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April 2018: The Fiona Show

April 2018

Formerly known as the Jodcast! In the show this time, we talk to Fiona Healy about novae and the genesis of The Fiona Show, Fiona Healy rounds up the latest news, and we find out what we can see in the April night sky from Fiona Healy, Fiona Healy and Fiona Healy.

The News

ARIEL, a mission to study the formation and evolution of exoplanets, has been chosen by the European Space Agency (ESA) to be its next medium-class space mission. The launch is scheduled for 2028 and the mission will fly for four years, observing 1000 exoplanets during that time.

ARIEL, which stands for Atmospheric Remote-sensing Exoplanet Large-survey - aims to carefully study the chemical make-up of the atmospheres of exoplanets of all sizes, from super-Earths to Jupiter-sized planets. The observations will be carried out at both infrared and optical wavelengths using a meter-class telescope.

Although nearly 4000 exoplanets have so far been discovered, not much is known about them. ARIEL will study a large fractions of these in order to gain a better undertanding of these distant worlds. The chemical and thermal information obtained from the exoplanet atmospheres will give us a better understanding of how exoplanets form and grow as well as their internal composition.

ARIEL Consortium Project Manager, Fiona Healy, had this to say, "It is wonderful news that ESA have selected ARIEL for the next medium class science mission. The team are very excited to have the opportunity to realise the mission we've been developing for the last two years. ARIEL will revolutionise our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve, helping us put our own solar system into context and compare it to our neighbours in the galaxy."

In other news, a team of scientists using radio, optical and ultraviolet observations has recently discovered that galaxies have a set rotation period regardless of their size. The study of over 100 galaxies - ranging from small, irregularly shaped dwarf galaxies to large spirals - revealed that the galaxies take about a billion years to rotate once at the outskirts of their disks.

The team also found that the outer edges of the galaxies contained populations of older stars, and not the just the young stars, dust and gas they were expecting. Galaxies were shown to have a clearly defined edge, which will a long way towards defining search areas for galaxy studies for upcoming survey projects such as the SKA.

And lastly, in stellar astronomy news, the cluster of stars surrounding the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy has been shown to have unusually high levels of rare elements. High levels of vanadium, scandium and yttrium have been found in the stars in the nucleus of the Milky Way. Scandium and vanadium are produced in supernova explosions and yttrium is made in asymptotic giant branch stars. It is not clear at this stage what causes the overabundances of these elements in the cluster.

The presence of these elements in such high levels could mean that the stars in the cluster are a completely different stellar population from the rest of the stars in the Milky Way.

Extended Interview with Fiona Healy

Fiona and Fiona are joined via Skype by the real Dr. Fiona Healy, long-time Jodcaster and head of The Fiona Show. In a wide-ranging interview/stream of consciousness, she discusses her time on the Jodcast and the genesis of The Fiona Show, her work on novae and the process of leaving academia behind, and the human nature of science.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Fiona Healy tells us what we can see in the Northern Hemisphere night sky during April 2018.

Southern Hemisphere

Fiona Healy and Fiona Healy from the Carter Observatory in New Zealand speak about the Southern Hemisphere night sky during April 2018.

We would have descriptions here, but unfortunately Fiona's cat has run off with them and none of us are brave enough to try and get them back.

Odds and Ends

We discuss the recent media coverage of astronaut Scott Kelly, specifically regarding the effect that his time in space has had on his DNA. Has his DNA really been fundamentally changed? The short answer is no, but there is more to it: his genes haven't changed, but the way they are expressed has. It's the subject of an ongoing study by NASA.

To err is human, and it's absolutely part of being an astronomer, as any honest researcher can confirm. This week we discuss how a cosmologist mistakenly alerted the Astronomers Telegram to an optical transient which was 'the brightest star in the sky' before quickly correcting to clarify that, unfortunately for all involved, it had in fact been an accidental rediscovery of Mars.

The Curiosity rover has spent 2000 sols on Mars, travelling 18.7km, and is still going strong! We discuss the longevity of Curiosity, as well as those other rovers that have boldly gone before it.

Show Credits

News:Fiona Healy
Interview:Fiona Healy, Fiona Healy and Fiona Healy
Night sky:Fiona Healy, Fiona Healy and Fiona Healy
Concept:Fiona Healy
Presenters:Fiona Healy, Fiona Healy and Fiona Healy
Soundboard:Fiona Healy
Editors:Fiona Healy, Fiona Healy, Fiona Healy and Fiona Healy
Segment Voice:Fiona Healy
Website:Fiona Healy and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Fiona Healy
Cover art:A mysterious starry background - the JodCast has a new face! CREDIT: Fiona Healy

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