Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- My team the Catalina Sky Survey set a new single month record by discovering 211 Earth approaching objects in October of 2017.
- Eighteen hours before my teammate Rose Matheny first spotted a small space rock with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona it had passed less than the Earth’s diameter from the surface of our planet.
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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411 – 200 Plus
My team the Catalina Sky Survey set a new single month record by discovering 211 Earth approaching objects in October of 2017. Fortunately none of them are on a collision course with planet Earth, however, they give us a good idea of what whizzes by us every month. These 200 plus small asteroids range in size from 7 feet to 2,700 feet in diameter and orbit the Sun with periods between 221 and 2109 days. Nine of them are large enough and come close enough to fit the definition of a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. The 19 closest approaching space rocks in this group can come to less than the Moon’s distance from us. They are all small with the largest, 2017 TA, being a bit larger than an NBA basketball court. 2017 TA is about twice the size of the space rock which exploded above Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013 producing a air blast wave which injured nearly 1500 people. On it’s current 539 day orbit around the Sun, 2017 TA can’t come closer than about 50,000 miles from the Earth’s surface.
My team the Catalina Sky Survey operates 4 telescopes in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona. We scan the skies 24 nights each month, when the moon isn’t too bright, funded by a grant from NASA’s Planetary Defense Office. Our goal is to discover impacting objects so that people in the effected area can be warned to stay away from doors and windows
412 – Tiny Space Rock
Eighteen hours before my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Rose Matheny first spotted a small space rock with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona it had passed less than the Earth’s diameter from the surface of our planet. Rose was able to discover this Smart Car sized space rock after it moved out of the Sun’s glare. At this point it was about the Moon’s distance from her and was traveling away at 3.4 mi/s. After Rose posted her discovery observations on the Minor Planet Center’s Near Earth Object Confirmation page, for the next 24 hours it was tracked by telescopes in Spain, Illinois, and Arizona. Scientists at the Minor Planet Center used these data to calculate it’s orbit around the Sun, estimate it’s size and give it the name 2017 UJ2. This small asteroid had come near the Earth in 1978 but was invisible to the technology which astronomers had available at the time. 2017 UJ2 will not come close enough for us to detect in the foreseeable future, however, there are likely to be tens of millions of others like it which can come close to Earth. A small asteroid the size of Rose’s discovery is likely to enter our atmosphere at least once a year and explodes at about 4 times higher than airliners fly. If such an event happened at night and you were lucky enough to see it you would be treated to a fantastic light show. If you are as lucky as a power ball winner you might even be able to find a piece of it on the ground.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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