Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps 143E & 144E: Full Moon & 8 Close Ones

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • In folklore the full Moon is associated with insanity, magic, and other paranormal events.  None of this has any basis in scientific fact.
  • In less than 10 nights my team, the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey, discovered 8 new close approaching asteroids. Jess Johnson discovered 2015 KW121.

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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141E: Full Moon

In folklore the full Moon is associated with insanity, magic, and other paranormal events.  None of this has any basis in scientific fact. 

In reality, the full moon lights up the sky so brightly that it is difficult to impossible to find faint stars or asteroids.  My group, the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey does not observe at the full moon, instead we have a meeting.  It is the one time of the month that none of us is observing.  

There are many things which must happen for us to be able to find new Earth approaching asteroids. At our full moon meetings we go through any problems which occurred on each of the three telescopes our team operates; the 60 inch on Mt. Lemmon, the 40 inch on Mt. Lemmon, and 27 inch Schmidt telescope on nearby Mt. Bigelow. 

We use the same computer programming environment at each telescope. This software allows us to cull through the millions of objects we image each night to find a handful of new Earth approaching objects.  Much of our discussions concern refinements to this family of computer programs.

During July and August the monsoon rains come to southern Arizona.  During this time our group does routine maintenance and makes major equipment up grades.   

The third night after full moon we begin to search the sky for Earth approaching objects for the a total of 24 nights before we again break for the full moon.  Our team discovers about 600 new near Earth objects per year and has accounted for about 47% of the total humans know about.

142E: 8 Close Ones

In less than 10 nights my team, the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey, discovered 8 new close approaching asteroids.  They orbit the Sun with periods from less than a year to a bit over 4 years.  They range in sizes from that of a large truck to one with a diameter that would allow it to fit into a football field. 

The closest  approaching of these asteroids was discovered by my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Jess Johnson.  2015 KW121 is about 60 feet in diameter and can pass closer to us than our communication satellites. Three days before Johnson spotted it this small space rock it was bright enough to be detected by backyard telescopes.  No one spotted it then as it streaked across the night sky.  When Jess found this small space rock it was about 333,000 miles from us and traveling was away from the Earth at 13 miles/second.  It was visible to Earth’s telescopes for less than a week as it zipped by us on its 15 month path around the Sun. It will make close approaches to our moon in 2015, the Earth in 2015, 2018, and 2020, and to the planet Venus in 2016 and 2017.  2015 KW121 appears unlikely to strike the Earth anytime soon.   If it did it would probably disintegrate in the upper atmosphere creating a sonic boom.

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

End of podcast:

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