Polar Asterisms

Have you ever seen the North star, Polaris? It’s decently bright and very close to the North celestial pole.  Lining up with the rotation axis of the Earth, the North celestial pole is the point in the sky that never moves, day or night.  If you know how to find Polaris, it becomes easy to find the cardinal directions and navigate by the stars. And finding it simply requires finding the big dipper, a bright and easily recognizable object.  The same rules apply in the southern hemisphere.  But even though there is no southern star, there is another fantastic object in the South that can guide you to the...

Polar Seasons

A few days ago we passed the Autumnal Equinox, and said goodbye to Summer in the northern hemisphere, as the southern hemisphere welcomed Spring.  This is all due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis at 23.5 degrees.  As it orbits the Earth, the tilt alternately points the hemispheres toward direct sunlight, bringing summer during that time and winter 6 months later. But what about the North and South pole? What happens there? In summertime, because the North pole is actually tilted toward the Sun, the region receives direct sunlight for 6 months! The Sun just never sets!  Check out...

Big Discovery Close to Home

I see so many amazing discoveries from educational institutions around the world, as they do cutting edge research in a variety of space-related fields.  But I am truly excited when a discovery is made close to home, at a university here in Ontario, Canada.  A PhD candidate from Queen’s University named Matt Schultz has discovered the first ever massive binary star in which both stars have magnetic fields, a star called epsilon Lupi. Why is this a big deal? Well if you’ve done a bit of astronomy in school, you’ll know that stars like the Sun have huge magnetic fields....

Happy Winter Solstice

Time to celebrate! It’s the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and the longest in the southern.  The first day of Winter here, and the first of Summer down south.  Although as a Canadian, Winter usually starts a lot earlier. Why do we have seasons? A common misconception is that the Earth is closer to the Sun in Summer, and further in Winter.  Well I can tell you the Earth reaches perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) on January 3rd, and it certainly isn’t a warm day in Canada, historically speaking. So the reason for the...