What Medicine does an Astronaut Take?

Space is incredibly dangerous, in case you didn’t know.  Harmful radiation, bitter cold, low pressure, no air, and no gravity make for a very difficult environment to survive in.  Even though a space capsule is pressurized with breathable air, protected with radiation shields, and warmed to a comfortable temperature, the effects of microgravity are still damaging to the human body.  We know that astronauts lose bone mass rapidly, have to exercise to keep their muscles active, but what other effects does microgravity have on the body? For one, without gravity to clear your sinuses, they get a bit clogged in...

‘Tis the Season..For the Orion Nebula

It’s that wonderful time of year again, when Halloween passes, and Christmas commercials dictate the airwaves.  I’m still in the tolerant stages of hearing bells ringing in commercials, where they remind me that the northern hemisphere is once again treated to a familiar sight.  The return of the Orion nebula! In reality, it didn’t go anywhere.  Earth’s predictable motion around the Sun means that Northern Hemisphere observers see the sky gradually appear to move a bit further West each night.  This is the time of year when Orion rises around 9pm, making it easily visible by midnight.  I consider midnight...

Lonely Galaxy in an Empty Void

Stars are far apart, especially compared to the everyday distances in human experience.  The fastest a human being has ever travelled is just shy of 40 Km/s, and even at that incredible speed it would take 30,000 years to reach the closest star.  That is an incredible distance no matter how you slice it.  Taking it a step further, most stars in the sky are 20-200 times further away, and that’s just the population of stars we can see.  So if we go beyond and talk about galaxies and the distances between them, we are literally talking astronomical quantities.  Yet even with...

Motivation Monday: Excuses

Canadians always complain about the weather.  No matter what time of year it is. In winter, we get ‘It’s too cold,’ ‘wow is it ever damp outside,’ and ‘I hate the lack of sunshine.’ Yet when we come around to the exact opposite weather, we get summer complaints of ‘It’s so hot outside, it’s uncomfortable,’ ‘It’s too humid, it feels sticky,’ and ‘There’s too many bugs.’  The only happy medium for us is a 20 degree clear day with a slight breeze and moderate humidity, though I’m sure someone would find fault with it.  Complaining is fine once in awhile,...

One Night with Mars, One with Venus – The Moving Moon

Yesterday I posted some of my own photos of the Moon and Mars in conjunction from the night before.  Last night I went out again knowing that there was another planetary conjunction in the works.  The Moon was now with Venus.  People on the internet and in person were asking me “Mars? I thought the Moon was near Venus,” and “Venus? I thought the Moon was near Mars.”  It really speaks to the fact that most people don’t realize how quickly the sky changes from the point of view of an Earthbound observer.  So what happened between the Mars-Moon and...

The Moon, Mars, and Venus are Shining Together

Even though the weather has been insanely cold in Canada the past few weeks, there is an upside for astronomers.  Call me a perpetual optimist, but when it’s colder in Canada than it is on Mars, you have to find some kind of silver lining. The upside is that colder weather and clear skies are sometimes synonymous.  I’m not a meteorologist so I don’t have any reason to go into detail as to why, but we have had a lot of cold, clear evenings.  I’ve had a chance to go outside and test my new DSLR camera, at least for a...

Think the Seasons are Crazy here? Check out Kepler-432b!

It’s been cold lately.  The temperature has fallen somewhere between Hoth and Pluto, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.  It seems we complain about the weather no matter the season.  It’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too bright, too dark.  We do have a lot of variation in the seasons, but compared to some other planets, Earth is pretty mild in its climate. One such case is the recently discovered Kepler 432b.  A massive planet six times heavier than Jupiter with a comparable size, it orbits closer to its parent star than Mercury...

A Sunny Cold Sunday is a Good Day to Find Sun Dogs

When the temperature is just right, and the sky is clear, you can see some amazing phenomenon from the Sun.  It isn’t your eyes playing a trick on you, it just means you’re seeing the right conditions for a really amazing experience. Sun Dogs, known scientifically as Parhelia, typically appear as two bright patches on either side of the Sun.  Occasionally they reveal rainbow colours in their pattern, but can be quite bright.  They are most easily visible when the Sun is low in the sky. Sun Dogs are made from the refraction of ice crystals in the upper atmosphere....

Sending Astronomers to the Arctic? No more Hawaii for my Colleagues!

As the Canadian Winter approaches and our country goes into collective hibernation, we start to remind the world how cold it gets here, and that the tourist season is in July.  Still, we Canadians are proud of our hardiness and we will welcome you with open arms if you decide to visit in January. Still, if you look at a population map of Canada, we mostly live in the southern 10% of our country’s latitudes.  There are thousands of square kilometres of open wilderness to explore.  We want to be warm, but we also love our home country.  Many Canadians...