By on January 26, 2020 in

Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer

Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 71 & 72: Martian Women & Could Space Aliens Detect Life On Earth?

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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57E – 71 – Martian Women

Women have long played a prominent role at the forefront of astronomical and space research. Caroline Herschel discovered a number of comets and was the first woman to be paid for her scientific research when she received a Gold Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828. Annie Jump Cannon established the system that we use to classify the spectra of stars which led to the understanding of how stars work. Henrietta Leavitt discovered and calibrated the stars that we use to measure distances in the Universe today with the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered pulsars. Navigation engineer Linda Morabito discovered volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon IO.  Dr. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space.  These are a few of the women who have made fundamental contributions to astronomy and the space sciences.

Currently, women are exploring the planet Mars.  Dr. Joy Crisp is the Deputy Project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory. Nicole Spanovich is the Curiosity Mars Rover Science Operations Team Chief.There is also a whole team of women who have constructed a Mars like garden park in Pasadena California to exercise the rovers so that we know how to operate them on Mars.  There are unnamed dozens of other women who are Professors, Graduate Students, Engineers, Computer Programmers, and Managers who are making the exploration of Mars a reality. 

Men may be from Mars but women are exploring it.

58E – 72 – Could Space Aliens Detect Life On Earth?

If a space alien were to peer around the edge of the Moon from its base on the far side it could see our lights at night and perhaps even the smoke from our factories during the day.  It could also pick up radio and TV signals created by humans. An interesting question is could a space alien detect planet Earth and learn something about it if it were so far away that our Sun were only a tiny point of light in its night sky?

When a planet passes in front of its star it causes a tiny dip in the star’s light.  The NASA Kepler spacecraft has discovered a number of Earth like planets using this technique.  During this tiny dip the light from the star passes through the planet’s atmosphere. This causes the light from the star to be changed so that some of its colors are missing.  The missing pattern of colors tells us what is in the planet’s atmosphere. 

To check out what a space alien would see as the Earth passed between it and our Sun, astronomers  looked at the sunlight which passed through the Earth’s atmosphere during a total lunar eclipse. This reflected Earth shine is Sun light with some of its colors missing.  The missing colors come about from water, ozone, and other constituents of our atmosphere. 

In the future the NASA Webb Space Telescope and giant telescopes on Earth will be able to analyze a star’s light as one of its planets passes in front of it.  The colors that are missing during such an event will tell us much about an Earth like planet’s atmosphere.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy

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