Measuring Dark Energy Like a BOSS

When you start to think about the most massive and extreme ‘stuff’ in the universe, you inevitably go to Dark Matter and Dark Energy.  They exist as opposites, one with incredible gravity holding the universe together, and the other a mysterious vacuum energy tearing it apart.  Studying this cosmic tug of war gives astronomers a chance to determine the past and future of the entire universe. To study the immense scale of these two quantities, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) program of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-III (SDSS) constructed a 3D map of the sky, amounting to a volume...

Juno July

As Canadians start up Canada day celebrations and Americans get ready for their independence day, the world of space exploration holds its breath and hopes for a good result.  On July 4th, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter after a five year long journey.  NASA continued its recent theme of producing movie-trailer-like videos to promote the mission. Although I love the imagery and the design of the trailer, it feels cheesy to me.  Maybe it’s because I find movie trailers cheesy in general, and this is trying to appeal to the general public.  Though regardless of how I feel,...

Blast From The Past

A supernova is the death blast of a giant star, far larger than our Sun.  Massive stars go out with a bang, outshining entire galaxies, allowing us to see them across the universe.  A supernova observed in 2013 occurred in a distant galaxy and took over 30 Million years to reach Earth, where the timing was perfect for us to observe and study it.  And now that it’s been studied, the explosion was truly the death of a giant. The supernova, named 2013 ej, was discovered in June 2013 in the galaxy M74 in the constellation Pisces.  It was the closest supernova...

History of a Made-Up Planet

There are eight planets in the Solar System.  This statement makes a lot of people angry for several different reasons.  The obvious group to respond with anger is the ‘people for Pluto,’ who have an unwavering dedication to the little planet that could.  It’s scientifically recognized as a dwarf Planet, and is still one step up from a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO), so it’s doing well.  Far beyond Pluto, in the outer recesses of our Solar system, you may have heard of a potential Super-Earth-sized Planet recently theorized by Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown.  This is the other reason people would...

A Cracked Egg Moon

One of the first things you hear when learning about the states of matter is about good old H2O: Steam, Water, Ice.  Naturally you are asked “Why does Ice float?” The answer is a simple matter of density, frozen water is less dense because water expands when it freezes.  You can do a bit of an experiment by filling a balloon with water.  Paint the balloon and put it in the freezer.  When it freezes the water will expand, and so will the rubbery balloon, but the dried paint will crack at weak points. This is exactly the same thing...

A New Theory of Life: Physics to Evolution

When Isaac Newton quantified gravity, his theory explained how everything in the world around us behaved in it’s presence.  It opened a door to an understanding of something fundamental, yet elusive in explanation.   Then Einstein came along and too a step back, finding a larger more comprehensive theory of gravity, one that explained the strange things that happen in the grand universe, and could even explain things that Newton’s gravity could not, such as the odd orbit of Mercury around the Sun.  The greatest part of Einstein’s theory is this: If you use it to describe every day objects, it...

The Expanse of Time – Galaxies, Evolution, Lifetimes

Have you ever seen those amazing composite images that people will post, showing the same picture every day or every year for a long period of time.  We see how children age, how people transform their bodies, and how their day to day experiences, though seemingly small, add up to incredible changes as the years go by.  I personally love time-lapse photography, representing a long period of time in a shorter instance.  For me the beauty is showing those changes that are subtle in human experience and communicating them in a way that shows how significant they are when we...

Navigating the Cosmic Ocean

Beyond the atmosphere, past the stars we see, farther than the Milky Way, and continuing past Andromeda, we reach the real cosmic ocean.  So called because like an ocean on Earth, it is vast, homogeneous, and impossible to navigate by common sense alone.  In the cosmic ocean, an impossibly huge amount of space separates island galaxies, whose strong gravity binds them across incredible distances, dictating their course, and forming the largest and most massive structures in the universe: galaxy clusters. Because these immense structures are so vast and so distant, it requires the work of several telescopes to map out...

Major Result in Stellar Evolution

Nebula. Collapse. Protostar. Main Sequence. Red Giant. Planetary Nebula. White Dwarf.  This is the cycle of life for a star like our Sun.  By observing stars across the galaxy, we see snapshots of different points in a star’s life cycle.  It’s the same with people; If you went for a walk in a city and observed people for a day, you would see every single stage of a person’s life: Infant, child, adolescent, youth, adult, middle aged, senior.  How would you put them in order if you knew nothing about them? With people you might go up and ask them, but with stars we can...