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The Star Spot

Science Podcasts

The astronomy and space exploration podcast

The astronomy and space exploration podcast


Toronto, ON


The astronomy and space exploration podcast






Episode 185: Did a Supernova Cause a Mass Extinction?, with Brian Fields

Feature Guest: Brian Fields By now we are all familiar with the theory that an asteroid brought to an end the age of the dinosaurs, a period of domination that had lasted 167 million years. But asteroids are not the only harbingers of doom that lurk in the darkness of space. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Brian Fields, whose research team has found evidence linking supernovae events in deep space to mass extinction events in deep time. Current in Space Tony reports on the...


Episode 184: The Milky Way's First Fast Radio Burst, with Sandro Mereghetti

Feature Guest: Sandro Mereghetti Fast radio bursts are a new mystery in astronomy. These highly energetic events of unknown origin were first discovered in 2007 out in deep space. Now a team is reporting the first fast radio burst to emanate from our own Milky Way Galaxy. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Sandro Mereghetti, whose team is on the hunt for the source of this unusual phenomenon. Current in Space Camilla shares the remarkable discovery, or rather re-discovery, of the...


Episode 183: COVID-19 Meets the NASA Space Apps Challenge, with James Slifierz

Feature Guest: James Slifierz The NASA Space Apps Challenge is a feverish annual hackathon engaging teams of coders, scientists and storytellers around the world. Each year thousands of participants in over 75 countries compete to solve real-world problems in Earth and in space. As the Challenge celebrates its 10 year anniversary it faces one of the most demanding challenges of our generation: COVID-19. To discuss how NASA is turning the global pandemic from a challenge into an opportunity,...


Episode 182: Planet Nine or Black Hole One, with Jakub Scholtz

Feature Guest: Jakub Scholtz We’ve long believed that membership in the solar system’s planetary family was limited to those eight planets we learned about in grade school. But then astronomers began to raise the possibility of a new super-Earth-sized planet, five to ten times the mass of Earth, orbiting far off in the outer solar system. Now if you thought the concept of Planet Nine was astonishing, consider if the mysterious body wasn’t a planet at all - but a black hole. That’s right,...


Episode 181: Reports of Betelgeuse’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated, with Emily Levesque

Feature Guest: Emily Levesque In December 2019, amateur and professional astronomers held their breath as the red supergiant Betelgeuse started dimming beyond anything on record, a sign the behemoth might be preparing to go supernova. But over the ensuing few months, things seemed to be returning to normal for this fascinating star. To solve the mystery, a team set out to investigate this bizarre behaviour and to shed light on the fate of Betelgeuse. Today we’re joined here at the Star Spot...


Episode 180: Wormholes through Space and Time, with John Cramer

Feature Guest: John G. Cramer They are the stuff of science fiction, but wormholes are also the subject of intense scientific debate. Can wormholes provide a mechanism for faster than light travel through space and, even more intriguing, do they open the door to travel through time? Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by one of the world’s foremost authorities on wormholes, Professor John G. Cramer, to share results from his thought experiments on wormholes and his laboratory...


Episode 179: Dreams of Floating Cities, with Geoffrey Landis

Feature Guest: Geoffrey A. Landis When we think of terraforming, we probably envision turning the Red Planet blue. But Mars isn’t the only world in our solar system that ambitious scientists have considered transforming. Imagine a network of floating cities in the clouds of Venus, or sailing ships plying the oceans of a newly thawed moon in the outer solar system. Today we’re going to dream here at The Star Spot with NASA scientist and award-winning science fiction author, Geoffrey...


Episode 178 Sibling Rivalry at the Centre of the Galaxy, with Smadar Naoz

Feature Guest: Smadar Naoz We’ve long known that most galaxies contain at their core a supermassive black hole that can be millions of times the mass of the sun. But now researchers are discovering galaxies with more than one supermassive black hole at their centre. To understand the implications of this discovery and what it could mean about the history of the Milky Way, should our own galaxy be among this collection, today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by astrophysicist Smadar...


Episode 177: The Case of the Missing Dark Matter, with Guo Chi

Feature Guest: Guo Qi Dark matter vastly overshadows ordinary matter in our universe. Wherever astronomers turn their telescopes they find galaxies dominated by dark matter. But all that changed recently with the first discoveries of dwarf galaxies suspiciously deficient in dark matter. To make sense of this baffling finding and how it relates to our Milky Way’s own local dwarf galaxies, today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by study lead Professor Guo Qi from the Chinese Academy of...


Episode 176: Second Genesis, with Jay Melosh

Feature Guest: Jay Melosh If we should find creatures crawling around Titan or swimming under the ice sheets of Europa or Enceladus, they will almost certainly turn out to be the result of a second genesis, those creatures truly alien in the most profound sense. That startling conclusion follows from a series of groundbreaking simulation that found it exceedingly unlikely that life can be successfully transferred between the worlds of our solar system. To unpack the significance of this...


Episode 175: The Truth is Out There (at the University of Manitoba)

Feature Guest: Shelley Sweeney The University of Manitoba has just acquired the largest collection of UFO related material. Prominent Canadian ufologist Christ Rutkowski has made a donation of over 30,000 documents, photos, artifacts and government reports, including files relating to the famous 1967 Falcon Lake Incident, involving a purported physical contact with a mysterious craft. Whether you’re intrigued by the phenomenon of belief or you believe in the phenomenon, the extraordinary...


Episode 174: Fuzzy Dark Matter, with Lachlan Lancaster

Feature Guest: Lachlan Lancaster Quantum mechanics is strange. Until recently we could comfort ourselves with the belief that its odd properties were safely confined to the world of the microscopic. But what if quantum mechanical effects were suddenly magnified to cosmological scales. Imagine the quantum mechanical interference pattern spread across clusters of galaxies. That’s a possibility, according to a new theory of dark matter known as fuzzy dark matter, which imagines dark matter...


Episode 173: Discovering an Ancient Oasis, with William Rapin

Feature Guest: William Rapin Welcome to Sutton Island, here in the middle of a beautiful and rugged landscape consisting of shallow lakes filled with salts and minerals. It’s a common vista on this world, and while the world in question is not our home, ancient Mars may well have been someone’s home. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by William Rapin, with reports from the latest discoveries of the Mars Curiosity rover and why one of the Principal Investigators of NASA’s Viking...


Episode 172: The Hubble Not-So Constant

Feature Guest: Sherry Suyu The Hubble constant, which measures the expansion rate of the cosmos, may not be a constant after all, and if that’s true it means we’re missing something big in our understanding of the universe. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Sherry Suyu, who leads the aptly named H0LiCOW project which uses the phenomenon of gravitationally lensed quasars to measure the expansion rate of the universe. Current in Space Tony reports on a fascinating yet...


Episode 171: Ploonets: When Moons Go Rogue, with Jorge Zuluaga

Feature Guest: Jorge Zuluaga Astronomers have yet to confirm a single detection of an exomoon, that is a moon orbiting a planet outside our solar system. Now it turns out at least part of the explanation is that we may have been looking in the wrong place all this time. Introducing ploonets. No, I did not just mispronounce the word planet. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Jorge Zuluaga, whose team coined the name to describe a moon that has gone rogue, and while it may sound...


Episode 170: The Mystery of Fast Radio Bursts, with Vikram Ravi

Feature Guest: Vikram Ravi They come to us from deep space. They last a tiny fraction of a second. They contain as much energy as the sun’s total output in 80 years. Yet we still haven’t figured out what causes these so-called Fast Radio Bursts or FRBs. I don’t want to say it’s aliens, but... no, it’s probably not aliens. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by Professor Vikram Ravi whose team is quickly zeroing in on the origin of these bizarre FRBs. Current in Space Amelia and Tony...


Episode 169: Science at the Limits (Part 2)

Feature Guest: Dan Falk Scientists are finding themselves increasingly squeezed between academics sounding the limits of science and a public increasingly taken in by pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. Today we conclude our review of science under attack with science writer Dan Falk. Current in Space NASA is looking to make space exploration a little greener, and Joseph and Tony report on their latest invention: an environmentally-friendly spacecraft fuel that may eventually replace...


Episode 168: Celebrating Apollo + Science at the Limits (Part 1)

Feature Guest: Dan Falk Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by science writer Dan Falk. We’ll start today’s interview with a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the landing of humans on the moon and the internationalism of that critical moment. But then, 50 years after this triumph of science, we’re going to confront head on a set of old and new challenges to the scientific enterprise itself. All the fascinating research and discoveries we share at The Star Spot rests on basic...


Episode 167: Current in Space + The Best of The Star Spot: Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt

Feature Guest: Brian Schmidt Today we offer a best of from our vault here at The Star Spot. We dug back to a fan favourite, our December 2014 interview with Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, who won the biggest prize in science for discovering the accelerating universe. The 1929 discovery of the expanding universe by Edwin Hubble forever changed our picture of the cosmos and our understanding of our place in the universe. In 1998 we learned that wasn’t the only surprise. That’s when two teams...


Episode 166: Nanodiamonds are Forever, with Jane Greaves

Feature Guest: Jane Greaves Remember that nursery rhyme, “Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky?” Well they were on to something, because it turns out diamonds - albeit nanodiamonds - are ubiquitous across the Milky Way galaxy. So-called diamond dust is even here in our own solar system. Today we’re joined at The Star Spot by Professor Jane Greaves, whose team made the discovery that unexpectedly solved a long standing astronomical mystery. Current in Space Simon explains...