Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 513&514: Mtn Ops & Close Space Rocks
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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513 – Mtn Ops
My team, the Catalina Sky Survey, would not find a single asteroid without Steward Observatory’s Mountain Lemmon Operations, or Mtn Ops for short. The Mtn Ops crew of of 6 maintains the Mt. Lemmon and Mt. Bigelow sites which are the home of 9 hard working telescopes. In the winter the Mtn Ops crew plows snow and keeps ice on the domes from shutting us down. Every summer they do major maintenance and up grades including putting fresh coats of aluminum on the telescope’s mirrors on a regular schedule. When a telescope quits working or a dome gets stuck in the middle of night one of the Mtn Ops crew comes out to get us back on the sky again. High speed internet communications is central to asteroid hunting and would not function without the Mtn Ops Crew’s regular attention.
The crew also maintains the site utilities including water, telephone, and emergency power generators. When a storm packing 80 mph winds hit, the Mtn Ops crew sharpened up their chainsaws and cleared a mile and a half of road so we could get to the telescopes. When a wild ring tailed cat got into one of our telescope domes, Mtn Ops caught it in a live trap and took it to another place on the mountain and released it. Skunks can be particularly unpleasant when Mtn Ops chases them out of a building. Bottom line is that Mtn Ops does whatever it takes to make our Asteroid Hunting facilities continue to function.
514 – Close Space Rocks
The closest passage by a non-impacting space rock was made by the tiny asteroid 2011 CQ1. It was discovered by my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Richard Kowalski, on February 4, 2011, while he was observing in the constellation of Cancer with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona. Twelve hours after Richard discovered it 2011 CQ1 passed 3,410 miles above the Earth’s surface traveling at 6 miles per second. If this five and a half foot diameter space rock had entered the Earth’s atmosphere, it would have produced a brilliant fireball meteor explosion. As luck would have it 2011 CQ1 missed. However, its 438 day orbit was drastically changed to a new 279 day path about the Sun, which crosses the orbits of both Venus and the Earth.
Astronomers estimate that several dozen asteroids between 20 and 40 feet in diameter pass closer to the Moon, from us, every year. In the past most of them slipped by undetected, but currently asteroid hunters are finding several such close approaching space rocks every month. Most of them are tiny, however, since 1900 there have been 11close misses by asteroids larger than 300 feet in diameter. One of them, the Tunguska Object was about 400 feet in diameter. It entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded with such force that it blew down trees over an 800 square mile area in 1908. Hopefully that will not happen again anytime soon.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer
End of podcast:
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