Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Catalina’s Greg Leonard discovered 50′ diameter asteroid 2017 FC2. It has an orbital period of 364.4 days. A rock like this enters our atmosphere about every 25 years.
- Cutting the funding of NASA’s Earth observation and global warming analysis will not stop the changes that are happening. Arctic ice is shrinking fast.
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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345 – 364 Days
My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Greg Leonard was using the University of Arizona’s 60 inch telescope atop Mt. Lemmon when he discovered a 50 foot diameter asteroid with an orbital period around the Sun of 364.4 days. After the discovery observations were posted this small asteroid was observed by telescopes in Arizona, Illinois, Ohio, England, New Mexico, New Zealand, Japan, France, and Australia. Greg’s new space rock, 2017 FZ2, follows a path which crosses Earth’s orbit twice a year as it moves from near the planet Venus’s orbit to halfway to the path of Mars around the Sun. Most of the time it is so far away and dim that asteroid hunters are unable to track it. In 2017 it made an unusually close approach to us coming less than two times the Moon’s distance from our home planet. There are likely to be tens of millions of small asteroids like 2017 FZ2 which come near us. About four times a century one of them enters our atmosphere producing an airburst equivalent to 82,000 tons of TNT exploding at an altitude a bit more than twice the height airliners fly. If you are lucky enough to observe it in the night sky you would be treated to a fantastic light show. Sometimes humans witnessing such an event are able to find pieces of the parent object on the ground. There are more than 1,100 documented events like this called meteorite falls as opposed to meteorite finds which are space rocks which landed unobserved and are later found on the Earth’s surface.
346 – Arctic Ice
Eliminating NASA’s climate research programs is a bit like someone who has a CT scan which reveals a health problem demanding that the CT scan machine be destroyed instead of looking for a cure for themselves.
On March 7, 2017 the Arctic Sea ice reached a record low wintertime maximum extent. The maximum Arctic ice cover in 2017 was about a half million square miles smaller than the average for 1981 to 2010. From the first satellite observations in 1979 till 2017 the Arctic sea ice cover has continued to get smaller and thinner making it more easily disrupted by ocean currents, winds, and warmer temperatures than ever before. Even so it appears that it will be a while before ships begin to make the long sought northwest passage from Europe to Asia.
At the opposite end of the Earth on March 3, 2017, the end of summer sea ice around Antarctica was at the lowest extent ever observed by satellites. This surprising result followed several decades of moderate sea ice growth. It will take a few more years of data to determine if there has been a significant change in the trend of Antarctic ice sheet growth.
Cutting funding for NASA’s observations and analysis of the changes happening on Earth will not stop human activity from warming our planet’s atmosphere. Get ready, changing the ocean surface from ice to open water is likely to have a significant, complex, and hard to predict impact on weather and climate.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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