March 31, 2016 8:39 pm

StarTalk’s April 1st podcast is no joke, regardless of what you may think you hear!

Photograph of Bill Nye, taken by Dan Dion backstage before the start of StarTalk Live! at SF Sketchfest on Jan 22, 2016.

Bill Nye, backstage at the Nourse Theater before StarTalk Live! at SF Sketchfest 2016. Credit: Dan Dion.

Let’s talk about shergottites.

And no, this is not an elaborate April Fool’s joke.

Now, if you don’t already know what they are, you’re probably thinking, “What the heck is a shergottite?”

But, if you’re listening to Friday’s new episode, StarTalk Live! from SF Sketchfest 2016 (Part 2) without reading this first, or you happened to be in the audience at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco on January 22 of this year, your reaction to hearing that word pronounced may more likely be one of shock and surprise, much as Maeve Higgins reacted when Andy Weir, author of The Martian, and then Dr. Jim Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, mentioned the scientific name for a class of Martian meteorites we’ve found here on Earth. (And yes, Maeve did in fact reference what Mel Gibson once called a female cop.)

Of course, we’re all about the science, so after the jokes comes the explanation of various types of meteorites, from shergottites like ALHA 84001 to carbonaceous chondrites like the Murchison meteorite, which contains amino acids, the basic building blocks of life.

And after all, isn’t that the big question everyone wants an answer to, the very reason so many people are so fascinated by the exploration of Mars?

Is there now, or was there ever, life on Mars? And if so, did life on Earth start on Mars and travel here via a process known as panspermia, or did life evolve independently on Mars and on Earth?

And that’s what Part 2 is all about: Searching for life on Mars.

What clues and telltale signs are we seeking? Will we find evidence in the weeping craters of Mars? Or should we be following the methane, as Eugene Mirman “always says.” What does NASA mean by “planetary protection” – and why can’t we just drive Curiosity on over to the nearest weeping crater and look for Martian microbes? Why will the Mars 2020 project have MOXIE?  What exactly is a “methane gun?” And what “silly purchase” did Andy Weir make for $10,000?

For the answer to these and many other questions – and no April Fool’s jokes at all – tune in this Friday, April 1 at 7pm ET on our website, iTunes Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn and SoundCloud.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Jeffrey Simons

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