The Real Discovery of Neptune

Have you ever read the story of the discovery of Neptune? It truly is a triumph of science and mathematics, and part of the reason it is my favourite planet (a hard choice to make).  The story goes like this: It all starts with the discovery of Uranus in 1781 by William Herschel.  This was the first ever discovery of a planet, as the Earth and the five visible planets have been known of since the dawn of history. Thanks to Isaac Newton working out the laws of gravitation and the mechanics of the solar system, mathematicians could easily calculate the properties...

Motivation Monday: Six Months of Workout Wisdom

After hitting the gym hard this year as my main goal for 2016, I’ve learned a heck of a lot about fitness, nutrition, and motivation.  Just over 6 months has passed and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned, especially about motivation and the expectation vs reality aspect. When I started the year, my main goal was to be consistent.  I went to the gym no matter how I felt.  Even if I sat there and stretched or walked on a treadmill, I would consider it a win.  With nutrition the goal was to eat cleanly (I’ll...

Motivation Monday: Start Now!

Now! Right now! Forget about reading this post, go out and do that thing that you should be doing to make your life better. Go! Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about why starting now is better than starting later.  There are so many excuses you can make when there’s something you want to do.  “There’s not enough time,” “I need to learn more or build a skill first,” “That just isn’t possible for me,” “I have to give up everything I have now.” It’s hard to start something new and work toward something different...

Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss it

Have you ever seen a picture of a comet or asteroid in the sky against a background of stars? Here let me show you. Can you spot the asteroid? Okay I confess there is no asteroid in the image above, but if there was you’d believe me because an asteroid in this image would be indistinguishable from the stars.  They are all points of light, so how can you tell them apart? There’s something that separates asteroids, comets, planets, and all other solar system objects from background stars in an image. When you’re driving in a car and you look to the...

Take a Ride on New Horizons as You Fly Past Pluto

The rendering I’ve been waiting for is finally here! A conceptual video of the flyby of Pluto from far away, leading through closest approach and turning back to see the dark side, all together.  This will give you a sense of the motion of New Horizons, and the state of the Pluto system in the Kuiper Belt. The credit goes not just to NASA, but to space enthusiast Björn Jónsson, who created the rendering from the latest Pluto images and data from New Horizons. The strangest part of watching this was the sense of longing I felt as we fly past...

Complete 3D Map of the Local Universe

It’s always nice to know that amazing science is being done in local institutions.  Here in Ontario, Canada, we have 24 universities, and I had the pleasure of attending two of them, giving me a first hand look at the day to day work of astronomers.  It certainly helped me realize how hard scientists work to get one simple result that the public will only care about for a day or two. About 95% of the work, from grant writing to data acquisition to data reduction to analysis and interpretation, is behind the scenes, and the final 5%, the result,...

The New Moon and a Sinking Mars

Every 29.5 days we see a new Moon, or rather we don’t see it, since it’s lost in the glare of the Sun.  But a few days after the new moon, we can see it slowly move away from the Sun and become visible after sunset, with the thinnest crescent growing a bit larger each night.  You may have heard that Mars and Venus also live in the Western sky after sunset, with Venus moving higher and Mars appearing to double back toward the Sun, soon to be lost in the glare of our home star.  Last night I was...

Dawn is Approaching Ceres

…and not the ‘dawn’ we refer to when watching a sunrise.  Dawn is a NASA spacecraft that was launched in 2007 with the goal of exploring the asteroid belt by observing its largest and most interesting objects up close.  The two largest asteroids, Vesta and Ceres, have been the largest mission goals of Dawn as it has journeyed through the belt. From July 2011 to September 2012, Dawn was in orbit around the 525 Km wide Vesta, snapping amazing photos and studying the giant in detail. Since it’s departure from Vesta in September 2012, the craft has been on route...