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The Star Spot

177 EpisodesProduced by Justin TrottierWebsite

The astronomy and space exploration podcast

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

February 3rd, 2020


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 …

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

January 20th, 2020


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 …

Episode 176: Second Genesis, with Jay Melosh

January 6th, 2020


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 …

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

December 23rd, 2019


Feature Guest: Shelley Sweeney

The University of Manitoba has just acquired the largest collection of UFO related material. Prominent Canadian …

Episode 174: Fuzzy Dark Matter, with Lachlan Lancaster

November 25th, 2019


Feature Guest: Lachlan Lancaster

Quantum mechanics is strange. Until recently we could comfort ourselves with the belief that its odd properties were …

Episode 173: Discovering an Ancient Oasis, with William Rapin

November 11th, 2019


Feature Guest: William Rapin

Welcome to Sutton Island, here in the middle of a beautiful and rugged landscape consisting of shallow lakes filled with …

Episode 172: The Hubble Not-So Constant

September 16th, 2019


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 …

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

September 2nd, 2019


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 …

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

August 19th, 2019


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 …

Episode 169: Science at the Limits (Part 2)

August 5th, 2019


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 …

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

July 22nd, 2019


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 …

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

July 8th, 2019


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 …

Episode 166: Nanodiamonds are Forever, with Jane Greaves

June 10th, 2019


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 …

Episode 165: Landing on Europa, with Cynthia Phillips

May 27th, 2019


Feature Guest: Cynthia Phillips

In the 1970s, the Viking landers performed historic experiments aimed at detecting life in the Martian soil. The …

Episode 164: Jupiter's Ancient Odyssey, with Simona Pirani

April 29th, 2019


Feature Guest: Simona Pirani

The planet Jupiter occupies a position today that is far from its home 4.5 billion years ago, a destination resulting …

Episode 163: The Ring Worlds of Saturn, with Bonnie Buratti

April 15th, 2019


Feature Guest: Bonnie Buratti

The spacecraft Cassini went out in spectacular fashion, travelling through Saturn’s rings for a final death dive into …

Episode 162: The End is Nowhere Near Nigh, with Fred Adams

March 18th, 2019


Feature Guest: Fred Adams

If you thought the far distant future of our universe was going to be bleak, dreary and dark, well, you’d be right. But remember, the universe is still just a baby and it has many new …

Episode 161: The Boom Time of the Universe, with Rosemary Wyse

March 4th, 2019


Feature Guest: Rosemary Wyse

The universe is past its prime, by about 8 to 10 billion years. Sorry if you missed it. From the rate of star formation to the frequency of galactic mergers, the cosmos just isn’t what it …

Episode 160: Boom to Bust Part 1: Before the Beginning, with Katrin Heitmann

February 18th, 2019


Feature Guest: Katrin Heitmann

The Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto, hosted its annual signature symposium event on Friday, February 15th, 2019. This year’s …

Episode 159: Living on the Edge: Are We On the Boundary of an Expanding Universe?, with Ulf Danielsson

January 21st, 2019


Feature Guest: Ulf Danielsson

Our universe is big. But what if all of this was just one of an unimaginably large number of bubble universes. That’s the proposal by a group of scientists who recently introduced a new …

Episode 158: Telling Space Stories, with Rayna Slobodian

January 7th, 2019


Feature Guest: Rayna Slobodian

As we dream of space, we must remain anchored to humanity. Space exploration is a human story, and music may be the perfect medium to capture the emotive drama of discovery, risk and the …

Episode 157: How We Discovered Blazars Cause Mysterious Cosmic Rays

December 24th, 2018


Feature Guest: Darren Grant

A one hundred year old astronomical mystery may finally have been solved. Scientists have long wondered just what caused …

Episode 156: The Do-It-Yourself Spacesuit, with Cameron Smith

November 30th, 2018


Featured Guest: Cameron Smith

One of the challenges in building a future where humans are able to explore other worlds are the massive, clumsy and expensive spacesuits currently in use. Now enter into the picture …

Episode 155: Artificial Photosynthesis: Taking the Sun on the Road, with Katharina Brinkert

November 12th, 2018


Featured Guest: Katharina Brinkert

On Earth, we can thank the sun for making life possible. Now what if we could harness the power of the sun to make …

Episode 154: The Vatican Observatory: Astronomy and Faith in the Modern World, with Cosette Gilmour

October 29th, 2018


Featured Guest: Cosette Gilmour

The proper relationship between science and faith is a core question for the modern age. At the centre of this debate has often been the Vatican observatory. The fascinating history of …

Episode 153: A Reality Check on Terraforming Mars, with Bruce Jakosky

October 15th, 2018


Featured Guest: Bruce Jakosky

Don’t shoot the messenger. The terraforming of Mars has been the dream for many of us who long for a future where …

Episode 152: Alien Viruses, with Ken Stedman

October 1st, 2018


Featured Guest: Ken Stedman

They aren’t pleasant, but viruses are the most common form life on our planet. So why aren’t the world’s space agencies taking viruses seriously in their search for alien life. Today we’re …

Episode 151: New Moons of Jupiter, with Scott Sheppard

September 17th, 2018


Featured Guest: Scott Sheppard

On the hunt for the solar system’s elusive Planet X, a team of astronomers accidentally stumbled upon the discovery of …

Episode 150: At the Birth of Our First Newborn Planet, with André Müller

September 3rd, 2018


Featured Guest: André Müller

Astronomers have taken their first image of an infant planet still developing around a newly formed star. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by André Müller, whose team is busy …

Episode 149: The Question of Life on Mars, with David Hamilton

August 20th, 2018


Featured Guest: David Hamilton

The recent discovery of a lake of liquid water beneath the Martian south pole culminates a series of stunning …

Episode 148: Does Canada Have a Vision for Space Exploration?, with Chuck Black

August 6th, 2018


Featured Guest: Chuck Black

The Canadian Space Advisory Board was tasked with developing a plan to rejuvenate Canada’s declining world standing in …

Episode 147: Postcards From Home

July 23rd, 2018


Today we turn our telescopes back around to study ourself. Our own solar system is undergoing a conceptual revolution. From its chaotic birth to its …

Episode 146: Supernovae and the Evolution of Life on Earth, with Brian Thomas

May 28th, 2018


Feature Guest: Brian Thomas

We have this impression of our planet as isolated from the rest of the universe, our lives cut off from the drama …

Episode 145: Can Sibling Rivalry Explain This Supernova?, with Stuart Ryder

May 16th, 2018


Feature Guest: Stuart Ryder

When a massive star explodes in a supernova, it tends to gobble up all the attention. But what happens when that star has a binary companion with its own story to tell? That’s exactly what …

Episode 144: A Rough Upbringing: The Discovery of Stars in the Galaxy’s Core, with Farhad Yusef-Zadeh

April 2nd, 2018


Feature Guest: Farhad Yusef-Zadeh

The gravity, radiation and tidal forces at the very core of the Milky Way is kind of intense. That’s why astronomers have long doubted the possibility of star formation in such a hostile …

Episode 143: Planet Hunting Goes Extragalactic, with Xinyu Dai

March 19th, 2018


Feature Guest: Xinyu Dai

Last month astronomers announced the first ever discovery of extrasolar planets… in another galaxy! We’ve already confirmed …

Episode 142: Jupiter Transformed, with Scott Bolton

February 19th, 2018


Feature Guest: Scott Bolton

It’s our cosmic backyard, and yet our own solar system is still full of surprises. Now it turns out we were “totally …

Episode 141: The Mysterious Origin of Superpowerful Radio Blasts, with Jason Hessels

February 5th, 2018


Feature Guest: Jason Hessels

The one thing we thought we knew about fast radio blasts was that these mysterious one-off phenomena must be associated with some of the most cataclysmic events in the universe. Then …

Episode 140: How Humans Are Healing the Ozone Hole… and Might Just Solve Other Environmental Problems, with Susan Strahan

January 22nd, 2018


Feature Guest: Susan Strahan

While human activity is what created the ozone hole, scientists just announced direct evidence that human activity is …

Episode 139: Can Alien Life Hitch a Ride on Space Dust?, with Arjun Berera

January 8th, 2018


Feature Guest: Arjun Berera

Many of you are familiar with the idea of panspermia, the theory that life spreads itself throughout the galaxy by travelling from one world to another. We often think of big objects like …

Episode 138: Making Contact, with Jill Tarter

December 11th, 2017


Feature Guest: Jill Tarter

Alien hunting pioneer Jill Tarter often says the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a way for us to hold a …

Episode 137: An Alien Asteroid in Our Solar System, with Alan Stern

November 27th, 2017


Feature Guest: Alan Stern

There’s an intruder in our solar system. This fall we were invaded by the first interstellar space traveller, an elongated, …

Episode 136: So You Want to Become an Astronaut?, with Cordell Grant

November 12th, 2017


Feature Guest: Cordell Grant

On June 17, 2016, the Canadian Space Agency launched the nation’s fourth astronaut recruitment campaign. 3,772 applications were received. One year later only two were chosen. Candidates …

Episode 135: Studying Cosmic Alchemy with Gravitational Waves, with Michael Landry

October 30th, 2017


Feature Guest: Michael Landry

The alchemists never did succeed in turning elements into gold and silver, and now we know why. It takes the merger of …

Episode 134: Searching for Aliens All-Sky All-the-Time, with Bill Diamond

October 2nd, 2017


Feature Guest: Bill Diamond

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, is undergoing a revolution. There was once a time when the search …

Episode 133: Discovering an Asteroid Family Unchanged Since the Birth of the Solar System, with Marco Delbo

September 18th, 2017


Feature Guest: Marco Delbo

The main belt asteroids are among the most ancient of all bodies in the solar system. This summer astronomers announced …

Episode 132: Does Titan Harbour the Building Blocks of Life?, with Ravi Desai

September 3rd, 2017


Feature Guest: Ravi Desai

It was recently reported that Saturn’s moon Titan harbours complex chemistry the likes of which we’ve never before seen in …

Episode 131: Heavy Metal Explosion: The Rockstars of the Supernova World, with Matt Nicholl

August 21st, 2017


Feature Guest: Matt Nicholl

If you thought a supernova was powerful, time to meet its bigger brother, the superluminous supernova. They’ve been …

Episode 130: There Are How Many More Comets!?, with James Bauer

August 7th, 2017


Feature Guest: James Bauer

A team of astronomers studying long-period comets has just reached a startling conclusion. The solar system is home to …

Episode 129: Building on Gravitational Wave Astronomy, with Danny Steeghs

July 24th, 2017


Feature Guest: Danny Steeghs 

Gravitational wave astronomy was born less than 2 years ago when scientists made the first ever detection of …

Episode 128: A Shocking Theory About the Multiverse, with Dan Falk

July 10th, 2017


Feature Guest: Dan Falk

What if everything we see in our universe is not all that there is. The concept of the multiverse has captured the …

Episode 127: When Day Becomes Night, with Dan Falk

June 26th, 2017


Feature Guest: Dan Falk 

They once portended the collapse of civilization. Well the solar eclipse visiting North America this summer probably won’t …

Episode 126: SpaceX: A New Paradigm for Space Exploration, with Chris Prophet

June 12th, 2017


Feature Guest: Chris Prophet

SpaceX has blasted into the aerospace world, seemingly overnight, bringing with it a new low cost model for accessing space. But this paradigm shifting company has set its sights much …

Episode 124: The Best Candidate for Life, with Jason Dittmann

May 15th, 2017


Feature Guest: Jason Dittmann

Just last month, April 2017, astronomers announced the discovery of an extrasolar planet that has the best shot at …

Episode 123: Dark Matter Bridging the Galaxies, with Michael Hudson

May 1st, 2017


Feature Guest: Michael Hudson

If you’re like most people you probably think of galaxies as islands of stars, separate and isolated cities of our …

Episode 122: What if the Sun had a Sibling?, with Quinn Konopacky

April 17th, 2017


Feature Guest: Quinn Konopacky

The 14th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontiers symposium was hosted on January 27th, 2017 by the Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto. …

Episode 121: Scary Resolutions to the Fermi Paradox, with David Kipping

March 20th, 2017


Feature Guest: David Kipping

The 14th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontiers symposium was hosted on January 27th, 2017 by the Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto. …

Episode 120: When Galaxies Collide, with Gurtina Besla

March 6th, 2017


Feature Guest: Gurtina Besla

The 14th annual Expanding Canada’s Frontiers symposium was hosted on January 27th, 2017 by the Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, a student group based at the University of Toronto. …

Episode 119: From Knots to Donuts: Exotic Possibilities for the Shape of Our Universe, with Paul Sutter

February 20th, 2017


Feature Guest: Paul Sutter

Imagine travelling a very long way in space only to return just where you started, but upside down.  Or consider living in …

Episode 118: The Sun: Our Local Mystery, with Terry Kucera

February 6th, 2017


Feature Guest: Terry Kucera

We see it there in the sky every day of our lives. And yet our own local star, the sun, is still in many ways a mystery. …

Episode 117: The Universe is Going Green, with Matt Malkan

January 23rd, 2017


Feature Guest: Matt Malkan

Was the early universe green? That’s the startling discovery by a team of UCLA astronomers studying the youngest galaxies in our universe. Why green? That’s what I’ll try to find out when …

Episode 116: The Transit of Mercury, with Suzanna Nagy

January 9th, 2017


Feature Guest: Suzanna Nagy

Suzanna Nagy is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Vancouver Centre. In May 2016 she took advantage of a rare and unusual aerial phenomena - a clear sky in downtown …

Episode 115: Searching for Aliens with the World’s Biggest Telescopes, with Dan Werthimer

December 26th, 2016


Feature Guest: Dan Werthimer

Physicist Enrico Fermi once asked, if aliens exist in the galaxy, then just where is everybody. And for nearly 40 years the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, has sought to …

Episode 114: The Milky Way's Dark Matter Twin, with Roberto Abraham

December 12th, 2016


Feature Guest: Roberto Abraham

Imagine a galaxy that has a similar mass and volume to our own but where somebody turned off most of the stars. Meet …

Episode 113: Astronomical Observatories of Ancient Britain, with Gail Higginbottom

November 14th, 2016


Feature Guest: Gail Higginbottom

The British gave us the world’s first parliament. And now it turns out the ancient British may have been among the world’s first astronomers. Today we’re joined here at The Star Spot by …

Episode 112: Geysers on Europa, with William Sparks

October 31st, 2016


Feature Guest: William Sparks

Extraterrestrial life might be erupting into space from the surface of Europa. And a NASA mission to the icy world …

Episode 111: Can Supernovae Cause Extinctions!?, with Shawn Bishop

October 17th, 2016


Feature Guest: Shawn Bishop

We’ve long known we’re made of star stuff, but now it turns out that life on Earth might be even more intimately connected to events in deep space than we imagined. Scientists recently …

Episode 110: Peering Into the Void, with Nico Hamaus

October 3rd, 2016


Feature Guest: Nico Hamaus

Astronomers are no longer avoiding the void. Between the overdense zones of our universe, where most galaxies live, there exist vast regions of near emptiness that can stretch for hundreds of …

Episode 109: Rethinking Ancient Mayan Astronomy, with Gerardo Aldana

September 19th, 2016


Feature Guest: Gerardo Aldana

No the ancient Maya did not predict the end of the world. But they were among the world’s most advanced astronomers. …

Episode 108: The Closest Exoplanet Could Be Habitable, with Guillem Anglada-Escudé

September 5th, 2016


Feature Guest: Guillem Anglada-Escudé

Recently headlines buzzed with news of the discovery of the nearest exoplanet that we will ever find. And it …

Episode 107: Surveying the Cosmos, with Ludovic Van Waerbeke

August 22nd, 2016


Feature Guest: Ludovic Van Waerbeke

Large scale surveys of the universe are quickly becoming key to making new discoveries at the cutting edge of …

Episode 106: Is Our Solar System Unique? The Complex Process of Planetary Formation, with Aaron Boley

August 8th, 2016


Feature Guest: Aaron Boley

Is our solar system unique? That's becoming a major question for researchers. It turns out solar system formation is a …

The Star Spot Episode 105: Ad Astra?, with Zachary Fejes

July 25th, 2016


Feature Guest: Zachary Fejes

Imagine a starship that could take us out into the galaxy. Meet Icarus Interstellar, a nonprofit foundation working to …

The Star Spot Episode 104: The Great Terraforming Mars Debate: The Dream, with Chuck Black

July 11th, 2016


Feature Guest: Chuck Black

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating …

The Star Spot Episode 103: The Great Terraforming Mars Debate: The Ethics, with John Rummel

June 27th, 2016


Feature Guest: John Rummel

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we co-hosted a panel event exploring one of the most fascinating …

Episode 102: The Great Terraforming Mars Debate - Part 2: The Biology, with Olathe MacIntyre

May 30th, 2016


Feature Guest: Olathe MacIntyre

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot recently did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space Exploration Society, we recently co-hosted a panel event exploring one …

Episode 101: The Great Terraforming Mars Debate - Part 1: The Science, with Paul Delaney

May 16th, 2016


Feature Guest: Paul Delaney

Ever consider moving to Mars? The Star Spot recently did. Along with the University of Toronto Astronomy and Space …

Episode 100: The Monster at the Centre of our Galaxy, with Feryal Özel

May 2nd, 2016


Celebrating 100 Episodes with you at The Star Spot!

Thank you for joining here at The Star Spot for our special 100th episode. I want to take a …

Episode 99 Pulsars and the Detection of Gravitational Waves, with Ingrid Stairs

April 18th, 2016


Feature Guest: Ingrid Stairs

In February scientists announced the first ever discovery of gravitational waves, tiny distortions in the fabric of space-time predicted by Einstein exactly 100 years ago. The Laser …

Episode 98: What Our Beliefs About Aliens Say About Us!, With Brian Trent

April 4th, 2016


Feature Guest: Brian Trent

Here’s the ultimate challenge for science fiction. How do you describe the appearance and behaviour of an intelligent alien …

Episode 97: Making Life in the Lab and Its Implications for Alien Hunting, with Lynn Rothschild

March 21st, 2016


Feature Guest: Lynn Rothschild

Are we alone in the universe? Think about it. Whatever the answer, it is one of the most profound and enduring questions humans have ever asked. The fact that we are on the cusp of being …

Episode 96: Did Universe's First Moments Set the Stage for Life?, with Fred Adams

March 7th, 2016


Feature Guest: Fred Adams

Could the very first moments of our universe hold the secret to the eventual emergence of life billions of years later? And …

Episode 95: Galaxy Clusters: The Largest Structures in the Universe, with Gil Holder

February 22nd, 2016


Feature Guest: Gil Holder

Have you heard of the Great Attractor or the Great Wall? The universe evolved from a hot dense not quite perfectly uniform …

Episode 94: What Alien Intelligence Means for Humanity, with Don Lincoln

February 8th, 2016


Feature Guest: Don Lincoln

Humanoid... grey in colour… almond shaped eyes. You all know exactly what I’m describing, but have you ever wondered just …

Episode 93: Will the Electric Sail Get Us to Deep Space? with Les Johnson

January 25th, 2016


Feature Guest: Les Johnson

In our last conversation, Pekka Janhunen, inventor of the electric solar sail, joined Denise at The Star Spot to explain …

Episode 92: Inventing the Electric Solar Sail, with Pekka Janhunen

January 11th, 2016


Feature Guest: Pekka Janhunen

The electric solar wind sail, or electric sail for short, is an advanced spacecraft propulsion technology that just …

Episode 91: Monster Galaxies of the Early Universe, with Henry Joy McCracken

December 14th, 2015


Feature Guest: Henry Joy McCracken

Last month scientists announced the shocking discovery of 574 monster galaxies from the ancient universe. There are surprisingly many such giant galaxies, and they seem to appear more …

Episode 90: Discovering the Furthest Object in the Solar System, with Scott Sheppard

November 30th, 2015


Feature Guest: Scott Sheppard

Recently astronomers discovered an object further than anything we’ve ever found in our solar system. This dwarf planet …

Episode 89: The Surprising Ubiquity of Ice in the Solar System and the Staggering Implications for Life, with David Paige

November 16th, 2015


Feature Guest: David Paige

There was once a time when scientists believed that beyond the Earth there lied a largely dry, barren and inhospitable …

Episode 88: Two's Company: From Binary Stars to Binary Supermassive Black Holes, with Pawel Artymowicz

November 2nd, 2015


Feature Guest: Pawel Artymowicz

Star Wars fans will be familiar with the planet Tatooine and its two suns. But as it turns out the majority of stars in the Milky Way galaxy live with a companion. And that’s led …

Episode 87: 147 Years of Astronomy Outreach, with Randy Attwood

October 5th, 2015


Feature Guest: Randy Attwood

Nearly a quarter of Americans confuse astronomy with astrology. And barely half know it takes the Earth a year to go …

Episode 86: When the Universe Began, with Wendy Freedman

September 21st, 2015


Feature Guest: Wendy Freedman

A long long time ago in every place at once, all of this began. But when exactly did the universe begin? And how quickly did it expand into the structure we see around us? Those numbers are …

Episode 85: The Cosmology Machine: Probing the Farthest Objects via the Keck Observatory, with Hilton Lewis

September 7th, 2015


Feature Guest: Hilton Lewis

The twin Keck Telescopes of Hawaii are the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes. For twenty five years they have turned their eyes on the farthest and faintest objects in the …

Episode 84: Canada's First Astronaut, with Marc Garneau

August 24th, 2015


Feature Guest: Marc Garneau
He is the first Canadian to travel into space. But with momentous changes rocketing the space programs of many nations, how many more firsts will there be? Today Dr. Marc Garneau, a real hero …

Episode 83: The Hubble Telescope and Other Space History Milestones, with Chris Gainor

August 10th, 2015


Feature Guest: Chris Gainor


This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, which has forever changed the way we look at the cosmos. To help us understand how Hubble proved to be transformational, …

Episode 82: The First Female Private Space Explorer, with Anousheh Ansari

July 27th, 2015


Feature Guest: Anousheh Ansari

Her name is synonymous with private space travel. Anousheh Ansari’s $10 million donation enabled the Ansari X-Prize to catalyze the private space industry. And in 2006 Ansari herself became …

Episode 81: Transcending Limits: Virtual Reality Meets Space Exploration, with Isaac DeSouza

July 13th, 2015


Feature Guests: Isaac DeSouza

The distances and challenges we face in space exploration are daunting, but what if we could transcend our …

Episode 80: Arecibo Telescope: Icon of Astronomy, with Robert Kerr and Jose Molina

June 29th, 2015


Feature Guests: Robert Kerr and Jose Molina

Nestled in the mountains of northern Puerto Rico lies an icon of astronomy: the Arecibo Observatory, the …

Episode 79: Governing Outer Space, with Lorna Jean Edmonds

June 15th, 2015


Feature Guest: Lorna Jean Edmonds

As our civilization moves out into the solar system and beyond, will we be ready to govern ourselves in a way better …

Episode 78: Robotic Explorers that Think for Themselves, with Raymond Francis

June 1st, 2015


Feature Guest: Raymond Francis

Today’s robotic planetary explorers have little ability to make decisions for themselves. They follow orders, but …

Episode 77: Cosmic Magnetism, with Jo-Anne Brown

May 18th, 2015


Feature Guest: Jo-Anne Brown

We all know the Earth has a magnetic field, but it might surprise you to learn that our galaxy has one too. To help us understand the origin of our galactic magnetic field and how cosmic …

Episode 76: Introducing the Thirty Metre Telescope, with Raymond Carlberg

May 4th, 2015


Feature Guest: Raymond Carlberg

When finally operational in 2018 the Thirty Metre Telescope will be the largest telescope ever built, three times larger than the best telescopes operating today. To help us understand …

Episode 75: Secrets From the Early Universe, with Marc Kamionkowski

April 20th, 2015


Feature Guest: Marc Kamionkowski

When we study the cosmic microwave background we see our universe before its infancy. But we learn about today’s biggest mysteries, like gravitational waves and supersymmetric dark …

Episode 74: The Disappearing Martian Atmosphere, with David Brain

April 6th, 2015


Feature Guest: David Brain

When our solar system was young, newborn Earth and Mars were like siblings, similar in climate, water composition and …

Episode 73: Things That Explode, with Christian Ott

March 23rd, 2015

Feature Guest: Christian Ott

What do all massive stars have in common. They go boom. Today I’m joined at The Star Spot by Professor Christian Ott. Behind Ott’s highly technical work in numerical relativity and nuclear …

Episode 72: The Changing International Landscape for Space Exploration, with Kevin Shortt

March 9th, 2015


Feature Guest: Kevin Shortt

In the second part of their conversation on the international state of space exploration, Kevin Shortt and Justin Trottier tour the globe. They explore the contributions coming from the four …

Episode 71: 2014: An Amazing Year for Space Exploration, with Kevin Shortt

February 23rd, 2015


Feature Guest: Kevin Shortt

It’s a year that saw ups, such as the Dawn mission which became the first to study a dwarf planet. It was a year that experienced downs, like the tragic explosion of SpaceShipTwo and …

Episode 70: Dynamic Stars and Ubiquitous Disks: Part 2, with Aaron Sigut and Carol Jones

February 9th, 2015


Feature Guests: Aaron Sigut and Carol Jones 

The disks of matter that form around mysterious B emission stars are providing astronomers with a unique …

Episode 69: Dynamic Stars and Ubiquitous Disks: Part 1, with Aaron Sigut and Carol Jones

January 26th, 2015


Feature Guests: Aaron Sigut and Carol Jones

Disks are ubiquitous in our universe. They are found in the spiral arms of galaxies. They are found among …

Episode 68: Inspiring Images of the Cosmos, with Jayanne English

January 12th, 2015


Feature Guest: Jayanne English


We've all been blown away by those jaw dropping majestic images of the cvosmos. But would you feel deceived to know …

Episode 67: The Accelerating Universe, with Brian Schmidt

December 15th, 2014


Feature Guest: Brian Schmidt

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 …

Episode 66: Blue Stragglers: The Stars That Shouldn’t Exist, with Alison Sills

December 1st, 2014


Feature Guest: Alison Sills


It’s a phenomenon so mysterious one astronomer wondered if it could be evidence of an advanced extraterrestrial …

Episode 65: Bringing MRIs Into Space, with Gordon Sarty

November 17th, 2014


Feature Guest: Gordon Sarty

Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, has become a vital technique for diagnosing, treating and monitoring disease. The …

Episode 64: Echoing Through Space, with Doug Welch

November 3rd, 2014


Feature Guest: Doug Welch

Imagine being able to go back centuries to study the great supernova of the past. Tycho’s nova of 1572 for example. Now we may be able to do the next best thing. Astronomers have discovered a …

Episode 63: The Dark Stringy Universe, with Jim Cline

October 20th, 2014


Feature Guest: Jim Cline

Dark matter. Dark energy. String theory. At the frontiers of fundamental physics science seems confronted with mystery and progress is grinding to a halt. But can studying the early universe …

Episode 62: Gardening the International Space Station, with Gioia Massa

October 6th, 2014


Feature Guest: Gioia Massa

Imagine enjoying a romantic and nutritious picnic - on Mars! If such a dream is ever to be realized, we're going to have to learn how to grow plants in space and on other worlds. Today we're …

Episode 61: Molecules: Where Chemistry Meets Astronomy, with Jan Cami

September 22nd, 2014


Feature Guest: Jan Cami

Did you know that buckyballs, complex soccer-ball shaped molecules formed from 60 carbon atoms, were recently discovered deep …

Episode 60: Building the Cities of our Universe, with Pauline Barmby

September 8th, 2014


Feature Guest: Pauline Barmby

Just like the cities of our world, galaxies are the busy and over-crowded population centres where so much of the action …

Episode 59: Brown Dwarfs: Super Planet or Failed Star?, with Stanimir Metchev

August 25th, 2014


Feature Guest: Stanimir Metchev

Brown dwarfs: giant planets or failed stars? The debate rages on with comparable intensity to the surprisingly violent …

Episode 58: The Mandate of Heaven: Ancient Chinese Astronomy, with David Pankenier

August 11th, 2014


Feature Guest: David Pankenier

The scholar of Chinese science Joseph Needham wrote that "astronomy was a science of cardinal importance for the …

Episode 57: Exoplanets: A Retrospective Survey and the Road Ahead, with Paul Delaney

July 28th, 2014


Feature Guest: Paul Delaney

The next time you look up at the night sky, struck dizzy by the sheer number of stars shining down on you, here’s …

Episode 56: The Art of Astrononomy, with Robin Kingsburgh

July 14th, 2014


Feature Guest: Robin Kingsburgh 

Albert Einstein once said "After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are …

Episode 55: Where Have All The Anti-Matter Gone?, with Scott Menary

June 16th, 2014


Feature Guest: Scott Menary

Are there anti-matter galaxies out there in space? Will we ever be able to make anti-atoms of heavy elements? How do you trap something that is detroyed immediately upon contact? And of …

Episode 54: The Astronomy of Shakespeare, with Dan Falk

June 2nd, 2014


Feature Guest: Dan Falk

Astronomy meets Shakespeare? An unlikely pair you might imagine, but “There are more things in heaven and earth, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. Today on this special audio and video …

Episode 53: Stump the Astronomer! at International Astronomy Day 2014

May 19th, 2014


International Astronomy Day 2014 occurred on Saturday, May 10. The Star Spot celebrated at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, which boasts the largest telescope in Canada. The Dunlap Observatory was …

Episode 52: Neutrino Geophysics: Journey to the Centre of the Earth

May 5th, 2014


Feature Guest: Norman Sleep

Have you ever wondered what the massive internal hot core of the Earth has to do with space? Enter the world of neutrino geophysics. It might sound technical, but in probing the nature of the …

Episode 51: Quasar Storms of the Early Universe, with Sarah Gallagher

April 28th, 2014


Feature Guest: Sarah Gallagher

Quasars are among the most energetic and mysterious phenomena of the ancient universe. Spiraling gas is heated to such extremes that the neighbourhood around the quasar glows brighter than …

Episode 50: Mapping Our Galactic Neighborhood: Dark Matter, galactic collisions & startling discoveries in our Local Sheet, with Marshall McCall

April 7th, 2014



The Star Spot Episode 50


Today marks the 50th time I’ve welcomed you and our guests to the The Star Spot. It is also our two year anniversary. I …

Episode 49: Enduring Mysteries of the Early Universe, with Mark Halpern

March 23rd, 2014


Feature Guest: Mark Halpern

The early universe is a place of mystery and paradox. But the one thing we are sure of is that to understand our far future we must look to our ancient origins. To help us make some progress …

Episode 48: Science and Technology at the Cutting Edge of Exoplanet Research, with Olivier Guyon

March 10th, 2014


Feature Guest: Olivier Guyon


Since he was young his driving passion has been a single mystery: are we alone in the universe? Astronomer Olivier …

Episode 47: Quasars, Supernova, Hypernova and other Gamma Ray Exotica, with David Hanna

February 24th, 2014


Feature Guest: David Hanna


Supernovae and hypernove, blazars and quasars: our universe is one exotic place. To help us to make sense of it, today we're joined at The Star Spot by Professor David Hanna.


Current in …

Episode 46: A Space Travel Agent and A Space Journalist, with Leon Graafland and Elizabeth Howell

February 10th, 2014


Feature Guests: Leon Graafland and Elizabeth Howell

On today's episode of The Star Spot we conclude our coverage of the 2013 Canadian Space Summit with special back to back feature interviews. First we're joined by Leon …

Episode 45: Satellite Communication: The Technological Foundation of a Nation, with Peter Garland

January 27th, 2014


Feature Guest: Peter Garland

On today's episode of The Star Spot we continue our highlights of the 2013 Canadian Space Summit. Justin Trottier is joined by Peter Garland, Vice President of Advanced Programs with MDA. …

Episode 44: Art at the Final Frontier, with Catherine Hazin

January 13th, 2014


Feature Guest: Catherine Hazin

We begin our coverage of the 2013 Canadian Space Summit held in Ottawa in November 2013, with the first of five feature Star Spot interviews with guests at the Summit.

Co-host Denise Fong …

Episode 43: A Brief Tour of Home, with Jim Bell

December 30th, 2013


Feature Guest: Jim Bell

Does our solar system really have 35 or even 40 planets? Is Mars merely the moon with an atmosphere or is it actually an …

Episode 42: The Changing Neighborhood: Stars and their Galaxies, with Christine Wilson

December 2nd, 2013


Feature Guest: Christine Wilson

No neighborhood avoids change, and that certainly includes the neighborhood around stars. As the stars that populate …

Episode 41: Astrobiology: The Search for Life's Origins, with Paul Higgs

November 18th, 2013


Feature Guest: Paul Higgs

What is the answer to “Life, the universe and everything”,  Douglas Adams’ great question about the meaning of it all? …

Episode 40: Into Darkness: The Study of Dark Energy in the Universe, with Matt Dobbs

November 4th, 2013


Feature Guest: Matt Dobbs

Dark energy is described as one of the most mysterious phenomenon in our already generally baffling universe. To help us shed some light in the darkness, Matt Dobbs joins Justin Trottier at The …

Episode 39: Return to the Moon: Upcoming Rover Missions to the Lunar Surface, with Peter Visscher

October 23rd, 2013


Feature Guest: Peter Visscher

The return of humans to the moon is well over a decade away. But one key step, the development of unmanned lunar rovers …

Episode 38: Hunting Extraterrestrials, with Jill Tarter

October 6th, 2013


Feature Guest: Jill Tarter

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. No other space-related program so effectively stirs our emotions, symbolizes …

Episode 37: Organized Activism for Space Exploration, with Wayne Ellis

September 22nd, 2013


Feature Guest: Wayne Ellis

The weekend of November 14 to 16 in Ottawa the Canadian Space Society will be hosting their annual space summit, with keynote speakers including the President of the Canadian Space Agency, the …

Episode 36: Quantum Computing: Space Science Meets Science Fiction, with Martin Laforest

September 8th, 2013


Feature Guest: Martin Laforest

Martin Laforest joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss the fascinating, complex and bizarre world of the quantum. After describing the Institute for Quantum Computing and the …

Episode 35: Chasing Comets, with David Levy

August 10th, 2013


“When beggars die there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.”

- William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 2, …

Episode 34: The Intimate Relationship Between Galaxies and Dark Matter, with Anne-Marie Weijmans

July 27th, 2013


Feature Guest: Anne-Marie Weijmans

Dark matter and galaxies turn out to live together as intimate partners. What role did dark matter play in the …

Episode 33: But What is Space Anyway? A Philosopher's Eye on Astronomy, with James Robert Brown

July 13th, 2013


Feature Guest: James Robert Brown

We talk a lot at The Star Spot about space, but what, exactly, is space, or time for that matter, and how is it we can know anything at all about our universe and its laws. Some have …

Episode 32: The Space Between the Stars, with Christopher McKee

June 15th, 2013


Feature Guest: Christopher McKee

Astronomy and science popularizaer Carl Sagan famously declared “We are all starstuff.” He was referring to the …

Episode 31: Branding the Space Industry in the 21st Century, with Laila Zichmanis

June 1st, 2013


Feature Guest: Laila Zichmanis

The Google Lunar X Prize. The NASA Space Apps Challenge. And Chris Hadfield nearing 1 million twitter followers. As …

Episode 30: Hacking the Future of Space Exploration, Featuring the International Space Apps Challenge

May 18th, 2013


On the weekend of April 20, 2013, 9000 people from over 80 countries responded to NASA’s call to hack their way towards unique and innovative …

Episode 29: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, with Seth Shostak

May 4th, 2013


Feature Guest: Seth Shostak

With ever more groundbreaking data coming in from exploratory missions in our own solar system to the burgeoning array of …

Episode 28: A Current in Space Interregnum

April 20th, 2013


A quick episode to break up our usual interview-focused show. At The Star Spot today in Current in Space, can we boldly go where no one has gone …

Episode 27: The Birth and Death of Stars: Clusters, Supernovae and Gamma-Ray Bursts, with Chris Matzner

April 6th, 2013


Chris Matzner joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot for a wide ranging conversation focused on the dynamical periods of a star’s life. He shares insights into the fascinating activities occurring in stellar nurseries, …

Episode 26: Exposing the Many Faces of Planet X, with Stuart Robbins

March 23rd, 2013


Pseudoscientific belief in mysterious non-observable planets in the far off solar system span the gamut from small Earth-size objects to brown dwarf …

Episode 25: Past Life and Humanity's Future on Mars, with Dr. Chris McKay

March 17th, 2013


On this special first year anniversary edition of The Star Spot, NASA's preeminent astrobiologist Dr. Chris McKay talks all things Mars: the …

Episode 24: Atmospheres & Signs of Life On Planets Beyond Our Solar System, with Sara Seager

February 23rd, 2013


Sara Seager, a world authority on the study of atmospheres of extrasolar planets joins Justin Trottier to share how cutting edge research is pushing …

Episode 23: Studying the Universe's Large Scale Structure from the South Pole, with Keith Vanderlinde

February 9th, 2013


Keith Vanderlinde joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to share his Antarctica experience, studying the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation from …

Episode 22: Magnetism: Probing Planets and Searching for Life, with Sabine Stanley

January 26th, 2013


Professor Sabine Stanley joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss everything to do with magnetic fields: how they're created, where they can be found, and what they tell us about the composition and behaviour …

Episode 21: The Great Stories of Science, with Stuart Clark

January 12th, 2013


Dr. Stuart Clark joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to share his unique work dramatizing the great stories of science. Clark combines his background in astrophysical research with his career in science journalism …

Episode 20: A Universe From Nothing? with Lawrence Krauss

December 29th, 2012


Lawrence Krauss joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss nothing, and how a universe can arise from it. Covering Krauss' earlier book "The Physics of Star Trek," the two discuss warp drives, time travel and …

Episode 19: Gravity Waves: Opening a New Window on the Cosmos, with Luis Lehner

December 15th, 2012


Luis Lehner joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss his work in numerical relativity and his search for elusive gravity waves. Since they are not scattered by intervening objects but carrying pure information …

Episode 18: Hosting the World’s Longest Running Science Show, with Bob McDonald

December 1st, 2012


The Star Spot is excited to announce a new development: video. Today’s episode of The Star Spot also features a special video edition to be posted on our recently launched YouTube channel, "TheStarSpotTV." There you can …

Episode 17: The Mysterious Centre of the Milky Way Galaxy, with Leo Meyer

November 18th, 2012


Dr. Leo Meyer joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss his UCLA research group's discovery of S0-102, a star 11.5 light years from the …

Episode 16: Curiosity on Mars, with Ralf Gellert

November 3rd, 2012


On today’s episode Dr. Ralf Gellert, principal investigator of the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectromer, or APXS, one of the primary instruments on the Mars Curiosity rover, joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss …

Episode 15: Sharing A Passion for Astronomy, with John Percy

October 19th, 2012


In today's episode Professor John Percy, a professional astronomer with a passion for making astronomy and space exploration engaging, joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot.

Dr. Percy discusses his many educational …

Episode 14: Particle Physics and its Cosmological Implications, with Wendy J. Taylor

October 5th, 2012


Our guest today is Professor Wendy J. Taylor who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss the Large Hadron Collider, the search for the …

Episode 13: Ancient Aliens, Astrology, and Pseudoastronomy, with Guy P. Harrison

September 21st, 2012


Appropriate to Episode #13, given the superstitious associations of that particular number, our guest today, Guy P. Harrison, is a debunker of …

Episode 12: Quasars: Clues to the Ancient Universe, with Patrick Hall

September 7th, 2012


Our guest today is Patrick Hall who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss one of the most energetic, myserious and ancient of phenomana …

Episode 11: The James Webb Space Telescope: Building the Successor to Hubble, with Neil Rowlands

August 24th, 2012


Our guest today is Neil Rowlands who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to discuss the engineering and science of the James Webb Space Telescope, …

Episode 10: The Illusion of Time?, with Julian Barbour

August 10th, 2012


Our guest today is Julian Barbour who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to share his unique insights into the elusive mystery of time. He …

Episode 9: Ancient Egyptian Astronomy, with Sarah Symons

July 28th, 2012


Our guest today is Professor Sarah Symons who joins Justin Trottier at The Star Spot to enlighten us about ancient Egyptian sophisticated conceptions of the night sky. The conversation ranges from understanding the …

Episode 8: The Physics of Astronomy, with Marten Van Kerkwijk

July 14th, 2012


Our guest today is Professor Marten Van Kerkwijk who joins The Star Spot to discuss the physics of astronomy. With host Justin Trottier, the two focus on the intersection of astronomy and physics, how astronomical …

Episode 7: The Business of Space Exploration, with Chuck Black

June 16th, 2012


Our guest today is Chuck Black who joins The Star Spot to discuss the business case for space within the international scene. Following hot on the …

Episode 6: Zooniverse & Citizen Science: How 300,000 Average People Became Astronomers, with Chris Lintott

June 2nd, 2012


Our guest today is Christopher Lintott, an astrophysicist, a researcher in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford and a junior …

Episode 5: The Transit of Venus, with Jay Pasachoff

May 19th, 2012


Unless you expect to be alive in 105 years, you won't want to miss the June 5/6 transit of Venus. The appeal of this unique phenomenon has bridged the gap between art and science. It was was basis for a military brass …

Episode 4: The Afterlives of Stars, with Victoria Kaspi

May 5th, 2012

Our guest today is Victoria Kaspi, the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics, the Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics and Professor of Physics at McGill University. She earned her PhD working under nobel …

Episode 3: Exploring Saturn, with Carolyn Porco

April 21st, 2012


Our guest today is Dr. Carolyn Porco, a planetary scientist who led the imaging team in studying and interpreting the images from the Cassini/Huygens …

Episode 2: Life, the Universe and Everything, with Dan Falk

April 7th, 2012


Our guest is Dan Falk, an award winning science journalist and broadcaster. He's been published very broadly, including in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Cosmos Magazine, and New Scientist, and has contributed to …

Episode 1: Images of New Worlds

March 23rd, 2012


Our pilot episode has featured guest Dr. David Lafreniere, an astrophysicist and an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Montreal. His pioneering work relates to the detection of …

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