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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423 – Silent ET
Oumuamua (“Oh-moo-ah-moo-ah”) is the asteroid that zipped by the Earth on a trajectory that started beyond our solar system in truly deep space. After rounding our Sun at 97,000 mi/hr this unusual space rock will continue onward into deep interstellar space. The fact that this reddish object’s brightness changes by a factor of 10 every 7.3 hours has been interpreted as being due to an elongated rocket or cigar shape which reflects different amounts of sun light in our direction as it tumbles through space. This strange space rock appears to be about 730 feet long and about 100 feet wide. Oumuamua’s interstellar path and unusual shape prompted Breakthrough Listen Scientists to use the 300 foot diameter, 8,000 ton, Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope to see if Oumuamua is emitting radio signals which could indicate that it is some type of artifact or spacecraft which passed through our solar system to check it out. Preliminary analysis of several hours of data with a cluster super computers do not reveal any signals of artificial origin even though this instrument could detect a cell phone at the space rock’s distance in about a minute. Care is being taken to to reject signals which could be of human origin as well as those which are not consistent with Oumuamua’s speed and location. The hypothesis that this interstellar space rock is an alien probe is pretty farfetched, however, how it came to have it’s current shape is almost equally hard to imagine.
424 – Long Winter Nights
Winter nights can be exhausting, productive, as well as sometimes frustrating for asteroid hunters. At the Sixty Inch Telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, near winter solstice, the night’s observing starts at 6:30 PM and continues till after 6 AM which combined with start up and end tasks makes the asteroid hunter’s work “day” more than 13 hours long. On such a recent long winter work night, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate, Carson Fuls discovered an impressing total of 18 new Earth approaching objects. On the other hand on the next 3 night shift, I was treated to one night which was clear followed by two nights which were dominated by the first big snow storm of the season. The best nights are clear, cold, and calm with asteroid images which are small intense points of light. Such a night is said to have good seeing. Nights which are clear but have bad seeing with fuzzy star and asteroid images due to atmospheric turbulence and high winds makes the discovery of faint objects virtually impossible. High winds can and do shake the telescope producing double images of every object. Nights which consist of sporadic clear holes in the clouds also yield few new discoveries. Fishing what we call “sucker holes” in the clouds is very frustrating since it is hard to verify a new discovery under such conditions. Then there are the nights which are perfectly clear but we have to keep the dome closed because of the snow on it. Then there are those nights which are clear with good seeing from start to finish on which the asteroid hunter makes new discoveries while being treated to views of millions of stars, gas clouds, and galaxies which inspire a child like sense of wonder.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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