Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Mars Mission. Case of ESA Schiaparelli
- 2016 RB1 is a metal rich object, approximately 20 feet in diameter, rotates once ever 96 seconds, and is suitable for a visit by one of our spacecraft
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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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303 – Crash
Elon Musk of SpaceX has warned the Mars colonists he proposes to send to the red planet that they must be prepared to die. This sober position is supported by the fact that 26 out of 44 spacecraft sent from Earth towards Mars have failed.
Recently the European Space Agency sent a Trace Gas Orbiter and a lander named Schiaparelli [scap-par-relli] on a 7 month journey to visit Mars. Everything went according to schedule and three days before the lander was to enter the Mar’s atmosphere at 13,000 miles per hour the two parted company. The trace gas orbiter started circling the red planet on its science mission while the lander, Schiaparelli, was slowed by the braking effect of the thin Martian atmosphere and deployed it’s parachute right on time. Apparently the onboard computer thought it was close to the surface and directed the heat shield and parachute to be released too early. The thruster breaking rockets were then fired for only 3 out of the expected 29 second burn. After that Schiaparelli was apparently in free fall until it hit the surface at 186mph. The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged the Schiaparelli landing site before and after the attempted landing and discovered a new crater 8 feet in diameter and 20 inches deep with the ejected 39 foot diameter parachute and heat shield nearby.
It is important to find out exactly what happened with the Russian designed landing system which Schiaparelli was to test since a bigger version of it is to be used to safely bring a much larger 6-wheeled rover to the martian surface in 2021.
304 – Close One
My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Rose Matheny had no way of knowing that the fast moving point of light that she had just discovered would create such a stir. Rose sent in her discovery and followup observations to the Minor Planet Center where astronomers calculated that her discovery would make a very close approach to Earth about two days later and gave it the name 2016 RB1. More than two dozen observatories around the world tracked 2016 RB1 as it came towards us.
During the next 48 hours 2016 RB1 was observed intensively by the Center for Solar System Studies in California, the Lowell Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona, and NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii as part of the Mission Accessible Near Earth Object Survey. Dr. Audrey Thirouin of Lowell Observatory presented the results of the analysis of these data at the 48th Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in California. This team of scientists were able to discover that 2016 RB1 is a metal rich object, approximately 20 feet in diameter, rotates once ever 96 seconds, and is suitable for a visit by one of our spacecraft. Dr. Bill Ryan of the Magdalena Ridge Observatory also observed this object and reported that it came to about 125 miles from two DIRECTV satellites.
If 2016RB1 had been about to hit, this team could have predicted that it would likely produce a light show, a sonic boom, and would be no threat to humans on the ground many hours before impact.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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