Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Lunar meteorites have been found in several places on Earth. Alex Gibbs & Richard Kowalski discovered a big one! 2016 RD34 is about 43 feet in diameter and it would be possible for our astronauts to reach it and get a sample.
- Rose Matheny and Carson Fuls discovered 2016 RN1 (about 700′ diameter, which will make close approaches to Earth) and 2016 RT1 (450′ diameter) and not a current threat, though that may change if Venus tugs it into a bad orbit.
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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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293 – From Luna
More than 240 Lunar meteorites have been found in the Dhofar region of Oman, on the LaPaz Icefield of Antartica, and other locations on the Earth’s surface. These space traveling rocks were blasted from the Moon’s surface by the impact of asteroids and comets which accelerated them to speeds greater than the lunar escape velocity of 1.5 miles per second. Subsequently these interplanetary travelers in the night orbited the Sun for an extended period of time before entering our atmosphere and falling to Earth. We know these meteorites are from the Moon because they contain mixtures of atoms which are found on the Moon but not in Earthly rocks.
Recently, my Catalina Sky Survey teammates Alex Gibbs and Richard Kowalski discovered an Earth approaching asteroid which has a speed consistent with it having been ejected from the Moon by the impact of an asteroid or comet long ago. Its name is 2016 RD34. This small space rock is approximately 43 feet in diameter. It orbits the Sun once every 409 days on a path that currently can come to a bit less than 2 times the Moon’s distance from us.
When Alex first spotted it, 2016 RD34 was about 2.7 times the Moon’s distance from him and was moving at a speed of less than 1 mile/second relative to planet Earth. Compared to other Earth approaching objects this is a rather leisurely pace which is easily attainable by our rockets. The only way to prove that it was blasted from the Moon is to obtain a sample which proves its chemical composition to be like other Moon rocks.
294 – Dangerous Duo
Recently in the space of 28 hours my Catalina Sky Survey teammates Rose Matheny and Carson Fuls discovered two Potentially Hazardous Asteroids to add to the list of the more than 1700 which asteroid hunters have discovered. Fortunately, none of the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids are currently on a collision course with planet Earth.
The first of Rose and Carson’s discoveries has been named 2016 RN1. This large space rock is about 700 feet in diameter, orbits the Sun once every 1.5 years, and between 2016 AD and 2200 AD it will make 18 close approaches to Earth.
The second of Rose and Carson’s potentially dangerous space rocks is 2016 RT1. Its path is mostly inside the Earth’s orbit and takes it around the Sun every 344 days. This 450 diameter asteroid makes close approaches to both the Earth and Venus and is not a current threat to either planet.
The orbits of asteroids change over time due to the gravity of other objects as well as the relentless pressure of the Sun light on their surface. Asteroid hunters keep special track of the more than 1700 Potentially Hazardous asteroids to make sure that their paths have not changed to make them a threat to planet Earth. To that end my team the Catalina Sky Survey operates three telescopes in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona. Our job is to discover potentially dangerous celestial neighbors as well as to keep track of the more than 500,000 known asteroids.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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