Apr 21st: Martian Water & Mini Moons

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Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
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Title:
Travelers in the Night Digest: Eps.  489 & 490: Martian Water & Mini Moons

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • The existence of Lake Vostok, the largest of the more than 400 subglacial lakes here on planet Earth, 2.5 miles below the surface of the ice in Antarctica, has caused astronomers to wonder if such bodies of liquid water could exist elsewhere in our solar system.
  • Eric Christensen discovered 2006 RH120, a 13 foot diameter asteroid, the first natural Earth-orbiting object aside from our Moon which astronomers have been able to identify.

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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Transcript:

489 –  Martian Water
The NASA Mars Curiosity Rover has visited dry steam beds, gullies, and sedimentary deposits which imply that billions of years ago liquid water, an essential factor for life on Earth, flowed freely on the surface of the red planet. Currently the atmosphere of Mars is too thin to allow streams and lakes to exist on its surface.  However, the existence of Lake Vostok, the largest of the more than 400 subglacial lakes here on planet Earth, 2.5 miles below the surface of the ice in Antarctica, has caused astronomers to wonder if such bodies of liquid water could exist elsewhere in our solar system. Exciting new evidence from the ground penetrating RADAR aboard the European Space Agencies Mars Express orbiter, published in the Journal Science, strongly suggests that there is a 12 mile diameter, several feet deep, lake of briny liquid water a mile below the surface of the Martian south polar cap. Unfortunately the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s RADAR has yet to confirm this discovery. This may be because the wavelengths it uses do not penetrate the thick overlying ice layer as well as those from the Mars Express.  It is frustrating that we will have to wait for a new Mars Orbiter whose instruments will be able to distinguish between a briny pool of liquid water and a layer of muddy sediments. Until then we will continue to wonder if there are currently abodes for life on our next door neighbor.

490 – Mini Moons

In September of 2006, using our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona, my Catalina Sky Survey team captain, Eric Christensen discovered 2006 RH120.  This 13 foot diameter asteroid is the first natural  Earth orbiting object aside from our Moon which astronomers have been able to identify. Since then, despite major advances in camera and telescope systems, the only other such object to be observed was a bright natural meteor detected by the Czech Republic all sky fireball camera system which had about a 95% probability of having been in Earth orbit before it entered our atmosphere.  In a recent  review article in Frontiers of Astronomy and Space Science Dr. Robert Jedicke and his team of scientists  predict that at any time there are hundreds smaller than softball sized and perhaps several dozen football to beachball sized, natural Earth mini moons, which are so small and fast moving that they are able to slip through asteroid hunters images without being detected.  They propose to test their theory with data from the 8 meter LSST now under construction on Cerro Pachon in Chile.  If these researchers theoretical population of tiny transient Earth neighbors is confirmed, it will be a rich source of scientific samples of the solar system and provide nearby destinations for tests of commercial space operations.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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