Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 595 & 596: Monster Comet & Next Solar Cycle

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • Teddy Pruyne discovered C/2020 H2 (Pruyne)
  • On May 29, 2020 NASA’s GEOS-16 satellite detected the first M1 X-ray flare since October 20, 2017. 

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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595: Monster Comet

My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Teddy Pruyne was asteroid hunting in the constellation of Pegasus with our Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona when he discovered an unusually bright new comet.  After Teddy reported his observations to the Minor Planet Center this previously unknown comet was tracked and imaged by more than a dozen observatories around the world.  Astronomers used these data to estimate the nature of this comet’s very elliptical orbit  and give it the name C/2020 H2 (Pruyne).  

Modern technology has made it possible for observers with a modest financial investment in a telescope and an electronic camera to track an object like C/2020 H2 (Pruyne) as it moves across the night sky.  These citizen scientists are motivated by the fact that a comet can brighten suddenly as the heat of the Sun evaporates the frozen gases which compose the comet’s nucleus.  C/2020 H2 (Pruyne)’s  path does come close enough to Earth to make it visible to the naked eye. However, as it moves through the part of the sky which is always visible in the northern hemisphere it will remain an object of interest for observers with small telescopes and electronic cameras.   

After  Comet Pruyne becomes too faint to be observable with our telescopes it will continue on a path toward  the edge of the our solar system into truly deep space.  Since astronomers have observed this comet  for less than two months it is not possible to know if C/2020 H2 (Pruyne) will come back in  thousands years or continue its lonely journey till the end of time. 

596: Next Solar Cycle

On May 29, 2020 NASA’s GEOS-16 satellite detected the first M1 X-ray flare since October 20, 2017. This event may signal the end of a deep solar minimum when for 18 months, more than 75% of the days had no sunspots at all.  If 2020 is the start of Solar Cycle 25 we can expect a maximum number of sunspots to occur between 2023 and 2026 followed by a minimum number of sunspots predicted for 2030 or 2031.  If the current trend in 11 year solar cycles for the past 50 years continues,  we can expect that Cycle 25 will be one of lower than average solar activity and the Earth will continue to receive less than average amounts of solar energy over the next decade.  During the Maunder Minimum when from 1645 to 1715 AD observers noticed  there were few if any spots on the Sun.  

This lack of sunspots coincided with the Little Ice Age in Europe during which winter temperatures were significantly lower than normal.  However, further examination of the data suggests that volcanic activity and not a decline in solar activity was the primary cause of lower winter temperatures.  Data from NASA’s Solar Radiation And Climate Experiment may shed some light on the relationship between solar activity and climate.  Bottom line is don’t expect lower levels of solar radiation to save us from global temperature increases caused by humans dumping vast amount of carbon dioxide and other green house gases into our atmosphere.

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

End of podcast:

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