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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407 – Plant Companionship
On Earth, human life is enabled by plants which provide us with calories, vitamins, fuel, medicines, and oxygen to breathe. In addition, recent scientific studies indicate that plant cultivation reduces anxiety and depression and has a positive influence on diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and longevity. Perhaps this is the reason that 80% of the cultivated plant species on planet Earth are not used for any food related purpose.
On long duration space missions astronauts live in close quarters isolated from the natural world where the basic activities like eating, sleeping, and attending to bodily functions are difficult and stress producing. Recent research conducted on the International Space Station suggests that space gardening helps astronauts to cope with the sterile space craft interior, allows them to combat boredom, as well as some of the other negative psychological effects of their long period of confinement. Specific examples of International Space Station gardens include astronaut Scott Kelly’s first zinnia to bloom in space and astronaut Peggy Whitson’s small crop of space soybeans.
For many thousands of years people making long journeys have taken plants for food and recreation with them. It is likely that when humans travel to Mars they will continue this practice. The plants that Mars explorers take with them will provide a source of fresh fruits and vegetables , fresh air to breathe, and perhaps a psychological benefit that is crucial to the success of their mission.
408 – Earth’s Pet Rock
On it’s gravitational leash, Earth’s pet space rock, 2016 HO3, accompanies us at a distance of between 38 and 100 times the Moon’s distance from Earth as we both travel about the Sun. As this tiny asteroid orbits the Sun it spends about half of it’s time inside the Earth’s orbit where it moves faster and passes ahead of us and the other half of it’s yearly path outside of our orbit which causes it to lag behind our home planet. Since it’s discovery little has been known about Earth’s pet space rock leaving some to speculate that perhaps it is an old rocket booster or other piece of space junk. To answer this question, Dr. Vishnu Reddy of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory headed up a team of astronomers who used the University of Arizona’s Large Binocular Telescope and the Discovery Channel’s Telescope to determine some of it’s properties. This team of researchers found that 2016 HO3 is indeed a natural object about 100 to 300 feet in diameter, rotates about once every 28 minutes, and is made of material similar to meteorites which have landed on Earth. Our pet space rock, 2016 HO3, has apparently been in it’s present relationship to Earth for a hundred years and is likely to remain so for hundreds of years to come. Even though 2016 HO3 is not gravitationally bound to the Earth, the combination of the Sun’s and Earth’s gravitational pulls keeps it relatively near making it easy to reach and thus is an ideal candidate for visits by human or robotic spacecraft.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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