CCNet DIGEST, 22 January 1999

    BBC News Online

    John Kalina <>

    Ron Baalke <>

    THE TIMES, January 22 1999

    Peter Jenniskens <>

    N. Muscettola et al., NASA, AMES RES CTR

    C.Q. Duan et al., YUNNAN UNIVERSITY


From The BBC News Online

Pluto will have 'dual citizenship'

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Pluto's status as a planet seems safe following calls that it is not a
true planet and should be downgraded.

The argument is that Pluto, discovered in 1930, is so small and out of
place in its distant orbit around the Sun that it cannot be classified
as a proper planet.

Instead, it should be viewed as the largest member of a recently
discovered swarm of objects orbiting the Sun in deep space.

But Gareth Williams at the Minor Planet Centre in Massachusetts, which
has the responsibility for cataloguing the orbits of solar system
objects, says that the idea is not to demote Pluto but to give it "dual

Pluto, he says, should be a planet and the leading member of this new
group of objects.

New objects

Since the discovery of minor planet Ceres in 1801 astronomers have
found thousands of minor planets orbiting the Sun, chiefly between the
orbits of Mars and Jupiter but increasingly in other parts of the solar

Since 1992 small objects, made of rock and ice up to a few hundred
kilometres in size, have been found orbiting at a great distance from
the Sun. These are the so-called Trans Neptunian Objects (TNOs).

At the current rate of asteroid discovery, number 10,000 will come any
day now. This being the case, some astronomers say there is an obvious
breakpoint that would allow the TNOs to be numbered.

As I understand it, the plan is to make Pluto asteroid number 10,000
and the first TNO, previously designated 1992 QB1 could be called
Asteroid 10,001.

Reaching asteroid 10,000 does lend itself to ceremony, particularly as
the Minor Planet Centre has traditionally arranged a celebration every
1000 asteroids. According to Brian Marsden, director of the Minor
Planet Centre, this would be a wonderful ceremonial gesture.

Odd planet

This dual classification for Pluto underlies its remarkable nature.
Many times in the past there have been calls for the reclassification
of Pluto - now it seems more so than ever.

According to Johannes Andersen, president [general secretary, BJP] of
the International Astronomical Union, the body that names celestial
objects, we need a better definition of a planet than an object that
the ancients saw moving in the sky.

Astronomer Nevile [Mark, BJP] Kidger says that for some time now it has
become obvious that the outer solar system needs to be tidied up. This
is partly because there are a whole sub-class of TNOs with similar
orbits which are called - Plutinos - little Plutos - which, it seems,
are similar to their big brother in all but their size.

But of the known TNOs, Pluto is still about a factor of 100 more 
massive than any other, apart from its satellite Charon and Charon is,
by far, the second largest known TNO.

Stay with me

It is likely that Pluto and Charon make up more than 50% of the mass of
all the TNOs found to date.

Even so, Nevile [Mark] Kidger says the reasons for down-grading Pluto
are fairly convincing. It is now known that the mass of Pluto is only
about one fifth of the mass of the Moon and, as such, it is very hard
to claim that Pluto really is a planet.

On the other hand there is the view that Pluto's mass is ten or more
times the mass of Ceres, the largest asteroid.

Simply put, Pluto's claim to be a proper planet can be summed up by
saying that it is spherical, and if it were orbiting the Sun near to
the Earth there would be no doubt that it was a planet.

Members of the IAU have been expressing their opinions on Pluto's
status. According to Johannes Andersen there have been several votes
with no clear-cut result.

Whatever the outcome it seems clear that Pluto is a special type of
object, which may well deserve a special status.

Copyright 1999, BBC


From John Kalina <> [as posted on the meteorite-list]

I caught the tail end of a local TV news cast of a possible fall in
west central Minnesota. Seems it landed on a lake, or lakes smashing  a
hole (2-4 ft.dia) through the ice in at least one area. It happened on
atwater and foot lake near the town of Willmar. More information can be
had at or  Maybe another
false alarm.


From PIONEER PLANET, 21 January 1999

Roar, hole through ice leaves Atwater residents wondering about

ATWATER, Minn. (AP) -- An unusual hole in the ice of a lake,
discovered after an early dawn roar in the sky, is leaving
authorities in this west-central Minnesota town wondering if it was
caused by a meteorite.

A woman reported that after the roar rattled windows in her senior 
citizen apartment complex Sunday, she stumbled out of bed, peered out
the window and noticed a dark hole in the ice of Tadd Lake.

Atwater Police Chief Reed Schmidt said the woman was reluctant to
report the incident and insisted on remaining anonymous lest her
friends found out and questioned her sensibilities (sic).

Schmidt thinks the 2- to 3-foot hole was caused by an object that
plummeted from the sky and has called a geologist for advice.

He said it doesn't appear the object was a piece from an airplane. He
said the object must have been very hot when it landed because it left
no crash impact on the ice but made an "unusual imprint."

He said the level area of open water in the small lake has a "beautiful
star-shaped pattern" around the edges.

Atwater Fire Chief Greg Tauer said he was not very curious about the
mystery object until he saw the hole in the ice.

"Something from the sky made it," he said. "How did it get there? What
caused it? We want to find out what it is."

Tauer said unless somebody objects, divers from the Atwater Fire
Department are scheduled to dive into the hole at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"It's driving me crazy wondering what's there and not be able to see
it," Schmidt said. "But if it's something that's valuable for them
(geologists), I don't want to mess up their possibilities of finding

Copyright 1999, AP


From Ron Baalke <>

NEAR's Eros Flyby Movie
MPEG Movie (2.3 MB)

This movie shows the asteroid Eros as seen from the Near Earth
Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft on December 23, 1998, when NEAR
flew within 2320 miles (3830 kilometers) of the asteroid. Eros, a
very elongated, cratered object about 18 by 8 miles (30 by 14
kilometers) across, is seen rotating with a period of just over 5

The movie shows about two-thirds of a rotation of Eros. The first
view, taken at 10:44 AM EST from a range of 7150 miles (11,890 km),
shows about half of the dayside of Eros (phase angle 87). The movie
ends at 2:05 PM EST, just after closest approach, when only a tiny
portion of the dayside of Eros is seen (phase angle 119). During the
movie, the spacecraft's view of the asteroid changed dramatically. As
is the case with most asteroids, Eros is rotating uniformly about a
fixed axis, and is not tumbling randomly through space.

A firing of NEAR's main engine at 5 PM EST December 20, designed to
match the spacecraft's velocity with Eros's for insertion into orbit
around the asteroid, was aborted by the spacecraft. Contact with
ground controllers was temporarily lost, but was regained at 8
PM EST December 21 when autonomous spacecraft safety protocols took
over and transmitted a signal to the ground. All spacecraft systems
were determined to be healthy and operational. Within hours, a flyby
observation sequence was developed and uploaded to the spacecraft.
1026 images were acquired by the multispectral imager, to determine
the size, shape, morphology, rotational state, and color properties
of Eros, and to search for small moons. The infrared spectrometer
measured spectral properties of the asteroid to determine what
minerals are present, and the magnetometer searched for a natural
magnetic field. Analysis of the spacecraft radio signal during the
flyby yields bounds on the asteroid's mass and density.

The main engine was fired successfully on January 3, 1999, placing
NEAR on-course for a February 2000 rendezvous. Eros is NEAR's second
asteroid encountered. On June 27, 1997, NEAR flew by the main-belt
asteroid Mathilde at a range of 1212 kilometers (750 miles).


From THE TIMES, January 22 1999
'Son of Star Wars' targets rogue states' missiles

From Ian Brodie in Washington

IN A major shift of American policy, the Clinton Administration has
decided to develop a "Son of Star Wars" defence against missile attacks
by North Korea and other rogue nations.

President Clinton has written to President Yeltsin asking to
renegotiate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a bedrock of early arms
control agreements, so that America can build a limited national system
of missile defences.

Initial reaction from Moscow was discouraging. China also raised
objections. But in Washington, William Cohen, the Secretary of Defence,
said that if Russia would not agree to changes, America had the option
of simply withdrawing from the treaty on six months' notice.

The Administration will request $10.5 billion (6.4 billion) from
Congress over the next six years for the research, testing and
building of the new anti-missile defence system. "We cannot afford to
fail," Mr Cohen said. Washington's concerns were aroused initially by
a government commission that issued a warning of the rapid spread of
missile technology to such countries as North Korea, Iraq and Iran.

The caution was underlined dramatically last August when North Korea
launched a three-stage rocket called Taepo-Dong I that demonstrated a
potential for reaching the US mainland. "This is not an abstract,
theoretical threat," said the Pentagon's top officer, General Hugh
Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Rather, it was a real
threat that would pose a danger not only to American troops overseas,
but also to Americans at home.

In 1983, former President Reagan launched his Stars Wars programme to
build a national shield against Soviet missile attack. The project cost
$40 billion but never came close to reality. The concept of dozens of
missiles in space that could instantly intercept Soviet ICBMs was a
technical and software challenge that American scientists could not
crack. The new plan is modest by comparison. It envisages satellite
sensors to spot the exhaust of hostile missile launches immediately
after lift-off, but the interceptor missiles will be based on Earth,
not in space.

The network of early-warning radars - in Alaska, California and
Massachusetts - would track the flight path of any incoming missile.
Interceptors travelling at 25,000mph would home in on the missile and
destroy it by firing small rockets.

Copyright 1999, Times Newspapers Ltd.


From Peter Jenniskens <>

Please provide the information below to other interested parties.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


April 12-15, 1999
NASA/Ames Research Center,  Moffett Field, California


You are cordially invited to participate in an international workshop
at NASA/Ames Research Center to discuss the recent Leonid observing

The Leonid meteor shower has offered unprecedented opportunity to
address outstanding issues in Planetary Astronomy, Astrobiology, and
the dynamics of the upper atmosphere.

This workshop aims to bring that science in focus,  make a tally of 
observational data from the recent November 1998 observing campaign, 
and make recommendations for the next campaign in November 1999.

In particular, the workshop will discuss the first results from the 
Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign and related ground-based


- Abstracts are due: March 1, 1999
- Registration:      February 20  for foreign nationals
                     March 1  for US nationals

Automatic registration and submission of abstracts is available at:

More information: 

Preliminary program:

The meeting will be held in the ballroom of the NASA/ARC
Training Center at Moffett Field, California.

Monday April 12

09:00-12:00  Session on the role of meteors in creating the conditions
for life s origin on Earth
Related issues:  Astrobiology, atmospheric and surface conditions on the
early Earth, formation of planetesimals.

14:00-17:00  Session on comet grain ejection and meteoroid stream
Related issues: the activity of the shower in 1998,  Leonid meteoroid
influx, size distributions, and the satellite impact hazard.

17:00-18:00 News conference

17:00-20:00 Poster session and wine/cheese and buffet

Tuesday April 13

09:00-12:00 Session on  meteoroid composition and ablation
Related issues: morphology and wake of meteoroids,  organic matter in
IDPs, organic matter on planetary surfaces, composition of comets,
evaporation of silicates in proto-planetary environments.

14:00-17:00 Session on meteor-induced atmospheric chemistry
Related issues:  meteor physics, shock and impact chemistry, flash
pyrolysis of organic matter, upper atmosphere composition and

18:00-21:00 Group dinner 
Invited presentation: "meteors and sprites"

Wednesday April 14

09:00-12:00 Session on physics and chemistry of neutral atom debris
and particles
Related issues: implications for the dynamics of the upper
atmosphere, sprites, meteoric signature of stratosphere aerosols, the
ozone problem, and iron catalysis of precursor molecules for life. 

14:00-17:00  Plans and coordination for November 1999 Leonid MAC and
ground-based campaigns in the  form of presentation reflecting past
campaign and future plans (including presentations of capacity
available airborne platforms) followed by working sessions along
themes above

Thursday April 15

05:0-13:00 Site seeing tour
- balloon tour over Napa valley to commemorate historic balloon flight
  in 1870 that viewed meteor shower above clouds 


If you have not done so, do not forget to register for the Leonid Meteor
Storm and Satellite Threat Conference in Manhattan Beach, CA,
which is held between May 11-13, 1999. The conference focusses on
aspects of meteoroids and their effects on spacecraft.

Further information:
Peter Jenniskens      
The SETI Institute                    e-mail:      
NASA Ames Research Center                tel: (650) 604-3086
Mail Stop 239-4                          fax: (650) 604-1088
Moffett Field, CA  94035-1000
e-mail (attachments):

N. Muscettola*), P.P. Nayak, B. Pell, B.C. Williams: Remote Agent: to
boldly go where no AI system has gone before. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE,
1998, Vol.103, No.1-2, pp.5-47

Renewed motives for space exploration have inspired NASA to work
toward the goal of establishing a virtual presence in space, through
heterogeneous fleets of robotic explorers. Information technology,
and Artificial Intelligence in particular, will play a central role
in this endeavor by endowing these explorers with a form of
computational intelligence that we call remote agents. In this paper
we describe the Remote Agent, a specific autonomous agent
architecture based on the principles of model-based programming,
on-board deduction and search, and goal-directed closed-loop
commanding, that takes a significant step toward enabling this
future. This architecture addresses the unique characteristics of the
spacecraft domain that require highly reliable autonomous operations
over long periods of time with tight deadlines, resource constraints,
and concurrent activity among tightly coupled subsystems. The Remote
Agent integrates constraint-based temporal planning and scheduling,
robust multi-threaded execution, and model-based mode identification
and reconfiguration. The demonstration of the integrated system as an
on-board controller for Deep Space One, NASA's first New Millennium
mission, is scheduled for a period of a week in mid 1999. The
development of the Remote Agent also provided the opportunity to
reassess some of Al's conventional wisdom about the challenges of
implementing embedded systems, tractable reasoning, and knowledge
representation. We discuss these issues, and our often contrary
experiences, throughout the paper. (C) 1998 Published by Elsevier
Science B.V.


C.Q. Duan*), X.C. Gan, J. Wang, P.K. Chien: Relocation of civilization
centers in ancient China: Environmental factors. AMBIO, 1998, Vol.27,
No.7, pp.572-575


China is a country with a long history of civilization. Its
civilization centers re-located from the plains of the lower
and middle reaches of the Yellow River to the basin of the lower
watershed of the Yangtze River. This paper analyzes the ecological
environmental background of the changes of the civilization centers
established in the main dynasties and regimes in ancient China, in 
which the dynamics of population, farmland, forest, and natural
disasters for each period are emphasized. The relationship between
environmental degradation, wars, and social development cycles, are
also discussed. The results show that anthropogenic environmental
impact was one of the decisive contributing factors leading to the
relocation of the centers of civilization in ancient China. It is
suggested that the rise and fall of ancient civilizations in China and
other countries provide modern societies with important lessons
for environmental protection.

The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe, please
contact the moderator Benny J Peiser at <>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational
use only. The attached information may not be copied or reproduced for
any other purposes without prior permission of the copyright holders.
The electronic archive of the CCNet can be found at



    David Hughes <>

    Duncan Steel <>

    Michael Paine <>

    Steve Zoraster <>

    Gene Milone <>

    Jeremy B. Tatum <UNIVERSE@UVVM.UVic.CA>


From David Hughes <>

Dear Benny,

What defines a planet ?

This is a typical question that I ask my first-year astronomy students,
and I hope that they are going to think physics/ chemistry before
answering. So at the back of their mind they have ideas like position,
mass, composition, luminosity, age, and so on. Most of these qualities
are unimportant but, in very strict order we have

(1) position:  a planet is on an independent orbit around a star.

I think the words 'independent' and 'star' are very important. So Ceres
was quickly demoted, in the early 19th century, to the status of 'minor
planet' not only because it was a mere 930 km across, but also because
it was found to be just one of a huge family of objects on similar

Pluto is not only small but is also just one of a large collection of
objects that are caught in a 2:3 resonance with Neptune. So Pluto
started down the slippery slope from planethood in 1978 when Charon was
discover and accelerated on its way as more and more Kuiper-Edgeworth
objects joined the catalogues. It goes without saying that Ganymede,
Titan and Triton are not planets, simply because they are not orbiting
the Sun.

(2) mass:
   (a) A planet is less massive than a star.

Here we start our first argument because I usually choose a limit
of about 1/50 the mass of the sun as the upper dividing line. So
planets are objects that have never had any hint of nuclear fusion in
their central regions, and are less massive than brown dwarf stars.

  (b) a planet is more massive than a minor planet.

Here again one tends to be somewhat arbitrary but I think a dividing
line at about 1/25 the mass of Earth is about right. So Mercury, at
1/18 the mass of Earth has few problems.

Getting back to Pluto, my money is on 'escaped satellite'. I put it in
the same group as the large rocky-icy bodies such as Ganymede, Titan,
Triton etc. But please don't ask me how it got away from Neptune, or
when the primary body tor itself apart to form the Pluto-Charon
binary. I just do not know.

Jeremy Tatum is being somewhat disingenuous in asking the term 'planet'
to be defined without reference to objects that have been called
'planet' in the past. We all know that Earth, Jupiter, Saturn etc are
planets, because that is the term we have always applied to them. The
word is Greek for wandering star, and this is just what out ancesters
thought they were. As far as I am concerned Pluto is not a planet,
simply because it is not similar enough to the objects like Earth,
Jupiter, Saturn etc.

All the best,

Dr David  W. Hughes.


From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

Jeremy Tatum quite correctly writes, in connection with the furore over
the status of Pluto, that "the word 'planet' has to be defined".

The word is derived from an ancient Greek term meanings 'wanderer'. To
those people (and, more significantly, to the Middle Eastern
civilizations) the 'wanderers' were the seven visible PLANETS (by
this definition): Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, MOON and SUN.
It was through reinforcement between the Jewish seven-day sabbath cycle
and the astrological planetary week (those SEVEN planets) that our
present seven-day week came about, through an evolutionary process
occurring between about 600-100 BC. The ascendancy of the seven-day
over the Roman eight-day week (the nundinae) came later, starting from
the onset of the Roman era in Egypt and culminating in Constantine the
Great's edit of AD 312 that it was appropriate that one day in seven
be set aside for rest and worship.

I will not advertize my book again here (but it's all in there!)

Leaving that aside, it is clear that the meaning of the word 'planet'
has changed. We have excluded the Sun and the Moon from that group.
Thus there is a precedent for altering the implicit meaning of the term
AND the composition of the group of objects so encompassed. Do not
interpret that, though, as necessarily implying that I support the
notion of 'downgrading' Pluto.

Duncan Steel


From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny,

Re: A Tunguska-type event in 1867? (CC Digest 19 Jan 1999)

I share Rob McNaught's skepticism about the 1867 Nepean River flood
being caused by an impact-generated tsunami. The Nepean River has a
large catchment which includes the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney.
It then meadanders across the low plains around Penrith (some 40km
inland) before passing through the Hawesbury River gorges and reaching
the ocean north of Sydney. The topography is therefore conducive to
severe flooding around Penrith - and it happens every few decades. I
would think rainfall records around 1867 would settle the issue by
showing there was exceptionally high rainfall in the Nepean catchment at
the time of the flood.

Some points of interest are:

*For a tsunami to reach that far inland it would need to be at least
100m high at the coast - as Rob has pointed out, such a tsunami would
have certainly been noticed by Sydneysiders!

*Even a 10m tsunami at the coast is highly unlikely. I estimate that a
Tunguska-size event (around 10 to 20 Mt TNT) would need to impact
within 100km of the coast in order to cause a 10m tsunami (assuming a
tsunami run-up factor between 10 and 20) - an atmospheric explosion so
close to Sydney would certainly have been noticed.

* The work of Ted Bryant and colleagues at the University of Wollongong
suggests that the south coast of New South Wales was hit by a large
tsunami in the early 1700s, just before white settlement. The cause of
this tsunami is unknown but does not seem to be impact-related (it is
however, a clear reminder that the east coast of Australia is
vulnerable to tsunami and therefore is at greater risk from impacts
than inland locations).

* If an exceptionally high rainfall is found to be the cause of the
1867 flood (coincidentally, torrential rain is falling in Sydney as I
type this email!) then consideration should be given to the possibility
that this was impact related. Even though a Tunguska-style event over
an ocean now seems unlikely to be the cause of significant tsunami it
still might cause regional or even global weather perturbations.
Evidence of recent impacts will need to be gleaned from many sources
and Timo Niroma is doing a great job in this respect. He quite clearly
put the Australian tsunami hypothesis forward as speculation only and
the outcome does not affect the main issue - the possibility of an
impact event in 1867 deserves greater study.
(see for tsunami
information and calculations).

Michael Paine
New South Wales Coordinator
The Planetary Society Australian Volunteer Coordinators


From Steve Zoraster <>

Dr. Peiser:

One question. Has anyone thougth about a possible relationship between
those very large figures marked off on the ground in the Andes, which
can only be viewed in full from an airplane, and cosmic impacts? I
suddenly started thinking that those figures might be roughly
equivalent to people in the 20th century putting a red cross on a
hospital ship; what they  are trying to say is, "Hey, there are people
down here. Whoever is up there bombarding us, please stop!"

Steven Zoraster


From Gene Milone <>

All well and good, but (considering one of your minor asides),
Christians do not consider 'heaven' a myth, unless you are including an
Anglican bishop or two. If you mean to be pejorative here, that is your
privilege, but it scarcely helps make your case.

- gene milone

MODERATOR'S NOTE: It's difficult enough for astronomers to define what
a 'planet' is. Can I kindly ask list members to refrain from debating
the meaning of 'heaven'. Let's stick to observable things, shall we?


From Jeremy B. Tatum <UNIVERSE@UVVM.UVic.CA>

All of us, I think, must be very grateful to Benny Peiser and
appreciative of the huge efforts he must put in to provide us with the
fascinating daily peisergrams.


When they first began to appear they were mostly of rather more
specialized interest to those who were engaged in research on
asteroids, meteors or impacts.  Gradually the scope has expanded
to take in more and more topics, many not remotely related to the
the original field or not even related to astronomy.  We have politics,
science fiction, alien space-travellers being zapped by gamma-ray
bursters, and a whole bunch of stuff like that. I find more and more
these days that I am pressing the ERASE key on my computer the moment
the peisergrams arrive;  there is simply too much material, much of it
only marginally scientific or even pseudoscientific, and there simply
is not time to wade through it all.

I wonder if other of Benny's loyal customers feel that way and would
welcome a return to a more focussed topic.

Jeremy B. Tatum

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I plan to conduct an e-mail survey in early February
in order to find out what list members think about the current CCNet
and possible changes to its format. In the meantime may I point out
that the areas of research interest and scientific topics discussed on
the CCNet are still the same as those listed some two years ago:

* The British School of Coherent Catastrophism
* Punctuated Evolution and the Mass Extinctions Debate
* Historical Catastrophism & Civilisation Collapse
* Cosmic Impacts and the Origins of Life
* Assessing the Impact Hazard
* Towards Planetary Defense & a Planetary Civilisation
* The social and cultural Implications of Neo-Catastrophism on
  Science, Philosophy & Religion

That's quite a long list, I agree, but I haven't even mentioned
football which crops up from time to time - and that despite the
looming Manchester United vs. Liverpool match on Sunday.....

CCCMENU CCC for 1999