October 2015: Picture of the Month

This is one of the two global maps of Jupiter captured on January 19, by observing the ten hours rotation of the giant gas planet with the Hubble Space Telescope. The all-planet projection represents the first of a series of planned annual portraits by the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program. An interesting feature in the picture: the Great Red Spot, the famous long-lived storm with the wind speed of 300 miles per hour, seems to be decreasing in size (if you compare the original two pictures which can be viewed by going to the APOD site below), although it is still large compared to planet Earth.

For more information, check out APOD and NASA.


Star Talk: Thermonuclear Supernovae


Thermonuclear Supernovae and the Quest to Understand Why White Dwarfs Explode by Professor Marten van Kerkwijk

If a carbon-oxygen white dwarf explodes, it will look like a type Ia supernova, with most of the carbon and oxygen fused to silicon- and iron-group elements. But it remains unclear both under what physical conditions the explosions are triggered and in what astronomical configurations these conditions are brought about. What is clear is that the standard picture, in which unstable fusion is ignited in white dwarfs that approach or are made to exceed the largest possible (Chandrasekhar) mass, can easily reproduce neither the rates nor the properties of normal type Ia supernovae. I will discuss these and related conundrums, describe our efforts to see if supernovae could result generally from mergers of similar-mass carbon-oxygen white dwarfs, and try to summarize possible observational tests.

Marten van Kerkwijk is a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, with interests covering much of astronomy but a focus on compact objects (“stellar corpses”), stars and binaries, their structure, formation, and evolution, and their use to infer fundamental physical properties. A major focus of his career has been to use neutron stars to study high-density and high field-strength physics, in conditions out of reach of terrestrial experiment (and theory, as yet), and to solve associated astronomical puzzles. More recently, he has turned to a different quest: to understand what triggers thermonuclear supernovae.


September 2015: Picture of the Month


These dark streaks seen on Mars, called recurring slope lineae, are inferred to have been formed by flowing liquid water. Recently, by using an imaging spectrometer on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), scientists have detected signatures of hydrated salts on slopes where the mysterious streaks are seen. These streaks appear to flow over time; flowing down slopes during warm seasons and fading in colder seasons. The findings of hydrated salts hints the idea that the freezing point of a liquid brine is lower, making it possible for shallow subsurface flow.

For more information, click HERE.


Space Matters

As a club, our purpose is to inspire and educate students and the general public about astronomy and space. This is why we stand with SEDS-CAN in urging our next government to invest in Canada’s space sector. The Canadian Space Agency’s core budget was set at $300 million in 1999. And it should be increased, at least to account for inflation, to ensure for a brighter future for all Canadian students.

To read about why space matters to students, click HERE.