Antarctic Adventures, Planet Hunters

Top of Mind with Julie Rose

  • Apr 22, 2016 9:00 pm

REBROADCAST: This program originally aired on Feb. 19, 2016. LISTEN HERE. Antarctica (begins at 1:03) Guest: Alasdair Macleod, Head of Collections at the Royal Geographical Society in London; Byron Adams, PhD, Professor of Biology at BYU  Antarctica is one of the most extreme environments in the world. In this segment, we speak with a BYU scientist who just got back from a two-month stint on the Frozen Continent. We hear what life there is like and what scientists can learn on Antarctica that they can’t learn anywhere else.  The most famous survival story from Antarctica is that of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of The Endurance. Shackleton was a seasoned British explorer who set out in December 1914 to cross all of Antarctica on foot. But just getting to the part where they could start walking required dodging enormous sheets of floating ice, often using the ship as a battering ram to press forward. Six weeks into the sea voyage – with land in sight - “The Endurance” got stuck and was slowly crushed by the ice over the next ten months. Shackleton and his crew of about two dozen men were forced to abandon the ship and spend another nine months in a grueling test of their will to survive. The entire saga was captured in remarkable detail by the crew’s official photographer – James Francis Hurley. To mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of The Endurance, the Royal Geographical Society in London is showcasing never-before-seen photographs by Hurley that reveal a lot about the perils of Antarctica.  View the photographs here Killing Pluto, Finding Planet Nine (begins at 52:06) Guest: Mike Brown, PhD, Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, Author of “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming”  We used to have Pluto, but about 10 years ago, astronomers gave it the boot, saying it’s not quite big enough to warrant the same status as Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Astronomer Mike Brown was instrumental in killing Pluto’s planetary status. It’s not that he’s got anything against planets, it’s just that he managed to find another one in Pluto’s neighborhood that was even more massive. So, rather than add a tenth planet to the family – Pluto got punted into dwarf planet status, along with Mike Brown’s discovery, called Eris. There’s also dwarf planet called Sedna. Brown discovered that too, along with a couple of others. When it comes to discovering big objects at the edge of our solar system, Brown is one of the most prolific.  Now, he and a colleague, Konstantin Batygin, at the California Institute of Technology have found their biggest yet. A planet they think is nearly as big as Neptune but 20 times further away from the sun.  Brown and his team have yet to actually lay eyes on this giant planet, but their mathematical models and computer simulations have them pretty convinced it’s there. If they turn out to be right, it’ll be an ironic turn for Brown, who wrote a book titled, “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.”