Podcaster: Dr. Al Grauer


Title: Travelers in the Night Eps. 225E & 226E: Lost & Now Three

Organization: Travelers in The Night

Link : Travelers in the Night ; @Nmcanopus

Description: Today’s two stroy:

  • Asteroid 878 Mildred was lost for 75 years and has now been found!

  • The Catalina Sky Survey has a newly refurbished 40″ robotic telescope that is only used for follow-up observations so that the venerable 30″ & 60″ can look for new targets.

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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225E – Lost
In 1916 the 60 inch Hale telescope on Mt. Wilson, California was the largest telescope in the world.
Seth Nicholson and Harlow Shapley used it to discover a 2 mile wide asteroid. They only observed their new asteroid twice on their discovery night. Shapley named the asteroid Mildred for his one year old daughter. Nicholson and Shapley were able to find asteroid Mildred a couple of times during the month after it’s discovery. After that it’s 1324 day orbit around the Sun was so poorly defined that astronomers did not know where to point their telescopes to observe it and Mildred was declared “lost”.

Friends of Mildred Shapley Matthews would always ask her if she was found yet. In fact it was not until she was 76 years old that Dr. Gareth Williams rediscovered “lost” asteroid Mildred. After 3/4 of a century of being lost, Mildred was found.

During her nearly 101 years of life Mildred Shapley Matthews had many distinctions in addition to having been lost in the solar system for 75 years. Starting when most people retire she began her second career as co-editor of the the Space Science Series at the University of Arizona. She was widely known as a tough, polite, and fair editor. The more than 20 volumes which she edited ignited countless individuals to embark on careers as planetary scientists. Mildred Shapley Matthews retired again at 81 and traveled extensively until she was 99. She passed away 4 days before her 101st birthday leaving us with memories of a life well lived.

226E – Now Three
The Catalina Sky Survey began with the University of Arizona’s 30 inch Schmidt Telescope on Mt. Bigelow. This telescope became the world leader when it was used to discover 148 Earth approaching objects in 2005. It found the most Potentially Hazardous Asteroids for the next three years running. In 2006 the University of Arizona’s 60 inch telescope on nearby Mt. Lemmon received a new camera and many upgrades. In spite of the fact that this telescope was old enough for senior citizen discounts it rapidly became the world’s leader in the discovery of Earth approaching asteroids. These telescopes began to make so many discoveries that a telescope which could observe newly discovered objects long enough so that their orbits around the Sun could be nailed down became a necessity. To fill this need an old unused 40 inch telescope was overhauled and installed in a new dome next to the 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon.

The plan for the refurbished 40 inch was make it a robot with software designed specifically to track newly discovered Earth approaching asteroids. As might be expected such a software system is easier to think about that it is to implement. Alex Gibbs who is the Catalina Sky Survey’s principal engineer took on this herculean task.
The result is a followup telescope which really works well. This has relieved the 60 inch of followup duties which is allowing it to spend more time searching the skies for new objects.

The Catalina Sky Survey now operates three telescopes, 24 nights per month, in the Catalina mountains north of Tucson, Arizona.

End of podcast:

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