AstroTalk Episode November 3, 2016

Sequencing DNA Aboard the International Space Station and Measuring the Length of a Day on Saturn

3:12pm - 3:30pm

For the first time ever, a NASA scientist, Kate Reubens, has carried out an experiment for sequencing DNA in space, on the International Space Station. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for research in the biological and medical communities. DNA in human cells contains instructions that scientists believe they can now manipulate. The ability to humanly manipulate this sequencing of DNA, which is now being done in space, can possibly help scientists learn how to control DNA, supposedly for human benefit.
Scientists, up till now, have found it difficult to get a precise measurement of the length of a day on the planet Saturn. One of the problems in getting this measurement is the inability, so far, to get a precise measurement of the rotation rate of Saturn. The notion of a day has to do with motion (???????) or so say NASA Scientists. When we think of a day on Earth, we think of the motion of the Sun across the sky, where it rises, and where it sets. person does not have to be on Earth to measure the length of an Earth day. For Saturn, this is more difficult, because the gaseous surface (surface?) of Mars lies beneath 1,000s of miles of gaseous atmosphere. The poles also spin at different rates than the equator. So determining the precise length of a Saturnian day is not an easy task. Saturn has swirling gas clouds that move at different rates, so it is next to impossible to get anything resembling an accurate measurement from measuring the rotation rate of clouds or parcels of the atmosphere circling high above Saturn. Scientists can use the magnetic fields of Saturn, and the radio wave emissions from the planet, to get a much more accurate measurement on the rotation rate of Saturn. Saturn's magnetic field wobbles like a hula hoop does, and since the magnetic field is generated from deep within the planet, then 1 wobble in the magnetic filed is equal to the exact rotation rate of the planet Saturn. This, then, helps scientists determine the length of a day on Saturn.