Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 73E & 74E – Obscuring the Cosmos & A Close Flyby
Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- Imagine a world where people are never able to see the Milky Way or a meteor streaking like a falling star in the night sky. For most of the people living in the Earth’s cities this has already happened.
- Recently a semi-trailer truck sized asteroid passed only 20,800 miles above the Earth’s surface. It reached its closest distance to us about 6 days after it was discovered by my team member, Richard Kowalski.
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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73E: Obscuring the Cosmos
Imagine a world where people are never able to see the Milky Way or a meteor streaking like a falling star in the night sky. For most of the people living in the Earth’s cities this has already happened. In the United States most people live in artificial light domes and in 10 years there will only a few places left at which to experience the natural wonders of the night sky.
For all but the last 50 years of human history most people experienced walking around at night by the light of the stars. The natural view of the cosmos has inspired countless generations of poets, scientists, mathematicians, and seekers of truth. The ancient Sumerians used base 60 arithmetic to explain and predict what they observed. We still employ 60 seconds per minute, 360 degrees in a circle, and many other remnants of their system. Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus and the laws of physics which are the basis for most of the mechanical devices we use every day. He simply wanted to explain and predict what is observed in the night sky. More recently space exploration and astronomy has stimulated the development of computers, cameras, navigation devices, and many more things which we take for granted every day. Will future generations have similar opportunities to be inspired by a natural view of the Cosmos?
The International Dark-Sky Association has recognized 25 parks and preserves world wide as ideal places to view the night sky. A new candidate for that distinction can be found at cosmiccampground.org.
74E: A Close Flyby
Recently a semi-trailer trailer truck sized asteroid passed only 20,800 miles above the Earth’s surface. It reached its closest distance to us about 6 days after it was discovered by team member, Richard Kowalski, of the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey. Fortunately it did not enter our atmosphere.
Dr. R. Binzel of MIT and his co-workers data indicates that it is a stony object similar to what is found in the inner asteroid belt. Further observations at Lowell Observatory were used to measure its rotation rate to be once every 15.8 seconds. This is the most rapidly spinning asteroid every measured and suggests that it is a solid object. Dr. L. Benner and Dr. M. Brozovic’s observations with the Goldstone RADAR telescope find that this asteroid has a minimum diameter of 72 feet. This is important scientific information which will allow us to prepare the proper warnings for the impact of an asteroid like this one. It was observed far enough in advance, that if it had been an impactor, a warning would have eliminated many of the likely injuries it could have produced. A similar sized object appeared without warning over Russia injuring nearly 1500 people February of 2013.
The NASA Near Earth Object Program will have new equipment and telescopes coming on line in the near future. These facilities will allow us to have a far greater chance of providing an early tornado like warning should a small space rock be on a collision course with planet Earth.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
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