CCNet 46/2001 - 23 March 2001

"As governments around the world prepare to spend millions studying
the threat of nearby asteroids hitting the Earth, an astronomer in
Northern Ireland is warning that comets might pose a greater danger. "We
may be looking for a swarm of bees while standing on a railway line with
the train coming," says Bill Napier of the Armagh Observatory."
--New Scientist, 24 March 2001

"Scientists have discussed alternatives to nuclear weapons, such as
placing solar sails on the asteroid. Energy from the Sun would then
chaperone it into a safe orbit. It might even be possible to use a smaller
asteroid as a "billiard ball" to knock an asteroid off-course. But none of
these strategies has come even close to being tested, says Tate: "As a
British general said before the Gulf War, 'If you haven't practised
it you can't do it'."
--Hazel Muir, New Scientist, 3 March 2001

"The real problems came with the beanbag asteroid. Its rubbly
interior absorbed the shock and there was little damage or deflection
(Nature, vol 393, p 437). The beanbag would be extremely difficult to shift
off-course, Asphaug concludes. But whether the average asteroid is
helpfully solid or a troublesome cosmic beanbag remains a mystery. "We don't
know what they are really made of or what they're like inside," says
Asphaug, who believes this makes any deflection strategy near impossible.
"It's like designing a car when you don't know whether it is going to be
made of metal, rock or sand. It's a wonderful academic exercise, but you
wouldn't want to stake too much upon getting behind the wheel."
--Hazel Muir, New Scientist, 3 March 2001

"Marsden suspects that NASA limited its search plans so that it
could promise Congress it would find 90 per cent of its targets by
2008. Widening the search to include asteroids 0.5 kilometres wide
would have meant finding a much less impressive 60 per cent. "I've not been
entirely happy with NASA's view on this," Marsden says. "I think the UK task
force's report gave a much more balanced view of the matter in considering
also the smaller events."
--Hazel Muir, New Scientist, 3 March 2001

    New Scientist, 24 March 2001

    W.M. Napier, Armagh Observatory

    New Scientist, 3 March 2001


    Environmental News Network, 22 March 2001

    NewsFactor Network, 23 March 2001

    Physiscs News <>

    Charles van Oppen <Cvanoppen@HOTMAIL.COM>

    Paul Withers <withers@LPL.Arizona.EDU>

     Peter Snow <>

     Gerrit Verschuur <GVERSCHR@LATTE.MEMPHIS.EDU>

     Luigi Foschini <>

     Colin Keay <>

     Duncan Steel <>

     Hermann Burchard <>

     Orbital Development <>


From New Scientist, 24 March 2001

AS GOVERNMENTS around the world prepare to spend millions studying the
threat of nearby asteroids hitting the Earth, an astronomer in Northern
Ireland is warning that comets might pose a greater danger. "We may be
looking for a swarm of bees while standing on a railway line with the train
coming," says Bill Napier of the Armagh Observatory.

Icy comets with their tails of gas and dust are much rarer than rocky
asteroids, but they don't even have to hit the Earth to do damage. A giant
comet evaporating under the Sun's glare would release billions of tonnes of
dust into the path of the Earth, Napier has shown in a new study. If this
dust rains down on Earth, it could blot out the Sun and trigger a new ice

Astronomers already know of four objects they believe are giant comets
hundreds of kilometres across. And there may be as many as 2000 more lurking
in the Oort Cloud far beyond Pluto. Such comets visit the inner Solar System
so rarely that the risk of an impact is negligible. But Napier calculates
that they could release millions of tonnes of dust into our atmosphere,
which would linger for as long as 10,000 years, blocking out most of the
Sun's light and heat.

Astronomers had thought that the amount of dust around the inner planets
remains fairly constant because dust from the break-up of comets and
asteroids is balanced by dust falling into the Sun. But this can be upset by
just a single large comet.

Napier and his colleagues believe that the Earth has already suffered at
least once from the effects of comet dust. Data collected in the 1980s shows
an unexpectedly large amount of minute interplanetary dust particles, each
with a mass of about a nanogram. The excess can be explained if a giant
comet broke up in the inner Solar System around 70,000 years ago--the onset
of the last ice age. "I think we should be looking for cometary dust in
polar cores," says Napier.

Napier rates the chance of being swamped by comet dust as 1 in 100,000, the
same as a chance of a collision with a near-Earth object. Others are more
doubtful. "I don't know if we've discovered enough comets to do a
statistical analysis," says Robert McMillan of the University of Arizona's
Spacewatch project, which tracks near-Earth objects.

But David Williams of University College London, who served on the British
government's Near Earth Objects task force last year, agrees with Napier
that work needs to be done on the risks posed by comets. "This area is
perhaps one that's opening up now," he says. "We thought it was too
controversial for the report."

More at: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (vol 321, p 463)

Copyright New Scientist, RBI Limited 2001

W.M. Napier, Armagh Observatory

A Markov chain model has been constructed to investigate fluctuations in the
mass of the zodiacal cloud. The cloud is specified by a three-dimensional
grid, each element of which contains the number of dust particles as a
function of semi-major axis, eccentricity and mass. The evolutionary
pathways of dust particles due to radiation pressure are described by fixed
transition probabilities connecting the grid elements. Other elements are
absorbing states representing infall to the Sun or ejection to infinity:
particles entering these states are removed from the system. Particles are
injected through the breakup of comets entering short-period,
high-eccentricity orbits at random times, and are subject to the
Poynting-Robertson effect and removal through collisional disintegration and
radiation pressure. The main conclusions are that the cometary component of
the zodiacal cloud is highly variable, and that in the wake of giant comet
entry into a short-period, near-Earth orbit, the dust influx to the Earth's
atmosphere may acquire a climatically significant optical depth. Copyright
2001, Blackwell Science Ltd


From New Scientist, 3 March 2001 [i.e. published shortly before Lord
Sainsbury's response to the Task Force Report, BJP]

Countless chunks of space rock criss-cross Earth's orbit, and sooner or
later there'll be one heading straight for us. Will we just have to sit here
and take it, asks Hazel Muir

FOUR MONTHS AGO, astronomers issued a chilling warning. A rogue lump of rock
the size of an office block appeared to be on a collision course with Earth.
Expected time of arrival: Saturday 21 September 2030. The chances of it
hitting were a slender 1 in 500. But if it did, this object could explode in
the atmosphere with an energy of several atomic bombs. Goodbye New York
perhaps. Or Paris. Or Beijing.

That time, at least, it was a false alarm. After a little more homework to
pin down the object's course, astronomers found it would pass by with
several million kilometres to spare. It was relegated to a long list of
cosmic might-have-beens, and everyone breathed easy again.

Sooner or later, though, one of these warnings will stick. There are plenty
of killer comets and asteroids out there, and it's only a matter of time
before one of them really does head our way. Faced with such a catastrophe,
what will we do?

Despite a stream of studies of the threat from asteroids and comets, and
even hearings on the hazard in the US Congress, no one yet knows. But a new
report commissioned by the British government aims to change that. It
presses for significant international efforts to identify and understand
cosmic hazards, and work out how to knock them out of harm's way. The report
goes much further than its predecessors in calling for urgent international
action. "It's a potentially momentous development," says Clark Chapman, a
planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder,

There is already a host of space missions in the pipeline that should help
us understand our enemy. Last month, NASA concluded its mission to an
intriguing asteroid called Eros. And the agency is now cooking up an
ambitious plan to drop half a tonne of copper on a comet. When the results
from these and a slew of other projects come in, we will be far better
placed to thwart the invaders from space.

The new British report comes from the Task Force on Potentially Hazardous
Near Earth Objects (NEOs), a committee of experts commissioned by science
minister Lord Sainsbury to investigate the risks to Earth of impacts by
rocky asteroids and icy comets. The team was asked to assess how likely such
collisions are and what their effect would be, and recommend a plan of
action. Its report, completed in August 2000, includes a census of
near-Earth asteroids and predicts the effects of an impact depending on the
asteroid's size (see Table).

Asteroid impact: size and consequences

For instance, asteroids measuring 10 kilometres or more threaten mass
extinctions similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years
ago. Studies of craters on the Moon and estimates of the numbers of large
asteroids in space suggest these bruisers come our way only once every 100
million years or so. But objects don't need to be that big to do serious
harm. The NEO report stresses the dangers of bodies just 50 or 60 metres
across, which arrive once every couple of centuries. When an asteroid this
size exploded in the sky above the Tunguska river valley in Siberia on 30
June 1908, the blast wave flattened around 2000 square kilometres of forest.
A similar strike above London would wipe out everything within the M25 ring

If astronomers saw one of these heading towards us tomorrow, what would we
do? Probably not much, says Brian Marsden, director of the Minor Planet
Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which gathers data on asteroids and
comets. Current telescopes wouldn't be able to spot an object that size
until it had come within a few million kilometres of Earth-if they saw it at
all. That sounds fairly remote, until you consider that it would be zooming
towards us at 20 or 30 kilometres per second. "The hit would likely occur in
a matter of days," says Marsden.

Marsden thinks it would take at least a day to identify and report the
object, and confirm a collision course with any certainty. At that point,
radar observations-if they could be arranged in time-could pinpoint the
impact site, and other observations could gauge the asteroid's size. If the
expected impact site was inhabited, it might be possible to evacuate the
people, or send up a missile to try a last-ditch and probably very risky
attempt to deflect the asteroid.

But any likely measure would be half-baked, according to Marsden, because no
action plan is in place. There aren't even any official channels for
reporting a dangerous asteroid. "We at the Minor Planet Center are likely to
get the information first, but nobody's ever told me who to call if we find
something," says Marsden. "If any nation is going to do anything about it,
it's probably the US. So do I contact someone in the State Department, or in
the Defense Department? It has never been made clear to me."

Breathing space

What if the threatening object were much bigger? Because large asteroids are
bright and easily spotted at a distance, we'd almost certainly have a few
decades to play with, according to Jonathan Tate, an air defence specialist
in the British army and founder of Spaceguard UK, a non-profit organisation
in Wiltshire that exists to provide information about near-Earth objects.
Take the one about 1.5 kilometres across that sparked a false alarm in 1997.
In that case, astronomers predicted that it would hit the Earth in 2028,
before they did their sums again and worked out that it would in fact miss
by a safe margin. "Such warning times might be up to 50 or even more years,
giving us plenty of time to come up with mitigation measures," Tate says.
"After all, the Americans went from a standing start to the Moon in less
than 10 years."

But who would take responsibility? Space agencies? The military? Or perhaps
the United Nations. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in 1998 that
international cooperation at the UN does extend into outer space. But
according to Tate, NASA is the only organisation currently capable of
hatching a plan, possibly along with the European and Russian space

The most likely strategy, he says, is to use nuclear weapons to shove an
asteroid out of the way. But it's no sure-fire solution. "There is a
significant danger that such action will break the object apart, turning a
cannon ball into a cluster bomb," he says. Several small blasts might nudge
the body away more safely. Then there are political hurdles. International
treaties ban weapons of mass destruction in space, although Tate suspects no
one will quibble when the time comes: "If global or regional destruction is
the alternative, who is going to sue?"

Scientists have discussed alternatives to nuclear weapons, such as placing
solar sails on the asteroid. Energy from the Sun would then chaperone it
into a safe orbit. It might even be possible to use a smaller asteroid as a
"billiard ball" to knock an asteroid off-course. But none of these
strategies has come even close to being tested, says Tate: "As a British
general said before the Gulf War, 'If you haven't practised it you can't do

The first step is to know your enemy. Using a missile to zap an asteroid can
have hugely different effects, depending on its composition, according to
computer simulations reported in 1998 by Erik Asphaug of the University of
California at Santa Cruz. For their simulations, Asphaug and his colleagues
used a peanut-shaped asteroid called Castalia, which is about 1.6 kilometres
wide and crosses the Earth's orbit. They assumed Castalia could have one of
three structures: a solid lump of rock, two rocks joined by a pile of
rubble, or a "cosmic beanbag"-a simple pile of rubble held together by
gravity. The team then simulated a spacecraft mission that dumped a lump of
basalt the size of a house onto the virtual Castalia, releasing about as
much energy as was generated by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

The impact deflected the solid Castalia most, and although it was fractured,
most of the pieces stayed together. With the twin-lump Castalia, one side
shattered but the rubble pile in the centre cushioned the other side from
damage. The real problems came with the beanbag asteroid. Its rubbly
interior absorbed the shock and there was little damage or deflection
(Nature, vol 393, p 437). The beanbag would be extremely difficult to shift
off-course, Asphaug concludes.

But whether the average asteroid is helpfully solid or a troublesome cosmic
beanbag remains a mystery. "We don't know what they are really made of or
what they're like inside," says Asphaug, who believes this makes any
deflection strategy near impossible. "It's like designing a car when you
don't know whether it is going to be made of metal, rock or sand. It's a
wonderful academic exercise, but you wouldn't want to stake too much upon
getting behind the wheel."

The hints so far suggest there is, in fact, no such thing as a typical
asteroid. In June 1997, a NASA mission originally called the Near Earth
Asteroid Rendezvous, and later renamed NEAR Shoemaker, flew past a fat
asteroid more than 60 kilometres wide called Mathilde. Then in February
2000, mission controllers successfully trapped NEAR Shoemaker in the puny
gravity of Eros, a potato-shaped chunk of rock 35 kilometres across. It
circled this little world for a year before landing on its surface last

The probe's observations threw up plenty of surprises. First, they suggested
Mathilde has a low but uneven density, hinting that it's a rubble pile.
"Mathilde appears to be much more difficult to disrupt than anybody could
have imagined," says Asphaug. But Eros told a different story. It has a
uniform density-about the same as that of the Earth's crust-suggesting it's
a solid body. Eros also has a network of grooves and ridges that suggest it
is criss-crossed with fractures.

Knowing about surface features like these would be essential to any attempts
to deflect an asteroid, says Chapman. But even armed with close-up snaps
like those from NEAR, he thinks it would still be difficult to come up with
a fail-safe plan: "How cohesive would Eros be in the face of sudden 'pushes'
against it, to ensure the whole body moves rather than comes apart in
pieces? I don't think we know the answer to that yet."

Still, astronomers are optimistic that we'll soon understand asteroids and
comets better. Next year, a Japanese mission called MUSES-C will send a
spacecraft to an asteroid called 1998 SF36. In 2005, it will survey the
asteroid and hop across its surface to gather samples at three sites, then
cruise back to Earth to deliver the samples in 2007.

A NASA spacecraft is already hot on the heels of a comet called Wild 2.
Launched in February 1999, the STARDUST craft will reach Wild 2 in January
2004, soak up some of the comet's dust, and return with it to Earth in 2006.
The European Space Agency also has designs on a comet. Its Rosetta mission
will blast off to Comet Wirtanen in 2003, and check out two asteroids on the
way. "There is some chance that existing and planned missions to asteroids
or comets will reveal such profoundly unexpected aspects of these bodies
that we will have to seriously alter our perspectives on how to deal with
potential impacts," says Chapman.

Perhaps some of the most intriguing results will come from NASA's Deep
Impact project, due to take off in 2004 for Comet Tempel 1. On its arrival
the following year, the craft will drop a half-tonne copper cylinder onto
the comet to blast a crater the size of a football field in the surface. As
the debris settles, cameras will focus on the comet's innards, thought to be
similar to the pristine material that built the Solar System.

The copper missile's impact will give the comet a nudge that should change
its orbit by a few hundred kilometres, says Michael A'Hearn, who will head
the mission's science team. It's such a tiny shift that astronomers won't be
able to measure the change until the comet has completed an orbit of the
Sun. It falls far short of the force needed to deflect a comet from a
collision course with Earth. Nonetheless, the mission is sure to tell us
something about controlling rogue comets. "I think it falls short of a
realistic 'trial run'," says Chapman. "But anything that teaches us about
the physical nature of these bodies and how they respond to active
`touching' can help."

Further optimism comes from the British NEO report. It presses the
government to "urgently" liaise with other governments and the International
Astronomical Union to set up a forum for open discussion of near-Earth
objects along the lines of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This panel would look into the science of asteroids and comets as well as
impact hazards, and design action plans that would have some official force.

Marsden is particularly pleased that the report recommends hunting down all
near-Earth asteroids bigger than 300 metres across, and monitoring their
orbits over the next few decades. As part of the effort, Britain would seek
partners in Europe to build an advanced 3-metre telescope in the southern
hemisphere. This is more ambitious than anything planned by NASA, which will
only be looking for asteroids more than 1 kilometre wide.

Marsden suspects that NASA limited its search plans so that it could promise
Congress it would find 90 per cent of its targets by 2008. Widening the
search to include asteroids 0.5 kilometres wide would have meant finding a
much less impressive 60 per cent. "I've not been entirely happy with NASA's
view on this," Marsden says. "I think the UK task force's report gave a much
more balanced view of the matter in considering also the smaller events."

The British report recommends sending an army of relatively cheap
mini-spacecraft to some near-Earth objects to find out what they're made of.
It also proposes putting funding for the Minor Planet Center onto a firm
international footing, and calls for detailed studies of ways to deflect
killer asteroids.

"The Brits have placed themselves in a leadership position for serious
consideration of the asteroid threat," says Asphaug. His only quibble is
that the report is not ambitious enough when it comes to spacecraft
missions. He thinks we should send more sophisticated radar-equipped
satellites to drop landers fitted with seismographs. The spacecraft could
blast an asteroid with grenades and watch the aftermath for a week, then hop
off to spy on another one. It's an aim that's achievable now, he says.

Above all, says Asphaug, we have to find out what's out there. "You need a
highly instrumented rendezvous to at least a handful of NEOs-small 100-metre
nuggets of carbonaceous rock, large 10-kilometre rubble piles, dead comets,
what have you," says Asphaug. "Because that's just the point: what have

Further reading:

The report of the Task Force on Potentially Hazardous Near Earth Objects is
Hazel Muir

Copyright 2001, New Scientist



From the Environmental News Network, 22 March 2001

Vector Science News Release
Thursday, March 22, 2001

Researcher Says Tons of the Moon on the Earth; Tektite Events May Have
Triggered Extinctions

From Vector Science News Release

The Moon is not the geologically dead world that most astronomy textbooks
claim, says Darryl S. Futrell, a California-based petrologist. Futrell
believes there's strong evidence of massive, lunar-volcanic explosions right
here on Earth. The most recent eruption on the Moon, which showered a
portion of the Earth with many tons of natural glass, occurred within the
past 770,000 years, he notes.

Futrell, who has written about his studies of meteoritic stones called
tektites in the journal Nature, says he has amassed evidence that strongly
suggests these natural glass stones are volcanic material blown off the Moon
by eruptions. Futrell studied the long-debated tektite origin puzzle under
the guidance of the famous Project Apollo lunar scientist John A. O'Keefe
(1916-2000) beginning in the late 1960s; like his famous mentor, Futrell is
convinced that the Moon periodically hurls volcanic debris into Earth's
gravity well causing climate change and extinctions.

"The Earth has experienced about 12 tektite events in the last 65 million
years," Futrell says. "Even though another event may not occur for thousands
of years, the slight possibility that it could occur tomorrow needs to be
taken into consideration."

Futrell refutes the popular theory that tektites were formed when asteroids
or comets impacted Earth and melted sediments and rocks. He has identified
volcanic structures within chunky, layered tektites (called Muong Nong
tektites), which cannot be explained in the context of terrestrial
impact-melt origin. According to Futrell, based on other physical evidence,
including the fact that Apollo 12 and 14 astronauts found rocks with
tektite-like chemistries on the lunar surface, it's now easy to conclude
tektites come from the Moon.

"There is an another extremely important reason why the scientific community
should take a closer look at the origin of tektites," he says. "If the
massive biological extinctions do have a tektite association, and tektites
are formed within the Moon, then we should be watching our natural satellite
for signs of explosive volcanic activity."

For more information: Darryl S. Futrell, 6222 Haviland, Whittier, CA
90601-3735 USA

For more information, contact:
Louis Varricchio
Science Correspondent
Vector Science News Release


From NewsFactor Network, 23 March 2001
By Deborah Durham-Vichr

The 143-ton Mir space station's fiery return to Earth is garnering the
attention of millions via a medium unknown to scientists at the time of its
launch 15 years ago -- the World Wide Web. Scores of Web sites are
headlining Mir's plummet as a lead story, while others are tracking the
station's moves by the second.

Still other Web sites are hawking Mir-ware online, conjuring space station
history timelines and detailing Russian space agency plans for de-orbiting
in an effort to capture eyeballs momentarily locked onto outer space.

"Knowing that this was going to be a big event, we got prepared. We have
additional hardware on our front-end, support from a local ISP [Internet
service provider], and all hands on board," Jason Hoch, director of site
operations at, told NewsFactor Network.

"Starting Tuesday, we saw significant peaks and we've had very high traffic.
We expect even more around 7:30 p.m. EST [Thursday] because that's the first
burn of Mir," said Hoch, referring to Russian space agency attempts to slow
Mir's fall into the Pacific Ocean somewhere between Australia and Chile. The
re-entry will occur between midnight and 1 a.m. EST Friday, according to's countdown ticker.'s traffic has at least doubled in anticipation of Mir's fall, Hoch
said, though it had been high for the last couple of weeks because of other
space-related news events, such as the cancelled trip of American
businessman Dennis Tito to the aging Mir space station.

Though some sites describe the Mir re-entry as "the single largest celestial
event on Earth since the Tunguska meteorite struck Siberia in 1908,"
according to software manufacturer ParallelGraphics (which is also tracking
Mir's fall in real time), others closer to the station say the event is
pretty low-key.

Hype But Not Hysteria

Jeff Manber, president of MirCorp, the company that reached agreement last
year with the Russian space agency to lease Mir before Russia decided to
de-orbit the station, told NewsFactor: "I'm old enough to remember SkyLab
coming down, and there's much less hysteria this time. We seem to be more
comfortable this time," he said, referring to the return of Skylab in the
summer of 1979, after six years in orbit.

MirCorp remains convinced, Manber said, that some combination of space
tourism and space research project remains economically viable. "We're
moving ahead in the development of a small commercial module," Manber told

"We want people to understand that this is a perfectly good space station
coming down. We had a 77-day mission [to Mir] that fixed some leaks, and
determined that there was nothing wrong with this space station that some
money could not have fixed. That's the great pity of this whole thing,"
Manber added.

Media Missions

Manber's company was not the only entity attempting to capitalize on Mir.
Several television producers were reportedly making plans for a "Survivor in
Space" reality TV program, and director James Cameron of the Titanic had
undergone training to visit Mir this summer.

The once-proud Russian space station had circled the Earth 86,320 times as
of Thursday, according to press reports. Many recent technical failures,
including fires and a 20-hour power outage last December, have plagued Mir,
leading to its scheduled plunge into the Pacific

Copyright 2001, NewsFactor Network


From Physiscs News <>

PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE                        
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News
Number 531  March 22, 2001  by Phillip F. Schewe, Ben Stein, and James

Some of the ultrahigh-energy cosmic ray neutrinos striking the Moon's soil
are expected to set up shock waves of Cerenkov radiation, the light given
off by particles (in this case charged particles spawned by neutrinos)
traveling faster than light itself in that medium (see schematic drawing at For the cosmic rays of greatest interest, those
with an energy above 10^20 eV, the Cerenkov radiation peaks in the microwave
region of the electromagnetic spectrum. To test the validity of this
"Askaryan effect" (named for the Armenian-Russian scientist Gurgen
Askaryan), a consortium of scientists (David Saltzberg, 310-206-4542,; Peter Gorham, have
shot gamma rays into a bed of sand at the SLAC Final Focus Test Beam.  Sure
enough, the expected coherent microwaves appeared. The scientists are
pointing two JPL radio telescopes (part of the Deep Space Network) toward
the Moon to look for such radiation from cosmic ray neutrinos.  Right now
their calibration involves pointing at distant quasars, but it would be nice
to have some source of microwave pulses on the Moon itself, a luxury not
possible at present. Some of the more optimistic estimates place the number
of possible 10^20 eV cosmic ray neutrino events as high as one every 10 to
20 hours or so. (Saltzberg et al., Physical Review Letters, 26 March; text
at; )  By the
way, in this week's issue of Nature, members of the AMANDA collaboration
report the observation of cosmic-ray neutrinos, also via the emission of
Cerenkov radiation, but in this case the detectors are buried in Antarctic
ice (Andres et al., Nature, 22 March 2001.)


From Charles van Oppen <Cvanoppen@HOTMAIL.COM>

The Institute of Civil Defence and Disaster Studies is holding a workshop:

Here are the basic details:

Do you make risky decisions?

Workshop: Risk awareness and decision making: human and organisational
Principal Facilitator:  Prof Brian Toft, Marsh Inc
Organised by: Institute of Civil Defence and Disaster Studies (South
Hosted by: Coventry Centre for Disaster Management, Coventry University

Date: Saturday 28th April 2001, 1000 hrs 'til 1630 hrs.
Fee: 35 including lunch/refreshments and proceedings (cheque payable to
Coventry University)

Contact:  Les Moseley, Coventry University, School of
Science and Environment, Priory Street, Coventry CV1 5FB

Also attending/facilitating seminars are Dr Anne Eyre (Coventry Centre for
Disaster Management)(speaking on the multi-disciplinary approach to disaster
Dr Martina McGuinness, Eve Coles (Centre for Risk and Crisis Management)
Dr Lynn Drennan (Division of Risk, Glasgow Caledonian University)
Prof Bill McGuire (Director, Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre, UCL)
Dr Simon Bennett (Scarman Centre, University of Leicester).

Please reply to Les Moseley or contact me if you would like further

Kind regards,

Charles van Oppen (
Registrar, ICDDS
Affiliate Member, BGHRC, UCL
Risk Management Research Consultant
Tel 01858 565911



From Paul Withers <withers@LPL.Arizona.EDU>

Hi Benny,

I hear that my work on this interesting crater has been discussed on CCNet
recently. Some of my work is available at for anyone who's interested
beyond the Sky and Tel story. I intend to put the Meteoritics paper up on
there when I get a nice PDF from the journal. I don't follow this discussion
forum regularly, but I am happy to answer questions about the work if they
appear in my email inbox.


PS I agree with an early rebuttal paper on this subject - Gervase's text is
much more consistent with a meteor in the Earth's atmosphere than with an
impact on the Moon.

Paul Withers                             Office  +1 520 621 1507
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory,          Home    +1 520 327 4827  
University of Arizona, Tucson,           Fax     +1 520 621 4933
AZ 85721, USA                            Email


From Peter Snow <>

Dear Benny,

I would like to contribute to the debate re the Link between the Kentish
Gentlemen's 1178 lunar impact observation and the formation of crater
Giordano Bruno. There appears to be two major objections to this hypothesis
one the fact that no other culture has recorded such an event and secondly
that the amount of material excavated from the crater would have meant the
material that achieved escape velocity would have caused a major earth

The early New Zealand South Island Maori culture of the Moa hunter period
has left evidence in the form of oral traditions (no written language) that
their culture was almost totally annihilated by a catastrophic event they
called "Te Ahi Te tipua Te Kohuru O Tamaatea" which could be deciphered as
the mysterious destructive fires from space. Traditions tell of stones and
fires falling from space, which destroyed the forests, the Moa, other birds
and the greater part of mankind.  Other forms of history leaving techniques
include place names, songs, poems, and rock art; all support a catastrophic
event that largely destroyed the Moa Hunter Culture.

One poem and one dirge exists which relate the destruction of the Moa Hunter
culture with the splitting of the horns of the moon which fell to earth
causing this mayhem. Rock art exists today which depicts men fleeing from
falling chevrons, which have the horns of the chevron split.  A further
petroglyph exists which shows a man hands upheld in fear looking at a new
moon with the lower horn of the moon split (We tend to walk upside down here
in the antipodes).

Other motif or logo type petroglyphs exist which support a catastrophe. I
will describe one, which depicts a Lizard on a crescent, on a crescent with
a split horn. The lizard is the representational form of the God Tumokomoko
the god of starvation, death and devastation , the new moon represents the
God of Evil, Whiro and both of these influential gods then rest on a
crescent with one of its horns split.

Traditions exist which suggests that the destructive fires were associated
with the earth being flung up screening the sun, which caused Hapopo death
and decay. The southern coastal tribes describe a tsunami like event at the
time of the Mystic Fires that changed the coastal landscape, and destroyed
many of the settlements. Tsunami signatures are in fact present along this

There are traditions, which refer to the fire stones (kapua`s), which caused
the catastrophe being present today like red berries scattered on the
ground. There are indeed unique dense flint like silicaceous stones which
are scattered in a curved linear form along the south of the south island of
New Zealand which extend down to the south coast and probably extend into
the southern ocean. They are known today as China stones these china stones
are associated with three crater structures, which I believe could be impact
sites.  The total mass of these stones would be hard to estimate but in the
order millions perhaps billions of tons needless to say there are many of
these rather beautiful sculptured stones.

This is in brief the story of the events surrounding the destruction of the
Moa Hunter Culture, gleaned largely from South Island Maori sources. I
believe that the event can be dated back to 800yrs bp. and the event
witnessed by the Kent's was the same event witnessed by the Moa Hunter.  The
Kent's did not suffer the disastrous consequences of the event. The Moa
hunter did not record a lunar explosive event but did record the disastrous
consequences in the form of a swarm of lunar ejecta material trapped by
earth`s gravitational field and falling onto the southern part of our south
island. As the new moon set on Canterbury, the second day of the new moon
(Whiro)was visible in New Zealand. The splitting effect came from the eject
extending from over the lunar horizon to the terminator. I believe this
effect would have been visible for some many hours after the original impact
and would have been visible to the Moa Hunter who observed the moon
constantly to assist in there hunting and fishing they looked at the moon
like we look at our watches any such event would be regarded with great awe.

As to the paucity of recorded history of this event, as this event was
witnessed after the setting of the sun in Kent then it occurred at the
day/night line on earth and presumably would be visible briefly along the
line around the world. If one follows this line on a globe transecting it
through Canterbury England, this line cross's the Atlantic touching on the
bulge of West Africa, continues down the Atlantic over the Antarctic up to
the Southern part of New Zealand out into the Pacific up to the Arctic down
again to Canterbury England. Most of the area were it was possible to see
the explosive event occurred over uninhabited areas only the Kent's and the
Maori have records of such an event. The only other area where it was
possible to see the event and record it, was West Africa two out of three is
not a bad average. I have not studied West African traditions.

I hope this contributes to the debate and why I support Jack Hartungs

Peter Snow



James Perry wrote:

"I am interested in the assertion that asteroid impacts generate
Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). I have never heard this before. I thought EMP
was generated only by man-made sources (e.g. nuclear explosions). Why would
asteroid impacts generate EMP?"

I have suggested the same in many public forums but I am not equipped to
prove it theoretically.  However, when Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into the
southern hemisphere of Jupiter aurorae were triggered at the mirror points
in its northern hemisphere. That suggests extreme disturbances traveled
along the magnetic field lines and isn't that the essence of an EMP - an
extreme disturbance of magnetic fields, especially when associated with the
presence of electrons? That can generate radio frequency radiation and/or
induce severe effects in conductors at ground level. 

I suspect that when an asteroid or comet containing electrically conductive
material, whether it be iron or impure water (as in comets), complex
interactions with the magnetic field of the earth may be expected to
generate EMPs. I am not aware of references that prove this. One also bears
in mind the phenomenon of electrophonic sounds created by fireballs and
surely the consequences in the electromagnetic spectrum of the collision of
a large object with the earth's magnetic field and the electric field
observed at ground level would be severe.

I, too, would like to know if theoretical work has been done in this area.

Gerrit Verschuur


From Luigi Foschini <>

Dear James,

you can look at:

- M. Beech, L. Foschini: A space charge model for electrophonic bursters.
  Astronomy and Astrophysics 345 (1999) L27.
- M. Beech, L. Foschini: Leonid electrophonic bursters. Astronomy and
  Astrophysics 367 (2001) 1056.

for EMP from airburst of small asteroids/comets;


- L. Foschini: Electromagnetic interference from plasmas generated in
meteoroid impacts.  
  Europhysics Letters 43 (1998) 226.

for EMP from hypervelocity impacts.



Dr. Luigi Foschini
Istituto TeSRE - CNR
Via Gobetti 101, I-40129 Bologna (Italy)
Tel. +39 051.6398706 - Fax +39 051.6398724
Home page:


From Colin Keay <>

Lightning strokes are a natural source of EMP's as one may easily verify by
having a radio or TV on during a thunderstorm. The EMP from an asteroid
entry would last for a few seconds and be
generated in the same way as the em radiation giving rise to the anomalous
sounds from large meteor fireballs.

See: Colin S L Keay, "Anomalous Sounds from the Entry of Meteor Fireballs"
SCIENCE, Vol 210, pp. 11-15, 1980 October 3.
Colin S L Keay, "Progress in Explaining the Mysterious Sounds Produced by
Very Large Meteor Fireballs" Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol 7, No 4,
pp. 337-354, 1993.

I hope these will be enlightening. In the case of an asteroid entry I would
expect the em radiation strength would be as extreme as from a large nuclear
blast in the atmosphere, with drastic consequences for all but the most
heavily protected electronic equipment.

Cheers ..... Colin Keay
University of Newcastle, NSW.


From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

James Perry asked about Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) generation by NEO
impacts. Atmospheric nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s/60s produced
phenomena similar to aurorae at the geomagnetic complementary points e.g. in
the Pacific. As a result, it was suggested by various researchers (e.g. N.
Vasilyev and G. Andreev, WerkGroepNieuws, 17, 122, 1989) that a similar
phenomenon might have been witnessed in the Antarctic at the time of the
Tunguska event in 1908. In particular they pointed to a report that Douglas
Mawson had recorded an anomalous aurora at that time (June 30).

With a colleague I examined Mawson's original notebooks from the British
Antarctic Expedition of 1907-09. Although it is true that Mawson (and other
members of the party) observed a strong aurora near the time of Tunguska,
this was early in the austral winter. We could find no evidence
from that source that the aurora was exceptional in the context of their
later observations throughout that winter (July-September). However, Mawson
and colleagues did note an exceptional aurora seven hours *before* the
Tunguska impact. This stimulates the thought that, if the Tunguska object
were actually cometary in nature - by which I mean that it was undergoing
some outgassing - then the Earth would have been within its ion tail as the
object approached from the sunward side of our planet, and that might
explain what Mawson et al. observed in the long Antarctic winter night just
prior to the arrival of the solid body over Siberia. The evidence for this,
of course, is flimsy, but it is worth keeping in mind. This investigation
was published as: Duncan Steel and Richard Ferguson, "Auroral observations
in the Antarctic at the time of the Tunguska event, 1908 June 30,"
Australian Journal of Astronomy, 5, #1, 1-10 (1993).

By the way, in part because of these observations I was later involved in
the naming of an asteroid for Sir Douglas Mawson (number 4456).

Duncan Steel


From Hermann Burchard <>

Dear Benny,

catholic author Michael H. Brown appeared on the TV program "Mother Angelica
Live" last night, Wednesday, March 21, to discuss his new book, "Sent to
Earth". This is about catastrophism, plagues, volcanism, with the idea that
God is trying to get the attention of humanity so that we
would begin to repent of our individual and collective sins. Historical
catastrophies were referred to in general terms, such as events around AD
500, presumably the Justinian plagues and comets. Some might see here a
clever spin on Victor Clube's notion that religion is an irrational
response to catastrophic cosmogenic impacts. It would be interesting to know
whether the church joins Spaceguard in advocating, or instead opposes a
planetary NEO defence program.

The program seemed to fit in well with the traditional themes of the current
Lenten season.  EWTN's catholic religious programming including theology,
church history, as well as music, is broadcast world-wide via satellite and
cable [Galaxy 1, C-band transponder 11] out of Birmingham,
Alabama, and was founded in 1982 by Mother Angelica, abbess of a 2nd order
Franciscan nunnery located in Alabama.  She is known to catholic viewers
(and to some like yours truly who aren't) for her wit and outspokeness. They
have a web-site at

Lenten greetings,
Hermann Burchard

PS.: Leon Neihouse's remark, on Thursday's CCNet, that we still lack a
comprehensive design for all dangerous impact events, is credible enough. Do
we need to go much smaller than 100 m? 50 meters perhaps?  For smaller
impactors, shielding of nuclear fuel dumps can be constructed in concrete
and steel. By Ka-band interferometry 50 m objects could still be observed in
good time, I believe. Perhaps the military's phased array radar can be
adapted. I defer to astronomers who are the experts on interferometry. Leon
points out the NASA SHIELD report by R.E. Gold which I had not seen. The
report mentions neither radar or meteor streams, and it does not address
impactors in the 50-100 meter range. However, it undoubtedly would be a
great blueprint for government to begin taking action. -hb


From Orbital Development <>
Mr. Gregory Nemitz
3672-A Bancroft St.
San Diego, CA 92104
USA Tel:  619-528-0520

22 March 2001

NASA's General Counsel to Refer Eros Ownership Dispute to Department of

In a first ever government acknowledgment of the possibility of a right to
ownership of a property in Space, NASA's General Counsel, Edward Frankle
offers Orbital Development ( to send the company's
claim of ownership of 433 Eros, to the US Department of State for guidance.
This is the first known instance where a US government official admitted
that Space Property Rights may exist.

NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft landed on the asteroid 433 Eros on 12
February, 2001. A few days later, the asteroid's owner, Gregory W. Nemitz of
Orbital Development, based in San Diego, California, sent a letter of
invoice ( to Dan Goldin, NASA's Head
Administrator, for parking/storage fees of $20 for the next century's rent.

In reply ( to OrbDev's invoice, and in
acknowledgment that a property right to Eros may exist, Mr. Frankle writes:
"Should you submit facially reasonable material supporting your claim, NASA
will send it, along with your original letter, to the Department of State
for its advice and guidance."

The lengthy letter in response ( by Mr.
Nemitz gives a very detailed rationale on exactly why Mr. Nemitz is indeed
the owner of 433 Eros.

In the letter to Mr. Frankle, Mr. Nemitz writes: "If the claim is in an
uncharted area of law, it is absolutely not immediately dismissable, in
fact, it is quite the opposite situation. If the claim is not in violation
of any laws, if it does not encroach on any previous claim, and especially
if the qualities of the claim can trace a history of reasonable precedents,
it is in fact a very valid claim.

Mr. Nemitz's response also states: "If my claim can be viewed as
unperfected, it cannot be invalid for being imperfect. The claim exists, my
full property rights remain valid, and my claim is absolutely not premature
nor inappropriate."

In addition, the response states: "In principle, the very foundation of a
representative form of government resides in the public contract among those
governed by mutual consent, which allows government to protect their
individual and property rights.  If any government or Treaty to which
governments adhere makes private ownership of property in space illegal,
they've lost their only legitimate footing to BE a government of, for, and
by the people who view Space as a frontier."

Orbital Development is a consultancy for Space and Lunar Development.
Founded in 1992, the firm has worked on several space projects and with many
notable "New Space" companies.  Mr. Nemitz, the company Founder, is an
Advocate in the Space Frontier Foundation, a former president of the San
Diego L-5 Society, a branch of the National Space Society, and has been a
space development activist since 1988.

Please Direct Inquires to:
Orbital Development
Mr. Gregory Nemitz
3672-A Bancroft St.
San Diego, CA 92104
USA Tel:  619-528-0520

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