Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Comet P/2017 Y3 (Leonard) orbits the Sun once every 31 years on a highly elliptical path which takes it from between the orbits of Earth and Mars out to almost the planet Uranus.
- Most of the humans on planet Earth have never witnessed that the natural night sky is not dark; but rather it is alive with it’s own lights. To see for yourself, pick a dark sky place near you and recruit a friend.
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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437 – Christmas Comet
On December 25, 2017, while searching for Earth approaching asteroids in the constellation of Virgo, the Universe gave my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Greg Leonard a Christmas present in the form of a comet which now bears his name. Comet P/2017 Y3 (Leonard) orbits the Sun once every 31 years on a highly elliptical path which takes it from between the orbits of Earth and Mars out to almost the planet Uranus’s average distance from the Sun. Since it has been observed for only a very short piece of it’s path about the Sun, it is not possible to accurately predict Comet Leonard’s location very far into the future. In 2017 and 2018 it appeared as a faint fuzzy point of light in the night sky and never came came closer than about 150 million miles from Earth. Comet Leonard’s next visit to our neighborhood will be in 2033 or 2034. At some point in the future it’s orbit could bring much closer to Earth as it comes into the inner solar system about twice every human lifetime. Greg’s comet is classified as a Halley family comet and although it is difficult to predict how a comet will brighten as it approaches the Sun, it is unlikely that it will ever become as bright as it’s famous cousin. That situation could change when Comet Leonard comes near the giant planet Jupiter. In the past Jupiter has sent Comets in our direction or ejected them from the solar system. Only time will tell.
438 – Bright Darkness
Most of the humans on planet Earth have never witnessed that the natural night sky is not dark; but rather it is alive with it’s own lights. To see for yourself, pick a dark sky place near you like the Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary from the International Dark Sky Association’s website, darksky.org, and recruit a friend. Do a bit of research on how to achieve and sustain your night vision. Bring a red filtered flashlight, reclining lawn chair, star maps, binoculars, warm clothes, a telescope if you have one, and snacks. Keep on the look out for special events. The American Meteor Society’s website will let you know when to expect meteor showers. Most humans have never seen the glowing light pyramid called the Zodiacal light which is produced by ice particles and dust in the solar system. In the northern hemisphere it is prominent in the evening sky in February, March and April. During the same months it lights up the predawn sky in the southern hemisphere. Star clusters scattered around the sky can be enjoyed with binoculars or a small telescope. New Moon’s from May through October will provide you opportunities to explore the Milky Way with your naked eye or pair of binoculars. This adventure will fill you with wonder at what might be out there. Last but not least Mars will dominate the night sky during much of 2018 as it and the Earth come near to each other. For a time in late July of 2018 Mars will even outshine the giant planet Jupiter in the night sky.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by libsyn.com and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at 365DaysOfAstronomy.org or email us at info@365DaysOfAstronomy.org. This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!