DNA Survives a Trip into Earth’s Atmosphere

Panspermia. Look it up.  It sounds more like science fiction than science fact, but imagine the implications.  It is the idea that life is everywhere, and is seeded throughout the universe by comets, asteroids, meteors, rogue planets, and even spacecraft, by way of unintended contamination of microbes.  It could also explain why there is life on Earth. Because we still know so little about the Universe around us, panspermia is considered a plausible scenario.  To test parts of this theory, a team from the University of Zurich’s Institute of Anatomy used small pipettes to actually place double stranded DNA on the outside of...

Earth’s Shield! A Natural Barrier in Space

Have you ever heard of the Van Allen belts? If not you really should learn about them.  After all, without them the majority of life on Earth could not survive. So what are they and how do they keep us alive? The Van Allen Belts are a collection of charged particles, held in place by the magnetic field of Earth, that act as a barrier to prevent the most harmful radiation from the Sun from reaching the surface of the Earth.  They shift according to the incoming energy of the Sun, and if there is a large enough swell of...

Space Junk: An Infographic

I like this picture –  it gives good insight into just how much garbage is up there floating around in low Earth orbit. Space Junk has become a serious problem, and in the last few years has started to collide with satellites, creating more debris. Luckily, by 2018, Switzerland, with the help of Canada, will be launching a Space Junk Cleaner called CleanSpaceOne. Good on you Switzerland!

Rosetta Orbiter / Philae Lander Updates!

They did it! 10 Years in Orbit and 2 Billion dollars later, the landing is successful and confirmed.  Now comes the fun part: The resulting Science!!! The first image that was beamed through 28 ad a half light minutes showed the lander on its descent, about 3km from the surface. The landing wasn’t perfect though.  In fact it may have ‘landed twice.’  The 4km wide comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko doesn’t have enough gravity to keep the lander from flying out into space, which is why Philae was equipped with a harpoon system to lock it in place on the surface. Yesterday I...

The Rosetta Comet Landing is Right Now!

For the first time in human history we are landing on a Comet! Watch the live feed and you can follow the landing as it’s happening.  It is expected to touch down at about 11:03 EST.  The lander, named Philae, already detached from the Rosetta Spacecraft at about 4am EST, and is slowly moving toward the landing site.  Once it gets close enough it will launch harpoons (yup you read it right) to grab onto the comet and pull itself down to the surface, snapping photos along the way. The Science communication world has been following this story since the Orbiter arrived...

The Halloween-Themed Universe

I did a short presentation last night for a group of families at a Halloween event.  My job was to talk space but make it as spooky as possible and use some Halloween themes for the kids.  There really is a fine line between teaching Science and being entertaining, but here’s some of the things I did. Lets start with the following image….What does this look like to you? Did you say the head of a witch? Then yes you are right! This is known as the Witch Head Nebula. A nebula is a place where gas and dust in...

The Antares Rocket Exploded last night! Oh the Humanity….

I was blown away to hear this news just a few hours after the launch.  The Antares rocket exploded on the launchpad just six seconds after launch. Yesterday’s post discussed how the Antares-Cygnus resupply launch was delayed by a lone man in a boat who had no clue he was in the blast zone. First of all, it’s important to note that no one was hurt, including all personnel on site and in the control room.  This was an unmanned rocket, so the major loss was the resupply capsule and its cargo, not to mention the loss of the $250...

How last night’s Antares Rocket Launch was delayed by a guy in a boat

One of the funnier parts of the scientific method, at least during work in the field, is that nature is a cruel prankster.  The smallest things can derail the greatest of experiments. More often than not this results in catastrophe, yet some of the greatest leaps in Science have come from something that seemingly went wrong. Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin when he noticed that a bacterial culture had been contaminated with mold, but the bacteria did not spread anywhere near the mold. Penzias and Wilson discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation when they were trying to detect faint radio waves...

Partial Solar Eclipse Today!

Tonight, right around sunset, there will be a partial eclipse of the sun, visible from most of North America.  As the sun sets, skywatchers will get to see the moon gradually cover about half of the sun, before it disappears below the horizon. A map of the viewing area shows that the best spot to see it will be all the way up in the Canadian arctic. If you don’t live in the Arctic circle, you can certainly see the eclipse in the South-West near the horizon as it sets.  The moon will start to cover the sun around 5:45 EDT,...

An Explosive new Podcast

A Commander Chris Hadfield returns home tonight, the York Universe crew will be focusing on his voyage with a special show, featuring talk of the incredible and inspiring exploits of the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station.  Featured in this episode will be an interview with one of the newest Canadian Astronauts, Jeremy Hansen.  I was lucky enough to be a part of this interview, and am excited that it will finally reach air time tonight! Also debuting tonight after the York Universe episode, will be my second ‘What’s The Latest?’ podcast, entitled ‘Supernova part 1.’  Find it in...