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Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion

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The latest astronomy and space news from around the world. PLUS casual interviews with astronomers and other scientists seeking to understand the cosmos. All delivered in an easy-to-understand style with a dash of humor.Named Best Astronomy Podcast in the world by Starlust!… read more

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Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion Podcast February 18, 2020

In this week's episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, we meet the first European space telescope designed to study the Sun, and a massive young world is found in our galactic neighborhood. We also take a look up at Betelgeuse as one of the most familiar stars in the night sky may be preparing to explode, and we examine an odd radio signal from space which repeats every 16 days, leaving astronomers baffled.

I also interview Dr. Gillian Wilson of the University of California, Riverside about her discovery of XMM-2599, a galaxy that lived fast and died young in the early Universe. Full interview in podcast only.

Video version of this podcast:

On February 10, the Solar Orbiter from the European Space Agency lifted off from Cape Canaveral on a mission to explore the Sun. This vehicle carries 10 instruments, each designed to study a different characteristic of our parent star. This is Europe's first mission to the Sun, and the spacecraft will work with NASA's Parker Solar Probe, attempting to understand solar activity which produces space weather that can affect Earth.

A massive young planet has been discovered by astronomers just 330 light years from Earth. This world, known as 2MASS 1155–7919 b, is roughly 10 times larger than Jupiter, and orbits its parent star at a distance 600 times greater than the distance between the Earth and Sun. Just a handful of planets this size are known to astronomers, and this world is the closest yet found to our home world.

On February 25th, I will interview Annie Dickson Vandevelde of the Rochester Institute of Technology about her discovery of this unusual planet. Listen to this full interview next week on the Astronomy News with the Cosmic Companion podcast.

For several months, the normally bright star, Betelgeuse, seen in the constellation of Orion, has been noticeably dimming. This has led many astronomers, both professional and amateur, to speculate that this massive red giant star may be about to explode as a supernova. New observations by astronomers at the European Southern Observatory show this star is also changing shape, becoming more elongated. It is uncertain what is causing this, or if the star will be seen erupting in the immediate future, although chances of such an eruption seem slim at this time.

Radio astronomers in Canada have recently discovered a source of radio waves from space which turns on and off on a 16-day cycle. Roughly once an hour for four days, the source emits a radio signal, which is then followed by twelve days of silence. Astronomers are uncertain what could be causing this unusual phenomenon, but the CHIME radio telescope in Canada which found the source uses technology which could help uncover its nature. This signal appears to be a unique type of fast radio burst, which were first discovered in 2007.

Remember to rune in next week when I interview Dorothy Dickson-Vandervelde of the Rochester Institute of Technology about her discovery of 2MASS 1155–7919 b, the massive young exoplanet in our galactic neighborhood.

Did you like this episode? Subscribe to The Cosmic Companion Newsletter! Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion is also available as a podcast from all major podcast providers. Or, add this show to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa.

See you around the Cosmos!

- James

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