Double Post: Mini Stars & Morning Micrometeorites on Mercury

Alliteration is accessible to all! Okay I’m done. Start some science! Really done this time.  Today’s double post covers the smallest of stars, still larger than most planets, and the only weather Mercury will ever have. Humans are naturally interested in the extremes, the biggest, smallest, fastest, hottest, coldest, and every other characteristic outlier.  With stars, being so huge and powerful, we are often more interested in the largest, hottest, and most energetic.  Though on the opposite end of the spectrum, Cambridge University astronomers have discovered the smallest star in the known universe. The star, a red dwarf, has the...

Moon Size

I hate the term ‘supermoon’. In fact that is the only time I’m going to use that term during this entire post.  The Moon does appear a tiny bit larger in the sky, but it’s not an uncommon thing.  Here’s why this one was particularly good at driving headlines. The technical term for the full Moon we saw this past week is a ‘perigee syzygy,’ which I think sounds way cooler.  Perigee is the term for the Moon’s closest point to the Earth in it’s orbit, and syzygy is the term for an alignment of bodies in space, in this...

Review: IMAX: A Beautiful Planet

I recently had the opportunity to watch a brand new IMAX feature, called A Beautiful Planet.  It features incredible views of the Earth from space, captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.  Most of the footage was taken during Expedition 42 on the ISS, starting with the arrival of Samantha Cristoforetti, Terry Virts, and Anton Shkaplerov aboard the Soyuz TMA-15M, and ending with their departure. Much of the film was focused on the views of Earth, the scenic diversity of life and land that can only be seen from space.  It was difficult to see the effects of humans during the day time,...

Motivation Monday: Routine

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” – Mike Murdock                  This morning was rough.  Getting up at 5am was getting easier.  Even though I was getting up in the dark, there would be a bit of morning twilight to greet me as I left my apartment, and by the time I left the gym, the full brightness of the day had arrived for my drive to work.  I didn’t need to turn on the headlights for the drive, even in the rainy weather. The time change made it tougher.  Suddenly I was up at what my...

An Extra Leap Day

I decided to take my own personal leap day on writing about the leap day.  Partly due to being busy at work, and partly due to lack of mental faculties.  All that aside, it’s only another 1,459 days until the next leap day, so we better start preparing. A leap year occurs because the solar system seems to slightly disagree with the way we manage time.  Earth’s trip around the Sun, a year, doesn’t take exactly 365 days each lasting 24 hours.  It takes a bit longer.  A year is actually 8,765 hours, or 525,949 minutes, which is 365 days, 5...

Happy Solstice 2015!

The Winter Solstice is a strange time of year in Canada.  It’s often forgotten being so close to Christmas and the end of the year, and even though the astronomer in me recognizes the significance of the event, it’s so dark and dreary outside that I curse it!  The good news is that the Solstice, being the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, means that the days will get a bit brighter from here on in.  Even though the coldest months of January and February are still to come, I’m glad to have made it past the darkest day....

A Full 360 on Pluto and Charon

As the results from Pluto and its system of moons continues to pour in, we are seeing a lot of scientists keeping busy in excitement as they interpret the data and work to understand the complexities of the recently illuminated dwarf planet.  The fascinating images that have returned have also been interpreted and manipulated in ways that show fascinating features and unexpected views.  A recent rendering shows a complete rotation of Pluto and Charon from images taken by New Horizons. Since it takes Pluto 6 days, 9 hours, and 36 minutes to rotate, New Horizons couldn’t take high resolution images...

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...

Saturn at Opposition is Amazing!

Every year, as the Earth revolves around the Sun, we pass an imaginary line directly from the Sun to Saturn.  The Sun is on one side of us and Saturn is on the other.  When two bodies are on opposite sides of the Earth like this we call it opposition.  Saturn’s opposition for the year was on May 23rd, and even though it has been a few days, you can still see Saturn up pretty much all night. Along with opposition, we can clearly see the rings, but Saturn does wobble on a 29.5 year cycle, meaning there are times...

Exoplanet Weather – From a Colleague

I always love to chat about stories by close-to-home scientists.  I just talked recently about some University of Waterloo cosmological work, but today I can follow it up with a very close to home scientist that I’ve run into a few times.  Something about seeing the achievements of those you know makes you feel pride too – it gives us all a good reason to support friends, colleagues, and even acquaintances, since we can share in their passion. Astronomer Lisa Esteves, a PhD candidate from the University of Toronto, has been watching exoplanets carefully with the Kepler Space Telescope, seeing...