Reporting from space

Serial-killer galaxies, space probes hiding from comets, and molecules capable of creating life in space.
Each week the astronomist Maria Sundin reports on news from space on the Radio Sweden channel P3.
And naturally she talks about the weather.

“You can’t have a news report from space without the weather!”
“Well, Rasmus, it seems spring is on its way on Titan; I had already reported on that last spring. But spring is still on its way on Titan since it takes 17 years – all the seasons of the year there are really long!
In a studio in the Radio Sweden building on Lindholmen in Gothenburg, the programme presenter Rasmus Persson and the physicist Maria Sundin are adding the last-minute touches to that week’s edition of ‘Rapport från rymden’ (Report from Space). This feature will be broadcast as usual on the P3 programme ‘Christer och Morgan rapporterar (Christer and Morgan Reporting). “When we started we wanted this to be a current affairs programme about issues that were not being covered in the daily news programmes,” Rasmus Persson says, after the programme has been recorded. “When I was asked if I wanted to take part and talk about space, I set it up as a news report,” Maria Sundin says. “The solar system was domestic news, the galaxy foreign news – and then there was space weather. Since then the space weather report has remained in place. And naturally the subject of weather gets everyone going!

As of March 2014, Maria Sundin, who is a theoretical physicist, has broadcast her space weather reports on a weekly basis. Broadcasting information on research is nothing new to her – her work has included chairing discussions at the Book Fair and taking part in various school projects. Over the past few years, her expertise has meant that she has been a regular guest on several science programmes on the radio, primarily on the Radio Sweden channels P1 and P4, and she talks about what is happening in space. “On ‘Vetandets värld’ (The World of Knowledge) I talk to a group of people who are steeped in the subject many times over. I may get the request at short notice too, and sometimes I have to reorganise an entire day in order to be there. Doing this means that I’m able to reach another type of group, and I’ve got the opportunity to prepare for it in a different way.”
The choice of subject is made jointly by Maria Sundin and Rasmus Persson. On Monday Maria looks at the news stories on space that have come in, and she emails suggestions to Rasmus. After that they choose a subject, something that is not always that easy. “Some items are obvious, such as when a story about gravitational waves made the news last spring, but on other occasions it can be harder,” Maria Sundin says. “And then you’ve got to pitch it right, something that Rasmus does really well – he introduces an element of humour.” “Naturally I don’t always know about a subject that Maria suggests, so I then have to check up on it. That means I learn a great deal,” Rasmus Persson says.

He adds that the programme has a couple of hundred thousand listeners. The subjects that prompt most reactions from listeners are the sort that affect us – human beings – on subjects such as colonisation, threats to the human race, and whether there is life out in space. “Saying exactly what kinds of people listen in is of course difficult, but from the reactions we get I have a feeling that many of them live in rural areas. They’re maybe listening at the same time that they’re handling machinery out in the forest,” Rasmus Persson says. “It’s important to get our message out there. I’ve always been fascinated by space, and I really want to pass on knowledge about it and stimulate interest in science. But if we discover that there is life out there in space, we’ll have to broadcast live,” Maria Sundin says with a laugh.

Reporting from Space

As of the spring of 2014, Maria Sundin's report, called 'Rapport från rymden' (Report from Space), has been broadcast on the Radio Sweden channel as a feature of the programme 'Christer and Morgan rapporterar' (Christer and Morgan Reporting), whose presenter is Rasmus Persson. Listen to all the programmes (in Swedish):