CCNet 49/2003 - 4 June 2003

It looks good, feels good and sounds good, according 
to the judges who yesterday surprised everyone by
naming Liverpool as the European Capital of Culture
for 2008. "If you had to say one thing that swung it
for Liverpool, it would have to be that there was a great
sense that the whole city was involved in the bid, was
behind the bid and was shouting on behalf of the city.
Taken overall, Liverpool looked good, sounded good and
feels good to be in."
  --Sir Jeremy Isaacs, The Daily Telegraph, 4 June 2003















Houston Chronicle, 4 June 2003


Researchers who measured sound waves outside space shuttle Columbia during its return to Earth helped rule out a meteor impact or lightning strike as a cause for its demise.

A team that studied low-frequency sound waves from the shuttle's turbulent passage through the atmosphere Feb. 1 at speeds above Mach 20 released their preliminary results Wednesday.

Using a dozen sensor arrays spread across the United States and Canada, the researchers said they were unable to definitively say whether Columbia exploded or broke up more slowly.

"Most of what we were able to contribute to NASA was to rule out things that people had hypothesized," said Henry Bass, a University of Mississippi professor who led the research team.

Had Columbia been struck by lightning or a meteor, the event would have produced a characteristic sound the arrays would have picked up, Bass said. There were no such signals.

After Columbia broke up, an independent board investigating the accident cast a wide net for both public and government assistance, and the infrasonic sensor arrays were identified as a possible source of information to help pin down the timeline and cause of Columbia's breakup.

The Department of Defense funds the sensor arrays to monitor very low frequency sound waves in the atmosphere, which are inaudible to the human ear. These types of waves are useful to detect such events as nuclear blasts.

The arrays have followed earlier shuttle landings, and the researchers reported an analysis of Columbia's descent to the Department of Defense in March.

Their work supports the investigation board's conclusion that a hole in the leading edge of the shuttle's wing proved fatal during re-entry.

Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle



By Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News

Color-Coded Wave Heights

June 2, 2003 — It may be a while off, but if asteroid 1950-DA hits the Atlantic Ocean on March 16, 2880, as it might, it's going to make big waves.
A new computer model of the potential asteroid impact shows tsunamis on the Atlantic coast of North America reaching 400 feet in height as they rise out of the ocean near shore and break over coastal towns and cities. All from an asteroid that's only two-thirds of a mile across (one kilometer) — one-tenth the diameter of the dinosaur killer asteroid of 65 million years ago.

"One kilometer is about the limit for global effects (from an impact)," said Jon Giorgini of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Giorgini was part of the team that last year announced that 1950-DA was on a possible collision course with Earth. The asteroid is the only one currently known to pose a potential hazard to Earth.

Based on what's now known about 1950-DA, that fateful day 877 years from now will find the asteroid charging toward our planet at 38,000 miles per hour and possibly slamming into the Atlantic, say Earth and planetary scientists Steven Ward and Eric Asphaug of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Their work on modeling the impact tsunamis created by 1950-DA appears in the June issue of the Geophysical Journal International.

When it hits, 1950-DA will create a short-lived hole in the ocean all the way to the seafloor.

"Initially the wave will be as deep as the ocean," said Ward.

A lot of that initial energy will be dispersed, however, and then the tsunami will start spreading outward from the impact site in the same way waves spread out in a pond when a stone is thrown in.

Although the asteroid has only a one-in-one-thousand chance of scoring a direct hit with Earth, Ward and Asphaug want to point out that any small asteroids can pose a significant tsunami threat. We need to start looking for the many small asteroids out there so we don't get caught off guard, Ward said.

Currently the Space Guard system looks for and tracks near-Earth asteroids down to the size of one kilometer. NASA wants to drop that size to 300 meters.

"Modeling the object 1950 DA makes a good example, but I wouldn't want this study to raise any particular fears," said asteroid expert Richard Binzel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Right now attention needs to be focused on inventorying what's out there that we haven't spotted yet."

Copyright 2003, Discovery News



By Robert Roy Britt

NASHVILLE -- If an asteroid is discovered tonight and found to be on a collision course with Earth, you may have a robot to thank for the warning. If a star blinks for a nanosecond, you won't notice it, but a robot might, and it will deduce that an object no bigger than this city, roaming the solar system in Pluto's realm, has just passed in front of a distant star.

A surprisingly cheap new crop of thinking and seeing machines work alone, scanning the heavens every night, from dusk to dawn with no coffee breaks, looking for objects that humans have so far failed to find.

Robots have already bagged several dozen asteroids and a few comets. They lock onto fluctuating stars and observe nightly changes. Before long, they'll discover planets.

The robots make judgements about where to point and what to look for. They adjust their routines to the weather. They notice new things and track them. And finally they crank out partially digested data ready for analysis by higher life forms.

More than a dozen teams from around the world, all involved in creating fully autonomous, semi-intelligent observatories, met here last week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) to present new findings and swap ideas.

The collective effort is on the verge of producing a flood of new and valuable data.

But can they handle it?

The creators of robotic astronomy say it will be a boon to amateur stargazers, retiring astronomers and university students, all of whom are thirsty to make discoveries but typically don't have access to observational data from conventional telescopes.

"There's going to be a ton of stuff coming out," said Roger Culver, a Colorado State University professor. Culver smiled broadly when he told that robotic astronomy is his ticket to retirement.

But all that stuff presents a problem. Early showers of ones and zeros have already begun at a handful of pioneering robotic observatories, and some researchers say they were not prepared to handle the data flow. One of the toughest challenges was getting the observations into the hands of capable analysts.

Computer programmers are coming to the rescue.

RTML and co-ops

Due out any day is version 3.0 of RTML, or Remote Telescope Markup Language, a cosmically inclined variant of the HTML computer language that underpins the World Wide Web.

RTML is being tailored to deal with astronomers' syntax. It will be employed to point telescopes, coordinate the efforts of multiple observatories in remote locations, then shuttle the data off to the astronomer who sought it. The results will be formatted for standard web browsers.

RTML will run the MOnitoring NEtwork of Telescopes (MONET), which will consist of an observatory in Texas and another in South Africa. Observing requests will come from dramatically diverse controllers -- three professional research institutions along with high school classrooms worldwide.

Meanwhile, universities and private institutions are cooperating to operate new observatories, share and manage the data, and provide educational opportunities at the college level.

One of these projects, the Robotically Controlled Telescope Consortium (RCT), gives undergraduate and graduate students access to the night sky that most aspiring astronomers only dream of.

"The students just groove on this stuff," Culver said, "the ability to discover an asteroid and possibly name it."

Back to the future

RCT Consortium members refurbished a dormant telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona. The 51-inch (1.3-meter) telescope was originally built in the 1960s to test futuristic technologies that might one day control space telescopes.

The facility was shut down because the technology of 1964 wasn't sufficient to operate a telescope as well as humans could.

What required a room-sized computer in the 1960s, "I can now do with a Palm Pilot," said Richard Gelderman, RCT's observatory director. The telescope is now being run remotely with pre-scheduled scripts that can be written during the day. The setup has not yet achieved its goal of full autonomy by way of semi-intelligent software.

NASA is providing partial funding.

A few RCT pictures were released at the AAS meeting, and students and professors are analyzing early data. Soon, however, observations will exceed the analytical capabilities of the consortium, consisting of three universities and the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute.

"Give us a couple of months of full operation and we will be looking for collaborators to come and take some of the data off our hands," Gelderman said in an interview.

Cheap and simple

Another robotic set of eyes -- three, to be exact -- has already produced important discoveries. The Moving Object and Transient Event Search System (MOTESS) has netted more than 180 new asteroids and a few comets during its two-year prototype effort, Eric Craine, a Western Research Co. scientist, announced.

A handful of the objects are in Earth-crossing orbits and so bear further monitoring to make sure they won't someday hit the planet.

Inexpensive and simple -- roughly $20,000 to build -- the trio of cosmic eyes has no moving parts. "It is simply allowed to scan the sky as Earth rotates," said Craine, who represents the operating group, called the Global Network of Astronomical Telescopes (GNAT). Each of the three telescopes images a given region of the sky at different times. Related software can then easily detect objects (like asteroids) that move in relation to background stars.

Over the next year or so, GNAT aims to deploy six more of these 3-telescope setups around the globe, with an ultimate goal of 48 worldwide locations.

The GNAT project needs analysts now, Craine said. Some 60,000 potential variable stars have been identified and require follow-up observation.

And the data flow is expected to triple next spring. The project will soon generate a half-million images a year. In addition to space rocks, estimates suggest the observatory could find 45 new supernovae each year.

The construction and operating costs of the global network: less than that of a single, 39-inch (1-meter) telescope operated in normal fashion, Craine said.

Something sneaky

Another project could be said to eclipse all others in creativity.

Astronomers have found about 400 comet-like objects near and beyond Pluto's orbit, in a region of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt. But they can't see small objects that far away, and there are likely millions or billions of them to be found.

"We're going to have to do something sneaky," said Stuart Marshall of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His goal is to find Kuiper Belt Objects down to 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) in diameter.

Marshall and his colleagues are building an automated telescope in Taiwan that will monitor several thousand stars, making several images every second. If a Kuiper Belt Object passes in front of a star, the effect will be just like an eclipse, as when the Moon blocks the Sun's light. Astronomers call this sort of stellar eclipse an occultation.

The Taiwanese-American Occultation Survey (TAOS) telescope, set to start observing next year, will gather 80 to 100 gigabytes of data every night. Its brains are managed by open-source Linux software.

Marshall expects to find 10 or more small Kuiper Belt Objects every year.

Now what?

Loads of data might sound like an astronomer's dream. But until analyzed, the robotic observations are worthless.

"These are exciting things," said Jay Pasachoff, a Williams College astronomer known for his involvement in education. "The trick is to find ways to analyze [the data]."

Pasachoff, not directly involved in the robotic projects, notes that while there are many interested students, they have to be trained by experienced astronomers before they can know what to look for.

"It's not just a matter of throwing that data up," Pasachoff said in an interview. "You need support and coordination."

One model to consider, he said, is the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). This non-profit organization, set up in 1911, connects scientists, educators, students and amateur astronomers around the world. The organization coordinates some 300,000 observations a year and works to publish results on behalf of its members.

The message delivered by Pasachoff and others: No matter how sophisticated robots get, there will still be a role for humans in exploring the night sky.

Copyright 2003,



Biggs JD, Slivkoff M: A search for the potentially hazardous asteroid 1998 OX4: Implications for a possible close encounter in 2014. PUBLICATIONS OF THE ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALIA. 19 (4): 422-424 2002

Small bodies of 100-500 m diameter can cause significant damage on impact with the Earth. Such objects are difficult to detect and track because they are intrinsically faint over most of their orbit. We failed to detect one such lost and potentially hazardous minor planet, 1998 OX4, during two observing sessions in 2001, January. The positions searched were those calculated by Milani et al. (2000) with their Virtual Impactors method. Using some simple assumptions we estimate the probability that we failed to detect 1998 OX4 due to it being obscured by objects in the field of our observations is <2 x 10(-7). If the assumptions in the Virtual Impactor model are valid we conclude that an impact with 1998 OX4 is unlikely in 2014, January. Furthermore, given the relatively large area we searched it is also unlikely that this minor planet will have a very close encounter with Earth in 2014.

Biggs JD, Perth Observ, 337 Walnut Rd, Bickley, WA 6076, Australia
Perth Observ, Bickley, WA 6076, Australia
Curtin Univ Technol, Dept Appl Phys, Perth, WA 6845, Australia

Copyright 2003 Institute for Scientific Information


Babadzhanov PB: Meteor showers associated with the near-Earth asteroid (2101) Adonis. ASTRONOMY & ASTROPHYSICS 397 (1): 319-323 JAN 2003

The orbital evolution of the near-Earth asteroid (2101) Adonis under gravitational action of six planet (Mercury to Saturn) is investigated by the Halphen-Goryachev method. The theoretical geocentric coordinates and velocities of four possible meteor showers associated with this asteroid are determined. Using published data, the theoretically predicted showers are identified with the observed ones, namely, night-time sigma-Capricornids and chi-Sagittariids, and day-time chi-Capricornids and Capricornids-Sagittariids. The existence of meteor showers associated with Adonis provides evidence supporting the conjecture that this asteroid may be of a cometary nature. The small 50-m near-Earth asteroid 1995 CS probably represents a large Adonis fragment and belongs to a part of the Adonis meteoroid stream, which produces the day-time chi-Capricornids meteor shower.

Babadzhanov PB, Tajik Acad Sci, Inst Astrophys, Bukhoro Str 22, Dushanbe 734042, Tajikistan
Tajik Acad Sci, Inst Astrophys, Dushanbe 734042, Tajikistan
Isaac Newton Inst Chile, Tajikistan Branch, Dushanbe 734042, Tajikistan

Copyright 2003 Institute for Scientific Information



Taylor RLS, Fearn DG: After Eros: Future multiple-target dedicated asteroid missions. JBIS-JOURNAL OF THE BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY 56 (1-2): 2-32 JAN-FEB 2003

This paper reviews briefly the results of space-probe asteroid-encounters and their implications for the astronomical study of these important bodies, with particular reference to the NEAR-Shoemaker (NS) Mission. NS was the first space project dedicated exclusively to the study, from close orbit, of an asteroid; the S(IV)-type 433 Eros. It also achieved the first, originally unplanned, soft landing on an asteroid. In addition to studying the physical, structural and dynamic characteristics of Eros, the NS mission sought to resolve the question of the inexact match between the remote and laboratory reflectance spectra of asteroids and meteorites - that is of presumed source and sample materials. Although brilliantly successful in collecting comprehensive data characterising the physical nature of Eros, the spectra obtained by NEAR do not allow the unequivocal resolution of the important source/sample question. More recently, NASA announced (21 December 2001) a new Discovery-class mission named 'DAWN', that is scheduled for launch in 2006. Dawn will rendezvous with and orbit sequentially the two largest main belt asteroids 4 Vesta and 1 Ceres, each for a period of about 11 months in a mission lasting a total of nine years. Although important targets in terms of understanding the early differentiation and evolution of partly evolved proto-planets, neither of these large bodies, with estimated diameters of 528 and 932 km respectively, is representative of undifferentiated primordial asteroid states or materials. In this paper, it is suggested that a programme of relatively low cost, multiple-target, missions to explore asteroids within the main belt is both technologically possible and scientifically necessary. Determining the nature and origin of asteroids is of high significance in developing a fundamental understanding of the formation of star/ planet systems in general and the solar system in particular. Multiple-target missions are suggested as a cost-effective means of conducting the detailed exploration of a significant number of S, C, and other types of main belt asteroids - and ultimately for the study of the far distant Kuiper-Belt objects.

Taylor RLS, Probabil Res Grp, 4 Abingdon Rd, London SW16 5QP, England
Probabil Res Grp, London SW16 5QP, England
EP Solut, Fleet GU52 6HS, Hants, England

Copyright 2003 Institute for Scientific Information



Maccone C, Bussolino L: The "Trojan" asteroids as bases to monitor other asteroids potentially dangerous for earth JBIS-JOURNAL OF THE BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY. 55 (3-4): 109-114 MAR-APR 2002

The Lagrangian Points L4 and L5 of the Sun-Jupiter system and the Lagrangian point L5 of the Sun-Mars system are considered for the following two types of missions to monitor asteroid hazards to Earth:

(1) Missions going from the Earth to either of the Jupiter Trojans at L4 or L5 by virtue of a Hohmann transfer requiring about 2.5 years of flight. Once there, a reconnaissance mission could determine which one of the Trojans is more suitable to host an optical telescope to detect the NEOs, to be launched in a subsequent mission. Alternatively, the Jupiter Trojans could be used to host a permanent space base for missiles capable of deflecting the trajectory of dangerous NEOs when these are so far away from the Sun that their Sun-centric speed is very low. The deflecting missile performance would thus be fully optimized, increasing the probability of success of a dangerous NEO's deflection mission.

(2) Missions with the same goals as above but departing from Mars rather than from the Earth. Of course, this set of missions belongs to the far future, when one or more permanent human bases will have been established on Mars, and the relevant launch facilities could be used. However, the basic advantage of such missions with respect to those described at (1) will be the shorter flight time and smaller Deltav that we compute in this paper.

Maccone C, Alenia Spazio SpA, Strada Antica Collegno 256, I-10146 Turin, Italy
Alenia Spazio SpA, I-10146 Turin, Italy

Copyright 2003 Institute for Scientific Information



Wells LE, Armstrong JC, Gonzalez G: Reseeding of early Earth by impacts of returning ejecta during the late heavy bombardment. ICARUS 162 (1): 38-46 MAR 2003

Mounting attention has focused on interplanetary transfer of microorganisms (panspermia), particularly in reference to exchange between Mars and Earth. In most cases, however, such exchange requires millions of years, over which time the transported microorganisms must remain viable. During a large impact on Earth, however, previous work (J.C. Armstrong et al., 2002, Icarus 160, 183-196) has shown that substantial amounts of material return to the planet of origin over a much shorter period of time (< 5000 years), considerably mitigating the challenges to the survival of a living organism. Conservatively evaluating experiments performed [by others] on Bacillus subtilis and Deinococcus radiodurans to constrain biological survival under impact conditions, we estimate that if the Earth were hit by a sterilizing impactor similar to 300 km in diameter, with a relative velocity of 30 km s(-1) (such as may have occurred during the Late Heavy Bombardment), an initial cell population in the ejecta of order 10(3)-10(5) cells kg(-1) would in most cases be sufficient for a single modem organism to survive and return to an again-clement planet 3000-5000 years later. Although little can be said about the characteristics or distribution of ancient life, our calculations suggest that impact reseeding is a possible means by which life, if present, could have survived the Late Heavy Bombardment. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.

Wells LE, Univ Washington, Ctr Astrobiol & Early Evolut, Box 357940, Seattle, WA 98195 USA
 Univ Washington, Ctr Astrobiol & Early Evolut, Seattle, WA 98195 USA
Univ Washington, Sch Oceanog, Seattle, WA 98195 USA
Univ Washington, Dept Astron, Seattle, WA 98195 USA
Iowa State Univ Sci & Technol, Dept Phys & Astron, Ames, IA 50011 USA

Copyright 2003 Institute for Scientific Information

=============LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR =============


Nigel Holloway < >
Dear Benny,

In CCNet 48/2003 (June 2) was quoted a letter from the Rt.Hon Peter McGauran, Australian Minister for Science, responding to Jay Tate's enquiries about the low priority given by Austrialia to the NEO Impact issue. Mr McGaurin's letter contained the following very enlightening text:

"In 1995, a review of astronomy research by the Australian Academy of Science's National Committee for Astronomy established that areas other than asteroid detection had higher priority in the astronomy community. The funding priorities were reviewed in 2001, and there was no change to those identified in 1995.

Astronomers placed access to the major international Gemini telescope project, and participation in the early stages of international work towards a major new telescope - the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), as their top priority, to which the Government responded."

Mr McGaurin's position is not unique. Many other Ministers are faced with the same question, and with lobbying from those, including myself, who, on the basis of cost benefit analysis and the number of potentially affected persons (all of us), believe that the NEO impact hazard deserves higher priority than it is getting, and should be the world's top priority astronomy project until the risk is under much better control.

Like most other Ministers, Mr McGaurin has asked his national experts the sensible question:

"How does the priority of this project compare with that of other astronomy projects which the Government is funding?" and received the reply (twice) "It's lower than the lowest priority astronomy project you are already funding."

For a Minister and Government, something with a priority below the lowest priority current astronomy project has a very low priority indeed. Do we expect a Minister, a non-expert, to respond to his National Committee of experts with "You're all wrong and I know better." To give Mr McGauran some credit, he has at least explained the process by which he came to his 'wait and see' decision.

If blame is appropriate, let us instead blame those who, with the expertise to understand and assess the facts, still put preservation of their pet projects above the preservation of their planet. If they are fooling Ministers, they are playing a dangerous game.

Nigel Holloway



John Michael Williams < >
Hi Benny.

In commenting on my recent letter, Fred Singer writes, ". . . (CCNet 29/05/03), I just wish to point out that radiation belts do not 'protect' from solar or cosmic radiation."

Quite right: I oversimplified. The radiation belts are a RESULT of the protection offered by the  Earth's magnetic field. The belts show that we are being protected, but they themselves do not constitute protection. Charged particles from the Sun or outer space (cosmic rays) are deflected, and a certain fraction end up orbitting the Earth instead of reaching the orbital altitude of the Space Shuttle or the surface of the Earth.

Retrospectively, I think I mentioned them because I wanted to remind readers that there are belts of high radiation through which invading alien microorganisms would have to pass. However, the average flux over an interstellar journey would be about the same, whether the charged particles were encountered in more or less uniform concentration.

John Michael Williams


Andy Smith < >
Hello Benny and CCNet,

It was thrilling to hear of the successful launch of the ESA MARS EXPRESS spacecraft, aboard the SOYUZ/FREGAT (Starsem) system...and we wish for great mission success. We have urged the development of more systems capable of asteroid/comet interception and deflection and this is certainly an important new member of the group, which we are calling the Class A Planetary Defense Systems (PDS). It joins the DELTA II/DEEP IMPACT, NEAR, DEEP SPACE 1, etc. family of systems.

Great Development Potentials

Both group systems can send the first generation of asteroid/comet interception spacecraft (1 ton/50% payload) on direct deflection missions. We think these spacecraft can effectively deflect ACE (Asteroid/Comet Emergency) Magnitude Class 1, 2 and 3 NEO (Near-Earth Objects). These are the 50 to 200 meter-wide rock-bombs (mag. 25-22) that comprise more than 80% of the threat population (destructive energy levels from about 10 to 1,000 megatons). Both group systems have promising growth potentials and could also be expanded to become second-generation systems (5 ton spacecraft), which might be used against larger NEO.

We welcome these impressive programs and we continue to urge the systems developers and operators to prepare for rapid emergency deployment (months instead of years), to develop plans for the use of a variety of deflection or mitigation payloads (inertial and super-safe explosive) and to develop cooperative contingency plans.

We Are Making Progress

It has been about 14 years since our global "wake-up call" (1989 FC near-miss) and about 8 years since the spectacular demonstration of what planetary impacts can do (Shoemaker-Levy 9/Jupiter).....and we are proud of our progress, to-date.

We have increased our global NEO discovery rate by two orders-of-magnitude (thanks to LINEAR, NEAT, SPACEWATCH, LONEOS and all of the other active search programs and dedicated individuals and to the folks who have supported them)....and we are rapidly developing the next generation of asteroid telescopes (PAN-STARRS, LSST and the orbiting telescope systems).

We now have two major mitigation-capable defensive systems. We have a much better understanding of the impact dangers and we are beginning to plan for some effective civil emergency responses.

Our Responsibility

We are the first generation, in history (100,000 generations or so), with the ability to understand this great danger and to protect ourselves.....and we are responding. Much of the effort is by volunteers, but governmental and institutional support is growing....thanks to the efforts of the SPACEGUARD and SPACE SHIELD Foundations, and many other organizations, institutions and individuals, including the PLANETARY SOCIETY, SPACE FRONTIER, IAU, SPACE.COM, AIAA, CCNet, etc. BRAVO to all of you. Many thanks for all of your efforts and please keep up the good work.

Cheers....Andy Smith
International Planetary Protection Alliance(IPPA)

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


CCCMENU CCC for 2003