Successful Canadian Space Telescope Project MOST to be shut down

The MOST space telescope has ben in space over 10 years, making discoveries about the interiors of stars. At a cost of just 10 million $CDN, it has been one of the most successful astronomy space projects ever. The telescope outlived its projected one-year lifespan providing data which will be studied for decades. The legacy of MOST is the fact that it was a small, relatively inexpensive spacecraft which was designed for a specific purpose - and it performed exceedingly well.

 The MOST spacecraft. Photo courtesy UBC

The MOST spacecraft. Photo courtesy UBC

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) announced that the project would be terminated September 9, 2014.  According to the CSA:

Since its launch in 2003, MOST has produced over one hundred science publications and provided astronomers with new insights into the behaviour of stars. Originally planned as a one-year project, MOST was extended annually due to the telescope's continued successes. The suitcase-sized telescope will leave a prolific legacy of data for astronomers to analyze.

 Earthshine President Randy Attwood poses with the MOST spacecraft in a clean room at UTIAS in Toronto in 2002

Earthshine President Randy Attwood poses with the MOST spacecraft in a clean room at UTIAS in Toronto in 2002

Mississauga Ten Years Away From A Dark Eclipse Monday

Ten years from today, on Monday April 8, 2024, Mississauga will lose most of the Sun in the late afternoon. That is because a total solar eclipse will pass just south of the city over Lake Ontario.

The eclipse path first crosses Mexico and then the south-east USA before crossing into Canada at Lake Erie. The path just misses Mississauga, crossing out into Lake Ontario at Burlington. The eclipse then passes over New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

 The path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse as it passes over Lake Ontario. Courtesy eclipse-maps.com

The path of the April 8, 2024 total solar eclipse as it passes over Lake Ontario. Courtesy eclipse-maps.com

Mississauga will see a 99% eclipse which should be spectacular, but not as impressive as the 100% total eclipse.  Total solar eclipses are the most amazing of nature's spectacles. For a few minutes, the observer stands in the shadow of the Moon. All of the bright sunlight is blocked out and the sky darkens noticeably. The silvery corona - the Sun's outer atmosphere - only as bright as the full moon, appears during the few short minutes of the total eclipse.

Solar eclipse chasers usually have to travel to far points of the world to see total solar eclipses. On average, a total solar eclipse can be seen somewhere every two and a half years. During the past few years, total eclipses were visible in Australia, China and Africa. Total solar eclipses took place in Canada in 1963, 1972 and 1979 - none of these were visible in southern Ontario. The last total solar eclipse visible from Mississauga was on January 24, 1925. Unfortunately the day was cloudy. 

 The paths of the 2017 and 2024 solar eclipses courtesy eclipse-maps.com

The paths of the 2017 and 2024 solar eclipses courtesy eclipse-maps.com

Water found on one of Saturn's Moons

It has long been known that Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, is spraying water vapour out into space. This was discovered by the spacecraft Cassini, in orbit around Saturn since 2004. 

Now in a report by Globe and Mail reporter Ivan Semeniuk, astronomers believe that there is a liquid ocean beneath the surface of the moon.

Read other reports from The Huffington Post, the CBC, the New York Times

 A view of the limb of Enceladus taken by the Cassini spacecraft showing water vapour rising above the moon.

A view of the limb of Enceladus taken by the Cassini spacecraft showing water vapour rising above the moon.

The Vernal Equinox - Spring Is Here!

Spring arrives in Mississauga today - astronomically, that is - at 12:57 pm.  When will the spring weather arrive? Hopefully, very soon.

What is the Vernal Equinox?  It is the day that the overhead Sun crosses the equator heading north. Last December 21st, the Sun was overhead for those standing on latitude minus 23.4 degrees. For us here in Mississauga, the Sun only spent 9 hours above the horizon - the shortest day of the year - and was only 23 degrees high in the south at its highest point.

 The Earth's axis is tilted 23.4 degrees. Today, March 20, we receive equal day and night, thus, the 'equinox'.

The Earth's axis is tilted 23.4 degrees. Today, March 20, we receive equal day and night, thus, the 'equinox'.

The two lines of latitude where the Sun reaches its most southerly position and northerly position - at -23.4 degrees and +23.4 degrees - are called the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer. 

 A picture of a beer can sitting on the Tropic of Cancer on June 21, 1991 - the Sun is overhead - no shadow!

A picture of a beer can sitting on the Tropic of Cancer on June 21, 1991 - the Sun is overhead - no shadow!

The reason for this motion of the Sun is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis, 23.4 degrees to the vertical. In summer, the Sun is higher in the sky, the heat is more concentrated on the ground, the days are longer and we have summer.  In the winter, the heat is more spread out on the ground, the days are shorter and we have winter.

In the southern hemisphere, they see the opposite - they have summer during our winter (Christmas BBQ on the beach) and winter time during June-August.

For more on the Vernal Equinox, check out this EarthSky website.