Astrophiz 85: Professor Jonti Horner – Exobiology Part 1
‘The Myths of Jupiter, Comet impacts & the search for life elsewhere’
+ ‘What’s Up Doc’ with Dr Ian ‘Astroblog’ Musgrave
In Part 1 of an extended three part interview, our featured guest is Professor Jonti Horner, the Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Southern Queensland in Australia. With thousands of citations, he is an esteemed Astronomer and Astrobiologist who researches Exoplanets, Exoplanet Habitability and the evolution of our Solar system. Jonti is leading the construction of the MINERVA-Australis exoplanet search and follow-up facility at the USQ Mt. Kent Observatory.
In today’s episode, we glimpse Jonti’s great career trajectory and he introduces us to some of the complex myths and realities surrounding Jupiter, and Jupiter’s role in the development of life on earth. Another highlight to listen for is how astrobiology could have begun with Giordano Bruno being burnt at the stake in 1600 for maintaining that the thousands of stars were like our sun, also with planets revolving around them. Then Jonti gives us a crystal clear view of the development of astrobiology research and the current searches for water beyond our earth, ‘because that’s the best place to look for life’.
You will also love his analysis of why the future is likely to see silicon-based ‘life’ representing humanity in space, and you’ll be introduced to the term ‘Panspermia’.
In our regular feature of observers and astrophotographers, ‘What’s Up Doc’ with Dr Ian ‘Astroblog’ Musgrave, we set our sights mainly on the evening skies, and in ‘Ian’s Tangent’ we hear about upcoming eclipses and with the imminent 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing, how ’Snoopy’ the lunar lander may have finally been found, lost in space.
In the News:
.1. A non-repeating FRB has finally been pinpointed with astonishing accuracy in a distant galaxy, opening a new door for our quest to discover the cause of these extremely short bursts of prodigious energy.
Using 24 of the 36 ASKAP radio telescopes in outback Western Australia, an international team used interferometry to localise the exact direction of the FRB’s source. Then three of the world’s most powerful optical telescopes – Gemini, Keck and the VLT – were called on to calculate the distance to the galaxy involved.
One of the co-authors of the Science paper is Dr J-P MacQuart, and you can hear him explain his FRB research in Episode 35 of Astrophiz. Well done JP!
Congratulations to the team led by Keith Bannister of the CSIRO/ATNF , Adam Deller from the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, and JP McQuart from ICRAR, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research and Curtin University in Perth
.2. In related news, a Russian team has discovered 9 new FRBs using the Pushchino Radio Astronomy Observatory
.3. And in a great news item related to this episode on Exobiology with Dr Horner, NASA has just announced it is going to send a drone called Dragonfly to Saturn’s largest moon. The plan is to launch in 2026 and land on Titan in 2034.
Commiserations to the other contender for NASA mission funding, the CAESAR project Cornell University team, who were ready for a sample/return mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko