Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- China is planning some audacious Lunar exploration missions. “Heavenly Palace” is the English translation of the name of Tiangong-1, their low-Earth-orbit space station. Tiangong-2 was launched in 2016 and numerous tests & experiments were conducted aboard the station.
- The US Southwest has monsoons that divide the year into 2 parts. Catalina Sky Survey’s Richard Kowalski & Rose Matheny got 3 nights of clear skies and discovered a dozen new asteroids. 2016 QJ44 is the largest of them.
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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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286 – Heavenly Places
China is challenging America’s historical preeminence in space exploration. Get ready for a Chinese robotic landing on the far side of the moon as well as a lunar sample and return mission. Mars is the destination for an entirely Chinese mission in 2020.
While the United States must hire the use of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to send astronauts to the International Space Station, China has its own very active manned space program. The Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Palace, the Chinese space laboratory was launched in 2011 and visited by both male and female astronauts before being abandoned after it’s planned two year lifetime. In 2016 it is being replaced by a new Heavenly Palace,Tiangong-2. It will be visited on a 30 day mission by astronauts flying in a Shenzhou-11 spaceship. The new Heavenly Palace has email, television program viewing, and other creature comforts. These missions are being used to develop the technology to support China’s permanent 60 ton space station which is scheduled to be started in 2018 and completed in 2022. A manned lunar landing leading to a space colony on the moon is next on Beijing’s agenda.
China’s secret to success is in the use of the basic concepts of rocket design to produce relatively simple reliable space launch vehicles. From 2012 to 2015 this strategy produced 68 successful Chinese space launches compared to the USA’s 72. At some point in the future, America may be still trying to get to humans to Mars while China is operating a robust lunar colony.
288 – Coming Out Of Monsoon
In the southwest, the life giving monsoon rains occur in July and August, divide the observing year into two halves, and give asteroid hunters a chance to do major equipment maintenance and upgrades. My Catalina Sky Survey teammates Richard Kowalski and Rose Matheny started the new observing season after the monsoon weather began to taper off using our 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon and 30 inch Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow respectively. Richard and Rose were given a three night clear break in the weather during which they were able to discover a dozen new Earth approaching asteroids.
The largest is 2016 QJ44. It is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid, approximately 1200 feet in diameter. Not to worry. It never comes closer than 10 times the Moon’s distance from us. Two others are about 400 feet in dimeter but never get very close to planet Earth. The closest approaching asteroid in this group of twelve is 2016 QL44. It is about 115 feet in diameter, orbits the Sun every two and a half years, and can come as close as three and a half the Moon’s distance from us.
My team the Catalina Sky Survey is a part of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program. We use three telescopes, 24 nights per month, in the Catalina mountains north of Tucson, Arizona to search the night sky for Earth approaching objects.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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