Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 67 & 68: NASA Deep Space Network Turns 50 & Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets
Organization: Travelers in The Night
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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53E – 67 – NASA Deep Space Network Turns 50
NASA’s Deep Space Network is celebrating its 50th birthday. Australia, Spain, and California host its three sites. These facilities are spaced nearly evenly around the world to provide continuous communication with any spacecraft.
The Deep Space Network is the worlds most sensitive system for commanding, tracking, and monitoring spacecraft at the far reaches of our solar system. It is also used for studying asteroids, as well as the interiors of planets and moons.
Every day the NASA Deep Space Network communicates with the furthest, human made, Traveler In The Night. At more than 11 billion miles, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is more than 100 times further from the Sun than is the Earth. It is so far that radio waves, traveling at a speed which would take them around the Earth 7 times per second, take more than 17 hours to go from the Voyager I to Earth.
Closer to home the NASA Deep Space Network is the communications channel between the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Earth. This spacecraft has returned enough data to fill nearly 50,000 DVDs. You can view its fabulous images of our neighbor in space via the internet.
The key to nearly every successful space mission is the communications link provided by the NASA Deep Space Network. Its data capacity will need to be increased by more than 10 times during each of the next three decades to keep up with the discoveries being made by spacecraft.
54E – 68 – Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets
Water is essential to life on our planet. Recently, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was used to study 3 planets orbiting stars similar to our Sun. Astronomers divided the infrared light from these planets into its component colors to see which are present and which are missing. These data provide direct evidence of the amount of water which is present on each planet.
The 3 planets in this study are between 60 and 900 light years from Earth. They are hot gas giants which are ideal candidates for detecting water in their atmospheres as they pass between their star and our line of sight. The surprising result is that they contain between 1/10 and 1/1000 th of the water predicted by current theories of planet formation.
The NASA Kepler Spacecraft has found at least a half dozen Earth sized planets orbiting distant stars. Several of them are at the right distance from their star to allow life as we know it. One of them is about 1200 light years from Earth. It is about 40% larger than Earth so life forms would have to adapt to a significantly stronger gravity than we experience. Another of Kepler’s Earth like planet discoveries is very similar to our planets size and is located about 500 light years from us. How much water is present on either of these planets remains to be seen.
What kind of life forms, if any, exist on other planets remains one of the most interesting questions of our times. Stay tuned.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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