Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 21, 2013 – 3:58 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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Soviet Mars Lander Found Thanks to Crowdsourcing

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 11, 2013 – 7:31 pm -

Another amazing example of the power of the internet and citizen science came to light this week when NASA announced that an online community of space geeks from Russia may have found the Soviet Mars 3 probe – which has been sitting silent on the surface of the Red Planet since 1971. Thanks to the super high resolution imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, tantalizing new evidence of the old spacecraft’s hardware is clearly visible.

Read the rest of my story on this amazing discovery  at National Geographic News


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Newfound Supernova Breaks Distance Record

Written by The Night Sky Guy on April 5, 2013 – 8:29 pm -

Astronomers announced this week that they have witnessed a titanic explosion of a star where the light from the blast has taken more than 10 billion years to reach Earth.  The faint, near-infrared speck of light from this ancient beacon, dubbed UDS10Wil, now pushes back the previous record-holder by 350 million light-years.  The new-found supernova, along with seven other stellar blasts more than nine billion light-years out, is part of a three-year Hubble survey of faraway supernovae which will offer new clues as to the nature of dark energy.

One of my expert sources I interviewed for this story put this amazing discovery in perfect context by explaining it this way…

“If we step back from the scientific impact, just as a human being the idea is profound.  This supernova exploded 10 billion years ago, 5 billion years before the Earth or Sun even existed.  Another star was here, died, and from its ashes the Sun and Earth were formed.  Life evolved, then humans, we developed telescopes, even space telescopes, and then used them to catch a few precious photons from this supernova that is older than anything we’ve ever known.  You think dinosaur bones are old?  The Grand Canyon?  They are babies compared to these photons!“

- Andrew Howell, Astrophysicist at University of California at Santa Barbara.

Read all the details about this exciting new cosmic discovery that may help unlock some of the deepest mysteries about the Universe at National Geographic News.


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New Supernovae Species Found!

Written by The Night Sky Guy on March 31, 2013 – 9:40 am -

It seems that like your favorite latte at the local coffee shop, the most violent star explosions in the universe  come in small sizes too.  Astronomers this week announced they have found a new miniature version of a supernova they are calling Type Iax.  Up until now, supernovae were thought to come in two main flavors – core collapse and Type Ia.

How common are these mini-supernovae and could there be one lurking nearby?  Read all the details on my story at National Geographic News.


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Space Ribbon Explained

Written by The Night Sky Guy on February 9, 2013 – 7:14 pm -

Credit: NASA

In 2009 astronomers using NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft accidentally came across a giant ribbon-like formation snaking its way across the boundary between our solar system and interstellar space. Ever since, its true nature has remained a riddle astronomers have been unable to solve. But now, they believe they are a step closer to explaining this bizarre structure.

Read more about what scientists have uncovered about this weird structure sitting at the very edge of our solar neighborhood at my article on National Geographic News.


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Video: Weekly Space News Interview

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 9, 2012 – 4:04 pm -

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


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Evidence of Past Mars Life? Not so much

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 3, 2012 – 4:49 pm -

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This is a view of the third (left) and fourth (right) trenches made by the 4-cm-wide scoop on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity in October 2012.credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After nearly two weeks of the blogosphere and media in general wildly speculating as to what the NASA Mars rover announcement will be, the day finally arrived. This morning the lead NASA researchers involved in analyzing the soil samples scooped up by the rover’s robotic arm held a press conference revealing their findings.  Scientists explained that they had the rover’s suite of scientific instruments run through its first soil samples of the mission by heating the soil in a tiny on-board oven, and sniffing out the various trace gases released.

Most of the rumors surrounded the idea that complex organic compounds had been detected, but that is not the case.  What they did tentatively find are traces of perchlorate – an oxygen and chlorine based molecules that has also been found in the soil by the late Pheonix lander in the high north arctic region of the Red Planet a few years back. Further heating, NASA says, formed reactions with carbon, produced methane -based compounds.  This has left scientists stumped.  NASA is not sure where the carbon comes from – Earth contamination maybe? Further analysis will tell the story.

While many are disappointment that no proof of Martian life materialized, the mission team members are stoked because now they  know their science instruments are working like a charm. Only four months into a 2 year mission, the best is yet to come and I think lots of exciting results are in store in the coming months. But as one of the Mars scientists pointed out  – patience is part of the process.

“We’re doing science at the speed of science in a world that goes at the speed of Instagrams.” said Curiosity chief scientist John Grotzinger of Caltech in Pasadena.

Read all the details and check out more photos released to today at the press conference on NASA website.


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Super-Heavyweight Black Hole Found

Written by The Night Sky Guy on December 2, 2012 – 6:20 pm -

A monstrous black hole—17 billion times the mass of the Sun and possibly the largest ever detected—appears to be too big for its galactic home, leaving astronomers scratching their heads about its very existence.

The cosmic behemoth, at the heart of a distant galaxy, is estimated to be 4,000 times larger than the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Read more about this giant predator and why it may change our understanding of galaxies at my National Geographic story.


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Record-Breaking Blast from Black Hole

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 28, 2012 – 11:39 pm -

Astronomers have witnessed a record breaking blast flowing out of a monster black hole more than 11.5 billion light years distant.

The supermassive predator with a mass of 1 to 3 billion suns lurks at the core of a quasar – a class of extremely bright and energetic galaxies –  dubbed SDSS J1106+1939.

Read more about this giant predator and how it may shed light on galaxy evolution at  National Geographic.


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Meet Mysterious Makemake

Written by The Night Sky Guy on November 26, 2012 – 5:39 pm -

Orbiting at the frozen edges of the solar system the mysterious dwarf planet Makemake is finally coming out of the shadows as astronomers get their best view yet of Pluto’s sibling.  Discovered in 2005, Makemake – pronounced MAH-keh MAH-keh after a Polynesian creation god – is one of five Pluto-like objects that prompted a redefining of the term planet and the creation of the new group of dwarf planets.

Just like slightly larger Pluto, this icy world circles the Sun beyond Neptune- and was expected to have a global atmosphere too – but new evidence reveals that isn’t the case.

Find out more about this far-off dwarf planet in my latest National Geographic News story.


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