New Horizons and Ultima Thule – Two Perspectives

This post is a collaboration with my good friend Bob Wegner, a professional musician, amateur astronomer, and genuinely good person. With the New Horizons spacecraft passing Ultima Thule on New Year’s eve 2019, Bob and I noticed that Queen guitarist and astronomer Brian May was on hand for the live event, playing a newly-written song to mark the event. Bob and I often talk about astronomy, as I’m always interested in his perspective as an enthusiast, while he’s equally interested in my opinion as a professional. We decided to take this event and write about it from two perspectives. For...

Review: Planetary

On the heels of my last review, I watched another movie with a space-documentary theme.  Though it started out with the human perspective from space, it progressed into so much more.  This is the TVO documentary called Planetary. It began with Apollo.  Humanity broke the bonds of our world and set foot on another heavenly body.  For the first time, we could look back and see the world as it truly is.  One of my favourite quotes from the movie came up early, though I’m paraphrasing: We are the Earth, and the Earth is all of us.  Seeing the Earth...

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,...

Standing on Mars

One of my first books on Astronomy was about the planets.  It had a collection of pictures from the first missions to each of the worlds in our solar system.   Seeing those photos, the planets felt so alien, so different, and the perspective was like something out a 1950s science fiction comic.  But now, with modern advancements in imaging technology and rocketry, we can send heavier instruments to distant worlds, and see them in high definition.  It changes the perspective and makes the world seem more familiar than alien, more livable and real.  Take a look at the first picture...

1000 Things You Didn’t Know About The Universe #6: Earth’s Moon is Big

When we see the Earth’s only Moon up in the sky, we often think about how small it is.  It’s only about 1/4 the diameter of the Earth, and at a distance of 384,000 Km, it looks small in the sky.  But often size is entirely a matter of perspective.  What we compare something to, that’s what determines it’s size.  When the Moon is high in the sky we easily compare it to the size of the window we are looking through, or to a nearby tree, or our outstretched hand.  All of this can make the Moon seem pretty tiny....

Earth Suspended in a Sunbeam

As 2015 wraps up, I wanted to share one of my favorite quotes and perspectives, from none other than Carl Sagan, arguably the greatest science communicator in history. “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love,...

Motivation Monday: Smile – You’ve got it Good!

I woke up at 5:30am this morning.  It sucked. It was pitch dark but I had to get out and beat traffic.  I fed the cats, got dressed, had breakfast, then drove to the gym for a 6am workout.  Still dark.  Finished my workout, had a shower, got back in the car, still dark out, and drove to work, sitting in traffic.  People were cutting each other off, tailgating, and doing everything from eating to putting on makeup in the car.  This is a normal day driving in Toronto, and I was thinking about how people curse and complain and...

Motivation Monday: The Detriment of Perfectionism

I am a perfectionist.  This means that although I work very hard on projects to put my best work forward, I also have a tendency to hold my own work to an insanely high standard.  It also means that when I see the incredible successes of others, I beat myself down for what I feel I haven’t yet accomplished.  It often leads to stress because I can almost never reach my own high standards, and depression occasionally follows because they can’t be met.  I have curbed these tendencies over the years, by understanding exactly what I need to feel accomplished,...

4.3 Gigabytes and 100 Million Stars in a Single image – Andromeda

When I became a Masters student, a big part of the reason I liked the supervisor I had was that she studied M31: The Andromeda Galaxy.  Since I was young I was obsessed with finding this galaxy in a telescope, and I will never forget when I first found it, seeing photons that had travelled for 2.5 Million years through space, it was my first ever experience with time travel. So its natural that I am excited about a recent Hubble release of the highest resolution photo of the Andromeda Galaxy Ever taken.  Let’s start with a standard shot of...