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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During one of my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Brian Africano’s first solo observing nights on our team’s 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, a rapidly moving point of light in the constellation of Corvus caught his attention. After Brian reported his discovery observations to the Minor Planet Center this new object was observed by telescopes in Arizona, Chile, and Croatia. Scientists at the Minor Planet Center used these data to calculate it’s 892 day,Earth and Moon crossing, orbit around the Sun, estimate it’s size to be 570 feet in diameter, and give it the name of 2018 HQ. It thus became Brian’s first Potentially Hazardous Asteroid discovery. At some time in the future this large space rock will come to less than six times the Earth-Moon distance from us, however in 2018, more than a month after Brian discovered it, 2018 HQ passed a distant 94 times the Moon’s distance from us. More interesting is that in 1903 Brian’s discovery, 2018 HQ, came to less than two times the Earth-Moon distance from the planet Mars. From orbiting spacecraft we can see many impact craters on Mars including some that have occurred since humans have begun to obtain close up satellite images. It will be very exciting if some time in the near future asteroid hunters are able to discover a space rock on a similar path as Brian’s discovery, 2018 HQ, which is actually on a collision course with Mars giving humans an opportunity to witness the formation of a crater on the red planet.
Modern technology provides us with stunning views of objects in the Universe in wavelengths invisible to our eyes, however, nothing is as moving and thought provoking as looking into deep space with your very own eyes. Astronauts tell us that the best views of the stars, are from a natural night sky location on Earth, since in space one must wear eye protection because of the dangerous radiation which is present there. An exception is that during the 45 minutes of night, International Space Station residents have on each orbit about the Earth, astronauts have long enough time to become dark adapted and thus are able to see a brief glimpse of stars as well as spectacular views of the Milky Way. In the end nothing beats a natural night sky location on Earth like the Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary for leisurely views into deep space. Being under a natural moonless night sky allows you to see everything from meteors 70 or so miles away on out to planets, stars, clusters of stars, all the way out to the Great Galaxy in Andromeda some 2.5 million light years from us, with your very own eyes. To find your place, visit the International Dark Sky Association’s website, darksky.org, click on find a dark sky place and invite a friend to go with you. Bring a red filtered flashlight, star maps, binoculars, warm clothes, a lawn chair, snacks, and sit back and experience the wonders of the Universe with your very own eyes.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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