May 3, 2021

A Record-Breaking Flare From Sun's Nearest Stellar Neighbour

The Astronomy, Technology and Space Science News Podcast.
SpaceTime with Stuart Gary Series 24 Episode 49
*A record-breaking flare from Sun's nearest stellar neighbour
Astronomers have detected one of the most violent stellar flares ever recorded ...

The Astronomy, Technology and Space Science News Podcast.

SpaceTime with Stuart Gary Series 24 Episode 49

*A record-breaking flare from Sun's nearest stellar neighbour

Astronomers have detected one of the most violent stellar flares ever recorded in the galaxy exploding out of Proxima Centauri the nearest star system to the Sun.

*More chopper flights on the red planet

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter continues to set records, flying faster and farther in its latest test flights on the surface of the red planet.

*A new look at the story of the Pleiades seven sisters

Astronomers have taken a new look at the enigmatic Pleiades open star cluster and how its evolution fits in to human mythology.

*The pink supermoon

It sounds like something they used to do at midnight shift or studio 54 -- but we just had something the media are calling a pink super moon.

*The Science Report

A new subunit COVID-19 vaccine passes its early trials.

Study warns breathing second hand smoke increases your risk of getting oral cancer by 51 percent.

How fast can a T-rex run?

New study claims juvenile tyrannosaurs were faster than their parents

Skeptic's guide to shonky Epson salt cures.


Your support is needed...

SpaceTime is an independently produced podcast (we are not funded by any government grants, big organisations or companies), and we’re working towards becoming a completely listener supported show...meaning we can do away with the commercials and sponsors. We figure the time can be much better spent on researching and producing stories for you, rather than having to chase sponsors to help us pay the bills.

That's where you come us reach our first 1,000 that level the show becomes financially viable and bills can be paid without us breaking into a sweat every month. Every little bit helps...even if you could contribute just $1 per month. It all adds up.

By signing up and becoming a supporter at the $5 or more level, you get immediate access to over 230 commercial-free, double, and triple episode editions of SpaceTime plus extended interview bonus content. You also receive all new episodes on a Monday rather than having to wait the week out. Subscribe via Patreon or Supercast....and share in the rewards. Details at Patreon or Supercast -

Details at or


For more SpaceTime visit (mobile friendly).

For enhanced Show Notes including photos to accompany this episode:

RSS feed:


To receive the Astronomy Daily Newsletter free, direct to your inbox...just join our mailing list at or visit 

See for privacy and opt-out information.


SpaceTime 20210503 Series 24 Episode 49 AI Transcript

[00:00:00] This is space time series 24 episode 49, four broadcast on the 3rd of May, 2021. Coming up on space time, a record breaking flare from the sun's nearest, still a neighbor nurse's ingenuity continues its flight tests on the red planet, Mars and the pink supermoon. All that and more coming up. I'm spacetime.

Welcome to space time with Stewart, Gary.

Astronomers of detective one of the most violent still flares ever recorded in the galaxy exploding out of proximate. Centaury the nearest star system to the sun. The massive flare reported in the astrophysical journal is the largest ever recorded coming from [00:01:00] proximate. Centaury a small spectral type M red dwarf star located just 4.2, five light years away.

Proxima Centauri has just 12% the mass and 14% the radius of the sun. It is a surface temperature of 2,777 degrees Celsius. And it's about a thousand times less luminous than the sun it's known to have at least two orbiting planets. One of which proximate B is similar in size to the earth and orbits within the stars habitable zone.

That's the region around a star with temperatures would allow liquid water central for life. As we know it to exist on a planet surface. Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the Milky way. Galaxy making up about three quarters of all the stars in the galaxy. And because they're relatively dim, it's easy to find orbiting exoplanets around them.

Consequently, they're the most common known source of exoplanets. And for this reason, proximate centaury has long been a target for scientists, hoping to find life beyond earth solar system. [00:02:00] However, there's always been a problem with red dwarf stars and that includes Proxima Centauri. They produce violent flares, spearing out huge amounts of energy and plasma into the surrounding space.

Eventually this would erode away any atmosphere around a nearby planet. They will also irradiate anything on the planet surface. And that includes any hope of finding life on the surface of proximate B. The study's lead author, assistant professor Meredith McGregor from the university of Colorado.

Boulder says red dwarfs flare a lot more than stars like the sun and astronomers are only now beginning to understand the magnitude and character of their flares. McGregor and colleagues observed proximate Suntory for 40 hours using nine ground and space-based telescopes, including the Australia square kilometer array, Pathfinder as gap NASA's Hubble space telescope, the Atacama large millimeter submillimeter array, radio telescope, Alma, and neces transiting, exoplanet survey, satellite tests.

This Mark, the first time astronomers have had this [00:03:00] kind of multi wavelength coverage of a stellar flare. As they watched, they saw Proximus and Tori erupt in a massive stellar flare one that ranks as among the most violent ever seen on a solitary star, anywhere in the galaxy, over a span of just seven seconds, there's still a flare emitted, massive amounts of ultraviolet radiation, quickly growing some 14,000 times brighter.

Like solar flares and coronal mass ejections on the surface of the sun filets on proximate Suntory, a thought to occur were magnetic field lines near the star surface twist and snap with explosive consequences. However, the flare admitted by approximate centaury was roughly a hundred times more powerful than any similar flair ever seen on the sun.

And the thing is this may not be a rare occurrence on Proximus and sorry. It was in addition to the big boom which occurred on may the first 2019, the authors also recorded many other stellar flares occurring. During the 40 hours they spent watching the star McGregor suggests there will probably be even more [00:04:00] with types of stellar flares coming from proximate, and which will help demonstrate different types of physics, which haven't even been thought about before now.

This is space time still the com this is Mars. Ingenuity. Helicopter continues to set records flying faster and further in its latest test flights on the surface of the red planet. And we have a new look at the story of the play, the seven sisters, all that, and much more still to come. Um, space time.

This is ingenuity. Mars helicopter continues to set records flying faster and further in its latest series of test flights on the surface of the red planet. The third of five plan test flights saw the 1.8 kilogram rotorcraft flight to an altitude of five meters above the [00:05:00] floor of the red planet. Jess wrote greater the autonomously controlled solar powered helicopter.

Then flew some 50 meters down range. Switching speeds of two meters per second. Ingenuity mission managers at NASA's jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena, California, and are sifting through the data from the 82nd test flight with a view to far more venturous journeys over the remaining two tests. A few days earlier during ingenuity second test flight between Rhoda tissue box sized aircraft also climbed to an attitude of five meters, Harvard briefly, and then performed a slight five degree tilt, allowing some of the thrusts from the counter-rotating rotors to accelerate the Kraft sideways for two meters.

The 52 second flight also saw the chopper rotate in Hava, turning the camera in different directions before returning to its takeoff point. Meanwhile documenting all the action was the six wheeled car size perseverance Rover, which has packed 64 meters away. Perseverance used its mass cam Z and Neff cam cameras.

To record the test flight [00:06:00] program and act as a communications relay between the helicopter orbiting satellites and NASA deep space communications network. Mission managers have given ingenuity a 30 Seoul or Martian day flight test window. Perseverance which transported ingenuity on its 278 million kilometer journey from earth to Mars landed in Jethro crater on February the 18th.

It's on a mission to search for evidence of past life on the red planet and sediments and debris, which have flowed into the river Delta where the spacecrafts landed may well be the best place on Mars to begin the search. This is space time still the com and you look at the story of the plate. He's seven sisters, and it seems to have just had something the media likes to call a pink supermoon Oh, that and much more Stoller calm.

On space time.

[00:07:00] astronomers have taken a new look at the enigmatic play he's open star cluster and how its evolution fits into human mythology. The plate. He's a, one of the nearest and youngest OpenStack clusters to earth, open star clusters at groups of stars, which were originally all born at the same time, out of the same collapsing, molecular gas and dust cloud, although somewhat still gravitationally bound, it's thought that stars in urban clusters could eventually separate and move to other parts of the galaxy.

Also known as M 45, the play, these are located in the constellation, tourists, the ball, and they're composed of mostly hot blue, white stars. The plate is seven brightest stars can be easily seen with the unaided eye and they're often referred to as the seventh sisters. Although in reality, this spectacular open cluster actually has over a hundred stars.

Yeah, depending on whose measurements you prefer, the plate is a somewhere between [00:08:00] 118 and 137 past six away, a passage being 3.26 light years. So at somewhere between 385 and 447 light years, distance a lot, you being about 10 trillion kilometers that distance of photon can travel in a year at 300,000 kilometers per second.

The speed of light in a vacuum and the ultimate speed limit of the universe. Amazingly different cultures in different parts of the world, all the scribe, the play at ease as being seven women or seven sisters or seven daughters, possibly some ancient throwback to early human civilization. According to Greek mythology, uh, Ryan fell in love with the seven sisters and pursued them.

Eventually Zeus got sick of it and turned Beth to Ryan and the plate is in the stars. Similar stories are told in other cultures, for example, in Australian Aboriginal dream time, the culture of the great Victoria desert region, old deer in our back South Australia has a Ryan as a young male Hunter who chases, but never catches the [00:09:00] play.

It is, there were a group of seven young sisters in a Ryan's right hand is a club filled with magic fire. That's represented by the giant red star. Betelgeuse. However, the play at his older sister represented by the Haiti star cluster. Tazza Ryan standing in front of him. She defensively lifts her foot, which is the star order brand.

And he's also full of fire magic. Apparently that causes a Ryan great humiliation, putting out his fire and allowing the seven sisters to escape. One of the interesting facts about this ancient dream time story is that it accurately describes the variability of the star better burgers, which brightens and fades over a period of about 400 days.

This play at his seven sisters story is remarkably similar to legends found in many other cultures around the world, among people who haven't had any contact with each other for tens of thousands of years. Of course it's important to point out. There are also many other cultures that don't have these fables when referring to the plays.

And so there could be a strong [00:10:00] argument for this being simply a case of confirmation bias. Astronomer professor Ray Norris from the university of Western Sydney has been studying the mythology behind these Platy seven sisters stories. He points out that when most people look into the sky at the play at ease, unless they got a really good pair of eyes.

They only see six stars. And he says that significant because many of the stories talk about seven sisters, but with only six being visible because the seventh is being captured or fallen in love with a mortal and went into hiding. Similar loss, play at stories are found in European, African, Asian, Indonesian, native American, and Aboriginal Australian cultures.

In fact, Nara says many cultures regard the clusters having seven stars, but acknowledge only six in normally visible. And they have a story to explain why the seventh has become invisible. Nora says a detailed study. The merchant that played ease suggested that mythology could date back up to a hundred thousand years to a time when the [00:11:00] constellation looked quite different to what it does now, a time when seven bright stars were clearly visible, careful measurements with the European space agencies, Gaia space, telescope, and others have shown the play.

These are slowly changing position in the sky. One star Plone is now so close to the star Atlas that they look like a single star to the unaided eye, but a hundred thousand years ago, when a was much further away from Atlas and the pair would easily have been visible. It's two separate stars. So a hundred thousand years ago, most people really would have seen seven stars in the cluster.

And that's significant because that's also around the same time that modern homosapiens first began to migrate out of Africa. Norris says it means these may will have been stories told around campfires in early Africa and the people then brought the stories with them as they traveled to far away places like Australia, Europe, Asia, and eventually the American.

What we actually see is, so obviously we know the Greek and [00:12:00] Greek that was seven sisters and they applied these. And they got chased by a Ryan, the Hunter. Fine. That's a nice story. So when the fish invaded Australia, they found the Aboriginal people has almost the same story. And so all of us study, you have people, especially two went in seven sisters,

and yet they called it seven sisters. And then they said many of them said, man, that'd be so good. I was not going to Ryan. Just tasting the goals. And so the earliest scientists said, Oh, that's interesting. Cause they, the official people pick up the Greek story. Well, we actually know that's not the case now.

So people commented on that at the time, but we know that's not the case. It looks like this story is about some sisters. You said it's all of Aboriginal Australia. It's really, really old thousands of years old and he picked him and rock off and so on. Um, that's not something that's been given by the great British where Europeans, [00:13:00] everybody is old.

So question. So how come the Aboriginal people tell the same story? Because the Greeks and how come they both say there were seven sisters. Even though most people see 6,000. And then in fact, in both cases, the great kind of story, explain why  some great pathology going on. The sisters fell in love with the most in the Aboriginal stories story, the details vary across Australia, but one is the girl used to be captured by a Ryan or something like that.

And so you can't see the sister. So this is really weird, tiny similarity in the stories  stories. But in fact, these, the maiden stories, national Australia, and then pick mythology. And so what we've suggested is that if you go back a hundred thousand years, trust me all the few minutes he was living scheduler.

We [00:14:00] know that all modern humans, but that Greeks for Aboriginal Australians. They all came out of Africa about 2000 years ago. So all of humanity was sitting around campfires house Africa, telling each other stories. And the other thing is that a hundred thousand years ago the stars and the sun actually moved a bit.

And so I'm just asking, is it looked like that many well, seven stars. So what we see now in six months, like seven. Um, so what was stressing? The task was, well, maybe this is where the seven sisters story comes from. Maybe it comes out from Africa when there really was. Maybe this is the oldest story in the world.

A lot of civilizations have flood stories. They probably all date back to the same event when the black sea quite possibly. Yeah. Similar sorts of stories. Now I want to do the flood stories. Um, Stories of people, same stones down from the sky and cataclysmic event [00:15:00] about the Southern system story, instead of is very specific thing.

They used to be seven sisters. Now you only see six, much more specific than saying, Oh, we have this great flood, which should change everything. And so that's why I think that made me come and vote. Ray NARAS from the university of Western Sydney. And this is space time. I'm Stuart Garry. Still the comm, the mainstream media getting all excited about a pink supermoon and later in the science report.

And you study warns that breathing secondhand smoke increases your risk of getting our old cancer by 51%, all that, and much more still to come. On space time?

Well, it sounds like the sort of thing they used to do at [00:16:00] midnight shift or studio 54, but we've just had something making a big splash in the media, which they're calling a pink supermoon. The term supermoon is a trendy name adopted by mainstream media. Looking for clickbait to describe the pair of the full moon.

That's when the moon is at its closest orbital position to the earth during a full moon. See, on average, the moon orbits the earth at a distance of roughly 384,400 kilometers, but the moon's orbit around the earth. Isn't a perfect circle. It's slightly elliptical. That means one part of the moon's orbit will be a little bit closer to the earth, about 357,000 kilometers.

That's known as parody. And another part of the orbit will be a bit further away around 400, 6,000 kilometers. That's called Apogee. So the difference is about 5% closer or further away than average the exact distance to Peregian Apogee. Also very general other factors, such as whether the lunar orbits along axis is pointed towards the sun.

Also the moons, [00:17:00] orbital extremes, uh, greatest between November and February, each year when the Earth's orbit places, the planet and its moon closer to the sun, the earth orbit around the sun is also elliptical by almost 2% with paradise occurring in January. And therefore the sun's gravitational influence is greatest during this time.

Now the thing is super moons. Really aren't all that uncommon. They usually occur in groups of three, about every 13 months and 18 days. That means every 14th, full moon is a supermoon. Now while a pair of G full moon or supermoon can look around 40% larger and 30% brighter, you really wouldn't notice the difference on what someone told you.

And even then any size difference, perceptions that you do have with more likely be Judy or imagination. In reality, you need some series astronomical equipment to measure the difference. Also remember a full moon always looks unusually large and bright when it's near the horizon. That's an effect known as moon illusion.

One of the consequences [00:18:00] of parody, full moons, or a pair of G Neiman for that matter would be a noticeable increase in tides. Many factors influenced title Heights at a given location. Although they're usually highest nearness spring tides at full or new moon when the sun earth and moon are all aligned.

So a parody, moon being a bit closer than average would also result in slightly higher high tides than average. So where did this term supermoon originate? Well, it's history goes all the way back to 1979 by an astrologer, not an astronomer for those unfamiliar, with the difference between the two and astronomer is a person who studies space and the cosmos using the scientific method to learn about the universe.

And astrologer on the other hand is a person who uses inaccurate positions for constellations, planets, and other celestial bodies at different times of the year, to tell other people about their character or to predict their future. There has never been any scientific evidence supporting any of the claims made by astrology and [00:19:00] its continued success depends exclusively on people's gullibility.

Now, because true parody, full moons don't occur all the time, but only once every 14 full moons trends have modified the term super moon that describe any full moon within 90% of, of G something else. Mainstream media were quick to adopt. In fact, the terms become so popular, even Nasseri using it now as an opportunity to educate people about astronomy.

Okay. So where does the pink come from? Well, apparently that's a traditional name is by some North American first nations people that described the blooming of some pink wildflowers in their local area during the Northern hemisphere spring. This is space time

and turn that to take a brief look at some of the other stories, making using science this week with a science report. Scientists are working on a new type of COVID-19 vaccine. [00:20:00] It's called a sub unit, and it contains only a small part of the virus alongside of an agent that stimulates the immune system.

And importantly, early trials have shown that it does provide protective immunity, a report in the journal nature claims the results pave the way for larger clinical trials. Subunit vaccines is only very specific parts of a virus that the immune system needs to recognize it. In this case, part of the spike protein, because of that, they can be among the safest, the most widely used vaccines ever developed for these types of vaccines also require an immune system response, boosting agent called an adamant to be delivered at the same time.

Research has showed that immunized blood serum was able to neutralize the UK COVID-19 variant. It was less effective against the South African variant. Some 3.2 million people have now been killed by the COVID-19 virus with another 150 million infected since the deadly disease first emerged in war and [00:21:00] China and was spread around the world.

And you study Wars that breathing in secondhand smoke increases your chances of getting oral cancer by 51%, the findings reported in the British medical journal, uh, based on the meta analysis of studies across North and South America, Asia and Europe data from 6,977 people across five studies was analyzed 1,179 of whom had oral cancer.

Those exposed to secondhand smoke were found to be 51% more likely to develop cancer. And those exposed for more than 10 to 15 years were more than twice as likely to develop oral cancer compared to those without secondhand smoke exposure, paleontologists have long debated how fast Tyrannosaurus Rex could really run.

Now a new study reported in the journal of the Royal society. Open science claims. The giant theropod dinosaurs may have walked the prehistoric earth at a fast, slower pace [00:22:00] than the first thought. Roaming the planet at allegedly 4.6 kilometers per hour. Using a three-dimensional tale, reconstruction and biomechanical models.

Dutch researchers estimated the rhythm of T-Rex a swaying tail combined with its stride length and found that the tyrant lizard King had a preferred walking speed of 1.28 meters per second, or 4.6 kilometers an hour. Now that's similar to the natural walking speed of emus, elephants, horses, and humans.

Dinosaurs that walked onto a leg, such as T-Rex have tell suspended by spring-like ligaments. And they sway up and down with each step by matching their walking pace to this natural swinging frequency. It reduces the amount of mechanical work required. Some previous estimates had suggested that theropods like T-Rex walked almost double the speed who can forget the chase in Jurassic park.

Tyrannosaurs lived in the late Cretaceous period between 68 and 66 million years ago. They reach lengths of over 12 meters and could weigh [00:23:00] over 14 tons. Well, if you have trouble keeping up with the kids, you'll be pleased to know that you're not alone. New research suggests that juvenile tyrannosaurs were slender and relatively faster for their body size compared to their multitenant parents.

The findings reported in the journal of vertebrate paleontology, analyze the collection of 72.5 million year old fossilized tyrannis or footprints believed to belong to members of the same species, but of different ages. The results suggest that as tyrannosaurs grew older and heavier, their feet alter became comparatively more bulky.

The smaller tracks was slender while the bigger tyrannosaur tracks are relatively broad with a much larger Hill area, it needed to support increasing body mass. The authors say the track suggest the juvenile tyrannosaurs would have been much faster and more agile for their body size in comparison to their adults.

As the relative speed of these animals decreased with age magnesium, sulfate bitterness, Epsom salts is a [00:24:00] household chemical with many traditional users, including bath salts. Occasionally it's also used as medication. Although many of its claims have never been scientifically confirmed. Now the tiny Pacific nation of the cook islands is being targeted by shonky snake oil salesman, pushing Epsom salt cures.

Tim Mendham from Australian skeptic says the cook islands. Coroner is now examining a fatality linked to the use of Epsom salt solutions as an alternative medicine. And the nation self department has issued urgent warnings to people not to use Epsom salts in place of medication prescribed by them cleaning a lot.

So the suggestion is that if you might have a particular condition, why not clean it out with a good dose of Epsom salt, it is used for various conditions as a laxative. So, you know, you'd take a dose of salt to clean yourself up, but that is not something you do lightly. And people suggest that you have to be some sort of checked out, et cetera, on the assumption of doctoral nurse who was going to look at you and say, it's okay.

And two people [00:25:00] watch that there are people out there providing it to themselves as basically a cure-all for all sorts of diseases and conditions.

It's probably just one place from anywhere. People are not necessarily prepared, but don't have the information they need to take on board, proper medical treatments. They had might not have the facilities, or they might have a distrust of government bodies. And that might be encountering of them might be under the sway of religious groups.

I certainly probably under the. Victims of cranks and quacks, the Maysles outbreak a year or so ago, two years ago in Fiji was a classic case. Now that has a particular cause because I couple nurses miss some children, they unfortunately died, but there was basically not the vaccine. There was the way it was implemented and given out, but that caused a huge anti-vaccination movement within Fiji.

And the recommendation rates dropped from reasonable, the eighties or nineties away down to about 20 or 30% of people. Have they, when measles hit, they were hit very, very badly. And of course what happened with him was that the anti-vaxxers came on board. And so say vaccination, but this is what it [00:26:00] tells to you.

It's not going to cure you. Unfortunately, people in those places are especially prone to anti-vaccination actually develop sanctions as well. That's to Mendham from Australian skeptics.

And that's the show for now? The space-time is available every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through Apple, best iTunes, Stitcher, Google podcast, pocket casts, Spotify cast, Amazon music SoundCloud, YouTube. Your favorite podcast, download provider and from space-time with Stewart, space times also broadcast through the national science foundation on science own radio and on both iHeart, radio and tune in radio.

And you can help to support our show by visiting the space time store for a range of [00:27:00] promotional merchandising goodies, or by becoming a space-time patron, which gives you access to the triple episode, commercial free versions of the show, as well as lots of Burness audio content, which doesn't go away access to our exclusive Facebook group and other rewards.

Just go to space time with Stuart, for full details. And if you want more space time, please check out our blog where you'll find all the stuff we couldn't fit in the show, as well as heaps of images, new stories, loads, videos, and things on the web. I find interesting or amusing. Just go to space time with Stuart,

That's all one word and that's tumbler without the, yeah, you can also follow us through at Stuart, Gary on Twitter at space-time with Stuart Gary on Instagram. Through our space-time YouTube channel and on Facebook, just go to forward slash space time with Stuart, Gary and space-time is brought to you in collaboration with Australian sky and telescope magazine.

Your window on the universe. You've [00:28:00] been listening to space-time with Stewart, Gary. This has been another quality podcast production from