Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night  545 & 546: Celestial Congestion & Snoopy

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • The StarLink Project will wreak havoc on star gazing, astrophotography, asteroid hunting, the search for extraterrestrials, and astronomical research of all kinds.
  • Carson Fuls may have spotted NASA Lunar Module “Snoopy” while searching for Earth approaching asteroids.

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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545-Celestial Congestion

Imagine being under a clear natural night sky, with no moon, waiting for twilight to end.  You came there to see stars down to the horizon, the Milky Way, star clusters, planets, the zodiacal light, comets, and other wonders of the natural night sky.  Suddenly, you are shocked to find the night sky crawling with hundreds of artificial satellites bright enough to be seen in a light polluted city like Chicago.  This situation is what will happen if and when Elon Musk launches his planned 12,000 satellites for the Starlink Megaconstellation Project.  

This effort aspires to dominate space based internet broadband coverage by providing fast broadband internet access to cars, planes, ships, and remote areas around the globe.   The Starlink Project will wreak havoc on star gazing, astrophotography, asteroid hunting, the search for extraterrestrials, and astronomical research of all kinds.  Even if Elon Musk follows through on his tweet that SpaceX will make sure that Starlink will have no material effect on astronomical research the best we can hope for is to have a night sky infested with dim moving star like objects.  

All told, Starlink will triple the number of satellites in the currently congested low Earth orbit regime.  If that is not enough, Amazon wants to  put up 3,000 satellites and OneWeb intends to add 2,000 more.   A question for all of us is  “Why should a single company have the right to change the night sky without consulting the rest of humanity?”

546- Snoopy

In 1969, before humans landed on the Moon, Apollo 10 Astronauts Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan flew their Lunar Module named “Snoopy” to within 9 miles of the lunar surface and marveled at the giant boulders they saw there. As the Apollo 10 astronauts left the Moon’s vicinity in the Command Module, nicknamed “Charlie Brown”, their Lunar Module “Snoopy” was jettisoned into an orbit about the Sun. 49 years later my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Carson Fuls may have spotted “Snoopy” while searching for Earth approaching asteroids in the constellation of Cancer with our 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona.

Carson’s discovery now named 2018 AV2 was initially thought to be an asteroid but was eventually classified as a distant artificial satellite. Archival data reveal that in late 2017 and early 2018 asteroid hunters had spotted 2018 AV2 several times as it slowly moved through the winter sky. This small object orbits the Sun once every 382 days in an orbit on which it spends most of its time trailing Earth. Astronomer Nick Howes has been conducting a search for “Snoopy” with ground based telescopes since 2011. His research has led him to the conclusion that there is a 98% chance that 2018 AV2 is the long lost lunar module, Snoopy. To confirm this assertion astronomers will have to wait until 2037 when 2018 AV2 once again comes near enough to planet Earth to be detected by our telescopes. 

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

End of podcast:

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