Of course Bob McDonald wanted to be an astronaut - Fort McMurray Today - Canadanewsmedia
Connect with us


Of course Bob McDonald wanted to be an astronaut – Fort McMurray Today



Quirks & Quarks host has new science book that everyone eight and up can understand

CBC’s Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald’s new book An Earthling’s Guide to Outer Space is out now. Photo credit: Simon & Schuster Canada

Simon & Schuster Canada / PNG

Vancouver Writers Festival: Bob McDonald

When: Oct. 26, 10:30 a.m.

Where: Granville Island Stage

Tickets and info:writersfest.bc.ca

If you are a CBC Radio listener you will surely recognize the name and the voice of Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald.

The host of the show since 1992, McDonald is also the go to science guy for CBC News Network and The National.

He’s won awards and has an asteroid named after him. And now he has a new book.

McDonald’s An Earthling’s Guide to Outer Space will be front and centre when the Victoria resident takes part in the Vancouver Writers Festival’s (VWF) day of free programming on Oct. 26.

We got the busy broadcaster to answer a few questions before he takes to the VWF stage.

Q: You subtitle is “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Black Holes, Dwarf Planets, Aliens and More.” What’s the more part?

A: There are 31 chapters in the book, each devoted to a different topic, ranging from becoming an astronaut, to junk in space and how telescopes work, so there is much more to explore than the title suggests.

Q: Who is this book for?

A: This book is aimed at 8-12 year olds, although all ages should find it an interesting source of trivia to throw around at parties.

Q: You have experiments we can try at home in the book. They are all very safe. Now, as a young boy did you do any home experiments? Any, maybe, not work out so great?

A: The first experiment I did at home when I was young, involved filling two jars with water, sealing one with a lid, leaving the other open and letting them sit on a shelf for a week. I was amazed that the open one lost water all by itself and discovered the principle of evaporation. I also experimented with balsa wood airplanes, but no explosions ever rocked the house.

Q: To some of us, just contemplating the vastness of space is exhausting. What can you say to get me excited about the topic? What is a good entry point into this topic?

A: You live on a ball that is spinning and tumbling through an unimaginably huge space at speeds faster than a rocket. There are stars beneath your feet right now, and the chair you are sitting in is speeding around the sun at 100,000 km/hr. That’s 30 kilometres every second. Seven other planets, hundreds of moons, millions of comets and asteroids are all travelling around our star with you as the sun journeys around the Milky Way Galaxy, which is only one of hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the expanding universe.  Are you exhausted yet?

Q: What was your personal entry point to wanting to learn all you could about space?

A: When I was eight years old, my mother gave me a book simply called Planets. It was a Golden Book of knowledge with realistic drawing of all the planets in the solar system. This was when the space age had just started. That book transported me to other worlds that are just as real as the Earth, but very, very different. As the space race to the moon unfolded, I figured that one day soon I would be visiting those planets. That hasn’t happened yet, but I still have the book.

Q: Did you pretend to be an astronaut as a kid?

A: Of course. What kid in the 1960s didn’t want to become an astronaut?

Q: Speaking of astronauts do you think the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 got people interested in space again?

A: The 50th anniversary of the moon landing not only got people interested in space, it reminded us of how remarkable those early missions were, how daring, and what a monumental effort it was to reach the moon in less than a decade. It also showed how we haven’t left the Earth since then, but that is now changing.

Q: Do you like going to see fictional movies about space? Or is it an exercise in frustration for you?

A: Fictional movies are a lot of fun. I love the escapism, the imagination, but they often turn into comedies for me as I pick out all the scientific mistakes, or when they break the laws of physics for the sake of the plot.

Q: Have you seen Ad Astra? If so what were those beams that Tommy Lee Jones’ character was threatening earth with?

A: I have no idea how beams in space work, whether they are death rays, tractor beams or phasers, they always have far more power than actual beams on Earth. Also, beams in space would be invisible because there is nothing for them to reflect off. You can only see beams in space when they are aimed right at you, which means you are about to die.

Q: Are there things in space we should be really worried about?

A: We should worry about small and medium sized asteroids, the ones that are the size of a house or a football field that could hit the Earth. They are much smaller than the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, but they could still take out a city if they hit the right spot. The larger asteroids have been spotted with telescopes, but the small ones don’t show up until they are very close and we can’t do anything about them.

Q: What science (excluding the internet) do you have now that you would have loved to have when starting with Quirks & Quarks in 1992?

A: So much has happened in science within my career. We have been to every planet in the solar system with robots, discovered thousands of planets going around other stars, found out that 95 per cent of the universe is made of dark matter and dark energy, and we have no clue what they are. Then there are all the new discoveries in genetics, geology and climate science … pick a topic. We are living in remarkable times.

Q: What do people tend to ask you?

A: Believe it or not, people still ask if the moon landings were faked.  Not only have I met several of the people who have been to the moon, why would 400,000 people, including Canadians, be employed to build technology that could reach the moon and then not go there? And why would the moon missions be faked nine times?

I’m stunned that people still think it was all done in a studio.

Q: What do you hope people take away from this new book?

A: I hope people will gain a perspective on our place in the universe, and through the demos, see that studying space doesn’t need to be complicated, you can do it right in your own kitchen.

Q: Star Wars or Star Trek?

A: Star Trek. They are not super heroes, just people caught in extraordinary situations using clever thinking and the technology available to them to explore new worlds. It is a more scientific approach to space exploration rather than going to war.

Q: Does your voice give you away in the grocery store lineup?

A: People recognize me from my voice and my face. I’m always honoured when it happens, but sometimes a little dismayed when they don’t know my name and say, “You’re that guy …” I need a more memorable name like Suzuki or something.



Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Oxygen on Mars Is Behaving in a Way Scientists Can't Explain – ScienceAlert




Atmospheric gases on Mars sure provide us with plenty of mystery. First, there was that business with the disappearing, reappearing methane. Now, oxygen levels have been observed rising and falling over the Gale Crater, by amounts that just don’t fit any known chemical processes.

The data comes from Curiosity, the Mars rover that’s been making its slow and methodical trek across the crater floor and up the foot of Mount Sharp in the centre of it.

The robot isn’t just looking down at the rocks beneath its treads; Curiosity also takes readings of the Martian atmosphere to measure the seasonal atmospheric changes. It’s been up there for three Mars years now (that’s six Earth years), and scientists poring over the measurements have noticed that oxygen in the planet’s atmosphere isn’t behaving entirely as expected.

There actually isn’t all that much oxygen on Mars. Most of its thin atmosphere (95 percent by volume) is carbon dioxide, or CO2. The rest is made up of 2.6 percent molecular nitrogen (N2), 1.9 percent argon (Ar), 0.16 percent molecular oxygen (O2), and 0.06 percent carbon monoxide (CO).

(Earth’s atmosphere, by contrast, is mostly nitrogen, at 78.09 percent by volume, and 20.95 percent oxygen.)

On Mars, atmospheric pressure changes over the course of the year. On the winter hemisphere, CO2 freezes over the pole, which causes the pressure to drop across the hemisphere. This results in a hemisphere-to-hemisphere redistribution of gases to equalise atmospheric pressure planet-wide.

In spring, when the polar caps melt and release the CO2, the opposite effect occurs: pressure initially rises in that hemisphere, then evens out as gases are redistributed towards the winter hemisphere.

So, the fluctuations of the other gases are predictable in proportion to the CO2 levels. Or at least, they should be. In the case of nitrogen and argon, it is – these gases have been behaving more or less exactly as expected. But oxygen? Nope.

During spring and summer, oxygen rose by around 30 percent, dropping back to normal levels in autumn. This happened every year, but since the amount by which the oxygen rises varies from year to year, it seems like something is adding the oxygen, and then taking it away again.

There is no known process that can produce this result.

The obvious question for such an odd measurement was whether there could be something wrong with the Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer instrument or software. Several checks saw that it was all working fine.

Another possibility was whether the oxygen could be produced by water or carbon dioxide somehow breaking apart in the atmosphere. This was quickly ruled out too – there’s not nearly enough water in the Martian atmosphere, and CO2 breaks down too slowly to fit the observed fluctuations.

Now, Martian soil does contain a lot of oxygen. But the conditions required to release it have not been observed – and that wouldn’t explain where it disappears to each year. The process whereby solar radiation breaks apart oxygen and it dissipates into space is likewise too slow.

“We’re struggling to explain this,” said planetary scientist Melissa Trainer of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“The fact that the oxygen behaviour isn’t perfectly repeatable every season makes us think that it’s not an issue that has to do with atmospheric dynamics. It has to be some chemical source and sink that we can’t yet account for.”

But there is one clue. The methane. It, too, rises dramatically over Mars’ summer months, increasing by up to 60 percent. Sometimes the methane and oxygen levels even seem to rise in tandem. It’s possible that whatever it is that causes the methane fluctuations is also causing the oxygen fluctuations.

What that could be is still a huge question. Both gases can be produced through organic processes – that is, life – and both can be produced through geological processes.

We don’t, as yet, have any evidence that there is life on Mars, but nor can it be ruled out as a cause. (Mars 2020 is going to look for fossils, so maybe we’ll find out soon.)

However, the team believes it is much more likely to be geological.

“We have not been able to come up with one process yet that produces the amount of oxygen we need,” said astronomer Tim McConnochie of the University of Maryland.

“But we think it has to be something in the surface soil that changes seasonally because there aren’t enough available oxygen atoms in the atmosphere to create the behaviour we see.” 

So… any ideas?

The research has been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Mini Mercury skips across sun’s vast glare in rare transit – Fernie Free Press




Mini Mercury skipped across the vast, glaring face of the sun Monday in a rare celestial transit.

Stargazers used solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury — a tiny black dot — as it passed directly between Earth and the sun on Monday.

The eastern U.S. and Canada got the whole 5 1/2-hour show, weather permitting, along with Central and South America. The rest of the world, except for Asia and Australia, got just a sampling.

Mercury is the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet. The next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another shot until 2049.

In Maryland, clouds prevented NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young from getting a clear peek. Live coverage was provided by observatories including NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory.

“It’s a bummer, but the whole event was still great,” Young wrote in an email. “Both getting to see it from space and sharing it with people all over the country and world.”

At Cape Canaveral, space buffs got a two-for-one. As Mercury’s silhouette graced the morning sun, SpaceX launched 60 small satellites for global internet service, part of the company’s growing Starlink constellation in orbit.

ALSO READ: ‘Very surreal’: B.C. students help design space colony in NASA-backed competition


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


A Star Ejected from the Milky Way's 'Heart of Darkness' Has Reached a Mind-Blowing Speed – Space.com




As humankind’s ancestors were learning to walk upright, a star was launched out of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy at a staggering 3.7 million mph (6 million km/h). 

Five million years after this dramatic ejection, a group of researchers, led by Sergey Koposov of Carnegie Mellon University’s McWilliams Center for Cosmology, has spotted the star, known as S5-HVS1, in the Crane-shaped constellation Grus. The star was spotted traveling relatively close to Earth (29,000 light-years away) at unprecedented, searing speeds — about 10 times faster than most stars in our galaxy. 

“The velocity of the discovered star is so high that it will inevitably leave the galaxy and never return,” Douglas Boubert, a researcher at the University of Oxford and a co-author on the study, said in a statement

Related: Top 10 Star Mysteries of All Time

An artist’s impression of te star S5-HVS1 being ejected by the Milky Way galaxy’s supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*.

(Image credit: James Josephides (Swinburne Astronomy Productions))

“This is super exciting, as we have long suspected that black holes can eject stars with very high velocities. However, we never had an unambiguous association of such a fast star with the galactic center,” Koposov said in the statement. 

The star was discovered with observations from the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT), a 12.8-foot (3.9-meter) telescope, and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. The discovery was made as part of the Southern Stellar Stream Spectroscopic Survey (S5), a collaboration of astronomers from Chile, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. 

Now that the star has been spotted, researchers could track the star back to Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. It also serves as an incredible example of the Hills Mechanism, proposed by astronomer Jack Hills 30 years ago, in which stars are ejected from the centers of galaxies at high speeds after an interaction between a binary-star system and the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

The location and direction of the star S5-HVS1 in the night sky. The star is rocketing away from the center of our galaxy.

(Image credit: Sergey Koposov)

“This is the first clear demonstration of the Hills Mechanism in action,” Ting Li, a fellow  at the Carnegie Observatories and Princeton University who led the S5 collaboration, said in the statement. “Seeing this star is really amazing as we know it must have formed in the galactic center, a place very different to our local environment. It is a visitor from a strange land.”

“While the main science goal of S5 is to probe the stellar streams — disrupting dwarf galaxies and globular clusters — we dedicated spare resources of the instrument to searching for interesting targets in the Milky Way, and voila, we found something amazing for ‘free.’ With our future observations, hopefully we will find even more!” Kyler Kuehn, deputy director of technology at the Lowell Observatory who is part of the S5 executive committee, added in the statement.

This discovery was published in a study on Nov. 4 in the journal the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading