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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355 – 2 Suns
The NASA Kepler Spacecraft has discovered more than 2,000 planets which have been confirmed to be orbiting distant stars. It performs this remarkable feat by imaging more than 145,000 stars simultaneously to observe and measure the tiny dips in light which occur as a planet passes in front of its star. Astronomers have long known that many of the solar systems in the Milky Way have more than one star.
To investigate the possibilities for life in a double star system, Dr Max Popp a scholar at Princeton University and Dr. Siegfried Eggl of Germany’s Max Plank Institute substituted the real giant planet orbiting the stellar pair Kepler 35A and B with an Earth sized one orbiting the Kepler AB pair with periods between 341 and 380 days. Their detailed analysis is published in the journal Nature Communications.
Instead of orbiting in almost a perfect circle as the Earth does about our Sun, these researcher’s hypothetical water covered planet wobbles as it orbits about the center of mass of the Kepler AB double star system. At the outer edge of the double star’s habitable zone a desert planet would have large temperature swings while at the inner edge a water covered planet could be comfortable by human standards. All of this leads one to believe that Star War’s Luke Skywalker’s home planet “Tatooine” could actually exist in the real Milky Way.
356 – Seeds
When a fleet of interstellar spaceships leaves our solar system for a planet circling a nearby star the most important of all of the riches that human explorers will carry with them will be libraries of our planet’s DNA and the seeds of plants. They are the connection between past life, the inorganic world, and future life.
The only problem with this picture is that human’s 12,000 year old legacy of coexistence and prospering with a very diverse collection of cultivated and wild plant seeds is under threat as never before. The agribusiness and chemical industries seek to and are being successful in replacing the tens of thousands of varieties of food plants and their seeds which humans have developed, with genetically modified ones that they patent, market, and in many cases cultivate with chemicals. Currently, about 90% of the soy, cotton, canola, corn, and sugar beets sold in the United States are from a limited number of genetically engineered seeds. Such a dependence on monocultures is troubling since in the past biodiversity has saved us from floods, droughts, and pests which attacked a particular plant species. Independent scientific research and the labeling of food products seem to be basic to addressing consumers concerns. In the meantime small groups of individuals around the planet are growing and stockpiling some of the tens of thousands of plant seeds that have advanced human health and prosperity and depositing them into seed banks.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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