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...

New England Fireball

Space dust hits the Earth every day in the form of meteorites. As much as 300 tonnes of the stuff falls to the Earth each day.  Of course, most of it is dust or small rocks, and goes unnoticed by the majority of people.  But every so often, a larger rock plummets to Earth, and if it’s big enough, it will make it’s presence known.  One such meteor flew through the atmosphere less than 48 hours ago in the Northeast USA. The bright flashes occur when a space rock, called a meteoroid, hits the atmosphere of the Earth, which rapidly...

Cometary Chaos

In 2014, comet C/2013 A1, known as sliding spring, came within 140,000 Km of the planet Mars.  This is a bit more than a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon.  Comets are small, so gravitationally this interaction was insignificant, but from an electromagnetic point of view, things were shaken up big time! Comets are small, relatively speaking.  A typical comet is a few kilometers across, about the size of a big city.  But with sunlight melting ices and liberating gases and dust from the comet’s interior, the part of the comet we see in the sky,...

A Comet Tale (Tail)

As we rang in the new year, we were treated to a special astronomical appearance of Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina, close to the bright star Arcturus in the image below.  Also visible near the top is the faint Comet P/19 Borrelly, and between the two comets is a bright meteor that swept through the scene. It’s remarkable to notice the clearly visible tales of Catalina, the blue ion tail sweeping directly away from the Sun due to solar wind pressure, and the dusty white tail marking the path of the comet.  The dust is too heavy to be swept away...

The Unpopular Meteor Shower

Everyone in Canada looks forward to the Perseid meteor shower each August.  The weather is warm, the skies are clear, and they have a high zenithal hourly rate (ZHR).  But once they are done, it’s not long before the weather starts to cool down, Canada moves into Autumn and eventually the deep freeze of winter sends our fine nation into hibernation.  But if you do feel like coming out of your fort this weekend, in an unseasonably warm December, you will be treated to what has often been the best meteor shower of the year: The Geminids. Under ideal conditions,...

The Past and Future Mars

The Past: Mars has water, and it used to have a lot more.  If modern Mars had the ocean it once had, it would evaporate off into space quickly because there is no heavy atmosphere to help keep it pressurized and in liquid form.  Mars would have had a thicker atmosphere in addition to it’s magnetic field in order to keep all that water in one place.  So where did the atmosphere go? And if there was such a thick atmosphere, how does it account for the fingerprint of excess Carbon-13 and a lack of Carbon-12 found on the red planet...

A Hunter and Lions

I love living in Canada.  We have skies that can be free of light pollution with only a short trip outside the cities, and vast areas of land where you can really get away and enjoy the majesty of the cosmos.  I occasionally peruse the Canadian made Skynews magazine, and one of my favourite parts is the section where they showcase the work of Canadian astrophotographers.  It gives me hope as an amateur astrophotographer myself to eventually get to that level.  One of the local Astronomy clubs I visited recently is the North York Astronomical Association, a group of amateur astronomers...

Astrophotography in 2015

I made a big purchase this year, one that I have wanted to make for a long time.  I bought a digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) – A Canon Rebel T3i.  The only reason I did this was for astrophotography.  I like photography in general – the idea of getting the perfect shot, cleaning up an image, enhancing details that were not there before. But after a trip to Europe where I felt I took too many photos, I decided that I didn’t want to experience my life through the lens of a camera, especially in an age where...

Rare Double Meteorite Strike

Around 470 Million years ago, two asteroids collided in the asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter.  This sent fragments everywhere, and millions of years later these fragments moved into the inner solar system, many of which struck the Earth as meteorites.  Recently, in Jämtland county, Sweden, a team of geophysicists has identified a pair of impact craters that were formed at the same time, likely from two separate impactors.  One of the craters is a massive 7.5 Km across, while the other is smaller at 700 meters.  This is the first time a double impactor has been scientifically confirmed on Earth....