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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385 – Phoning Home
In 2018 you are unlikely to be able to purchase a passenger ticket to the Moon, however, thanks to a German start up company called Part Time Scientists or PTScientists for short, if you were able to safely land on the lunar surface you could use your smart phone. PTScientists will launch their Alina spacecraft as a secondary payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket late in 2018. After softly touching down on the lunar surface near the Apollo 17 landing site Alina will release two Audi Quattro rovers. This clever group will use Long-Term Evolution or LTE wireless technology which is also known as 4G in cooperation with the wireless phone company Vodafone. The two Audi Quattro rovers, developed in cooperation with the car manufacturing company Audi, are essentially mobile phones. These two small robots will carefully examine the Apollo 17 spacecraft to determine what has happened to it during its 45 year residence on the Moon. PTScientists hopes to be the first private entity to reach the Moon’s surface and thus open a new era in low cost lunar exploration which will eventually lead to a permanent human colony on our nearest neighbor. This first mission is not designed to survive the 14 day long lunar night during which temperatures can drop to lower than a minus 280 F. PTScientists, in subsequent missions will establish a permanent telecommunications infrastructure on the Moon’s surface and then deliver up to 220 lbs of customer payloads to the lunar surface.
386 – Interplanetary Sand Traps
When the Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa [Hi ya Boo sa] visited the near Earth asteroid Itokawa in 2005 it found this 2000 foot by 800 foot elliptical world to have a variety of surface features. Instead of being a solid object like some asteroids, Itokawa is a rubble pile of boulders and pebbles held together by it’s tiny gravity. The total volume of pebbles seems to be comparable to the volume of large rocks and boulders which make up Itokawa , however, the depths of the pebbles or their concentration in the center remains unknown. Given this uncertainty, this asteroid appears to be made up of a million times more small particles than larger ones. Images of Itokawa show lowlands filled with pebbles and rocky highlands which are occupied by large boulders. For example, the large sandy area called the Muses Sea is strikingly different from the adjacent boulder rich highlands. In a recent Physics Today article Dr. Troy Shinbrot a professor at Rutgers University lays out theory and evidence suggesting that Itokawa’s sandy seas may function like a golfer’s sand trap in that they are easy to get into but hard to escape. Itokawa like the Earth is much more likely to be impacted by tiny objects than larger ones. Shinbrot and his colleagues have conducted experiments and simulations which they published in Physical Review Letters. This new research suggests that the sandy areas on Itokawa are formed because impacting small objects bounce off of boulders but sink into sandy, pebbly areas causing these features to grow.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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