Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps.  133E & 134E: Near Earth and Moon & Stuff Of Life

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • Rose Matheny discovered 2015 GL13 and 23 hours later it made its closest approach to us.
  • The basic building blocks of life were brought to Earth by small bodies which impacted our home planet early in its history

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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133E: Near Earth and Moon

Recently my Catalina Sky Survey teammate, Rose Matheny discovered a tiny asteroid that passed 115,000 miles from Earth and 104,000 miles from our Moon.

When Rose found it streaking through the night sky it was 750,000 miles from her and moving towards Earth at nearly 9 miles/second. 23 hours later it made its closest approach to us. The next day as it continued to move towards the Sun, it faded from view as the fraction of its lighted side visible to us continued to shrink. It was bright enough to see with Earth’s telescopes for about a week. During this brief time it was observed by telescopes in Hawaii, Hungary, Italy, and England. The Minor Planet Center gave it the name 2015 GL13

This little guy orbits the Sun every 3.6 years on a path which takes it slightly inside of Earth’s orbit to out to between Mars and Jupiter. It can come as close as 8 Earth diameters from our planet’s surface. There are likely to be more than 100 million small space rocks the size of this one that come near us.  

If 2015 GL13 ever did enter the Earth’s atmosphere it would likely release the energy of about 4,000 tons of TNT. This would produce quite a light show if it happened at night and perhaps break some windows if it came in over a populated area.

Rose’s discovery demonstrates the fact that the asteroid hunting community is beginning to have the ability to discover small space rocks before they make their closest approach to Earth. 

134E: Stuff Of Life

Evidence from comets and meteorites has brought many scientists to believe that the basic building blocks of life were brought to Earth by small bodies which impacted our home planet early in its history. When and where did the substances, including water and organic materials required for life as we know it, appear in our solar system? 

Recently we got some important clues from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array or ALMA which is a located about 9,500 feet above sea level in the high dry desert of northern Chile. Astronomers pointed this powerful radio telescope in the direction of  the star, MWC 480, in the constellation of Taurus. The star MWC 480 has coalesced very recently from a cold dark gas cloud and is surrounded by a disk of material from which planets may eventually form.  

Astronomers focused a portion of ALMA’s 66 individual radio dishes on a region in this new solar system far from its parent star.  They chose this place because it is very similar to the realm of small icy planetoids and comets which is located beyond the planet Neptune in our solar system.   In doing so they discovered enough methyl cyanide to fill all of Earth’s oceans.  This organic molecule contains the carbon-nitrogen bonds which are required to form amino acids and proteins. 

It thus appears that when planets form around MWC 480 that they will be seeded with the building blocks of life from the comet forming region in this baby solar system. 

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

End of podcast:

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