CCNet 12/2001 - 25 January 2001

"For the first time it looks as if a major natural threat to humans
and other living things could be largely overcome - provided that we
can first actually discover and plot the orbits of most of the
dangerous asteroids. We can then predict when and where individual
impacts might occur 10 or even 100 years ahead, in good time to take
--Harry Atkinson, Chairman of the UK Task Force on
Near-Earth Objects

"The Labour peer Lord Winston warned last night of an international
crisis in science, levelling the blame at protesters such as the fuel
lobby, arts graduates, the press, and even fellow scientists. [...] Lord
Winston said the growing suspicion of science put Britain's economic
growth put in jeopardy, and lambasted the press for printing "absolute
nonsense" on stem cell research. He highlighted "single issue protest
groups" as a particular threat, accusing such groups of distorting public
opinion via "manufactured protest". He accused scientists of being too
reluctant to engage with the media."
Chris Hughes, The Independent, 24 January 2001

    SPACE UK, Journal of the British National Space Centre, January

    SpaceDaily, 25 january 2001

    The Times of India News Service, 25 January 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Irving Robbins <>

    Sirko Molau <>

    Duncan Steel <>

    Hermann Burchard <>


     Roy Tucker <>

     Andrew Ferguson Nimmo <>

     The Independent, 24 January 2001


From SPACE UK, Journal of the British National Space Centre, January 2001

Last January, the Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, asked a distinguished
three man team to report back to the British National Space Centre on the
nature of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) - asteroids or comets that come close to
the Earth and the potential threat they pose. The Task Force was also asked
to consider how the United Kingdom could best contribute to international
research efforts concerning NEOs.

The Task Force was chaired by Dr Harry Atkinson, formerly of the Science and
Engineering Research Council (SERC) and past Chairman of the European Space
Agency's Council. He was joined by Sir Crispin Tickell, a distinguished
diplomat who has played a prominent role in dealing with
environmental issues, and Professor David Williams of University College
London, a former President of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Their NEO Report was published last year and is available on the internet at

Could you give me a little bit of background? Is this the sort of area that
you've been involved with before?

No, I've never previously had anything to do with NEOs although I've been
involved with astronomy since 1972, when I was invited to come back to SERC
to head Astronomy and Space, after 3 years in the Cabinet Office.

Were you surprised when you were asked to be in this Task Force?

Yes indeed, but I was also rather pleased at the chance of being involved in
what promised to be a most interesting subject. None of the task force
members knew much about NEOs - even David Williams, because his field of
astronomy is very different from this. We all started off being a bit
sceptical - we wondered whether the threat (from NEOs) should be taken
really seriously.

As I understand it, you came to the conclusion that it should be?

Absolutely, I soon learnt that asteroids and comets had been hitting the
Earth ever since it was formed over 4 billion years ago. The ice in the
comets brought water and the asteroids brought carbon - together the
building blocks of life on the Earth. These collisions are bound to
continue. It's not a question of whether we will be hit again, but when.
Although the probability of a major impact is very small, the consequences
are extremely large.

You made 14 recommendations. I wonder if you could pick out some that you
consider to be particularly important?

They're all important, but they can be divided into two types. First, those
about the telescopes and so on needed to increase our scientific
understanding of the threat, and secondly those concerned with the
organisation required for the science and for possible actions - in Britain,
within Europe and internationally.

On the science side, building a 3 metre-class telescope in the southern
hemisphere with other countries is extremely important, so that we can learn
more about the risk from small objects, down to 300 metres in diameter or
even less. The US, mainly through NASA, is at present leading the world in
the discovery and understanding of near Earth asteroids and comets. This
followed a request in the 1990s from the US Congress, who take the matter

US astronomers have already discovered about 50% of the estimated 1000 or so
asteroids over 1 km across which could cause catastrophic global damage. But
300 metre asteroids are much more numerous and can cause great damage on a
regional scale. If a 300 metre object hit the sea - the most likely place,
as water covers two-thirds of the Earth's surface - the large tsunami (tidal
wave) created would have very serious consequences on the coastlines of
countries many thousands of miles away.

These smaller NEOs are not being surveyed systematically by the US, so our
proposal, if implemented, would take the understanding of the NEO risk into
a new realm.

On the organisational side, we recommend that the Government should discuss
with other governments what should be done on a worldwide basis about the
threat, which concerns us all. And we recommend that Europe as a whole
should consider what should be done collectively and in collaboration with
the United States and other countries.

In our view it's also most important that Britain sets up a national centre
of expertise for NEOs. This should provide a means of communicating with the
public in Britain about the risks in a sober, open sort of way. It would
also advise the Government and help to link with other countries and
international organisations.

We've also seen that there are things that could be done in the long term to
divert a potentially dangerous asteroid or comet from hitting the Earth, and
these things should be studied with other countries. This is not science
fiction - right now a NASA spacecraft is orbiting an asteroid (Eros), which
calls on quite a lot of the technology required to deflect an asteroid.

For the first time it looks as if a major natural threat to humans and other
living things could be largely overcome - provided that we can first
actually discover and plot the orbits of most of the dangerous asteroids. We
can then predict when and where individual impacts might occur 10 or even
100 years ahead, in good time to take countermeasures.

Your recommendations obviously have financial implications. Did you look at
these at all?

Our task was to advise how Britain should contribute to an international
effort. We were not asked to look at costs. But when we'd reached our
conclusions, it was clear that our prime scientific aims could be achieved
with relatively modest expenditure - largely with ground-based telescopes,
often by using small amounts of time on existing telescopes, or using data
gathered for quite different purposes by future ESA space science missions.

For the 3 metre telescope, a keystone of our science recommendations, we
propose a partnership with other countries, so the UK would only have to pay
a fraction of the cost.

But I understand one of the recommendations suggested using microsatellites
to look at NEOs as well?

Yes, we said that the use of small, relatively cheap microsatellites should
be seriously considered with other countries. There is no doubt that this
would bring a new dimension to understanding the nature of different types
of asteroid and comet, and be important in assessing the risk and
considering how to mitigate it. We also noted that the UK, partly through a
group at the University of Surrey, has considerable expertise in this field.

I might add that the UK is generally very well placed to play an important
role in an international context, not only because of our scientists and
technologists and the excellent telescopes to which we have access, but also
through our high tech industry.

What has been the reaction to your report?

It has been received extremely well by the UK media. And the report has been
well covered by the media on the Continent and in other countries including
Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The media have taken this seriously. What
really impressed me was the lack of the so-called "giggle factor" which the
subject often generated in the past.

Lord Sainsbury has welcomed our approach and has said that he will give the
government's conclusions by the turn of the year [I understand that HMG's
response is now expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks, BJP].
Every indication is that that our recommendations will be taken seriously,
and I hope for a really positive response.

Dr Harry Atkinson was born in New Zealand. He was attached to the Cabinet
Office in the early 1970s, on the staff of the Chief Scientific Adviser,
where his tasks included reviewing all governmental activities in
environmental pollution. Subsequently, in the Science and Engineering
Research Council his responsibilities included astronomy and space. This
involved UK co-operation with other countries in many space science
missions, and in ground-based astronomical facilities in Australia, South
Africa, Hawaii and La Palma. He helped to set up the European Synchrotron
Radiation Facility at Grenoble and the six-nation EISCAT radar facility in
the Arctic Circle. For a number of years until 1999 he was Chief Scientist
of the British insurance industry's Loss Prevention Council.

Copyright 2001, BNSC


From SpaceDaily, 25 january 2001

by Worth F. Crouch (Talako)

Hope - January. 25, 2001. The development of space flight and nuclear
explosive technology seem to verify the argument that there is an upward
spiral of intellectual evolution on Earth. Although some other terrestrial
animals exhibit a degree of intelligence only human beings can build
machines capable of interplanetary flight, and have invented nuclear
weaponry that can be designed to temporarily protect the Earth from
catastrophic cosmic bombardments. Moreover, since October 1996 technological
societies have learned how symbiotic life is by utilizing the enclosed
laboratory Biosphere 2, operated by Columbia University outside Tucson
Arizona. While living in the Biosphere it was discovered that humans can not
exist long in an isolated environment without many of Earth's living
organisms, or for that matter nonliving variable factors to sustain them in
an ecosystem.

Moreover, in order to avoid extinction from minor cosmic catastrophes
mankind can use actualized scientific knowledge to protect its' world by
sending rockets with nuclear warheads to intercept incoming comets or
asteroids. However, animal and plant populations must eventually be
dispersed to other planets, or space habitats, that have been terraformed,
to avoid major cosmic catastrophes that will cause extinction.



From The Times of India News Service, 25 January 2001

Space technology for agriculture soon

BANGALORE: The advantages of applying space technology in agriculture will
come to the fore when the Agro-Climatic Planning and Information Bank (APIB)
project will be put into operation during the forthcoming kharif season in
July in three districts of Bijapur, Tumkur and Shimoga.

APIB is a pilot project taken up by the Regional Remote Sensing Satellite
Centre (RRSSC) to compile a comprehensive information helpful to the farmers
in their day-to-day agricultural activities through satellite mapping.

It includes strength of the soil, quality and quantity of manure component,
irrigable land, seeds and manure that could be used and the all-important
climalogical parameters.

Speaking to The Times of India, APIB Project Director P.P. Nageshwar Rao
said the project undertaken at the instance of the Planning Commission in
three districts at a cost of Rs 50 lakh was completed last month and its
operational service will begin in July.

``It took 30 months to complete the project which is the first of its kind
in the country,'' he added.

According to Rao, the information will help the agriculture department to
plan its cropping pattern and the quantity of fertiliser required besides
the likely yield to evolve methodology for its marketing.

``Now that we have a methodology to compile the information, we need less
than two years to complete the satellite mapping of the entire state which
will likely to cost Rs 12 crore to Rs 15 crore,'' he added.

According to Rao, the RRSSC adopted remote sensing and global information
system methods to compile the data while the information collected manually
from various agencies helped them to compare and come out with a
decision-support system.

``About 70 agricultural officers have been trained to download the data and
feed it into the web. They will in turn train their subordinate personnel.
However, RRSSC officers will also be present during the operation to take
care in case of any eventuality," he added.

Copyright 2001, The Times of India


From Andrew Yee <>

Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick,, 314-935-5272


Study suggests Venus could have been wet planet

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, studying hydrous mineral
decomposition rates at extreme temperatures, have concluded that hot and dry
Venus may have been a wet planet in the past, like Earth and ancient Mars.

The new evidence suggesting a wetter Venusian history comes from a series of
experiments documenting the chemical stability of tremolite for several
billion years at temperatures similar to that of Venus' surface, about 740
Kelvin or roughly 870 degrees Fahrenheit (F).

Tremolite is a mineral that forms in the presence of water. If tremolite or
some other hydrous mineral can be detected on the surface of Venus, then it
can be concluded that Earth's once-wet neighbor lost its water over time,
putting to rest an enduring question in planetary science.

Graduate student Natasha M. Johnson and Professor Bruce Fegley, Jr., Ph.D.,
of the Planetary Chemistry Laboratory in Earth and Planetary Sciences at
Washington University, reported their findings in the paper "Water on Venus:
New Insights from Tremolite Decomposition," Icarus, 146, pp. 301-306, July,

"Ours is the first study that investigates hydrous mineral decomposition
rates with applications to Venus," says Johnson. "We have shown that
tremolite can withstand extreme temperatures and remain intact for billions
of years. If we can go to Venus and find tremolite, or some other hydrous
mineral, then we would have proof that Venus had water in its past."

Indirect evidence that Venus had water in the past is found in its high
deuterium/hydrogen (D/H) ratios. If the high D/H ratios are the result of
lighter hydrogen (deuterium is a heavier form of hydrogen) escaping Venus'
atmosphere to space, then it is possible that Venus had water in the past.
But the D/H ratio of Venus varies relative to that of Earth, and comets and
meteorites can also have high D/H ratios, so other types of evidence of
water are needed.

Johnson and Fegley's research on the decomposition rate of tremolite shows
that the evidence is in the rocks. "We want to know if it is worth our time
to go to Venus and look for minerals that have water in them," says Johnson.
"When you go backpacking, you want to know where you are going and what you
need to carry. These experiments are laying the foundation, and saying,
"Hey, should we, or should we not, bring a parka?" Should we be looking for
hydrous minerals on Venus or is it a waste of time?"

Johnson and Fegley conducted over 200 experiments, heating samples of
tremolite in laboratory furnaces at temperatures of up to 1240 Kelvin (about
1770 degrees Fahrenheit) for as long as 20 months, periodically weighing
them to document the amount and rate of decomposition.

Tremolite, an amphibole, and other hydrous minerals contain OH (hydroxyl
groups as part of a lattice holding these minerals together. Amphiboles are
formed when lava and magma interact with water. In the case of tremolite, it
is a metamorphic mineral generally found in dolomitic-type limestone.
Amphiboles are thermodynamically unstable and according to theory should
decompose rather quickly at high temperatures.

But Johnson and Fegley's experiments indicate that tremolite is much more
stable than previously thought, and would take about 4 billion years to
decompose by half in conditions similar to Venus' surface. "Diamonds are a
good analogy for what is happening with tremolite," says Johnson. "Diamonds
are unstable at the surface of the Earth; graphite is the stable form. But
you don't see diamonds popping into little chunks of graphite on people's

If tremolite and other amphiboles formed on Venus at some time in the past,
they should be detectable using infrared reflectance spectroscopy and other
current technology.

The researchers also are measuring decomposition properties of other hydrous
minerals. Surprisingly little is known about these minerals with the
exception of those with commercial purposes like asbestos and other
insulators. "This research could give us some idea about the formation of
our solar system, and has applications on Earth for investigating
metamorphic regimes or subduction zones," says Johnson.


From Andrew Yee <>

News Office
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Deborah Halber, MIT News Office
(617) 258-9276,

JANUARY 24, 2001

   Mars magmas once contained a lot of water, researchers from MIT and U. of
Tennessee report

Finding suggests that volcanos helped bring water to the planet's surface
millions of years ago

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Evidence from a Martian volcanic rock indicates that
Mars magmas contained significant amounts of water before eruption on the
planet's surface, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, the University of Tennessee and other institutions report in the
Jan. 25 issue of Nature.

Scientists say that channels on Mars's surface may have been carved by
flowing water and an ancient ocean may have existed there, but little is
known about the source of the water. One possible source is volcanic
degassing, in which water vapor is produced by magma spewing from volcanos,
but the Martian rocks that have reached Earth as meteorites have notoriously
low water content.

This study shows that before the molten rock that crystallized to form
Martian meteorites was erupted on the surface of the planet, it contained as
much as 2 percent dissolved water.

When magma reaches the planet's surface, the solubility of water in the
molten liquid decreases and the water forms vapor bubbles and escapes as
gas. The process is similar to the release of gas bubbles that occurs when
you open a can of soda.

Although this doesn't explain how water got into Mars in the first place, it
does show that water on the red planet once cycled through the deep interior
as well as existed on the surface, as similar processes have cycled water
through the Earth's interior throughout geologic history.


Timothy L. Grove, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at
MIT, and University of Tennessee geologist Harry Y. McSween Jr. analyzed the
Mars meteorite Shergotty to provide an estimate of the water that was
present in Mars magmas prior to their eruption on the surface.

Shergotty, a meteorite weighing around 5 kilograms was discovered in India
in 1865. It is one of a handful of proven Mars meteorites that landed on
Earth. It is relatively young -- around 175 million years old -- and may
have originated in the volcanic Tharsis region of the red planet.

Its measured water content is only around 130-350 parts per million. But by
exploring the amount of water that would be necessary for its pyroxenes --
its earliest crystallizing minerals -- to form, the researchers have
determined that at one time, Shergotty magma contained around 2 percent
water. They also have detected the presence of elements that indicate the
growth of the pyroxenes at high water contents.

This has important implications for the origin of the water that was present
on the surface of the planet during the past. This new information points to
erupting volcanos as a possible mechanism for getting water to Mars's


In the interior of Mars, hot magma is generated at great depth. It then
ascends into the shallower, colder outer portions of the Martian interior,
where it encounters cooler rock that contains hydrogen-bearing minerals.
These minerals decompose when heated by the magma and the hydrogen is
released and dissolves in the magma.

The magma continues its ascent to the surface of the planet. When it reaches
very shallow, near-surface conditions in the crust, the magma erupts and its
water is released in the form of vapor.

The magma holds the water-creating hydrogen as the rock circulates
underneath the crust. It undergoes changes as it moves from areas of
enormous heat and pressure to cooler areas nearer the surface. When it
finally erupts through a volcano, the magma releases its water in the form
of vapor.

Grove recreates Mars and moon rocks in his laboratory for these studies. By
subjecting synthetic rocks to conditions of high temperature and pressure,
he can tell how much water was contained in magma at the time that its
crystals were formed. "What my experiment can do is estimate how much water
was involved in the process that led to the formation of Mars meteorites.
The only way you can reproduce the unique chemical composition of these
minerals is to have water present," he said.

Other authors on the Nature paper include McSween's graduate student, Rachel
C. F. Lentz; Lee R. Riciputi of the chemical and analytical sciences
division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Jeffrey G. Ryan, a geologist at
the University of South Florida; and Jesse C. Dann and Astrid H. Holzheid of
MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

This work was partly supported by NASA.


From Irving Robbins <>

DPS PRESS RELEASE - January 24, 2001


On December 20, 2000, NASA announced that it would be soliciting proposals
for a mission to the Pluto-Charon system and the Kuiper Belt beyond to
arrive at Pluto by 2015. The formal announcement of opportunity was released
January 19, 2001. Proposals are due on March 21, 2001.  Although this is not
a guarantee that NASA will fly this mission, the Division for Planetary
Science (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society applauds NASA's
initiative in opening the
process of developing a Pluto mission to the innovative ideas of the
Planetary Science community and allowing open competition to help ensure a
cost effective solution for this mission rather than to cancel it. The
extreme tilt of Pluto's rotational axis is causing more of its surface to be
in constant darkness as its orbit carries it further away from the Sun. Its
very thin atmosphere will at some point freeze out, precluding its study. Optimal
conditions for studying Pluto and its moon Charon in situ will not return
for 200 years. In its press release of November 16, the executive Committee
of the DPS called for increased competition and external peer review for all
missions as a proven mechanism for seeking the most performance and return
at reasonable cost. While this will be a very challenging mission to develop
on a short schedule, it will be our best chance for centuries to visit and
study the last unexplored planet in our solar system.

Contact:  Dr. Mark V. Sykes
  DPS Chair

From Sirko Molau <>

AKM Video Meteor Observations 2000 - Summary

The last year was a very successful one for the video observers in the
German Arbeitskreis Meteore. 8 (1999: 5) observers recorded in 239 (1999:
120) nights and 2301.3 hours (1999: 1002.4) effective observing time an
overall of 11,659 (1999: 6,476) meteors. In other words: The outcome of last
year could be doubled. 239 observing nights is a coverage of almost 2/3 of
the year!

There are three camera stations (Aachen, Dresden, Marquardt) which supplied
observations in all twelve months. The other stations were only part-time
operated. About 1/3 of the observing time was supplied by Juergen Rendtel
and Sirko Molau, the last third was contributed by the remaining observers.
Ulrich Sperberg had to give up already in January when his image intensifier
broke down. As soon as the new AKM video cameras will be ready, his station
Salzwedel will become active again. Because of poor camera parameters, the
video system of Detlef Koschny recorded only very few meteors in the first
months. In August, however, it got a new fast wide-angle lens and yielded
similar detection rates as the other cameras from then on.

Table 1 gives the detailed statistics of operation times for all
participating video observers. RENJU and MOLSI operated their systems in
virtually every clear night, even if skies cleared only briefly. Hence, the
different number of observing nights reflects better weather conditions
especially in the cold months in east Germany. On the other hand, the image
intensifier of AVIS is more powerful than that of CARMEN, resulting in a
better limiting magnitude and more meteor records. Whereas CARMEN detected
an average of 3.8 meteors per hour, it was 6.3 meteors per hour for AVIS.

Table 1: Operation Times of the AKM Video Cameras 2000

Observer         Camera        Primary Site   Nights Time [h] Meteors
Juergen Rendtel  CARMEN        Marquardt        158    811.7   3,085
Sirko Molau      AVIS, ESCIMO  Aachen           146    709.9   4,507
Mirko Nitschke   VK1, VK2      Dresden           62    290.6   2,021
Ilkka Yrjola     NONAME        Kuusankosi        34    172.5     631
Joerg Strunk     FAMOS         Leopoldshoehe     26    149.0     858
Detlef Koschny   ICC           Noordwijkerhout   20    113.2     386
IAP team         IAP1          Kuehlungsborn      4     38.3     139
Ulrich Sperberg  ADAM          Salzwedel          2     16.1      32
Overall                                         239   2301.3  11,659

Table 2 shows the monthly distribution of observations. Ignoring August, the
number of cameras operated each month was almost constant. The main weather
situation is best reflected by the observing time: March and July provided
extremely poor conditions, whereas in April and since August 20 and more
nights could be used for observations each month. On top of the list are
August and September.
The Perseids are well reflected in the number of meteor records. However,
there is some bias since during major meteor showers more cameras than usual
are operated. The last column gives the average number of meteors per hour
for the two cameras operated in every clear night (AVIS, CARMEN). Here we
can clearly see the annual variations in meteor activity.

The year starts relatively slow (the Quadrantids 2000 were clouded out).
Shortly thereafter meteor actitivy reaches it's absolute minimum without any
major shower in February and March. Despite the Lyrids not much happens in
April. The May data are biased by our eta-Aquarid expedition to Jordan, but
at least in June increasing meteor activity becomes evident. Due to the
short nights, this is not reflected in the absolute meteor counts, however.
By July activity has reached the all-year average thanks to a number of
minor showers, and briefly thereafter we have the annual maximum in August
caused by the Perseids and their long activity period. Meteor counts drop
briefly in September, but recover in October again thanks to the Orionids,
Taurids, and increased sporadic rates. The remainder of the year stays
active, even though we missed both the maxima of the Leonids and Geminids in

The net effect of all factors (duration of night, global weather situation,
meteor activity) is that more than 80% of all meteors were recorded in the
second half of the year. Our video data show also clearly the daily
variations in meteor activity. On long winter evenings it may happen, that
there is not one meteor detected in one hour, whereas in the morning hours
there are typically more than ten meteors per hour.

Table 2: Monthly Distribution of Video Meteor Observations 2000

Month      Cam Nights Time   Meteors Met/Hour
January     5    17   190.8     679    3.2
February    3    16   137.1     391    2.8
March       4     9    52.4     101    2.0
April       5    21   182.4     429    2.4
May         4    19   107.4     342    3.4
June        3    19    93.5     286    3.2
July        5    14    60.5     339    5.1
August      8    27   342.2   2,997    8.6
September   5    28   339.2   1,601    4.9
October     5    20   217.3   1,321    6.5
November    6    25   259.9   1,354    5.3
December    5    24   318.6   1,819    6.4
Overall    10   239  2301.3  11,659    5.0

*  Dipl.-Inform. Sirko Molau                  *                          *
*  RWTH Aachen, Lehrstuhl fuer Informatik VI  *              __          *
*  Ahornstr. 55, D-52056 Aachen, Germany      *       " 2B v 2B "        *
*                                             *                          *
*  phone: +49-241-8021615                     *             Shakespeare  *
*  fax  : +49-241-8888219                     *                          *
*  email:     *                          *
*  www  :       *



From Duncan Steel <>

Japanese meteorite finds in Antarctica story:

>A meteorite is a meteor that survives the destructive effects of a flight
>through the atmosphere and falls to the ground whole or in pieces.

No: A meteorite is a meteorOID that survives the destructive effects of a
flight through the atmosphere and falls to the ground whole or in pieces.

The term 'meteor' (synonym 'shooting star') refers to the phenomenon seen in
the atmosphere when a meteoroid arrives. The term, then, covers the flash of
light seen, or the train of ionisation produced, and so on. It does NOT
refer to any solid object, either in space or on the ground.

This is according to the IAU definitions of terminology (common dictionaries
may say something different, but specialist subjects require specialist
jargon). In 1995 Martin Beech and I proposed that the definitions should be
modified slightly:

M. Beech & D. Steel, "On the definition of the term 'meteoroid'," Quarterly
Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, 36, 281-284 (1995).

The major point we were making, however, was not related to the meteor
versus meteoroid confusion. We were concerned with the fact that advancing
technology (i.e., NEO detection with CCDs pioneered by Spacewatch) had led
to the point where the IAU definition of 'meteoroid'
was (and still is) inadequate, the point being that it had become possible
to detect solid objects smaller than 100 metres in space, and so it becomes
necessary to decide where asteroids start, and meteoroids begin. Our
suggestion was an arbitrary dividing line at 10 metres (larger is an
asteroid - or a minor planet in IAU parlance - while smaller is a

Similarly one needs to define a lower size limit for meteoroids, our
suggestion being 100 microns, as it is about there that solid particles
survive entry without melting/ablating, and so do not produce meteors.  Such
tiny particles may be called 'interplanetary dust', and 'micrometeorites'
when they reach the ground.

Duncan Steel


From Hermann Burchard <>


The SPIEGEL Article about a powerful meteor explosion on 8 Nov 1999 over
Northern Germany was recorded by microbarometers, meant for nuclear test

the SPIEGEL article, you can get the full text from there for posting on
CCNet. It's in English. Below are publication date, volume #, and abstract,
and here is the URL.

Best regards,

   Hermann G.W. Burchard
   Dept. of Mathematics
   Oklahoma State University
   Stillwater, OK 74078-0613
   (405) 744-5690/5688 (office)
   (405) 377-8919


Listening to sounds from an exploding meteor and oceanic waves.
L.G. Evers and H.W. Haak, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute,
Seismology Division, de Bilt, the Netherlands

Received June 12, 2000, revised September 29, 2000, accepted October 5, 2000

Low frequency sound (infrasound) measurements have been selected within the
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) as a technique to detect and
identify possible nuclear explosions. The Seismology Division of the Royal
Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) operates since 1999 an
experimental infrasound array of 16 micro-barometers. Here we show the rare
detection and identification of an exploding meteor above Northern Germany on November
8th, 1999 with data from the Deelen Infrasound Array (DIA). At the same
time, sound was radiated from the Atlantic Ocean, South of Iceland, due to
the atmospheric coupling of standing ocean waves, called microbaroms.
Occurring with only 0.04 Hz difference in dominant frequency, DIA proved to
be able to discriminate between the physically different sources of
infrasound through its unique lay-out and instruments. The explosive power
of the meteor being 1.5 kT TNT is in the range of nuclear explosions and
therefore relevant to the CTBT.


From Roy Tucker <>

"In a nutshell, Pluto likely would not be considered a planet if it
were discovered today," said Bernie Walp, an assistant for the
Extrasolar Planetary Search team at Berkeley.

Dear Dr. Peiser,

I've heard planets defined as dark bodies that shine by reflected
light. Jupiter radiates more energy than it receives from the sun, although
it shines in the infrared where our eyes are not sensitive. So, if Pluto is
not a planet because of its size, then neither is Jupiter. If Jupiter had
been discovered today by some infrared telescope out in the distant Oort
cloud, would we be arguing about what it was, planet or failed star? Has
poor old Pluto become politically incorrect?

Best regards,
  - Roy Tucker, asteroid observer


From Andrew Ferguson Nimmo <>

Dear Dr Peiser,

I was astonished to read in today's CCN in "(2) SIZE MAKES ROCK STARS DIM"
that the answer to Olbers' paradox is "because the Universe is not old
enough for the light from most of the stars in it to have reached us yet."
Have they thrown out the Big Bang Theory? - Or is it Einstein's
Relativity that has been thrown out?

If the Universe is not old enough for the light of most stars to get here,
then the material in all of those stars must have shot out of the big bang
faster than light, otherwise its light would have reached us by now. I must
admit, I've never been too happy with Big Bang Theory, but
in this instance I suggest it might be better to throw out that answer to
Olbers' paradox.

Also, on the Kuiper Belt objects, if these were captured from time to time -
as I have suggested here for other Solar System objects on an earlier
occasion - then the problem of lack of light simply wouldn't arise. We have
no proof that everything in our Solar System was created

Best wishes, Andy Nimmo.


From The Independent, 24 January 2001

By Chris Hughes

The Labour peer Lord Winston warned last night of an international crisis in
science, levelling the blame at protesters such as the fuel lobby, arts
graduates, the press, and even fellow scientists.

Addressing the annual dinner of the Bioindustry Association, an umbrella
group representing the biotechnology industry, Lord Winston also hinted that
the Government might consider putting a label on drugs saying they had been
possible only thanks to animal testing. "Maybe that's something that
Parliament might be considering," he said.

Lord Winston said the growing suspicion of science put Britain's economic
growth put in jeopardy, and lambasted the press for printing "absolute
nonsense" on stem cell research. He highlighted "single issue protest
groups" as a particular threat, accusing such groups of distorting public
opinion via "manufactured protest".

He accused scientists of being too reluctant to engage with the media. "Who
put their head above the parapet last week?" he asked, referring to the
funding crisis at Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Lord Winston closed his speech saying that arts graduates couldn't change a
"light bulb" and that he would vote against a ban on fox-hunting, "the thin
end of the wedge".

Copyright 2001, The Independent

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