The Cosmic Companion February 22, 2020

This week: Aurora around a star, a newly-discovered super-Earth, and a novel method of finding ET. PLUS a look at how first contact may happen, and we launch a new comic strip and website!

Hello everyone!

In this week's episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, we take a look at aurora seen around a star for the first time, a new super-Earth is discovered just 100 light years from Earth, and Penn State researchers search for alien civilizations that may have already found life on our own world.

Then, with the recent success of the latest installment of Star Trek, the new CBS All Access series Picard, we take a look at how first contact with an alien civilization may be similar to — or different from — the way these meetings are portrayed in science fiction.

We also introduce our first all-original comic strip, Max on Mars. This new weekly strip follows the adventures of Max, a lovable tabby cat who finds himself accidentally sent to Mars. The first installment can be seen below, and follow Max every week at www.MaxOnMarsComic.com!

As if that weren’t enough, The Cosmic Companion now has a new website! All our articles will still be available at www.thecosmiccompanion.com, but you can also now get article headlines, together with every episode of the current seasons of our weekly video series and podcast, comics, information about our show on Amazon Alexa and more at www.thecosmiccompanion.net! Please take a look, and let us know what you think of the new resource.

Remember that the Cosmic Companion also offers a premium newsletter, featuring weekly exclusive videos, the astronomy comic of the week, and more. Just $5 a month, or $50 a year! Sign up at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com.

Or, you can buy me a cup of coffee for my work!

Let’s take off!


The Week in Space

Aurora Like Northern Lights Dance in Nearby Solar System

By James Maynard

Astronomers reveal aurorae happening between a star and exoplanet in the GJ 1151 star system — one of the closest stars to Earth.

Aurora around the red dwarf star GJ 1151 is triggered by the passing of an airless world, roughly the size of Earth, orbiting its star once every few days. Image credit: Simulation by The Cosmic Companion/Created in Universe Sandbox.

For the first time ever, astronomers have observed aurora occurring around a small red dwarf star called GJ 1151, less than 27 light years from Earth. This exo-aurora, triggered by a planet with a mass similar to our own world, is not unlike what is seen on Earth as northern and southern lights. This discovery marks the first physical evidence that aurora can be produced by interactions between the magnetic fields of stars and their attendant worlds.

Using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR) radio telescope in the Netherlands, researchers found evidence of these interactions on exoplanets. Astronomers have long theorized that aurora would be produced on exoplanets, just as they are seen on Earth and other worlds of our Solar System. This discovery could open up new techniques for studying planets orbiting alien stars, and may even provide information about whether or not such worlds may be home to extraterrestrial life.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Aurora-Solar-System


Super-Earth G 9–40b Confirmed Using Habitable-Zone Planet Finder

By James Maynard

The discovery of a super-Earth exoplanet has been confirmed in the G 9–40 star system. What do we know about this alien world?

A simulation showing G 9–40b orbiting its parent star. Simulation by The Cosmic Companion/Created in Universe Sandbox.

Originally discovered by the Kepler space telescope, G 9–40b has just been confirmed as an exoplanet by a team of Penn State researchers using the Habitable-zone Planet Finder (HPF) located in Texas.

This world, G 9–40b, is at least twice as large as Earth, and is likely significantly larger — possibly closer to the size of Neptune. It orbits its parent star just 100 light years from Earth once every five days and 17 hours at a distance of 5,760,000 km (5,580,000 miles), roughly 25 times closer than the distance between the Earth and Sun.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Super-Earth-G9-40b


Searching for Aliens Who may be Looking for Us

By James Maynard

A new search for extraterrestrial civilizations sets its sights on worlds that may have already found us.

Since just after the birth of radio astronomy, researchers have scoured the skies, looking for intelligent civilizations on other worlds. Now, a new search is looking to find extraterrestrials who have already discovered life on Earth.

Exoplanets — worlds beyond our solar system — are often discovered as they pass “in front” of their sun as seen from Earth. This process, known as transit photometry, measures the minuscule dips in light recorded from a star as a planet passes between its parent star and the Earth. This technique can not only detect planets, but also allows astronomers to learn more about their atmospheres, and could help us detect life on those worlds.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Searching-Aliens

On Tuesday, March 3rd, I will interview Sofia Sheikh of Penn State University, lead researcher on this study. A preview of the interview will be available on the video version of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion that week, and the full interview will be available on the podcast version of this show, available wherever you get your podcasts.


Astro POP

Alien Invasions and Diplomatic Missions — What First Contact in Fiction Tells us about Reality

By Jennifer R. Povey

Stories of first contact with alien intelligence have been seen in science fiction books, television shows, and movies for decades. But, what will it be like when it actually happens?

The prospect of contacting sentient aliens is a staple of science fiction. Of course, we have yet to (knowingly) find any; and it’s not impossible (albeit unlikely) that we are the only sentient beings in the universe.

Still, speculating about how contact with an alien race might go is something we tend to enjoy. Here are some fictional first contact scenarios and some thoughts on whether they are, at all, plausible.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Alien-Invasions


Cosmic Comics

Max on Mars

Alright, you all just skipped down to the comic, didn’t you? It’s OK, I don’t blame you (I’d do the same thing myself, but don’t tell anyone)…

Presenting Max on Mars - a new weekly comic from The Cosmic Companion!


Max on Mars follows the adventures of a cat who finds himself accidentally sent to Mars. What will he do? How will he live? Are there crunchy chicken treats available on the Red Planet?

Read more adventures of this interplanetary kitty at www.MaxOnMarsComic.com!


Read more stories at www.thecosmiccompanion.com


Coming soon: The First Woman on the Moon: The Past and Future History of Women in Space by James Maynard


Thanks for reading!

On next week’s episode of Astronomy News with the Cosmic Companion, I will interview Sofia Sheikh of Penn State University, lead researcher on the new study searching for extraterrestrial intelligence that could have easily found life on Earth. The full interview will be heard on our podcast, and excerpts will also be made available on the video version of the show. Make sure to listen to this fun, informative episode!

You can listen to our new podcast, Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, available on all major podcast distributors, including iTunes, Spotify, and TuneIn! Or, tune in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com. And, don’t forget to add Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa!

If you want to keep up with the latest updates and news about astronomy and space exploration, visit www.thecosmiccompanion.com, for information about our weekly video show, podcast, comics, mailing list, and more, visit our new website at: www.thecosmiccompanion.net.

Remember - VIP subscribers receive this newsletter, plus a second weekly newsletter with sneak previews of each video episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, an astronomy comic of the week, rare space photos, and more! Plans start at just $5!

Do you know someone else who would love this newsletter? Please share! Invest in knowledge with a premium subscription for yourself or a loved one today (including advance viewings of my weekly video show)! Or, I’d love it if you could buy me a cup of coffee - I LOVE coffee!

Thanks for everything and I will see you next week!

Astronomy - Don’t Leave Home Without It!

- James

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Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion Podcast February 18, 2020

  
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In this week's episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, we meet the first European space telescope designed to study the Sun, and a massive young world is found in our galactic neighborhood. We also take a look up at Betelgeuse as one of the most familiar stars in the night sky may be preparing to explode, and we examine an odd radio signal from space which repeats every 16 days, leaving astronomers baffled.

I also interview Dr. Gillian Wilson of the University of California, Riverside about her discovery of XMM-2599, a galaxy that lived fast and died young in the early Universe. Full interview in podcast only.

Video version of this podcast:

On February 10, the Solar Orbiter from the European Space Agency lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a mission to explore the Sun. This vehicle carries 10 instruments, each designed to study a different characteristic of our parent star. This is Europe's first mission to the Sun, and the spacecraft will work with NASA's Parker Solar Probe, attempting to understand solar activity which produces space weather that can affect Earth.

A massive young planet has been discovered by astronomers just 330 light years from Earth. This world, known as 2MASS 1155–7919 b, is roughly 10 times larger than Jupiter, and orbits its parent star at a distance 600 times greater than the distance between the Earth and Sun. Just a handful of planets this size are known to astronomers, and this world is the closest yet found to our home world.

On February 25th, I will interview Annie Dickson Vandevelde of the Rochester Institute of Technology about her discovery of this unusual planet. Listen to this full interview next week on the Astronomy News with the Cosmic Companion podcast.

For several months, the normally bright star, Betelgeuse, seen in the constellation of Orion, has been noticeably dimming. This has led many astronomers, both professional and amateur, to speculate that this massive red giant star may be about to explode as a supernova. New observations by astronomers at the European Southern Observatory show this star is also changing shape, becoming more elongated. It is uncertain what is causing this, or if the star will be seen erupting in the immediate future, although chances of such an eruption seem slim at this time.

Radio astronomers in Canada have recently discovered a source of radio waves from space which turns on and off on a 16-day cycle. Roughly once an hour for four days, the source emits a radio signal, which is then followed by twelve days of silence. Astronomers are uncertain what could be causing this unusual phenomenon, but the CHIME radio telescope in Canada which found the source uses technology which could help uncover its nature. This signal appears to be a unique type of fast radio burst, which were first discovered in 2007.

Remember to rune in next week when I interview Dorothy Dickson-Vandervelde of the Rochester Institute of Technology about her discovery of 2MASS 1155–7919 b, the massive young exoplanet in our galactic neighborhood.

Did you like this episode? Subscribe to The Cosmic Companion Newsletter! Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a podcast from all major podcast providers. Or, add this show to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa.

See you around the Cosmos!

- James

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The Cosmic Companion February 15, 2020

Europe launches its first solar telescope, a massive baby world is found not far from Earth, Betelgeuse changes shape as it dims, and astronomers search for causes of a weird radio signal from space.

Hello everyone!

In this week's episode of The Cosmic Companion, we meet the first European space telescope designed to study the Sun, and a massive young world is found in our galactic neighborhood. We also take a look up at Betelgeuse as one of the most familiar stars in the night sky may be preparing to explode, and we examine an odd radio signal from space which repeats every 16 days, leaving astronomers baffled.

In our upcoming podcast of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, I will interview Dr. Gillian Wilson of the University of California Riverside about her discovery of XMM-2599, an ancient galaxy that lived fast and died young. Listen and subscribe to Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion through any major podcast provider, including iTunes, Spotify, or TuneIn! Or, listen in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com.

The Cosmic Companion also offers a premium newsletter, featuring weekly exclusive videos, the astronomy comic of the week, and more. Just $5 a month, or $50 a year! Sign up at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com.

Or, you can buy me a cup of coffee for my work!

Let’s take off!


The Week in Space

Solar Orbiter Mission Lifts off on Mission to Explore the Sun

By James Maynard

The Solar Orbiter Mission has taken off on its mission to explore the Sun. Here’s the technology behind this groundbreaking mission.

An artist’s concept of the Solar Orbiter approaching the Sun. Image credit: ESA/ATG Media Lab

On February 10, 2020, the engines of an Atlas V rocket ignited at Cape Canaveral, launching the Solar Orbiter spacecraft on its way to explore the mysteries of our local star. This mission, headed by the European Space Agency (ESA) now heads to the Sun, bringing with it a diverse array of technologies designed to study our stellar parent.

This mission will become the first spacecraft to ever study the polar regions of the Sun in detail, which are (so far) hidden from observation from Earth-based astronomers or any previous spacecraft.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Solar-Orbiter-Mission-Lifts-Off


Baby Giant Planet Found in Our Own Neighborhood

By James Maynard

A massive world that would dwarf Jupiter has been discovered in our galactic neighborhood, leading astronomers to question how such a massive world could form far from its parent star.

An artist’s concept of a massive gas giant orbiting a cool, dim star. In the 2MASS 1155–7919 systemm, the planet orbits far from its parent star. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)

Just 330 light years from Earth, a massive baby planet named 2MASS 1155–7919 b has recently been born from a cloud of gas and dust. Researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) found this rare young gas giant, 10 times larger than Jupiter, orbiting far from its stellar companion— 600 times further from its parent star than the Earth is from the Sun.

The star around which this planet orbits is also extremely young, having formed just five million years ago, roughly one-thousandth the age of the Sun.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Baby-Giant-Planet


Images of Betelgeuse’s Dimming Surface Reveal the Star’s Changing Shape

By Rob Lea

Observations of Betelguese’s surface have shown that the rapidly dimming supergiant is also changing shape.

Astronomers have observed the ever dimming surface of Betelguese with the aid of the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The stunning new images they have captured not only reveal the star’s unprecedented dimming but also that the red supergiant in the constellation of Orion is changing shape.

Betelgeuse began to noticeably dim in late 2019, with the red supergiant’s estimated drop in brightness currently at around 36% of its normal output. This is a change so extreme it is noticeable with the naked eye. Astronomers and researchers across the globe are clamouring to learn more about this drop in brightness and what it signifies for the star.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Betelgeuse_Changing_Shape


What is Causing a Strange 16-Day Radio Burst from Space?

By James Maynard

The mysteries of radio waves from space repeating every 16 days may be solved by CHIME — the same instrument that discovered it.

The four cylinders of the CHIME radio telescope, where this unusual signal was first detected. Image credit: CHIME

An odd radio signal is coming from space, starting and stopping in regular 16-day cycles. A team of Canadian astronomers were the first to report finding the source, which they discovered using a novel radio telescope.

This newly-discovered burst of radio waves, called FRB 180814.J0422+73, does not fit any known cause, leading to range-ranging speculations on its nature, ranging from simple interactions between stars, to suggestions the waves are signals from intelligent lifeforms.

Read more: http://bit.ly/16-Day-Radio-Burst-Space


Read more stories at www.thecosmiccompanion.com


Coming soon: The First Woman on the Moon: The Past and Future History of Women in Space by James Maynard


Thanks for reading!

On the February 18th episode of the Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion podcast, I will be interviewing Dr. Gillian Wilson of the University of California Riverside, about her work on the recent discovery of XMM-2599, a monster galaxy from the early Universe that lived fast and died young. Excerpts will also be heard on the video version of the show. Make sure to listen to this exciting episode!

You can also listen to my new podcast, Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, available on all major podcast distributors, including iTunes, Spotify, and TuneIn! Or, tune in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com. You can also add Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa!

If you want to keep up with the latest updates and news about astronomy and space exploration, visit www.thecosmiccompanion.com, join my Facebook pagesubscribe on YouTube, and follow @TheCosmicCompanion on Instagram and @CompanionCosmic on Twitter.

Remember - VIP subscribers receive this newsletter, plus a second weekly newsletter with sneak previews of each video episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, an astronomy comic of the week, rare space photos, and more! Plans start at just $5!

Do you know someone else who would love this newsletter? Please share! Invest in knowledge with a premium subscription for yourself or a loved one today (including advance viewings of my weekly video show)! Or, I’d love it if you could buy me a cup of coffee - I LOVE coffee!

Thanks for everything and I will see you next week!

Astronomy - Don’t Leave Home Without It!

- James

Give a gift subscription

Share

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Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion Podcast February 11, 2020

  
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In this week's episode of The Cosmic Companion, we look at how the smallest subatomic particles could be responsible for all the matter in the Universe, the icy heart of Pluto could control the climate on that world, an ancient galaxy is discovered that lived fast and died young, The CHEOPS Space Telescope takes its first image, and the Cocoon Galaxy is found to have a rare double core.

Video version of this podcast:

When matter first formed in the early Universe, theories suggest antimatter should have been created in the same, identical proportions. These two families of particles should have completely annihilated each other long ago, according to current theories. However, the Universe consists almost entirely of matter.

This may be explained if neutrinos, which only rarely interact with matter, changed just one in a billion particles of antimatter into matter, a new study suggests. This process may have produced gravitational waves which could be visible to a new generation of observatories. Finding such waves could prove this new theory, researchers suggest.
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An artist's impression of CHEOPS in space. Image credit: ESA/ATG Media LabThe first space telescope from the European Space Agency dedicated to studying planets around other stars has returned its first image. The CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite, or CHEOPS, was launched on December 18th, on a mission to study exoplanets discovered by other telescopes. This first image was created to test systems on the spacecraft and on the ground, and further testing on the orbiting observatory will the carried out over the course of the next two months.
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A giant heart-shaped feature on Pluto, named Tombaugh Regio, may play a significant role in driving climate on that world, a new study reveals. As the Heart of Pluto warms during the day, nitrogen is driven into the atmosphere. At night, this gas cools, falling back to Pluto as frozen nitrogen, in a regular cycle similar to a heartbeat, altering the climate of the dwarf planet.
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Astronomers believe the cocoon galaxy and its smaller companion galaxy, called NGC 4485, are the products of an ancient collision between a pair of small spiral galaxies. Now, Iowa State astronomers have recognized a second galactic core within the larger galaxy. One of the cores is seen in visible light and has long been known to astronomers, while the newly-recognized second core is obscured by clouds, and is only visible in radio wavelengths.
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An ancient galaxy recently discovered by astronomers apparently lived fast and died young. This family of stars thrived just one billion years after the Big Bang, experiencing a period of active star formation. Just 800 million years later, star production had ceased, leaving behind a dead galaxy. Researchers are uncertain why this galaxy, known as XMM-2599, died so quickly or what became of this stellar grouping after star production ceased. 
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On February 18th, I will interview Dr. Gillian Wilson of the University of California Riverside, about her work on the recent discovery of this fast-living galaxy. Make sure to listen in to Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion right here, or on any major podcast provider.
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Did you like this episode? Subscribe to The Cosmic Companion Newsletter! Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a podcast from all major podcast providers. Or, add this show to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa.

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