Jun 21st: Exploding Space Rocks & Night Sky Surprise

By on June 21, 2020 in

Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps.551 & 552: Exploding Space Rocks & Night Sky Surprise

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • On July 24, 2019, a beach ball sized object came from the asteroid belt, entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 45,000 mph.
  • I installed a Unihedron SQM-LU-DL night sky meter at the Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary.

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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551 – Exploding Space Rocks

On July 24, 2019 the American Meteor Society received nearly 50 reports of a lime green fireball as bright as the full moon streaking across the skies of Ontario, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Quebec.   The data collected by the University of Western Ontario’s all sky camera network allowed astronomers to determine that this beach ball sized object came from the asteroid belt, entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 45,000 mph, and likely rained small fragments of itself to Earth near the town Bancroft, Ontario.  Scientists are encouraging meteorite hunters to find pieces of this celestial visitor so that they can study first hand samples of material from the early history of our solar system.  

In 2018 there were 15 such Meteorite Fall Events for which observers saw a fireball streaking across the sky which then led to the discovery of pieces of the celestial visitor on the ground. Amazingly two of the 2018 space rock fragments, called hammers,  struck man made objects or structures. To get in on one of these space rock hunts, monitor the American Meteor Societies web page for meteorite fall events near you.  Be sure to ask for permission before you enter private property.  On the hunt look for black rocks with a fusion crust which if they appear broken may have a lighter colored concrete appearing interior.  If successful, your reward will be the opportunity to hold a space visitor, older than the Earth, in your very own hand.

550 – Night Sky Surprise

In July of 2018 my wife Annie, several friends, Craig and Gayle, and I installed a Unihedron SQM-LU-DL night sky meter at the Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary.  It is programmed it to take a night sky brightness reading every 5 minutes from dusk to dawn every night and store them in its internal memory.  When we had downloaded the first 78 nights of data we were treated to several surprises. The readings obtained in August were the darkest ever recorded and are in keeping with the fact that the Sun has entered a deep solar minimum with very few sun spots.  Then the surprises began.  The measurements made in September and early October showed  the moonless natural night sky to gradually becoming brighter.  Then on October 7, 2018 the moonless night sky became 25% brighter and reached the point where it is at a small light polluted city,  all without human intervention.  

A check of the spaceweather.com website shows that from October 7 to 11 the Earth had experienced a geomagnetic storm when a canyon shaped hole in the Sun’s atmosphere turned towards Earth projecting a stream of charged particles into our direction.  The increase in night sky brightness we measured is amazing, since NOAA scientist’s aurora maps do not project the effects of a geomagnetic storm as far south as New Mexico.  The fact that the night sky at the Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary is connected to space weather stimulates the imagination.

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

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy

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About Al Grauer

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