Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Arctic sea ice is shrinking dramatically and the first half of 2016 was the hottest on record. Earth is 2.4°F warmer than it was in the late 1800s. The effects will be felt in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries.
- NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has visited both Vesta and Ceres. It may be that ice volcanoes on Ceres have buried all the large craters there. There is good evidence for a liquid ocean beneath Ceres’s crust.
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Bio: Dr. Al Grauer is currently an observing member of the Catalina Sky Survey Team at the University of Arizona. This group has discovered nearly half of the Earth approaching objects known to exist. He received a PhD in Physics in 1971 and has been an observational Astronomer for 43 years. He retired as a University Professor after 39 years of interacting with students. He has conducted research projects using telescopes in Arizona, Chile, Australia, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Georgia with funding from NSF and NASA.
He is noted as Co-discoverer of comet P/2010 TO20 Linear-Grauer, Discoverer of comet C/2009 U5 Grauer and has asteroid 18871 Grauer named for him.
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277 – Hottest
Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York are using ground based observations and satellite data to measure global temperatures and the distribution of Arctic sea ice. What they have discovered deserves your attention. The first six months of 2016 is the warmest such period since modern records started in 1880. The Earth is 1.3 degrees Celsius or 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer now than it was in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Even though some of this warming is due in part to the current El Nino, this change is alarming since this rise is 65% of the 2010 internationally agreed limit.
The effects of this warming stand out in aircraft and satellite data. The Arctic sea ice now covers 40% less area than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The melt ponds that form on the sea ice absorb more sunlight than ice and serve to accelerate the warming process.
The warming that is happening is having a variety of consequences. In the American midwest and northeast extreme heat, heavy rain storms, and flooding will impact agriculture, forestry, infrastructure, and air as well as water quality. In the southwest increased heat, insect outbreaks, and declining water supplies will increase the possibility of wild fires and other threats. Costal regions regions are experiencing sea level rises and storm surges which effect ports, tourism, and the fishing industry. Alaska has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the country and has witnessed sea ice retreating, glaciers receding, and permafrost melting.
Change is in the win
280 – Ice Volcanoes
On Earth volcanos produce molten rock, gas, dust, and sulfuric acid which can quickly and violently change the landscape. On other celestial bodies volcanos can be quite different but still make dramatic changes.
The NASA Dawn spacecraft visited the two largest bodies in the asteroid belt, Vesta and Ceres. Vesta, Dawn’s first stop, is a heavily cratered rocky object with an Arizona length diameter. It is very nearly spherical except for a massive crater which dominates Vesta’s south polar region. To put this in perspective, if the Earth had a crater sized proportionally to Vesta’s missing chunk, it would fill the Pacific ocean.
Dawn’s second stop, Ceres, has a diameter which would allow it to cover most of Texas. This tiny world is covered with many small relatively young craters with none approaching the size of those Dawn found on Vesta. Additionally researchers have found salts on Ceres’s exterior which appear to have been brought there by water from an ocean of liquid water below it’s surface. These observations are consistent with the idea that ice volcanos on Ceres could have produced flows which buried the large pre-existing craters on it’s surface. Scientists have spotted icy plumes coming from below the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus but have yet to witness such events on Ceres. Even so there is significant evidence which points to the possibility of a liquid water ocean layer below Ceres’ icy crust which could provide an environment suitable for microorganisms.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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