Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. Eps. 613 & 614: Climate Change and Telescopes & Rare Atira

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s 2 topics:

  • Human caused climate change is having a negative effect on astronomical research.
  • David Rankin discovered 2020 RX8!

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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613: Climate Change & Telescopes

We are all familiar with the increasing number of catastrophic wildfires, the increasing severity of tornados and hurricanes, the shifting of rainfall patterns,  the accelerating wildlife extinction rates, the increasingly acidic oceans, the higher sea levels and other negative consequences of human caused global climate change.  

Currently the astronomical community is building a new generation of large telescopes which will enable humans to discover and characterize other Earth like worlds in the Milky Way, probe the nature of the dark matter which controls the behavior of the world around us, and look for for asteroids whose impact could drastically change the Earth as we know it.  Recently, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a team of astronomers led by Dr. Faustine Cantalloube of the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy released  data from their study of the effects of climate change on the future of astronomical research.  

In astronomy as in life clarity and sharpness of vision are very important.  Dr. Cantalloube’s team has discovered that human caused climate change is having a negative effect on astronomical research.  This is occurring because global warming produces changes in the temperature, humidity, and wind patterns which directly control the image quality of a telescope.  In this way climate change will continue degrade human’s ability to learn from the Universe.   Dr. Cantalloube’s team ends their paper with the most important message that astronomers have for the general public “there is no Planet B”.

614: Rare Atira

Recently my Catalina Sky Survey teammate David Rankin was asteroid hunting, as close to the Sun as possible, in the constellation of Serpens,  with our 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon, Arizona.  Suddenly he came across an unknown moving point of light in the twilight sky. For 3 nights asteroid hunters in Texas and Arizona tracked this unknown object as it moved low on the western horizon through the smoky air from the wildfires in California.

Scientists at the Minor Planet Center were able to use these difficult observations to calculate the new object’s 269 day path about the Sun, estimate its diameter to be 1,400 feet, and give it the name 2020 RX8. Turns out, David’s discovery, 2020 RX8 is one of the rare Atira Class of Earth approaching asteroids whose orbit is entirely within that of the Earth’s path about the Sun. Less than 3 dozen of the approximately 24,000 known near Earth asteroids fall into this category of near Sun objects. The largest one, Atira itself, is actually two asteroids orbiting each other once every 15.5 hours. One is about 3 miles in diameter and the other is perhaps 1/6th its size. Imagine what such a double trouble object would do if it impacted Earth.

Atira space rocks can be dangerous since they can hide in the glare from the Sun until they are right upon us. Fortunately for planet Earth , on its current path, David’s discovery will not come closer than about 17 times the Moon’s distance from us  August 9th of 2054.

End of podcast:

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