Feb 10th: Flying Couch & Martian Asteroid Hunters

By on February 10, 2019 in
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Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
travelers-in-the-nightTitle:
Travelers in the Night Digest: Eps.469 & 470: Flying Couch & Martian Asteroid Hunters

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • My  birthday present from outer space was the tiny sofa couch sized asteroid 2018 KW1. It passed only 12 Earth diameters away and spins on it’s axis of rotation once every 10.8 seconds, the fasted asteroid spin rate ever measured!
  • An appreciative listener, wonders how my team, the Catalina Sky Survey,  would function on Mars. The martian seasons are more extreme and nearly twice as long as on Earth giving asteroid hunters many long and bitter cold winter nights stressing us and our equipment.

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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Transcript:

469 – Flying Couch
My  birthday present from outer space was the opportunity to use the Catalina Sky Survey’s 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Az  to discover a tiny sofa couch sized asteroid as it was flying through the constellation of Bootes.  Additional data obtained by telescopes in Arizona and China allowed scientists at the Minor Planet Center to determine than it would miss planet Earth and give it the name 2018 KW1.    31 hours after I discovered it, Dr. Nick Moskovitz (mos ko witz) of Lowell Observatory led a team of astronomers who used the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to determine 2018 KW1’s physical properties as it passed only 12 Earth diameters from them at 4.5 mi/sec.  2018 KW1’s regular,rapid, changes in brightness reveals it to be a solid object which spins on it’s axis of rotation once every 10.8 seconds, the fasted asteroid spin rate ever measured!  The pattern of colors 2018 KW1 reflects from the Sun allowed Moskovitz’s team to determine that it is 6 to 10 feet in diameter and has a chemical composition similar to the very common chondrite meteorites.  Once every 6 months or so, lucky observers will witness a sofa sized space rock similar to 2018 KW1 entering the Earth’s atmosphere creating a spectacular light show, and raining pieces to Earth for meteorite hunters to discover.  

470 – Martian Asteroid Hunters
An appreciative listener,  wonders how my team, the Catalina Sky Survey,  would function on Mars.  Happily, we could keep the same eating and sleeping schedule,  since the day night cycle on Mars is only 40 minutes longer than on Earth. However, the martian seasons are more extreme and nearly twice as long as on Earth giving asteroid hunters many long and bitter cold winter nights stressing us and our equipment.    Further, there are dust storms and other weather conditions to force us to cease observing.  On Earth the full Moon lights up our atmosphere at night making it impossible to find find faint fast moving asteroids.  Mars has a much thinner atmosphere and two strange Moons.  Phobos orbits very near to the surface and streaks around the red planet 3 times a day.  It appears to be about a third the size of our Moon in the martian sky.   Deimos rises in the east and sets 2.7 days later in the west as it slowly falls behind the rotation of Mars.  The thin atmosphere of Mars probably doesn’t glow much by moonlight so we would not have to shut down for the full moon and thus have no excuse to take a few nights off.  We would be bound to get a lot of action since Mars’s proximity to the asteroid belt is likely to provide 2 or 3 times more close passages and impacts by small space rocks than we experience on Earth.  Last but not least,  the double planet, our Earth and Moon, in the Martian night sky would be an unforgettable sight and well worth the trip.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
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