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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361 – Nearby Planets
There are ten times more cool red stars than there are yellow dwarf stars like our Sun in our stellar neighborhood. This realization has caused astronomers to search for and find two or three planets circling nearly every dim red star they have studied. About a quarter of these are Earth sized worlds and have temperatures which would allow life as we know it to flourish.
In 2018 the NASA Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite nicknamed TESS will be launched and begin a two to three year mission to discover small Earth sized planets orbiting bright stars in the solar neighborhood. TESS will accomplish its research by monitoring the brightness of more than 200,000 stars to detect the regular dips in brightness which occur as a planet passes in front of its star.
It is expected that TESS will be able to discover about 70 Earth sized planets orbiting stars close enough to us so that their masses, sizes, densities, and atmospheric composition can be determined by the James Webb Space Telescope when it is launched, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the new generation of giant ground based telescopes which are currently being constructed.
Engineering studies indicate that habitable planets in our stellar neighborhood could be visited by ultra light probes carrying cameras, life chemistry detecting sensors, and communications equipment. To cut the mission time to 20 years or so these nano probes will be propelled by repeated pulses of energy from Earth bound lasers which upon striking their light sails over time will accelerate them to 20% of the speed of light.
362 – Asteroid Day
On June 30, 1908 a meteor the size of an office building exploded over Tunguska, Siberia causing an airburst which flattened trees over an area about two and a half times the size of New York City. Fortunately the area of destruction was in a sparsely populated area and caused no known human casualties. In 2013 a 66 foot diameter asteroid gave humans another wake up call when it exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia injuring nearly 1,500 people. Asteroid Day is held on June 30, the annual anniversary of the Tunguska event. It got started when in 2014, Dr. Brian May an astrophysicist and guitarist for the rock band QUEEN composed a musical score which Grigorij Richters used in the production of a film about a fictional asteroid impact and its effect on the human population on our planet. June 30, Asteroid Day resulted from discussions by a group of astrophysicists and artists who previewed this movie at a STARMUS Science and Arts Festival.
At the current rate of discovery it will take asteroid hunters about a thousand years to find the million or so Chelyabinsk sized space rocks which could threaten the residents of Earth. In 2017 Asteroid day events are being held at more than 500 hundred locations in 72 countries world wide. Participants at Asteroid Day events are encouraged to sign the 100X Declaration which seeks to increase the rate of discovery of potentially damaging space rocks.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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