Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps.  71E & 72E – Two Space Rocks In A Week & Martian Meteorites

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • The Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, AZ was used to discover two close approaching space rocks on the same night.
  • Some of the Martian meteorites found on Earth come from the 34 mile diameter Mojave Crater on Mars.

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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71E: Two Space Rocks Come Close To Planet Earth In A Week  

The NASA funded, University of Arizona, Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, AZ was used to discover two close approaching space rocks on the same night. They were spotted by Catalina Sky Survey team member R. A. Kowalski.  The largest and also the closest approaching of these two asteroids is about the same size as the one which entered the Earth’s atmosphere and injured nearly 1500 people in Russia in 2013. This new space rock has been given the name of 2014 RC. At its closest it will be about 25,000 miles from us. Fortunately its path will miss the ring of geosynchronous satellites which we humans use for observing the weather and communicating with each other.

The NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey operates two telescopes, 24 nights per month , in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. These two telescopes discover about 600 Near-Earth Asteroids per year. They are a part of the NASA Near-Earth Object Search Program.

Smaller asteroids like these two have gotten renewed interest since many injuries could have been avoided in Russia in 2013 if people had been warned to stay away from doors and windows. In the past 12 years there have been two other small asteroid impacts which have released atomic bomb levels of energy over the oceans.   New cameras and software offer the possibility of issuing tornado like warnings should we discover any small asteroids before they impact the Earth. 

Rest assured that the asteroid hunting community will keep track of these two new space rocks to make sure that neither of them become on a collision course with planet Earth as they pass other objects in space.

72E: Interplanetary Travelers-Martian Meteorites

Recently, Dr. Stephanie C. Werner of the University of Oslo in Norway and her colleagues have discovered the source of some of the Martian meteorites found on Earth. It is the 34 mile diameter Mojave Crater on Mars. The debris ejected from this impact event about 5 million years ago, orbited the Sun until one of the pieces fell to Earth and was discovered by humans in Antarctica.

EETA70991 is a large 17 lb stony meteorite which was found in Antarctica in 1979.  It contains bubbles of gas encased in glass. These gas bubbles have exactly the same combination of atoms that the Viking spacecraft measured in the Martian atmosphere in 1976.  It is a fingerprint of Martian origin.  It has also been found in at least 4 other Martian meteorites. Recently, the NASA Mars Curiosity Rover measured the relative abundances of the different kinds of Argon atoms in the Martian atmosphere. This is a way of positively identifying meteorites from Mars. 

No meteorites of lunar origin have been observed to fall while 4 Martian meteors have been observed streaking across the sky and soon after pieces of them have been found on the ground.  The most recent Martian meteorite observed striking planet Earth occurred in 2012 over Morocco. 
It is likely that there are some Martian meteorites amongst the rocks in the American southwest deserts awaiting discovery.  They are worth 10 times or more their weight in gold.

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

End of podcast:

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