Double Post: Mini Stars & Morning Micrometeorites on Mercury

Alliteration is accessible to all! Okay I’m done. Start some science! Really done this time.  Today’s double post covers the smallest of stars, still larger than most planets, and the only weather Mercury will ever have. Humans are naturally interested in the extremes, the biggest, smallest, fastest, hottest, coldest, and every other characteristic outlier.  With stars, being so huge and powerful, we are often more interested in the largest, hottest, and most energetic.  Though on the opposite end of the spectrum, Cambridge University astronomers have discovered the smallest star in the known universe. The star, a red dwarf, has the...

Comet or Asteroid?

What is the difference between a comet and an asteroid? The typical response is that an asteroid is rocky and a comet is icy/gassy.  Further than this, asteroids typically orbit closer to the Sun than Neptune, and comets orbit beyond this loose dividing line.  But as with everything in nature, there are often exceptions to the rule. C/2014 S3 PANSTAARS is classified as a weakly active comet, originating in the Oort cloud with an orbital period of 860 years.  As it approached the Sun, astronomers noticed that it was lacking the characteristic comet tail, resulting from the blast of solar radiation upon approach to the...

Motivation Monday: Learning to Learn

There is no question that student debt is increasing.  Since 2000, student debt in North America has grown by over 500%.  Tuition goes up, cost of living goes up, and students end up with more debt.  This wouldn’t be a huge problem if wages and salaries increased proportionately, but they don’t.  There are also less jobs available for students when they graduate.  So basically the cost of everything is going up, and when you finish school you have little hope of getting a good job in your field, and even if you do, you certainly won’t be paid an appropriate...

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...

Complete 3D Map of the Local Universe

It’s always nice to know that amazing science is being done in local institutions.  Here in Ontario, Canada, we have 24 universities, and I had the pleasure of attending two of them, giving me a first hand look at the day to day work of astronomers.  It certainly helped me realize how hard scientists work to get one simple result that the public will only care about for a day or two. About 95% of the work, from grant writing to data acquisition to data reduction to analysis and interpretation, is behind the scenes, and the final 5%, the result,...

Motivation Monday: The Secret of Working with Others

In the development of humanity, we naturally evolved to fear the unknown, to be wary of new people, those who were outside of our own stone age ‘tribe.’  But at the time, it was rare for someone new to appear, and if they did, it was probably with hostility as their intent. In today’s world, human being have naturally found themselves surrounded by new people on a daily basis.  Even from a young age, in school, we meet more new people than our ancestors would have in their entire lives.  I remember that through four years of high school, I...

Motivation Monday: The Quarter Life Crisis

There’s this new thing I heard of recently that people my age and nearby (20-32 roughly) are experiencing.  It’s being called a quarter life crisis.  It’s a time in a person’s life where they are making that change from young adult to ‘real’ adult, and although the trigger is different for everyone, the symptoms are similar.  They feel lost, hopeless, chained to a career that may never pan out.  They’re worried about money constantly, and question every.single.decision…. many times. Sound familiar? Let’s go back to the beginning to understand why we feel this way.  When we were young the world...