Tug-Of-War Magnetism

I feel like I’ve been covering a lot of stories on magnetic fields over the past few months.  Fields around the Earth, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter’s Moons, and exoplanets are just some of the places in the universe where we are looking at magnetic field behaviour.  The intention is to use our understanding of magnetism to figure out what is inside these worlds, and how they interact with their space environment. You would expect us to understand the Earth’s magnetic field and interior very well, after all, we are stuck here.  But it turns out it’s very difficult to study the interior of...

Flight of the Ionic Phoenix

I’ve spent the last couple of days as a zombie due to the time change, but now that I feel like myself, I’ve got some catch-up posts to do.  The first one has to do with today’s APOD. Can you spot the phoenix shape? It doesn’t mean anything special, it’s just the way our brains see the patterns of light from this gorgeous aurora in Iceland.  Ionization of atmospheric gases from charged solar particles doesn’t sound as glamorous as ‘phoenix aurora,’ but I still appreciate the scientific beauty of it.  Human beings are excellent at pattern recognition, and so we...

This May be the End for Philae

I remember being so happy back in mid-2015 when I heard that ESA made contact with the Philae lander.  The little lander that could was thought to be lost to the cold of space, not receiving enough sunlight to power itself.  But when the comet approached the Sun, the sunlight became intense enough to wake it back up and allow it to move some of the data it captured.   But now, as the comet 67P has moved further from the Sun in its orbit, the likelihood that Philae will ever communicate again is slim. When the landing originally happened, the little...

First Light For Black Hole Observatory

A newly installed instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) has just taken it’s first images, what we call ‘first light’ in the astronomy world.  The instrument, called GRAVITY, uses four different 8m telescopes to perform what we call ‘Baseline Interferometry.’  It is expected that tis is the instrument that will allow humanity to take the first ever direct picture of a black hole. Interferometry is a technique that uses multiple small telescopes all collecting light at a specific wavelength.  These telescopes form a line that we call the baseline.  The combination of these telescopes and...

Talking Space Flight With Future Astronauts

One of the things I love most about my job at the Ontario Science Centre is that it gives me opportunities to connect with some pretty amazing people.  I’ve met some incredible communicators, scientists, leaders, astronauts, and people from all walks of life doing amazing things.  Last night my astronomy background gave me an opportunity to work a special event for future astronauts who are participating in the Virgin Galactic commercial space flight program. The group consisted of about 20 people, some of whom were lead flight engineers and technicians forking on SpaceshipTwo.  Others were commercial development and administrators for Virgin...

The Trailblazing Heroism of Vladimir Komarov

This is a story that not many know, about a Russian cosmonaut named Vladimir Komarov.  He was one of the first Soviet cosmonauts in the 1960s during the cold war space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.  He was the first cosmonaut to fly on more than one space mission, and he sadly became the first human being to die due to space flight. An Aerospace Engineer and test pilot, he was one of the few exceptional candidates accepted into Air Force Group One, the original Soviet cosmonaut program.   He wasn’t medically fit for the program on...

Motivation Monday: Your Past Exists to Guide You, Not Define You

It’s possible you had a past that is less than glamorous, that you’ve had things happen to you that hurt you deeply, things that you just want to forget.  You spend years of your adult life trying to forget it all, and maybe you succeed. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, its that trying to forget, remove, or replace an old experience is not the best course of action.  The best thing to do…. Is own it. Your past mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you. It can be painful to look back sometimes, to remember an...