Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Carson Fuls discovered four new Earth Approaching Asteroids and a comet with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona.
- Greg Leonard discovered two new PHA’s on consecutive nights using our 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona. They are both about 600 feet in diameter and are no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future.
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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501 – Carson’s Night
Recently, on a single night, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate, Carson Fuls discovered four new Earth Approaching Asteroids and a comet with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona. Carson’s catch of four nearby asteroids range in size from 40 to 350 feet in diameter and orbit the Sun with periods ranging from 318 to 918 days. One of them, a 40 foot diameter space rock, now called 2018 RE3 came to less than two times the Moon’s distance from Earth four days after Carson discovered it. Five hours after that after that it came even closer to our Moon. This small space rock orbits the Sun once every 556 days on a path that brings it near the Earth, Venus, our Moon and Mars. Over eons, these close encounters will likely change its orbit around the Sun to cause it to collide with the Earth or Venus. According to the Purdue University and Imperial College of London’s impact calculator, an asteroid similar in size to 2018 RE3 enters the Earth’s atmosphere every 9 years, releases the energy of 9 tons of TNT, and bursts into fragments at an altitude of 112,000 feet. Carson’s early detection means that if 2018 RE3 had been on an impact trajectory with Earth, asteroid hunters would have been able to give you a heads up to go outside to enjoy the light show and perhaps give you a clue about where you might be able to find fragments of it on the ground.
502 – Pair of PHAs
Asteroid hunters have found nearly 2,000 asteroids with diameters greater than 140 m or 460 feet which come to less than 20 times the Moon’s distance from Earth. NASA classifies this group of large space rocks as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids or PHA’s for short. It should be emphasized that currently no PHA is on a collision course with planet Earth, however, astronomers are keeping careful track of each one to make sure that none of their orbits change to make them a threat to humanity. In 2018 asteroid hunters are discovering new PHA’s at the rate of about 6 per month. Recently my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Greg Leonard discovered two new PHA’s on consecutive nights using our 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona. They are both about 600 feet in diameter and are no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future. The reason that we will keep track of them is because according to the Purdue University and Imperial College of London’s Impact calculator a large space rock of this size enters the Earth’s atmosphere every 39,000 years creating a crater 2 miles in diameter and 2,000 feet deep in sedimentary rock. 10 miles from ground zero an air blast with winds of 275 mph would blow down 90 % of the trees and cause buildings to collapse. The extremely unlikely event that a PHA has our number on it is what keeps asteroid hunters going to our telescopes.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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