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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371 – 2 Headed Space Worm
Humans are moving towards a day when there are space colonies in orbit, on the Moon, and the planet Mars, places where the force of gravity ranges between zero and 38% of what we experience every day. What effect will such different environments have on the regeneration of liver, skin, and other human body organs?
To discover how the remarkable ability of Planaria flat worms to regenerate amputated body parts functions in a weightless environment researchers at Tufts University compared a group of whole and amputated flat worms which had lived for 5 weeks on the International Space Station with control groups which remained behind on planet Earth. The space faring flatworms were found to have undergone metabolic and other body function changes which persisted after they returned to Earth. Strangely one of the amputated worm fragments sent into space developed into an extremely rare double headed worm. Researchers were astonished since they had not seen this happen once during 5 years of observations of 15,000 worms. Further when both heads were removed from the space traveling double headed worm’s middle section it grew 2 heads indicating that its body modification plan was permanent.
The implications of these experiments for humans in space, if any, remain to be determined. Bottom line is we just don’t know enough about how human reproduction and development will work off the Earth to plan on having permanent sustainable colonies elsewhere.
372 – Trappist-1 Planets
Humans of today, like our most ancient thinking ancestors, look into the night sky and wonder about beings who might be out there. The Kepler Space Telescope mission and systematic searches by ground based telescopes have discovered the existence of more than 4 dozen potentially habitable Earth sized planets orbiting distant stars.
The Trappist-1 planetary system located about 40 light years away in the constellation of Aquarius consists of a small red dwarf star and 7 Earth sized planets. By carefully studying changes in the planet’s transit timings and the shape of the dip in the host star’s brightness as each planet transits across it, astronomers have been able to measure the orbital period, radius, and approximate mass for each of the 7 planets. Dr Billy Quarles of the University Oklahoma and his team used thousands of numerical simulations on super computers to investigate the range in each planet’s parameters which would cause it to have a stable orbit and would thus produce the Trappist-1 solar system which we see today. Their results, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters suggests that 6 of Trappist-1’s planets have a rocky composition like the Earth the remaining one may be composed of 25 % water by mass compared to 0.02% water by mass for Earth. The next step will be to use the James Web Space Telescope equipped with the latest scientific instruments to study the atmospheres of these distant worlds.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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