• Just in time for Earth Day, sky-watchers get a treat as the Lyrid meteor shower peaks late night on Wed. Apr. 22 into the following morning.

    And with the moon setting mid-evening and leaving behind perfectly dark skies, this annual celestial fireworks show promises to put on a great performance and generate as many as 15 to 20 shooting stars per hour.

    As with most other annual meteor showers, the Lyrids are produced by a cloud of tiny particles, each being no bigger than a grain of sand. Streams of this stuff float in space and are debris that has been shed from a passing comet.
    Each time a comet makes a close flyby of the Sun, its ice begins to melt, releasing trapped grains and even rocks that settle into the same orbit as the parent comet has around the sun.

    In the case of the Lyrids this week, the meteors all once called comet Thatcher their home. This dirty snowball loops around the sun every 415 years, last appearing in our neighbourhood back in 1861. The egg-shaped orbit of the

    Read More »from Lyrid meteor shower peaks tonight: How to watch from home
  • Photo: Yahoo7 News/SuppliedPhoto: Yahoo7 News/Supplied

    Aliens, cosmic phenomena or humans? Astronomers are puzzled as to what the true origins are of a series of so-called Fast Radio Bursts (FSBs) detected eleven separate times over the past decade.

    While media reports this month have focused on how radio astronomers have pinned down the source of one type of radio signal known as perytons emanating from lowly microwave ovens right here on Earth, the mystery and excitement over FRBs has only deepened.

    “People are now largely convinced that perytons are local signals. Yet the microwave oven does not explain all,” said co-author of the new study and astronomer John Learned from the University of Hawaii in Manoa.

    “This is why we put our hypothesis out there… to test it in a scientific manner.  When we see new data we will know better.”

    Since 2001 radio telescopes have been picking up these rare bursts that last only a few milliseconds but are thought to be generated by some kind of source that releases as much energy as the sun and is no

    Read More »from Is that you, ET? Unusual radio signal fuels belief of intelligent life in the universe
  • Cosmic Nebula (Thinkstock)Cosmic Nebula (Thinkstock)

    It seems that glitter is not just for disco balls and crafts anymore but may in fact could be the next big thing in our exploration of the universe.  NASA announced this week that it is funding an innovative research project, dubbed Orbiting Rainbows, that is looking into using clouds of these shiny beads as a mirror for future space telescopes.

    The big issue with today’s space telescopes is that they weigh tons and it is extremely expensive to launch them. Current costs of placing an asset into orbit is running at about $10,000 per pound, meaning that just to have a larger telescope mission lift off the Earth could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.  

    While the Hubble space telescope got a convenient ride into orbit tucked away in the school bus sized cargo hold of the now retired space shuttles, engineers have to come up with innovative ways of packing up large telescopes. A great example of this is the James Webb Space Telescope that is currently under final preparations for a 2018

    Read More »from Glitter could be the key to seeing distant planets, experts say
  • An artist's illustration of the Thirty-Meter Telescope in Hawaii. (Space.com)An artist's illustration of the Thirty-Meter Telescope in Hawaii. (Space.com)

    After some nerve-wracking months, many a Canadian astronomer’s dream is one step closer to reality. The Federal government has finally come through with $243.5 million in funding to ensure that our nation remains a partner in the building of the largest telescope the world has ever seen.

    The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), truly promises to be a cosmic discovery machine. It represents an ambitious $1.4 billion project to build an optical instrument that is three times larger than the biggest observatory in existence today. It will have views that will be 10 to 100 times better than anything we have now—even outdoing the venerable Hubble Space Telescope. And this incredible power will allow us to literally peer into the most distant corners of the Universe and explore alien worlds like never before. The goal is to be able to shed light on some of the most fundamental workings of the cosmos

    “TMT concentrates nine times more light into one ninth the area on a detector boosting brightness a

    Read More »from Massive telescope to help Canadian scientists solve mysteries of the Universe
  • Who ya gonna call? Possibly a mould removal expert (courtesy Yahoo Movies)Who ya gonna call? Possibly a mould removal expert (courtesy Yahoo Movies)

    Ghost stories have been around for countless generations, and belief in them appears to cross geographical and cultural boundaries. But these days, what everyone wants to know is if the paranormal phenomena is real.

    One environmental engineering scientist thinks he may have come across a possible answer to at least some of the creepy, hair-raising sighting of spirits—and it just might have to do with bad air.

    “I believe hauntings are a widely-reported phenomena that largely get ignored by the scientific community, but may have potential to yield insightful data regarding human experiences as related to indoor air quality,” explained Shane Rogers, a professor at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York in an interview with Yahoo Canada News.

    A long-time fan of ghost stories, Rogers felt that haunting experiences are strikingly similar to the experiences described by individuals that have been exposed to toxic moulds.

    “We are not looking to necessarily debunk hauntings, unless we can

    Read More »from Real-life ghostbuster explores link between hauntings and poor air quality
  • Children attend class in Dehli, India, identified last year as the world's most polluted city by WHO. (Getty)Children attend class in Dehli, India, identified last year as the world's most polluted city by WHO. (Getty)

    We have all heard of the warnings of air pollution affecting our health, but a sobering study released last week suggests that even the developing brain of the unborn can be affected. The effect can be so profound, in fact, that it may lead to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder later on during childhood.

    A worrisome new brain imaging study carried out by researchers at the Institute of the Developing Mind, Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, suggests that prenatal exposure to common air pollutants (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAH]), are able to cross the placenta and lead to both developmental and cognitive impairment years later after birth. These pollutants are all around us, and not only include car exhaust, but also emission from burning fossil fuels for energy generation, tobacco smoke and even fumes from charred foods.

    The California study included 40 school-aged urban children born to Hispanic or African-American parents, and were followed from before birth to ages

    Read More »from Link between ADHD in kids and air pollution found, but requires further study
  • A partially eclipsed Moon, seen in an image by Sky & Telescope contributing photographer Johnny Horne.A partially eclipsed Moon, seen in an image by Sky & Telescope contributing photographer Johnny Horne.

    Early risers across Western and central Canada this Saturday, April 4, will get treated to a ‘blood Moon’ as Earth’s companion undergoes the briefest total eclipse this century.

    Lunar eclipses occur whenever the Sun, Earth, and the Moon line up such that our planet’s shadow is cast onto the lunar disk. Over the course of about an hour or so, the shadow appears to slowly creep across the the moon, taking bigger and bigger bites until the entire silvery orb has dramatically darkened.

    When the moon enters the darkest part of Earth’s shadow the lunar disk can turn a coppery-red colour known as the totality phase of the eclipse. This dramatic reddish hue occurs because sunlight has passed through Earth’s atmosphere, which filters out most of its blue light and this refracted light then is cast on the lunar surface, earning the nickname ‘blood Moon’.

    While Canadians west of the Ontario-Manitoba line will get to see most of the eclipse, skywatchers in Eastern and Atlantic Canada will only

    Read More »from When and where in Canada to get the best view of Saturday‘s ‘blood Moon‘
  • Dark, seasonal flows emanate from bedrock exposures at Palikir Crater on Mars. (NASA)Dark, seasonal flows emanate from bedrock exposures at Palikir Crater on Mars. (NASA)The possibility of finding present day life on Mars may have just taken a dramatic step closer to reality, according to a new study indicating the current Martian atmosphere could sustain microbial communities.

    Until today, studies have focused on liquid water as the main fuel source needed for any life form on the Red Planet. New findings published this week in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), however, switch things up for astrobiologists, suggesting that carbon monoxide in Mars’ atmosphere could very well be the key energy source for bacteria-like life forms to eek out a living anywhere at or near the surface.

    For years Mars scientists have speculated that whole microbial communities may have existed in the planet’s ancient past and possibly even today within briny pools trapped underneath the barren planet’s ice caps and soil. However the big unknown has always been what food source they would have access to.

    As it turns out, all that carbon

    Read More »from Martian microbes could sustain themselves on Red Planet air: study
  • Sending humans on a mission to Mars is hard, dangerous and expensive. No one doubts that, but the folks running the Mars One project believe it’s not an insurmountable venture.

    Considered by many to be the most audacious and complex space mission of its kind, the aim is to select astronaut candidates from the general public, send them on a one-way journey to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet and have the entire adventure broadcast and paid for as a TV reality show.

    In order to pave the way for the first humans to Mars, the Dutch-based Mars One foundation plans on placing communication satellites, rovers and supplies on Mars.

    The space exploration community at large has been skeptical about the Mars One mission and its ability to turn plans into reality, considering the many technical, financial and logistic hurdles.  


    Related:

    Read More »from Former Canadian astronaut unearths craters in Mars One mission possibilities
  • Sending humans on a mission to Mars is hard, dangerous and expensive. No one doubts that, but the folks running the Mars One project believe it’s not an insurmountable venture.

    Considered by many to be the most audacious and complex space mission of its kind, the aim is to select astronaut candidates from the general public, send them on a one-way journey to establish a permanent human settlement on the Red Planet and have the entire adventure broadcast and paid for as a TV reality show.

    In order to pave the way for the first humans to Mars, the Dutch-based Mars One foundation plans on placing communication satellites, rovers and supplies on Mars.

    The space exploration community at large has been skeptical about the Mars One mission and its ability to turn plans into reality, considering the many technical, financial and logistic hurdles.  

    And this week Canadian ex-astronaut Julie Payette poured cold water over the much-hyped plans by saying she believes “no one is going anywhere in ten

    Read More »from Mars One mission may not be possible without advancement in technology, methods

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