Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
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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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369 – Finding Treasure
The energy required to lift water, food, and construction materials from the Earth’s surface is very expensive. Asteroids come relatively close to Earth and could provide space colonists with metals, carbon, water, and the other important ingredients of modern life. Most space rocks like most terrestrial rocks may be pretty and interesting but they are not a practical source of the materials humans use and need.
The space mining companies Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are planning and designing small spacecraft to fly up to asteroids to determine if they contain any commercially useful materials.
The pattern of colors present and missing in the sunlight that an asteroid reflects contains the unique signature of the atoms and molecules on it’s surface.
Dr. Martin Elvis, a Harvard astronomer, continues to point out that the largest Earth bound telescopes are capable of making such measurements from the light of a faint asteroid in several minutes. This remote reconnaissance research makes it possible to identify the one out of ten asteroids which are likely to contain precious materials such as water, iron, and platinum and not waste time and money visiting worthless rock piles.
Asteroids that are most accessible in terms of rocket fuel are among the thousands of small Earth approaching space rocks that my team, the Catalina Sky Survey, has discovered. We continue to add dozens of new ones to the list every month. The next step is to train large telescopes on them to determine their sizes and chemical compositions.
370 – Life’s Parts
24 hours a day, 16,600 feet above sea level in the high dry desert of northern Chile, the 66 antennas of 1.4 billion dollar Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array or ALMA receives signals located between the infrared and radio portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The waves that ALMA receives have a length which is about the same as the thickness of a dime. The pattern of present and missing wavelengths in these signals contains the characteristic spectral signatures of the complex molecules that form the basis of living organisms.
ALMA’S observations deep within the cocoons of warm gas and dust clouds surrounding infant sun like stars about 400 light years away in the constellation of Ophiuchus reveals the presence of simple sugars and other complex molecules which are involved in the synthesis of peptides and amino acids. Finding these prebiotic molecules in conditions similar to what is likely to have been present in our solar system 4.5 billion years ago, suggests that life’s parts were likely to have been present on the very young Earth.
In four years, NASA’s Kepler Space telescope has found approximately 50 Earth sized planets, in an area about 1/400 of the whole sky, which are at the right distance from their star to have liquid water on the their surfaces. Coupled with ALMAs discovery of life’s ingredients in typical infant star system one has to wonder what kind of creatures may exist on some of Kepler’s planets.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!