Blog Posts by Scott Sutherland

  • Astronomers discover first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone

    This artist's concept shows Kepler-186f orbiting around its star, along with its four siblings that orbit closer in.

    Astronomers working with data from the Kepler Space Telescope have hit another milestone in the search for exoplanets as they've reported the very first confirmed Earth-sized planet discovered in the habitable zone of its star, making it a potential haven for both liquid water and alien life.

    This newly-discovered exoplanet, named Kepler-186f, is just 10 per cent larger than Earth, meaning it's most likely a rocky world but more importantly, the planet orbits its star every 130 days or so. This puts Kepler-186f near the outer edge of the star's habitable zone — the ring-shaped region around a star where there's just enough heat from the star that a planet there could have liquid water on its surface.

    This video animation shows the planet orbiting the star along with its sibling-worlds. The green band that circles the star represents the habitable zone.

    "We're always trying to look for Earth analogs, and that is an Earth-like planet in the habitable zone around a star very much the

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  • Massive great white shark is largest ever tagged off Australian coast

    This photo has been circulating over the past couple of weeks, ever since it was snapped off the coast of southwest Australia, and with good reason: The great white shark in the photo is huge, over 5 metres long, making it one of the largest sharks in the world!

    This great white — dubbed 'Joan of Shark' — was captured off King George Sound, near the southwest tip of Australia on March 30. According to the Newcastle Herald, it took three staff members from Western Australia's Department of Fisheries over two-and-a-half hours to reel her in, however this wasn't a trophy catch or part of the shark culls going on in other parts of the Australian coast. Once the team had her up alongside the boat, they worked quickly, taking roughly five minutes to roll her over so that she was upside-down — a position that puts the shark into a sleep-like state called 'tonic immobility' — put a small incision in her abdomen, insert an internal electronic tag, then sew her back up and let her go.

    "In a

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  • Researchers produce amazing new alternative energy sources

    Materials like graphene (above) and carbon nanotubes are likely to be the next big thing in energy productionFaced with dwindling resources, a polluted environment and a changing climate due to the use of hydrocarbon fuels, as well as resistance to ideas of expanding nuclear and wind power, scientists have been exploring some very interesting ways of generating and storing electricity.

    One promising field has been energy harvesting, which works simply by having the right materials and technologies in place as we go about our daily lives. This can involve clothing, sidewalks and roads made of new piezoelectric materials, that produce electricity as we move, walk along, or drive our vehicles, or it can put technologies to use that are already ubiquitous in our modern households.

    South Korean scientists have come up with a way of using dielectric materials to convert the movement of water into electricity. This can be incorporated into roofs to harness electricity from rain, or it could be used in toilets to produce electricity anytime anyone flushes. Here are some demonstrations of the

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  • The Saint-François River overflowed its banks Wednesday in Lennoxville, Quebec.

    Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes in Sherbrooke, QC, as the rising waters of the Saint-François River overflowed its banks today.

    A fast spring thaw over the past week through southern Quebec, combined with steady rains that became downpours at times has forced far more water through the Saint-François River than usual for this time of year. According to reports, water levels as of this morning reached 7.5 metres, which is over four times higher than the normal 1.8-metre depth of the river, and the highest the river has reached since flash flooding in 1982 pushed river levels up to 7.9 metres, the highest on record.

    600 people have been evacuated from their homes as officials in Sherbrooke, QC, which right along the banks of the river, closed down 24 roads in the city due to flooding.

    [ Related: Flooding in Sherbrooke, Que., forces more than 600 from homes ]

    Far from being limited to just the Saint-François River, the flooding situation in southern Quebec is

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  • Record-breaking cold greets early-risers across Ontario this morning

    April showers might bring May flowers, but freezing cold just makes us all miserable.

    The lingering effects of Old Man Winter's rather unwelcome return on Tuesday were still felt this morning across Ontario as anyone venturing outside was treated to some record-breaking chills.

    Temperatures across Ontario were well-below freezing as the sun came up this morning, with thermometers giving readings for April 16 that haven't been seen in decades. Toronto's Pearson International Airport recorded a low of -6 C this morning, beating out the previous record low of -5.6 C from this day in 1980. Toronto Island's reading of -5 C beat out the record of -4.4 C from that same day.

    Cities across the southern part of the province followed in this record-breaking trend, with some surpassing records set in the 1990s but most — like Hamilton, London and Kitchener-Waterloo, as well as Barrie, Peterborough and Kingston — breaking records from that same April 16 cold snap in 1980.

    [ More Geekquinox: April snow, showers raise risk of flooding in southern Ontario ]

    The most extreme record

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  • April snow, showers raise risk of flooding in southern Ontario

    Not your typical April day, even for Canada.There's a touch of winter back in southern Ontario today, and although that's brought along the headaches, hassles and hazards of the snow and ice, it's done nothing to abate the rising waters in some of the province's rivers.

    After the nearly summer-like warmth that southern Ontario was enjoying over the past week, and the relief from the chills of winter that came with it, the view outside today came as a very unwelcome sight. Several centimetres of snow fell early this morning, mixed with some freezing rain and ice pellets for good measure, just in time to create hassles and delays for the morning commute.

    The heaviest

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  • Videos and photos capture incredible views of Tuesday’s total lunar eclipse

    Early Tuesday morning, the full moon passed straight through Earth's shadow, producing a spectacular total lunar eclipse that was visible everywhere from Hawaii to the east coasts of North and South America.

    Eyes, telescopes and cameras across two continents were pointed at the moon from around 5 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., Greenwich Mean Time, to witness and capture the event. Lunar eclipses happen two or three times a year, but this is the first total lunar eclipse seen on Earth since Dec. 10, 2011, and the first that this hemisphere has seen since Dec. 21, 2010.

    Those fortunate enough to have clear skies took plenty of photos and videos for those of us in the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec who missed it due to overcast skies, or for anyone who just couldn't stay up at all hours of the night to watch it.

    [ More Geekquinox: Saturn orbiter may have spotted the birth of a new moon ]

    Fortunately, there are three more chances to see these remarkable events, as this one is the start of a 'tetrad'

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  • Saturn orbiter may have spotted the birth of a new moon

    Could this be the birth of a new moon?NASA's Cassini spacecraft, currently in orbit around Saturn, captured something interesting going on at the edge of the planet's primary ring, and scientists believe it could be the formation of a new moon.

    The bright area circled in the above image, which is at the outer edge of Saturn's A-ring, was spotted in data collected by Cassini a year ago, on April 15, 2013, and reported on NASA's JPL website on Monday. This roughly 1,200 kilometre-long, 10 kilometre-wide 'disturbance' is thought to be a collection of icy objects from the ring that are being affected by the gravity of a larger object, perhaps 1 kilometre in diameter. Scientists have nicknamed this object Peggy.

    "We have not seen anything like this before," said lead researcher Carl Murray, of Queen Mary University of London, according to the NASA press release. "We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right."

    Saturn's other moons formed long

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  • How to watch tonight’s total lunar eclipse

    Most of North and South America are in for a treat in the hours after midnight tonight, as the full moon passes directly through Earth's shadow, producing the first total lunar eclipse seen here since 2011.

    The eclipse starts just before 1 a.m. ET Tuesday morning, but to see the good part, be sure to be watching starting from just before 2 a.m until after 5:30 a.m., since that's when the moon will pass through the Earth's umbra — the darkest part of its shadow. The point when it reaches 'totality' is around 3:46 a.m. ET. For the image below, which shows the stages in Universal Time, subtract four hours for Eastern Time, three for Atlantic Time, five for Central time, etc.

    Stages of the lunar eclipse, with times in UTC/GMT.

    [ Related: Rare ‘tetrad’ of total lunar eclipses begins next week ]

    You don't need any special equipment to see the eclipse, and unlike a solar eclipse, it's perfectly fine to watch a lunar eclipse without eye protection. However, for places where the view is going to be spoiled by the weather, some extra help may

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  • Snow, sub-zero temperatures ahead for Prairies and Central Canada

    The country tapped into some balmy April weather recently, but alas, it was not meant to last, as the rest of this week is going to feel like we got dragged back into early March.

    A storm system sweeping in from the U.S. Midwest is already spreading rain throughout Ontario this morning and blasting southern regions with wind gusts up to 85 kilometres per hour. This is making garbage day particularly challenging in some parts of southwestern Ontario:

    This afternoon is when things are expected to take a turn, though, as parting shot from the polar vortex mixes some frigid air into the storm, causing temperatures to plummet. With the rain combining with a dip towards freezing temperatures overnight, this is going to mean the potential for freezing rain across southern Ontario starting this evening, and even a few

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