Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
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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341 – Ballooning To Space
To travel to the edge of space you can strap yourself into a capsule and ride atop of a carefully controlled explosion or you can enter a crew capsule and be gently lifted by a balloon into the stratosphere. Unlike a suborbital rocket flight lasting for a few minutes a ride under a balloon can give you several hours to enjoy the wonders of the Earth and its curvature against the back drop of space. Tucson based World View Enterprises is on track to take you on such a balloon ride to the edge of space for the price of a $75,000 ticket. This innovative company is getting started with an unmanned balloon borne capsule called the Stratollite.
At the home of World View Enterprises at Spaceport Tucson, balloons are constructed in a 142,000 square foot facility which features a balloon construction table a tenth of a mile long. The finished stratospheric balloon and payload is released for it’s skyward voyage at an adjoining 700 foot wide launch pad. By controlling the amount of air in the balloon the pilot or electronic control system can pick an altitude which will allow the craft to travel to a point above the Earth and hover there for extended periods of time.
World View Enterprises first launch soared to nearly 15 miles above the Earth’s surface and produced satellite quality images revealing details as small as a compact car. After its mission was complete the solar powered instrument package sailed to a gentle landing. Meanwhile World View Enterprises continues to work on a crew capsule which will take humans to the edge of space and stay there for several hours before gently returning them to the Earth.
342 – That’s Close
My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Greg Leonard discovered an asteroid, 2017 EA, which is so tiny that it could pass under a basketball hoop. It missed exploding in our atmosphere by only about 9,000 miles as it streaked between the communications satellites and the surface of our planet high above the eastern pacific ocean. After Greg discovered it, this small celestial visitor was tracked by telescopes in Arizona, New Zealand, and New Mexico before it disappeared into the Earth’s shadow. When this tiny space rock emerged from our planet’s shadow it was too close to the Sun for further observations by ground based telescopes. However, our observations pinned down it’s orbit around the Sun well enough, for astronomers to conclude that it will not come this close to us again during the next six encounters with Earth from 2019 to 2126.
Greg’s discovery, 2017 EA, orbits the Sun once every three and a quarter years on a path that occasionally brings it to the vicinity of Earth, our moon, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. There are likely to be a hundred million Earth approaching asteroids like 2017 EA which come close to us. In the past they have zipped past our planet unnoticed by humanity. About once a year one of them enters our atmosphere exploding many times higher than airliners fly and in some cases rains pieces of itself onto the ground for humans to discover. With perservance you could find such a meteorite waiting on the Earth’s surface for you to discover.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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