Programs 481-510


481-Fireball


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Published July 26 , 2018
Recorded July 22, 2018

On July 8, 2018 a beautiful fireball Meteor was seen streaking across the sky in evening twilight.   So far the American Meteor Society has received more than 700 reports of this event , from observers in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.  These eye witnesses describe the fireball as having had a white center surrounded by an intense greenish blue cloud. Some lucky viewers were treated to a 10 second view of this event.  By combining all of the eye witness reports scientists were able to construct a 3D path which appeared to indicate that the parent object had a atmosphere grazing trajectory.  Since 255 observers reported seeing the fireball fragment into pieces it is possible, that instead,  the parent meteoroid came in at a steep angle and broke into pieces high above the Earth's surface.   Currently no meteorites from this event have been found.  In the first 6 months of 2018 the American Meteor Society has received 274 fireball sightings with at least 5 reports each.  If you witness a fireball meteor and/or record a fireball with your dash cam or security camera report it to the American Meteor Society and become citizen scientist.  Your data will be very important in finding out where it came from in the solar system  as well as to indicate where it might be possible to find pieces of it on the ground.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 481 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer




482-Botswana Fragment

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Published July 29 , 2018
Recorded July 22, 2018

My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Richard Kowalski discovered 2018 LA moving through the constellation of Scorpio.  Next  security cameras spotted what had been the 6 foot diameter space rock, 2018 LA, as it turned into a fireball meteor and exploded high above Africa.  The latest is that a team of scientists from Botswana,  South Africa, Finland, and the United States have recovered a piece of this former asteroid in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Preserve.  Their discovery of a tiny freshly fallen meteorite came after 5 days of walking and searching.  Their task was made difficult by the winds which had scatted 2018 LA's fragments as they descended through our atmosphere.   These researcher's find is a priceless uncontaminated sample of material from the primitive solar system.    Further, knowing the chemical composition of what had been 2018 LA will help to defend planet Earth.  Here's how.  In asteroid hunter's telescope an Earth approaching object is a moving point of light.  To estimate its size we need to know the percentage of sunlight a space rock reflects toward us since a very large dark object will have the same brightness as a small ice covered one when both are at equal distances from Earth.  Chemical analysis of what had been 2018 LA will give us its reflectivity and thus an accurate estimate of its size.  This calibration will help humans to prepare for and defend against a much larger object with our number on it.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 482 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer



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483-Double Trouble

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Published August 2 , 2018
Recorded July 22, 2018

Approximately 15 % of the known Earth approaching asteroids are binaries. Most of these consist of a large object circled by a much smaller satellite. When asteroid hunters on my team, the Catalina Sky Survey, and the Morocco Oukaimeden (Oukaï-meden) Sky Survey discovered what is now called 2017 YE5 it appeared to be an unknown moving point of light in their images. Astronomers were thus surprised when they directed RADAR pulses from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico towards 2017 YE5 and then analyzed the reflected signal which was received by Green Bank Observatory (GBO) in West Virginia.  The RADAR images they obtained clearly show 2017 YE5 to be two, nearly equal sized, asteroids orbiting a common center of gravity once every 20 to 24 hours.  In visible light these two asteroids are likely to appear as dark as charcoal bricks making them much larger than the sunlight they reflect would suggest.   Interestingly , although nearly equal in size, the two components of 2017 YE5 have different RADAR brightnesses. These data suggest that the two objects now it a close dance with each other have different densities, compositions near their surfaces, different surface terrain, and perhaps a totally different place of origin within the solar system.  How they came to be together and what humans would do if such a large double trouble object is heading for us remains a mystery.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 483 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer


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484-Aliens?


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Published August 3 , 2018
Recorded July 22, 2018

Most Astronomers find it hard to believe that given perhaps a trillion planets in the Milky Way alone that our Earth is the only one which hosts living organisms.
Thoughtful estimates suggest that there maybe somewhere between 10 and 10,000 technical societies inhabiting some of the millions of Earth like planets in our home galaxy.  Using our rocket technology any one of them could colonize our galaxy in 5 to 50 million years. Since such waves of colonization should have happened several times in the past, one is left with the question: "Where are they"? Despite a considerable expenditure of  time and money scientists have been unable to find any proof these technological societies exist never mind that they have ventured forth from their home planets. Many, if not, a majority of people believe that UFOs are piloted alien spacecraft and that the governments of the world have conspired to keep this information from them.  In reality, casting aside obvious hoaxes, about 5% of UFO sightings cannot be easily explained by human activity or weather phenomena.  At this point the leap that these sightings are alien spacecraft seems unjustified. However some serious scientists continue to call for a careful investigation of each such event.     It is both exciting and terrifying to realize we have no concept of what living forms may exist outside Earth in the Milky Way.  

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 484 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer




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485-Last One

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Published August 9 , 2018
Recorded July 26, 2018

My Catalina Sky Survey teammate Greg Leonard discovered our team's last Earth approaching object before the 2018 monsoon rains settled into the American Southwest.  Greg's discovery, 2018 ND1, is a whopper. It has a diameter greater than the length of 11 football fields.  Fortunately 2018 ND1 never comes closer than about 57 times the distance to our moon.  Every July and August the monsoon rains bring life giving moisture to our mountain and desert environment. This weather imposed break from observing gives our team the opportunity to make major equipment upgrades and perform routine maintenance. These activities lowers our down time when the weather is favorable for asteroid hunting.  For example, we operate our hundred million pixel camera at -100 Celsius or - 148 Fahrenheit to eliminate electronic camera noise.  This frigid operating temperature enables the camera to record very faint fast moving space rocks.  The electronic camera chip itself  is in a vacuum chamber with a window to allow light to be imaged upon it. When the vacuum surrounding the chip deteriorates to the point that we can't pump it down far enough at the telescope to keep it cold, the 35 lb camera must be removed and taken down the mountain to have it's vacuum renewed.  It is a procedure with some risk but when the camera is reinstalled its as good as new.  

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 485 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer




486-Martian Storms


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Published August 10 , 2018
Recorded July 26, 2018

Small telescope observers were disappointed when, in 2018, as the orbits Earth and Mars brought the two planets near each other, a raging dust storm had engulfed the red planet obscuring most of its surface features.  Such global dust storms occur every six to eight Earth years three or four Martian years.  On the surface of red planet, the human made robot, Opportunity,  derives its powered from solar panels.  The NASA and JPL scientists who operate it were forced to suspend its science operation until the dust settled.  Almost on the opposite side of the red planet, the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity, has a small nuclear power plant and is able to study the effects of the nearly planet wide dust storm from the surface.  Meanwhile high above NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Orbiter and the European Space Agency's Mars Express captured images of a storm that started about the size of a US state and within weeks developed to engulf  much of the red planet.  Another orbiting space lab, NASA's MAVEN continued to study how Mars changed from a world similar to ours, with liquid water on its surface, to the cold dry place it is now. Mars has a thin atmosphere so that the high winds during such a storm did not topple any spacecraft on the surface but instead sand blasted them with dust particles.  Future Martian colonists will just have to hunker down during such a months long violent event.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 486 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer


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487-Touching The Sun


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Published August 16 , 2018
Recorded July 26, 2018

Imagine a spacecraft traveling at a speed that would take it from New York to Tokyo in less than a minute, a mere 4 million miles from the surface of our Sun, where it would be exposed to about 500 times the solar radiation we receive here on Earth.  Not science fiction but science fact for the NASA Parker Solar Probe on one of it's final laps around our star.  In order to survive, the Parker and it's instruments, are to be protected by a 4.5 inch thick high tech carbon-composite heat shield.  In order to get there the Parker spacecraft will use seven Venus flybys over about 7 years to reduce its orbital path about the Sun and reach a top speed of 430,000 miles per hour.  The Parker Solar Probe's mission is to study the mysterious solar corona which is visible to humans only during a total solar eclipse.  During its epic voyage Parker will follow how energy moves through the solar corona and is channeled into the solar wind whose flow past our planet creates the northern and southern lights.  It will also study how the Sun is able to eject particles at nearly half the speed of light and direct them towards us.   These high energy particles can damage satellite communications equipment and are likely to modulate our weather in ways we still don't understand.  Your chance to follow Parker's odyssey will start with its launch in August of 2018 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 487 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer

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488-20 Years

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Published August 17 , 2018
Recorded July 26, 2018

It has been 20 years since the world woke up to the news that a half mile diameter asteroid, 1997 XF11, discovered by Space Watch on Kitt Peak, had a slight chance of impacting the Earth in 2028.  Further observations prove there is no chance this potentially devastating space rock will impact the Earth in the next 200 years.  Since then my team the Catalina Sky Survey and the rest asteroid hunters of the world have brought the total known Earth approaching objects list to 18,000, a number which grows by about 40 new ones each week.  The NASA and JPL's Center for Near Earth Object Studies or CNEOS (see-neos) for short maps space rocks orbits, predicts when they will come close to us, and reliably determines each one's chance of impacting Earth. This process begins when an asteroid hunter images a moving point of light and sends it's path to the Minor Planet Center.  These observations are then posted on the Near Earth Object Confirmation Page so that observers around the world can track it.  CENEOS (see Neos) Scout software system analyzes each new object's path to determine if it will come very close. Recently, Scout correctly predicted the impact of the small space rock, 2018 LA, which exploded high over Botswana.  In addition, Sentry, another NASA computer system keeps tabs on all known close approaching objects. All of this should make you sleep well each night safe in the knowledge that humans are not in danger from a space rock.

For Travelers in the Night this is Dr. Al Grauer.
Go to travelersinthenight.org program 488 for more information.
© 2018 A. D. Grauer and ℗ 2018 A. D. Grauer