Astronomers discover an active galaxy in the early universe, and NASA names the Mars 2020 Rover with an essay contest. Note: The show will be taking a week off next week.
Hello, Friday! I just want to start this episode off with a reminder that we will be taking next week off to work on planning how to bring you all the news that would have been coming out during the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conferences, but is now in limbo as coronavirus has cancelled that meeting and so many others.
Folks, it’s a weird world out there. Stock up on food and chocolate, and wash your hands.
I think everyone is a bit distracted at the moment, and there hasn’t been a lot of super exciting news.
The most scientifically interesting news is the discovery of an active galaxy with massive jets pointed right at us. While that may sound dangerous, this particular object, a blazar named PSO J030947.49+271757.31, is located in the distant universe, and its light has been travelling toward us for some 12 billion years. These kinds of galaxies can only be detected when their jets are pointed in our direction. Statistically, if we find one blazar like this, there are going to be 100 more that are pointed in other directions. This implies there are a bunch of active galaxies already large are churning out star formation just 1 billion years after the universe formed. This object is the most distant source of persistent radio emission so far found. These results are published in the latest issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics and this work was led by Silvia Belladitta.
You’ll often hear us talk about how our stories come from a new article in one journal or another, and we work hard to make sure that we are either putting forward peer-reviewed science, or highlighting an event or pretty picture that may be of interest but doesn’t make science claims that need to be reviewed by peers.
This week we’ve had a bunch of people ask us about claims that a protein has been found in a meteor. We’ve seen reports of this on Twitter, but Twitter isn’t exactly a credible source of information. In trying to hunt down the original research, we found a preprint – a paper that is not yet published and is undergoing review, from a team of researchers led by Malcom McGeoch who lists his affiliation as PLEX LLC, but who isn’t listed on their website, and may actually be retired or something. Given the lack of peer review on this paper, and my inability to find out anything about the first author, we are going to hold off talking about the science of this paper until it’s made it through peer review. This science is outside my area of expertise, and this isn’t a case where I can say “I know this research team, so I’m going to give you a preview.” This isn’t to say the research is bad, or less likely to be true. It’s to say, I have no idea, and science as a process for this, so let’s wait for the process to take place.
OK, one final news note for the day. Yesterday, NASA announced that the Mars 2020 rover is going to be dubbed Perseverance. The winning essay associated with this name was written by Alexander Mather of Virginia and was 1 of 28,000 essays submitted. People on Twitter were quick to complain that this name is a bear to spell, and I’ll admit I misspelled it on my first try for this story, but… it is already looking like folks maybe shortening it to Percy. Don’t like either Perseverance or Percy? Well, Doug Ellison at JPL pointed out on Twitter that the Mars Science Laboratory team refers to Curiosity as “the rover,” or when it is being annoying as “the spacecraft”. So, here is to the other rover, launched in 2020, that some call Percy, having a successful launch later this year.
And that rounds out our show for today.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx