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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459-Falling Space Rocks
In the early evening of January 17, 2018 six hundred and seventy four observers in 11 States and Canada reported a fireball meteor streaking across the sky to the American Meteor Society. This attention getting event was recorded by more than twenty security video cameras, by one of the NASA’s All-Sky Fireball Network cameras, and as a 2.0 magnitude earthquake by seismic detectors. The 6 foot diameter parent object entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 28,000 mph and exploded at high altitude. Doppler weather RADAR tracked it’s fragments and predicted where pieces would fall to Earth. Over the next ten days more than 16 meteorites were discovered, mainly on the surfaces of frozen lakes, in the Township of Hamburg, North of Ann Arbor, Michigan. These fallen space rocks range in size from several inches in diameter with the mass of 10 US quarters to clusters of tiny rain drop sized fragments which were visible against the white surface of a frozen lake. Meteor falls are rare. In the past five years, the American Meteor Society has received multiple reports on each of more than 15,000 fireball events but only 37 documented cases of meteorites being collected immediately after they were observed to fall from the sky. To find freshly fallen meteorites visit the American Meteor Society’s website but do not hunt for meteorites on private land without permission.
By measuring the tiny dips in light that occur when a planet passes in front of it’s star, the NASA Kepler Spacecraft has discovered more than 20 Earth like planets in an area which is only 0.3% of the entire sky. Unfortunately these planets are so far away that it is hard to imagine that humans will ever know much about them. To find planets closer to home NASA has launched TESS the Transiting Exoplanet Satellite which will monitor more than 200,000 much brighter, nearby, stars over the entire sky to detect the tiny dips in light caused when a planet passes in front of it’s star. It is likely that TESS will discover more than 1,600 transiting exoplanet candidates including 70 rock and ice covered Earth sized planets some of which are likely to be in the habitable zones surrounding their stars. The stars that TESS will be observing are on average ten times closer and 30 to 100 times brighter than those observed by Kepler and be at a maximum of only several hundred light years away. The James Webb Space Telescope and the large ground based telescopes currently being developed should be able to measure methane, oxygen, and other chemical signs of life in the atmospheres of the Earth like planets which TESS discovers. The TESS era will be a most exciting time as humans discover and are able determine the properties of relatively nearby habitable worlds and dream about what might be living in our neighborhood of the Milky Way.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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