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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503 – Fuls III
Recently my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Carson Fuls discovered his third comet, now named C/2018 R4 (Fuls), moving through the constellation of Pieces with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona. 85 Observations of C/2018 R4 (Fulls) made by more than 16 telescopes around the world gives us preliminary details of its 5494 year long path about the Sun. Carson’s comet is likely to have a nucleus which is about a mile in diameter and be composed of rocks and dust held together by water ice and frozen gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. In approximately 729 BC Comet Fuls was about 16 times Pluto’s average distance from the Sun poised to start on its journey towards the inner solar system. As it moved towards the Sun it began to pick up speed and and didn’t cross Neptune’s orbit until 2004. In March of 2018 Carson’s large dirty snowball came to almost the orbit of Mars. As it did so the Sun’s warming rays caused it to give off a cloud of gas and dust making it possible for Carson to recognize it to be a comet and make his discovery. Comet C/2018 R4 (Fuls) is now on its way back into deep space. Given the climate change Earth is experiencing it is hard to predict the state of our planet and humanity when Comet Fuls returns in 7,500 AD.
504 – Vulcan
In the fictional Star Trek series, Vulcan, Spock’s home planet was imagined to orbit the A component of the triple star system 40 Eridani [Eri-dani ]. Recently astronomers using the Dharma Planet Survey 50 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona have discovered that there is indeed an actual planet, named HD26965 b, with mass of 8.5 times that of Earth orbiting the star 40 Eridani A once every 42.38 days. Its presence was detected by measuring the slight wobble a planet of its size causes in motion of its host star. Unfortunately the new planet’s mass and close proximity to its star make it an unlikely home for real human like creatures. A real habitable planet like the fictional Vulcan, with liquid water on it’s surface, would need to orbit 40 Eridani A in 223 Earth days at 68% of our distance from our Sun. Such a planet may indeed exist and we may be able to detect it someday. To add a new dimension to your stargazing, locate the naked eye star 40 Eradani also known as HD 26965 on your star map between the constellations of Orion and Cetus. Do this on some cold winter night and wonder is this star has a real planet Vulcan with pointy eared telepathic creatures which we may someday meet.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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