Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 65E & 66E: Extremely Old World Could Harbor Life & Up Close And Personal With A Comet

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • Scientists using a telescope in Chile have discovered two planets orbiting a nearby reddish star by measuring the tiny motions they produce in their Sun as they orbit it.
  • Comets are a sample of material which was present in the cloud of gas and dust which condensed to form our Sun and its planetary system.

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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65E: Extremely Old World Could Harbor Life

Radar beams that are reflected from your car as you travel down a highway reveal your speed and direction.  In a similar way,  scientists using a telescope in Chile have discovered two planets orbiting a nearby reddish star by measuring the tiny motions they produce in their Sun as they orbit it. 

These newly discovered planets orbit a a red dwarf star named Kapteyn [cop-tine].  This faint red star is only about 13 light years from us and is likely to be twice as old as our Sun. It can be seen with a small telescope or binoculars in the constellation of Pictor.  This star is traveling at 152 miles per second relative to us which causes it to change constellations much more rapidly than other stars. The star Kapteyn’s rapid motion was first discovered in the 1890s by the astronomer Jacob Cornelius Kapteyn.  It was probably formed early in the history of the Universe and achieved its rapid motion as smaller galaxies merged to form the Milky Way.

Kapteyn b appears to be a 5 Earth mass rocky planet which orbits its faint red star in only 48 days.   Watery oceans are a definite possibility on this high gravity Earth like planet.  
During the past 3.8 billion years many life forms have come and gone on Planet Earth.  The parade goes from multicellular organisms to dinosaurs to human beings.  One can only wonder what life forms may exit on the planet Kapteyn b which is more than twice as old as our planet.  

66E: Up Close And Personal With A Comet

From the dawn of recorded history, comets have been viewed as the bringers of everything from gloom and doom to water and life.  In reality, comets are a sample of material which was present in the cloud of gas and dust which condensed to form our Sun and its planetary system.  Until recently a comet’s nucleus has remained a mystery enveloped in a veil of gas and dust.

The Rosetta Spacecraft has traveled for more than 10 years to visit a comet.  Along its 4 billion mile long path it used three close approaches to Earth and one to Mars to achieve its current speed and direction with the available rocket fuel.  Upon its arrival it has discovered a two mile sized “duck” shaped comet nucleus which is emitting water vapor into space. Like a good doctor the first thing the spacecraft did was to take the comet’s temperature.  At  -94 degrees Fahrenheit the comet is likely to be composed of ices of various materials covered with a layer of dust.  Rosetta’s first job is to find a safe place for its lander which when deployed will directly sample the comet’s nucleus. After that Rosetta will analyze comet burps.  From these measurements we will be able to learn about the many types of molecular building blocks of life which are present in a comet’s nucleus.  By comparing the isotopes of hydrogen found the comet’s nucleus with those in the Earth’s oceans we will obtain evidence concerning the origin of the Earth’s water. 

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

End of podcast:

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