CCNet 39/2001 - 12 March 2001

"If the NEO funding in the UK is to be competed with other areas of
astronomy and space research, the UK NEO science community will have to
redouble their efforts to show the study of NEOs is of great importance
- over and above the issue of their threat to Earth. NEO discovery,
follow-up and characterization efforts need to show up in the strategic
plans of upper level science planning committees. [...] A beloved former
teacher of mine, Ernst Opik, put it best many years ago when he
pointed out that when it comes to affecting the origin and evolution of
Earth's life forms by solar system objects - next to the Sun itself -
comets and asteroids are the most important realm."
-- Don Yoemans, Manager, NASA Near-Earth Object Program
Office, 11 March 2001

"I have invested a lot of efforts in pushing the major organisations
to take a clear position versus the NEO problem, and the results of
the task force report say a lot in favour of the opinion that Europe is
now ready for a further step. What exactly this step will be is too early
to say, but I'm confident that "later in the year", as somebody has said
in the House of Lords, something will finally materialise. Most probably
this will be in the form of a common and extended project, to be endorsed
at a high political level."
--Andrea Carusi, President, The Spaceguard Foundation, 11
March 2001


    BBC News Online, 9 March 2001

    Donald K Yeomans <>

    Andrea Carusi <>

    Andy Nimmo <>

    UPI, 9 March 2001

    Yahoo! News, 11 March 2001

    Bergen Record, 11 March 2001

    Ron Baalke <>

     Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

     E.P. Grondine <>

     Dewey M. McLean <>

     S. Fred Singer <>


From, 9 March 2001

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
BOULDER, Colo. -- Earth's chances of being hit by a comet or asteroid in the
future is a numbers game. But it's also an odds-on cosmic certainty. Yet
society's ability to deal with potentially horrific conditions stirred up by
an impact is haphazard and unbalanced.

What the world needs now is to universally adopt the Boy Scout motto: Be

That's the view of a team of asteroid researchers issuing a white paper on
how the civilized globe can best deal with the asteroid/comet impact hazard
in a proactive, responsible manner.

Global disruption and destruction

Authors of the study, The Comet/Asteroid Impact Hazard -- A Systems
Approach, are Clark Chapman and Daniel Durda of the Office of Space Studies
here at the Southwest Research Institute, along with space engineer Robert
Gold of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel,

While underscoring that the chances of Earth being on the receiving end of a
comet or asteroid is a very low probability the researchers contend, should
an impact happen, there is potential for public panic, given the possibility
of disruption and destruction on a global scale.

"It wasn't clear to us when we began this study that anybody has thought
this through at all," Clark Chapman told "Conceivably, we could
have very short notice of an impact, but it's more likely to be years or
decades of warning. But once astronomers find an Earth-impacting object, it
gets confirmed and registered -- then what?" he said.

Ultimate sun block

The researchers found that very little attention has been paid, in essence,
to orchestrating a civil defense plan in the event of a head-on collision
with a comet or asteroid. An unexpected impact by a 1.2-mile (2-kilometer)
diameter object might well destroy agriculture in both hemispheres by
saturating the atmosphere with dust and debris that block out the Sun. That
would lead to crop failures and mass starvation from which no nation would
be immune.

"We don't have any country, including the United States, where food supplies
are stored up to endure a whole year with no agriculture. But if you have 10
years to plan for that, you almost certainly could do so," Chapman said.

The coordination of national or multinational responses to the repercussions
from an impact -- including plans to deal with civil panic, the evacuation
of ground zero, storing up food in case there is a worldwide breakdown of
agriculture -- has received "essentially no analysis," the white paper

Wave action -- the tsunami threat

"We recommend crafting, adoption and implementation of improved procedures
for informing the broader society about the impact hazard, notifying the
public and relevant officials/agencies about an impact prediction, and
putting in place [in advance of such predictions] procedures for
coordination among relevant agencies and countries," the paper suggests.

Chapman said the most likely international disaster that would result from
an impact is a gigantic tsunami. A wall of water swamping islands and
coastal communities would result from an ocean impact by an object a few
hundred meters (yards) in size, he said.

"There is a 1-percent chance of something like that happening in the next
century," Chapman said. But those organizations and individuals responsible
for warning, or heeding warnings, about earthquake-generated tsunamis are
generally unaware of impact-induced tsunamis, he said.

Bizarre bright side

Even a near miss by a dusty comet could spell trouble.

Satellites in geosynchronous orbit could be lost to dust impacts, even
shorted out due to plasma arcing caused by energized particles wreaking
havoc with microelectronic circuitry. That could knock out, or severely
disrupt global communications, the researchers contend.

There is a bizarre bright side to a comet or asteroid impact when compared
to nuclear warfare.

After an "all clear" is given following a cosmic impact, exposure to
radioactivity is not among the various long-lasting consequences.

Dinosaur decision-making

The primary recommendation of the white paper is that a much broader group
of individuals -- beyond astronomers and space engineers -- need to be
educated about impact hazard issues, Chapman said.

The natural hazards community and experts in risk assessment, meteorological
storms, earthquakes, climate change and other relevant areas need to
appreciate the ramifications of an asteroid or comet impact, Chapman said.
In addition, emergency preparedness and law enforcement officials, along
with chains of command in the military need to bone up on the basics of
impact hazard, he said.

"It's not like we need to establish a new federal agency for impact hazard
preparedness," Chapman said. But what is needed is to carry out a broad,
cross-disciplinary and multi-agency look at how important this impact hazard
is, as well as how should we prepare to deal with it, he said.

Chapman highlighted one final observation in the white paper: "The dinosaurs
could not evaluate and mitigate the natural forces that exterminated them,
but human beings have the intelligence to do so."

Copyright 2001,

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I am pleased to note that the "primary recommendation of
the white paper", i.e. the education about the impact hazard of "a much
broader group of individuals -- beyond astronomers and space engineers" has
actually been the main focus of CCNet ever since its humble beginnings back
in 1997. It is the inherently interdisciplinary nature of the impact hazard
and its far-reaching implications for almost all aspects of the global
village that makes it such an interesting and stimulating topic for many
people - not just for the professional researcher and astronomer but to
almost everyone interested in the broader aspects of science and society.


From the BBC News Online, 9 March 2001

By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

Peers in the UK's House of Lords have called for more action to be taken to
protect the Earth from a collision with a large asteroid.

As the lords made their plea, a space rock called 2001 EC1 was travelling
away from the planet having just passed our world by little more than one
million km.

The space rock, which measures about one km (0.6 miles) across, had been
discovered just days before. Had it struck the Palace of Westminster, it
would have wiped out much of London.

Lord Tanlaw said that with recent discoveries, "it cannot be a question of
if but when a Near Earth Object (Neo) finally impacts."

Replying for the government, science minister Lord Sainsbury said that the
threat was taken very seriously and that several initiatives were in hand.

Money needed

Lord Tanlaw wanted to know when the British Government was going to spend
some money on the threat.

He said: "Does the government not have an obligation to future generations
to look beyond the event horizon of the next general election and to prepare
to mitigate future risks from near space?"

In a series of critical questions directed at Lord Sainsbury, he asked if
the minister could explain why governments seemed quite prepared to fund the
preservation of our civilised past and yet were unwilling to pay for the
protection of the future of our civilisation?

It was a point echoed by Lord Hunt of Chesterton: "I would strongly
recommend that, as with weather forecasts, a systematic procedure is
introduced for assessing the accuracy of Neo trajectories and near misses."

Competitive funds

Replying to these points Lord Sainsbury said that the government took the
threat from space very seriously and was about to take decisive action
following a report drawn up by experts last year.

"My role as minister for science is to seek a balance between the
overreaction which could be induced by the thought of global-killer
asteroids and any complacency arising from the rarity of such impacts."

But regarding the allocation of more money, he said: "We have no extra funds
for these activities. They will have to compete with the activities which we
already undertake in the field of space and astronomy."

Lord Sainsbury said that the government already spent considerable sums on
astronomy and that it seemed not inappropriate to direct a modest amount to
determine whether any asteroid or comet could endanger us.

Astronomers said that the need for the UK to have a centre for prompt
information on Neos was illustrated by events that took place just before
the debate.

There was a relatively near miss of the Earth by a substantial (about one
km-wide) asteroid on 27 February but nobody realised it because the object
was not discovered until 3 March, well after its closest approach.

Copyright 2001, BBC


From Donald K Yeomans <>

Dear Benny,

Thank you for inviting my comments upon the UK Government's reaction to the
NEO Task Force Report. The Report itself was excellent and, overall, I felt
the reaction was positive.  As
remarked by Lord Tanlaw in the House of Lords debate of 8 March, the topic
has been lifted above the "giggle barrier" and that is a very significant
step forward. The UK government is taking the threat seriously and a certain
amount of momentum has been achieved. To maintain this momentum, I'd suggest
that the UK NEO community consider the following steps:  

Try to work closely with the group of experts (ESA, PPARC, OECD) charged
with suggesting the specific actions to be recommended.   

If the NEO funding in the UK is to be competed with other areas of astronomy
and space research, the UK NEO science community will have to redouble their
efforts to show the study of NEOs is of great importance - over and above
the issue of their threat to Earth. NEO discovery, follow-up and
characterization efforts need to show up in the strategic plans of upper
level science planning committees. I assume the science arguments might
include the following:

    NEOs are the least altered remnants of the inner solar system
    formation process and hence provide clues to the primordial
    mixture from which the inner planets (including Earth) formed. 
    After all, colliding comets and asteroids is the very process by
    which these planets formed in the first place.

    NEOs were likely vehicles for transporting to the early Earth much
    of the water and carbon-based molecules that allowed the formation
    of life.  NEOs have played a significant role in the subsequent
    evolution of these life forms - including the elevation of humans
    to atop the food chain.

    The water (and hydrogen/oxygen fuels), minerals and metals in
    NEOs may well provide the fueling stations, watering holes, and
    raw materials for the colonization of the inner solar system in the
    next several decades.

A beloved former teacher of mine, Ernst Opik, put it best many years ago
when he pointed out that when it comes to affecting the origin and evolution
of Earth's life forms by solar system objects - next to the Sun itself -
comets and asteroids are the most important realm.
Efforts should continue so the UK government representatives are kept
informed on the NEO threat and science issues. "Top-down" pressure from
these representatives upon the science policy makers and those who control
the budgets, coupled with "bottom-up" pressure from the science community
could go a long way toward achieving the desired UK NEO goals.
Finally, I'd suggest that a completely international NEO coordination
effort, including the ongoing activities within the US and Japan be
initiated in parallel with the UK's efforts to more fully involve the
European community in NEO search and research activities.

These are my personal thoughts only and do not represent an official NASA

With kind regards,

Don Yeomans

Dr. Donald K. Yeomans
Manager, NASA Near-Earth Object Program Office
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA  91109
Tel. (818) 354-2127
FAX  (818) 393-1159


From Andrea Carusi <>

Dear Benny,

Let me first say that I'm personally very happy of how things are developing
in Europe. I have invested a lot of efforts in pushing the major
organisations to take a clear position versus the NEO problem, and the
results of the task force report say a lot in favour of the opinion
that Europe is now ready for a further step.

What exactly this step will be is too early to say, but I'm confident that
"later in the year", as somebody has said in the House of Lords, something
will finally materialise. Most probably this will be in the form of a common
and extended project, to be endorsed at a high political
level. Then, the financial question will come, and it is possible that some
more time will be needed to identify the right sources of money and the
amount and share of investments.

I do not expect that a big project like this will start sooner than a couple
of years from now, but we are on the right track, I think. Of course, The
Spaceguard Foundation has given its contribution, but it is also true that
the time is right, also from a more political viewpoint,
and politicians know, in most cases, their job.

With best regards
Andrea Carusi, President, The Spaceguard Foundation


From Andy Nimmo <>

Dear Dr Peiser,

I've just read an interesting UPI item at:

---all about a possible threat from invisible asteroids.

As Howard Georgi says, these may not be any sort of priority to physicists,
but it seems to me that at least the determination as to whether or not such
a threat may or may not be real, ought to be regarded as something of a
priority by those of us who regard the future safety of planet Earth and its
inhabitants as a priority.

What do the experts of the Cambridge Conference Network make of Robert
Foot's hypothesis?

Best wishes, Andy Nimmo,
Chairman, the Space Development Council.


From UPI, 9 March 2001

MELBOURNE, Australia, March 9 (UPI) -- Invisible asteroids and other cosmic
bodies made of a new form of matter may pose a threat to Earth, asserts a
noted Australian physicist.

Robert Foot of the University of Melbourne claims a meteorite composed of
mirror matter -- a form of the invisible dark matter that many say makes up
over 95 percent of the universe -- could impact the Earth without leaving
any fragments.

Indeed, he told United Press International, asteroids made of  mirror matter
may have been responsible for such cataclysmic events as the so-called
Tunguska blast, which destroyed acres of Siberian forest in 1908.

While scientists generally attribute this explosion to a meteorite, no
traces of such an object have ever been found.

However, "mirror matter would be undetectable in our ordinary matter
surroundings," Foot told UPI in a telephone interview.

Foot believes mirror-matter asteroids might be a greater danger than normal

"These objects may pose an overall greater risk than space bodies composed
of ordinary matter," Foot said. "An approaching space body made of pure
mirror matter would not be detectable -- only after impact with the
atmosphere would its effects be observable, but then it would probably be to
late to do anything."

Mirror matter, Foot claims, arises naturally from two apparent symmetries of
nature. One says matter is unchanged whether it moves forward or backward in
time; the other, that nature doesn't distinguish between right- and
left-handed orientations.

"These particles must exist if the symmetries exist," Foot said.

In the invisible universe of mirror matter, Foot explained, space and time
are reversed. Time moves backward and right-handed spatial coordinates have
been interchanged with their left-handed counterparts.

Something in the visible universe that is sitting at 50 degrees north and 20
degrees west as the clock ticks toward the future would have an invisible,
identical counterpart at 50 degrees south and 20 degrees east as the clock
ticks toward the past, according to Foot's theory.

Invisible forms of matter that preserve symmetries are nothing new to
physicists. Nobel Laureate Paul Dirac predicted that anti-matter must exist
to preserve certain symmetries of matter. His prediction was borne out with
the discovery of positrons, the anti-matter form of electrons.

Princeton physicist Howard Georgi is skeptical of Foot's claims, however.

"Robert Foot's ideas are interesting," Georgi told UPI. "They are also, of
course, extremely speculative."

Georgi also believes that invisible asteroids are not a top priority of
physics research.

"Foot's ideas have not attracted a huge following in the community that
cares about these things, perhaps because the problems they solve, while
interesting, are not the most critical puzzles that we are wrestling with,"
Georgi said.

(Reported by UPI Science Writer Mike Martin from Columbia, Mo.)

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

MODERATOR'S NOTE: One of the most speculative of hyper-speculative
cosmological theories is the idea of "mirror matter." According to the
theory, developed in the 1980s, each particle in the universe, such as
protons, neutrons, and electrons, has an invisible "mirror" twin. 'Mirror
matter would feel and generate gravity like their visible counterparts, but
other forces would be different. "Mirror matter" could form into stars, but
would not generate photons at any wavelength and hence be invisible. Entire
solar systems and even life could evolve on such mirror worlds.' There is
some real beauty about this meschuggene idea: Granted that there is such a
thing as "mirror matter," why not have a "mirror planet Earth" as well! That
way, if a hypothetical asteroid made of hypothetical mirror matter were ever
to impact Earth, it wouldn't affect our hypothetical "mirror" Earth. Either
way, we would always get away! :-) BJP

From Yahoo! News, 11 March 2001

U.S. Space Command on Colorado Mountain Keeps Eye on Mir

By Judith Crosson

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN, Colo. (Reuters) - When the Russian space station Mir,
once the pride of the Soviet space program but now an aging accident-prone
orbiter, hurtles to Earth later this month will debris fall on thatched
roofs somewhere on a South Pacific island?

Will people in New Zealand see chunks the size of a car crash down or will
commuters in Japan look up in horror to see tons of metal careening down
from the largest man-made object in space that has circled the globe for 15

Probably not, but as the expected date for Mir's re-entry into the Earth's
atmosphere approaches, space enthusiasts around the world will be keeping an
eye on the skies.

Among those watching Mir will be the U.S. Space Command deep inside Cheyenne
Mountain, home to NORAD, the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense
Command that keeps watch on the skies to spot missiles approaching North

The U.S. government, with its array of radars and optical telescopes, has
agreed to provide Russia with tracking and trajectory data as well as
scientific data on atmosphere conditions.

Re-Entry Expected Over South Pacific

Russian officials have said the station's engines will be switched off over
Russia before Mir is directed to plunge into the South Pacific, some 1,850
miles (3,000 km) east of New Zealand's southern tip. Re-entry is expected
around March 20, give or take a few days.

Mir is now about 160 miles (260 km) above Earth, taking about 90 minutes to
circle the globe. It has served five times its intended life span, Russian
officials say. But it's had a fire on board, its orbit is losing more than a
half mile (about a kilometer) a day and some of its parts no longer work.

Predicting the path of an object that is expected to start breaking up as it
enters the Earth's atmosphere is not a snap.

"We track to the point where it re-enters the earth's atmosphere. It's not
an exact science. Actually it's pretty difficult," said Maj. Scott Edwards,
the crew commander on duty at the Space Command.

After Mir's engines are turned off, Russian scientists will then direct the
space station to enter the Earth's atmosphere at a steep angle in order to
limit the land or footprint over where it will drop its pieces.

Upon re-entry Mir's speed is expected to fall from 17,000 miles an hour to
about 400 miles or the space version of a walk in the park.

"You have to consider the relative velocities here. The atmosphere acts as a
huge brake with all the pressures and the winds. That's going to slow it
down," said Lt. Cmdr. Carl Sohn, a NASA (news - web sites) support officer
at the U.S. Space Command, and a member of the Canadian Navy.

Mir Will Disintegrate Upon Re-Entry

The jolt of re-entering Earth's atmosphere will start ripping Mir apart into
about 1,500 fragments much the way an airplane would break up upon hitting
water at high speed.

But predicting exactly where it fall -- some 8 to 10 minutes after re-entry
into the Earth's atmosphere -- will be a "prediction" based on physics.

U.S. Space Command will only know for sure that the object has landed --
somewhere -- when a network of sensors that have been tracking Mir no longer
report seeing it.

But while residents in Japan and the South Pacific are worried about Mir's
re-entry the space station is not taking up all of U.S. Space Command's
attention. After all there are 8,300 man-made objects up there and Mir is
only one of them.

However, at 140 tons it's bound to get attention. "This will be the largest
object ever brought down," said U.S. Air Force Col. Norman Black, chief of
the Space Exploitation and Force Enhancement Division at the U.S. Space
Command. Some 20 tons of the station are expected to survive re-entry and
end up in the Pacific Ocean.

Russian officials have tried to reassure residents in or near the area where
Mir is expected to land that the craft will not fall on any populated areas.
But just in case they have taken out a $200 million insurance policy, a
Russian insurance industry official said.

The Americans are diplomatic. "What we have in our favor here is the strong
record of the Russians and the Russian space agency to bring these vehicles
down safely," Black said.

And after all, the Russians have brought down some 100 orbiters. What they
don't want is a repeat of the 1979 return of the U.S. Skylab whose pieces
fell in a remote area of western Australia in 1979.

It's Busy Up There

Some 26,600 objects have been recorded in space since 1957 when the former
Soviet Union launched the first Sputnik.

And it's getting pretty crowded up there. Some 17,700 objects have
re-entered or burned up in space, another 600 have gone off into ``super
space'' leaving 8,300 objects since in orbit. But only about 7-10 percent of
them are still working, according to officials at the U.S. Space Command.

Copyright 2001, Reuters


From the Bergen Record, 11 March 2001

Staff Writer

PATERSON -- Like most school-age children, Jaquan McClain has learned that
there are nine planets in the solar system.

The 12-year-old even uses the popular mnemonic "My very educated mother just
served us nine pizzas" to remember the sequence of the planets: Mercury,
Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

But on Friday, an astrophysicist tried to convince Jaquan and other
fifth-graders at School 2 on Passaic Street that they should no longer
include Pluto in that list.

"It's a matter of learning more about the object so you can better classify
it," explained Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson, director of New York's Hayden
Planetarium, which has excluded Pluto from its planet display and grouped it
with a family of asteroids.

During his hourlong talk, which was organized by William Paterson
University, Tyson listed characteristics that set Pluto apart from a
run-of-the-mill planet.

Pluto, believed to be the smallest planet, is smaller than seven moons in
the solar system. It's even smaller than Earth's moon. Tyson also pointed to
Pluto's unusual orbit, in a clockwise direction, opposite that of most
planets, and sometimes crossing the orbit of Neptune.

Out on the frozen fringes of the Sun's warming reach, half of Pluto is
composed of ice, which also makes it unusual, said Tyson. He said that were
the ice to melt, it would turn into a gas and the planet would look more
like a comet as it travels its orbit.

"If you were to stick Pluto closer to the Sun, where the Earth is, it would
grow a tail," Tyson said. "What kind of behavior is that for a planet?"

Tyson's argument is nothing new. There has been some debate in recent years
regarding Pluto's classification as a planet. Some believe that it should be
classified as an asteroid and be named the largest of the Kuiper Belt
objects. The Kuiper Belt is an area beyond the orbit of Neptune that
contains many smaller asteroids, with the same traits as Pluto.

"I think Pluto is happier that way," said Tyson, which brought laughter from

Although Pluto was officially labeled the ninth planet by the International
Astronomical Union in 1930 after its discovery by Clyde W. Tombaugh, an
American, Tyson argues that the term "planet" has never been clearly
defined. The pedestrian dictionary reference is to "a heavenly body seeming
to have a motion of its own among the fixed stars."

By the end of the program, Tyson had succeeded in convincing a few students
and teachers to look at Pluto differently.

"It shouldn't be a planet," said Reina Vega, a teacher. "I like the way he
said that Pluto is now a leader of the asteroids because of its size."

But others, such as Jaquan, weren't persuaded.

"It should be a planet, because that's the way they discovered it," said
Jaquan. "It may be small and icy, but it should still be a planet."

Copyright © 2001 North Jersey Media Group Inc.


From Ron Baalke <>

FIRST ANNOUNCEMENT of the "Ceres 2001" Workshop on:

Astrometry and Physics of Minor Planets from Observational Networks

Workshop dedicated to the bicentenary of the discovery of Ceres by Piazzi
proposed to be held on October 9-12, 2001, in Paris, France organized by
Institut de mécanique céleste/observatoire de Paris

This workshop is sponsored by  CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique) and by Observatoire de Paris.

Scientific program:

This workshop plans to gather professional and amateur astronomers
interested in asteroids and more generally in small bodies of the solar
system, modeling motions, studying physical properties of these objects and
observing through networks. The goal of this workshop is also to review the
techniques used at present time for the observations of asteroids. The
proposed topics of the workshop are:

- Astrometric observations of the asteroids: towards a better accuracy.
Numerous astrometric observations of asteroids are regularly made. However,
it is necessary to increase the accuracy of these observations in order to
be able to support dynamical studies and to find out non gravitational
forces. Theoretical studies connected to observational works may also be
reviewed during the workshop. The use of new stellar catalogues together
with propositions for new standard procedures of astrometric reduction
should be discussed.

- Prediction and observation of stellar occultations by asteroids:
increasing the efficiency of the observers networks. The observation of the
stellar occultations by asteroids is one of the
powerful methods for the determination of the size and figure of asteroids.
However, very accurate predictions are needed, especially for small
asteroids in order to be able to observe the occultations. Moreover, a dense
network of observers on the predicted path of the asteroid 'shadow' is
necessary to successfully observe the events and gather valuable data.
Amateur astronomers are of great help for this purpose.

- Photometric observations of asteroids: shape and spin axis determination.
The observation of the photometric behaviour of the asteroids allows to
determine the shape and the rotation parameters of the asteroids from the
analysis of their lightcurves. These observations will constrain, together
with the observation of occultations, the models of the figure of the

- Satellites of asteroids, binary asteroids: towards the detection of new
systems. The satellites of asteroids have been suspected and already
detected by indirect observations and are now directly observed. However,
very few observations are available: more are needed in order to constrain
the formation of such systems. New methods of observations are necessary
such as
adaptive optics but the astrometric accuracy remains necessary.

- Observation of other Solar System small bodies: Comets and planetary
satellites need to be observed and may be observed with the same methods as
used for the asteroids. An observational effort through international
campaigns of observations and through new dynamical models may
be encouraged to improve our knowledge of several small non gravitational

- Networks of observers: what to expect from new technologies? The networks
of observers should be encouraged and developed by using small automatic
telescopes managed by professional and amateurs astronomers. The
difficulties of some specific observations (Near Earth Asteroids, Kuiper
Belt Objects) may be pointed out and experience of the observers should be
of great help for the observers community. Collaborations between
professionals and amateurs have to be encouraged.

Contributed papers:
Oral communications will be 20 minutes long including questions. Overhead
projectors and video projectors will be available.  Posters may not exceed
1meter x 1meter. The scientific organizing committee retains the right to
shift proposed oral communications into posters (and vice versa) depending
on the subject. In that case, the authors will be notified.

Note that the deadline to send the abstracts is June 1. The abstracts sent
before this deadline will be published in a book of abstracts distributed to
the participants before the workshop.

The accepted contributed papers should be published with the invited review
papers in the proceedings. Contributed papers should not exceed 4 pages. The
proceedings will be sent free of charge to the participabts of the workshop.

Organizing committee:

J.-E. Arlot (1) (chairman), M.-A. Barucci (2), J. Berthier (1), F. Colas(1),
D. Hestroffer (1), J. Lecacheux (2), P. Tanga (3,5), W. Thuillot (1), A.
Vienne (1,4).

(1) Institut de mecanique celeste (IMCCE)
    Observatoire de Paris, France

(2) Departement de recherche spatiale (DESPA)
    Observatoire de Paris, France

(3) Osservatorio Astronomico di Torino, Italy

(4) Laboratoire d'Astronomie, Etudes des Systemes Dynamiques,
    Universite des sciences et technologies de Lille, France

(5) Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur, Dept Cassini, Nice, France

All the correspondence shall be sent to:

IMCCE/Workshop CERES 2001
77 avenue Denfert-Rochereau
F-75014 Paris, France
fax: (33) 1 46 33 28 34



From Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

Dear Jonathan Tate,

Although you made several quotes from Lord Sainsbury's response to the NEO
debate in the second chamber of the British parliament ("House of Lords"),
you chose to ignore one passage that I for one find particularly

Reiterating, Lord Sainsbury said "I stated earlier that I believe that my
role as Minister for Science responsible for the near earth objects issue is
to steer a course between overreaction to exaggerated threat and complacent

This attitude leads me to add another 'minus' to your list:
* Failure to identify the level of urgency as technology-driven

The giggle factor owed to the grotesque disproportion between the severity
and magnitude of the threat and our non-existent ability to thwart or even
substantiate it. Not only politicians but also scientists were forced to
adopt a fatalistic view. 

Now we are in possession of the technology to substantiate the threat
without bending over backwards budget-wise, so scientists ask for the
necessary funding. Yet a politician such as Lord Sainsbury lumps this
request together with other funding requests, to which a measured approach
must be taken. He has obviously not yet abandoned fatalistic optimism as the
short-term answer to the doomsday threat.

His best excuse for this attitude may well be lack of lobbying from
scientists in other fields.  It seems to me that early progress requires not
only astronomers but also physicists and other practitioners of natural
science to back the NEO detection effort. It is ridiculous of a government
to ask that only sections within the astronomical community should club for

The fact that a future diversion/deflection capability DOES need broad
international co-operation only highlights the fact that Lord Sainsbury and
his government seem about to miss a unique chance for their country to earn
merit as a NEO detection pioneer. And aiming for the EU as proper scope of
partnership seems politically expedient rather than practical. For
deflection programmes it's too narrow, and for the purpose of >300m asteroid
detection it's overkill.

Yours sincerely
Jens Kieffer-Olsen, M.Sc.(Elec.Eng.)
Slagelse, Denmark    


From E.P. Grondine <>

Dear Benny,

Andy Smith's suggestion that the current Delta class launch vehicles are
capable of dealing  with the NEO hazard needs some comment -

One of the interesting things about the Russian perspective is that the NEO
problem is not theoretical for them: within this century they were pounded
at both Tunguska and Sikote Ailin.  Another interesting thing is that
they're used to both government incompetence and the failure of warning
systems, viz. the surprise of Nazi Germany's attack, and the failure of
Stalin's regime to spot it.

In dealing with the impact hazard, the first thing to note is that with a
few exceptions legislators and executive officers of many nations are
unaware of the problem: they are either completely ignorant of the severity
of the problem, or they have other concerns which they perceive as being
more immediate and pressing. The UK is blessed at this point with leaders
who are both aware of the problem and working on it. I am not familiar with
the situation in the rest of Europe, and reports on it, particularly on
French governmental activities, would be of interest to me, as I am sure
they would be to many conference participants.  In the US, the leading
champion for dealing with the NEO hazard, Representative George Brown, has
died; further, the Congressional Research Service, who normally would
provide the Congess with warning about the NEO hazard, is in disarray,
largely due to political factors. Russian activities are severely
constrained by the current state of their economy.

Finally, from earlier brief questions with one official, I believed that the
UN would not undertake leadership in this field; it looks like perhaps now,
because of the prompting by the government of the UK, they may be
reconsidering their role. But this possibility does not change my
fundamental onclusion that since concrete actions in several directions need
to be taken immediately, and a large number of international institutions
are incapable of taking them, the only way these are going to get done is if
those who are aware and responsible start taking action on their own

Indeed, this is what has been happening for some time now. While to date use
of the internet has sped research in this field through the exchange of text
information, I think that now it may be possible that private video
working-conferences held via the internet on a regular basis might be part
of the solution. In other words, providing these individuals wanting to act
with the tools they need to act is quite important right now, and perhaps
CU-SeeMe software from Cornell University or something similar could be used
to enable this.

Who needs to video conference? Let's start with the observers. As it
currently sits, working  meetings are held when major astronomical
organizations meet. But regularly held video conferences could help ensure
that decisions in this area will be made when they need to be made, instead
of on an annual or semi-annual basis.

Let's move on to the Launch Officers. An impact anywhere in the region of
Israel and her Arab neighbors, or of Pakistan and India, could accidentally
trigger an exchange of weapons of mass destruction. Among the larger
nations, it is still possible that impacts in North America, Europe, the
Former Soviet Union, or China might trigger an "exchange", as the potential
death of billions is politely referred to. Given the evidence of the
frequency of recent small impacts, and the data from currently functioning
early warning systems, this problem needs to be addressed immediately.

Hard as it will be to set up meetings of Launch Officers, setting up the
next working group will undoubtedly be more difficult. Nuclear physicists in
many nations have been doing work on both modeling large impact explosions,
as well as on the development of NEDs (nuclear explosive
devices) for asteroid and comet intercept tasks. So far the international
technical exchanges among them have been by means of "hints" exchanged at
irregularly held meeting, of which most are thankfully unaware - this has
got to change.  Due to concerns about the transfer of technologies which
could be used for weapons purposes, my opinon is that at the present time
the only participants in such meetings could be nuclear scientists from the
US, Russia, and Europe; I think that these meetings can NOT be held via the
internet, but will have to be held regularly on a face to face basis. I also
think that while China can and must currently be excluded from these
meetings, they must be included in talks concerning the securing of storage
facilities for these and other nuclear charges, and in meetings setting up
some means of international oversight.

While scientists and engineers from other nations must be excluded from
formal meetings on nuclear explosive devices, they could join in
video-conferences held to discuss work on the development of what the
Russians termed "reconaisance-spacecraft", those which arrive at the
asteroid or comet before the nuclear charges do. Japanese researchers, with
Japan's advanced launch technology and no nuclear weapons policy, could play
a leading role here.

Who else needs to v-conference? It takes time to set up rockets for launch,
and time may not be something mankind will have available when the next
potential impactor is initially detected. All year round different entities
have large rockets sitting on launch pads - rockets which they use to launch
communication satellites. The capability to instantly divert these launch
vehicles to asteroid or comet intercept tasks is needed, and thus launch
facility operators from Florida in the US, Russia, Ukraine, Europe, and
Japan need to discuss this topic.  Doing so a on a face to face basis is
prohibitively expensive, and regularly held video conferences may speed the
solution of this problem.

Moving on, the governmental officials responsible for dealing with
emergencies need to v-conference internationally and regularly on the impact
hazard. The recent earthquake in India, which resulted in the deaths of 10's
of 1,000's of people, demonstrates the limited capbilities of these
agencies, as did the Mexico City earthquake, or for that matter several
recent natural disasters here in the US.  While any death is significant,
these earthquake deaths are paltry compared to the number of people who will
die in the next small impact event, if it sets off tsunami or hits a heavily
populated area - we're looking at deaths at least in the 10's of 1,000,000's
for coastal tsunami. Further, while US nuclear power plants are hardened
against terrorist attack, and therefore able to withstand fairly severe
explosions from impacting asteroids and comets, I doubt if this is true in
other countries...

The most intractible problem in dealing with the NEO hazard has been in
firming up the estimates of the recent impact rate, in particular the rate
for small impacts. Legislators and executive officers won't act without
popular support, and their constituencies won't demand action until they are
informed. While science fiction movies are one thing, they are fiction,
while the fact is that the anthropological community as a whole is nearly
completely unaware of how often these things have hit, and further many
among them have invested a lot of time and pride in developing other
hypothesis to explain what have been the consequences of impact. It's a
deadly circle: The anthropologists won't act without money, and the
legislators won't give them money without information.

For this task, v-conferences would not work, but what about streaming video?
Perhaps it could be arranged to have the Society for Interdisciplanary
Studies annual meetings streamed via the internet to the anthropological
community at large.  Maybe the donation of several older internet servers
from HP, Sun, or IBM, along with operating systems could be snagged, along
with the donation of the streaming software from Real or Microsoft. Maybe
the services of one or more skllled system programmers could be obtained.
Maybe the line charges from British Telecom could somehow be paid for -
Maybe cows will fly - the latest NASA program, in conjunction with the
farmers of Iowa, and their honorable representatives in the legislature -

It is far more reasonable to expect the BNSC to act here, in accordance with
the NEO Task Force's recommendations.  The establishment of internet
video-networking conferences would allow the UK government to demonstrate to
the public that they intend to act, and would provide excellent exercise for
UK graduate students in the computer sciences. 

In passing, I note that all involved in the UK government response to the
NEO Task Force's report must be relieved that no one has told Baroness
Miller about Rio Cuarto yet.

Who may step forward internatinally to participate in such
video-conferences, should the BNSC and UK govnerment decide to act?  I don't
have a clue...  But my thinking, based on experience,  is that if you build
it, they will come...

It seems I have drifted from Andy's original suggestion on the use of
Delta's. As for the capabilites of the Delta, here goes - small Delta
vehicles can be used, but only for scientific missions to study asteroid and
comet composition, and for the development of guidance, navigation, control,
and propulsion systems, as NASA is doing now. Since it would be more cost
effective to use decomissioned miltary launch vehicles, such as those
available from Orbital Sciences Corporation, or the Russian Conversion
launcher, to do these tasks, rather than the Delta, clearly there are other
factors involved in NASA's decisions on this.

While development projects of type NASA is currently doing are nice, what
really needs to be done requires the use of larger geo-synchronous
communication satellite launchers. That is, there is a pressing need to
develop intercept-spacecraft and upper stages for use with large
communication sattllite launchers, such as the US's new Atlas 5 and Delta 4,
Europe's Ariane 4 and Araine 5, Russia's Proton and new Angara, Ukraine's
Zenith, and Japan's H-2. (For the immediate future, use of China's Long
March series for intercept tasks is out of the question, but perhaps China
could participate in the development of asteroid and comet

My hope is that in the future the first test flight of any new large
commerical launch vehicle will be devoted to the launch of prototypes of
asteroid and comet reconnaisance-spacecraft and intercept-spacecraft; it is
clear that such test flights would provide both extremely valuable data, as
well as operational experience. Furhter, I think that a spacecraft needs to
be sent to the asteroid belt and placed in orbit there, one equipped with
both powerful optical and radar systems, so that we might get a better grasp
on at least this part of the impact hazard.  Perhaps a Mars Express type
spacecraft could be modified to this task, but I don't know...

All of this is in addition to the telescopes, and everyone here is pretty
familiar with the problems there...

I leave the task of converting the summary of the historical impact rate to
the ACE Scale to Andy's capable hands -

Best wishes -


From Dewey M. McLean <>

Dear Benny and CCNet Colleagues,

S. Mukhopadhyay and others state in their article "A short duration of the
Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary event: evidence from extraterrestrial Helium-3"
(Science, v. 291, pp. 1952-1955) that the "perturbation on climate and
ecosystems from an impact would be geologically instantaneous, but the
effects from volcanism would be spread out over at least a few hundred
thousand years." In fact, a major K-T Deccan Traps-induced perturbation of
the carbon cycle could have triggered a geologically rapid perturbation of
the biosphere at the K-T boundary, that, in many instances, would be
virtually indistinguishable in the geobiological record from that of an
impact event.

Viewed from the standpoint of systems interactions, the state of earth's
biosphere at any time is a function of the rate of flow of energy from the
sun, to earth, and on to the space heat sink. The biosphere is an open,
far-from-equilibrium, dissipative structure that exists as a function of
that flow. Any disruption of that flow, for example by major releases of CO2
onto earth's surface via mantle plume volcanism, can thus alter the state of
the biosphere.

Steady state release of mantle CO2 onto earth's surface is thought to
prevail over long geological intervals, and surficial systems adjust
accordingly to it. The release of CO2 onto earth's surface by mantle plume
volcanism is in addition to the steady state flow, and can potentially
overwhelm the capacity of surficial systems to accommodate it. Such
volcanism can thus serve as fluctuations that invade surficial systems, some
of which serve as sinks for CO2, producing structure-breaking waves that
amplify the build up of CO2 on earth's surface, in the process disrupting
the solar-earth-space energy flow, and thus the state of the biosphere.
During the eruptions of 75 to 90 percent of the bulk of Deccan Traps lava
pile at K-T boundary time 65 million years ago, some components of the
biosphere could have been driven quickly into extinction. Other
environmental-biological effects would extend over the duration of the
volcanism, for example, the Early Tertiary Strangelove Oceans that were
coeval with the Deccan Traps volcanism.

A discussion of other factors contributing to a K-T perturbation of the
carbon cycle, and its effects upon the biosphere, can be found at:


From S. Fred Singer <>

Dear Benny

How does an asteroid acquire a satellite?  [See yr recent news item about
'Sylvia asteroid'.]

Capture of a separate object is highly unlikely and would require too many
ad hoc assumptions.  Tidal capture (such as might be possible for the Moon)
cannot possibly work for tiny bodies.

The most natural explanation might be as follows:

When the asteroid is created from the breakup of  a larger body, other
fragments are likely to be ejected also. One of these, moving along with the
asteroid, could become its satellite once they have moved well out of the
gravity field of the original body. It is necessary, however, that it
have a small relative velocity so that in the center-of -mass system of the
asteroid it would have an orbital velocity.

How to verify:  Both asteroid and its satellites would have the same
"cosmic-ray age," i.e., same exposure time in space.

Best wishes


S. Fred Singer, President
Science & Environmental Policy Project

The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational
use only. The attached information may not be copied or reproduced for
any other purposes without prior permission of the copyright holders.
The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be
found at
DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the
articles and texts and in other CCNet contributions do not  necessarily
reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the moderator of this

CCCMENU CCC for 2000