CCNet 56/2001 - 18 April 2001

"All these arguments confirm that the development of brainpower and
its rapid improvement was a survival strategy needed by hominids
especially during times of severe environmental stress like that
brought about by cosmic impacts with the Earth. The prime motive of all
life including human life is survival and the evolutionary development of
Homo sapiens, the intellectually superior hominid, seems to have taken
place during this time of cosmic catastrophes so that the species
could survive. [...] Interestingly humankind's early evolution was then,
to a considerable extent, a result of surviving the consequence of
cosmic impact, and subsequently the species has been propelled to save
itself and Earth's life forms from continuing cosmic attacks. Although
I find no example of cosmic impacts singly wiping out any early hominid
species I deduce that the environmental stress created on the Earth as a
result of asteroid and comet impacts propelled hominid intellectual
evolution in some species. Unfortunately the hominids not having the
intellect to adapt to the suddenly deteriorating environment were placed
at a competitive disadvantage and were relegated to a relatively quick
extinction by Earth's hostile environment that was a result of cosmic
--Worth F. Crouch, 17 April 2001

    Press Association, 17 April 2001

    Benny J Peiser <>

    Ron Baalke <>

    Scientific American, May 2001

    Ron Baalke <>

    Christian Gritzner <>

    The Times, 12 April 2001

    Ron Baalke <>

    Andrew Yee <>

     S. Fred Singer <>

     Worth Crouch <
     Andy Smith <>

     Andrei Ol'khovatov <>

     Syuzo Isobe <>


From Press Association, 17 April 2001

Human beings are lucky to have escaped being wiped off the face of the
planet by an asteroid or comet, two leading experts say.

The reason humans survived to dominate the Earth has little to do with our
superiority as a species, say the scientists.

Instead, they claim, the success of Homo sapiens is mostly down to "cosmic

Scientists investigating human evolution have been puzzled why, apart from
us, none of the known 14 hominid species to emerge in the last five million
years have survived. The traditional explanation has been that these early
humans could not compete with more intelligent and adaptable species.

But new findings from social anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser, and impact
expert Michael Paine, suggest the most likely cause of the extinctions was a
series of devastating impact events.

The theory explains why abrupt, rather than gradual, changes are seen in the
fossil record.

Dr Peiser, from Liverpool John Moores University, said: "The reason that
Homo sapiens has survived in spite of these global disasters has little to
do with the traditional explanations given by neo-Darwinists. It is sobering
to realise that we are alive due to cosmic luck rather than our genetic

One of the most significant impacts was just over two million years ago,
when a two-kilometre wide asteroid struck the Southern Ocean south west of

Mr Paine, from the Planetary Society in Australia, said: "Had it struck
land, the environmental consequences might have been much worse. If the
collision had occurred a few hours early, southern Africa might have been
wiped out, along with our ancestors."

The two scientists carried out a computer simulation of cosmic impacts over
the past five million years. The findings were presented at the Charterhouse
Conference celebrating British achievements in space, held at Charterhouse
School in Godalming, Surrey.

Copyright 2001 Ananova Ltd


From Benny J Peiser <>

According to the Minor Planet Center (see IAUC 7610 below), another member
of the Transneptunian Belt has been identified to have a satellite. Among
the TNOs, only Pluto was known to have such a feature - that was until
Monday. It would appear that 1998 WW31 is essentially a double object with
comparable components, even more so than Pluto and its satellite Charon. In
short, those colleagues who argue that Pluto is "different" because it has a
satellite need to think again.

Benny J Peiser

                                                  Circular No. 7610
Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams
Mailstop 18, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA 02138,
IAUSUBS@CFA.HARVARD.EDU or FAX 617-495-7231 (subscriptions)
URL  ISSN 0081-0304
Phone 617-495-7440/7244/7444 (for emergency use only)

S/2000 (1998 WW_31) 1
     C. Veillet, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), reports:
"Recovery images of the transneptunian object (TNO) 1998 WW_31
(see MPEC 2001-G29) taken by C. Veillet, A. Doressoundiram, and J.
Shapiro with the 3.6-m CFHT show that two objects were within <
1".3 and moving together over the two nights of observations (2000
Dec. 22 and 23 UT) without any detectable relative motion.  CFHT
public archive observations of the same field taken nearly a year
previously by J. J. Kavelaars and A. Morbidelli show 1998 WW_31 as
double or elongated on four images, with the two components at a
different distance and position angle than on the discovery images.
A very preliminary reduction shows the brighter component to be 0.4
mag brighter than the secondary in R on 2000 Dec. 22, with the
secondary being 1".2 from the primary in p.a. 45 deg (with seeing
0".7-1".1).  The archival images taken on 2000 Jan. 7.3 show the
secondary to be 0".8 from the primary in p.a. 25 deg.  Images taken
on 2000 Jan. 6 show the same elongation, but the pair is embedded
in a bright star halo, making any measurement difficult.  The
maximum distance between the two components is thus at least 40 000
km.  This indicates that 1998 WW_31 is the second TNO to have a
satellite (after Pluto).  The analysis of other images from the
CFHT, from Kitt Peak (1998 Nov. 18, 1999 Jan. 14, 2000 Nov. 23),
and from the Nordic Optical Telescope (1998 Dec. 18) may allow a
full orbit determination, leading to physical parameters of the
pair.  Images and details on the data are available at"

     M. Bos, Mount Molehill Observatory, Auckland; A. Retter, Keele
University; and J. McCormick and F. Velthuis, Farm Cove Observatory,
Auckland, report:  "Unfiltered CCD photometry of N Vel 1999 on
twelve nights during Jan.-Mar. reveals the presence of a
periodicity of 0.14615(1) day in the light curve of this classical
nova together with its first harmonic.  The semiamplitude of the
variation is 0.02 mag."
     Visual magnitude estimates by A. Pearce, Nedlands, W.
Australia:  2000 May 2.59 UT, 10.3; Sept. 23.866, 11.6;
Dec. 2.767, 11.8; 2001 Feb. 26.788, 12.3; Mar. 5.788, 12.4.

                      (C) Copyright 2001 CBAT
2001 April 16                  (7610)            Daniel W. E. Green


From Ron Baalke <>

From the Associated Press, 15 April 2001\index\newsarchives\laxpsd\fpg\20010415\797775_isn15ast.txt&puid=1453

April 15, 2001

By Andrew Bridges
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- A group of scientists is seeking a standardized protocol for
dealing with the possibility of an asteroid or comet striking the Earth,
saying humans can do more than the dinosaurs ever could before a colossal
impact precipitated their extinction 65 millions years ago.

The call comes as interest grows in the swarm of asteroids and comets that
orbit the sun in the Earth's immediate neighborhood. The concerns were
sparked in part by several recent false alarms about impending impacts.

"In some sense, it's something we know we need to worry about, but we need
to decide at what level we need to worry about it - and that's a question
for everybody," said Daniel D. Durda, a research scientist in the department
of space studies of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.

In recent weeks, a paper written by Durda and fellow scientists Clark R.
Chapman and Robert E. Gold has been making the rounds among experts who
study impact hazards. The goal, the three write in the 19-page paper, is to
encourage discussion of how to replace the "haphazard and unbalanced" way
the world now addresses any potential impact.

"They are spot-on that this is a problem. They are also right on time in
terms of this just now being recognized as serious enough a topic so as to
go to the next step in terms of 'what if,' " said Richard Binzel, a
professor of planetary science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
who developed a scale to rank the potential danger of an impact. "We have
now overcome the giggle factor."

How serious the potential threat could be is underscored by an effort
sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to catalog 90
percent of all near-Earth objects, or NEOs, that are 0.6 miles or larger in

The objects are a mix of comets - frozen balls of ice and dust that formed
in the far reaches of the solar system - and asteroids, which were formed in
the inner solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Occasionally, those objects are pushed closer to the sun through collisions
or by the tug of gravity and cross the orbit of the Earth.

So far, the search effort has turned up about half of an estimated
population of 1,100 NEOs.

"It is really in the last few years the search effort has begun to bear
fruit and bear it massively," said Thomas Morgan, discipline scientist for
NASA's NEO observation program.

If an Earth-bound asteroid or comet were spotted, scientists have proposed
either attaching a rocket engine to nudge it out of the way or smashing it
to pieces with an atomic bomb.

But even if a warning about a potential impact comes years or decades in
advance, the feasibility and expense of such a deterrent is unknown.

If an attempt to destroy or deflect a NEO should fail, and an object just a
half-mile in diameter struck the Earth, it would unleash an amount of energy
equivalent to 10 million times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on
Hiroshima. The event could do for many humans what a larger object is widely
believed to have done for the dinosaurs.

"The public has all heard of the extinction of the dinosaurs and they expect
something to be done about (any potential impact), so therefore something
should be done," said Bill Cooke, a NASA contractor and space environment
expert who has written his own paper on the subject.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, for one, would respond in a way
similar to how it does now with hurricanes - or the recent return to Earth
of the Russian Mir space station.

"If we were dealing with a larger object, like an asteroid that could have a
much more severe impact on the United States, as we have more advance
knowledge of where it might hit, we would immediately start alerting states
that something was coming," said Marc Wolfson, a FEMA spokesman.

For now, word of a potential threat comes by way of a casual bulletin posted
on the Internet that is invariably redistributed by the media.

"There's nothing set in stone yet as far as procedures go. That's what we
want to get people talking about: Who should be notified? Who shouldn't?
There's no desire to be secretive, but you don't want to cry wolf too
often," Durda said.

Such a cry has come once in each of the past three years, most recently in
November when astronomers announced an object known as 2000 SG344 had a
1-in-500 chance of hitting the Earth in 2030.

According to a then-new International Astronomical Union policy, astronomers
made that announcement within 72 hours of reaching a consensus that a risk
to the planet existed.

With SG344, however, the alarm was retracted almost immediately as other
astronomers better calculated the object's orbit.

"It was a very normal scientific process, but in the public's eye, it looked
like a mistake," Binzel said. "It's a trade-off between being very open and
honest about what we have and waiting and waiting until we have every last
piece of data in hand."

One expert said the flaps, while embarrassing, were an issue of public
relations and not science.

"These are problems in communication. They are not problems in the basics of
what we're doing," said David Morrison, chairman of the International
Astronomical Union's working group on NEOs. "The issue is really one of how
do we communicate with the media and the public?"
© 1999-2001 MediaNews Group, Inc. and Los Angeles Newspaper Group, Inc.

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I am pleased to read that there seems to be a change of
mind among U.S. colleagues about the need for a new "standardized protocol
for dealing with the possibility of an asteroid or comet striking the
Earth." After the SG344 debacle, there were calls by many observers that the
current IAU guidelines would need to be revised if we wanted to avoid more
damaging false alarms. Those responsible for sounding the SG344 scare,
however, have so far been rather reluctant to accept that such revisons are
necessary. I therefore welcome the renewed interest in and debate about how
best to deal with newly discovered NEOs which, mostly just for a short
period of time, find themselves on a hypothetical collision course with
Earth. It is time to learn the lessons from past mistakes, introduce change
and move on. BJP

From Scientific American, May 2001

Researchers long assumed that gradual changes in climate or sea level
prolonged that mass death, which marks the boundary between the Permian and
Triassic periods, over half a million years or more. But last year
paleontologists who examined marine fossils from Austria and China reported
that the doomed Permian creatures disappeared in 8,000 years or less-a
sudden death in geologic terms. No compelling culprit turned up until early
March, when the news of possible extraterrestrial involvement appeared in
Science. Luann Becker of the University of Washington, Robert J. Poreda of
the University of Rochester and their colleagues extracted strange traces of
helium and argon from rocks at the site in China and at a third locale in
Japan. Helium and argon, both noble gases, exist naturally inside the earth
and its atmosphere, but the isotopic signatures of the gases in these
particular rocks require a cosmic origin.

"I don't see any way of creating [the gases] on earth," says Sujoy
Mukhopadhyay, a noble gas geochemist at the California Institute of
Technology. So they must have hitched a ride on an earthbound asteroid or
comet, Becker and her colleagues reasoned. They further suspect that the
gases survived the violent encounter by being encapsulated within tough
cages of carbon atoms called fullerenes. "The original idea was that the
gases in these fullerenes should reflect the isotopic composition of the
ancient atmosphere," Poreda says. "We were very surprised when they
resembled [extraterrestrial] rather than atmospheric gas." His team shored
up its argument by also detecting fullerenes in two meteorites. Other
workers have found them associated with the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T)

Despite the fullerene frenzy, the case for a Permian-Triassic (P-T) impact
is far from closed. "This is tricky stuff, and until it is confirmed there
is little reason to get too excited," says paleontologist Douglas H. Erwin
of the Smithsonian Institution. The most reliable tracers of the K-T impact
(other than the suspected crater, located in eastern Mexico) are iridium
enrichments and quartz grains scarred by the intense heat and pressure of
the massive blow. In 1998 Gregory Retallack of the University of Oregon and
his colleagues found similar tracers at P-T sites in Antarctica and
Australia. But the iridium enrichments are only about one tenth of those at
the K-T sites, and the fragments of shocked quartz are smaller. These
findings counter the expectation, Irwin says: "Given the much larger
magnitude of the P-T extinction, the impact would have had to be far larger
than the K-T impact."

Becker points out that if an object the size of the K-T impactor hit the
deep ocean rather than land, less iridium would have been released into the
air. And because the ocean crust contains little quartz, Retallack says,
traces of the shocked variety would be minimal. Still, Retallack concedes
that an impact alone probably did not do the P-T damage, yet he asserts that
a small space rock can pack a mean punch. Retallack's earthly rocks, which
record the history of Permian river basins, reveal an intense spike of light
carbon values-a telltale sign of a greenhouse warming crisis-during the
extinction. More specifically, the carbon values indicate that the
atmosphere was loaded with methane. Tons of this potent greenhouse gas could
have been released instantly if the offending space rock slammed into a
deposit of methane hydrate, Retallack says.

In the end, scientists may be forced to rely on tracers such as fullerenes
to prove whether an impact prompted the world's worst mass extinction. "I
have a feeling we're either going to go down in flames," Becker says, "or
we're going to be heroes." - Sarah Simpson


From Ron Baalke <>

Park slated for far North
Deep crater lake is star attraction of 1,126-square-kilometre project
Montreal Gazette
April 17, 2001

[Image of Lake Pingualuk]

Lake Pingualuk, the province's deepest lake and the second-most transparent
in the world, was formed about 1.5 million years ago by a meteorite. Also
dubbed the Crystal Eye of Nunavik, the cone-shaped crater lake has an
average depth of 145 metres, and is 240 metres at its deepest point.

A softwater lake punched deep into the Earth's crust a million-and-a-half
years ago by a meteorite is the star attraction in a vast new park slated
for Quebec's far North.

Lake Pingualuk is the province's deepest lake and one of the planet's
youngest and best-preserved craters.

"It's the second-most-transparent lake in the world," said Raymonde
Pomerleau of Quebec's Wildlife and Parks Department.

Full story here:


From Christian Gritzner <>

Dear Benny,

I want to inform the NEO community via the CCNet that a publication analysis
on the NEO defence topic has been carried out for ESA by EUROSPACE
Technische Entwicklungen GmbH (contractor) and Dresden University of
Dresden/Institute for Aerospace Engineering

The main goal was to identify technical/scientific papers on the subject of
NEO hazard mitigation. A report and a searchable database for the 288 papers
found were established and delivered to ESA in January 2001.

NEO-MIPA - Near-Earth Object - Hazard Mitigation Publication Analysis
Prepared by: Dr. Christian Gritzner, Dresden University of Technology,
Institute for Aerospace Engineering, Germany
Checked by: Dr. Guenther Haentschel, EUROSPACE Technische Entwicklungen
GmbH, Floeha, Germany
ESA Study Manager: Prof. Dr. Walter Flury, ESA-ESOC, TOS-GMA, Darmstadt,

A summary is planned to be published on an ESA webpage.
For further information please contact Prof. Dr. Flury:

With best wishes,
Christian Gritzner
Dresden University of Technology
Institute for Aerospace Technology
Dr.-Ing. Christian Gritzner
D-01062 Dresden, Germany


From The Times, 12 April 2001,,2-113386,00.html
ASTEROIDS could be used to destroy enemy cities in what astronomers describe
as a deadly game of "cosmic golf". Lumps of rock weighing millions of tons
could be nudged out of their normal orbit and guided towards particular
cities on Earth by a string of nuclear explosions. The process is likened to
golf because it takes several nuclear "shots" to hit the asteroid into its
target "hole". The final putt would cause an explosion 50,000 times larger
than the Hiroshima bomb and obliterate a region the size of Belgium. The
perpetrators could escape blame for an apparent natural disaster.

This novel form of star wars is within the scope of current technology,
according to research by David Asher, of Armagh Observatory, and Nigel
Holloway, a member of Spaceguard UK, an organisation that monitors

"It is a sort of deadly cosmic golf, played with an odd-shaped ball," said
Dr Holloway, a former military scientist at the Atomic Weapons Establishment
at Aldermaston. "It is very difficult to get a hole in one, or even to make
a par five, but it is a pretty simple thing to get the ball to the hole in

The astronomers, using a computer model, have calculated that a rogue state
or terrorist group could steer a known asteroid, called 1998 HH49, on to
Telford, Shropshire, using an average of 15 nuclear explosions. The
operation, which would also destroy cities as far apart as Manchester and
Birmingham, would cost less than the $100 billion spent on the International
Space Station and Britain would never know that it was under attack.

First, nuclear weapons would be launched into space under the cover of a
civilian mission. The government responsible could later claim that the
satellite or Martian probe had been lost in an accident.

Next, the warheads would be stacked up in orbit around an asteroid about 200
metres wide. Each weapon would be landed on the asteroid and detonated over
the course of 18 months to alter its orbit so that, eventually, it was lined
up with a target point on Earth. The final aligning blast could be delayed
until a month before impact. "A leader would have a chance to abort the plan
until almost the last moment," Dr Holloway said.

Clever planning would ensure that no one on Earth would know what was
happening. The explosions could be detonated while the Sun stood between the
Earth and the asteroid, making the blasts invisible to observers on this
planet; a hitherto uncharted asteroid could be selected so that its altered
orbit would not be detected.

Dr Holloway said: "There are all sorts of ways of covering your tracks.
Everyone would assume this was an act of God, when it was nothing of the

"Who would disbelieve you if you said that your latest mission to Mars had
been an embarrassing loss, when it was actually carrying a cluster of
weapons ready to start the real job of diverting a chosen asteroid to
devastate an unfriendly nation? You would be squeaky clean, with no risk of
retaliation from your target."

The best way to prevent such a scenario, Dr Holloway said, was to invest in
better methods of tracking asteroids so that any change in orbit would be
swiftly detected. Nuclear weapons could then be used to divert the asteroid
away from Earth.

Such measures would also reduce the risk of a catastrophic natural asteroid
impact of the sort that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

In their computer simulations, Dr Holloway and Dr Asher managed to land
asteroid 1998 HH49 on a spot within 100 miles of Telford 30 times out of 40
attempts, using no more than 15 nuclear "putts". Five of the efforts that
missed Telford still hit the United Kingdom, with another five
missing altogether. In one case, it took ten shots to hit the target.

The resulting impact would have had a force of 1,000 megatonnes of TNT -
50,000 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and 15 times larger
than the biggest hydrogen bomb ever tested. Everything within a 60-mile
radius would have been destroyed, with serious damage throughout England and
Wales and more than 10 million deaths.

"We have nothing against Telford, it happened to be near the middle and we
had its position on file," Dr Holloway said. "But it demonstrates how easy
this would be to achieve."
Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd. 


From Ron Baalke <>

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

Contact: Martha J. Heil    (818) 354-0850

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                       April 12, 2001


Asteroid search efforts got a boost from a new, improved camera installed
this week for NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking system on the 1.2-meter
(48-inch) Oschin telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif.

The camera has a new three-eyed design with three lenses. It can provide
three times more data and survey 1.5 times more sky than the present NEAT
camera that operates currently at the Maui Space Surveillance Site's
1.2-meter (48-inch) telescope in Hawaii.

"The new camera has the flexibility to do a wide and shallow sky survey, or
one not-so-wide but deeper," said Dr. Steven Pravdo, NEAT project manager at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We plan to do more deep
observing, so that we can see as many objects as possible." The asteroid
observers will be able to take panoramic views of the sky with the three
camera eyes or to take a deep exposure showing many faint objects in a
narrow swath.

The whole control system on the Oschin telescope was upgraded to a
computer-controlled system. The old manual system pointed to only 10
positions each night, but the camera now needs to point to different
positions 1,000 times a night. The new system captures about 3.75 square
degrees of the sky per image, hundreds of square degrees per night, and most
of the accessible sky each month.

The NEAT team can operate the telescope from their desks at JPL, as though
the camera were a spacecraft.

The new NEAT camera takes pictures with 48 million pixels, three times more
than the system it replaced, and it can see fainter objects. The Palomar
staff, headed by Superintendent Bob Thicksten, has helped with the
improvements. Palomar Observatory is a facility of the California Institute
of Technology.

"This will be a new lease on life for a very famous survey telescope, which
conducted the first comprehensive survey of the northern skies in the 1950s
and which is now targeting some exciting astronomical goals - searching for
near-Earth asteroids and examining supernovae and their role in determining
the fate of the cosmos," said Richard Ellis, the director of Palomar

The new camera's installation closes the era of using photographic plates,
and marks the rebirth of Palomar Observatory's Oschin telescope in the
electronic age. "It has been a dream 20 years in the making," says NEAT's
principal investigator Eleanor Helin, who has been discovering asteroids
from Palomar's two wide-field telescopes since the early days of near-Earth
object search.

This new camera system will continue NASA's effort to find 90 percent of all
large, near-Earth asteroids by 2010. "We installed the camera on April 9th,
and hope to get results in the next few days," Pravdo said.

Using the data taken by the NEAT camera, the Nearby Supernova Factory
project by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will find exploded
stars in nearby galaxies. "The same data we use to find objects close to
Earth, they will use to find objects very far away," said Pravdo.

Additional information on the NEAT project is available at .  Information on near-Earth objects is available
at .

The Near Earth Asteroid Tracking System is managed for NASA's Office of
Space Science, Washington, D.C. by JPL, a division of the California
Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.


From Andrew Yee <>

University of California-Santa Cruz

Tim Stephens, (831) 459-2495;

April 12, 2001


SANTA CRUZ, CA -- About 23 million years ago, a huge ice sheet spread over
Antarctica, temporarily reversing a general trend of global warming and
decreasing ice volume. Now a team of researchers has discovered that this
climatic blip at the boundary between the Oligocene and Miocene epochs
corresponded with a rare combination of events in the pattern of Earth's
orbit around the Sun.

In a paper published in the April 13 issue of the journal Science, the
researchers show that the transient glaciation and other climatic variations
during a period from about 20 to 25.5 million years ago correspond with
variations in Earth's orbit known as Milankovitch cycles. Although the
concept of such relationships is not new, some of the results were
surprising, said James Zachos, a professor of Earth sciences at the
University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author of the paper.

"When we began examining the temporal relationship of the orbital
oscillations relative to the oscillations in the climate record, we never
suspected that the transient glaciation at 23 million years ago had anything
to do with orbital anomalies," Zachos said.

The astrophysicist Milutin Milankovitch first proposed that cyclical
variations in certain elements of Earth-Sun geometry can cause major changes
in Earth's climate. The main variables are eccentricity, obliquity, and
precession. Eccentricity refers to the changing shape of Earth's orbit
around the Sun, which varies from nearly circular to elliptical over a cycle
of about 100,000 years. Obliquity refers to the angle at which Earth's axis
is tilted with respect to the plane of its orbit, varying between 22.1
degrees and 24.5 degrees over a 41,000-year cycle. And precession is the
gradual change in the direction Earth's axis is pointing, which completes a
cycle every 21,000 years.

"Because there are several components of orbital variability, each with
lower frequency components of amplitude modulation, there is the potential
for unusual interactions between them on long timescales of tens of millions
of years," Zachos said. "What we found at 23 million years ago is a rare
congruence of a low point in Earth's eccentricity and a period of minimal
variation in obliquity."

The result of this rare congruence was a period of about 200,000 years when
there was unusually low variability in the planet's climate, with reduced
extremes of seasonal warmth and coldness. Earth's orbit was nearly circular,
so its distance from the Sun stayed about the same throughout the year. In
addition, the tilt of Earth's axis, which gives rise to the seasons, varied
less than usual. In other words, the tilt doesn't always vary between the
same extremes in its 41,000-year cycles; the obliquity cycle itself varies
in amplitude over a longer period of about 1.25 million years. Similarly,
the eccentricity cycle peaks every 400,000 years.

The combination of a low-amplitude "node" in the obliquity cycle and a
minimum in eccentricity would have caused only several degrees difference in
summer temperatures at the poles, but it was probably enough to allow the
Antarctic ice sheet to expand, Zachos said.

Zachos's collaborators on the paper were Nicholas Shackleton and Heiko
Pälike of Cambridge University, Justin Revenaugh of UC Santa Cruz, and
Benjamin Flower of the University of South Florida.

The researchers obtained detailed climate records for the late Oligocene and
early Miocene by analyzing sediment cores drilled out of the ocean floor.
Cutting through layers of sediments laid down over millions of years, such
cores contain a chronological record of past climates written in the
chemistry of fossilized shells left behind by tiny marine organisms. Oxygen
isotopes in the shells, for example, reflect ocean water temperatures and
the amount of ice trapped in glaciers.

In the 1970s, scientists using these techniques obtained the first good
evidence in support of Milankovitch's theory, almost 50 years after he had
proposed it. According to Zachos, researchers are still trying to get a
handle on the relationships between climate cycles and orbital variations.
Since most of the research has focused on the past 5 million years, the new
paper is valuable because it looks at a more distant window in time when
conditions on the planet were different.

In the period they examined, the late Oligocene and early Miocene, Zachos
and his collaborators found evidence of several climate cycles with
frequencies corresponding to the Milankovitch cycles. But the correspondence
of the orbital anomaly with the transient glaciation event at the boundary
between the two epochs is especially interesting, Zachos said. The climate
system seems to have undergone a fundamental shift at this boundary, which
also marks a major break in the
paleontologic record.

"I'm not sure everyone will be convinced that the orbital anomaly alone is
responsible," Zachos said. "But the congruence of those orbital cycles is a
very rare event, and the fact that it exactly corresponds with this rare
climatic event is compelling."

Editor's note: Reporters may contact Zachos at (831) 459-4644 or .



From S. Fred Singer <>

Dear Benny

This hypothesis seems entirely reasonable to me. It may also be that some of
these impacts produced beneficial consequences, in the sense of forcing
evolutionary advances by changing environmental conditions locally.

Best  Fred


From Worth Crouch <
Dear Dr. Peiser:

I read with interest your press release of April 17, 2000. I believe the
work Michael Paine and you have done documenting and interpreting human
evolution, in light of cosmic impacts, is essential to a better
understanding of evolution in general as well as specifically human

There is little reason to believe that the stress put on living things
resulting from asteroid or comet impacts, that caused sudden alterations in
the Earth's environment, has changed much over the last 65 million years.
Moreover, we should expect similar cosmic disasters or even greater
magnitudes of cosmic catastrophes in the future. There is no evidence that
random or cyclical cosmic impacts have ceased; therefore along with other
impacts of disturbing consequences an extinction impact is probably in our
future. As you were quoted, "It is sobering to realize that we are alive due
to cosmic luck rather than our genetic make-up," however, it might be that
our cosmic luck helped generate our genetic make-up, which also seems
essential to our being alive.

Therefore, I would add to your thesis some relevant ideas about human
evolution and expand your concept of sudden cosmic catastrophism to
evolution in general. There seems no reason to not believe that there were
at least 20 globally devastating cosmic catastrophes during the last 5
million years. The impacts surely caused significant climate downturns,
reduction in the ozone layer, severe acid rain, and the global distribution
of toxins. However, these catastrophes should not always be looked on as
evolutionarily detrimental. In fact, providing the devastations didn't wipe
out all life or severely restrict it, the catastrophes probably propelled
our ancestors to adapt genetically and socially to the changing environment.

Of the 14 known hominid species existing at one time or another during the 5
million year human evolutionary period only one continues. The continuance
of Homo sapiens is probably a result of better intellectual adaptation than
their contemporaries and this is because, in part, cataclysms cause rapidly
changing environments that demand adaptation. I base this on skeletal
remains like that of Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy) which represents one
of the earliest positively proven bipedal hominids. Donald Johansen first
discovered her in 1974, however, tracks found by Mary Leaky at Laetoli
represent perhaps the most important remnant of this species. They proved
that hominids were fully bipedal at least 3.8 million years ago. Lucy was
also physically remarkably like us except for her size and brain capacity,
which suggests that during our recent evolution our physical characteristics
have not changed so much as our intellectual characteristics. Thus, I
believe it is not altogether correct to write, "Episodes of cometary or
asteroidal impacts punctuating human and societal evolution should thus be
looked upon as natural agencies determining evolutionary regressions,
extinctions and macro-mutations." I would add evolutionary progress, because
the environmental stress brought about by episodes of cometary or asteroidal
impacts probably allowed the intellectually superior hominids to dominate
their kinsmen and possibly evolve with greater speed through advantageous
macro-mutations. Some arguments favoring the survival of intellectually
superior hominids are that they could better clothe themselves during cold
temperatures, build better tools to hunt and gather with, work in specialty
teams to facilitate hunting and communal organization, and build or dominate
secure shelters using organized specialty teams. All these arguments confirm
that the development of brainpower and its rapid improvement was a survival
strategy needed by hominids especially during times of severe environmental
stress like that brought about by cosmic impacts with the Earth. The prime
motive of all life including human life is survival and the evolutionary
development of Homo sapiens, the intellectually superior hominid, seems to
have taken place during this time of cosmic catastrophes so that the species
could survive.

Other important mechanisms insuring the continuation of life's existence are
adaptation, dispersion, and reproduction. Coupled with these mechanisms as
has been stated is life's prime motive, which is survival. Today mankind's
survival motive compels him to defend Earth from cosmic catastrophe unless
the threat is overwhelming. If the threat is overwhelming mankind can
disperse kindred symbiotic life forms to live in or on habitats off the
Earth. When this is done, humankind will have increased its chances of
surviving a catastrophic cosmic collision, because people can then colonize
the designed hospitable environment populated with living things that
complement human existence.

Consequently, since mankind has intellectually and socially evolved so as to
acquire the ability to protect the Earth from minor cosmic catastrophes, and
can expedite the dispersal of life to other planets if needed, these are
uniquely fundamental survival roles in animal/human evolutionary
development. In fact only humans have ever occupied the biological niche
that is the playing of these roles and it seems evident that the cosmic
demands of evolution has put mankind in the position to be planetary

The life on any planet will probably become extinct over time, if for no
other reason than the death of the planet's sun. Therefore, unless
interplanetary travel is used to disperse living things from this world,
life from it will probably dead-end. The only evident design capable of
assuring multiple and highly evolved species survival, through time and
cosmic catastrophe, is the evolution of intelligent beings working in
various specialized teams and functioning as a creative unit. It also seems
evident that the beings must have at least the capability of developing a
nuclear defense and interplanetary flight; thus they can occupy a unique
biological niche and act as planetary lifesavers.

Consequently, intelligent beings capable of interplanetary flight and
nuclear technology have evolved by way of natural selection, and as a result
of life's prime motive, which is survival. It therefore seems evident that
intelligent beings capable of space flight and nuclear explosive technology
may not have evolved on this world, or possibly others, to just survive as a
planet bound species. Instead it is probable that people have evolved to
occupy the niche that could perpetuate the survival of evolved life by way
of planetary protection and interplanetary dispersion. If this is not the
case, then the human race is destined for a planet-bound extinction, either
by its own doing or through some other disaster as has been the case for all
of Earth's previous dominant species. Eventually, another species more
capable than Homo sapiens will have an opportunity to develop, and the
protection and dispersal of life from this world may take place. If not,
life will probably dead-end on this planet as it might have on Mars.

Interestingly humankind's early evolution was then, to a considerable
extent, a result of surviving the consequence of cosmic impact, and
subsequently the species has been propelled to save itself and Earth's life
forms from continuing cosmic attacks. Although I find no example of cosmic
impacts singly wiping out any early hominid species I deduce that the
environmental stress created on the Earth as a result of asteroid and commit
impacts propelled hominid intellectual evolution in some species. The
physical evolution of the human opposable thumb and speech were probably
also encouraged by a hostile environment that rewarded tool making and
specialty team communication. Unfortunately the hominids not having the
intellect to adapt to the suddenly deteriorating environment were placed at
a competitive disadvantage and were relegated to a relatively quick
extinction by Earth's hostile environment that was a result of cosmic

If I may be so bold I would like to complete a part of your thesis, on the
bases of my arguments, by rewriting it as follows:

Episodes of cometary or asteroidal impacts punctuate natural as well
as human and societal evolution and should thus be looked upon as natural
agencies determining evolutionary regressions, extinctions,
macro-mutations, and also in some instances evolutionary progress.


Worth F. Crouch
Society of Choctaw


From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNet,
This is a little update and a request for help, with the Congressional
Natural Hazards Caucus.


At the end of the first quarter, we were still close to the global discovery
rate of one NEO per day. LINEAR found about 80% of the new ones. LONEOS and
NEAT were slightly under 10%, each. SPACEWATCH was close to 5%. CATALINA
(North and South) and BISEI were still not on the track. The MPC is doing an
excellent job of processing and providing good data. NEODys is also
providing terrific data summaries, for individual NEO.

About 40% of the new discoveries are larger than a kilometer, in
average-width or diameter. Because this size-group represents only about 2%
of the threat population, the much larger discovery percentage shows what we
are missing. It seems we are now finding about 1% of the PHA flux (99 pass,
quietly, in the night, for every new discovery). 

We are hoping all of these fine facilities and teams will be able to produce
at the 3-digit level, annually, in the near-future. This would take us to
the global 4-digit level, for the first time. However, to get to the 5-digit
level, we will need the STAT (Super Terrestrial Asteroid Telescope or Dark
Matter Telescope).

NASA Funding Important

It is very important for NASA to provide the funds that have been promised
to the Congress, so that the U.S. facilities can be adequately staffed for
full-time operation. We are also hoping that the Japanese Team will be
adequately funded and that the U.K. will join in the early-warning effort.
The funding deficit, for the U.S. program, is only a few $ million (less
than 10) and this may be the most important program in the entire national


The clear official position, of the National Research Council (U.S.), is
that to bring  the NEO inventory near completion, in a few decades, instead
of a few centuries, will take at least one much larger wide-angle CCD
telescope (8 meter primary with a large composite CCD camera - 30k x 30k or
so). With such an instrument and the help of the existing teams and an
orbital telescope, like GAIA, we could identify the 100,000 threat objects
and then concentrate on defense and civil emergency preparedness.

This is such an important goal that we think several competitive programs
need to start, soon.

A conventional primary mirror design is likely to cost more than $100
million. The cost of one flight to the space station could build and staff
at least two of these important telescopes, for a decade. We have 400
billionaires in the U.S. and several hundred, outside the U.S. One of them
could build this instrument and make a tremendous contribution to the safety
of life on this planet. We are starting to contact some of them and we urge
others to do the same. Many of these folks are interested in challenges,
such as this, and the facility could be named in their honor.

Natural Hazards (NH) Caucus

This is an extremely important group, to our cause. There are more than a
dozen very important Senators in the initial group. Senators Ted Stevens
(Alaska) and John Edwards (North Carolina) are the co-chairmen. Much of the
organizational and support work is being done by folks at the American
Geological Institute (AGI) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU). I
contacted David Applegate (AGU - 703-379-2480, ext.228) and pointed-out that
the asteroid/comet impact threat should be on the NH list.

It would now be helpful for other individuals and groups to contact him and
the committee co-chairmen and members and reinforce this need. Inputs  from
societies like the National Space Society, the Planetary Society and the
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, would be expecially
helpful. In fact, these groups might want to participate in the Caucus Work
Group ( Please let us know, if you
make contact, so we can coordinate our efforts.


We are still estimating about a two-year response time, to assemble and
deploy Russian and U.S. interception systems, using available components.
The maximum deflection energies, for single systems, are expected to be in
the few tens-of-megatons range. Such systems could deflect NEO in the 100
meter, or so, range. We are urging contingency plans which will include
components for perhaps ten interceptors, on each side, and at least
bi-lateral discussions of coordinated deflection tactics. It is also
important to find ways to reduce the time required for emergency response. I
have asked Dr. Zaitsev to give us an input on their capability (Russia) and
we will get similar inputs from the U.S. specialists.

Civil Emergency Preparedness

It seems prudent to assume that electronic communications could fail, as the
result of an asteroid or comet impact, and we are examining ways to deal
with this. The most important aid is likely to be adequate public emergency
training, for such an eventuality.

The light from the atmospheric entry of an NEO will provide a clear alarm
and communities can be prepared to estimate other effects and arrival times
and to respond, appropriately, without radio, internet or other

The evacuation of coastal cities, in the event of an offshore impact, for
example, could proceed; if adequate plans were made, the people were trained
and prepared and the exit routes were known and marked.

There is still a lot to do to understand this effect and our position (after
consultations with our specialist friends, in the U.S.and Russia) is
preliminary. However, we feel it is prudent to assume such disruption, until
the contrary can be proven.

International Space Development Conference (ISDC2001)

We plan an Asteroid/Comet Emergency Prevention and Preparedness Summary, as
part of the conference Asteroid/Comet Workshop and we want to invite e-mail
inputs from the CCNet community. We are expecially interested in new
developments and plans. Just send them to me.



From Andrei Ol'khovatov <>

Dear Dr.Peiser and all,

In CCNet April 10, 2001, Matthew Genge posted his opinion on presense of
extraterrestrial substance in the Tunguska epicenter. Here I'd like to make
a couple of remarks.

The isotopic ratio for Tunguska epicenter's REE measured in the place of the
most REE enrichment is the terrestrial one. Regarding C-14, its data is
rather contraversial, but the latest measurements seem to show no
significant deviations against background. And is it plausible to propose
that over the epicenter the extraterrestrial substance was dispersed into
fine microparticles during the powerful Tunguska explosion and flew away,
explaining why there was no fall out? The latest published calculations of
the hypothetic Tunguska spacebody's explosion
show that a plasma column of the remnants was to strike the ground. So this
scenario (99.999...% of the substance flew accurately away from the
epicenter!...) looks very unlikely.

But the problem is even much more deep. Where is enormous quantity of
extraterrestial substance, which the hypothetic Tunguska body was to loose
before its explosion? Indeed, according to practically all calculations, the
hypothetic Tunguska spacebody lost a significant (probably even dominated)
portion of its mass before it reached the explosion altitude of 5-8 km. In other
words, at least, a hundred thousands tonns of extraterrestrial substance
(from large fragments to dust) must be deposited along the lower part of
Tunguska spacebody  trajectory. Despite many years of careful search nothing
was discovered... By the way, a couple years ago application of just one of
the many Tunguska substance search's methods allowed easily find small
fragments of a meteorite (with initial mass of several tonns, probably),
which disintegrated over another place in Siberia in 1904...

But the substance problem is just one of many other unresolved Tunguska
mysteries. Here I can just repeat words of recently deceased leader of
Tunguska research, academician Vasil'ev that we don't know what Tunguska

Andrei Ol'khovatov
Moscow, Russia


From Syuzo Isobe <>

Dear Benny:

Following is an information which readers of CCNet may be interested in.

Best regards,
Syuzo Isobe.

The 2nd Circular and request for registration.

                An International Workshop
               Collaboration and Coordination
          Among NEO Observers and Orbital Computers

                 Kurashiki City Art Museum
                 Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan

                  October 23 to 26, 2001

The Japan Spaceguard Association would like to hold a workshop from October
23 through 26, 2001, at the Kurashiki City Art Museum (near the Bisei
Spaceguard Center). Following the workshop, we will inaugurate the Bisei
Spaceguard Center on October 27.

Purpose of the Workshop:

In these years NEO matters have been discussed at different occasions and
organizations. Number of NEO observers and orbital computers has been
increasing and they have been producing excelent results. However, it seems
that there were not much discussions on collaboration and coordination
among them and some critical debates between those teams were brought.
Therefore, the SOC intends to make this workshop to solve the problems or at
least to start to its solution. Program  of this workshop will be arranged
with some introductory reports by NEO observers and orbital computers and
set aside many hours for discussions.

SOC members: Syuzo Isobe (Co-Chair), Donald K. Yoemans (Co-Chair),
             Tom Morgan, Bob McMillan, Ted Bowell, Andrea Carusi,
             Brian Marsden, Richard Binzel, Karri Muinonen, and
             Mark Bailey


First day: Tuesday October 23 evening, reception in Kurashiki.

Second day: Wednesday October 24
General remarks (D. Yeomans and S. Isobe)
Six 30-minute reports from observational teams
(E. Bowell, G. Stokes*, E. Helin, S. Larson, T. Gehrels, M.
Reports from follow-up teams (P. Pravec, Klet, D. Tholen, G. Tancredi)
Report from SGF Central Node (A. Boattini*)
Review of proposed space missions (TBD)

Third day: Thursday October 25
30-minute presentation by MPC (B. Marsden)
Three 30 minute presentations by impact prediction teams
     (P. Chodas, A. Milani*, K. Muinonen)
15-minute presentation by Spaceguard Foundation (A. Carusi)
30-minute presentation by NASA NEO Program Office (D. Yeomans)
30-minute presentation by IAU related view (H. Rickman)

Panel discussion on cooperative observational efforts
Panel goal:  provide recommendations and suggest plans and
      schedule to optimize international discovery and follow-up

Fouth day: Friday October 26
Three 30-minute presentation by Space Debris teams
      (J. Africano, T. Schildneckt, M. Nonaka)
Panel discussion on cooperative orbital computations
Panel goal:  Provide recommendations on computational
      techniques, guidelines for announcing Earth-threatening
      threatening objects, and the use of the Torino scale.

Review, Discuss and prepare final draft of panel recommendations.

Fifth day: Saturday October 27
Inauguration of the Bisei Spaceguard Center. This is one-day trip.

* Speaker's names may be changed to one belonging at same organization.

Additionally to this program, we will hold two public lectures on
       Sunday October 21 and Sunday October 28.

Meeting location: Kurashiki city art museum
       Address              2-6-1 Cyuou Kurashiki City Okayama-ken.
       Telephone            81-86-425-6034
       Facsimile            81-86-426-6036

How to reach:
       Attendees and guests will land at the Kansai International
       airport, take a super-express train with a name of Haruka to
       (about 50 minutes), followed by a bullet train with a name of Hikari
       (rapid) or Kodama (slow) (Shin-Kansen) to Okayama (60 minutes),
       and the a commuter train to Kurashiki (10 minutes).
       You should buy a ticket to Kurashiki station and two supplement
       for super-express and bullet trains. These one way tickets cost
       about 8,000 yen.
       The other Attendees and Guests will land at the Narita International
       airport, take a super express train with a name of Narita-Express
       to Tokyo (about 60 minutes), followed by a bullet train with a name
       of Nozomi (much rapid but expensive 3 hours 10 minutes) or Hikari
       (rapid 4 hours) to Okayama, and a commuter train to Kurashiki
       (10 minutes). You should buy a ticket to Kurashiki station and
       supplement tickets for super-express and bullet trains. These one way
       tickets cost about 20,000 yen.
       There are a few hotels in Kurashiki area. We blocked 30 single rooms
       of Kurashiki Station hotel and 30 single rooms of Toyoko Inn
       Minamiguchi. You can request the other type hotel room to Isobe and
       LOC will try to fit its request.

Address                    2-8-1 Achi Kurashiki City Okayama-ken.
Telephone                  81-86-425-2525
Facsimile                  81-86-426-6702
Guest room                  all 111 rooms
Single bed                 \5,500 - \6,000
Twin beds                  \11,000 - \12,000

Address                      2-10-20 Achi Kurashiki City Okayama-ken.
Telephone                   81-86-430-1046
Facsimile                   81-86-430-1046
Guest room                   all 154 rooms
Single bed (143 rooms)      \5,800
Twin beds A                 \7,300
Twin beds B                 \7,800
Sight seeing:
       There are several good sight seeing areas not far from the Workshop
       hall. We will give you further informations in the next circular.

Weather and the other informations:
       October is one of the best season in Japan. Temperature is usualy
       11 - 17 degree C. In the evening, you may need an additional sweater.
       There is some percent of probability to be rainy as usual in Japan
       and may be occasionally hit by a typhoon. At the Bisei trip, you can
       enjoy a beuariful maple.

       Electricity is 100 V and 60 Hz.

Registration fee:
       15,000 yen which covers refreshment during meeting, one copy of
       proceeding, and trip to the Bisei Spaceguard Center.

Please send back following informations to the e-mail address of Isobe,
by May 25, 2001.
       Family Name:
       First Name:
       Postal Address:
       Tel. Number:
       Fax. Number:
       e-mail Address:

       O  I will attend the workshop.
       O  I do not decide yet.
       O  I do not attend the workshop.

       O  I am an invited speaker.
       O  I would like to present a paper.
       O  I will not present a paper.
       Title of paper: _________________________________________________
       Arrival date to Kurashiki      ___ October, 2001
       Departure date from Kurashiki  ___ October, 2001

       Which hotel will you ask LOC reserve?    1 or 2
       O Prepare your hotel room by yourself.
       O Request LOC to look for the other hotel room.
            Please write your request: _________________________________.
       If you have any specific request(s), please write below:

       If you need further informations on hotel in Tokyo or Osaka area,
       please contact with Isobe.
       Kurashiki City is in the Edo period style (17 to 19 century).

The 3rd circular will be sent in July.
Thank you for your coorporation.

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