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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387 – Florence
The 3 mile diameter, 4th largest Potentially Hazardous Asteroid, Florence, was discovered by Dr. Bobby Bus at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia on March 2,1981. It was named for Florence Nightingale the founder of modern nursing. As it comes to about 18 times the Moon’s distance from us on September 1, 2017, Florence will be the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet in more than 100 years. During this flyby astronomers will measure many of it’s important physical properties and RADAR observers are expected to obtain images of features larger than 30 feet diameter. For several months Florence will be bright enough to be spotted by experienced observers with small telescopes.
Florence orbits the Sun once every 2.35 years crossing the orbit of Mars and coming very near but not crossing the Earth’s path about the Sun. Florence rotates once every 140 minutes with a reflected light amplitude which suggests that it is not very elongated. Ground based observations suggest that Florence is stony. Observations during this flyby should give us a better idea of it’s chemical composition. Astronomers have tracked Florence for nearly 40 years so that it’s orbit is well known and are sure that it will not come very close to us again until September 02, 2057. Even though it is unlikely that Florence will impact the Earth in the next thousand years or so measuring it’s properties will help us prepare for the eventuality of an object which asteroid hunters discover to be on a collision course with our planet.
388 – 40 Years
Looking at the stars on a clear dark night, far from the artificial air glow humanity creates, have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel in truly deep interstellar space? 40 years after their launches in 1977, your representatives, the twin Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft are in the vast space between the stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Aboard each Voyager is a Golden Record time capsule which expected to last billions of years. This message from all of humanity is inscribed with greetings from Earth as well as sounds, images, and a decoding key which will enable any intelligent aliens which find a Voyager to discover who made it and where it came from.
The Voyagers were designed to be very robust to withstand the radiation surrounding Jupiter, however, NASA scientists are surprised and elated that electronics from the year the Apple II went on sale could last so long. The output of radio isotope thermoelectric generators which power the Voyagers is slowly declining and it is estimated that after 2030 they will not produce enough power to continue the science experiments. In the meantime each Voyager makes a daily report of it’s location and the conditions it is encountering. Even though they have been flying at 30,000 miles per hour and travelled more than 10 billion miles from Earth it will be at least 40,000 years before either Voyager comes anywhere near another star as they orbit the center of the Milky Way Galaxy once every 235 million years till the end of time.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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