We have been tricked by the sensationalists elements in the media into believing that science and science advancements is all about big money, huge instruments, mega machines and projects that cost billions of dollars. But science is done in a thousand different ways, by people who work their craft in the Maritimes and not at Harvard or Oxford or Stanford. A wonderful example is the astronomical work of David Lane and Professor David Turner of Saint Mary’s University.
With a billions and billions of galaxies each with billions and billions of stars, in astronomy if you want to do some original work, you stand a good chance, especially if you pick the group in the northern regions of the sky.
Now Nova Scotia is not noted for its great “seeing”. Something to do with the weather I am told and the fact that clouds, fog and rain hide the night sky for protracted periods. That didn’t stop David Lane from building his robotic, remote controlled observatory in Stillwater Lake, Nova Scotia. It allowed David Turner an opportunity to focus his attention on a group of stars in Cepheus, a northern hemisphere constellation, called Cepheids, pulsating giant stars whose mass is perhaps 60 to 100 times that of our lowly sun. These stars are fantastically hot and in the spectral class O, burning their nuclear fuel, hydrogen, at a prodigious rate. Where our sun has lived some five billion years and will probably continue to steadily burn for another five, making it an ideal star for us to have picked to place our planet around. O type stars on the other hand though millions of time brighter than our sun only live a few million years and flame out in incredible supernova explosions that make them brighter than all the other stars in the galaxy for a few months. Needless to say not a great place to place life and a planet next to for long term stability.
Both Davids have published a paper about a star system that has such a star in a vast cloud of interstellar material. What makes this star interesting is that it has a very bright companion orbiting the primary star every five days or so. The fact that this star is binary allows some very interesting science to be done on its mass, composition, spectral type and a host of other questions.
The advancement of science, even in an area as esoteric as astronomy, from instruments, though modest compared to the mega and hyper projects that fill the news headlines, is of incredible importance. Science come from thought, study, information collection and research. It comes from the minds of people like David Lane and David Turner. It comes from asking questions and finding ways around whatever obstacles one finds.
Imagine, as the weather becomes better and the seeing better, all the questions that we asked even a few hundred years ago about our place in the universe. Now think about the studies, the careful observations and advancements being made by small science, by people like David and David. Cudos guys!
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