CCNet 76/2001 - 5 June 2001

"Astronomers announced today what they say is the first solid
evidence for solid rocks orbiting another star, an asteroid belt that
might be similar to the one surrounding our own Sun between Mars and
Jupiter. If true, the research points to the possibility of potential
Earth-like planets in the making, or planets that have been destroyed, or
possibly even a giant planet like Jupiter that, though unseen, orchestrates
the chaos of collisions that created the debris."
--Robert Roy Britt,, 4 June 2001

"Young stars, once thought to evolve slowly and steadily toward
maturity, apparently suffer occasional catastrophes caused by nearby
sibling stars," said Bo Reipurth. "There is a popular misconception that
most stars have planets, and that solar systems abound in the universe,"
said John Bally. "The reality seems to be that Earth's solar system is a
special place, and that we are lucky to be here."
--University of Colorado-Boulder, 4 June 2001

"Elizabeth Teissier is well known in France as the weekly horoscope
columnist for a popular television guide, the author of a half-dozen
books on astrology, and the astrologer to the French president François
Mitterrand. But Ms. Teissier, 63, has recently found herself on the
front page of French newspapers for something that hundreds of people do
every year: defending her dissertation. A Ph.D. candidate in sociology,
Ms. Teissier spent almost 10 years completing a 900- page thesis on
astrology and in April received a passing grade at the Sorbonne for her
--The New York Times, 2 June 2001

"A debate has broken out recently in India over astrology after the
education minister said it would be made a university course."
--BBC, 4 June 2001

    Andrew Yee <>


    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Environmental News Network, 4 June 2001

    Meteoritics and Planetary Science <>  
    Duncan Steel <>

    Andy Smith <>

    The New York Times, 2 June 2001


From Andrew Yee <>

University of California-Los Angeles

Harlan Lebo,, 310- 0

FOR RELEASE: 9:20 a.m. PDT, June 4, 2001

UCLA Astronomers Identify Evidence of Asteroid Belt Around Nearby Star;
Findings Indicate Potential for Planet or Asteroid Formation

Identifying what may be a galactic replay of how our own solar system was
formed, UCLA astronomers have found evidence of a massive asteroid belt
around a nearby star -- findings that could indicate that planets are
forming there or have already formed.

The observations, reported June 4 at the annual meeting of the American
Astronomical Society by UCLA graduate student Christine Chen and her
advisor, Michael Jura, reveal that a star identified as zeta Leporis (HR
1998) is enveloped by swirling dust in quantities and at temperatures that
indicate a massive asteroid belt could surround the star.

"Because of the conditions we identified near zeta Leporis, we believe that
the dust around this star may contain asteroids that appear to be colliding
violently with each other," said Jura, a professor in UCLA's Department of
Physics and Astronomy. "Zeta Leporis is a relatively young star --
approximately the age of our sun when the Earth was forming. The system we
observed around zeta Leporis is similar to what we think occurred in the
early years of our own solar system when planets and asteroids were

Zeta Leporis is located in the constellation Lepus (the Hare) about 70 light
years from our sun. About twice as massive as our sun, zeta Leporis is young
in astronomical terms -- about 100 million years old, compared to our sun,
which is approximately 4.5 billion years old.

"Our current findings may be just the tip of the iceberg of what we may
ultimately learn about the objects surrounding zeta Leporis," Chen said.

"In simplest terms, our planets formed when smaller objects smashed
together," she said. "Dust that surrounds a star will eventually either fall
into the star, or collide with itself and create bigger particles. The
particles we can identify around zeta Leporis may be forming chunks of rock
or larger objects; asteroids or even planets may be forming or have already
formed around zeta Leporis."

Orbiting dust around hydrogen-burning stars such as Vega, beta Pictoris and
zeta Leporis was first discovered in 1983 with the Infrared Astronomy
satellite (IRAS). The orbiting dust absorbs optical light from the central
star and is emitted as infrared. The presence of this dust around zeta
Leporis indicates that material similar to that found in our own solar
system surrounds this star.

In February Chen and Jura observed zeta Leporis with Long Wavelength
Spectrometer, an infrared camera on the 10-meter telescope at the Keck
Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Chen and Jura found infrared-emitting dust
confined to a region smaller than 12.2 astronomical units in diameter, a
region similar in size -- in astronomical scales -- to the asteroid belt in
our solar system, which is about 5.4 astronomical units in diameter.

By observing at two infrared wavelengths, Chen and Jura estimate that the
average temperature of the dust around zeta Leporis is about 340 Kelvins
(150 F), a relatively high temperature for such material. Given this high
temperature, the grains may be as close as 2.5 astronomical units to the

"There must be objects larger than dust around zeta Leporis, which may
resemble asteroids in our own solar system, that are creating the infrared-
emitting dust by violently colliding with each other," Jura said.

The discovery that the dust around zeta Leporis is unusually warm was first
published in 1991 by astronomers Hartmut Aumann and Ronald Probst.

Chen and Jura plan to confirm their findings with additional infrared
observations of zeta Leporis.

"We hope to obtain infrared spectra of the emission from zeta Leporis," Chen
said. "We want to know if the asteroids around this star are similar in
composition to objects in our solar system, and we want to learn if the
processes we now see unfolding on zeta Leporis can help us understand how
the planets in our own solar system formed."

"The next step is to get an infrared spectrum of this area, which would give
us an indication of their composition."

The research by Chen and Jura is supported by funding from NASA.

For More Information:

Ms. Christine Chen, 310-825-3172,
Professor Michael Jura, 310-825-4302,

For illustrations of this research, go to:


From, 4 June 2001

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

PASADENA, Calif. -- Astronomers announced today what they say is the first
solid evidence for solid rocks orbiting another star, an asteroid belt that
might be similar to the one surrounding our own Sun between Mars and

If true, the research points to the possibility of potential Earth-like
planets in the making, or planets that have been destroyed, or possibly even
a giant planet like Jupiter that, though unseen, orchestrates the chaos of
collisions that created the debris.

UCLA graduate student Christine Chen and her advisor, astronomy professor
Michael Jura, announced the findings here today at the annual meeting of the
American Astronomical Society.

"We believe we see either the remnants of planet formation or material that
may become planets," Chen said.

The scientists have not actually seen any asteroids around Zeta Leporis, a
young star twice as massive as the Sun and 60 to 70 light-years away.
Instead they have studied the temperature and position of the star's
swirling mass of debris, which they say shows evidence of chaotic collisions
among rocks that creates the dust needed to sustain such a disk.

It is a scenario similar to what is thought to have occurred during the
birth of our solar system and, to a lesser extent, continues today.

Zeta Leporis, also called HR 1998, is between 50 million and 400 million
years old, compared to our middle-aged Sun, which is about 4.5 billion years
old. Along with some other young stars, it was found in the 1980s to have a
ring of dusty debris. And in 1991 astronomers learned that this debris ring
was unusually warm and close to its parent star, unlike other disks that are
farther out, and hence colder.

This dust, given its known properties, should spiral into a star within
20,000 years, according to current theories of physics and star formation,
scientists say. But this star is much older.

"This tells us that these dust grains that we observe now were not there
when this star first formed, so they must be generated through some
secondary process such as collisions between larger objects," Chen said.
These presumed asteroids could be the size of small or large boulders,
"which collide together, and grind down, and form micron-sized grains."

The new study, funded by NASA, used the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to
examine how much light is reflected by the ring of debris, which absorbs
visible light from the star and emits it in the infrared wavelength. Similar
techniques allow scientists to estimate the composition of asteroids closer
to home. Chen and Jura determined the debris around Zeta Leporis to be, on
average, about 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius, or 340 Kelvins),
and they estimate the mass of the material to be about 1,000 times what is
found in the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Chen then calculated that the ring of debris must be confined to region
between 2.5 and 12.2 astronomical units from the star. One AU is the
distance from Earth to the Sun, and the Asteroid Belt sits between Mars and
Jupiter, 1.5 and 5.2 AU from the Sun, respectively.

Echoes of our solar system

Leading models of solar system formation hold that as the Sun gathered
itself together out of a cloud of gas and dust, the leftovers settled into a
vast disk that rotated around the newborn star and gradually flattened out.

In the early years of our solar system, dust grains collided and coalesced,
and the seeds of asteroids, comets and planets were formed. The gravity of
some of the more distant protoplanets attracted gas, and Jupiter and the
other gas giants developed. These giant planets swept much of the dust disk
clean. Most of the rest of the debris spiraled in and was swallowed by the
Sun or was driven out of the solar system. But collisions still generate
some dust.

Research reported in the journal Nature in 1999 showed that these dust disks
tend to disappear when a star is about 400 million years old -- the upper
end of the age estimate for Zeta Leporis. Previously, another star was found
to have a gap in its ring of debris, hinting at planet formation.

Hinting at a planet

Dozens of planets have been found around other stars, but so far all are
giant gaseous planets very close to their host stars, leaving open the
question of how common solar systems like ours -- the habitable kind --
might be.

Mark Sykes, a Steward Observatory researcher who has studied how dust
behaves in our Asteroid Belt, speculated that the debris disk around Zeta
Leporis might have been caused by a Jupiter-sized planet that has so far
gone undetected. Such a planet would have kicked asteroids that were in
circular orbits into more elliptical ones.

Once that happens, collisions between two asteroids are no longer sideswipes
between two objects on a similar path, but instead more like cars slamming
together at an intersection.

Sykes said that the study therefore provides a possible detection method to
be used in the ongoing hunt for extrasolar planets. "In a way it's a
minor-planet and a major-planet detection system as well," he said.

Jura warned that while there could be a rocky planet, perhaps even one like
Earth, embedded in the dust, it could be a decade before any detection
techniques would be able to pick it out.

The researchers also plan to learn whether the potential asteroids around
Zeta Leporis are made up of the same stuff as the asteroids in our solar
system. If so, then the fledgling solar system around that star could serve
as an even better window to the formation of our own.

Copyright 2001,


From Andrew Yee <>

Office of News Services
University of Colorado-Boulder
3100 Marine Street, 5th Floor
584 UCB
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0584
(303) 492-6431

John Bally, (303) 492-5786,
Bo Reipurth, (303) 735-2640,
Jim Scott, (303) 492-3114

Note to Editors: Contents embargoed until Monday, June 4, at 9 a.m. PDT.
The AAS Press Room telephone numbers are (626) 844-6037, -6038 and -6039.


The vast majority of wannabe planets in the universe are likely destroyed by
cosmic forces long before they have a chance to evolve from dusty disks
circling their parent stars, according to University of Colorado at Boulder

Observations with the Hubble Space Telescope have shown that prolific
planet-forming environments like the nearby Orion Nebula are fraught with
peril, said CU-Boulder Professor John Bally. Orion, a giant stellar nursery
thought to have spawned roughly 20,000 low-mass stars like the sun in the
last 10 million years, also harbors a handful of massive type O and B stars
that emit blowtorch-like radiation, destroying most pre-planetary disks in
their vicinity.

Astronomers estimate only about 10 percent of young stars are born in
environments shielded from such radiation, said Bally of CU-Boulder's
astrophysical and planetary sciences department. "Most stars appear to form
in rich clusters in Orion-like environments where their planet-forming disks
are eroded by the intense light."

To further complicate matters, nearly 90 percent of all young stars are
thought to have companion siblings at birth as part of binary or multiple
star systems, he said.

CU-Boulder Senior Research Associate Bo Reipurth of the APS department, who
collaborates with Bally on several star formation projects, said such
systems can contain one, two or three companion stars to the primary star,
much like human twins, triplets and quadruplets. Even in the Orion Nebula,
which has a star density about 1 million times that of so-called "field
stars" like our sun, an estimated 60 percent of the young stars belong to
binary or multiple star systems.

In such young systems, the stars orbit each other in elongated, eccentric
and unstable circuits, occasionally passing very near each other. Such
"orbital entanglements" can disturb circumstellar disks around young stars,
cause the ejection of lower-mass sister stars from the region and even
produce spectacular gaseous jets that shoot from the young stars, Reipurth

Every 10,000 years or so when binary stars become very close to each other,
their circumstellar disk material is shaken up, triggering the accretion of
more material and the production of gaseous jets by one of the stars, said

"Young stars, once thought to evolve slowly and steadily toward maturity,
apparently suffer occasional catastrophes caused by nearby sibling stars,"
said Reipurth.

"There is a popular misconception that most stars have planets, and that
solar systems abound in the universe," said Bally. "The reality seems to be
that Earth's solar system is a special place, and that we are lucky to be

The massive stars scattered throughout Orion-like star-forming systems not
only destroy most circumstellar disks before they have a chance to evolve
into rocky planets, but also strip hydrogen and helium from the system
needed to form large gaseous planets, said Bally. "This implies our solar
system may have formed far away from massive stars," said Bally. "Planetary
systems like ours may be relatively rare."

To date, astronomers have found more than 60 giant planets around about 50
stars, he said. But these numbers indicate that fewer than 5 percent of the
stars surveyed are orbited by giant planets.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is thought to shield Earth
from comets and asteroids by sweeping them away with its massive gravity.
Such giant planets may be a prerequisite for the existence of safe planetary
environments suitable for the evolution of life, said Bally.

The successful formation of large, gaseous planets remains a mystery, he
said. "In order for giant planets to form in Orion-like regions, they must
be assembled promptly by gravity," Bally said. "Such planets must accrete
hydrogen and helium from their surroundings before the gases are removed."

This process must be completed in less than a few hundred thousand years in
order to avoid the blowtorch destruction of pre-planetary matter by massive
nearby stars, he said.

The bottom line is that we are finding a number of formidable constraints to
building planets and planetary systems in the universe," Bally said.


From Andrew Yee <>

News Office
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Deborah Halber, MIT News Office
(617) 258-9276,

JUNE 4, 2001



MIT researchers seek ocean on Jupiter's moon through its sounds

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Acoustic techniques used by Massachusetts Institute of
Technology researchers to explore the Arctic Ocean may help determine
whether there is a vast liquid ocean under the ice blanketing Jupiter's
moon, Europa.

MIT researchers report June 5 at the Chicago meeting of the Acoustical
Society of America that they may be able to use a technique similar to
ultrasound or the sonar navigation used by bats and dolphins to gather
information about Europa.

MIT ocean engineering professor Nicholas C. Makris said that implanting
soda-can-sized sensors in Europa's icy exterior could provide researchers
with information on the temperature and structure of the planet. Current
sensor technology makes it possible to detect even tiny motions, and there
is evidence that massive ice fractures on Europa's surface occur daily.

While such an experiment may be a decade or more away, this unconventional
approach to planetary exploration would have to begin to be developed now,
Makris said. An array of geophones on the icy surface could simultaneously
localize discrete events such as fractures and determine the moon's
ice-layer thickness as well as the thickness of a potential ocean layer.


Europa may be the only entity in our solar system besides Earth that
contains a great deal of water, researchers say, and this mission would
represent the first time ocean scientists have been involved in planetary

Gravity and magnetic data collected by the NASA Galileo Orbiter over the
past five years have provided increasing evidence that an ocean exists
underneath Europa's uniform, 10- to 100-kilometer thick coat of ice. The
possible ocean on Europa may contain more liquid water than all the oceans
on Earth combined.

Magnetic studies have indicated that there must be a conducting layer in
Europa. A salty ocean would fit the bill. Researchers hope to discover
whether Europa is made up entirely of mushy ice or if it contains an ocean.
Where there is water, there may be life.


Pictures of the planet show odd, cusp-shaped cracks in the surface. Europa's
numerous fractures and ridges are believed to have formed in response to
tidal deformations generated by the moon's slightly eccentric 85-hour orbit
around Jupiter.

Inspired by evidence for these regularly occurring ice fractures, the MIT
researchers propose probing Europa's interior by deploying an array of
surface microphones that listen to naturally occurring sound. Knowledge of
ice mechanics suggests that these propagating fractures would generate
significant acoustic energy in the frequency range 0.1-100 Hz.

Studying the ice sounds would allow researchers to see if there was a
connection between the moon's orbital period and the ice fractures, which
occur on Europa once every 30 seconds. Meteors impact Europa about once a
month and these also could be used as sound sources.


MIT researchers led by Makris, Doherty Professor of Ocean Utilization in
MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering, have used sound-based techniques to
explore the Arctic Ocean. By inserting vibration-sensitive hydrophones in
the water, researchers used ambient sound to listen for changes in noise
levels. They found that noise levels increased when winds and currents put
stresses on the ice.

"Noise levels are like a thermometer for stress on the ice," Makris said.
"The ice is very sensitive and conducive to sound." Sound waves made by
large fractures go through the ice and penetrate into the ocean.

These low-frequency sound waves, akin to those created by whales, get
trapped and can propagate hundreds of kilometers through the water. Even if
they can't be heard, instruments can pick up their vibrations from a

In addition to Makris, the research team includes ocean engineering
postdoctorate associates Aaron M. Thode and Michele Zanolin and graduate
students Sunwoong Lee, Purnima Ratilal and Joshua Wilson.

This work is funded by the Office of Naval Research. Makris is the Secretary
of the Navy/Chief of Naval Operations Scholar of Oceanographic Sciences.


From Environmental News Network, 4 June 2001

Barringer Meteor Crater is a 0.8 mile diameter, 570 foot deep hole in the
desert located 18.6 miles west of Winslow, Arizona. Since the 1890s,
geologic studies here have played a leading role in developing an
understanding of impact processes on the Earth, the Moon and elsewhere in
the solar system.

Two large meteors entered the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean during the
past nine months, said researchers at the Department of Energy's Los Alamos
National Laboratory who, at the time, were monitoring an infrasound system
set up to detect covert nuclear weapons tests.

Hundreds of miles from the entry points, Los Alamos researchers Rod
Whitaker, Doug ReVelle and Peter Brown heard the two meteors entering the
atmosphere - one on April 23 of this year and the other on August 25, 2000.

The meteors were very large, measuring about six and ten feet in diameter.
They appeared as huge fireballs in the sky. Such large, fiery meteors are
called bolides, or fireballs.

The April 23 meteor plunged into the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean
several hundred miles west of the northern Baja California region of Mexico.
The August 2000 meteor entered the atmosphere off the coast of Acapulco,

Based on the energy and speed of the bolides, ReVelle and Whitaker estimate
the first was six feet in diameter. The second meteor probably was at least
twice as large.

"Had anyone seen the April 23 event, they would have seen quite a show,"
ReVelle said. "That meteor was one of the five brightest meteors that have
ever been recorded. It was a very large bolide."

Bolides produce their brilliant light shows miles above Earth's surface.
Most meteors explode into thousands of tiny pieces or burn up completely
before they hit the surface.

When they do hit the ground, their destructive power is unmistakable. The
remains of a very large bolide collision with Earth can be seen at the
Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona.

An enormous bolide fell to Earth about 35 million years ago on the Atlantic
coast of North America near the Delmarva Peninsula. It carved a roughly
circular crater twice the size of the state of Rhode Island, and nearly as
deep as the Grand Canyon. Researchers believe the impact crater determined
the present day location of Chesapeake Bay.

When a bolide enters the atmosphere - or when a large explosion such as a
nuclear test is detonated - it creates a sound, or pressure wave, that at
long range is below the levels of human hearing.

This infrasonic wave travels through the atmosphere and can be detected by
special microphones that are configured in an array. Los Alamos operates
four arrays located throughout the United States. Sandia National
Laboratory, another U.S. Department of Energy lab, monitors five arrays
located in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada.

By looking at the arrival time of the sounds at different array stations and
at the frequency of the infrasonic signal, researchers can pinpoint the
location of the source and determine the amount of energy that created it.

The Los Alamos researchers were using listening stations designed to alert
international authorities to clandestine nuclear weapons tests that may be
conducted by rogue groups or nations that do not abide by international
nuclear non-proliferation agreements.

Data from orbiting space platforms confirmed their observations. Infrared
sensors aboard U.S. Department of Defense satellites detected the bolide's
impact over the Pacific Ocean on April 23. The object was observed at an
altitude of 17.6 miles above the Earth's surface.

Its impact was simultaneously detected by space-based visible wavelength
sensors operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and by the Los Alamos
researchers monitoring their infrasound system. A similar set of
observations confirmed the entry of a meteor last August 25.

Each year a number of large meteors enter the atmosphere and are detected by
the Los Alamos arrays which operate in addition to satellite detection
systems. "Infrasound is very simple, inexpensive and easy to operate as a
backup system," said Whitaker.

ReVelle said that at least 10 meteors that are six feet or greater in
diameter enter the atmosphere each year. Larger bolides entering the
atmosphere occur less frequently, but they do occur nevertheless.

The meteors of April and August played an important role in improving the
accuracy of nuclear non-proliferation technology.

"Because those two events were detected by our four arrays and by five other
arrays operated by the International Monitoring System, we are able to use
the space platform data to calibrate our instruments, and analyses, to make
them better able to pinpoint the exact location where these events
occurred," Whitaker said. "Every time we hear a bolide, we learn something
about this technology and are better able to fine-tune it."

Whitaker said, "Infrasound arrays are listening 24 hours a day, seven days a
week. Sometimes other technologies miss events that infrasound arrays
detect. Consequently, infrasound is inexpensive insurance for cost effective
monitoring, and it is something that's available to the entire international
community - which isn't the case with some other technologies."

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California
for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security
Administration. The Los Alamos team waited until the space platform data
were released publicly last week before releasing their own data.

Copyright 2001, Environmental News Network
All Rights Reserved


From: Meteoritics and Planetary Science  < >  

Special series in Meteoritics & Planetary Science for 2001/2002
The NEAR Shoemaker mission
2001 November

Meteoritics & Planetary Science is pleased to announce an upcoming series on
the findings of NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendevous (NEAR) mission to Eros.
The series is scheduled to appear in the November 2001 issue of the journal.
Submission of papers is open to all authors, both mission
investigators as well as those not affiliated with the mission.

The target date for submission of papers for inclusion in this series is
2001 July 15. Authors should indicate, in their cover letter, that the paper
is to be considered for the series. Papers may be submitted electronically
or as hard copy. Details of journal submission and review
procedures can be found on the MAPS web site at

For further information, please contact Dr. Tim McCoy
(, Dr. Jacob Trombka (, or
Dr. Derek Sears, Editor, Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Chemistry
Building, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas 727021, USA


From Duncan Steel <>

Hi Benny.

This was sent on to me by someone else. Perhaps some CCNet readers would be
interested to hear of these 34 (!) astrobiology positions in Madrid.




Dear Madam/Sir,

thank you very much for your interest in our 34 Post-Doctoral tenure-Track
positions at Centro de Astrobiologia.

Enclosed you will find one document describing the offer we are making, and
another one describing the steps to be followed. Read both carefully and act
quickly because the timelines are very short. From the time when you submit
your documents to CAB (deadline June 10th) to the time when you submit to
the Ministry of Science and Technology, you should spend your time
finilizing the FULL research project that you propose. Note that in June
10th you are requested to send to ONLY the letters of
recommendation (in the format provided at one the web addresses we give
you), your vitae and the 300 word SUMMARY of your project.

All relevant web addresses are given in the advertisement, which is a
Microsoft Word document (sorry!).

We apologize for the short times available, but that is beyond our

We wish you very good luck and thank you very much for your interest in our
Center, in working with us and in pursuing an Astrobiology career.


Juan Perez-Mercader

P.s.: Use the e-mail address <> for any correspondence with
CAB on this matter.

Post Doctoral Tenure-track Positions

in the framework of the "Ramón y Cajal Program" of the  Ministerio de
Ciencia y Tecnología of Spain

The Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) invites applications by qualified
candidates for 5 year tenure-track positions in Astrobiology. These 34
positions are new and the successful candidates will have to join CAB from
the late Fall of 2001 to early Winter of 2002. The positions are at the
Centro de Astrobiología, in its brand new facility in the Campus of INTA,
Torrejón de Ardoz, Madrid, and will be granted together with some seed money
to allow beginning of research activities immediately upon filling the
position. These positions are part of the "Ramón y Cajal Program" of the
Ministry of Science and Technology of Spain (www.

We are looking for enthusiastic persons with postdoctoral experience, highly
motivated and interested in working within a multidisciplinary scientific
environment. Successful candidates will be expected to engage in existing
research programs as well as in new collaborative research carried out at
the Center and within the framework of our association to the NASA
Astrobiology Institute of which the CAB is, at present, the only
international Associate Member.

The areas of specialization of the applicant include the following:
Astronomy and Astrophysics, Planetary Geology and Earth Sciences, Physical
Chemistry and Cosmogeochemistry, Molecular Evolution, Genomics and
Proteomics, Paleobiology, Extremophiles, Complexity and Non-linear Science,
Numerical Simulation and Supercomputation, Robotics and Advanced Internet
Communications, and Instrumentation for Astrobiology.

Details about the "Ramon y Cajal Program" at Centro de Astrobiología are
available at

Those interested are invited to contact the CAB by e-mail at, telephone (34-91-520-1111) or fax (34-91-520-1621).

The deadline for presentation of application materials at CAB is June 15th,
2001, and at the Ministry of Science and Technology June 23rd, 2001. Both
steps are mandatory.

Committed to Equal Opportunities for All



From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

We had an excellent Asteroid/Comet (AC) Workshop at the International Space
Development Conference, here (Albuquerque), last week. The meeting was the
annual meeting of the U. S. National Space Society (SNN). It was
co-sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautices and Astronautics

Both of these organizations have large memberships (20,000 plus, each). The
NSS membership includes both space development and operational experts and
the public (including many retired specialists, students, etc.). The AIAA is
the long-standing professional society for aerospace engineers and it was
responsible for the landmark position paper, in 1990, which expressed strong
concern regarding the need for asteroid/comet preparedness. This position
paper, and the one generated in 1995, are available on the AIAA Web

We had three sessions (half-day each) of presentations covering impact
effects, early-warning, defense, civil emergency preparedness and mining.
Systems and other topics discussed included:

(1) The Deep-Impact Spacecraft and Mission (projected launch in 2004 - talk
by Alan Delamere, Ball Aerospace). This comet mission will launch an
impacting payload and it is a good first-step toward an
interception/deflection capability . They have a good Web page.

(2) The LINEAR asteroid hunting program (Jennifer Evans, Air Force/MIT
Lincoln Lab.)- our leading NEO finders (another good Web page - WP).

(3) The very impressive new Japanese Bisei asteroid hunting program (Syuzo
Isobe, Japan Spaceguard and National Astronomy Observatory)(WP).

(4) Mark Boslough (Sandia National Lab) discussed his theory of asteroid
induced climatic change, resulting from the formation of earth-rings. He
also summarized the Tunguska data provided by our colleague, Vadim
Nemtchinov (Russia). Mark and Dave Crawford have some impressive impact
graphics on the Web. 

(5) Jack Hills (Los Alamos National Lab), an asteroid tsunami pioneer,
talked about effects scaling and tsunami modeling.

(6) Alan Hale, our neighbor (Cloud Croft, NM),the co-discoverer of the
celebrated comet, gave us an update and talked about his asteroid/comet
hunting activities.

(7) Pat Dasch, the Executive Director of the NSS, talked about her 1998
preparedness advocacy statement to the U.S.Congressional Space Science
Sub-Committee and about the NSS support for planetary defense. The hearings
are on the Web.

(8) Louis Scuderi, of the University of New Mexico Geography Department,
discussed some of his recent tree-ring and ice-core findings, regarding a
possible impact event in the 10th century. This fits our CCNet discussions
and we are planning more work on this.

(9) Rhian Jones, of the University of New Mexico Institute of Meteoritics,
discussed the things we can learn about asteroid properties from the study
of meteorites. She is the curator of our Meteorite Museum (UNM) and you can
visit it whenever you are in town.

(10) Elvidio Diniz (Resource Technology, Inc.) discussed  the structural
response of tall buildings to debris-loaded tsunami forces. He is using
valuable lessons he has learned from analyses of dam failures. We are trying
to develop some building code recommendations, as part of our civil
preparednessresearch activity.

(11) David Kuck (mining consultant and researcher) introduced an interesting
concept for using a small metal asteroid to fuel an electrical propulsion

(12) Timothy Roberts, a Colorado planning specialist, outlined an emergency
preparedness program.

In addition to our workshop, there were a number of very interesting
presentations concerning the need for ACE preparedness. These included:

(1) A plenary presentation by Air Force Brig. Gen. Pete Worden, a key leader
in the development and conduct of the outstanding Clementine photographic
mission to the Moon and a strong advocate for planetary defense (PD),

(2) Many remarks and comments, concerning PD, by our Honorary General
Chairman, former astronaut and U.S. Senator Harrison (Jack) Schmitt. Jack is
a geologist and was a close associate of Gene Shoemaker. He made the
memorable scientific trip to and on the Moon (Apollo 17), which explored
several of the craters. Jack also helped to organize the conference
Astrogeology Symposium and chaired a special session on Helium-3 Fusion.

(3)The Astrogeology Symposium included presentations by Donald Brownlee
(Columbia) on Comets and Joseph Veverka (Cornell) on Asteroids. Jim Benson
also gave an excellent plenary address and talked a lot about reducing the
cost of space missions. We hope SpaceDev will help us find ways to reduce
the time required to respond to an emergency asteroid/comet threat.

It is clear that we need more open public discussions of this vital issue.
We will have another AC Workshop, here, at the AIAA SPACE2001 conference,
this August and we will host two more, next year. This is the most important
technical challenge in history and we have a very long way to go to reach
the needed level of global preparedness. The stakes are the highest and the
risks are very disturbing (in light of the consequences).

We encourage everyone to promote such dialogue and one of our goals, in the
International Planetary Preparedness Alliance (IPPA), is to promote openness
and support for the critical programs.


Our present global asteroid search capability is limited to the larger
asteroids and these make-up a relatively small percentage of the threat
population. To quickly find the rest we need to add a large telescope
capability. Good arguments for this can be found as part of the Dark Matter
Telescope proposal (Web) and the U.S. National Research Council Report (last
year)on the major future astronomy equipment needs(Web).

The addition of an 6 to 8 meter, wide-angle reflector, to the search, could
reduce the time required to identify the 100,000 or so NEO, from about 300
years to a single decade. That buys us 290 years of relative safety and
peace-of-mind. We must do it.

To be effective, this instrument, of course, must be largely dedicated to
the hunt for the dacade or so that it will take.

We are planning some experiments, in the near-future, to examine the
effectiveness of a 3 meter spotter, in the hunt, and we invite all who want
to join in this experiment to contact us. We plan a test and will need
follow-up and reporting sites. We will be looking for magnitude 20 and
smaller, fast-moving objects.

We encourage anyone who has the capability, to invite and involve large
telescopes in the hunt, to try to get them involved. We are also trying to
get some help from the SLOAN DSS and the CFH telescope teams.


We view our situation as an international emergency - somewhat similar to a
super bomb-scare. If a bomb was thought to be in a building; an emergency
would be declared, the building would be evacuated and the bomb would be
located and disposed-of.

Our planet is the building. There are about 100,000 bombs in the area. This
is an emergency and we should do everything possible to locate the dangerous
bombs and eliminate them, if at all possible. There is no time to waste. We
urge everyone to support the recognition of this emergency and the need for
crisis priorities and crisis prevention management.


The Sky and Telescope Magazine has done an excellent job of providing good
public information on the asteroid/comet danger and on asteroid hunting.
Professor Richard Binzel (MIT) has done an excellent feature, in the July
issue, titled, "A New Century For Asteroids" (Page 44). We enjoyed it.

We appreciate the coverage given to our Conference, in the CCNet, yesterday.
Leonard David (Space.Com) did an excellent job of summarizing things. Many
thanks to Space.Com and CCNet.

We're all passengers on the same luxury space liner and it is great to see
us working togeather to find the ice and rock bergs.


Andy Smith


From The New York Times, 2 June 2001

Star Wars: Is Astrology Sociology?


Elizabeth Teissier is well known in France as the weekly horoscope columnist
for a popular television guide, the author of a half-dozen books on
astrology, and the astrologer to the French president François Mitterrand.

But Ms. Teissier, 63, has recently found herself on the front page of French
newspapers for something that hundreds of people do every year: defending
her dissertation.

A Ph.D. candidate in sociology, Ms. Teissier spent almost 10 years
completing a 900- page thesis on astrology and in April received a passing
grade at the Sorbonne for her efforts.

On the personal Web site where she lists her accomplishments - which include
predicting the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, the 1987 stock
market crash and the fall of the Berlin Wall - Ms. Teissier has mounted a
photograph of herself in scholar's cap and gown accompanied by the words:
"She would like to create a chair in astrology at the Sorbonne."

An account of Ms. Teissier's thesis defense ran on the front page of Le
Monde, France's most important daily newspaper. Suggesting that at least
parts of the manuscript (cumbersomely titled "The Epistemological Situation
of Astrology in Relation to the Ambivalent Fascination/Rejection of
Postmodern Societies") read more like the justification of a true believer
than a scholarly analysis by a skeptical scientist, the article set off a
storm of protest.

Over the last few weeks, fueled by fresh revelations - like Ms. Teissier's
having referred to Max Weber, one of sociology's founders, as a "pragmatic
Taurus" - the debate has only gathered steam, pitting sociologists who
insist that the case concerns a thesis that fails to meet minimum academic
standards against those who argue that the real target isn't Ms. Teissier
but a maverick strain of sociology that has failed to win establishment

By now, most of the major French newspapers have published opinion pieces.
More than 400 sociologists have signed a petition asking the president of
the Sorbonne to make an independent evaluation of the case. And the French
Association of Scientific Information has assigned a group of scientists and
social scientists to review the thesis. They hope to release their report
within the next two weeks. On the advice of her academic advisers, Ms.
Teissier has decided not to speak to reporters, at least until she receives
her diploma later this summer. But her supporters contend that her thesis,
whatever its faults, is the casualty of a larger conflict within the
discipline over methodology. The real debate, they say, is between the
followers of Émile Durkheim and followers of Weber. Or, to put it another
way, between positivists who rely on quantitative techniques and objective
measures when assessing social life and phenomenologists who attach greater
importance to subjective experience and emotion.

Writing in Le Figaro earlier this week, Judith Lazar, a lecturer in
sociology at a University of Paris branch campus, complained that Ms.
Teissier was the victim of a witch hunt. Noting that most of her critics
hadn't even read the thesis, Ms. Lazar said: "Wouldn't it be braver to admit
that what we're really after isn't the author of this thesis (because what
harm can this woman do to sociology?) but her adviser, Michel Maffesoli?
Indeed, on many occasions, this professor has expressed his differences with
a discipline mired in old-fashioned academicism and has not hesitated to
defend original subjects in order to bring a little fresh air into a
moribund sociology."

There is no question that Mr. Maffesoli's scholarship falls at the extreme
end of the phenomenological camp. "What I do is a very Weberian sociology,
which is not well represented in France because of the Durkheim current that
insists all must be explained by reason," said Mr. Maffesoli. His books
include studies of contemporary hedonism and New Age practices as well as a
treatise on "ordinary knowledge," which he sees as rooted in everyday life
and encompassing the irrational, illogical and emotional aspects of human

In the view of many sociologists, this work lacks methodological rigor.
Writing in Le Monde in April, for example, Christian Baudelot and Roger
Establet, sociologists at the École Normale Superieure at the University of
Aix-en-Provence, accused Mr. Maffesoli of promoting a social science that
favors "lived experience, groundless interpretation and off-the-cuff
analysis" over reason and objectivity.

Despite these jabs, however, Mr. Maffesoli's critics insist that their
objections to Ms. Teissier's thesis have nothing to do with methodological
disputes. "There is an opposition between Weber and Durkheim, but it has
nothing to do with Elizabeth Teissier," said Alain Touraine, a sociologist
at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, pointing out
that Weber stressed the need to back up all assertions with objective

According to her critics, Ms. Teissier's thesis is simply not social
science. "I've read the whole thing," said Dominique Desjeux, a sociologist
at the Sorbonne. "It's the testimony of somebody who is a well-known
astrologer and writes about her experiences. She cites letters from ordinary
people as well as testimony from Mitterrand. There is no sociology."

Bernard Lahire, a sociologist at the École Normale Supérieure de Lettres et
Sciences Humaines in Lyon and director of the group charged with reviewing
the thesis, agreed. "There is no trace of empirical fact or research
method," he wrote via e-mail. "The idea hammered home from beginning to end
of the document is that astrology is the victim of domination. That science,
which is renamed `official science' or `monolithic thought,' oppresses

It is extremely unlikely that Ms. Teissier's degree will be revoked, he
said. He added: "I personally consider this defense a blow to our discipline
and an insult to those who do their work properly. It's not an accident that
Elizabeth Teissier is using sociology to legitimate astrological discourse.
Our discipline is all too often a haven for people who are not rigorous and
who are sometimes antirationalist."

In a letter published in Le Monde, Ms. Teissier reminded readers that a
doctoral degree could not be obtained on the basis of "notoriety and the
production of 300 or more pages" alone. Like other students, she noted, she
has completed all the course and examination requirements for a sociology
Ph.D. She signed the letter "Astrally yours."

Copyright 2001, The New York Times


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