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SEASON 2 - Space

Solar System – Part 1

Siyona August 1, 2020 64 1 5

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Hi There…. Season two episode two, I’m sure you’re looking forward to it Too!

I’m Very excited to be sharing my conversation with an Ex space scientist, Dr B R Guruprasad. In this episode, I’ve asked him some questions I thought were tough, but effortlessly answered by this inspiring scientist. I’ve learnt so much about Venus and gaseous giants like Jupiter…. I felt like being taken to a different world! 

Don’t miss out the ‘Grow your Greens’ competition for this month either..



[0.01] {Background Music}

[0.08] Siyona: Hello everyone, welcome to the first episode in space series in my podcast, Little Mind Chats. Minds are little, not our thoughts. I’m your host Siyona.

[0.19] Today, we’ll start our series with a discussion on Solar system. 

[0.25] We’ve all learnt from school and so many other sources that we have 8 planets in our solar system and we’ve even heard about comets and asteroids. We’ve heard of the Kuiper belt, seen enough of visuals of our solar system. We’ve learnt how seasons are caused and the natural satellites like our moon exist. But in this episode, I’m even more curious than that!! I’d like to use this opportunity and understand some more things about our solar system. 

[0.58] Where would you go looking for answers then? How about knocking the doors of ISRO? (Indian Space Research Organization). An eminent organisation that’s the Rockstar in Space exploration. Yes, Today, I’m feeling very happy, proud and blessed to be talking to Dr B R Guruprasad, Ex- Employee of ISRO who guides the Encyclopaedias and teaches the teachers about space and Astronomy. He has worked as a Scientist and Science Communicator in ISRO for about 37 years!! During his time, He was part of 25 Indian Satellite missions. And of course, he has written 12 books and 500 articles on Astronomy and Space and was invited by various other countries to guide their ‘Space Education for young people”. There’s so much to talk about him but we’ll jump straight into the questions.

[2.09] Siyona: Hello Dr Guruprasad, how are you doing today?

[2.13] Dr Guruprasad: Hello Siyona, very nice to be in this podcast. I am doing fine and how about you?

[2.20] Siyona: Yeah, I’m doing great too! Thank you.

[2.24] Siyona: Here’s my first question. “What is the most fascinating fact about our Solar System?”

[2.31] Dr Guruprasad: You are asking about a really fascinating thing called the Solar System. Let me give a brief introduction. All of us know the Solar System consists of the Sun, which is our central star, as well as 8 large bodies which we call as planets and more than 170 satellites that revolve around those 8 planets. Not all of them, only two of them doesn’t have any satellites but, the other 6 do have. We have other bodies, minor bodies in the Solar System which are like large mountains or even much larger than they are known as asteroids, which are the left-over things from the time of the formation of the Solar System. 

[3.19] Dr Guruprasad: And we have more interesting and awe-inspiring bodies called comets. Even now, one is visible. And of course, still smaller bits and pieces of comets and asteroids called meteorites, okay which circle the sun like the planets. The Sun, the Planets, their Satellites, the Asteroids, the Comets as well as the Meteorites, all these constitute the Solar System. 

[3.52] Dr Guruprasad: Now, let us come to your question specifically. What is this fascinating fact of our Solar System? See the fact that this Solar System contains a planet called “Earth”, on which life is there as well as the intelligent life. Which is this intelligent life? We ourselves, human beings. We are there on this and this is one of the most fascinating facts in the Solar System. Because, other than the Earth, we have not found life for sure on any other planet or satellite or anywhere else for sure. See, there have been speculations about life is there, intelligent life is there, extra-terrestrial intelligence is there, like that lot of people will talk. But one has to have solid proof. The second thing is, there are planets which are worlds onto themselves. They are very very interesting worlds compared to out Earth. They look very bizarre. Look at Mercury, look at Venus, look at Mars, look at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. They are quite different worlds. There are similarities but there are lots and lots of differences. Well, this is the most fascinating fact about our Solar System. Different planets with different environments and different worlds, and amongst them, we have a unique planet called Earth, which holds intelligent life that is the most fascinating thing about the Solar System.

[5.44] Siyona: Yeah. Well, I just wanna ask you, because as I said in one of the news episodes NASA has discovered some UFO’s and I said they look like it was straight out of a sci-fi movie and it was.

[6.00] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. I do understand what you are asking. In your age, you think that there is proof. But you know, finding life and finding intelligent life, more importantly is a very very extraordinary thing. So, there was a great science writer in the United States called Carl Sagan. He has written a wonderful book called “Cosmos”. In one instance he told, “extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidences.” Scientists will not speculate. In the sense, they don’t listen to, they don’t encourage speculations. You have to have solid proof as to, UFO:  UFO is a word. Unidentified flying object. That’s all. It is not a flying saucer from some other world. There is no proof for that. Scientific proof has not been found till now. So, if you find scientific proof which is convincing for scientists, then one will accept. Otherwise, there is speculation. 

[7.07] Dr Guruprasad: But, one more important thing is there. You said that, “the fact that UFO’s…” Okay! People are talking about it. But till now we have not discovered intelligent life. Life or Intelligent life for sure. That does not mean they don’t exist. That’s why one person very nicely said “Scientists absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. He told. I hope you will appreciate this. Am I Correct?

[7.37] Siyona: Yeah. That’s totally true. “What if the rest of the planets did not exist? Would it affect the Earth in any way?”

[7.46] Dr Guruprasad: The answer is “yes” and “No”. Let us say, you do not have the other planets, there is no conceivable reason why life should not exist because, life arose on earth. You know that earth revolves around the sun at an average distance of 150 million kilometres. That is called one “Astronomical Unit”. And this, there is a zone in which earth and mars, they are orbiting the sun. It is called “Goldilocks zone”. Okay? That is where you have water in the form of liquid exist. So, chances of finding this life is more. May be other planets if they were not to be there, it would not have mattered much. But you know the thing is there is a giant planet in the solar system called Jupiter the king of the planets.

[8.46] Siyona: Hhmm.

[8.47] Dr Guruprasad:  The thing is, you know Jupiter is so big that you can put 1300 earths inside one Jupiter.

[8.56] Siyona: Oh My God!! That is a lot of earths!!

[9.00] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. That’s the way it is. During the formation of the Solar System and evolved a lot of projectiles like pieces of comets and satellites they would have come and hit the earth of course, they have hit the earth, but Jupiter has taken the brunt of such attacks. Okay? Because it is so huge, from that point of view it has helped the formation of life on the earth in an indirect way I would say. Saturn is also very big. 750 times the size of the earth. Okay? In terms of volume. Okay?

[9.38] Siyona: Oooooooo!

[9.39] Dr Guruprasad: Jupiter is very big. Oh yeah! These are the planets, if they were not to be there, then things would have taken a different turn as per as the history of the Solar System and the history of life on earth is concerned.

[9.54] Siyona: Yeah. Sounds very surprising actually. 

[9.57] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. Yeah.

[9.58] Siyona: And now, that also clears my doubt on why gas giants are called gas giants. Because they are giant enormous, very big.

[10.07] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. They are very big because you know when the Solar System was forming lot of rock and dust kind of things were there and in that area lot of gases were there. Hydrogen and helium, lighter gases were there. They started accumulating lots and lots of material accreted. Accreted means it got accumulated in one place and as these planets became more and more bigger, their gravity also got enhanced and they started attracting more and more material and that is how they grew up giants, gas giants. Okay? Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. If you want to land on them, you cannot land on them at all because there is no solid surface on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. No, it is not possible. When you go there in a space craft, let us say, it is not easy to go to Jupiter like that, there are lot of dangers. Let us say, think of it just for the sake of understanding go there and jump on to the surface of Jupiter. Then, you will be jumping into an endless swimming pool kind of thing. There is no solid surface. You cannot stand on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as you do in the case of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

[11.22] Siyona: Also, in UK my teacher said that if you were to go and do pretend to jump on it, you just keep falling forever and ever and ever until you come out the other side of the Jupiter.

[11.35] Dr Guruprasad: Ah. That’s not true. You can’t come from the other side of the Jupiter just like that. Because you know the thing is, it is not like you know in the case of a swimming pool, from the top to the bottom water density is the same. But, density increases, increases so much you can’t even imagine. Nothing will be there. First it will be gas, and then compressed gas then it becomes liquid, then it is solid and it is still this one. So, you can’t jump into the Jupiter and come from the other side. That is not possible. Okay? (laughs)

[12.07] Siyona: oh

[12.09] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah.

[12.11] Siyona: “But does Jupiter have satellites?”

[12.14] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. Of course. Jupiter has the largest number of satellites in the solar system. Dozens. Okay? Out of those satellites, only four of them are very important. They are known as Galilean Satellites. Because it was Galileo Galilei who observed those satellites and the dots of light in Jupiter 1609AD. In his honour they are known as Galilean satellites. They are known as IO, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Ganymede is larger than planet Mercury. Okay? The thing is that there are very very interesting things. And on IO you can see hundreds of volcanoes. Many of them are erupting even at this moment of time. You go to Europa; it looks like a Golf ball. Okay? It might contain an ocean down below. It’s icy surface. Then Ganymede, it is a very big one and Callisto is the other one. Four satellites, Galilean satellites are very important.

[13.19] Siyona: My next question is, “What would happen if the moon did not exist?”

[13.26] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah, that’s also an interesting question. You asked me so what, if planets are not there, would it affect us? Yes, I told you about Jupiter only Jupiter. To a certain extent Saturn but for all practical purposes Jupiter. But moon is our nearest celestial neighbour. Am I correct? 

[13.48] Siyona: Yes.

[13.49] Dr Guruprasad: Okay? Moon is at a distance of only 3,84,000kms from the Earth. Why? Of course, it provides light during night times. Today we have lot of lights, artificial lights. But once upon a time when people were travelling Moon was used as a light source during the night time. And it was used for navigation. Even today, to a certain extent we use it.

[14.15] Siyona: Oh really?!

[14.17] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. No doubt about it. But scientists say that in addition to this thing, it is due to the presence of the Moon, life is there as it is today. Life has evolved easily. Lot of pieces of Comets and Asteroids they are coming towards the Earth and they try to hit the earth. Moon to a certain extent in the history, it has acted as a shield. In addition to that Moon is responsible for stabilizing the axis of the Earth. You know that?

[14.53] Siyona: Oh. But how is that?

[14.55] Dr Guruprasad: That’s axis is tilted at an angle of 43.5degree from the vertical. Am I correct?

[15.01] Siyona: Yeah.

[15.02] Dr Guruprasad: So, that is why you have seasons. As far as these stabilizations, putting in a particular direction always Moon has played an important role. Otherwise, earth’s axis would have tilted this way, that way and for life to evolve it would not have been easy. So, Moon is a beneficial next-door neighbour in many ways. 

[15.27] Siyona: Okay.

[15.28] Dr Guruprasad: And you know that there are 12 people have walked on the moon, Neil Armstrong the first man on the moon, he stood in there on July 21st 1969 as per the Indian Standard Time 8.29 in the morning.

[15.41] Siyona: Oh My Gosh.

[15.45] Dr Guruprasad: July 21st according to the time prevalent in the eastern part of the United States Eastern Standard Time they say.

[15.51] Siyona: Yeah. This is the day that Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon. I feel so excited and can’t believe we’re recalling this on the same day! 

[16.02] Dr Guruprasad: (Laughs) Exactly today. It is serendipitous!! We say. Okay? That is not intended but that is the way. I’m talking to you on a very important day. On this day, 51years back Neil Armstrong stood on the surface of the Moon. A place called “Sea of Tranquillity”. He said that,” One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. No doubt about it. Isn’t it? He took a small step but as per as the achievement was concerned, it was a giant leap for mankind. Isn’t it Siyona?

[16.40] Siyona: Yeah. That’s so exciting to even think and wonder how Neil Armstrong felt on the moon 51years ago on this very day!

[16.49] Dr Guruprasad: Yes. So, Moon is really really really interesting though we cannot stand on the surface of the moon as you are sitting there for this podcast and asking me questions. Ok, that’s not possible. Moon doesn’t an have atmosphere. Though we can stand on the surface of the moon, you can’t stand as American say “in a shirt sleeve environment”. 

[17.11] Siyona: Yeah. “Why is Venus called as Earth’s sister?” 

[17.17] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. That’s a very interesting thing. Earth’s sister it was called. Because you know, look at the size of the Venus. In terms of diameter, Venus is 90% the diameter of the Earth. Earth’s diameter is 12,756 kilometres on the average you take and Venus is around 12,000 kilometres. Then you take the volume, it’s almost the same because of the diameter. Look at the density, it’s almost the same. Look at the atmosphere of Venus, Venus has an atmosphere of course a thick atmosphere. Earth also has an atmosphere. These made people think that Venus is Earth’s sister. But now scientists know that it is a horrible world in Indian languages, especially in the classical Indian language hell was referred to as “Naraka”.

[18.11] Siyona: Yeah.

[18.12] Dr. Guruprasad: And the boss of Naraka was Yama, Yama dharma raya we say his kingdom it is hell you know? Venus is a hell, because if you stand on the surface of Venus, I am telling you because Venus was thought of a sisterly planet. Is there any similarity? Can you go there and stand and survive? Impossible. Because if you stand on the surface of Venus, your temperature everywhere is 460degrees centigrade. 

[18.43] Siyona: Oh My God.

[18.46] Dr Guruprasad: Very hot and weird. And I and you are sitting on the surface of the Earth. Standing, jogging, walking and doing all sorts of things. So atmospheric pressure is there on us. Am I correct or not? One atmospheric pressure is falling on us that is 760mm of mercury. But, on Venus if we stand there, 90times this much of pressure will be falling on every second.

[19.16] Siyona: Oh My God.

[19.17] Dr Guruprasad: And if we wanted to take a deep breath on the surface on Venus, you can’t because it is more than 90% carbon dioxide which we exhale and not only that, if you see rain on the surface of Venus. It won’t rain on surface of Venus. If it rains, it is not water it is sulphuric acid. What else is needed as proof to call Venus as a hell. If you stand on surface of Venus now, you will be vaporised almost. One will be asphyxiated. Because, we can’t breathe carbon dioxide and one will be crushed because of the pressure. You want to go there?

[20.08] Siyona: Never ever… ever.

[20.11] Dr Guruprasad: Yeah. That’s it. So, you are not asking anything on Mars?

[20.17] Siyona: Well, “what do you think? Should I ask you more about Mars?” I sure will, in the next episode. Listen to the continuation of this very interesting conversation and so much more information. Before we end this episode, don’t you want to know what the competition for this month is? It’s……I’m not gonna tell you. Should I? Okay fine. It’s…… Grow Your Greens. If you had a chance to visit my Instagram account, you’d see that I’ve been able to start growing some greens. It made me feel very happy and selfing to look out for every day. I’ve now sowed them into the ground too! And that gave me the idea for this month’s competition. If I can grow it, you can grow it too!

[21.13] Siyona: All you need is some soil mixed with compost, a small container and some seeds from your kitchen. You could use fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds or any seeds of your choice. It took my seeds just two weeks to sprout to that link. Can you believe it? Just grow it, click a pic and send it to me. You could even hashtag me using little mind chats on Instagram and I will be able to see them.

[21.44] Siyona: Did you know, Sophia and the three other winners of the July competition won some amazing prizes? If you want to win them this time, please do send me your lovely grow your greens pictures by Friday, the 28th of this month. 

[22.02] Remember that the judge only uses your pictures to decide who wins. And then the results will be announced on Sunday, the 30th of August. You could send them to my email or visit the competitions page of my website I am so looking forward to my next episode to see what more Dr Guruprasad can fascinate us with. Thanks a ton for listening. Bye!

[22.37] {Closing Music}

Download now: Solar System – Part 1

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