Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 217E & 218E: Close Duo & Close or Not

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s two stroy:

  • On consecutive nights Richard Kowalski discovered two very close approaching asteroids, 2016 BA15 & the scarier 2016 BY14.
  • In 2013, Steve Larson from Catalina Sky Survey, discovered 2013 TX68, a space rock streaking through the night sky. But with only 3 days of data, its orbit is not well known. This year we should find it again and pin its orbit down so we can asses the danger.

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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217E –  Close Duo 

On consecutive nights my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Richard Kowalski discovered two very close approaching asteroids. The first 2016 BA15, orbits the Sun once every 1.91 years. It can come to an Earth’s diameter from the surface of our planet. This 50 foot diameter space rock makes many relatively close visits to the Earth, our Moon, Venus, and Mars.  It is not a current threat to our planet.

The second of Kowalski’s close approaching asteroids is 2016 BY14. 84 days before Richard spotted it, this tough space rock streaked by the Earth at 35 miles per second on its way to the Sun.  Forty days later it was 65% of the planet Mercury’s distance from the Sun and was traveling at an amazing 51 miles per second.  

After rounding the Sun, 2016 BY14 headed for a close approach to Planet Earth.  Six days after it was closest and brightest as seen from Earth, Richard spotted this asteroid 11 million miles away from him traveling towards the orbit of Jupiter at 20 miles per second. Richard’s discovery, 2016 BY14 must be made out of pretty tough stuff since when it was closest to the Sun it received more than twice the solar energy which heats the surface of Mercury to 800 F.    

Asteroid hunter’s continue to need to track 2016 BY14 to make sure that its orbit does not change to make it a threat as it passes near the paths of Mercury, Venus, Earth, our Moon, Mars, and Jupiter.

218E- Close or Not

In 2013 my Catalina Sky Survey teammate Steve Larson discovered a space rock streaking through the night sky. For the next 3 days this object was observed by telescopes in California, England, Chile, and New Mexico and given the name 2013 TX68.  About 10 days after being discovered, this small asteroid became invisible to human telescopes as it moved towards the Sun with increasing amounts of its dark side facing towards us.  After more than 2 years 2013 TX68 is predicted to once again become bright enough for Earth’s telescopes to detect. However, since we have followed this asteroid for only 3 days out of its 780 day orbit around the Sun its trajectory is ill defined.

According to NASA scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in early March of 2016, Steve Larson’s 100 foot diameter space rock, will pass somewhere between 11,000  and 9 million miles of planet Earth.

If 2013 TX68 follows the most likely of its many possible paths it will be a most interesting sight as it passes a bit farther than the Moon from us.  It will brighten by more than 250 times in less than a day.  For a celestial object it will be moving very fast.  Its maximum apparent motion will be about the diameter of the Moon every 5 minutes.

Hopefully asteroid hunters will come across 2013 TX68 during its 2016 encounter with Earth.  The data obtained will allow us to predict when and how close it will approach our to home planet in future years.

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

End of podcast:

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