Programs 1-30

Travelers in The Night
Programs

1-Russian Fireball February 15, 2013


Published PRX, January 3, 2014
remixed July 13, 2014


Have you wondered what would happen if a rock from space landed near one of our large cities?  We got a clue on February 15, 2013 when a large fireball appeared in the sky over Russia.

The event was caused when a small asteroid entered the Earth's Atmosphere at a speed 41,000 miles per hour. The asteroid was approximately the size of a small house trailer.

The fireball it created released the energy of 90,000 tons of TNT, creating a super sonic boom. 1491 injuries were treated at local hospitals. They were caused primarily by flying glass from broken windows. 7,200 buildings were reported as being damaged.

More than, 10,000 Near-Earth Asteroids have been discovered. More than 1400 of them come close enough, and are large enough, to be designated as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids. None of them are likely to strike the Earth any time soon.

There are probably hundreds of thousands, of fairly small “rocks in space” which come near the Earth.

Very tiny ones, much less than the size of your little finger, become shooting stars. Larger space rocks are described as fireballs when they enter the Earth's atmosphere. Every 500,000 years or so a very large one has caused changes in life on Earth.

Frequently objects the size of the one which caused the Russian Fireball come close to the Earth.

This particular asteroid approached the Earth at only about 15 degrees from the direction of the Sun.

It was impossible for us to find before it hit.
For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2013 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2013 A. D. Grauer
 

2-Voyager I's Baby Step


Published PRX  January 3, 2014
remixed July 13, 2014

Looking into the sky on a clear-dark night, have you wondered what it would be like to travel in deep space?

In 2013, Voyager I became the most distant, human made, traveler in the night.  

Currently,  Voyager I is traveling at a speed of 38,000 miles/hour.  

Consider this, Voyager I has traveled at a speed that would take around the world 36 times a day,  for 36 years.  At this speed, it would take 70,000 more years,  for Voyager I to travel the distance to the nearest star.

Find the brightest star in the sky. You will be able to see the bright star Sirius even under city lights.  It will have taken 8.6 years for light to travel the distance from Sirius to your eye.  Voyager I will travel the distance to Sirius  in 150 thousand years.  

In a dark location, find the great galaxy in Andromeda. You may need a pair of field glasses to see this one.   If you are in a really dark spot,  you will be able to see it with your naked eye. This spiral galaxy is the most distant object  you can see without a telescope. It is similar to our own Milky Way galaxy in size an shape.

At its current speed, Voyage I would take  10 times the age of the Earth,  to travel the distance to the great galaxy in Andromeda.  

The great galaxy in Andromeda is a member of our local group of galaxies.  
The edge of the observable Universe is far beyond it.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2013 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2013 A. D. Grauer


More on the Voyagers

3-Finding Earth Approaching Objects

Click to Listen

Published PRX January 3, 2014
remixed July 13, 2014

Have you noticed that the closer you are to something,  the faster it appears to move?

The Sun moves about 1 degree per day relative to the stars. The Moon moves about 13 degrees per day because it is much closer than the Sun.   

The apparent motion of an Earth approaching object allows us to find and track it .

Using 2 telescopes near Tucson Arizona, the NASA funded, Catalina Sky Survey searches for Earth Approaching Objects. The method is to take 4 images of the same part of the sky spaced out over 45 minutes.  These images are searched with computer programs to identify moving objects. 

In the series of 4 images, the motion of every object identified is given a score between 0 and 100. Most asteroids are located in what is called the “main belt” between Mars and Jupiter. A score of 0 indicates the new object has an path like a main belt asteroid.  A score of 100 indicates it has a motion which is very different from that of a main belt asteroid.

The motion of every object identified is compared to the orbit of the more than 500,000 known asteroids.  

An unknown object is observed again in a few hours to make sure that it is real. 

If it passes the reality test,  and has a score greater than 50 , its position,  at each of the times observed,  is sent to a website at the Minor Planet Center.

Observers around the globe measure and report the new object's position.    

Data are accumulated until the new object's orbit around the Sun is determined. 

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2013 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2013 A. D. Grauer 

More On Finding Earth Approaching Objects



4-Potentially Hazardous Asteroids


Published PRX January 3, 2014
remixed July 13, 2014

Are you aware that more than 1400 Potentially Hazardous Asteroids have been found by their motion in the sky as they orbit the Sun? 

They are larger than several football fields in diameter and come closer to the Earth than 5% of the distance to the Sun. None of them are likely to strike the Earth anytime soon.

The smallest Potentially Hazardous Asteroid is about 10 times larger than the asteroid which injured 1491 people in Russia in February of 2013. 

Approximately every 10,000 years, a football field sized, iron or rocky asteroid will reach the Earth's surface. Such an impact would effect hundreds of square miles on land or produce tidal waves if it hit in the ocean. 

Every few hundred thousand years an asteroid larger than 1km in diameter is likely to impact the Earth. Collision with a large asteroid would cause a global disruption of plant and animal life.

In 1908 the Tunguska Effect is believed to have been caused by the airburst of a small comet or asteroid. 80 million trees over an 830 square mile area were killed in this event.

It is likely that Dinosaurs were eliminated by a 6 to 9 mile diameter asteroid which struck the Earth 66 million years ago.

The goal of the NASA Near-Earth Object Search Programs is to find any large asteroid before there is a chance that it will impact the Earth. Serious engineering studies are being conducted to determine the best way to deflect an asteroid which appears to be on a collision course with the Earth.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2013 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2013 A. D. Grauer


More on Potentially Hazardous Asteroids


5-Two Earth Approaching Objects Discovered on the Same Day

Click to Listen

Published PRX, January 22, 2014
Recorded January 4, 2014 
remixed July 13, 2014

On December 23, 2013  asteroids, 2013 YB and 2013 YC were discovered by two different telescopes atop the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. These facilities are operated by the University of Arizona's NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey.

2013 YB is small enough to fit into the bed of a large pickup truck. It was discovered by Rik Hill as it sped past the Earth. It orbits the Sun every 1.9 years on a path that takes it from inside the Earth's orbit to past that of Mars. On December 23, 2013,  this tiny asteroid  passed less than the circumference of the Earth from us. If 2013 YB ever does enter the Earth's atmosphere it would probably break up and vaporize at high altitude.

The second asteroid, 2013 YC travels around the Sun with a period of 3.9 years from inside the orbit of Mercury to out near Jupiter. It was discovered by Jess Johnson and Rich Kowalski and is approximately 2 football fields in diameter. It is classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid whose orbit will be carefully monitored.  If 2013 YC ever did enter our atmosphere it would produce major problems for plant and animal life. Happily this is unlikely to occur any time soon as it does not get closer than 1/2 million miles from Earth.

2013 marked the first time in history when more than one thousand Earth approaching objects were were discovered in a single year.  Fortunately none of them are currently on a collision course with our planet.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More Information on this Program


6-A Near Miss: June 2013 [2013LR6]

Click to Listen

Published PRX January 9,  2014
recorded December 30, 2013
remixed July 13, 2014

A small asteroid, 2013 LR6, safely flew past the Earth, on June 8, 2013. It passed about 1/3 of the distance to the Moon above Earth's surface. At this point, 2013 LR6 was traveling at a speed of 6 miles/second and had an energy of 29 Kilotons of TNT.

This asteroid was discovered by J. A. Johnson of the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on June 6. 
 After its discovery, it was observed by telescopes in Arizona, New Zealand, England, Pennsylvania, and Australia. These data obtained over a little more than 2 days allowed astronomers to determine that it would miss the Earth. 2013 LR6 orbits the Sun in about 2.7 years. It has a path which takes it from where it crosses the Earth's orbit to past that of Mars.
Asteroid 2013 LR6, is about half the size of the asteroid which exploded in the upper atmosphere over Russia. This event injured more than 1400 people in February 2013.

If 2013 LR6 had entered the Earth's atmosphere, it would have likely broken up, creating a sonic boom. Probably, only small pieces of it would have been able to reach the ground.


The Catalina Sky Survey operates two telescopes, 24 nights per month , in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. These two telescope discover about 600 Near-Earth Asteroids per year. The goal is to discover any large asteroids long before there is a chance they will hit the Earth.


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


Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


More on 2013 LR6


7-2013 UQ4 Comes in From the Cold


published PRX, January 3, 2014
remixed July 13, 2014

Asteroid 2013 UQ4 is the largest Earth approaching object to be discovered in the past 23 years. It was found by J. A. Johnson of the NASA-sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on October 23, 2013. After its discovery it was observed by telescopes in Arizona, Australia, Illinois, Hawaii, Argentina, Chile, and New Mexico. 

Asteroid 2013 UQ4 has a 454 year long path around the Sun. It travels out past Pluto into a region Astronomer's call the Kuiper belt. It has an odd orbit, on which it travels backwards, compared to all of the planets.

 R. Benzel of MIT observed and analyzed the light reflected by this asteroid. These data show it to be made of very dark Carbon rich material. It appears to be about 12 miles in diameter. It is thus larger than the asteroid which eliminated the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. 

Every 400 years Asteroid 2013 UQ4 becomes bright enough for us to see as it makes its approach to the Sun. Fortunately this type of asteroid is rare. It literally came out of nowhere into our vicinity. Asteroid 2013 UQ4 will not hit the Earth anytime soon and appears to never get closer than 10 million miles from us. 

The number of other large objects, whose orbits cause them to enter the inner solar system every few hundred years, remains an open question.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More Information on 2013 UQ4

8-A Bad Day for the Dinosaurs


published PRX, January 3, 2014
remixed July 13, 2014

Scientific evidence suggests that it was a bad day for non-avian dinosaurs when a large asteroid or a comet crashed into the Earth about 66 million years ago.

The Chicxulub [cheek-she-loob] impact, is coincident with the geological  K-T event.     ¾ of the plant and animal species on Earth vanished at this time.

The Chicxulub crater is approximately 110 miles in diameter just off of the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The original object is estimated to have been 6 or 7 miles in diameter.  It was traveling at a speed of 12 miles/second when it entered the Earth's atmosphere. Its impact created a mega-tsunami as well as clouds of superheated gas and dust.  The impact of this asteroid delivered 2 million times the energy of the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever exploded. Global shock waves radiated from the impact site triggering earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Material ejected from the impact site probably ignited wildfires when it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. An iridium rich clay layer found around the entire globe is the likely result of this impact event.

It is possible that the K-T extinction could have been produced by a combination of an asteroid impact and widespread volcanic eruptions. These two forces would have worked together to produce a months of darkness and cooler temperatures around the globe.

Some species, including mammals, flourished under the changed conditions after the Chicxulub event. It is interesting to speculate that the rise of the human race may have been enabled by an asteroid impact.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org  for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More information on Dinosaur Extinction


9-Asteroid 2014 AA Impacted Earth on January 2, 2014

Click to Listen

Published PRX January 2014
Recorded January 14, 2014
remixed July 14, 2014

It is likely, that the first designated Near Earth Asteroid of 2014, struck the Earth on January 2.

Asteroid 2014 AA was found Rich Kowalski using the University of Arizona's 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon.  He is a member of the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey team.

Independent calculations were done by Bill Gray of the Minor Planet Center and Steve Chesley of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is very likely that 2014 AA entered the Earth's atmosphere somewhere along an arc extending from Central America to East Africa. Only one other impacting asteroid, 2008 TC3, was discovered before it entered the Earth's atmosphere.

2014 AA was a small asteroid about the size your living room.  It  probably broke up high in the Earth's atmosphere producing a bright fireball. It is likely that only small pieces of it survived to land in the ocean.

 Most of the small asteroids which strike the Earth go unobserved except as bright fireballs. Some of these events been recorded on video cameras and shown on local news programs in the past few months.


A small unnamed asteroid entered the Earth's atmosphere over Russia on February 15, 2013. It injured more than 1400 people and was undetected before impact. New cameras and software being installed in 2014 should enable us to have more warning time for Earth impacting asteroids.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on 2014 AA


10-Bennu to Receive A Visitor

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Published PRX, February 11, 2014
recorded January 15, 2014
remixed July 14, 2014

The asteroid Bennu [ben-oo] comes close to the Earth every 6 years. Radar observations reveal that it is about 5 football fields in diameter. It rotates on its axis with a period of 4.22 hours. Bennu was named by Michael Toler Puzio [POO-zee-o] who was born in 2004. Michael is the young student who won the naming contest for this asteroid.

Bennu is a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid. It orbits the Sun in 1.2 years.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to be launched in 2016.
The spacecraft will collect a sample of Bennu's surface material. OSIRIS-REx will arrive at Bennu in 2019 and return samples of it to Earth in 2023. The detailed knowledge gained by this sample and return mission will allow scientists to understand conditions in the early solar system. It will also help astronomers to discover the physical processes that may put an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

An asteroid the size of Bennu probably strikes the Earth every 100,000 to 200,000 years with an energy release of more than several hundred hydrogen bombs. An impact like this would likely produce a crater of 4-5 miles in diameter and devastate thousands of square miles of the Earth's surface.
The key to preventing such a disaster, is knowledge gained by space missions, like OSIRIS-REx.

Bennu will not impact the Earth anytime soon. However, It will make a series of 8 close approaches to Earth between 2169 and 2199.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on Bennu


11-Hunting Asteroids on January 7, 2014 

Click to Listen

Published PRX January 2014
Recorded January 14 , 2014
remixed July 14, 2014

The night of January 6-7, 2014 with the  NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey started at 5:45PM. The dome opens for the University of Arizona's 60 in telescope on Mt. Lemmon.    For the next 12 hours it will search for Earth approaching objects.

The telescope is aligned and focused. The images are very sharp.  Astronomers call this situation "excellent seeing".


 Camera sized chunks of the sky are selected.   Sets of 9 to 12 such pieces of the sky or fields are created.   Computer programs are used to search the 4 images of each field for moving objects. 

 On this night a total of 187 fields were observed.  The images of approximately 2 million stars were recorded. A total of 7363 moving objects were tracked and the results sent to the Minor Planet Center. Two objects 2014 AY32 and 2006 AL4 were important enough to receive an electronic circular.  These electronic publications are used to document and keep track of Earth approaching objects.

2014 AY32 is a semi trailer truck sized asteroid which can get about a million miles from Earth. It travels around the Sun once every 3.47 years on a path which takes it from near Earth and to out past Mars.

As it turns out the second asteroid is one of the more than 10,000 known Earth approaching asteroids. It was discovered in 2006 but its orbit was very  poorly known. At 5 million miles, it was found again tonight as it made one of its close approaches to Earth. 

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on Hunting Asteroids January 7, 2014



12-Mars and a Comet, A Near Miss?

Click to Listen

Published PRX January 9, 2013
recorded December 30, 2013
remixed July 14, 2014

Comet C/2013 A1 was discovered by Robert McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia. Archival data obtained by astronomers with the Catalina Sky Survey, indicate that this comet will come very close to Mars on October 19, 2014.


There is about a 1 chance in 8000 that this comet will hit Mars. Currently the closest approach is calculated to be 68,000 miles above Mars on its sunlit side. At this time the speed of the comet relative to Mars will be 31 miles/second. At this velocity, the gas and gravel surrounding the comet, may be dangerous to the probes we humans have orbiting the red planet.


Large Comets crashing into planets are a rare occurrence. In July of 1994 Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke apart and collided with the planet Jupiter. This was the first time an extra-terrestrial collision was observed in the solar system.
The Earth itself continually collides with dust and small particles. Satellite observations indicate that 100-300 metric tons of such material enters the atmosphere every day. Pieces larger than twice the thickness of a dime produce a visible 'shooting star' or meteor.


In 1910 there was widespread concern before the Earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet. The event produced a burst of newspaper articles world wide but no other noticeable effects.


In 2014 we use Earth satellites for everything from weather prediction to finding a restaurant. This may make humans more vulnerable to micro-meteriods from comet tails than was the case in 1910.


For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


More on Mars and a Comet


13-The Tunguska Event


Published PRX February 6,  2014
Recorded January 22, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

The Tunguska [ Tun·gu·ska] event occurred on June 30, 1908. It appears to have been caused by a small asteroid or comet which exploded 3-6 miles above the Earth's surface. It is the largest impact event in recorded history.

Over the years there have been a number of scientific theories put forth to explain what happened.

NASA estimates that the original object was a space rock perhaps 40m [120 feet] in diameter which was traveling at 33,500 miles/hour when it entered the Earth's atmosphere. At about 28,000 feet it heated the air around it to 44,500F producing a fireball. It released an energy roughly equivalent to a hydrogen bomb. It did not leave a crater because it was vaporized as it exploded. Its blast wave knocked down 80 million trees over an 830 square mile area. The trees were laid out in a radial pattern pointing away from the apparent blast center.

An eyewitness 40 miles away was knocked to the ground by the blast and reported that the heat made him feel as though his shirt was on fire.
Sensitive barometers thousands of miles away in England registered atmospheric shock waves from this event.

Objects of this size enter the Earth's atmosphere every few hundred years.
The Tunguska event demonstrates that even relatively small objects which hit the Earth can have significant effects.

A Tunguska type explosion event could devastate a large modern city.
Fortunately we have not discovered any such objects on a collision course with planet Earth.

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

go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on the Tunguska Event

14-Rosetta Spacecraft

Click to Listen

Published PRX, February 11, 2014
recorded January 21, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

The Rosetta Space Craft is a man made traveler in the night. It was launched by the European Space Agency in 2004.  Rosetta is on an international mission to which NASA has contributed 3 instruments.

On its more than 10 year mission the Rosetta Space Craft has received 3 gravitational boosts from Earth and 1 from Mars.  At one point it was mistakenly labeled as an Earth Approaching Asteroid when it came close to our planet. You can follow the spacecraft on the European Space Agency's website.

Rosetta went past Mars in 2007 and returned images. It went near the asteroid  Steins in September 2008 and performed a fly-by of asteroid of Lutetia in July 2010. To save power, It went into hibernation mode in 2011. It received a wake up call and came back to life on January 20, 2014. 

The Rosetta Spacecraft is an orbiter/lander which will reach comet 67P/C-G [ 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko ] in May of 2014. It will study comet 67P for 17 months. 

Rosetta will deploy a 220 pound probe which will land on the comet in November of 2014. Instruments aboard will analyze samples of subsurface material.

The Rosetta Spacecraft and the comet will get closest to Sun in August of 2015.

During its odyssey the Rosetta Spacecraft will give us insights into conditions in the early solar system. It will investigate clues as to the role, if any, that comets have had in carrying the building blocks of life to Earth. 

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


15-Suppose An Asteroid Is On A Collision Course With Earth


Published PRX February 6,  2014
Recorded February 04, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

Over geologic times, the  impacts of objects from space have produced significant changes to our planet's biosphere. Earth threatening asteroids present a complicated challenge due to the wide range of compositions, sizes, orbital paths, and warning times that we can encounter.  

A warning stay away from windows and seek cover would have eliminated most of the more than 1400 injuries which occurred when a house trailer sized asteroid entered the Earth's atmosphere over Russia in February of 2013.  Damage from an asteroid several times larger than that one could affect an area on the Earth similar to a hurricane's destructive footprint. Such an impact could be mitigated by evacuations.  Warning times for these smaller space rocks range from none, to hours to a few days.

Earth impacting asteroids between 2 or 3 football fields  to  several miles in diameter are fortunately rare.  To limit their damage these large asteroids  would have to be deflected.  Lead times of decades are required to allow for an effective response.  

One proposal involves changing the path of a threatening asteroid by striking it with a high velocity impacting space craft. 

Another involves using a "gravity tractor" to exert a tiny force for a long time causing the asteroid to miss the Earth.  

Another involves setting off a nuclear blast adjacent to the asteroid to  vaporize a portion of its surface.  This will produce a rocket type of thrust to change the threatening object's trajectory.

The goal of the NASA Near Earth Object program is to provide the early detection critical to any of these mitigation techniques.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


More information on Astroid Impact Mitigation


16-Discovery of Comet P/2014 A2 (Hill)


Published PRX January 29, 2014
Recorded January 23, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

Have you ever wondered how a comet is discovered and named?

On the night of January 8-9, 2014 Rick Hill was using the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey telescope on Mt. Bigelow, Arizona. One of his moving object discoveries that night had a "fuzzy" looking image.   He called yours truly who was operating the 60 inch telescope on nearby Mt. Lemmon for conformation. These data along with images from observers in New Mexico, Arizona, Japan, France, and Illinois showed this object has a nucleus, coma and fan shaped tail.

Comet P/2014 A2 Hill orbits the Sun once every 14.4 years on a path that goes from a bit further than Mars to out past that of Saturn. It never gets closer than a 100 million miles or so from Earth and is not likely to be a bright object in our night sky.

Comets can be beautiful naked eye objects and are named for their discoverer.  From the dawn of recorded history to the present they have been viewed as objects which have brought everything from doom to the life on our planet. 

Nearly 5,000 comets have been found to be orbiting our Sun. They are a small sample of those which are suspected to exist.  They are a diverse collection of material left over from the early stages of our solar system.

2014 is an exciting year for comet enthusiasts. The spacecraft Rosetta will land a probe on a comet and send the data back to the Earth. You can follow its progress on the European Space Agencies website.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


More on Comet Hill


17-2013 US10 From Asteroid to Comet to Deep Space


Recorded January 29, 2014

Published PRX January 29, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

R. A. Kowalski discovered a curious object in the night sky on October 31, 2013. The data were obtained with the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow which is near Tucson, AZ. After being posted on Minor Planet Center's Near Earth Object Conformation Page, it was observed by telescopes in California, Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Japan. These observations were mistakenly linked to an object observed several months earlier and used to give it the Asteroid name of 2013 US10. It appeared to be very large and to orbit the Sun in 6 years or so. 

Further observations showed this object is surrounded by a faint gas cloud. It was then given the comet name C/2013 US10 (Catalina). Additional observations made by the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope show a some gas flows which are consistent with cometary activity.

We do not know if this comet started in the Oort cloud at the far reaches of our solar system or if it traveled from the vicinity of a nearby star. We do know that when Kowalski found it, its path was taking it into our neighborhood. It will move almost as close to the Sun as the planet Venus in November of 2015. At that time, the Earth will be on the other side of the Sun from it. From there Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) is on a path to take it into truly deep space. Perhaps eons from now it will be a comet in another solar system. 

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


More on 2013 US10



18-The First Pre-Impact Discovery [2008 TC3]


Published PRX, January 22, 2014
recorded January 15, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014


Using the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey, 60 inch telescope, operated by the University of Arizona on Mt. Lemmon, R. A. Kowalski found a moving point of light in the night sky on October 6, 2008. He reported all of his observations to the Minor Planet Center and went to bed for a well deserved rest. When he awoke, the asteroid world was excited over one of his objects, 8TA9D69. This small asteroid was on a collision course with planet Earth. During the 20 hours from its discovery, to when it exploded in the upper atmosphere, it was observed intensively by telescopes all over the world.

The force was with us in this set of events. First of all the object, later to be called 2008 TC3, came at the Earth from the midnight direction presenting its fully illuminated side towards us. Secondly it was made of dark material and exploded over a light colored desert making its fragments easily visible.

The original object was a tiny asteroid about 13 feet in diameter. It entered the Earth's atmosphere at 29,000 miles/hour and exploded about 23 miles above the surface. Approximately 600 meteorites, totaling about 23 pounds , were found in the Sudanese desert. They included rare minerals as well as some amino acids, the building blocks of life.

2008 TC3 is the first of the two of small asteroids which astronomers have been able to find and track into our atmosphere. Samples of these impacting asteroids provide new insights into our solar system.

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

go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on 2008 TC3


19-An Asteroid with a Comet Orbit [2013 JD4]


Published PRX February 2014
Recorded February 19, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

While searching for Earth Approaching Objects with the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey Schmidt Telescope on Mt. Bigelow I came across an interesting, unknown moving point of light in the night sky. Follow up observations by telescopes in Chile, Arizona, Australia, Japan, Spain, Italy, and New Mexico allowed its orbit to be determined and it was given the Asteroid name 2013 JD4.

The Centaur type asteroid, 2013 JD4, is an interesting object. It takes 41.5 years to orbit the Sun on a path that takes it as close to Earth as we are to the Sun. At its maximum distance from the Sun it farther than the Planet Uranus. It has an unstable orbit and may only last a few million years on its current path. When its orbit is changed as it passes Jupiter and Saturn it may start making closer approaches to the Sun, release gases, and become a comet. 

There may be undiscovered objects like 2013 JD4 which enter the inner solar system and have relatively long orbital periods. At this point we don't know if any of the estimated 44,000 Centaurs in the solar system will make a close approach to the Earth.

The impact of a 1KM sized object like 2013 JD4 could cause global climate change. The NASA Sponsored Catalina Sky Survey is on the look out for such objects 24 nights every month. The goal of the survey is to find any large objects at least 50 years before they get too close to the Earth.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org  for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


20-A Serendipitous Supernova in M82

Published PRX March 1, 2014
Recorded February 19, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

As the Earth rotates on its axis and orbits the Sun, our view in the midnight direction, scans the amazing content of the Universe.  Many stars, galaxies, and other objects seem to be the same year after year giving us the idea that things are static out there. Every once in a while a new object bursts into view producing a "what is that" feeling.

2014 came to life and became exciting for a group of astronomy students when they discovered a bright new star in the irregular galaxy M82.  In the city of London in England, Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde and Guy Pollack  set up a small 10 inch telescope on a partly cloudy  night to experiment with imaging.  They were assisted by teaching fellow Stephen J. Fossey.   The group was astonished when a star, which did not show up on any of their charts, stared brightly at them. They reported their discovery and telescopes all over the world responded to gather additional data.

The object which the students discovered was given the name SN 2014 J. It is approximately 11 and 1/2 million light years from us. It is an imploding white dwarf from which material is being ejected at a speed of 20,000 Km/sec.  A type IA supernova like this one always has the same absolute brightness and can be used to measure distances in the Universe.

One of the great joys in Astronomy is no matter if you spend 15 minutes or your entire life studying the Universe there is always something new to learn.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer



More on Supernova in M82


21-The Kepler Spacecraft's Search for Earth Like Planets


Published PRX February 28, 2014
Recorded February 21, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

Have you ever looked into the night sky and wondered how many Earth like planets are out there.  The Kepler Spacecraft has been working to provide some answers.

The NASA Kepler Spacecraft was launched on March 7, 2009 and placed in an orbit around the Sun which was chosen to avoid interference from other celestial objects.  This "Earth trailing" orbit has a period of 372.5 days.

The spacecraft's photometric camera points towards a field in the constellations of Cygnus, Lyra, and Draco.  Instruments measure more than 100,000 stars simultaneously looking for the small dips in brightness that occur when a planet passes in front of its star.

The Kepler Spacecraft has found 2740 stars which have planet candidates orbiting them. Followup observations of 22 stars which the Kepler Spacecraft has studied reveals the presence of 49 planets. Six of these planets have a density similar to the Earth suggesting that they have a rocky composition similar to our planet.

Kepler lost its ability to continue its original mission when the second of its 4 gyroscopes failed.  It will continue to do science by changing its operating mode if a proposal to do this is accepted.  

The Kepler Spacecraft has enabled us to realize that many Earth like planets exist. 

The NASA James Webb Space Telescope with a launch target date in 2018 will extend our ability to study planets in distant solar systems. 

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org  for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


22-Asteroid 2013 TV 135 

Published PRX February 28, 2014
Recorded February 21, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014 

Asteroid 2013 TV 135 passed about 4 million miles from Earth on September 16, 2013.  It was discovered on October 8, 2013 by astronomers at the  Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Ukraine. It is approximately 1300 feet in diameter and has a path that takes it from the Earth's orbit to out near Jupiter. 

It travels around the Sun with a period of about 4 years. This means that we need to have data over a time span  to be able to have an accurate orbital path for it. 

During the first week after it was discovered there appeared to be a slight chance rated at 1 in 63,000 that it would impact the Earth in 2032.   By the end of October the data which had been accumulated suggested that the odds of impact were about 1 chance in 5000.  This began to look serious since an impact by this object would release the energy of 3,200 megatons of TNT. This is about 55 times the explosive energy of the largest hydrogen bomb ever exploded and would likely devastate a large area of the Earth's surface.  Fortunately as the observed length of the arc of 2013 TV 135's orbit increased the chances of its colliding with our planet decreased dramatically.   When we had accumulated 25 days of data the impact risk was down to 1 in 169 million.   It will be followed carefully to make sure that it remains no threat to planet Earth.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org  for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


23-Capturing An Asteroid

Published PRX March 6, 2014
Recorded March 1, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014 

There are many millions of asteroids in our solar system. The total mass of all of them combined is thought to be less than 4% of the Earth's Moon. However, in terms of rocket energy they are the objects in space which are most accessible to humans.

NASA is developing an Asteroid Redirect Mission which will find and ultimately change the orbit of a small Earth approaching asteroid so that it will end up in a stable orbit around our Moon.  There it can be visited and studied by human astronauts.

More than 10,000 Earth approaching asteroids have been discovered. Most of these are too large or do not come close enough to be good  candidates.  There are hundreds of millions of asteroids smaller than 40 feet in diameter which could be redirected to orbit the moon.  They are dark in color and difficult to spot using reflected sunlight.  Even so, with current facilities, several of them are found each year.  The NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey telescope's new cameras will be able to find many more as they zip near the Earth.  

Once detected and tracked these objects will be studied by optical and radar telescopes. The asteroid selected will be redirected using the new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket which uses  a  high-power Solar Electric Propulsion system.  This space hardware is being developed for the human exploration of Mars in the 2030s.

The NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission will open a new chapter in the human exploration of space.

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


Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


24-Jupiter Friend or Foe


PRX March 6, 2014
Recorded March 1, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

The Earth is our home. It provides us with air, food, and water. The Sun powers all life. The role of Jupiter is less clear.

In 1994 George Wetherill performed an analysis which suggested that Jupiter has served to protect the Earth from impacts by long period comets. Recently Horner and Jones repeated these calculations using modern computing equipment. Their work supports Wetherill's conclusions but find different results relating to near Earth asteroids and short period comets. They find that Jupiter does move objects to become Earth approaching asteroids.  However, if Jupiter had 20% of its current mass then the number of these potential impactors would increase substantially.

Jupiter sends some objects our way but not so frequently enough to prevent life on Earth from recovering and adapting. The Earth was very dry when it first formed. The impact of these asteroids and comets may have provided the Earth with a blanket of water which is essential for life as we know it.  Without these impacts,  our planet may have turned out to be as dry as the Moon.

Mass extinctions from asteroid impacts benefit some species while eliminating others. It is likely that we humans would not be here if an asteroid had not eliminated the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Currently, human activity is producing extinctions on the par with an asteroid impact. How life on our planet will cope with our race remains to be seen.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

Click to Listen

Published PRX March 13, 2014
Recorded March 3, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

Occasionally one observes a meteor brighter than the Planet Venus which is called a fireball. Some of them can be bright enough to be seen in the day time.

NASA's All Sky Fireball network consists of 12 cameras in groups of 2 overlapping pairs. Recently two of its cameras in New Mexico spotted a fireball as bright as the full moon. It appears to have been caused by a tiny asteroid 3 to 6 feet in diameter which entered the Earth's atmosphere over central Texas producing a light show for residents of the Dallas / Fort Worth area.

Every year, several thousand fireballs are logged by the American Meteor Society. If you see one your report will be welcomed. You should make note of your location, the date, time, the objects position in the sky, its brightness, and how it appeared. If you are quick enough to capture the event with a cell phone camera your data will be valuable. Those bright meteors reported are likely to be a small fraction of the thousands of such events which occur daily worldwide. Fireballs are likely caused by volley ball to camping trailer size objects that enter the Earth's atmosphere at 25,000 to more than 100,000 miles per hour and burn up several tens of miles above the Earth's surface.

Most fireballs burn up completely, however, probably several dozen per day deposit small meteorites on the Earth's surface. These small pieces are probably traveling at several hundred miles per hour at impact. It is not likely that one can be visually tracked to ground since it does not glow during the latter part of its trajectory.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on Fireballs


26- Binary Asteroids

Click to Listen

Published PRX March 13, 2014
Recorded March 3, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

Asteroid 1998 QE2 was discovered by the MIT Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research program at Socorro, New Mexico. It was classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid and was estimated to be about a 1/2 mile in diameter. It orbits the Sun every 3.77 years on a very elliptical path which takes it from the Earth's orbit to out past the planet Mars.

On May 29, 2013 1998 QE2 came less than 4 million miles from Earth. It was observed by NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar. These data show that what Astronomers thought was a single object is really a binary asteroid. The main body is about 1.9 miles in diameter and rotates once every 5 hours. The secondary object, the asteroid's moon, is about 1/3 of a mile in diameter and travels around its larger companion once every 32 hours.

Another binary asteroid, 2003 YT1, was discovered by Eric Christensen of the NASA sponsored Catalina Sky Survey. Radar observations reveal that 2003 YT1 is really two asteroids in orbit about a common center of gravity. 2003 YT1 is an object with a very interesting chemical composition and appears to have been ejected from the minor planet Vesta.

Approximately 1 out of 5 large Near-Earth Asteroids are really double or triple systems of objects orbiting a common center of gravity. Such double trouble objects presents a challenge if one of them were found to be heading for Earth. 

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

go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer


More Information on Binary Asteroids



27- A Lucky Friday the 13th

Click to Listen

Published PRX March 20, 2014
Recorded March 17, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

Friday April 13, 2029 will be a very lucky day for the human race.
On that day the Asteroid Apophis [uh-poh-fis] will pass about 19,400 miles above the Earth's surface. Humans in Africa, Europe, and Asia will see a bright moving point of light. It will be about as bright as a 3rd magnitude star and be traveling at 42 degrees per hour.

Apophis was discovered June 19, 2004 by R. A. Tucker, D. J. Tholen and F. Bernardi at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. At first Apophis appeared to be on an impact trajectory with the Earth. Apophis is approximately 3 football fields in diameter and orbits the Sun every 323 days.
On that lucky Friday the 13th in 2029, Apophis will not collide with the Earth. If it did it would have an energy of 141 megatons of TNT. This is about 3 times the explosive energy of the largest hydrogen bomb ever exploded. This is also approximately 10 times the energy released in Russia in 1908 by the Tunguska [ toong-goo-skuh] event which killed 80 million trees. An impact by Apophis would likely devastate thousands of square miles of the Earth's surface . On average we expect that such an impact event would occur every 80,000 years or so.

Astronomers refined Apophis's orbit using RADAR data obtained in January 2013. These data eliminated the possibility that it will impact the Earth in the foreseeable future. However it remains an interesting potential destination for robotic and even manned missions.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More Information On A Lucky Friday the 13th


28- Finding An Asteroid for Astronauts

Click to Listen

Published PRX March 20, 2014
Recorded March 18, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

NASA is working on plans to send a pair of astronauts on a mission which lasts more than 500 days. In 2021, 2022, and 2023 their Orion spacecraft would fly past Venus, and then Mars, before returning to the Earth. Before such a long complicated mission is attempted it may be wise to test the hardware on a manned mission to an asteroid.

Until recently, the asteroid search programs were directed to focus on finding the large asteroids which pose a threat to our planet. In February of 2013 a small asteroid entered the Earth's atmosphere over Russia and injured more than 1400 people. This event and the search for asteroid space mission targets has renewed interest in finding smaller space rocks.


On the night of March 9-10, 2014 Steve Larson was observing with the NASA funded Catalina Sky Survey Schmidt telescope on Mt. Bigelow. He discovered a new moving point of light in the night sky which appeared to be an Earth approaching object. Subsequent observations of it were made by telescopes in Australia, France, Argentina, Chile, New Mexico, and Kansas and the object was named 2014 EK24. It is approximately 3 basketball courts in diameter. Because its orbital period about the Sun is so close to that of the Earth, it will make close approaches to us in 2015 and 2016 and then not again until 2091 and 2092.

Only a tiny fraction of the small asteroids which approach the Earth have been discovered. One that astronauts could visit in 2020 is out there.

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


Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on Finding An Asteroid for Astronauts


29- An Odd Couple: Curiosity and The Maven Spacecraft


Click to Listen

Published PRX March 27, 2014
Recorded March 19, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014

The planet Mars has fascinated humans for all of history.  Some thought that Mars had an ancient civilization struggling to survive.  In 1965, Mariner 4 was the first space craft to send back close up images of Mars.  These images gave the impression that it is a dead planet.  In the nearly 50 years since Mariner's visit, more than 30 spacecraft have been launched from Earth to the Red Planet.

As we have learned about Mars our questions have multiplied faster than our answers.  In 2012 the Curiosity Rover landed in  the Gale Crater on Mars. It is a place that that shows evidence that surface water existed in the past.  You can follow this robots path of exploration on the  NASA Curiosity Rover website.  To stir your feeling of wonder, Curosity sent back an image of Earth and our Moon as evening stars in the night sky of Mars.

In September 2014 the Maven Space craft will arrive and begin to orbit Mars as the Curiosity Rover travels the surface below. They will provide some answers to our big questions:
Did life ever arise on Mars?
What is the climate of Mars and how has it changed over time?
What can we learn about the history of Mars from its surface geology?
What is necessary for humans to live and work on Mars?

 It is truly exciting that you can participate in the exploration of Mars using the NASA Deep Space network and the internet.

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

Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.

© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More on the Curiosity and The Maven Spacecraft


30-Asteroids On An Inside Track

Click to Listen

Published PRX March 27, 2014
Recorded March 19, 2014
remixed July 15, 2014


At its full phase, our moon is at its brightest since it is opposite to the Sun and presents its entire lighted side towards us. Generally, asteroids are also brightest when they are opposite the Sun. However, if their orbit is inside that of the Earth, they are never seen in the midnight direction .


Atira [uh t ee r uh ] was discovered in 2003 by the MIT Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research Program with telescopes near Socorro, NM. It is the first asteroid known to have an orbit completely within that of the Earth. It is approximately a mile in diameter and follows a path which crosses that of Venus but which never comes as close to the Sun as Mercury.

Recently, 2013 TQ5 was discovered by J. A. Johnson, using the NASA funded, Catalina Sky Survey, 60 inch telescope on Mt. Lemmon. It is one of only 13 out of the more than 10,000 known near Earth Objects whose path around the Sun is entirely within the Earth's orbit. It is a bit larger than a football field in diameter and orbits the Sun every 249 days.

The Atira asteroid which travels closest to the Sun is 2007 EB26. It was discovered by R. A. Kowalski. It is approximately 7 football fields in diameter and approaches to within 11 million miles of the Sun every 148 days.

The Atira class of asteroids are hard to find because they never get very far from the Sun in our sky. We need to keep track of them since their orbits may change to make them a threat Earth.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org for more information.


© 2014 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2014 A. D. Grauer

More Information on Asteroids which Travel Inside The Earth's Orbit


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