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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487 – Touching the Sun
Imagine a spacecraft traveling at a speed that would take it from New York to Tokyo in less than a minute, a mere 4 million miles from the surface of our Sun, where it would be exposed to about 500 times the solar radiation we receive here on Earth. Not science fiction but science fact for the NASA Parker Solar Probe on one of it’s final laps around our star. In order to survive, the Parker and it’s instruments, are to be protected by a 4.5 inch thick high tech carbon-composite heat shield. In order to get there the Parker spacecraft will use seven Venus flybys over about 7 years to reduce its orbital path about the Sun and reach a top speed of 430,000 miles per hour. The Parker Solar Probe’s mission is to study the mysterious solar corona which is visible to humans only during a total solar eclipse. During its epic voyage Parker will follow how energy moves through the solar corona and is channeled into the solar wind whose flow past our planet creates the northern and southern lights. It will also study how the Sun is able to eject particles at nearly half the speed of light and direct them towards us. These high energy particles can damage satellite communications equipment and are likely to modulate our weather in ways we still don’t understand. Your chance to follow Parker’s odyssey will start with its launch in August of 2018 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
488 – 20 Years
It has been 20 years since the world woke up to the news that a half mile diameter asteroid, 1997 XF11, discovered by Space Watch on Kitt Peak, had a slight chance of impacting the Earth in 2028. Further observations prove there is no chance this potentially devastating space rock will impact the Earth in the next 200 years. Since then my team the Catalina Sky Survey and the rest asteroid hunters of the world have brought the total known Earth approaching objects list to 18,000, a number which grows by about 40 new ones each week. The NASA and JPL’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies or CNEOS (see-neos) for short maps space rocks orbits, predicts when they will come close to us, and reliably determines each one’s chance of impacting Earth. This process begins when an asteroid hunter images a moving point of light and sends it’s path to the Minor Planet Center. These observations are then posted on the Near Earth Object Confirmation Page so that observers around the world can track it. CENEOS (see Neos) Scout software system analyzes each new object’s path to determine if it will come very close. Recently, Scout correctly predicted the impact of the small space rock, 2018 LA, which exploded high over Botswana. In addition, Sentry, another NASA computer system keeps tabs on all known close approaching objects. All of this should make you sleep well each night safe in the knowledge that humans are not in danger from a space rock.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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