Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 169E & 170E: Beyond The Moon & Earth Life On Mars

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • In 1968 the first humans to see the far side with their own eyes were the astronauts of Apollo 8.
  • Antarctic lichen was subject to the rigors of the red planet’s environment and lived.

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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169E: Beyond The Moon

The relentless pull of the Earth’s gravity on the Moon causes it to always point the same side towards us. The Moon’s slight wobble has allowed us to catch glimpses of a small sliver of the Moon’s far side. In 1968 the first humans to see the far side with their own eyes were the astronauts of Apollo 8.

Imagine getting into your spaceship and traveling in the direction of the Sun about 4 times the Earth-Moon distance from planet Earth while matching the Earth’s motion around the Sun. Your first surprise would be how bright and colorful the Earth is when viewed from this perspective. If you aligned your spaceship in the plane of the Earth-Moon system, once a month you would see the Moon travel between you and Earth. It would look like a disk 1/4 the Earth in size and you would be seeing the far side of the Moon which never faces the Earth. Recently the NASA Deep Space Climate Satellite provided us with a view from your imaginary spacecraft ride.

There is no sign of alien creature bases on the far side of the moon. What we do see is a very rugged surface with multiple craters and very few flat lunar maria such as we see on the Moon’s side which faces us. Scientists continue to puzzle over why the two sides of the Moon are so different. There is no perpetual dark side of the Moon since the far side goes through phases just like the part that is visible to us.

Maybe Pink Floyd was right “There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark”

Perhaps someday humans will put a base on the far side of the Moon where powerful telescopes would be unaffected by light and electronic noise from Earth.

170E: Earth Life On Mars

If Earth had a mountain about four times higher than Mt. Everest this hypothetical mountain’s summit would have the thin atmosphere, UV radiation from the Sun, and the temperature extremes approaching the hostile environment to be found on the planet Mars. 

Dr. Jean-Pierre de Vera of the German Aerospace Center’s Institute of Planetary Research in Germany conducted the first experiment to test the ability organisms from Earth to adapt to Mars like conditions.  In this test an Antarctic lichen, from atop the Black Ridge in Antarctic’s North Victoria Land,  was subject to the rigors of the red planet’s environment.  Two samples of this lichen were placed in a chamber about the size of a pressure cooker which reproduced the atmospheric composition, pressure, temperature, humidity, and solar radiation to be found on the surface of Mars. These two sample’s Martian environments lacked only the low gravity and the radiation from outside the solar system which is present on the red planet.

One of the lichen samples inside the “Mars” chamber was subjected to the full brutal dose of solar radiation to be found on Mars while the other was shielded so as to receive several dozen times less radiation.  The second situation is what might be expected in a protected place such as in a crack in the Martian surface. After 30 days the sample which received the full dose of solar radiation was barely alive. Amazingly the one in the simulated protective niche was found to have adapted to the Martian conditions and was using photosynthesis to convert sunlight and minerals into chemical energy.

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

End of podcast:

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