Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on October 21, 2013 – 2:34 pm -

Check out some of the cool space news hitting the wire this past week on my weekly CTV News Channel interview.


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Cosmic Butterfly Mystery

Written by The Night Sky Guy on September 16, 2013 – 2:50 pm -

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302. Credit: NASA

Butterfly Emerges from Stellar Demise in Planetary Nebula NGC 6302. Credit: NASA

New deep-sky images of the Milky Way’s central core reveal picturesque butterfly-shaped gas clouds left behind by dying stars called bipolar planetary nebulae.

And all appear to be mysteriously aligned with one another. Dozens upon dozens of these hauntingly beautiful stellar remnants are oriented in the same direction – despite being separated by many thousands of light years, and each exhibiting unique physical properties. Researchers are searching for how nature could come up with such a bizzare phenomena.

Learn more about this spectacular new discovery that has left astronomers scratching their heads in my story at National Geographic News


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Hubble Uncovers Hidden Moon of Neptune

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 21, 2013 – 7:43 pm -

Artist conception of view from Neptunes moon. Credit: NASA

Artist conception of view from Neptune's moon. Credit: NASA

Hubble Space Telescope is really a discovery machine in high gear – the orbiting observatory has bagged a new moon for Neptune – the 14th for the  blue ice giant.

At about 12 miles wide it isn’t exactly a huge chunk of celestial land but scientists are using this new finding in helping them understand how the distant planet got it’s retinue of satellites.

Read my Neptune moon story at National Geographic News.


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Trailer for New Cosmos TV Series

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 21, 2013 – 3:39 pm -

Check out the 3 minute trailer for the sequel to Carl Sagan’s seminal 1980’s PBS miniseries. This time around Neil deGrasse Tyson takes the helm, taking his audience on a tour of the macro and micro universe.  Let me know what you think.


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Red Dwarf Stars Host Billions of Habitable Planets?

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 5, 2013 – 6:00 am -

planet_orbiting_red_dwarf_large
Red Dwarf stars may be the best place to look for Earth-like planets., according to a new study.

The most common, humble star in the universe could be a mecca when it comes to astronomers hunting for planets hospitable to life. That’s because a new study is suggesting that red dwarfs – stars that are smaller, dimmer and cooler than our Sun – may have twice as many planets that are in the habitable zone than ever thought. In fact the number of these worlds- ones that have just the right temperature to support liquid water – may number as much as 60 billion. And that’s just in our own Milky Way galaxy.

Read more about this amazing new finding and what impact it will have on exoplanet research in my new article for National Geographic News.


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Weird Cosmic Radio Bursts Stump Scientists

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 4, 2013 – 2:01 pm -

he CSIRO Parkes radio telescope, which has been used to confirm a population of Fast Radio Bursts, is shown superimposed on an image the distribution of gas in our Galaxy. An artist's impression of a single fast radio burst is shown located well away from the Galactic plane emission. Fast radio bursts are a new population of radio source located at cosmological distances. Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions, with CSIRO Parkes radio telescope and astronomy.fas.harvard.edu/skymaps/halpha (background image).
The CSIRO Parkes radio telescope, which has been used to confirm a population of Fast Radio Bursts, is shown superimposed on an image of the distribution of gas in our Galaxy. An artist’s impression of a single fast radio burst is shown located well away from the Galactic plane emission. Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions.

 
 

Astronomers today announced that they have detected four never-before-seen quick bursts of radio signals that they believe originated billions of light years away. But the one problem is that they don’t yet know what caused them.

One thing is for sure – they do not originate from Earth and because they appear to be powerful enough to travel such vast distances across the universe – they must have been caused by some gigantic cosmological event. But what could that event be?

The international team of astronomers believe the culprit could possibly be two merging neutron stars or a star dying and being swallowed by a black hole.

What the sky sleuths noticed were Four Fast Radio Bursts or FRBs with durations of only a few milliseconds were detected at high galactic latitudes in the southern sky.

“A single burst of radio emission of unknown origin was detected outside our galaxy about six years ago but no one was certain what it was or even if it was real, so we have spent the last four years searching for more of these explosive, short-duration radio bursts,” says Dan Thornton, the University of Manchester and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization PhD student who led the study in a press statement. “This paper describes four more bursts, removing any doubt that they are real. And the furthest one we detected after a light travelling time of about 8 billion years.”

Radio map of the whole sky in Galactic coordinates, with pulsars found within the High Time Resolution Universe Survey (HTRU) project marked as black dots. The positions of the newly detected four Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are marked as red asterisks.  Credit: MPIfR/C. Ng; Science/D. Thornton et al.

Radio map of the whole sky in Galactic coordinates, with pulsars found within the High Time Resolution Universe Survey (HTRU) project marked as black dots. The positions of the newly detected four Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are marked as red asterisks. Credit: MPIfR/C. Ng; Science/D. Thornton et al.

Using Australia`s CSIRO 64 meter radio telescope, the team listened in on only small chunk of sky when they discovered these bizarre signals, indicating that these signals might be flashing right across the entire sky from multiple locations at any one time.

“The bursts last only a tenth of the blink of an eye. With current telescopes we need to be lucky to look at the right spot at the right time,” explains Michael Kramer, Director at Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn and Professor at Manchester University in a press statement. “But if we could view the sky systematically with ‘radio eyes’ there would be flashes going off all over the sky every day.”

The next step will be to use other telescopes in the search for more signals in the hopes of catching them popping off in other parts of the sky and in real time.

The results are published in the current issue of “Science” (Science Online, July 5, 2013).


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Voyager 1 Leaving the Sun’s House

Written by The Night Sky Guy on July 4, 2013 – 11:15 am -

Voyager is now at the doorstep of the Milky Way galaxy, according to NASA.

Voyager 1 is now at the doorstep of the Milky Way galaxy, according to NASA.

After a 36 year cosmic road trip one of the twin Voyager spacecrafts has entered a bizarre boundary of the solar system that leads directly into the interstellar realm of the Milky Way galaxy.

NASA scientists believe new data from the plucky Voyager 1 probe indicates that it is traveling through the final bubble like layer that surrounds the Sun and planets. When will it officially leave the solar empire is anyone’s guess but when it does it will make history as the first human-made object to do so.

Find out how scientists are following Voyager and what they think the future has in store for it in my story for National Geographic News.


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Small-Fry Galaxy Breaks Record

Written by The Night Sky Guy on June 12, 2013 – 6:12 pm -

When talking about the universe the conversation usually centers on mind-bending large structures, but this week astronomers announced they have found a pipsqueak of a galaxy. In fact it now holds the record as the smallest ever detected and it lies relatively close – in our Milky Way’s backyard. It’s so tiny that it shines 20 billion times fainter than our own galaxy!

What’s so fascinating about this find other than its diminutive size is what it is teaching us about the elusive dark matter researchers believe make up 80% of our universe.

Read my entire story about this record-breaking discovery and what impact it will have on our understanding of the cosmos at large, at National Geographic News.


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Photo: Famous Ring Nebula Gets Makeover

Written by The Night Sky Guy on May 26, 2013 – 7:55 pm -

mage courtesy C. Robert O'Dell and David Thompson, Vanderbilt/LBTO/ESA/NASA

mage courtesy C. Robert O'Dell and David Thompson, Vanderbilt/LBTO/ESA/NASA

Considered an iconic deep-sky object for generations of stargazers, the famed Ring Nebula is given a makeover in this composite portrait—released May 23—taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona.

Located 2,000 light-years away from Earth in the summer constellation Lyra, this psychedelic cloud of expanding gas and dust was formed from material thrown off by a dying, sun-like star.

The Ring Nebula image is just one of the best space photos chosen by editors at Nat Geo News. Check out the rest of the Space Gallery.

Here is the official video of what Hubble managed to unveil within the summertime Lyra constellation


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Wow! Horsehead Nebula Seen Like Never Before

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 22, 2013 – 8:51 am -

In honor of its launch 23 years ago the Hubble Space Telescope snapped a breathtaking, never-before-seen view of one of the most photogenic cosmic vistas in the night sky.

Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Horsehead in all it's glory. click image to enlarge! Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Dubbed the Horsehead nebula because of its obvious resemblance to a steed or chess piece in profile,  this dark cloud of gas and dust sits 1,500 light years from Earth in the winter constellation Orion and has been a favorite target for generations of backyard stargazers.

Read the rest of the story at National Geographic News


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