I, Science News-2 March 2020

This week in your weekly I, Science News RoundUp we continue coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak; confirmation of Mars’ seismic activity; and detection of the biggest explosion since the Big Bang.

COVID-19 update

Satellite images have shown that pollution levels, specifically nitrogen dioxide, over China have cleared in comparison to last year at least in part due to the economic slowdown prompted by COVID-19.

The economic impact of COVID-19 could cause the global economy to grow at its slowest rate since 2009, just after the financial crisis, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It predicts that a long, intensive outbreak could cause a drop to 1.5%, halving from 2.9% in November.

Matt Hancock, the UK Health Secretary, has said that shutting down UK cities may become necessary as the UK government discusses all potential options for if the outbreak continues to escalate. This comes as Boris Johnson says that the spread of COVID-19 in the UK is ‘likely’.

Mars officially confirmed to be seismically active

NASA’s InSight probe, which landed in 2018, has proven beyond doubt that the red planet is seismically active after recording around 450 ‘marsquakes’.

The marsquakes haven’t been particularly big, measuring at just 3-4 on the magnitude scale, meaning you’d just about feel it if standing directly on top of it. To put it in reference, the size and frequency of the marsquakes is not that dissimilar to the seismic activity of the UK.

These quakes are thought not to be made by plate tectonics, as they are on Earth, but instead by the result of cooling and contraction of the planet, causing the planet’s outer surface to fracture.

The biggest explosion since the Big Bang

Scientists have found the evidence of what appears to be the biggest explosion since the Big Bang – five times larger than anything that’s been observed.

The huge release of energy is thought to have originated from a supermassive black hole 390 million light years from Earth.

The eruption is said to have left a giant dent in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, leaving a hole the size of 15 Milky Ways (and I don’t mean the chocolate bar).

This week’s news was written by Harry Jenkins, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

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