Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer
Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 111E & 112E: A New Discovery – Not! & Great Shefford Observator
Organization: Travelers in The Night
Description: Today’s 2 topics:
- The Minor Planet Center connected the observations of the object that they had been calling 2015 BY310 with an asteroid 2000 BK19. It had been discovered 15 years previously.
- Peter Birtwhistle of the Great Shefford Observatory in England is one of unsung heroes of the asteroid hunting community.
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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111E: A New Discovery – Not!
I was observing with the NASA funded, Catalina Sky Survey, 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, when I found an interesting moving point of light in the night sky. It appeared to be on the path of an Earth approaching asteroid. I submitted my observations to the Minor Planet Center. Telescopes in Germany, New Mexico, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and England observed it. The Minor Planet Center used these data to calculate an orbit. This orbit revealed the asteroid to be large enough and close enough to classify it as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. It was given the name 2015 BY310.
A few days later the Minor Planet Center connected the observations of the object that they had been calling 2015 BY310 with an asteroid 2000 BK19. It had been discovered 15 years previously by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research Program in New Mexico. These new data confirm that it is is an Earth approaching asteroid but that it is slightly smaller than is required to give it the potentially hazardous label.
Now we know that 2000 BK19 alias 2015 BY310 is about the size of a football field. It orbits the Sun every 3.7 years on a path that goes from near our home planet halfway out to the planet Jupiter. In the extremely unlikely event that this small asteroid ever did enter the Earth’s atmosphere it would release the energy of one hundred million tons of TNT. The asteroid hunting community will continue to observe it to make sure that its orbit does not change, to make it a threat, as it passes other objects in space.
112E: Great Shefford Observator
Six inches from the kickers foot, it is hard to guess if it will be a goal in soccer or a field goal in American football. You need to see the arc of the ball to make an accurate judgement. The same is true in asteroid hunting.
On the first night an Earth approaching asteroid candidate is discovered, one is lucky to obtain observations for a few hours along its path in the sky. Since a typical near Earth asteroid takes from a few hundred days to several years to complete a trip around the Sun, it takes more than a few hours of data to be able to predict where it will go.
Peter Birtwhistle of the Great Shefford Observatory in England is one of unsung heroes of the asteroid hunting community. On a recent observing run he helped to determine the orbits of several objects which I discovered with the NASA funded, Catalina Sky Survey, 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon. Without his efforts they would have likely been lost. These are only the most recent results of his work. Over the years, his data have helped to establish the orbits of more than 4000 Earth approaching objects. Amazingly, his total accounts for more than 1/3 of known near Earth objects.
The location of the Great Shefford Observatory is not in an ideal climate. However, it is at an ideal longitude, since it is dark there during the daytime in Arizona. The large asteroid hunting surveys would lose track of many asteroids they find without followup observations which are carried out by other telescopes around the world.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
End of podcast:
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