CCNet, 22/2000 - 17 February 2000


     "Innumerable suns exist; innumerable earths revolve
     around these suns in a manner similar to the way the
     seven planets revolve around our sun. Living beings
     inhabit these worlds.”
        -- Giordano Bruno, On the Infinite Universe and Worlds,
           published in 1584

     "Together with two other respected astrophysicists Hoyle
     systematically reviews the evidence for the Big Bang theory, and
     gives it a good kicking. Even if you don’t buy into their claims
     for the Steady State theory (and you'll need to be comfortable
     with advanced mathematics even to make a down-payment), it's hard
     not to be the impressed by the audacity of the demolition job.
     [...] I don't expect the vast majority of astronomers to pay the
     slightest attention to Hoyle and his colleagues: frankly, there
     are too many careers riding on the Big Bang being right.
     Even so, I can only hope that I possess one-thousandth of Hoyle’s
     fighting spirit when I, like him, have reached my 85th year."
          -- Robert Matthews on Sir Fred Hoyle

    Ron Baalke <>

    Andrew Yee <>



    Larry Klaes <>

    [thank God Fred didn’t live 400 years ago!]
    The Sunday Telegraph, 13 February 2000

    J.K. Harmon et al., ARECIBO OBSERVATORY

    A.A. Christou & K. Beurle, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

    Michael Paine <>

     John Richfield <>

     Mayo Greenberg <>

     [a timely reminder for some overworked NEO researchers .....:-)]
     MSNBC, 15 February 2000


From Ron Baalke <>

Public Affairs Office
Naval Research Laboratory
Washington, D.C.

February 9, 2000

NRL Press Release 9-00r

NRL Instrument Makes First UV Observation of Meteor in Space

Scientists from the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) report that the
first ever far-ultraviolet (UV) image of a meteor has been obtained by
the Global Imaging Monitor of the Ionosphere (GIMI) instrument on board
the DoD Space Test Program's Advanced Research and Global Observation
Satellite (ARGOS). The image was taken on November 18, 1999, during the
annual Leonid maximum, which in 1999, lasted from November 16 - 18.

At the time of the exposure, the ARGOS spacecraft was about 20 deg
south of the equator, over the south Pacific Ocean; however, the
viewing direction (and the ARGOS altitude of 833 km) was such that the
meteor itself was much closer to the equator.

Dr. George Carruthers, NRL's GIMI principal investigator, reports the
scientific significance of the observation, saying, "To our knowledge,
this is the first observation of a meteor entry to the atmosphere in
the far-UV spectral range. Such an entry cannot be observed from
Earth's surface or from aircraft because of its absorption by the lower
atmosphere. Ground-based observations of meteors cannot detect many of
the important elements and compounds expected to be present in

"The first observation from space of a meteor, by GIMI in UV light,
adds another dimension to the handful of previous space observations of
meteors," notes Dr. Noah Brosch of the Wise Observatory and the
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Tel Aviv University in
Israel. Dr. Brosch explains, "Satellites view the Earth continuously
and rarely detect extremely bright fireballs. These detections are
mostly in the visible or near-infrared spectral domains. The GIMI
observation is the first such space experiment to be done in the UV."

Commenting on the practical application of this discovery, Brigadier
General (sel) S. Pete Worden, USAF Deputy Director for Command and
Control says, "As our civil, commercial and national security use of
space continues to increase, natural phenomena that can disrupt
satellite operations cause growing concern. The Leonid meteor storm is
such a phenomenon. NRL's impressive data promises to provide a unique
new tool to understand the true composition and structure of these
meteors. This is vital information if we are to predict and mitigate
future meteor-induced problems to our space operations."

Abundances of various elements and compounds found in meteors are known
to be highly variable among the types of meteorites which have been
recovered on the ground, but the latter are not representative of the
range of meteoroids as expected to be present in the solar system, since
only the most refractory and/or massive meteoroids survive entry to the
atmosphere. Once we have an opportunity to analyze our data and examine
other images for events of this type, says Carruthers, we may establish
the feasibility of using far-UV spectroscopic instruments to more
accurately measure the compositions of incoming meteoroids.

Because Earth's lower atmosphere strongly absorbs far-UV radiation in
the wavelength range observed by GIMI (131-200 nanometers, or 1310-2000
Angstroms), the scientific team estimates that in order to be observable,
the meteor had to have been at an altitude well above 100 kilometers.
Since its entry velocity was probably in excess of 60 km/sec (i.e. much
higher than Earth escape velocity of 11.2 km/sec), the energy was
probably available for producing emission in the far-UV at relatively
high altitudes, due to excitation of the atmosphere and/or meteoric

The most likely emission source, Dr. Carruthers says, is nitric oxide
(NO) which is produced and excited by dissociation of molecular
nitrogen and its subsequent reaction with atomic oxygen, producing
emission in the 190-200 nm wavelength range. However, if the meteor is
of carbonaceous composition, far-UV emissions of carbon monoxide (CO)
and atomic carbon may be produced as well.

GIMI is one of nine primary experiments on the ARGOS mission, which
launched into a polar orbit on February 23, 1999 to study space
weather. GIMI's principal objective is to obtain simultaneous
wide-field FUV/EUV images of ionospheric and upper atmospheric
emissions, covering large areas of the earth from a low-earth orbit.
The GIMI images will be used to determine chemical densities [O+,
nighttime O2, NO and N2] on a global basis and to detect disturbances
in the ionosphere that are caused by auroral activity, gravity waves
and foreign materials from meteors, suspected "ice comets," rocket
exhausts and chemical releases. In between the atmospheric
observations, GIMI is gathering data for an all-sky survey of stars and
data on celestial diffuse sources at far-ultraviolet wavelengths.

The GIMI instrument has two cameras for simultaneous observations of
selected targets. Camera 1, which is sensitive in the 75-110 nm ranges
is primarily being used for observations of the dayside ionosphere,
auroras, and stellar occultations, and for star field surveys. Camera 2
is sensitive in the 131-160 and 131-200 nm far-UV wavelength ranges and
is used for observations of the nightside ionosphere, airglow, stellar
occultations, star field surveys, and also gas releases and rocket
plumes at night.

Meteor image and caption, (99KB)


From Andrew Yee <>

From INSCIGHT, 16 February 2000

16 February 2000, 5 pm PST

How the Moon Found Its Orbit
By Govert Schilling

The most popular theory about how the moon formed -- as a result of an
apocalyptic collision between Earth and another object -- always seemed
to have a fatal flaw: It couldn't explain the moon's strange, tilted
orbit. Now, planetary scientists say that may not be a problem at all.
On the contrary, new computer simulations show that the tilted orbit
fits with the impact theory, researchers argue in the 17 February issue
of Nature.

Most planetary satellites in our solar system orbit within the
equatorial plane of their mother planet. But our moon lies in a plane
tilted 23 degrees with respect to Earth's equator. Calculations suggest
that the orbital tilt was smaller shortly after the moon's birth, some
4.5 billion years ago, but it still must have been at least 10 degrees.
That jars with the widely accepted theory that the moon formed after
Earth was hit by something the size of Mars. Afterward, the moon
coalesced from impact debris circling Earth in a dense disk. Previous
studies had shown that this process would give the moon an orbital tilt
of 1 degree at most.

Using computer models to simulate the interaction of the newly formed
moon with the remains of the debris disk, William Ward and Robin Canup
of the Southwestern Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, think they
have explained the 10 degree tilt. After the moon had formed at the
outer edge of the disk, it stirred up waves in the remaining inner
disk. Within a couple of decades, the researchers say, tidal
interactions between the moon and these waves would push the moon out
of its nearly equatorial orbit.

So far, two other solutions for the moon's orbital tilt have been
proposed: tidal interactions with the sun, and another major impact,
either on the moon or Earth. However, both would require several
special conditions to work, says Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution
of Washington, D.C. "This new idea is quite nice and fits naturally in
the giant impact idea," says Boss. "I think there's not too much of a
problem anymore."

2000 The American Association for the Advancement of Science

[Extracted from INSCiGHT, Academic Press.]



Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC                 February 15, 2000
(Phone:  202/358-1547)

RELEASE:  00-26


NASA's Comet Nucleus Tour, or CONTOUR, mission this month took a giant
step closer to its launch when the project received approval to begin
building the spacecraft.

Planned for a July 2002 launch, CONTOUR is expected to  encounter Comet
Encke in November 2003 and Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann-3 in June 2006. 
The mission has the flexibility to include a flyby of Comet d'Arrest in
2008 or an as-yet undiscovered comet, perhaps originating from beyond
the orbit of Pluto.  Such an unforeseen cometary visitor to the inner
solar system, like Comet Hale-Bopp discovered in 1995, would present a
rare opportunity to conduct a close-up examination of these mysterious,
ancient objects which normally reside in the cold depths of
interstellar space.

The nucleus of a comet is its heart, believed by scientists to be a
tiny irregular chunk of ice and rock.  To date only one comet nucleus
has ever been viewed by a spacecraft:  Comet Halley in 1986.  CONTOUR
will fly past at least two comets and take higher resolution images
than those of Halley.  It will also collect and analyze gas and dust to
reveal the comet's makeup, greatly improving our knowledge of key
characteristics of comet nuclei and providing an assessment of their
diversity.  CONTOUR also will clear up the many mysteries of how comets
evolve as they approach the Sun and their ices begin to evaporate. 

The CONTOUR spacecraft will fly by each comet at the peak of its
activity when it's close to the Sun.  During each encounter, the target
comet will also be well situated in the night sky for astronomers
worldwide to make concurrent observations from the ground.  The
spacecraft will fly by each comet at a distance of about 60 miles (100

After successful completion of both the Preliminary Design Review and
an independent Confirmation Assessment and the Confirmation Review at
NASA Headquarters, the comet flyby project is well on its way toward
completing the spacecraft design.  The CONTOUR mission is managed for
NASA by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, in
Laurel, MD.  The Principal Investigator is Dr. Joseph Veverka of
Cornell University, NY. More information on CONTOUR is available at: and


From, 16 February 2000

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

WASHINGTON -- Space visionary Arthur C. Clarke sees in the 21st century
a world that is globally networked and geographically transparent -- one
that blends satellites, telecommunications and information technologies
to solve global problems.

One such concern that demands early attention, he believes, is the havoc
created by natural disasters. Each year, countless lives and billions of
dollars in property are lost to floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and
volcanic eruptions.

The Clarke Institute for Telecommunications and Information (CITI) plans
to help tackle these Earth-in-upheaval challenges by pushing a sort of
early alert system to both plan for and react to such catastrophes.

Plans for the system, called the Warning and Recovery Network -- or WARN
for short -- were unveiled at a CITI founders' conference, held February
5 at Intelsat headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Intelsat, a global consortium of some 140-member nations that use a
network of communications satellites, is the corporate patron of CITI.

CITI, based in Arlington, Virginia, is dedicated to the writings and
futuristic thinking of Clarke. It was Clarke who in a 1945 edition of
Wireless World magazine wrote of a system of "extraterrestrial relays"
located 22,300 miles (35,888 kilometers) above Earth. His idea gave
birth to the notion of geosynchronous satellites that make much of
today's telecommunications possible.

Clarke told the CITI audience via a video message that the group's
intent was to link global talent through the internet.

"Eventually, it may evolve into a worldwide problem-solving body," he



From  Larry Klaes <>

Giordano Bruno was a sometimes Dominican monk who really annoyed
the Roman Catholic Church with his differing views on existence
and as a result was burned at the stake on February 17, 1600.

For more details on who Bruno was how all this came about,
see here (contains more links to other Bruno info as well):

    [thank God Fred didn’t live 400 years ago!]

From The Sunday Telegraph, 13 February 2000

By Robert Matthews

Last week's claim that scientists had re-created a brief moment of the
Big Bang left me rather puzzled. If they had succeceded, surely I
wouldn't still be around to hear of it?  Needless to say, it wasn't
really true; the scientists had merely re-created some event that took
place long after the Big Bang itself. 

Not that everyone believes that the Big Bang actual happened, of
course. There are any number of cranks out there who insist that the
idea of the universe emerging from nowhere in a huge explosion is,
well, cranky.

And then there is Professor Sir Fred Hoyle, Britain greatest living
astrophysicist, and the Big Bang theory's greatest adversary.
From the behaviour of galaxies to the origin of the chemical elements,
Hoyle made key discoveries. He would have won the Noble Prize for
physics years ago had his Yorkshireman's frankness not led him to
criticise the Noble Committee for overlooking a young female astronomer
and awarding the 1974 physics prize to her PhD supervisor.

Reckless troublemaker or not, when Hoyle makes a cosmic pronouncement,
it is invariably worth hearing. And for the last 50 years, he has been
insisting that the Big Bang theory is codswallop.

Back in the late Forties, he was one of a triumvirate of Cambridge
physicists who put forward the Steady State theory, according to which
the universe never had a beginning, nor will it end. Instead, it just
stays the same forever, expanding at the same rate, the resulting drop
in the density of matter being compensated by an equally steady 
creation of matter out of nowhere.

This may seem at least as cranky as the Big Bang theory, but as Hoyle
liked to point out, the required rate of matter creation is hardly
shocking; just one extra hydrogen atom appearing in a room-sized space
every million years or so. Which is certainly rather ess dramatic than
having an entire universe bursting into existence in one go.

The Steady State model has many attractive features - not the least of
which is a set of very clear-cut predictions of what the universe
should be like.  Yet over the last 40 years a stream of observational
data has convinced the majority of astronomers that these predictions
have been falsified. The real universe, they insist, is not
in a steady state.

The evidence is compellingly simple. As long ago as the Fifties, radio
astronomers announced that galaxies were packed more closely the
together in the distant past - flatly contradicting the Steady State
theory, but right in line with the Big Bang. Calculations of the
"cooking" of hydrogen in the Big Bang also gave a near-perfect fit with
the abundance of  hydrogen-like  elements in deep space.

But the real clincher came in 1965, when two American engineers
discovered that the whole of space is filled with a very feeble amount
of heat. For most astronomers, the origin of this heat is clear; a huge
cosmic explosion billions  of years ago - in other words, the Big Bang.

It would take a knave or a fool to dismiss such evidence. Or an
iconoclast of the stature of Hoyle, who this week  launches his most
comprehensive attack against the Big Bang theory, in a book with the
archly subversive title *A Different Approach to Cosmology* (Cambridge
University Press, 35).

Together with two other respected astrophysicists Hoyle systematically
reviews the evidence for the Big Bang theory, and gives it a good 
kicking. Even if you don’t buy into their claims for the Steady State
theory (and you'll need to be comfortable with advanced mathematics
even to make a down-payment), it's hard not to be the impressed by the
audacity of the demolition job.

The supposedly impressive evidence for galaxies being more crowded
together in the past, they argue, emerged from woefully incomplete
surveys of the night sky.  Now the surveys are complete, the results
tally nicely with the Steady State theory.

As for the cooking of hydrogen into other elements, Hoyle and his
colleagues show that ordinary stars are quite capable of doing this. 
And when they do, moreover, they fill the universe with a 
feeble amount of heat - just as observed.

I don't expect the vast majority of astronomers to pay the slightest
attention to Hoyle and his colleagues: frankly, there are too many
careers riding on the Big Bang being right.

Even so, I can only hope that I possess one-thousandth of Hoyle’s
fighting spirit when I, like him, have reached my 85th year.

Copyright 2000, The Sunday Telegraph


J.K. Harmon*),D.B. Campbell, S.J. Ostro, M.C. Nolan: Radar observations
of comets. PLANETARY AND SPACE SCIENCE, 1999, Vol.47, No.12,


Seven comets have been detected by Earth-based radars during the period
1980-1995. All but one of these gave a detectable echo fi om the
nucleus, while three of the comets also showed a broad-band echo from
large (similar to cm-size) grains in the inner coma. Although all
observations have been of the CW  (continuous-wave) type, which
precludes direct size measurement, the radar cross sections are
consistent with nucleus diameters averaging a few kilometers and
varying over a range of ten. Comparisons with independent size
estimates indicate relatively low radar albedos, implying nucleus
surface densities of 0.5 to 1 g/cm(3), The surfaces of comet nuclei
appear to be as rough as typical asteroid surfaces, but are
considerably less dense. Analysis of coma echoes indicates that
some comets emit large grains at rates (similar to ton/s) which
are comparable with their gas and dust production rates, There
is also some indirect evidence for grain evaporation or fragmentation
within a few hundred to a few thousand kilometers of the nucleus. The
highest priority of future radar observations will be to obtain
delay-Doppler images of a nucleus, which would give direct size and
shape estimates as well as a more reliable albedo. Delay-Doppler or
interferometric imaging of the coma echo would also help to
better characterize the grain halo. Ten short-period comets are
potentially detectable during the next two decades, although
the best radar opportunities may well come from comets yet to
be discovered. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights


A.A. Christou*) & K. Beurle: Meteoroid streams at Mars: possibilities
and implications. PLANETARY AND SPACE SCIENCE, 1999, Vol.47, No.12,


In order to assess the possibility of meteoroid streams detectable from
the surface of Mars as meteor showers we have derived minimum distances
and associated velocities for a large sample of small body orbits
relative to the orbits of Mars and the Earth. The population ratio for
objects approaching to within 0.2 AU of these two planets is found to
be approximately 2:1. The smaller relative velocities in the case of
Mars appears to be the main impediment to the detection of meteors in
the upper atmosphere of that planet. We identify five bodies, including
the unusual object (5335) Damocles and periodic comet 1P/Halley, with
relative orbital parameters most suitable to produce prominent meteor
showers. We identify specific epochs at which showers related to these
bodies are expected to occur. An overview of possible detection methods
taking into account the unique characteristics of the Martian
environment is presented. We pay particular attention on the effects of
such streams on the dust rings believed to be present around Mars. (C)
1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.



From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny,

In my recent article I quote Alan Harris from JPL:
'scientists now realize an asteroid will usually make several close
passes by the Earth before a collision occurs.' 1999AN10 and the recent
2000BF19 are good examples. In each case it was predicted that there
was a chance of an Earth collision IF the asteroid passed through a
crucial keyhole during the previous orbit. In both cases further
observations confirmed that the object would miss the keyhole. Alan
pointed out that a keyhole is generally going to be a hundred
kilometres or so across. It would therefore be much easier to deflect
an object that is headed for a keyhole than one which is heading
directly for the Earth (deflection of 100s of km rather than 1000s).

A further advantage of these types of threatening objects is that their
close approaches to Earth will make them easier to detect using a
modest (in terms of telescope size), VIGILANT (in terms of sky
coverage) Spaceguard program. We should be able to detect much smaller
objects than those in *conventional* NEO orbits.

It may therefore turn out that the objects at greatest risk of
collision are the easiest to detect AND the easiest to deflect.

Michael Paine
The Planetary Society Australian Volunteers


From John Richfield <>

Hi Benny,

I liked Michael Paine's essay.  One comment and a question or so:

> Many asteroids are rich in the raw materials needed for manufacturing in
> space, and some are easier to reach than the Moon. Of course, one way to
> deal with an earth-threatening object is to mine it away to nothing.

Apart from the existence of FeNi objects fallen to earth, what
evidence do we have of riches in raw materials etc?  We are surely
not relying on finding a lot of OsIr are we? :-) I am of course keen
that the statement be correct, but I'd like to know what role
positive thinking played in the assessment.  Secondly, mining or no
mining, we need at least the same energy to prevent the body from
reaching earth.  The mining scenario in this context amounts to
saying that given sufficient incentive (such as profit) we still can
deflect the NEO. Right?

On the subject of losing the Saturn blueprints, it might be true or
not, but the problem that gives me spots before the eyes is that it
is absolutely plausible. When I think back to the reverent awe with
which we regarded the space missions in the sixties and seventies and
how we had dreamed of them in the fifties, the cost of the samples
and the data returned, then I feel a little sick when I see how data
and material and expertise were wasted.  The very subject of how to
achieve long-term storage of information in the face of technical
obsolescence is one of our civilisation's greatest challenges.  Is
anyone interested in my writing or collaborating on an essay on that?
I have considered a few science fiction options for info to survive
and give our savage descendents a leg up to civilisation again after
our collapse.

> The idea of blowing up an asteroid makes for good movie scripts, but is
> not the way to do it in the real universe. Many of the fragments would
> remain on a collision course and like the blast from a shotgun; the
> fragments can do up to ten times as much damage as the original, intact
> object.

Granting the rest of the statement, I am curious about the figure of
"up to ten times as much damage".  Could someone please elaborate on
the scenario on which it was based?  Or was it just intended to mean
"Possibly lots more damage than leaving the thing whole"? We had a
thumbsuck confab on the subject of dino killers vs dog killers a month
or two ago, and no one suggested a seriously disastrous alternative
then. I'm not arguing, but asking. 

> A nuclear bomb is detonated several hundred yards away from the object.
> Surprisingly, it is the intense radiation generated by the explosion
> that does the job.

I would have thought that seems a bit far away; is that a calculation
or a guess and are there options for using tampers or something to
increase the radiation incident on the NEO?




From Mayo Greenberg <>

Dear Benny,

I have not heard any mention of obtaining the mean density of Eros By
NEAR. This to me seems one of the most important pieces of information
to be deduced from the orbit of the satellite and the size of Eros. Ths
provides a basic data point on the composition.

Best regards  
Mayo Greenberg

[a timely reminder for some overexerted NEO researchers ...:-)]

New technology strains community bonds, authors argue

From MSNBC, 15 February 2000
By David Streitfeld

PALO ALTO, Calif., Feb. 15 —  The Internet is creating a class of
people who spend more hours at the office, work still more hours from
home, and are so solitary they can hardly be bothered to call
Mom on her birthday.

THOSE ARE some of the conclusions of a major new study of Internet
users conducted by Stanford University’s Institute for the
Quantitative Study of Society. But even before its official unveiling
here today, the survey of 4,113 people was receiving extensive
criticism, guaranteeing another round of debate over the effect of
this new technology.

“We’re moving from a world in which you know all your neighbors, see
all your friends, interact with lots of different people every day,
to a functional world, where interaction takes place at a distance,”
said Norman Nie, a Stanford professor of political science and
director of the institute. “Can you get a hug, a warm voice, over the

A quarter of the survey respondents who use the Internet more than
five hours a week said they spend less time with friends and family,
either on the phone or in person. Ten percent said it had reduced
out-of-home social activities.


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