CCNet DIGEST, 5 February 1999

    Minor Planet Center

    Bill McGovern <>

    Ron Baalke <>



From Benny J Peiser <>

Further to the Editorial Notice on MPEC 1999-C03, which I posted on
today's CCNet DIGEST [below], I should make clear that an important statement
at the end of the MPEC was inadvertently removed. This statement
indicated that the notice was prepared (for printing in the Minor
Planet Circulars) already on February 2, 1999, i.e. before the IAU
General Secretary's statement about the withdrawal of Pluto as a
potential candidate for Minor Planet 10000. In other words, we need NEW
suggestions for suitable candidates other than Pluto for this

Benny J Peiser


From the Minor Planet Center

M.P.E.C. 1999-C03
Issued 1999 Feb. 4, 16:04 UT

The Minor Planet Electronic Circulars contain information on unusual
minor planets and routine data on comets. They are published on behalf
of Commission 20 of the International Astronomical Union by the Minor
Planet Center, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA
02138, U.S.A.



On 1801 Jan. 1 Guiseppe Piazzi discovered the object between Mars and
Jupiter that he called Ceres Ferdinandea, "the eighth planet".
Following the discovery a year later of a similar object, and in
subsequent years further objects in what might be termed the "Cisjovian
Belt", Piazzi's discovery eventually became known under either the name
Ceres or the symbol (1), where the numeral, originally placed inside a
complete circle, indicated that this was the first object found in that
region of the solar system. By 1849 the sequence of discoveries in the
region had reached (10), and 1868 saw the discovery of (100).  By 1923,
when (1000) was announced, the set of objects, while still mainly
members of that Cisjovian Belt (also known simply as the "Asteroid
Belt", or "Main Belt" of "minor planets"), also included objects that
approached within 0.1 AU of the earth or extended out to the orbit of

Next month, we shall pass (10000) in what is a collection of small
objects that are not obviously cometary (although three members do also
have well-documented dual status in the Catalogue of Cometary Orbits)
and travel around the sun in independent orbits (i.e., satellites are
excluded) that are well determined (i.e., with one exception that will
surely be eventually remedied, the positions of the objects are very
precisely predictable). Again, although the vast majority of the
objects are in the Cisjovian Belt, there are members that are at
perihelion significantly closer to the sun than Mercury or are at
aphelion beyond the orbit of Neptune. It has been traditional to have a
special celebration with each thousandth numbering. For example, (1000)
was named in honor of the discoverer of Ceres, (2000) in honor of the
discoverer of Uranus, (5000) in honor of the International Astronomical
Union and (6000) in honor of the United Nations. Obviously, it would be
appropriate to have some very special celebration to acknowledge

Most readers of these Circulars will be aware of recent discussions in
the press concerning a proposal that the number (10000) should be given
to Pluto. The principal reasoning for this is the recognition during
the past few years that Pluto was the first discovered and largest
known member of the "Transneptunian Belt" (sometimes called the "Kuiper
Belt" or "Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt") of small objects beyond Neptune that
possess some similarity, at least dynamically, to bodies in the
Cisjovian Belt. Although as many as 95 members (or possible members) of
the Transneptunian Belt are now listed, most of the orbital solutions
are very weak, and none of the bodies has so far been included in the
collection of those with "guaranteed" orbit determinations.  A few of
the discoveries from 1992-1994 are now
approaching this state, which will also allow them to receive
permanent names.

Although it is not unlikely that further Transneptunian Objects as
large as Pluto will be discovered in the future, Pluto obviously
holds a very special place in our appreciation of this new population,
and by assigning to it the number (10000), we should guarantee that
Pluto will be at the head of the Transneptunian list. It is also very
important to affirm that there is absolutely no implied "demotion" or
"reclassification" of Pluto from its position in the list of the
"planets" (or "major planets" or "principal planets"). Unfortunately,
many of the articles that have appeared in the press have accidentally
(or deliberately) misinterpreted this issue. As with (2060) =
95P/Chiron, (4015) = 107P/Wilson-Harrington and (7968) =
133P/Elst-Pizarro, where the choice of "minor planet" or "comet"
designation depends on the context, we are proposing that Pluto would
have dual status as a "major" and a "minor" body. Readers of these
Circulars, in particular, will appreciate that Pluto is sufficiently
fainter than the other major planets that it can be confused with many
other minor planets. We have in fact identified observations of Pluto
several times during the past couple of years in data reported by the
survey programs for Near-Earth Objects, and some astrometric observers
specifically report to us observations of Pluto.  There is currently no
outlet for publishing these observations.  It should be emphasized that
the number (10000) would be used only in the context of publishing such
observations or in matters directly related to Pluto's place in the
Transneptunian Belt.

Much has been made in the press that the IAU is "voting" on Pluto's
status, and at least one astronomical organization issued a press
release on the subject. Members of the public seem completely baffled
by this kind of attention. The question of relevance to the readers of
these Circulars concerns the numbering and naming of (10000). Indeed,
the IAU Small Bodies Names Committee has already been working on this
particular matter for the past month or so. Progress is slow and
uncertain, however, and there are some who think that democracy would
be better served by seeking opinions from a larger, but informed
community. The astronomers, amateur and professional, who contribute
material to these Circulars--astrometric observations, identifications,
orbit determinations--are such an informed community.

Accordingly, any reader with an opinion on the subject is invited to
e-mail it to us at the Minor Planet Center, preferably using the
address  Such a message could consist of a brief
statement such as "I approve (10000) Pluto" or "I do not approve
(10000) Pluto", although the value of the latter choice would be
augmented if an appropriate alternative suggestion were made for
(10000). Brief comments on the subject (preferably constructive)
would also be welcome, and writers are encouraged to identify
themselves. Modern bureaucracy rarely pays much attention to comments
from even an informed public, but since this issue is of concern
principally to our readers (more so, in fact, than to many professional
astronomers with little or no interest in solar-system astronomy who
just happen to be serving on a committee), we feel that it is
appropriate for us to solicit advice in this way. Your early response
is desirable. It is not necessary that you actually subscribe to these
Circulars in order to respond. Appropriate responses will be examined
and considered in connection with the deliberations by the Small Bodies
Names Committee by their deadline of Feb. 26.

Brian G. Marsden  (C) Copyright 1999 MPC    M.P.E.C. 1999-C03


From Bill McGovern <>


The Planetary Society
65 N. Catalina Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91106-2301 (626) 793-5100 Fax (626)
793-5528 E-mail:  Web:

For Release: February 3, 1999
Contact: Bill McGovern/Susan Lendroth

Planetary Society Awards Three New Gene Shoemaker NEO Grants

Three researchers have been selected to receive Planetary Society Gene
Shoemaker Near Earth Object Grants.  Named for one of the pioneers in
the field, the grants fund programs in the discovery and tracking of
near-Earth objects -- asteroids and comets with Earth-crossing orbits
that could impact our planet with devastating results. Special emphasis
is given to international and amateur observers.

Only about 5% to 10% of the estimated total number of one-kilometer or
larger objects that cross Earth's orbit have been discovered. "Although
the rate of NEO discovery has accelerated recently as new professional
survey programs have come on line, we are still shy of the widely
recommended rate needed to find 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger
than one kilometer within a decade," said Dan Durda, an asteroid
researcher at the the Southwest Research Institute's Boulder, Colorado
office, and coordinator of the Planetary Society's Gene Shoemaker NEO
Grant program. Even though various astronomical groups and NASA
advisory committees have recommended that discovery of NEOs be
accelerated, government support for searches and follow-up programs
remains modest.

The 1999 Gene Shoemaker NEO Grants, totaling $27,000 (US), have been
awarded to an international collection of researchers: Stefan Gajdos of
the Slovak Republic, Paulo Holvorcem of Brazil, and Frank Zoltowski of

Gajdos is a professional astronomer with the Institute of Astronomy in
Bratislava in the Slovak Republic.  His grant monies will be used to
upgrade his program's equipment and software, to fund needed computer
services, and to create a public outreach program.

Holvorcem, a teacher at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas in
Brazil, will use his Gene Shoemaker NEO Grant to upgrade automation of
equipment at his observatory, freeing a number of volunteer observers
to spend more time conducting data analysis and taking more exposures
during each observation session.

Zoltowski is an amateur astronomer who conducts NEO searches in the
small town of Woomera in the South Australian outback. Grant money will
enable Zoltowski to upgrade his charge-coupled device (CCD) camera,
improving his ability to detect NEOs in sky images and confirm their
orbits in a series of exposures.

A Swarm of Near-Earth Objects

Earth travels through a swarm of near-Earth objects of various sizes
and orbits.  Scientists have only recently begun to understand the
significant contribution NEOs have made to the evolution of Earth --
and life on our planet. It is now believed that impacts from comets and
asteroids have shaped the evolution of all planets in our solar system.

So far, more than 600 NEOs have been discovered; more than 280 of these
are larger than one kilometer across.  Scientists estimate, however,
that about 2,000 NEOs larger than one kilometer and 150,000 to 100
million objects larger than 100 meters in size exist.

NEOs have collided with Earth in the past with devastating results. The
Chicxulub crater off the north coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula was
created by an Earth-colliding meteor 65 million years ago, a globally
devastating event that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
Even relatively small objects impacting our planet or exploded in
Earth's atmosphere can wreak considerable havoc.

The Gene Shoemaker NEO Grants

Gene Shoemaker was a leader in the study of impact structures and an
advocate for NEO discovery and tracking programs before his death in
1997. Shoemaker was the first scientist to demonstrate that the
mile-wide crater in Arizona -- now known as Meteor Crater -- was the
result of a catastrophic impact by an asteroid 50,000 years ago.  Prior
to Shoemaker's work, Meteor Crater was believed to be the remnant of an
extinct volcano.

The Gene Shoemaker NEO Grants are awarded to amateur observers,
observers in developing countries, and professional astronomers who,
with seed funding, could greatly increase their programs' contributions
to this critical research.

Funding for the Gene Shoemaker NEO Grant program comes from the
Planetary Society's 100,000 members, whose voluntary dues and donations
permit targeted support of research and development programs in a
number of areas.

An international advisory group recommends candidates to receive the
grant awards. The advisory group includes grant coordinator Daniel D.
Durda, as well as noted near-Earth object scientists Dr. Richard Binzel
of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Clark Chapman, also
of the Southwest Research Institute, Dr. Andrea Carusi of the
Spaceguard Foundation, and Dr. Brian Marsden of the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory.

Society-Funded ROTSE Camera Images Gamma Ray Burst

The Planetary Society has funded many NEO efforts in the past,
including start-up money for the Robotic Optical Transient Search
Experiment (ROTSE) in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Operated by a team led by
Dr. Carl Akerlof of the University of Michigan and including
astrophysicists from Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratories, ROTSE recently made astronomical history on January 23,
1999, when it discovered an unusual transient optical signal in images
of the sky where a gamma ray burst had been reported just 22 seconds

ROTSE is a multipurpose instrument, designed to continuously map the
entire visible evening sky, collecting data that can be examined for
near-Earth objects, as well as variable stars and supernovas as they
occur. When a gamma ray burst occurs, such as the one detected by
orbiting satellites on the morning of January 23, ROTSE interrupts its
regular sky-mapping activity and automatically swings to the sky
coordinates provided by the satellites. In only a few seconds, ROTSE
began taking a new series of many images, capturing the first gamma ray
burst ever recorded in images.

Astronomers are not certain what produces gamma ray bursts, but
possible causes include the mergers of two neutron stars, two black
holes, a neutron star and a black hole, or the explosion of a so-called
hypernova, which is theorized to be a type of supernova or exploding


For more information, contact Bill McGovern or Susan Lendroth at (626)
793-5100 or by e-mail: (Bill) (Susan)

Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman founded the Planetary
Society in 1980 to advance the exploration of the solar system and to
continue the search for extraterrestrial life.  With 100,000 members in
more than 140 countries, the Society is the largest space-interest
group in the world.

Linda Wong
The Planetary Society
65 N. Catalina Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 793-5100
(626) 793-5528 (fax)


From Ron Baalke <>

I've been at Kennedy Space Center all week for the upcoming STARDUST
launch. I just got back from the launch pad, and everything is still on
schedule for launch in two days. The weather forecast is excellent.

The STARDUST project has sponsored an Educators Fellowship program,
where 26 educators from around the country are trained to give
workshops on comets, small bodies and on the STADUST mission. All of
the STARDUST Fellows were flown into Florida for a 3-day training
workshop, and are also invited to watch the STADUST launch.  One of the
Fellows selected is Martin Horejsi, whom many of you may recognize from
the (meteorite-)list.  All of the Fellows arrived yesterday, so I got
to meet Martin for the first time in person.  Last night, the workshop
training began, with presentations by Carolyn Shoemaker (of Comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 fame), Don Brownlee (STARDUST Principal Investigator
from the Univ. of Washington), Ken Atkins (STARUDST project manager),
Ben Clark (STARDUST scientist from Lockheed-Martin), and Steve Jones
(aerogel maker from JPL).  We've invited Paul Wild to the launch, who
discovered Comet Wild-2 in 1978 and will be visited by STARDUST.  Dr.
Wild arrived today and gave a lively talk to the Fellows today.  Fred
Whipple ("dirty snowball" theorist) has also been invited and will
arrive here tomorrow.

Ron Baalke


S. Chiba: A mathematical model for long-term patterns of evolution:
effects of environmental stability and instability on macroevolutionary
patterns and mass extinctions. PALEOBIOLOGY, 1998, Vol.24, No.3,


A simple mathematical model to examine the relationships between
environmental instability and long-term macroevolutionary trends is
presented. The model investigates the evolutionary changes that occur
in certain population characters in an environment with physical
disturbance. These quantitative genetic characters are related to
intrinsic growth rates and mean carrying capacity. The model assumes
that individual fitness is determined by these characters. I examine
the likelihood of extinction under different degrees of environmental
instability and for rapid change of environmental instability. The
model suggests that characters that promote a high intrinsic growth
rate and a low carrying capacity tend to evolve in the most unstable
environments. This suggests that small body size, high fecundity, and
simple forms evolve in unstable environments. The extinction
probability of a population is the lowest for taxa possessing
K-selected characters in the most stable environment. However, the
extinction probability of a species (metapopulation) becomes lowest
for r-selected species living in the most unstable environment and
for the K-selected species living in the most stable environment, and
it becomes the highest for taxa living in a moderately unstable
environment. Increasing environmental instability changes the
extinction probabilities of different taxa in different ways, due to
differences in phenotypes and environments. The effect of
environmental change is most serious for the K-selected taxa in the
most stable environment. This also suggests that a continuously
stable environment increases the extinction probability of taxa when
environmental change occurs. Although catastrophic changes in
environments are not presumed, these results are consistent with the
existence of two 'macroevolutionary regimes' in which a taxon's
extinction rate and its characters differ for mass extinction and
normal extinction. Mass extinction can occur as a result of long-term
adaptation to a stable environment following a minor change of
environment without catastrophes. Copyright 1998, Institute for
Scientific Information Inc.

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