Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- NASA’s LUCY mission will launch in 2021 and will be the first spacecraft to visit Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.
- The 130 mile diameter asteroid Psyche appears to be the remnant of the nickel/iron core of a larger body. NASA’s Psyche spacecraft will launch in 2023 and arrive in 2030
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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337 – Lucy
Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids lead and follow the giant planet around the Sun occupying stable locations where Jupiter and the Sun’s gravity balance each other. Humans have discovered only a tiny fraction of the million of them larger than one kilometer or about 3,300 feet in diameter that are suspected to exist.
Upon NASA’s selection of the Lucy mission, Dr. Harold Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado commented “Because the Trojans are remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets, they hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system. Lucy, like the human fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins.”
NASA’s Lucy spacecraft will arrive at its first target, a main belt asteroid, in 2025. From there Lucy will move on to visit 4 Jupiter Trojan asteroids which travel Jupiter’s orbit 60 degrees ahead of the giant planet in 2027. After that it will get a gravitational boost as it flies past Earth on its way to visit two more asteroids in the other large group of Jupiter Trojans which follow 60 degrees behind Jupiter as it orbits the Sun . During the flybys, Lucy will map the surface composition and geology, determine the masses and densities, as well as to look for rings and satellites of these unexplored members of our solar system. What the Lucy spacecraft finds will revolutionize our knowledge of the time less than 10 million years after the birth of our Sun which set the stage for the way we find things now.
338 – Psyche Bound
When the material came together to form our home planet, gravity was strong enough to pull the heavy materials like iron to the center, giving our planet an iron core. The vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of known asteroids and comets orbiting our Sun are made of mixtures of rocks and ices of various substances. They do not have enough gravity to cause heavy materials to move to their centers. From scientific measurements the asteroid Psyche appears to be composed almost entirely of iron, nickel, and possibly other valuable metals. Perhaps the Massachusetts sized, 130 mile diameter, asteroid Psyche is the core of a Mars sized planet whose outer layers were blown away by collisions early in the history of the solar system. Although NASA has no plans to bring back material for earthlings to use, space mining enthusiasts are interested in Psyche since the metal in this asteroid may be worth 10,000 quadrillion dollars on today’s market.
The Psyche spacecraft is scheduled for launch in 2023. It will get a boost in speed from the Earth’s gravity in 2024, fly by Mars in 2025, arrive at the asteroid in 2030, and then orbit this strange world for at least 6 months taking scientific data. Since we can not visit our home planet’s core a trip to Psyche will enable us to explore the unknown nature of what is below our feet and provide clues about the exotic mixtures of metals and minerals which may be hiding there.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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