Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night 163E & 164E: One 4 Ukraine & Weird Life

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • Gennady Borisov observed a fast moving 2015 OH in the night sky using a 0.3m (12”) telescope and an electronic camera.
  • When looking for life in other places in the Universe we can take some clues from living systems in extreme environments on our own planet.

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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163E: One 4 Ukraine & Weird Life

Currently the majority of the Earth Approaching objects are found by my team, the Catalina Sky Survey or the Pan STARRs group in Hawaii. Both employ large telescopes, very expensive electronic cameras, and high powered computer systems.  However, an expert observer with a small 12 inch telescope and an electronic detector can still make interesting discoveries.

Recently Gennady Borisov observed a fast moving point of light in the night sky using a 0.3m telescope and an electronic camera. This new object was subsequently observed by 20 other observatories around the world.  The Minor Planet Center used these data to calculate an orbit and gave it the name 2015 OH.  At the time Borisov discovered this object it was 13 million miles from Earth.

2015 OH is more than 1100 feet in diameter.  It orbits the Sun every 1.52 years on a path that takes it from near Earth to a bit past Mars.  Fortunately this Earth approaching asteroid’s current path never brings it closer than 32 times the Moon’s distance from us. This space rock made close approaches to Earth in 2012 and 2015 and will come our way again in 2018 and 2021.   In 2015 this asteroid approached Earth from the south. It streaked north through the night sky until it was viewable in the northern hemisphere where most of the asteroid hunting telescopes are located. 

To his credit, Gennady Borisov an alert observer in the Ukraine was able to spot and report 2015 OH before anyone else.

164E: Weird Life

Our everyday world is in the thin web of life that surrounds our planet. We see living organisms made possible by solar energy, water, air, and nutrients from the Earth. Maybe all living creatures are not in an environment similar to ours. When looking for life in other places in the Universe we can take some clues from living systems in extreme environments on our own planet.

Currently, scientists are investigating some of the weirdest and toughest places to live on planet Earth.  One of these is is near volcanic hotspots on the ocean floor.  A mile and a half or more below the sea level the pressure is more than 100 times higher than on the surface, there is total darkness, and the water temperature can reach more than 400 degrees Celsius. With no sunlight to power them, this seemingly hostile environment is rich with living creatures from microbes to huge tube worms.  These strange and other world like creatures receive their energy and nutrients from the warm water produced by nearby searingly hot volcanic vents.

In our world the food chain is powered by the Sun. A key to understanding deep ocean life and perhaps that on other worlds is the food chain which exists in total darkness near the sea floor. 

We suspect that conditions in the salty oceans of the moon of Jupiter, Europa could possibly be similar to the areas around deep sea volcanic vents on the ocean floor of planet Earth. It bends our imaginations to consider what might live there.

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

End of podcast:

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