CCNet 3/2002 - 3 January 2002

   "For every genuine meteorite impact site, Shoemaker said, there are
   thousands of depressions that have some crater-like features but were
   not created by meteorites."
       --University of Nebraska, 7 November 2001

   "On the morning of the 13th August 1930 the sky was clear and glorious
   equatorial sun had risen to usher in the new day... Suddenly, at about
   8 o'clock , the sun became blood-red and darkness spread over
   everything, almost as if a thick cloud had intercepted the sun's
   rays...but there is no cloud...only the appearence of reddish dust in
   the atmosphere, giving the impresion of an immense fire that would
   reduce to ashes all the elements of nature. Fine ash begins to fall on
   the plants of the forest and on the waters of the river...when
   suddenly a multiple hissing noise is heard coming from the
   high, sounding like whistles or artillery shells...and the hissing
   noise comes closer and closer to the earth... Some fisherman did have
   courage ,and while standing in the middle of the river raised their
   eyes to the sky and saw large fireballs of fire which fell from the
   sky like thunderbolts. They landed in the centre of the forest with a
   triple shock similar to the rumble of thunder and the splash of
   lighting. There were 3 distinct explosion each stronger than the other
   causing earth tremors like those on an earthquake."
    --quoted in M.E. Bailey et al.(1995), The Observatory 

    Space Weather News for January 2, 2001

    Kem Luther <>

    University of Nebraska, 7 November 2001


    Ron Baalke <>



(8) SPACE RACE 2002
    Tech Central Station, 2 January 2002

    Duncan Steel <>

     Christian Gritzner <>  

     Andy Smith <>

     Hermann Burchard <>

     Worth Crouch <>

     John Michael Williams <>

     Alan Alford <>

     Andrew Yee <>


>From Space Weather News for January 2, 2001

MYSTERY METEORS:  Earth is about to enter a stream of dusty space debris
that gives rise each year to the Quadrantid meteor shower.  In 2002 the
Quadrantids will peak during a few-hour period around 1800 UT (10 a.m.
PST) on Thursday, January 3rd. The shower peaks during daylight hours
over the Americas. Pre-dawn observers in Japan and other Asian countries
around the Pacific Rim will have the best view of the outburst. Early-
evening sky watchers in Europe might see it, too. This year's display
will be diminished by glare from the Moon. Nevertheless, well-placed
spotters will likely count a dozen or so bright meteors each hour during
the shower's maximum.

The Quadrantids are named after Quadrans Muralis, a 19th century
constellation no longer found in star atlases. The shower's radiant is
in the modern constellation Bootes.  Like the extinct constellation
Quadrans Muralis, the cometary parent of the Quadrantid shower might
also be long-dead. Astronomers have searched for a comet that shares the
orbit of the Quadrantid debris stream, but found nothing. Perhaps it
completely disintegrated long ago or remains undiscovered.

NEAR-EARTH ASTEROID: A newly discovered near-Earth asteroid named 2001
YB5 will glide by our planet on January 7th, twice as far from Earth as
the Moon. The 300-meter wide space rock will brighten to 12th magnitude
this weekend, making it a promising target for backyard telescopes
equipped with CCD cameras.

Visit for more information.


>From Kem Luther <>

Did you pick up this piece on the Merna, Nebraska, "crater"  from
the November press releases?


>From University of Nebraska, 7 November 2001

NU Research Debunks Notion That Meteorite Caused Crater Near Merna
Related Story

LINCOLN, Neb. A nearly mile-wide depression in the middle of Nebraska,
once heralded as the site of a large meteorite's impact, is really just
another hole in the ground, University of Nebraska scientists say.

The Bartak Depression, named for the family on whose Custer County land
it's located, was created thousands of years ago by wind, not a
meteorite, the NU researchers announced this week.

The NU research counters the conclusions of University of Kansas
researchers, who said in 1992 that the depression, which they renamed
the Merna Crater after the nearby town, likely was created by the
explosion of a large meteorite with the force of several hydrogen bombs
between 3,000 and 500 years ago. In the absence of any large meteorite
fragments, the KU researchers' original theory, proposing a meteorite
impact, was revised a few years later to include a meteor that exploded
about three miles in the air above the site.

The KU team's conclusion caused a media stir and some skepticism among
scientists at the time because it challenged existing timetables on
meteorite impacts, including the likelihood of future impacts.

Articles on the team's findings ran in national science magazines such
as National Geographic, Earth and Discover and in a number of
newspapers. Entrepreneurial residents embraced the depression's newfound
fame as a potential tourism boon with a community festival known as
Merna Crater Days.

"This thing hit the news because it pointed to higher rates of meteor
bombardment just as people were becoming concerned about the risk of a
large meteor that could hit the Earth some day, but probably a long ways
down the road," said Jim Swinehart, one of three NU Conservation and
Survey Division researchers who set out in 1998 to further study the

That NU research, which included drilling test holes in and next to the
depression, found that the "crater" had the same origin as similar,
though less impressive, depressions in the region: Relentless winds that
scoured out hollows during very dry periods thousands of years ago.

"We didn't want folks to start thinking like Chicken Little and say the
sky is falling," Swinehart said. "Part of the reason for the original
investigation was to bring tourist dollars to the area, but it's based
on poor science."

The NU team reported its findings this week at the annual meeting of the
Geological Society of America, the same organization that initially
heard the KU team's conclusions nine years ago. Swinehart was joined by
NU researchers Mark Kuzila, lead author of the study, director of CSD
and its head soil scientist; and geologist Joe Mason.

"This is the kind of thing that makes scientists either salivate or
froth at the mouth," said Swinehart of the meteorite theory. "But it
just isn't so."

The KU researchers' findings were based on relatively shallow drilling
that turned up microscopic metal-rich fragments and glass shards they
said were unusual for the region and pointed to a meteorite origin.

The NU team's more extensive drilling, 200 to 400 feet deep, however,
failed to turn up the debris around the rim of the crater or the
dramatic deformation and compression of underlying sediments that a
meteorite would have caused.

"The first most obvious discrepancy was that there were not relatively
large pieces of glassy debris in the area," Swinehart said. "These would
be many tens of feet thick around the crater. You can imagine. You blow
it all up and it falls to the ground." Instead, the NU team found, the
Bartak Depression has more in common with a similar, previously studied
depression near Ong, Neb., about 120 miles southeast of Merna, than with
the most recent, large impact crater in the United States, the
50,000-year-old Meteor Crater near Winslow, Ariz., also nearly a mile in

Both the Ong and Merna sites reflect an ancient landscape formed more
than 25,000 years ago in wind-blown silt called loess that is covered in
more recent loess.

The NU researchers also had an explanation for the presence of magnetic
minerals and glass shards that their colleagues at KU attributed to a
meteorite. Such material is common in and under the landscape of central
and western Nebraska, likely having been reworked by wind and water
after having blown in from ancient volcanoes thousands of miles away,
Swinehart said.

"You give me a loess sample from central Nebraska, and I guarantee you
I'll find a few percent to 15 percent glass shards," he said.

The meteorite theory also seemed highly unlikely to Bill (sic) Shoemaker, a
meteor expert with the U.S. Geological Survey who had said in Discover
magazine in 1993 that the odds were 10 to 1 against the Bartak
Depression being caused by a meteorite.

For every genuine meteorite impact site, Shoemaker said, there are
thousands of depressions that have some crater-like features but were
not created by meteorites.

The Conservation and Survey Division is part of NU's Institute of
Agriculture and Natural Resources.

James Swinehart - Ph.D.
Conservation & Survey Division
Professor/Research Geologist
Mark Kuzila - Ph.D.
Conservation & Survey Division
(402) 472-7537

Charlie Flowerday
Editor/ Publications Officer - Conservation and Survey Division
(402) 472-3471
Department: Conservation & Survey



KUZILA, Mark S.1, MASON, Joseph A.1, and SWINEHART, James B.2, (1)
Conservation and Survey Division, Univ of Nebraska, 113 Nebraska Hall,
Lincoln, NE 68588-0517,, (2) Conservation and Survey
Division, University of Nebraska, 113 Nebraska Hall, Lincoln, NE

The loess-covered tablelands of central Nebraska are covered with
numerous depressions varying greatly in size. The depressions are
generally concentrated in two areas; the Rain Water Basin Area of
south-central Nebraska and the Central Nebraska Loess Hills of
north-central Nebraska. One large depression is located in Custer County
near the town of Merna. The depression is referred to as the "Bartak
Depression" by the locals because it is located on property owned by the
Bartak family. This depression has been the focus of interest since it
was renamed the Merna Crater in the 1997 article "Merna Crater- A young
impact feature in loess of Central Nebraska" published in the Oklahoma
Geological Survey Circular by Dort, Zeller, Martin and Moody. Dort et
al. concluded that the depression was probably created by the explosion
of an extraterrestrial bolide which occurred about five kilometers above
the land surface. They estimate the explosion occurred about 3000 years

Results of test holes drilled in and adjacent to the depression show
that the stratigraphic units including the Peoria Loess (25,000 to
11,000 YBP) carry through the landscape adjacent to and beneath the
depression with no disruption. This indicates that the depression was
not formed by the explosion of a bolide that occurred about 3000 years
ago. The origin of the depression may be similar to that of other
depressions found throughout Nebraska.
GSA Annual Meeting, November 5-8, 2001 
Session No. 133--Booth# 36
Quaternary Geology/Geomorphology (Posters) I
Hynes Convention Center: Hall D
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Wednesday, November 7, 2001


>From Ron Baalke <>

Introduction: The Meteoritical Society and the Planetary Division of the
Geological Society of America jointly sponsor the "Planetary Sciences
Best Student Paper Award". The award is for undergraduate and graduate
students who are first author of a planetary science paper published in
a peer-reviewed scientific journal during the calendar year. The prize
includes recognition by both Societies, a plaque, and a cash award of

Topics: Paper topics included under this award include the disciplines
of the Planetary Sciences in the broadest sense. These topics include,
but are not limited to, asteroids, comets, craters, interplanetary dust,
interstellar medium, lunar samples, meteors, meteorites, natural
satellites, planets, planetary atmospheres, tektites, origin and history
of the solar system.

Eligibility: This award is limited to undergraduate and graduate
students who are the first author of a paper published in a
peer-reviewed scientific journal during a specific calendar year. The
first author must have been a registered student at a degree awarding
institution at the time the paper was submitted to the journal. Papers
published during the year 2001 are now under consideration for the award.

Nomination: Papers will need to be nominated in order to be considered.
Full members of the Geological Society of America, full members of the
Meteoritical Society, or full members of any of their associated
societies may make nominations. Electronic nominations via e-mail with
attached pdf files are encouraged. Nominations should include the

(1) The name of the student.
(2) The full citation of the paper (Including a copy of the paper or the
paper pdf file would be helpful, but not required).
(3) The name and address of the University the student was attending at
the time of paper submittal
(4) A brief description of why this paper is among the best.

Nominations may be sent to either the Chair of the Student Paper
Selection Committee, the Secretary of the Meteoritical Society, or the
Secretary of the Planetary Division of GSA at the addresses listed
below, by January 30, 2002. Either hardcopy or electronic nominations
are acceptable. For questions, please contact Dr. Dan Britt.

Dr. Dan Britt, Chair, Student Paper Selection Committee, Department of
Geological Sciences, The University of Tennessee, 306 Geological
Sciences Building, Knoxville, TN 37996; phone: 1-865-974-6008,

Dr. Edward R.D. Scott,  Secretary of the Meteoritical Society,  Hawaii
Inst. Geophysics & Planetary, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii
96822, USA,

Dr. Eric Grosfils, Chair, Planetary Division of the Geological Society
of America, Geology Department, Pomona College, 609 N.College Ave.,
Claremont, CA 91711,


Meteoritics and Planetary Science 36(9),supplement,p.A175,2001.
M.C.L.Rocca-Mendoza 2779-16A, Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Introduction: Superbolides are meteors brighter than mag -17. Bolides or

fireballs are used for meteors from mag -4 and brighter. Superbolides are
rare events(1). Infrared and visible wavelenghts sensors aboard DOD
satellites have detected and recorded a number of superbolide events in
the past decade(2). As part of a search in old scientific publications
two oceanic superbolide events have come to light. The first is the most
enigmatic: The following account of unusual phenomena was received March
10, at the Hydrographic office, Washington, from the branch office in
San Francisco. The bark Innerwich, Capt. Waters, has just arrived at
Victoria from Yokohama. At midnight of Feb. 24(1885), in latitude 37d
north, longitude 170d 15m east, the captain was aroused by the mate,
and went on deck to find the sky changing to a fiery red.  All at once
a large mass of fire appeared over the vessel, completly blinding the
spectators; and, as it fell into the sea some fifty yards to leeward,
it caused a hissing sound, which was heard above the blast, and made
the vessel quiver from stem to stern. Hardly had this disappeared,
when a lowering mass of white foam was seen rapidly approaching the
vessel. The noise from the advancing volume of water is described as
deafening. The bark was struck flat aback; but, before there was time
to touch a brace, the sails had filled again, and the roaring white
sea had passed ahead. To increase the horror of the situation, another
'vast sheet of flame' ran down the mizzen-mast, and 'poured in myriads
of sparks' from the rigging. The strange redness of the sky remained
for twenty minutes. The master, an old and experienced mariner, declares
that the awfulness of the sight was beyond description, and considers
that the ship had a narrow escape from destruction(3). The mention that
the sky got red BEFORE the event is puzzling but it is not the only
one in the literature. Concerning the Brazilian Superbolide at Curuca
River we read:
"On the morning of the 13th August 1930 the sky was clear and glorious
equatorial sun had risen to usher in the new day... Suddenly,at about 8
o'clock , the sun became blood-red and darkness spread over everything,
almost as if a thick cloud had intercepted the sun's rays...but there is
no cloud...only the appearence of reddish dust in the atmosphere,giving
the impresion of an immense fire that would reduce to ashes all the
elements of nature. Fine ash begins to fall on the plants of the forest
and on the waters of the river...when suddenly a multiple hissing noise
is heard coming from the high,sounding like whistles or artillery
shells...and the hissing noise comes closer and closer to the earth...
Some fisherman did have courage ,and while standing in the middle of the
river raised their eyes to the sky and saw large fireballs of fire which
fell from the sky like thunderbolts. They landed in the centre of the
forest with a triple shock similar to the rumble of thunder and the
splash of lighting. There were 3 distinct explosion each stronger than
the other causing earth tremors like those on an earthquake."(4), (5).
This event could be interpreted both as a meteoritic one or, perhaps,
as the consequence of some kind of plasma interaction in the high
atmosphere(6). The second event is a superbolide falling in the sea:
"When the Phoenix Line Steamship St. Andrew arrived from Antwerp
yesterday, Captain Fitzgerald reported that the steamer had passed a
meteoric shower at 4:30 o'clock on Tuesday(October 30,1906) about 600
miles NE of Cape Race. The largest meteor observed fell into the sea
less than a mile away. Had it struck the St. Andrew all hands would have
perished. Yesterday afternoon Chief Officer V.E. Spencer , who was on
the bridge when the meteors appeared ,told what he saw there.'On Tuesday
afternoon,'said Mr. Spencer,'the weather was clear and bright, although
there was little sunshine.Just after one bell,4:30 o'clock, I saw three
meteors fall into the water dead ahead of the ship one after another at
a distance about 5 miles. Although it was day light,they left a red
streak in the air from zenith to the horizon. Simultaneously the third
engineer shouted to me. I then saw a huge meteor on the port beam falling
in a zig-zag manner less than a mile away to the southward. We could
distinctly hear the hissing of water as it touched. It fell with a rocking
motion leaving a broad red streak in its wake. The meteor must have weighed
several tons,and appeared to be 10 to 15 feet in diameter. It was saucer
shaped which probably accounted for the peculiar rocking motion.When the
mass of metal struck the water the spray and staem rose to a height of at
least 40 feet,and for a few moments looked like the mouth of a crater. If it
had been night,the meteor would have illuminated the sea for 50 or 60
miles.The hissing sound,like escaping steam,when it struck the water was so
loud that the chief engineer turned out of his berth and came on
deck,thinking the sound came from the engine room. I have seen meteors all
over the world, but never such a large one as this"(7).

Careful searches in old journals may offer new examples of interesting
superbolide events.

(1): Ceplecha Z. et al.(1999),METEOROIDS 1998, Astron. Inst.,Slovak
(2): Tagliaferri E. et al.(1994) in "Hazards due to Comets and
Asteroids",T.Gehrels ed.,Univ. of Arizona,p199.
(3): Anonymous(1885),Science,(old serie),5,pp242-243.
(4): Bailey M.E. et al.(1995),The Observatory 115,No1128,pp250-253.
(5): Huyghe P.(1996),The Sciences,March/April ,pp14-17.
(6): Spalding R.E.(2000),private communication.
(7): anonymous(1906),The New York Times,November 3,1906,Head.

© Meteoritical Society, 2001.


Meteoritics and Planetary Science 36(9),p.A176,2001.
M.C.L.Rocca-Mendoza 2779-16A,Ciudad de Buenos Aires,Argentina

Introduction: Wabar Impact craters are located in Saudi Arabia(N21º30'
E50º28').They are at least 3 craters of 116,64 and 11 meters in diameter
placed in an area composed of dunes and drifting sand. The walls of
these craters are made of glass impactites wich are classified in 3 main

1-Large scoriaceous masses( up to 900 gr.)of silica glass.
2-Medium glass( pumice stone-like )bombs.
3-Small glass beads.

They are found as far as 40 mts. from their craters.(1),(2).
So far Wabar is unusual in the world  because of its sand fused glass
impactites. A similar site may exist in eastern Uruguay Republic,South
America. Located in the Cape of Santa Maria,the town of La Paloma is one
of the biggest in SE Uruguay's Atlantic coast.(S34º40' W54º10').
The geology of the area is simple:A precambric basement of
metasedimentary rocks covered by several meters thick Holocene dunes and
drift sand. Today, most of those dunes are fixed as consequence of man
made plantation. By midd March 1986, after a big sea storm , the South
beach on the coast of the Cape Santa Maria was covered with hundreds of
pieces of frothy glass rocks wich, on hand specimens,resembled very
closely Wabar's impactites. There were two types of them:
A- Scoriaceous masses of glass with a rough pitted surface.They were
gray-brown in color .Inside they showed a brecciated structure:
fragments of a tufa-like white glass sandstone included in a green-brown
mass of glass full of bubbles of different sizes.The inner surface of
the bubbles had a gleam of a green-brown color.The biggest specimen
found was 40 cm. wide and about 1 kg.
B-Bomb like  pieces: made up inside a very cellular white snow
glass, like volcanic pumice stone .On the outside surface of the bombs
consisted of a brown-gray glass cover free of bubbles. Inside they were
cellular showing hundreds of small bubbles. The same week a few similar
were found by the author on the shore near La Pedrera city, just 10 km.
North of Cape Santa Maria. Because of their vesicular structures some of
those specimens may float on water. Local inhabitants told the author
similar scoriaceous rocks were found in the past on the shores...again
after big storms, so the event was not unique. A small  bomb sample was
studied at the Geological Sciences Departament - Natural History Museum
of Buenos Aires city.It consisted of sand fused glass. Unfortunatelly,
no specimen was kept. There have never been any activities connected
with glass industry in the area. It is suggested here that a Wabar-like
crater/s may be hidden offshore in the area of the Cape of Santa
Maria,Uruguay .Its glass impactites may have been distributed by the sea
currents on the shores after big storms. The event may be frequent. The
area demands future attention and study.

(1):Krinov E.,1966:"Giant meteorites",Pergamon Press,pp 19-26.
(2):Wynn J.C. and Shoemaker E.M.,1999:"Meteoritos en el
desierto",Scientific American(spanish edition) January,pp 14-21.

© Meteoritical Society, 2001

(8) SPACE RACE 2002

Tech Central Station, 2 January 2002

By: James Pinkerton, TCS Columnist and Fellow, New America Foundation

OK, 2001 was no "2001," but there was more good news than bad news. The
movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," was re-released this year, just to
torment us spacers with visions of what could have been. The Stanley
Kubrick/Arthur C. Clarke film, first released in 1968, offered a bright
vision of humanity shuttling back and forth to the moon, even as it
prepared a deep-space journey to Jupiter.

Well, that didn't happen. The space program went into political
recession in the early '70s, the victim of a Greenish anti-technological
backlash, and it's never really recovered; the last man went to the moon
in 1972, and trips to other planets are mere pipedream gleams. But the
basic impulse of human expansion, the inevitable extension of mankind's
reach across physical distance -- first land, then water, then air --
gives space an ultimate, inexorable logic.

But of course, as with true love, the course of true logic never runs
smooth. And yet amidst the bumps and bubbles, it's possible for
spaceniks to lay out a vision for spacewardness, a synergistic approach
that seeks to connect the efforts of three different, mostly unconnected
groups. While those three groups - NASA, the Russians, and the U.S.
military - might never all work in the closest of harmony, they might
yet complement each other as part of an overall space strategy. Indeed,
we might take a leaf from a scene in the new Russell Crowe movie "A
Beautiful Mind," in which the mathematician John Nash looks into the
night sky and identifies intricate images amidst the clouds of stars,
seeing images where others saw jumbles. Of course, I shouldn't pursue
this analogy too far, because the march into space needs leaders, not
just dreamers. So returning now, to the real world, let's consider where
the three leading space players stood at the end of 2001.

NASA -- The biggest single piece of news was the departure of
Administrator Dan Goldin. He will be remembered as a brilliant man who
had all the right attributes, including patience, as he was in the post
for 9 ½ years, across three presidential administrations. But he was
unable to re-energize America's space consciousness. And so instead of
leading America into new quantums of space travel, as he knew how to do,
Goldin mostly played defense against critics and nit-picks.

Goldin's replacement as NASA boss, Sean O'Keefe, confirmed by the Senate
on December 20, was previously deputy director of the Office of
Management and Budget under President Bush. He had served as secretary
of the Navy for the first President Bush where, the Associated Press
reports, he "gained a reputation for budget cutting." O'Keefe's views on
space are mostly unknown, but in Congressional testimony he did say that
"the immediate challenges confronting NASA today are, largely, not
scientific, technical or engineering in origin. Rather, the challenges
are more aptly described in management terms: financial, contractual and
personnel focused." O'Keefe wasn't wrong, of course - there's never an
argument to be made for sloppy practices - but it remains to be seen
whether he will see number-crunching as an end it itself, or as a
springboard for future leaps.

The International Space Station is likely to be an early indicator. The
ISS has cost America some $5 billion more than anticipated, and pressure
is mounting to scale back NASA's commitment, such that, for example, the
size of the permanent ISS crew would he held down to three. Since it
takes 2 ½ people to do essential maintenance on the orbiter, a
three-person limit would mean that not even a single person would be
aloft to do the sort of research for which the ISS was originally
intended. And in that case, friends of the space station would be
hard-pressed to defend the ISS against the green-eyeshade accusation
that all that money has been spent merely to maintain three
astro-maintenance workers. What's needed, of course, is the financial
commitment to expand the ISS to its full capacity, housing a crew of six
or seven, such that the station could be a full-fledged platform for
forthcoming steps into space. What's needed, in other words, is a vision
longer than the current fiscal year or two.

The Russians -- It's an irony of history that when the Russians were
Reds, they saw space as an expression of communist destiny. Now,
post-Soviet, the same Russians see space as an opportunity for
capitalist profitability. And yet at the same time, the capitalist
Americans have been resistant to any such private-sectoring of human
space travel. NASA, it seems, is still locked in a bureaucratic and
anti-entrepreneurial prison. So American Dennis Tito, snubbed by NASA,
made space-capitalist history last spring by paying $20 million to be
the first private citizen to buy his way into space. In 2002, yet
another tycoon, the South African Mark Shuttleworth, plans to blaze a
second trail.

To be sure, the Russians don't have the billions needed to build
customer-friendly spacegoing vehicles, but they do have the expertise.
And so it's possible to squint ahead into the next century and see the
Russians attracting capital from the West to finance more ambitious
ventures into space travel and tourism. Keep an eye on Sir Richard
Branson; he has the showy flare needed to make such a vision a reality,
and he's not likely to worry much about whose rockets he rides.

The U.S. military -- If the Russians are discovering the virtues of the
invisible hand, Americans might yet discover the value of the visible
hand - not NASA's, but rather, the U.S. military's steel fist. Secretary
of Defense Don Rumsfeld has always understood that space would be a
theater of military operations, whether the U.S. wants it to be or not.
And so he has taken bold steps to make sure that if space is to be
militarized, America will be a winner, not a loser.

Rumsfeld's two commission reports, the first in 1998, concerning missile
defense, and the second in 2001, concerning satellite defense, both
warned against Pearl Harbor-like attacks, pointing the Pentagon toward a
more robust space presence. Since then, of course, America has been
reminded of the need to expect the unexpected, to prepare as best we
can. Now that Rumsfeld has spearheaded the winning of the battle against
the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, he confronts the mission of winning the war
against proliferating future threats, from land, sea, air -- and space.

The American withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty was
a good first step, one that opens the way toward better defenses based
anywhere. But even more bold moves are needed, because dangers don't
come just from rogue individuals and rogue states, but also from rogue

For example, there's the statistically inevitable danger of a "deep
impact" on the earth. And in this case, a hit anywhere on the planet
could be devastating everywhere. Congress has charged NASA with
identifying Near Earth Objects (NEO's) that could come crashing down
upon us, creating another "extinction-level event" like the one that did
in the dinosaurs. So far, scientists around the world have identified
some 500 NEO's; they figure that at least that many more remain to be
discovered. Yet the budget-conscious space agency now proposes to cut
its contribution to the maintenance of the radio telescope in Arecibo,
Puerto Rico. That 305-meter-wide facility receives most of its $11
million annual budget from the National Science Foundation, but NASA, as
first reported in, wants to shrink its contribution from
$550,000 to $400,000. The scientists at Arecibo are not seeking to
identify NEO's flying around, but rather to identify their composition
once found. Such understanding, of course, would be critical in the
formulation of effective counter-measures. NASA concedes the importance
of this mission; in the words of associate administrator Ed Weiler,
"Before you send Bruce Willis with a bunch of nukes, you better know
what these things are made out of." Weiler was referring, of course, to
"Armageddon," the 1998 movie in which astronauts blow up an asteroid
before it can blow up the earth.

Yet if NASA doesn't have the money for such an ongoing necessary effort,
life-saving -- indeed, planet-saving -- as the asteroid-spotting mission
might be, maybe the Pentagon should step in. After all, the name
"Department of Defense" is comprehensive; it doesn't single out what
should be defended against and what shouldn't. And so the presumption
could be made that DOD should protect against every threat, at least if
nobody else can or will do it. After all, the Pentagon already has a
formal Space Command, based at Peterson AFB in Colorado; it makes sense
for the military to have this avant-garde element of "homeland defense"
in its portfolio.

So the Pentagon should be regarded as a key space player, alongside the
more familiar American and Russian space agencies. What's it called when
three different entities think about achieving the same goal? It's
called competition. And that's what's needed today: healthy competition,
so that the idea of racing gets put back into the space race. If
Americans and Russians, in and out of uniform, start racing into space,
all humanity will be the winners, and 2002 will see all of us getting
ever closer to the stars our destination.

Copyright 2002, Tech Central Station


>From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

Professor Yong-Ik Byun, the Director of the Yonsei University
Observatory in Korea, has asked that the following be brought
to the attention of NEO astronomers.

Duncan Steel

Yonsei University Observatory (YUO) in Seoul, Korea is seeking an
observational astronomer for a two-year appointment as research
fellow.  Candidates with a few years of postdoctoral experience
will be preferred.  Research opportunities at YUO include

1. YSTAR project, several 0.5-meter robotic telescopes to be
   placed around the globe for general sky monitoring looking
   for variable objects and also NEOs. Our first overseas
   observatory is being built in South Africa.
2. GALEX project, UV all-sky survey space telescope being
   prepared in cooperation with Caltech/NASA and French group.
   The launch is expected in mid 2002.  Yonsei is an official
3. KVN project, YUO is a host institute for a 20-meter millimeter
   telescope and also the national array project office
   consisting of three identical radio telescopes placed around
   Korea. The construction will begin in 2002.
4. TAOS project, research focused on Kuiper-Belt object survey
   based on Occultation technique.  Yonsei is a partner for this
   Taiwan-American cooperation.
5. Use of national observatory facilities including 1.8-meter
   Bohyunsan observatory, 14-meter millimeter observatory and a
   Korean share of the CFHT telescope.

For this position, YUO is especially interested in candidates in
the fields of NEO or stellar variability research.  However
candidates with other observational interests are also encouraged
to apply.  Successful candidate is expected to begin the
appointment from March 1st, 2002.  Participation to undergraduate
and graduate education is strongly encouraged, but the teaching
duty will not exceed one course per semester.  For single
candidates, accommodation at the university dormitory can be
arranged at modest charge.  Information on Yonsei University can
be found in the English page of
Interested candidates should contact Professor Yong-Ik Byun at no later than January 12, 2002.

Yong-Ik Byun  Director, University Observatory
              Yonsei University, Seoul 120-749 Korea
              phone) 82-2-2123-2693   fax) 82-2-362-5135



>From Christian Gritzner <>  

Dear Benny,

there is a very good overview article on NEOs and possible mitigation
systems available online, which appeared in the popular German science
magazine GEO MAGAZIN (Nr. 11/November 2001). The article "Meteoriten:
Die Gefahr aus dem All" was written by Dr. Erwin Lausch.

Abstract: "Bisher sind Kollisionen mit Himmelskörpern für die
Erdbewohner glimpflich abgegangen. Doch jederzeit könnte ein Geschoß aus
dem All alles Leben auslöschen. Um das zu verhindern, tüfteln Experten
an komplizierten Abwehrstrategien."



>From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

It is terrific to see the UK program coming togeather
and with so many good organizations involved.
We congratulate you all and wish you the best.

Year-End Score

It is clear, from the MPC data, that we have another
record-year of NEO hunting. There are now more than
440 new NEO in the data base (the largest annual find,
to-date). LINEAR was the largest contributor (63%),
NEAT, LONEOS and SPACEWATCH found 21%, 10% and 4%,

We have come a long way but there is much to do to
meet our next goal of 1,000 finds per year and our
ultimate goal of 10,000 per year. We can meet the next
goal, if the existing teams can find ways to increase
their activity levels and if CATALINA and BISEI can
come up-to-speed. Meeting the ultimate goal will take
involvement by the larger survey telescopes, such as
the SLOAN and the 8 meter DMT (to be built). Reaching
this goal will reduce the time to complete the
critical inventory (100,000 NEO or so), from a century
to a decade.

Russian/Australian Launch Facility

It is good to see plans firming for the new facility.
We hope the facility planners will join in a global
effort to have a quick-response asteroid/comet
emergency deflection capability...perhaps using the
SOYUZ system. It will certainly have the lifting
capability and the proximity to the equator is a plus.
Our objective, in this area, is to reduce the time
required to respond, in an emergency, to days or
weeks, instead of years.

We hope CAIN will promote asteroid/comet emergency
(ACE)preparedness, to whatever extent it is possible,
and we would like to see both the SPACEGUARD and SPACE
SHIELD programs linked to the CAIN home page, if
possible. With luck, it may even be possible to locate
another asteroid hunting team in the UK, to join the
U.S., Japanese and the other dedicated early-warning

It is just great to see the people of the world slowly
beginning to recognize this great danger and to join
forces, to build a global team-effort and to prepare
an adequate  defense. We encourage the citizens of all
of the countries, represented on the CCNet, to seek to
get some governmental support and to start similar

Bravo CAIN,
Andy Smith


>From Hermann Burchard <>

Dear Benny,

The proposal for a database on SPECULATED IMPACT CRATERS by Michael
Paine seems like a great idea whose time has come. Only I would try to
talk him out of it: It might take a geologist to do what Mike wrote is
needed. Among geologists there would be considerations of scientific
priority and intellectual property being embargoed prior to full
publication. While it may be possible to avoid issues like this, one
should allow geologists to be a little possessive about "their" craters.

In one case of recent memory DISCOVERY reported on somewhat acerbic
exchanges occurring between G. Penfield, who DISCOVERED Chixculub in
1981, and V. Sharpton, who in 1993 proved it was much LARGER.


One of the stated aims of CCNet, based perhaps on the presumed sagacity
of what the moderator optimistically likes to call "Earth's mischievous
children", is to further "the development of a planetary civilization
capable of protecting itself against cosmic disasters" (from a web site,
reportedly somewhere in the Hills of northern Georgia).

However, this optimistic outlook, and the future success of the mission,
may have become doubtful very recently according to a CCNet letter Jan
2, 2002, by Larry Robinson, who quotes a top expert in the field of
orbital dynamics as saying: " lose track of an asteroid for which
we cannot exclude the possibility of an impact on our planet is a PROOF OF
THE STUPIDITY OF MANKIND,..." [capitals mine]. It is one of the benefits
of reading CCNet to learn THE WAY THINGS ARE.

A minor caveat: From having traveled in the orbital expert's country, a
better translation may be "proof of the fallibility of mankind." As
this would be a more lenient judgement, hope for CCNet to succeed in its
goals can be revived.



>From Worth Crouch <>

Dear Dr. Peiser:

After reading the latest article about comet Borrelly, I thought it
sounded strange when I read, "Comet Borrelly dishes out so much material
from its midsection -- some 2 tons every minute -- that it will likely
break in half within 10,000 years, says Laurence Soderblom, U.S.
Geological Survey researcher who led the imaging team." Consequently, I
tried to discover the mass of Borrelly and found that because of many
factors such as the following the mass was difficult to discover.

In the published article Observations of comet 19P/Borrelly with the
integral field spectrograph TIGER. By spectrograph TIGER.Festou M.C.,
Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (Toulouse, Fr, and Southwest Research
Institute, Boulder, CO, USA), Bacon R. (Observatoire de Lyon, Fr) and
Barale O. (Observatoire Midi- Pyrénées, Fr) they wrote, "If the behavior
of the comet were monitored along its orbit, it would then become
possible to precisely model the jet action on the nucleus resulting from
the of the nuclear gases, to derive the magnitude and orientation of the
resulting force that perturbs the comet motion and finally deduce the
mass of the nucleus." Thus, I realized that the mass had not yet been
determined, because the behavior of the comet was not monitored along
its orbit long enough. However, without determining the mass of Borrelly I
thought it strange that the comet had been calculated to break apart in
10,000 years.

Later in another article by Robert Britt (18 September
2000), he wrote, "In the comet, called LINEAR, the density of water was
no more than 30 kilograms per cubic meter, far less than the figure of
500 often assumed." Therefore, I concluded that if I used the asteroid
Asclepius, which is about 50 million tons, (0.4-kilometer) wide, and
about 1/20 the size of Borrelly, and if its' mass is used as an example
to extrapolate data for Borrelly the following calculations can be made.

Assuming that 1/2 of the 8 kilometer Comet Borrelly, or 4 kilometers, is
the proportional size/mass of Asclepius and with reference to LINEAR's
density of water at 30 kilograms per cubic meter then the following
should be true: 500,000,000 tons (min/2ton) (hr/60 min)(day/24hr)
(year/365 day) = 475 years would be the life expectancy of Borrelly.
However, that doesn't seem like a sound conclusion, consequently someone
has made the wrong calculations. As a matter of fact it seems that
Borrelly would have to have a mass of about 20 times 500 million tons to
exist 10,000 more years and break in half. However, I didn't say my
calculations were correct either.

I am baffaled,

Worth Crouch (Talako)


>From John Michael Williams <>

Hi Benny.

I found detailed specifications for the
Super-Kamiokande neutrino telescope in a
doctoral thesis by S. Kasuga (University
of Tokyo, 1998).

The catastrophic chain implosion last month
was of about 7,000 of the ~11,000 50-cm
photomultiplier tubes (PMTs). Essentially
all tubes in the water were destroyed while
the tank was being refilled after
maintenance. The damage may be viewed
at a site linked to

According to the Kasuga paper, page 27,
each PMT was designed to remain water proof
under 6 kg/cm^2 pressure. Presumably, this
is static pressure, which is to say, pressure
slowly applied and slowly removed, as would be
the case while filling or draining the tank.

The Super-K water tank is 42 m high, according to
Kasuga, p. 24.

One of the really beautiful features of the metric
system (once you get used to it), is the simplicity
of the rough conversion factors:  One atmosphere
of pressure is 1 kg/cm^2, and this is the pressure
exerted by a column of water 10 m tall.

So, the PMTs, which are huge in size and closely
spaced, almost abutting, are rated for 6 atmospheres;
those near the bottom of the tank are subjected to
about 4 + 1 = 5 atmospheres.  This is a safety factor
of only 1.2.

So, there were risks taken during design of the
telescope, and after several years of perfect
operation, the luck ran out. Estimates of
the repair cost are tens of millions of dollars,
and if a nearby galactic supernova's luck also runs
out (so to speak) in the next year or two, our
best instrument for mapping the supernova process
will be caught off line for repairs.

Now, is there anyone on CCNET who can clarify why
the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, instead
of just being burned out? What is the safety factor
of a building 400 meters tall, the constituents of
which, including nonsupporting members, are folded
to about 60 meters upon its collapse?
                     John Michael Williams


>From Alan Alford <>

Re: CCNet 135/2001 - 21 December 2001

I would like to point out that the 5th paragraph of the above article
(which would actually be the 6th paragraph if it were properly indented)
is quite incorrect and is not based on anything that I wrote in my book
or website, nor on anything that I said to Amelia Hill, the journalist
concerned. Where she got it from, heaven only knows. What she is
probably trying to say is that *comets* were seen during the period 427
BC to 347 BC. My theory is that the exploded planet myth was created
thousands of years before Plato's time as the result of ancient man's
experiences with comets and meteorites and his quasi-scientific
speculations about their origin. I do not claim that planets actually
exploded, nor do I claim that anyone actually witnessed a planet

Alan F. Alford


>From Andrew Yee <>

New Scientist

Claire Bowles, New Scientist Press Office, London
Tel: +44(0)20 7331 2751 or email

For peace and quiet, try the Moon

ASTRONOMERS are taking the search for somewhere quiet to work to new
extremes with a plan to put a radio telescope on the far side of the

The advantage of this unusual location is that the Moon would act as a
massive shield, protecting the telescope against radio emissions from
Earth. Astronomers could also listen to low radio frequencies that don't
penetrate the Earth's atmosphere.

Claudio Maccone, an astronomer at the Centre for Astrodynamics in Turin,
Italy, is assessing the concept for the International Academy of
Astronautics. He even has his eye on a plot of lunar real estate. A
100-kilometre-wide crater called Daedalus should provide enough space,
he says. The crater's 3-kilometre-high rim should also help block any
stray radio signals that creep around the Moon to the far side.

"I do believe this will be built," says Maccone, although he admits it
will probably take at least 15 years. Even if robots were used to build
the observatory remotely, it would cost billions of dollars and need the
backing of a large space agency like NASA or the European Space Agency.

By the time the telescope could be built, the area of the Moon that's
protected from radio waves is likely to be shrinking fast. This is
because as orbit space for telecommunications satellites gets used up,
they will have to be placed in higher orbits, so their radio emissions
will reach more and more of the Moon's surface (see Graphic [NOTE: Not
available - A.Y.]).

So Maccone also wants to give the region around the Daedalus crater some
form of protection status, to create a permanent quiet zone that would
be safe no matter what technology is developed in the future. "The far
side is in my opinion a unique treasure that should be preserved for
the sake of humankind," he says.

Setting up such a zone would probably be the responsibility of the
International Telecommunications Union, which allocates the rights
to use different radio frequencies. But it's far from clear whose
permission would be needed to build a permanent structure on the Moon.

Maccone is due to present the results of his study to the International
Astronautical Congress next October. If the plans are approved, the
first step will be to design a satellite probe to orbit the Moon and
check there really is a quiet zone.


Author: Duncan Graham-Rowe

New Scientist issue 5th January 2002


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