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A couple of quick notes from Dr. Pamela

We’re going to be taking next Mon-Wed-Fri off streaming the Daily Space while we take time to do some needed maintenance behind the scenes. There will still be stuff going on, and when I can, I’ll share it all with you! On Tuesday we’ll have a normal episode with guest Jian-Yang Li to talk about Comet Borisov, and Catherine Johnson will join us on Thursday to talk about  Mars’ Magnetic Field.

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Somehow another week has passed, and even in these plague times, there are certain constants. Astronomy Cast is still here and we’ll be airing a new episode later today. Spring still means allergy season, so we can all expect a few sniffles in our future. And of course,with a new rover prepping to make its way to Mars, I can expect multiple news items in my inbox assuring me NASA’s Perseverance Rover is still preparing to launch. Honestly, it’s starting to feel like this mission is a bit desperate. You ok, Perseverance? We’ll still love you, even if COVID causes delays. Really, it’s ok.

We’re also continuing to see truly amazing science and imagery coming out of  MeerKAT, South Africa’s premier radio array. In a new paper accepted for publication in the MNRAS, a team led by William Cotton looks at X-shaped radio galaxies and identifies a possible cause for their shape. 

Looked at in lower res images, these weird objects simply looked like an X in the sky, and folks trying to explain them in the past have reached for ideas like twin SMBHs, each with their own radio jets, being tangled in the core of a merging system. In that situation, 4 distinct jets – 2 per SMBH – would be emerging from the system.

The galaxy PKS 2014-55. CREDIT: NRAO/AUI/NSF; SARAO; DES.

New, exquisitely detailed images from MeerKAT, however, make it clear that, at least in the case of PKS 2014-55, this is a single galaxy with 2 jets that are being twisted by fate, or at least by galactic rotation. These images appear to show that material previously ejected from the galaxy is now falling back, and as it falls back, it is getting pushed off to the side. Imagine if a spinning record had a tiny fountain in its center. If the material from that fountain tried to fall back onto the disk, it would get shunted horizontally. In the case of this X-shaped Galaxy, the fountain is many times bigger than the spinning disk, but the final result is the same, the infalling material gets spun off to the side. 

As a reminder, the incredible science MeerKAT is doing is only a precursor to what will be possible with the future SKA. MeerKAT is a technology testbed. If this is what is possible with MeerKAT, I can’t wait to see what details we will get from the future, much bigger, SKA.  

CREDIT: NASA, ESA, and M.H. Wong (UC Berkeley) and team.

The evolution of telescopes allows us to get ever more detailed images of objects near and far, and sometimes it is the most familiar objects that hide the most amazing surprises. From 2016 to 2019, a suite of telescopes on and off this world all trained their detectors at Jupiter. A new publication in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series reveals the amazing features they documented. This work was led by UC-Berkeley’s Michael Wong, and used the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii in combination with the Hubble Space Telescope, to image Jupiter from the UV to the IR. These images allow planetary scientists to peer deep into the clouds, spying details in storms that are otherwise lost in Jupiter’s beige bands. These images are now being used to provide context to the smaller, but higher-resolution, images being acquired by the Juno mission. While the science coming out of this is cool – it’s allowing new meteorological models of lightning storms and more to be made – what has me really excited is the release of these images to the public. All of us can explore these images through the STScI archive. The specific links will be posted on DailySpace.org.

Our last story of the day is one that makes this Friday feel a bit like groundhog day. Alongside the steady stream of daily Perseverance updates, we’re also seeing a continuing stream of comets appearing and disappointing. Comet SWAN was our latest great hope for a naked eye comet. Lost in the northern hemisphere twilight, this morning object has been stunning southern hemisphere observers, and it was hoped that as it gets closer and brighter, we here in the north would also get to share the show. Now, it appears, SWAN has undergone an outburst not too different from ATLAS’s, and that it too may have shed some of its materials or started to disintegrate. We don’t know the details yet, but observers are reporting that Swan is fading in brightness. It’s still visible in telescopes – for now – but it likely will linger around 6th magnitude, where it will be lost in the twilight. 

While SWAN looks to disappoint, another comet, NEOWISE C/2020 F3, is gaining attention. Now at magnitude 11, this object already has a coma 5’ across. Located in Lepus and headed toward Orion, this object may reach magnitude 3 o 2.5 in mid-July has its motion carries it into the Northern hemisphere constellations of Lynx and Ursa Major.

Learn More

MeerKAT looks at an X-Shaped Radio Galaxy

All-Color Jupiter

Comet SWAN

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio Editing by Pamela Gay
Video Editing by Tim Hawkins
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/