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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499 – Oppy
The NASA Mars Opportunity Rover, nicked named Oppy by those who operate and love it ,was designed to last 90 days on the Martian surface but has continued to explore the surface of the red planet for 14 years. Along Oppy’s 28 mile long discovery journey on the surface of Mars the tough rover has accumulated a wealth of scientific information on Martian geology and the red planet’s thin atmosphere. It found evidence of a watery past written in the martian surface rocks and made tracks in the martian soil. Its epic voyage has not been without problems. Oppy was able to get it out of a sand top in 2005 and survived a severe dust storm in 2007. As an astronomer, Oppy observed transits of the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos across the disk of the Sun, imaged comet Siding Spring, and photographed the Earth which is a very bright object in the martian sky. Oppy also discovered “heat shield rock” the first of several meteorites it found residing on the Martian surface. In June of 2018, while in the Mar’s Perseverance Valley, Oppy was overtaken by a planet wide dust storm which blocked sunlight from reaching its solar panels. To conserve battery power Oppy ceased scientific operations and was placed in a power saving sleep mode. As the dust storm abated and the skies over Oppy began to clear NASA’s JPL engineers started listening for signals that indicate that it will automatically begin recovery processes. Meanwhile, we wait and hope for Oppy’s complete recovery.
500 – Why Look
Unlike some popular perceptions, when asteroid hunters go to the telescope, we are not hoping for or anticipating the extremely unlikely event that a large globally threatening asteroid will appear in one of our images. Instead what we fear is that a small space rock capable of injuring people and damaging buildings is heading our way and that we will not find it in time to give a warning for people in the impact area to seek cover. In 2013, such a 66 foot diameter undetected space rock approached Earth from near the direction of the Sun, entered our atmosphere at 9.3 miles per second, and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia creating an air blast wave which injured nearly 1,500 people. Statistically scientists expect a meteor fireball explosion like this one every 60 years or so, however, such Earth-space rock collisions are random. For example, in the past 110 years three other impactors which released an energy equal to or greater than the Chelyabinsk meteor have been recorded by observers on the ground. Currently asteroid hunters often find small space rocks passing closer than the Moon to planet Earth. So far researchers have discovered three tiny space rocks before they entered our atmosphere. Amazingly all three were discovered by my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Richard Kowalski. Thus it appears that asteroid hunters are well on their way to being able to give you a heads up if a window shattering asteroid is about to enter your sky.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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