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May 2019: Seeing the Invisible

May 2019

In the show this time, we talk to Syksy Räsänen about black holes as dark matter candidates and the future of scientific publishing, Hongming Tang rounds up the latest news, and we find out what we can see in the May night sky from Ian Morison, Haritina Mogosanu and Samuel Leske.

The News

This month in the news: the updated LIGO is back, TESS found its first Earth-sized exoplanet and Israel's plan for the Beresheeft 2 lunar lander.

Firstly, LIGO and Virgo have been updated and are now finding a black hole merger every week.

A little over a year ago, LIGO and Virgo triggered their upgrade procedures. After the upgrade, the instrument sensitivity of LIGO and Virgo increased by 40%. It was expected that this could possibly allow for weekly event detection. After the upgrade finished on April 1st, the observatory detected two probable gravitational wave events in two weeks.

LIGO and Virgo Collaborations sent the first public alert of an event they detected on April 8th and announced it 3 days later. On April 12th, the detectors caught a second signal. The two events were observed thanks to the collaboration between LIGO and Virgo Observatories. They are both believed to be the result of black holes merging. The announcement also marked that the new observation period O3 has begun and will last for about a year.

Now they are making their third observation run, a new public alert system was applied to benefit the community. The LIGO team will send out alerts when a detection is made, and observatories around the world then can point their telescopes at the sources. Multi-messenger astronomy would allow scientists to learn more about the cause of GW events, and also the dynamics behind them. The improved sensitivity also motivated scientists to study not only pulsar-pulsar merging and black hole- black hole merging, but also black hole-neutron star merging.

Also, the LIGO public alerts include a sky-map that provides the possible location of the source in the sky, the time when an event is detected, and what kind of the event it is believed to be. In the future, more detailed information on the candidates will be given once proper study of them is done. If you would like to hear about alerts in the future, you can download the alert app at Gravitational Wave Events iPhone App.

Next up, TESS just found its first Earth-sized exoplanet.

After the Kepler telescope's retirement, NASA's new planet-hunting telescope, TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) just found its first Earth-sized exoplanet. This observation was taken in January this year, but it was not until April 15th they confirmed their status with follow-up observations and had the discovery published.

The newly discovered Earth-size planet is orbiting an orange main-sequence star called HD 21749. The solar system is about 53 light years from earth, and 70% the mass of the Sun. The Earth-size exoplanet is called HD 21947c, and the system also has a hot sub-Neptune planet called HD 21749b. The discovery of this sub-Neptune contributes to the TESS Level 1 Science Requirement of providing 50 transiting planets smaller than 4 times of earth radius with measured masses.

TESS was expected to discover about 300 Earth-like exoplanets in 2 years, which made this discovery significant. The idea behind TESS is to discover small Earth-size exoplanets, as its predecessor, the Kepler telescope, mostly found exoplanets with way larger sizes than Earth. Without a doubt, TESS will become a game-changing space telescope in the field of exoplanet studies in the next few years.

Finally, the plan of Israel's Beresheet2 lunar craft has been released.

Earlier last month, the Beresheet, Israel's moon lander, crashed into the Moon. The historic project is the first ever private funded moon landing project, and Israel became the fourth country attempted to land on the moon. The Beresheet lander started as an entry to the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and cost 200 million dollars to build, which made it one of the cheapest lunar landings in human history. The Google Lunar X Prize committee announced that it would award SpaceIL a 1 million dollar worth "Moonshot Award" for its achievements. As said by the XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis, "SpaceIL's mission not only touched the Moon, it touches the lives and hearts of an entire world that was watching."

Fortunately, the failure of Beresheet is not the end of the project. Morris Kahn, Israeli billionaire entrepreneur and founder of SpaceIL, announced on April 13th that they are going to send the second lander to the moon, and use the failure of Beresheet as a building block. With the announcement of Beresheet2, SpaceIL might make Israel not only the fourth country to try to land on the moon, but the fourth to succeed.

Extended interview with Syksy Räsänen

Dr. Syksy Räsänen (University of Helsinki) came to us at an opportune moment - at the time of recording this interview, The Jodcast had just covered his guest post on the future of scientific publishing. We return to this subject in more depth, including the impact of the Plan S open access initiative and what role society publishing arms might take in the future. Beyond this, Syksy works on Higgs inflation, and how this might offer a pathway to miniature black holes as a dark matter candidate.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the Northern Hemisphere night sky during May 2019.

The Planets

Southern Hemisphere

Haritina Mogosanu and Samuel Leske from the Carter Science Centre in New Zealand speak about the Southern Hemisphere night sky during May 2019.

Odds and Ends

Shaking things up this episode, we hear about the first recorded "Marsquake". On April 6th NASA's InSight lander measured this expected phenomenon which was among its key science goals. Unlike Earth, Mars does not have tectonic plates; however, seismic activity can still occur as a consequence of stress caused by the slow cooling of the red planet. This had been expected for some time, and similar effects have been measured on the moon previously, but this is the first time seismic tremors have been measured on another planet. This was a weak quake, however if further stronger Marsquakes are detected it is the hope of the scientists working on the project to begin analysis of the interior structure of Mars.

The LHCb collaboration found a new source of matter-antimatter symmetry in the charm quark sector in the form violation of CP (Charge conjugation and Parity) symmetry. This shows that we perhaps haven't found all of the possible symmetry violations possible in Nature. The amount discovered is still not enough to explain why the Universe is made of matter and not equal amounts of both matter and antimatter, but indicates that there may be much more asymmetry we haven't found yet out there!

We discuss the first astrophysical detection of the helium hydride molecular ion (HeH+) in interstellar space, thought to be the earliest type of molecule to form in the Universe. Using SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, astronomers spotted the signature of this molecule in planetary nebula NGC 7027, confirming a key aspect of our understanding of the Universe's evolution. More information can be found in the SOFIA release and the published paper (Güsten et al. in Nature, open access version on arXiv).

Show Credits

News:Hongming Tang
Interview:Syksy Rasanen and Jake Staberg Morgan
Night sky:Ian Morison and Haritina Mogosanu
Presenters:Emma Alexander, Nialh McCallum, and Sankarshana Srinivasan
Editors:Adam Avison, Deepika Venkattu, Michael Wright, Tiaan Bezuidenhout, and Tom Scragg
Segment Voice:Tess Jaffe
Website:Fiona Porter and Stuart Lowe
Producer:Fiona Porter
Cover art:Illustration of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite -- TESS -- observing an M dwarf star with orbiting planets. CREDIT: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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