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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5035- What a Night
To give you an idea of the celestial traffic in our neighborhood, on a recent clear night, using our 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Hannes Groller posted 20 new objects on the Minor Planet Center’s Near Earth Object Confirmation Page. Over the next week further observations by telescopes around the world revealed that 14 are Earth approaching Asteroids, 2 are Mars Crossing Asteroids, and 4 were not confirmed due to a lack of follow up observations. 5 of Hannes’s single night catch are classified as Amor type Earth approaching asteroids. So far asteroid hunters have discovered 6139 Amor asteroids whose paths bring them to between the orbits of Earth and Mars when they are closest to the Sun. The largest of the Amors is the 10 mile long peanut shaped asteroid Eros which orbits the Sun once every 54 years. It has a large crater which was formed about a billion years ago when it was struck by another asteroid. The impact was so severe that it produced seismic waves which shock the small world’s surface obliterating tiny craters over about 40 % of its surface. NASA’s Shoemaker spacecraft orbited Eros in 2000, obtained close up images, and finally landed on this small world on February 12, 2001. The two small moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos, may be Amors which were captured by the Red Planet’s gravity. In the future Amor asteroids may become a valuable source of raw materials for Martian colonists.
506 – Large PHA
Recently my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Richard Kowalski was asteroid hunting in the constellation of Pegasus with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona when he discovered a 2,000 foot diameter space rock streaking through the night sky. After Richard sent his discovery observations to the Minor Planet Center, this giant space rock was tracked by telescopes in Croatia, Illinois, Slovakia, Western Slovenia, Hungary, and Italy and given the name 2018 SK3. Fortunately on its current path, 2018 SK3 cannot come closer than about 19 times the Moon’s distance from us. However, NASA classifies this giant space rock as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid or PHA for short. According to the Purdue University and Imperial College of London’s Impact calculator about once every 130,000 years, an asteroid the size of 2018 SK3 strikes the Earth producing a crater 3.5 miles in diameter and 1,600 feet deep in sedimentary rock. If you were 10 miles from ground zero such an impact would feel like 6.9 magnitude Earth Quake. The accompanying 1140 mph air blast would level buildings, destroy highway bridges, scatter cars and trucks, and blow down 90% of the trees with those remaining being stripped of their leaves and branches. The extremely remote possibility that a big one might have our number on it keeps asteroid hunters going to their telescopes.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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