanks for listening!
-YorkUniverse Team
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

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.

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Nagi Cox Works on Mars Time: January 20th, 2014

Show notes for episode 182, January 20, 2014
Hosts: Rob B., Jesse, Pat
Special Guest: Dr. Nagin Cox
Title: Nagi Cox Works on Mars Time

‘One is tempted to leave one’s mark,’ and Dr. Nagin Cox certainly did on this show. We invited the systems engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to join us and chat about her past work on Galileo, Kepler, Cassini, Spirit & Opportunity (10 year anniversary on Mars), and her current work on the Curiosity rover. In other news, 35 years ago the Soviets donated 50 kg of Uranium to Canada and Rosetta woke up from its hibernation. This is your universe, on York Universe. Show notes and podcast below.

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The Randii Wessen Show: January 13th, 2014

Show Notes for Episode 181, January 13th, 2014
Hosts: Paul, Hugh, Ryan, Jen
Title: The Randii Wessen Show

The York Universe crew was delighted to invite Randii Wessen, the Deputy Manager of Project Formulation at JPL, to the show. An unbelievably interesting conversation ensued! Show notes and podcast below.

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Good As Gold!: July 29th, 2013

Show notes for the night of July 29th, 2013

Hosts: Paul, Jesse, Jen
Title: Good As Gold!

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. July 29, 1958 – U.S congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
2. July 30, 1971 – Apollo 15 lands (first vehicle driven on another body)
3. July 30 1878 – March 16 1966), Joel Stebbins born: developed photoelectric photometry. Paul)
4. August 1, 1818 – Maria Mitchell is born (Massachusetts), first american woman astronomer.  Harvard prof!  Found a comet 1847. Continue reading

Flaring Super Moon Rising on Mars: June 24th, 2013

Show notes for June 24th, 2013
Hosts: Harrison, Paul, Jen, Ryan
Title: Flaring Super Moon Rising on Mars (made of Lithium)

This week in space/astronomy history:
 1. June 29, 1995 U.S. Space shuttle docks with Russian space station (Launched on June 27th) – also the 100th human space mission in American History.  This was referred to as the beginning of a “new era of friendship and cooperation” between the U.S and Russia.
2. Today in 1982 Soyuz-T-6 launched carrying the first Western European astronaut to go into space. Wonder who it is? The answer is General Jean-Loup Chrétien. In April 1979, the Soviet Union offered France the opportunity to fly a cosmonaut… on board a joint Soviet-French space flight, along the same lines as the agreement to fly non-Soviet cosmonauts from member countries of the Intercosmos program. The offer was accepted, and France began a cosmonaut selection program in September 1979. Chrétien was one of two finalists named on June 12, 1980 and he started training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in September 1980. The following year he was named as the research-cosmonaut for the prime crew of the Soyuz T-6 mission. To learn more about him see http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/chretien.html
3. June 24 1915: Birthday of Sir Fred Hoyle (died August 20 2001).  Coined the term “Big Bang” (March 1949) and as early as 1946 worked out the pioneering details of stellar nucleosynthesis.  Did NOT share in the 1983 Nobel Prize (with Fowler and Chandrasekhar).
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Cruising with the QEII: June 3rd, 2013

Show notes for June 3rd, 2013
: Jesse, Lianne, Jen
Title: Cruising with The QEII
It was a busy week for space exploration as three new astronauts joined the ISS crew, ESA launched their ATV4 ‘Albert Einstein,’ and China prepares to launch to their own Space Station. Jen talked about mass concentrations on the Moon, Jesse chatted about our place in the Milky Way, and Lianne told us why going to mars will make you radiant. Show notes and podcast are below. Thanks for listening!
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Stars Will Find a Way: April 16, 2013

Show Notes for April 16, 2013 (UT)

Hosts: Ryan, Jesse, Lianne
Title: Stars Will Find a Way

Paul takes a rare (and much deserved) night off from the York Universe broadcast. Dark matter has been all over the major news outlets; we chat about the recent AMS and SuperCDMS data, and their hints at dark matter. It appears Dr. Ian Malcolm was right (…sort of), ALMA has found stars forming close to Sagittarius A* (our Milky Way’s supermassive black hole), and CFHT has helped discover stars forming in the tidal tail of galaxy being torn apart. Ryan’s ‘What’s the latest?’ podcast debuts tonight! You should check it out. Thanks for listening everyone. Show notes and podcast below.

NOTE: We go live at 8 pm EDT (Tuesday at 12 am UT ) next week! So make sure to tune in! Continue reading