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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485 – Last One
My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Greg Leonard discovered our team’s last Earth approaching object before the 2018 monsoon rains settled into the American Southwest. Greg’s discovery, 2018 ND1, is a whopper. It has a diameter greater than the length of 11 football fields. Fortunately 2018 ND1 never comes closer than about 57 times the distance to our moon. Every July and August the monsoon rains bring life giving moisture to our mountain and desert environment. This weather imposed break from observing gives our team the opportunity to make major equipment upgrades and perform routine maintenance. These activities lowers our down time when the weather is favorable for asteroid hunting. For example, we operate our hundred million pixel camera at -100 Celsius or – 148 Fahrenheit to eliminate electronic camera noise. This frigid operating temperature enables the camera to record very faint fast moving space rocks. The electronic camera chip itself is in a vacuum chamber with a window to allow light to be imaged upon it. When the vacuum surrounding the chip deteriorates to the point that we can’t pump it down far enough at the telescope to keep it cold, the 35 lb camera must be removed and taken down the mountain to have it’s vacuum renewed. It is a procedure with some risk but when the camera is reinstalled its as good as new.
486 – Martian Storms
Small telescope observers were disappointed when, in 2018, as the orbits Earth and Mars brought the two planets near each other, a raging dust storm had engulfed the red planet obscuring most of its surface features. Such global dust storms occur every six to eight Earth years three or four Martian years. On the surface of red planet, the human made robot, Opportunity, derives its powered from solar panels. The NASA and JPL scientists who operate it were forced to suspend its science operation until the dust settled. Almost on the opposite side of the red planet, the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, has a small nuclear power plant and is able to study the effects of the nearly planet wide dust storm from the surface. Meanwhile high above NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Orbiter and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express captured images of a storm that started about the size of a US state and within weeks developed to engulf much of the red planet. Another orbiting space lab, NASA’s MAVEN continued to study how Mars changed from a world similar to ours, with liquid water on its surface, to the cold dry place it is now. Mars has a thin atmosphere so that the high winds during such a storm did not topple any spacecraft on the surface but instead sand blasted them with dust particles. Future Martian colonists will just have to hunker down during such a months long violent event.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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