Physics and Space Science News and Events

Nanosats of the BRITE space mission reveal the origins of fundamental structures in the wind of the supergiant star Zeta Puppis


A Canadian-led international team of astronomers recently discovered for the first time observational evidence explaining how features at the surface of the hot massive supergiant star Zeta Puppis induce the formation of fundamental structures in its wind.

The research team used the network of nanosatellites of the BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) space mission - of which RMC Physics and Space Science Department Head Gregg Wade is the Canadian PI - to monitor the visible brightness changes coming from the surface of Zeta Puppis over about six months, and simultaneously monitored the behavior of the wind of the star from several ground-based professional and amateur observatories.

For more information, see the press release at the Center for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec.

Artist’s impression of the hot massive supergiant Zeta Puppis.
The rotation period of the star indicated by the new BRITE observations is 1.78 d, and its spin axis is inclined by (24 ± 9)° with respect to the line of sight.
Image credit: Tahina Ramiaramanantsoa

Novel diffraction grating based biosensor


Dr. Ribal Georges Sabat from the Department of Physics at the Royal Military College of Canada, along with Dr. Carlos Escobedo and his PhD student, Srijit Nair, both from Queen’s university at Kingston, developed a light-based bio-molecular sensor for protein binding detection in fluids, via measuring a very small refractive index change of the fluid. This biosensor will prove very useful in biomedical applications because it allows the detection of very small concentrations of toxins or other biological molecules in liquids. The team used a unique sensing approach that enables the measurement in transmission mode of surface plasmon resonance signals only, while cancelling all other transmitted light. The broadband light intensity passing through the fabricated biosensor was found to be zero except in the narrow bandwidth where a surface plasmon resonance energy conversion occurs, enabling quantitative monitoring of only the plasmonic signal from bio-molecular interactions. The results from this study demonstrate the label-free detection of biotin-streptavidin binding in real-time, with a much-improved sensitivity (+3-fold) compared to previously reported biosensors. This new biosensor was cheap (less than 10 cents per unit) and easy to fabricate. It is believed that this is a significant advancement in plasmonic based sensing in a world that is evolving towards the use of diagnostics tools based on portable electronics.

New biosensorLow-cost nanoplasmonic (bio)sensor based on crossed surface relief gratings (CSRGs) on gold-coated azo-glass substrate.

More details about this discovery are found at: Crossed Surface Relief Gratings as Nanoplasmonic Biosensors.

Physics and Space Science in the media


Magnetic stars responsible for LIGO’s “heavy” stellar-mass black holes?

RMC research assistant (and Queen’s PhD candidate) Zsolt Keszthelyi, in collaboration with RMC Professor of Physics and Space Science Gregg Wade and an international team of collaborators, propose a novel mechanism - strong magnetic fields at the surfaces of hot stars - leading to the formation of “heavy” stellar-mass black holes as detected by the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) collaboration in the source GW150914. Their results were recently featured in the popular press.

ADS-B receiver launch

The Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) is leading the way in research for tracking aircraft from space. The reception of aircraft-generated Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) signals by satellites in low Earth orbit will allow surveillance of aircraft over regions not covered by radar such as oceans and the high Arctic. An RMC ADS-B receiver is scheduled for launch on the CanX-7 nanosatellite (10 × 10 × 30 cm, 3.5 kg) in 2016 as a technology demonstrator for space-based monitoring of air traffic. Read article "Tracking Planes Over the Ocean Is About to Get Easier"

COM DEV RMC UTIAS/SFL DRDC-Ottawa NSERC - Canadian Advanced Nanospace eXperiment