Planets, YouTube & alchemy: Astro Morning Tea with ICRAR

(pulsating whirring) – Welcome to Astro Morning Tea at ICRAR I'm Greg

– And I'm Luke – And we're gonna be talking about fun science stuff Let's go over the first story, Luke? – Great That's a distinct lack of enthusiasm today, Greg I'm curious, you're usually more exciting

– I think I'm about twice as enthusiastic as most people – You will be excited! So, I'll do it First story this week is about TESS, which is a planet hunting telescope which has taken its first images, which is pretty amazing NASA has sent up the TESS satellite, which is the Transient Exoplanet Survey Satellite and it's taken its first images of a comet Now, TESS is super exciting

– Hang on, is that what it's mean to do? – No – Right, I was going to say – TESS is super exciting because it's going to observe about 500,000 stars And what is does, is it looks for transiting exoplanets around those stars So what happens is, when the planet passes in front of the star, it blocks out some of the light

And that means that the light from the star dips slightly and TESS can measure that, and then work out the planets going around these stars – So is it like sexy Kepler? (laughing) – That's a very good description, yes – Ahh – Sexy Kepler So, TESS should probably detect about, I think it's about 20,000 exoplanets, and probably about 500 to 1000 Earth-like planets as well

So it's very exciting It's taken its first images and it's actually captured a comet flying across the sky over 17 hours, and it basically proves how stable the imaging is of the telescope and things You can actually measure the tail of this comet and things, so it's super exciting – That's fantastic When they find these Earth-like planets, can we like, claim them? Can we go, "Wait, we'll have that one," and it'll be like- – For Greg

We're back to Greglandia, again – Oh, Greglandia! – Yeah, I know, you should go – Excellent, so we can claim one? – Yes, yeah, you can Personally Go

– Good I will Fantastic So, once we get to our new planet, what'll be the next story I'll hear on there? – Yeah, but it's very exciting that over the next few years, we should be detecting loads of these Earth-like planets So, the old field of extrasolar planets will be carrying on to be increased dramatically

– What, we've discovered about 3,600 or so? – Yeah, it's rapidly going up all of the time – My goodness Planets are everywhere They're just like dust in the wind Ridiculous things

(laughing) – Just musing on planets Very poetic, Greg – Thank you – The next story this week is about scientists using YouTube videos of students to do their science – That's not creepy at all

– That's not creepy, no This is the story about craters Impact craters on different planets When you see, like on the moon, you see lots of craters, and all these holes, where bodies have hit the moon And some of these craters have rays that shoot out from them, so straight lines that fire out away from the crater

Now, it's kind of puzzled scientists as to how these rays that shoot out are actually produced So when you try and study these craters in the lab, you actually take like, layers of sediment that you build, and you fire ball bearings into them really quickly – Which just sounds like the best job in the world – Yes, yeah What do you do? I shoot sediment

– I fire ball bearings at dirt, and then measure it – Yeah, yeah – Cool – It's cool, yeah Why not? But they haven't been able to reproduce these radial lines in their experiments in the lab, and they didn't know why

So they actually went to YouTube, and they actually looked at lots of experiments of students actually reproducing this So lots of students, within their physics classes, actually do this experiment, and they found that some of them produce these rays, and some of them don't And then they looked to see which experiments produced the rays, and which ones didn't, and they found that the distinguishing feature between those was actually using a bumpy, non-uniform surface that you fired it into So they went back to their lab, they used a bumpy, non-uniform surface, and they could then produce these rays going out So this is really important to learn about early collisions in the solar system, and how the solar system was formed and things like that

But they actually turned to high school students on YouTube to find the answer, which is pretty amazing – So professional scientists are stealing the work of students to write their papers – Yeah, well, we'll steal the work from anyone, Greg If it gets results (laughing) You know

Don't worry, we're always around I'm always sneaking a look at what the students are up to Then I'm off, writing a paper (laughing) – Well, about stealing work, let's go steal Ronniy Joseph's work when he answers the question, Where do comets come from? – So, where do comets come from? Well, to look at an answer, we first need to understand where do stars come from? And stars are formed when a big cloud of gas, full of pebbles, ice, rocks, collapses and forms a star Part of the gas also forms planets, like our Earth, but lots of it just remains out there, standing still doing nothing, just ending up being there forever

Until, one of our planets, and its gravity, pulls one of those rocks in, and we're talking really big rocks, and those rocks fall closer to the Earth And as they get closer to us, they get closer to the Sun, and they start evaporating Creating large plumes of gas and ice out there, which are illuminated by the Sun, giving these amazing sights in the night sky – Thank you, Ronniy, for answering the question about where comets come from But, you know, what I really need? – What do you really need? – I really, really, need a random fact

– Oh, well, I'm happy to provide – Excellent – So, the random fact of the week this week is, Greg, has an alchemist ever made gold? – No, cause alchemy's not a thing – Wrong Wrong, Greg

– What? – So, alchemy is the idea of turning other materials into Gold Humans have basically had this idea for thousands of years Basically, this idea that you can take something that's not very valuable, and turn it into Gold, and make loads of money – Base metals into wonderful metals – Yeah, and the first scientific approach, this happened in about 400 AD, I think it was, when they start making gold-like- – 'Scientific approach

' – solid objects Yeah, but all through history people like Newton and Boyle and things have all tried to do this – Why wouldn't you, let's face it- – Why wouldn't you, that's true – Well, I'm the top scientist of my age, everyone loves me, I think I'm going to turn everything into Gold because I want to be- – Everything into Gold? – I'm gonna be rich – For this leads us, then, to the 20th century, and a chemist called, Glenn Seaborg

Now, Glenn Seaborg was a pretty amazing chemist You may not have heard his name, but he did some amazing things in the 20th century – There's an element named after him Isn't there Seaborgium? – You are on the ball, Greg, amazing! – Am I preempting the story? I'm sorry – No, no, no, no

It's fine – Oh, good So he basically is the only person who's ever had an element named after him in his lifetime, and used it He also, in 1941- – Jealous – lead the team that found Plutonium, and produced Plutonium, and then worked- – Named after his dog (laughing) – Yeah, terrible

Then he worked on the Manhattan project as well And he actually, amazing guy, he discovered 10 elements in his lifetime- – Oh, wow – and over 100 different isotopes He actually found the isotope of Iodine that's used to treat thyroid disease today, so if you're being treated for thyroid disease, you have him to thank Amazing guy

But in the 1980s,- – Thank you, Dr Seaborg – he was part of a team that actually used a particle accelerator to fire Carbon and Neon nuclei at Bismuth – Right As you do

– You see where this is going When they looked through the remnants of this, they actually found that there was a few Gold isotopes in the remnants So they actually, from Carbon, Neon, and Bismuth, produced Gold So the first time after thousands of years of trying, an alchemist, Glenn Seaborg, had produced Gold Now, he does point out that this isn't very economical in terms of producing Gold, because, he said, "Producing Gold this way, for one ounce, "would cost one quadrillion dollars

" And at the time when he did it, one ounce cost about $600, so not too profitable, but he actually did it – Okay – So, the first person to ever do it – I'm gonna claim rubbish cause it's not alchemy, it's just nuclear fusion, and that's not alchemy! – It's still alchemy You just need a particle accelerator to do it

– You'd really just opened the definition of alchemy I'm angry about that You made me angry And with that bombshell of my rage, ooooh – You're always angry, Greg – I'm always angry, that's my secret

Me and Dr Banner Basically, thank you for watching Astro Morning Tea at ICRAR Join me again, Luke, in the future, and we'll do some more- – I will join you, Greg – Thank you

– Thanks – And you should join us too, listener Thank you very much (pulsating whirring)