Sep 1st: Finding An Asteroid for Astronauts & Asteroids On An Inside Track

By on September 1, 2019 in

Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
Travelers in the Night Digest: 17E & 18E:Finding An Asteroid for Astronauts & Asteroids On An Inside Track

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • Asteroid search programs focus on finding the large asteroids which pose a threat to our planet & a manned mission to an asteroid.
  • Atira asteroid 2013 TQ5 was discovered by J. A. Johnson

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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17E – Finding An Asteroid for Astronauts

NASA is working on plans to send a pair of astronauts on a mission which lasts more than 500 days. In 2021, 2022, and 2023 their Orion spacecraft would fly past Venus, and then Mars, before returning to the Earth. Before such a long complicated mission is attempted it may be wise to test the hardware on a manned mission to an asteroid.

Until recently, the asteroid search programs were directed to focus on finding the large asteroids which pose a threat to our planet. In February of 2013 a small asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia and injured more than 1400 people. This event and the search for asteroid space mission targets has renewed interest in finding smaller space rocks.

On the night of March 9-10, 2014 Steve Larson was observing with the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow. He discovered a new moving point of light in the night sky which appeared to be an Earth approaching object. Subsequent observations of it were made by telescopes in Australia, France, Argentina, Chile, New Mexico, and Kansas and the object was named 2014 EK24. It is approximately 3 basketball courts in diameter. Because its orbital period about the Sun is so close to that of the Earth, it will make close approaches to us in 2015 and 2016 and then not again until 2091 and 2092.

Only a tiny fraction of the small asteroids which approach the Earth have been discovered. One that astronauts could visit in 2020 is out there.

18E – Asteroids On An Inside Track

At its full phase, our moon is at its brightest since it is opposite to the Sun and presents its entire lighted side towards us. Generally, asteroids are also brightest when they are opposite the Sun. However, if their orbit is inside that of the Earth, they are never seen in the midnight direction .

Atira [uh t ee r uh ] was discovered in 2003 by the MIT Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research Program with telescopes near Socorro, NM. It is the first asteroid known to have an orbit completely within that of the Earth. It is approximately a mile in diameter and follows a path which crosses that of Venus but which never comes as close to the Sun as Mercury.

Recently, 2013 TQ5 was discovered by J. A. Johnson, using the NASA funded, Catalina Sky Survey, 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon. It is one of only 13 out of the more than 10,000 known near Earth Objects whose path around the Sun is entirely within the Earth’s orbit. It is a bit larger than a football field in diameter and orbits the Sun every 249 days.

The Atira asteroid which travels closest to the Sun is 2007 EB26. It was discovered by R. A. Kowalski. It is approximately 7 football fields in diameter and approaches to within 11 million miles of the Sun every 148 days.

The Atira class of asteroids are hard to find because they never get very far from the Sun in our sky. We need to keep track of them since their orbits may change to make them a threat Earth.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy
The 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast is produced by Planetary Science Institute. Audio post-production by Richard Drumm. Bandwidth donated by and wizzard media. You may reproduce and distribute this audio for non-commercial purposes. Please consider supporting the podcast with a few dollars (or Euros!). Visit us on the web at or email us at This year we will celebrates the Year of Everyday Astronomers as we embrace Amateur Astronomer contributions and the importance of citizen science. Join us and share your story. Until tomorrow! Goodbye!

About Al Grauer

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