Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
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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316 – Psyche Water
The asteroid Psyche may be one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the solar system. It is a small world about 116 miles in diameter and is composed of almost pure nickel-iron metal. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists find evidence that Psyche may be the exposed core of a planet which was destroyed by collisions as it was trying to form long ago.
Recently Dr. Driss Takir of the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and Dr. Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory were the leaders of a team which used the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility to study the asteroid Psyche. To their surprise, the pattern of colors in the radiation which the surface of Psyche reflects reveals it to be similar to the surface of water rich asteroids. Reddy suspects that the water on Psyche’s surface may have been brought there by the impact of asteroids in a way similar to the way Earth received it’s water early in the history of the solar system.
Earth’s core strongly influences our weather and climate and is very similar to the asteroid Psyche. Since we can’t visit our home planet’s core Dr. Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University is leading a team which seeks to send a space craft to Psyche. If selected by NASA for flight, the Psyche mission will be launched in 2020 and will use solar electric propulsion to arrive at this unique little world six years later. A visit to Psyche would allow us to directly study a naked planet’s core and provide clues as to the nature of what is beneath our feet.
317 -Caves of Mars
Presently the surface of Mars is very dry and any liquid water that reaches it quickly boils away since the martian atmospheric pressure is what you could experience in your space suit 30 to 50 miles above the Earth’s surface. However, since the martian gravity is about 1/3 that of the Earth, it’s crust is less dense and more porous than what we find on our home planet. This situation leads Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory to state “I consider it likely that there are deep pockets of water in the martian crust not yet detected”. Letting our imaginations run wild, if there are deposits of liquid water miles underground perhaps there might be subterranean lakes fed by volcanic tubes. Lava tube environments could be warmed by geothermal sources, have trapped, enclosed, pockets of liquid water, and be replenished by water flows up from the martian mantle. Even today these deep martian caves are theoretically likely to contain warm mineral rich liquid water in contact with a thermal energy source. It is intriguing to consider that deep inside Mars all of the necessary ingredients for life may be present together. On Earth we find this type of environment near hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor to have rich biological diversity of living organisms.
Perhaps there are martian organisms in deep underground aquifers that migrated there from the surface as conditions changed or maybe that has always been their home. The only way to know if any parts of this fantasy are true is to find and explore the deep caves of Mars.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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