Strange Hydrogen

Gas giants, like Jupiter, Saturn, or some of the largest exoplanets, are mostly made of Hydrogen gas.  The simplest and most abundant element in the universe, Hydrogen easily reacts to form compounds, especially at higher temperatures, making it hard to contain and work with.  It’s essential to understand how it behaves across a range of temperatures and pressures so that we can understand the interiors of stars and planets.  But there may also be applications closer to home, like the white whale of materials science, a room temperature superconductor. A team of researchers from Osaka University and Tokyo Institute of...

The Expanse of Time – Galaxies, Evolution, Lifetimes

Have you ever seen those amazing composite images that people will post, showing the same picture every day or every year for a long period of time.  We see how children age, how people transform their bodies, and how their day to day experiences, though seemingly small, add up to incredible changes as the years go by.  I personally love time-lapse photography, representing a long period of time in a shorter instance.  For me the beauty is showing those changes that are subtle in human experience and communicating them in a way that shows how significant they are when we...

And I Thought Hurricanes on Earth Were Bad…

Our species is just now reaching the technology necessary to detect features of exoplanets, and not just the exoplanets themselves.  We have seen atmospheres, aurorae, and magnetism on distant worlds, and now we can add incredibly fast winds to that list.  A team of astronomers have discovered an exoplanet, classified as HD 189733b, that has wind speeds exceeding 8,500 km / h, or about 2 Km / s. Lead researcher Tom Louden, of the University of Warwick’s Astrophysics group, said: “This is the first ever weather map from outside of our solar system. Whilst we have previously known of Wind on...

ISS Assembled Over Time

Since 1998, when construction began on the International Space Station, 400 Km above our heads, it has undergone significant changes.  It makes sense since it takes a long time to build anything in space, nonetheless a multi-million dollar space research laboratory.  Watch the video from NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, and see how quickly parts of the station move, change, and are relocated as the station reaches it’s current glory. It truly is a marvel of science, engineering, and technology. Watch closely at 1:57 as the Canadian made Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator (SPDM, colloquially DEXTRE) unit is installed.  A bit of pride for my...

The Seeding of Life on Distant Worlds

The concept of Panspermia is a description of all life in the Galaxy having been seeded by other life, all originating at one point.  This life can hitch a ride from star to star on comets, meteorites, and rogue planets.  It’s true we have never found evidence for life outside of our own home planet, but if panspermia is a viable theory, it could mean that life is everywhere, just waiting for us to find it. In a new study from astronomers as the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, panspermia creates ‘oases’ where pockets of life form.  As life is able...

1000 Things You Didn’t Know About the Universe #3: It’s Mostly Made of Nothing

Welcome to a new series of posts that will characterize 1000 amazing facts about the Universe.  There is so much out there that we have yet to learn, and every day, astronomers across the globe are using their research to reveal the deepest secrets of the cosmos.  This series will look at the strangest, coolest, most exciting facts that we have discovered in hundreds of years of modern science. Fact #3: The Universe is made of a ridiculous amount of nothing. What is everything made of? The answer will change depending on how much education you have.  For most of...

Galaxies at a Glance

I just discovered a new YouTube channel that has been running for awhile.  It has astronomers from all over the world who talk about their work on the biggest and most intense pieces of telescope technology that we have on this Earth.  If you have a bit of time, a bit being about 15 minutes, you’ll want to check it out!

Why Pluto Isn’t a Planet, and Why it Was Before

The true story of why Pluto isn’t a planet goes back further than you would think.  It has a lot to do with our understanding of science at the time, and a lot more to do with surprising luck.  I made this video a couple of days ago for the Khan Academy Talent Search.  I hope you enjoy it. It will be interesting as we move into better telescope technologies that allow us to see further into the depths of the solar system and the universe.  What strange mysteries will we find?

Reflected Light from First True Exoplanet Observed

The first exoplanet ever discovered was 51 Pegasi b in 1995.  It kicked marked the slow beginning of what would soon become the ‘exoplanet gold rush.’  It meant that for the first time, we had the technological capacity to discover new worlds, and science fiction soon became science fact.  51 Pegasi b was also a very strange planet.  A massive Jupiter sized world orbiting very close to its home star.  On one hand it was this characteristic that made it much easier to detect.  On the other, it showed us that we did not understand planetary system formation as well...

Science on the Ground Gives Clues to Planetary Formation

Astronomy is a science that is always associated with the sky, and rightly so.  But since the beginning of modern science there have been discoveries made on Earth that teach us about the formation and evolution of the Universe.  As telescopes become more powerful and allow us to look deeper into space, the technology to simulate outer-space conditions here on Earth has grown significantly.  In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a powerful tool called the Z machine generates quick high-energy pulses of electricity, which can be used to generate X-rays and Gamma rays to be used in experiments. Outside of astronomy, the...