CCNet DIGEST, 11 February 1999

    Ron Baalke <>

    Jonathan TATE <>

    Richard A Kowalski <>


    Steven Young <>


From Ron Baalke <>

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

Contact: Jane Platt (818) 354-0880


What's the significance of February 11, 1999 for Pluto?

On February 11, Pluto will move farther from the Sun than Neptune,
regaining its status as the most distant planet in the solar system.
JPL astronomers calculate that it will take place at 2:08 am Pacific
Time. Pluto will maintain its title of "most distant planet" for the
next 228 years. Neptune has been the farthest planet for the past 20
years (since February 7, 1979).

Why is Pluto sometimes the farthest planet from the Sun, and other
times the second-farthest planet from the Sun?

Unlike the other planets in our solar system, Pluto has a highly
elliptical orbit, completing its journey around the Sun every 248
years. Thus, Pluto's distance from the Sun varies. Most of the time,
Pluto is the farthest planet from the Sun, but for a short time during
its orbit, Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune.

Any chance Pluto and Neptune will collide when their orbits cross on
Feb. 11?

No chance at all. Pluto goes around the Sun twice for every three times
Neptune orbits the Sun. Because of this fact, Pluto and Neptune's
positions relative to each other repeat every 497 years. They will
never be close to each other when Pluto is crossing the same distance
from the Sun as Neptune is, and therefore, a collision can't happen.
The high inclination of Pluto's orbit relative to the other planets
also contributes to keeping them apart.

Why is there controversy about Pluto?

In some ways, Pluto is different. It's much smaller than the four inner
planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) and it doesn't fit in with the
four gas giant outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune).
Pluto's diameter is 1, 430 miles, making it less than half the size of
any other planet, and only two-thirds as big as Earth's Moon. Pluto's
orbit is much more tilted and elliptical than the other planets. Some
scientists believe Pluto should not be called a planet at all (sic).
They feel it should be put in the same category as Kuiper Disk objects,
icy worlds smaller than Pluto that lie in the "same neighborhood" as
Pluto and Neptune, and even beyond. These objects may be leftover
debris from our solar system's early formation. But Pluto is spherical
and it does orbit the Sun. Although this controversy has come up on
occasion, Pluto is still classified as a planet.

What else do we know about Pluto?

Pluto was discovered on February 18, 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, who
studied photographic plates taken of the night sky through a Lowell
Observatory telescope. Pluto's moon Charon was first found in 1978.
Pluto is made from a mixture of rocky and icy material, and it appears
to have seasonal changes, but we don't know much else about it.

Does NASA plan further studies of Pluto?

Observations from ground and orbiting telescopes will continue to glean
some information from 4.5 billion kilometers' distance (about 2.8
billion miles). Detailed study requires a close-up look. A mission
called Pluto-Kuiper Express, managed by JPL, would fly past Pluto and
its moon Charon, and study Kuiper Disk objects. The mission would
launch in 2004, and would take about ten years to reach its destination.


From Jonathan TATE <>

Dear All,

Well, it’s been some time since you heard from Spaceguard UK.  Yes, we're
still going strond, so here goes with a brief update of how things are

As a member of the Board of Directors of the Spaceguard Foundation I
will be working hard to ensure that this becomes a great opportunity to
spread the Spaceguard message worldwide.

I am hoping/expecting to give a presentation to the new Parliamentary
All Party Astronomy & Space Environment Group in the near future.  This
is a new political group that has been set up in Westminster by Lord
Tanlaw, with backing of around 45 politicians including Tam Dalyell of
Labour and David Atkinson of the Tories.  I am hoping that this might
be a good “intro” to some influential individuals.

The generous donation from Sir Arthur C. Clarke will be used to
purchase a digital projector, so that the regular presentations that I
give to clubs and organisations around the country will no longer
depend on my increasingly uncertain ability to borrow equipment from

I have recently made contact with the Jordanian Astronomical Society
(JAS) and the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences (AUASS).  I
think that there is a fine opportunity here to generate significant
interest, on behalf of both the Foundation and Spaceguard UK, in the
Arab world.

As a student of the Open University I find it slightly ironic that I am
about to participate in the filming of an OU television programme!  I
gather that a number of you have already met Michael Peet, the
producer. What is he like?

I have already mentioned (in Impact) Bill Napier’s cracking novel
“Nemesis”. Do find it – it’s well worth it!  On a more modest note, I
have a chapter in Patrick Moore’s 1999 Astronomy Handbook.  It’s short
enough to read in Smiths! I am also hoping to have the afterword in
Austin Atkinson’s new book (title unknown, but published by Virgin).  I
intend to write more articles for popular magazines to spread the word
(and boost the coffers a bit).

On a personal note, I will soon be actively seeking employment outside
the services (anybody know anyone who wants to employ a rather good
guided missile instructor?!).  This has nothing to do with Spaceguard
(except that the day job interferes with Spaceguard matters), but with
the deteriorating quality of life and career prospects in the Army. 
Actually, my Spaceguard activities have not helped the situation with
my employers, but I assure you that Spaceguard UK will not feel any ill
effects.  Anyway, after 25 years as a soldier, I suppose it’s time to
grow up!

If there are any points that you feel need amplification, or if you
have any comments or ideas on the way forward, please do let me know. 
I really don't want to run a "one-man-band"!

All the best

Jay Tate


From Richard A Kowalski <>

To aid the advancement of the field of minor planet research and the
collaberation between amateur and professional, there will be a
workshop for the active minor planet researcher. This workshop will be
held on April 23rd and 24th, 1999 at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff,
Arizona, USA. A reception will held on the evening of April 22 and a
dinner will be held on Friday, April 23rd.

The intent of this meeting is to provide an outlet for discussion and
collaboration between the amateur and professional communities. It is
hoped that this workshop will strengthen the ties between these related
groups and result in better understanding of this field of research.

The first day will be devoted mainly to questions of astrometry,
including: the scope of the follow-up problem, follow-up strategies,
astrometry techniques, and how best to organize the amateur efforts,
plus a review of on-line resources available to amateurs, and how
amateurs can obtain grants. The second day will cover questions of
photometry and photometric techniques.

You can find out more about the workshop as well as registering for it
by visiting it's homepage at:


Robert Millis,  Lowell Observatory
Ted Bowell,  Lowell Observatory
Dennis Di Cicco,  Sky & Telescope
Paul Comba,  Prescott Observatory
John Rogers,  Camrillo Observatory
Roy Tucker,  Goodricke-Pigott Observatory
Brian Marsden,  Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Richard Kowalski, Quail Hollow Observatory
Alan Harris,  Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Arne Henden,  US Naval Observatory
Charles Wetterer and Slavko Majcen,  US Air Force Academy
Walter Worman,  Moorhead State University
Kenneth Zeigler,  Destiny School, Globe, AZ
Brian Warner,  Palmer Divide Observatory
Lawrence Garrett,  A.L.P.O.
Brian Skiff,  Lowell Observatory


There is a call out for Contributed papers as well as Poster
presentations. If you will be attending, please consider contributing
to the workshop as well. The request for Contributed papers and Poster
presentations can be read at:


Registration for the workshop is now being accepted. The fee is $35
(U.S.) and will increase to $45 on March 15th. This fee will cover the
reception to be held on Thursday evening, April 22, four coffee breaks
during the workshop, a registration kit, and the  proceedings of the
workshop. The fee does not include two optional buffet style lunches at
$10 each, or the optional Friday dinner at $25.

Registration fees may be paid in the following manner. Personal and
Cashiers Check's should be made payable to "Lowell Observatory"
and mailed to:

"Minor Planet Workshop"
Lowell Observatory
1400 W. Mars Hill Rd.
Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards will also be accepted, but
a hard copy of the amount, card number and signature *must* be mailed
or FAXed to Lowell Observatory.  A registration form can be found at
the bottom of this announcement as well as at:
More information and a registration form are available at:


From <>
forwarded by Larry Klaes <lklaes@BBN.COM>

I am excited to report that the SETI JOURNAL(tm) -- a peer reviewed
journal on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence -- will begin
publication in the Fall of 1999. This is an electronic journal, with no
subscription charges, sponsored by SETINOW. The journal will be posted
on the web as a URL in http format.

A formal announcement is scheduled in May of 1999.

I have been asked--and have accepted -- the role of editor; and have
done so only if this position does not preclude my own peer-reviewed

I am grateful to my colleagues at SETINOW for making the resources
available for this journal, and the brave decision to publish it freely
on the web, so that many people in many disciplines will have access to


From Steven Young <>

Get some tips on how to view this summer's solar eclipse. Hear a top
NASA scientist talk about making the Red Planet more like Earth.
Browse the latest astronomy wares.

European AstroFest '99 opens in London on Friday, February 12, at
Kensington Town Hall and continues on Saturday. The annual
conference, now in its seventh year, is a popular gathering for
armchair astronomers, students, professionals and anyone with an
interest in astronomy and space.

This year's conference speakers include NASA's foremost eclipse
expert Fred Espenak, who has been studying and chasing solar eclipses
around the world for more than two decades.

"European AstroFest is the best place to learn how to experience the
first solar eclipse in 75 years visible from mainland Britain," said
Pam Spence, editor of Astronomy Now magazine, which sponsors the
conference. "This will be the last solar eclipse of the millennium
and people in Britain will be able to see it. It's an incredible
opportunity to learn more about this once-in-a-lifetime event."

Also featured is NASA scientist Chris McKay, who has just returned
from an expedition in the Antarctic as part of his ongoing research
on Mars-like environments. McKay will talk about the prospects for
finding life on Mars and also discuss proposals to revive the
long-dead planet and make it suitable for human habitation.

More than 40 stands will display the latest telescopes, computer
software, books and other tools and tips for star-gazers throughout
the two-day show. A planetarium will offer visitors a tour of the
night sky and on Saturday there will be a chance to see a model of
Britain's proposed Mars probe.

The European AstroFest '99 exhibition will be open from 9am to 6pm
Friday and Saturday, with two conference sessions scheduled each day.

Information about the conference and exhibition is available on the
Internet at

Contact: Steven Young
Tel:  (01732) 367542

Note to editors: The European AstroFest '99 conference and exhibition
is open to the press. Please call 01732 367542 to obtain
accreditation. Kensington Town Hall is located in Hornton Street,
London W8 7NX. Nearest Underground High Street Kensington (District
and Circle Lines).


* The Leonids: results and forecasts
Following the perihelion of the meteor stream parent, Comet
55P/Tempel-Tuttle, early last year, November's Leonids were awaited
with much interest. A meteor storm to rival those seen in history was
considered an outside possibility for the night of November 17-18,
1998. In the event, the Leonids took us all by surprise, providing a
broad interval of very high rates and many bright meteors - but no
storm! - several hours ahead of expectations. Observers in the UK saw
the best of the display, and the talk will cover some results from the
ongoing The high activity of November 16-17 last year does not,
meanwhile, preclude the occurrence of a stronger display around the
peak of the 1999 Leonids. Indeed, there are good reasons - as will be
discussed - to hope that very substantial Leonid rates will occur
this year.

* Terraforming Mars
Human exploration of Mars will probably begin with a small base manned
by a temporary crew, a necessary first start. But exploration of the
entire planet will require a continued presence on the Martian surface
and the development of a self sustaining community in which humans can
live and work for very long periods of time. This could lead to efforts
to recreate a habitable climate on Mars, returning it to the
life-bearing state it may have enjoyed early in its history. Our
studies of Mars are still in a preliminary state but everything we have
learned suggests that it may be possible to restore Mars to a habitable
climate. Terraforming Mars would involve a combination of technology
and biology. Its ultimate goal would be the creation of a
self-sustaining biosphere on Mars.

* The amateur revolution
The lecture will cover the many advances in technology available to the
modern amateur astronomer. The first part will demonstrate the direct
comparison between prices of computers available today and those of
computers from a decade ago as well as demonstrating the huge leap in
technology. The lecture will be split into several sections covering
the following: CCDs - acquisition of images, image processing,
tricolour and RGB techniques, as well as briefly explaining the new
adaptive optics equipment available to amateurs; Software - covering
some of the popular packages available to amateur astronomers; Film
scanning and digital manipulation techniques - improving astro
photographs; Video/computer editing - the merger of video and computer
processing techniques; The Internet - uses of the Internet by amateur

* Astronomers' lives and astronomers' wives
The English astronomical community in the last century was largely made
up of 'Grand Amateurs' and a handful of professionals. But what we
often forget is that this was an amazingly open community in which
wives, sisters and daughters were often involved. It was a highly
social world, where in addition to the RAS, astronomers came together
at dinner parties, country house parties, and the British Association 
jamboree meetings, where ladies were an accepted part of the company.
Victorian scientific wives and other female relatives were probably the
most informed in Europe and when one reads the diaries of Lady Airy,
Lady Herschel, Mrs Sarah Callis, Mary, Countess of Rosse, Mary Ward
and, of course, Mrs Caroline Hershel, one realises how remarkably
informed about science these and many other ladies were. And following
the founding of the Liverpool Astron. Society (1881) and the BAA (1890)
women received their first full membership of astronomical societies.
One finds a very different and much more scientifically aware view of
Victorian womanhood than the more orthodox histories lead us to believe.

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CCNet LETTERS, 11 February 1999

    Mark Kidger <>

    Scott Manley <>


From Mark Kidger <>

Just to put the on-going debate on asteroid number 10 000 in context,
it is interesting to look at how previous 1000s have been delt with.

Starting with 1000, special names have been found for each landmark
asteroid: (1000) Piazzia - for Piazzi ; (2000) Herschel; (3000)
Leonardo; (4000) Hipparchus; (5000) IAU; (6000) United Nations; (7000)
Curie; (8000) Isaac Newton. Each marks a special body or scientist. To
date number 9000 has not been named, although no doubt it will follow
in the same tradition.

The debate has thus been over how to find a sufficiently grandiose
name, or gesture for asteroid 10 000, in the tradition of these
previous "millennium" bodies. Similarly, the body should mark in some
way the 198 years of discovery and observation of minor planets and the
thousands of people who have participated in this wonderful
international effort. The suggestion that a planet, Pluto, should be
used for number 10 000, was made largely to celebrate Pluto's highly
unusual nature and status. It also had the added benefit that it would
allow number 10 000 to be a far more important object than the faint,
tiny rocks which make up the majority of new numbered objects. I
suspect that many people will think that naming a 21st magnitude rock
of around 5km diameter with so much ceremony is perhaps a little

Despite the very public debate it is interesting to see that the vote
on whether or not Pluto should be asteroid 10 000 did give an almost
2:1 majority in favour. This suggests that the community of astronomers
is not as divided over the issue as some sectors of the press have made
out. The public vote on a name for asteroid 10 000 actually even
follows in the tradition of Pluto. The name Pluto was chosen by Clyde
Tombaugh and his colleagues at Lowell Observatory after counting up the
many hundreds of suggestions received from the public, because no
consensus could be reached amongst the astronomers. Pluto was the most
voted of the eligible names and the suggestion is formally credited to
an eleven year old English schoolgirl!

With several weeks remaining to the February 26th deadline, there is
still a  chance that an astronomer, or a member of the public, may come
up with a name that fires the imagination.. That person's name and
suggestion will go down in history. Alternatively, one name may turn
out to be suggested by a substantial number of people and thus become
"the people's choice", thus solving this very delicate problem. If not,
rather than a rushed decision, it might be nice to wait and think about
this issue again. Given the strong support for (10 000) Pluto in the
vote and the lack of a really convincing alternative, perhaps we ought
to hope that the issue of 10 000 is left open on February 26th. After a
suitable cooling-off period, the issue can be re-addressed later,
perhaps in the summer.


From Scott Manley <>

For those of you who spent the whole of Armageddon laughing at the
liberties taken with science you might be interested to note that the
film has been sufficiently groundbreaking in the visual effects world
to earn itself a nomination for Best Visual Effects in this years
Academy Awards.

I know the asteroid was one of the less realistic creations of the year
(how do you create an eroded valley on an asteroid with no water?) but
the visual effects oscar is usually for the films which bring the
impossible to the movie screen. Armageddon is competing against 'What
Dreams May Come' and 'Mighty Joe Young' in the Visual Effects category.

Armageddon has also been nominated for Best Sound, Best Sound Effects
Editing and.... ahem.... Best Original Song for Aerosmith's "I Don't
Want To Miss A Thing".

Deep Impact failed to gain nominations for anything...(thankfully IMHO)

As an Addendum to the list of possible honours that Armageddon has been
nomimated for by AMPAS, I have the flip side of the story... the
Nominees for the Razzle Awards.... And Armageddon once again
established its ability to polarise audiences between loving and

Armageddon finds itself competing with The Avengers, The Spice Girls,
Godzilla and Alan Smithee for the dubious Honour of 'Worst Picture'.
Bruce Willis is nomiated for worst actor for his contributions to
Mercury Rising, The Siege and ... Armageddon. Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck
are nominated for Worst Screen Couple while Ms Tyler gets a nomination
all to herself for Worst Supporting Actress.

Director Michael Bay is also Dishonoured, and screenplay writers
Jonathan Hensleigh and J.J. Abrams find themselves shortlisted for the
Wrost Screenplay Razzie.

And last, but not least.... Aerosmith's "I Don't want To Miss a Thing"
is a possible contender for Worst Original Song.

All in all, Armageddon has 4 Oscar nominations, and 8 Razzie

Scott Manley (aka Szyzyg)
Armagh Observatory

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