Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps.  579 & 580: Martian Vacation & Kacper’s Debut

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • SpaceX’s new rockets fuel the dream of visiting some of the planet Mars’ unique and spectacular wonders. 
  • Kacper Wierzchos discovered 8 new Earth approaching objects, including 2020 BR

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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579: Martian Vacation

SpaceX’s new rockets fuel the dream of visiting some of the planet Mars’ unique and spectacular wonders. Top of the list is the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons. This giant mountain rises from a base as large as the state of Arizona to reach a height 2.5 times that of Mount Everest. It is so big that from the rim of its summit crater you would be unaware that you were standing on a tall mountain since this enormous shield volcano would stretch out to past your horizon. Your next vacation destination on the red planet would likely be to Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system. Valles Marineris dominates the martian surface and is approximately 4 times longer and 4 times deeper than the Grand Canyon of Arizona. Putting on your long woolies would be suggested before visiting one the red planet’s polar regions where in the winter the temperature is cold enough to produce dry ice snow to cover large deposits of water ice.

A visit to Mount Sharp inside the Gale Crater would bring you to where the car sized NASA Mars Curiosity Rover traveled to discover fascinating new details of martian history. The good news is that you don’t have to wait years and save up millions of dollars to visit Elon Musk’s Mars colonies to start exploring Mars. Today you can visit the NASA Mars Curiosity Rover and/or the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter website and participate in the exploration of our next door neighbor. You could amaze yourself by discovering something new on one of the images of the surface of Mars. It happens.

580: Kacper’s Debut

On his first night of solo observing with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona, my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Kacper Wierzchos [Kaacpher wiz joy ous] discovered 8 new Earth approaching objects.   After Kacper posted observations of one of his discoveries streaking through the constellation of Cancer at 20 mi/s, it was tracked by astronomers at 15 different observatories around the world.  Scientists at the Minor Planet Center used these data to estimate its orbital path about the Sun and give it the name 2020 BR.  This 285 foot diameter asteroid travels from closer than the planet Mercury to our Sun out to half way to the giant planet Jupiter.   Amazingly, 2020 BR’s path is tipped at an angle of 36 degrees to that of the plane of the solar system which contains all of the planets and most of the asteroids.  

Astronomers have found that objects having an orbit similar to 2020 BR are likely to have been formed in a catastrophic collision and be composed of strong heat resistant minerals.  On its current orbit 2020 BR never comes closer than about 19 times the Moon’s distance from us and presents no threat to the residents of planet Earth.  The smallest of Kacper’s discoveries that night, the 20 foot diameter space rock  2020 BB, came close to Earth in 1996 but no one saw it.  In 2020 it passed about twice the lunar distance from both planet Earth and our Moon.  Theoretically 2020 BB can pass close enough to Earth that it might enter our atmosphere producing a light show in the night sky and perhaps a few fragments for meteorite hunters to discover.

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

End of podcast:

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