NASA Discovery! Flowing Water on Mars!

After an epic weekend of eclipse talk, NASA came out with a press conference that overshadowed much more than just the Moon.  The announcement, as many had speculated, revealed that conclusive evidence shows there is flowing water on Mars.  Like seasons on Earth, warmer conditions cause water to flow down steep hills and into valleys. The speculation came due to the invitation of Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology to the NASA panel.  Ojha noticed strange features on Mars as an undergraduate student in 2010, while looking at images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)’s High Resolution Imaging Science...

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...

Motivation Monday: Excuses

Canadians always complain about the weather.  No matter what time of year it is. In winter, we get ‘It’s too cold,’ ‘wow is it ever damp outside,’ and ‘I hate the lack of sunshine.’ Yet when we come around to the exact opposite weather, we get summer complaints of ‘It’s so hot outside, it’s uncomfortable,’ ‘It’s too humid, it feels sticky,’ and ‘There’s too many bugs.’  The only happy medium for us is a 20 degree clear day with a slight breeze and moderate humidity, though I’m sure someone would find fault with it.  Complaining is fine once in awhile,...

Think the Seasons are Crazy here? Check out Kepler-432b!

It’s been cold lately.  The temperature has fallen somewhere between Hoth and Pluto, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.  It seems we complain about the weather no matter the season.  It’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too bright, too dark.  We do have a lot of variation in the seasons, but compared to some other planets, Earth is pretty mild in its climate. One such case is the recently discovered Kepler 432b.  A massive planet six times heavier than Jupiter with a comparable size, it orbits closer to its parent star than Mercury...

A Sunny Cold Sunday is a Good Day to Find Sun Dogs

When the temperature is just right, and the sky is clear, you can see some amazing phenomenon from the Sun.  It isn’t your eyes playing a trick on you, it just means you’re seeing the right conditions for a really amazing experience. Sun Dogs, known scientifically as Parhelia, typically appear as two bright patches on either side of the Sun.  Occasionally they reveal rainbow colours in their pattern, but can be quite bright.  They are most easily visible when the Sun is low in the sky. Sun Dogs are made from the refraction of ice crystals in the upper atmosphere....

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...

Testing Eyesight and Being Mistaken for the Little Dipper for Thousands of Years

If you guessed that I was referring to the Pleiades, you are correct.  The small open star cluster, Messier 45, is about 440 Light Years from Earth, relatively close for a star cluster.  We are able to see it with the naked eye in Autumn and Winter here in the Northern Hemisphere. The stars in the Pleiades are young and bright blue, meaning they are very massive and hot.  By young, I mean somewhere around a hundred Million Years, about 40 times younger than the Sun.  The smears of blue in the above photo show that the cluster is still...

Sending Astronomers to the Arctic? No more Hawaii for my Colleagues!

As the Canadian Winter approaches and our country goes into collective hibernation, we start to remind the world how cold it gets here, and that the tourist season is in July.  Still, we Canadians are proud of our hardiness and we will welcome you with open arms if you decide to visit in January. Still, if you look at a population map of Canada, we mostly live in the southern 10% of our country’s latitudes.  There are thousands of square kilometres of open wilderness to explore.  We want to be warm, but we also love our home country.  Many Canadians...