The Cosmic Companion March 3, 2020

We interview SETI researcher Sofia Sheik of Penn State University, hear the first findings of the InSight lander on Mars, a new moon joins Earth in space, and the largest explosion since the Big Bang.

Hello everyone!

This is the first newsletter in which we include video and audio versions of our show, Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion. Our VIP members get to see the show a day early, but we wanted to share our show with all our members.

The podcast version of this week’s show features a full interview with Sofia Sheikh of Penn State University, leader of a new study to find extraterrestrials who may have already found life on Earth.

Also in this week's edition of The Cosmic Companion, we examine findings from the InSight lander, which has returned its first data from Mars. Plus, we learn about 2020 CD3, an asteroid that recently entered orbit around the Earth as a second moon, and we talk about the composition of exoplanet K2 18b and what that means for the possibility of life on that world. Finally, we wrap up the show with a bang as evidence for the largest explosion since the Big Bang is seen by astronomers.

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The Week in Space

InSight’s mission to Mars sends back first results

The first results from NASA’s Mars InSight lander have arrived giving us the most complete picture of the conditions on another world.

By Rob Lea

The InSight Lander on the surface of Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On November 26th 2018 NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport or InSight lander touched down on the surface of Mars. From it’s landing site in the Elysium Planitia near the Red Planet’s equator the lander, comprised of a variety of state of the art measurement equipment, set about its mission to take the ‘vital signs’ of our neighbour planet.

The ultimate goal; to understand the interior of Mars, how the planet formed, and the processes that have shaped its evolution, and how this relates to the Earth. Today, after nearly 10 months of operations the first results from InSight are revealed in a series of papers published across the Nature family of journals.

Read more:

The Earth has a New Mini-Moon (for now) — 2020 CD3

The Earth is now being orbited by a new small moon, about the size of a car. What do we know about 2020 CD3?

By James Maynard

Most asteroids, like the one shown here, are composed largely of stone. About three years ago, a car-sized asteroid entered orbit around the Earth, providing our world with a second (tiny) moon — for now. Image credit: NASA

The Earth is continually accompanied by the Moon, producing tides, stabilizing our environment, and giving lovers a target to stare at in the evening sky. Now, it appears we now have a second moon in the skies above us — at least for now.

The asteroid 2020 CD3 entered orbit around Earth before being found by astronomers examining results from the Catalina Sky Survey. Astronomers know of more than a million asteroids, but this is just the second such body, after 2006 RH120, known to orbit the Earth. That earlier object was also spotted by the Catalina Sky Survey.

Read more:

Exoplanet K2–18b Could Have the Right Conditions for Life

Just over 120 light years from Earth, exoplanet K2–18b could have conditions favorable to the development of life, a new study reveals. It all comes down to the science.

By James Maynard

A small change in the amount of hydrogen in the atmosphere of K2–18b could make a huge difference, as seen here, where changing the concentration of hydrogen by just 0.4% percent altered this exoplanet from an ice-encrusted water world to having a significant atmosphere. Simulation by The Cosmic Companion/Created in Universe Sandbox

The exoplanet K2–18b, sitting 124 light years from Earth, may have conditions favorable to the development of life, a new study suggests. The world is larger than the Earth, is known to have a substantial atmosphere, and new research suggests that conditions on this world may also be favorable to producing large pools of liquid water.

Roughly twice as large as Earth, with 8.6 times the mass of our home world, this exoplanet orbits within the habitable zone around its star, K2–18. This region of a solar system, sometimes called the Goldilocks zone, is the distance from a star which is neither too hot, nor too cold, for liquid water to exist on the surface of a planet.

Read more:

Largest Explosion Seen Since Big Bang Rocked Distant Cluster of Galaxies

Astronomers find evidence of the most powerful explosion ever seen in the history of the Universe. What do we know about this mammoth eruption?

By James Maynard

This extremely powerful eruption occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, located about 390 million light-years from Earth. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter, and hot gas. (left). Analysis of this data was provided by astronomers using several radio telescopes, including the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Western Australia (right). Image credit: (Left) X-ray: NASA/CXC/Naval Research Lab/Giacintucci, S.; XMM:ESA/XMM; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRTN; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF — (right) Pete Wheeler, ICRAR.

The largest explosion ever seen in the history of the Universe ripped through a plasma cloud hundreds of millions of years ago, creating the most powerful explosion seen by astronomers since the Big Bang, a new study reveals.

The eruption, centered on a supermassive black hole (SMBH) in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster (roughly 390 million light-years from Earth) produced energetic jets, ripping a mammoth hole, 15 times larger than the Milky Way Galaxy, in the cloud of plasma surrounding the galactic cluster.

Read more:

Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion

Here’s our video episode for the week ending March 3, 2020

Our podcast version of this episode can be found here on Substack, or on any major podcast provider.

Cosmic Comics

Max on Mars

Now that max is on Mars, will he go outside? Find out in his next adventure, One Small Step for a Cat!

Read more adventures of this interplanetary kitty at and follow him on Instagram @MaxOnMarsComic!

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

Thanks for reading!

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Astronomy - Don’t Leave Home Without It!

- James

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