Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 599 & 600: Path to Mars & Big and Close

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • The human thirst for knowledge about our mysterious next door neighbor…
  • Hannes Groeller discovered 2020 LG1 in the constellation Pegasus.

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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599: Path to Mars

The human thirst for knowledge about our mysterious next door neighbor is about to receive more than a sip from robotic emissaries launched in 2020. NASA is sending Perservance a 2,300 lb, 10 foot long, 9 foot wide, and 7 foot high rover to explore the Martian surface and to stockpile samples which will be eventually retuned to Earth. The United Arab Emirates is sending the Hope Mars mission to study the red planet’s atmosphere, weather and climate to prepare for an eventual United Arab Emirates habitable settlement on Mars.    

China is sending Tianwen-1 (Tee N One -1) an orbiter, lander, and rover which if successful will make China the third nation to land on and explore Mars. All three of these missions are taking advantage of a once every 26 month planetary alignment which will allow them to follow a 6 month minimum energy trajectory which goes directly from Earth to Mars.

If human explorers follow this path they would need to wait on Mars for a year and a half before the planets align again enabling them to return safely to their home planet. Recently a group of scientists point out that by having astronauts fly by Venus on their way to Mars and/or on their way back to Earth would save fuel, weight, and cost and allow humans to return home after only a month long stay on the red planet. Additionally when the crew is near Venus they would be able to pilot drones in the Venusian atmosphere and to study a world where global warming has fundamentally changed our sister planet. 

600: Big and Close

My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Hannes Groeller was asteroid hunting in the constellation of Pegasus with our 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona when he discovered a fast moving point of light in the night sky.  Subsequent observations by telescopes in Arizona, Illinois, and Hawaii allowed scientists at the Minor Planet Center to determine that Hannes’s discovery is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid which crosses the Earth’s orbit twice every 4.63 years as it travels about the Sun and to also give it the name 2020 LG1.  

In 2020 this football field sized space rock came to a distant 159 times the Moon’s distance from us.  At some point in the distant future 2020 LG1’s orbit can take it to between us and our Moon.  According to the Purdue University and Imperial College of London’s Impact Calculator an asteroid like 2020 LG1 enters our atmosphere once every 65,000 years or so and breaks up at an altitude of 250,000 feet.  Fragments would likely strike the surface at a speed of 13 miles/second  producing a crater 2.8 miles in diameter and 1,500 feet deep in sedimentary rock.  If you were 100 miles from the point of impact the ground would shake like a 6.7 Richter scale magnitude Earthquake. It is extremely unlikely that Hannes’s discovery will ever strike Earth.   Rest assured that astronomers will continue to track 2020 LG1 to make sure that it does not become a threat to humanity as it crosses the orbits of Earth and Mars.

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

End of podcast:

365 Days of Astronomy

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