CCNet 70/2002 - 19 June 2002


Their numbers must be legion -
a hundred found in one short glance
with crude tools made for other work!
What's coming isn't hard to see;
an embarrassment of worlds from which
we'll pick and choose the ones we want.
Too hot?  Too big? Not green enough?
Who cares -there's plenty more
out there for us to make our choice!
Getting there, of course, remains a problem,
but we'll find a way to do it as we
always have.  Those who set off first
(decades sleeping under sail, or thrust by
puny push of ion blasts) , will probably arrive
to find their children's children there already.
Well, even if we never learn to jump the gap
but have to traverse every mile in
normal space,  we'll still fill worlds
unless some killer impact comes too soon.

Malcolm Miller

    Kevin Yates <>

    Sky & Telescope, 19 June 2002

    Steve Koppes <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Michael R. Rampino

    Peter Bond <>

    Mark Hess <>


>From From Kevin Yates <>

Near Earth Object Information Centre
National Space Centre, Exploration Drive, Leicester
Press Release, Thursday 20th June 2002: Asteroid 2002MN

For immediate release

Asteroid 2002MN gives Earth its closest shave in years

On Friday 14 June, an asteroid the size of a football pitch made one of the
closest ever recorded approaches to Earth. Astronomers working on the LINEAR
search programme, near Socorro, New Mexico first detected the giant rock on
17 June, a few days after its close approach.

The Near Earth Object, known to astronomers as '2002MN', was travelling at
over 10 km/s (23,000 miles per hour) when it passed Earth at a distance of
around 120,000 km (75,000 miles), bringing it well inside the Moon's orbit.
The last time a known asteroid passed this close was back in December 1994.

Asteroids are typically too small and distant to measure their size directly
from Earth, so scientists use the amount of light they reflect, along with a
basic understanding of the materials they are made of, to estimate their
size. With a diameter between 50-120 metres, 2002 MN is a lightweight among
asteroids and incapable of causing damage on a global scale, such as the
object associated with the extinction of the dinosaurs.

However, if it had hit the Earth, 2002MN may have caused local devastation
similar to that which occurred in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908, when 2000
square kilometres of forest were flattened. Whilst the vast majority of NEOs
discovered do not come this close, such near misses do highlight the
importance of detecting these objects. This reminder comes in a week when
the UK telescopes on La Palma are being tested to search for NEOs.

Brief Description of Object
Object Designation: 2002MN
Date of First Observation: 17/06/02
Number of Observations: 14
Search Team: LINEAR (Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research)
Date of Closest Approach: 14/06/02
Closest Approach Distance: 0.000797 AU  or 119,229 km (0.3 Lunar Distances)
Asteroids Velocity Relative to Earth at Closest Approach: 10.58 km/s (23,667 miles per hour)
Estimated Diameter of Asteroid: 50-120 metres
Orbital Period: 894.9 days

For further information contact: Kevin Yates (Project Officer) Near Earth
Object Information Centre. +44(0)116 2582130 or 07740 896141; email: keviny@


>From Sky & Telescope, 19 June 2002
June 19, 2002 | On June 17th, astronomers from the Lincoln Laboratory Near
Earth Asteroid Research project (LINEAR) discovered a new Earth-crossing
asteroid. Designated 2002 MN, the object is approximately 100 meters across
and flew by us on June 14th.

What is most shocking is just how close it came to Earth. This is only the
sixth known asteroid to penetrate the Moon's orbit, and by far the biggest.
According to Brian G. Marsden (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics),
the object came within 120,000 kilometers (0.0008 astronomical unit) of
impacting Earth.

Though the exact details of an impact scenario depend on the rock's
composition, had it hit Earth the event would have been been
"Tunguska-like," with a force rivaling the largest H-bombs. The object was
too small, however, to be classified as a potentially hazardous asteroid
(PHA). Nor does it qualify for the Torino scale used to predict the
devastation caused by an impacting asteroid.

A disturbing detail is that 2002 MN was discovered three days after its
closest approach. Though we are almost certainly out of harm's way from this
near Earth object (no potential impacts are forecast until at least 2050),
its late detection may be telling. Currently there is no dedicated Southern
Hemisphere NEO search program, and NASA is currently focused on finding
bodies greater than 1 kilometer across.

Regardless of whether or not it should have been seen, "it was a close
shave," says Marsden.

Copyright 2002 Sky Publishing Corp.

>From Steve Koppes <>


Where asteroids and comets are concerned, the solar system is like a giant
roller coaster in space. Figuring out how the orbits of these rocks twist
and turn around just the sun and one other planet is so hard that
brute-force computation is usually the only solution. But in the 1 July
print issue of PRL, a team reports an analytical method for describing an
asteroid's likelihood of escaping orbit around a planet. The result,
inspired by work on transitions between chemical species during reactions,
may eventually give researchers a new tool for analyzing the orbits of the
flotsam of the solar system, the authors suggest.

Consider the comet Oterma. Every now and then, it switches from a
complicated trajectory outside the orbit of Jupiter to one lying within.
Jerry Marsden of the California Institute of Technology and colleagues found
they could describe this transition between orbits mathematically in terms
of a boundary between initial and final states. To make the transition, the
comet passed through a bottleneck near two of Jupiter's libration
points--where objects maintain a fixed distance relative to the planet and
the Sun.

When Charles Jaffé, a chemical physicist at West Virginia University in
Morgantown, saw the paper reporting the comet theory, he was astonished. "It
looks like he stole some of our figures," Jaffé recalls thinking. He had
recently published results using a similar approach for ionized atoms, where
he had extended the conventional theory of the transition state a molecule
adopts during its switch from reactant to product in a chemical reaction.
Realizing they had taken the same approach to solve different problems, the
two teams of authors joined forces to apply it to more complicated
astrophysical scenarios.

Now they have reported their first step in this direction, using a highly
idealized picture of asteroids distributed evenly around Mars and getting
stuck in an orbit 200 Martian radii out. Their statistical theory predicts
the rate at which rocks eject from this orbit over time. After 40
revolutions, the theory matched numerical simulations to within 1%. "I just
found that amazing," Marsden says. "From a dynamical systems point of view
it's a relatively simple theory."

The researchers think this mechanism could apply to all sorts of objects
orbiting in space, from comets to asteroids to space probes. Marsden points
out that spacecraft such as the ongoing Genesis mission--which collects
particles from the solar wind--make use of the same kinds of libration
points implicated in the Oterma bottleneck. So a simpler description of
their trajectories might be beneficial to NASA planners. The team would also
like to better understand the process that brings rocks from Mars to Earth.

Martin Duncan of Queen's University, in Kingston, Canada, is skeptical that
the theory in its current state could handle highly complicated regions full
of debris, such as the asteroid belt or the Kuiper belt outside Neptune. But
if it can predict the escape rate from these areas, "that would be very
important for predicting the flux of near-Earth asteroids and Jupiter-family
comets," he says.

The team agrees that the technique isn't yet ready for such real-world
problems but believes it will be in the future. Compared with simulations,
Marsden says, theory is starting to produce "much deeper insight into the
movement of comets and asteroids and all sorts of stuff that's floating
around through the solar system."

--JR Minkel

Statistical Theory of Asteroid Escape Rates
Charles Jaffé, Shane D. Ross, Martin W. Lo, Jerrold Marsden, David Farrelly,
and T. Uzer
Phys. Rev. Lett. 89, 011101
(print issue of 1 July 2002)
Link to the paper:
© 2002, The American Physical Society. All rights reserved.

>From Andrew Yee <>

[Extracted from ScienceNOW, AAAS]

Monday, 17 June 2002

Jupiter's Brother Joins the Family

Astronomers at a meeting in Washington, D.C., will announce on 18 June the
discovery of a near twin of Jupiter orbiting another star. Last week, a
"first cousin" of our solar system made front-page news, but the new find
looks to be a much closer relation: An exoplanet resembling Jupiter in a
planetary system like our own. The find is the most promising discovery of a
planetary system where Earth-like planets may be hiding.

Before last week's announcement, 76 exoplanets had been discovered. Most
were "hot Jupiters" orbiting closer to their stars than Mercury does to the
sun. All the latest discoveries came as astronomers searched for telltale
stellar wobbling, a sign that the gravity of a massive unseen planet tugs
the parent star back and forth.

Last week researchers led by Geoffrey Marcy of the University of California,
Berkeley, described a "near analog" of Jupiter (ScienceNOW, 13 June). Now
astronomer Michel Mayor of the Geneva
Observatory in Sauverny, Switzerland, and his colleagues report what they
feel is a true Jupiter. Orbiting the star HD190360, this new exoplanet has a
minimum mass just 1.1 times that of Jupiter and orbits at 3.7 times Earth's
distance from the sun (astronomical units, or AU)
[]. In the solar system, that
would put it nearer Jupiter than Mars.

The new planet's strongest claim to Jupiter-likeness lies in its familiar
surroundings: In Doppler-shift observations, its planetary system looks
nearly identical to ours. In contrast, the Berkeley team had already found
one hot Jupiter orbiting their star, 55 Cancri, before they announced a
second last week. Like all hot Jupiters, these must have formed farther out
and drifted inward, driving everything before them into the star and
vaporizing any inner, Earth-like planets.

Astronomers are welcoming both discoveries as the vanguard of a coming
Jupiter bonanza. "I think it's great," says astronomer David Trilling of the
University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. "In the next few years, there
will be dozens and dozens more."


                 55 Cancri's     HD190360's      Our Jupiter

Minimum mass     4 x Jupiter's   1.1x            1.0
Mean orbital
  distance       5.9 AU          3.7 AU          5.2 AU
Eccentricity     0.16            Less than 0.1   0.05
Orbital period   13 years        7.1 years       11.9 years


Copyright © 2002 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


>From Andrew Yee <>

Office of University Communications
Wesleyan University
Middletown, Connecticut

Contact Information:
Dr. William Herbst, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy
Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06459

Prof. Herbst can be reached at the conference in Washington through the
Extrasolar Planets Conference Press Room, telephone numbers (202) 939-1123
and 939-1139.

Release date: Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Sun-Like Star, Dust Eclipse Offers Clues to Origins of Our Solar System

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Astronomers are announcing today the discovery of a
sun-like star which is eclipsed in a way never before seen -- not by another
star, planet or moon, but by dust grains, rocks and maybe even asteroids
orbiting it in a clumpy circumstellar disk.

The international team making the observation was led by William Herbst and
Catrina Hamilton of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. The results are
being presented to the Scientific Frontiers on Research in Exo-Solar Planets
meeting sponsored by NASA and the Carnegie Institution of Washington in
Washington, D.C.

This discovery is enabling first-time study of the detailed structure of a
disk and to see the evolution of features on time scales of months and
years. It is believed that disks such as this formed Earth and our solar
system. Scientists hope that this discovery will shed new light on our

The star, named KH 15D, is in the constellation of Monoceros and located
about 2,400 light years from the Earth. It is part of a well known cluster
of young stars called NGC 2264 and inhabits a nebulous region of space close
to the famous "Cone Nebula" (recently imaged in spectacular fashion with the
new Advanced Camera System on the Hubble Space Telescope.) Such regions are
known to be the birthplaces of stars and KH 15D has all the markings of
youth. It is estimated to be about 3 million years old, qualifying it as a cosmic toddler.

Attention was drawn to the star in 1997 by its discoverers, Kristin Kearns,
then a graduate student at Wesleyan and Herbst. It was star number 15 in an
image which they designated the "D" field, hence the name. "If we knew it
was going to become famous, we would have given it a better name," Herbst
now laments.

Observations, mostly by undergraduate students, at Wesleyan's Van Vleck
Observatory during the late 1990's led Kearns and Herbst to realize that
this was a potentially unique and important object. "Basically, the star
winked at us," reports Herbst. On most nights it was at its standard
brightness but sometimes it would be nearly gone -- shining by only a tiny
fraction of its normal luminosity. After several years of study, the pair
recognized a pattern to the star's behavior -- it fades out every 48.3 days
and stays faint for about 18 days. The strict repetitiveness and other
characteristics led to the realization that something was orbiting the star
and blocking its light on a regular timetable. This is not uncommon in
astronomy -- there are many known examples of eclipsing binary stars. What
is uncommon -- unique, actually -- in the case of KH 15D is the length of
the eclipse as well as its depth. The star was essentially totally blocked
for more than 1/3 of the period of the orbiting matter. No single object
such as a star, planet or moon could do such a thing, since it would require
an object much too large to fit in the space available. Only a collection of
smaller objects -- dust grains, rocks or perhaps asteroids -- orbiting
together in a strung out, clumpy arc, could possibly explain such a lengthy

To examine this unprecedented phenomenon in greater detail, Herbst and
Wesleyan physics graduate student Catrina Hamilton, who is also a senior
lecturer at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., organized an
international observing campaign during the fall, winter and spring of
2001/2002. The goal was to keep an eye on this amazing star for as much of
the time as was practical. Astronomers from Uzbekistan, Germany, Israel,
Spain, and at several universities in the United States took part in the observations.

The extensive data set obtained in the past year has confirmed the basic
pattern seen previously and provided tantalizing new facts for astronomers
to study.

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at ]


Michael R. Rampino: Supereruptions as a Threat to Civilizations on
Earth-like Planets
Icarus 156, 562-569 (2002)

The largest explosive volcanic eruptions (supereruptions) produce >1000 km 3
of ejected material and =1000 Mt (10 15 g) of sub-micron atmospheric
aerosols and dust. These eruptions may be capable of creating global
climatic disturbances sufficient to cause severe problems for world
agriculture and modern civilization. Supereruptions are estimated to occur
on average about every
50,000 years, which is about twice the frequency of impacts by comets and
asteroids =1 km diameter predicted to cause similar climatic effects.
Prediction, prevention, and mitigation of global volcanic climatic disasters
may be potentially more difficult than planetary protection from the threat
of large impacts, so that explosive volcanism might limit the longevity of
technological civilizations. c 2002 Elsevier Science (USA)

Address: Earth & Environmental Science Program, New York University, 100
Washington Square East, Room 1009, New York, New York 10003; and NASA,
Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, New York
10025. E-mail:


>From Peter Bond <>


19 June 2002

For immediate release

Contact details are listed at the end of this release.


Throughout a long and distinguished career stretching over six decades, the
astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle FRS sought to answer some of the biggest questions
in science. How did the Universe originate? How did life begin? What are the
eventual fates of planets, stars and galaxies?

Hoyle believed that, as a general rule, solutions to major unsolved problems
had to be sought by exploring radical hypotheses, whilst at the same time
not deviating too far from well-attested scientific tools and methods. His
scientific work served as an inspiration to three generations of
astronomers. He also became one of the greatest popularisers of science in
the 20th century, never failing to captivate huge audiences on radio, on
television, in public lectures as well as through his popular books.

To celebrate his contributions to astronomy, astrophysics and astrobiology,
former colleagues and students of Hoyle will gather at Cardiff University
(where he was an Honorary Research Professor from 1975 until his death in
2001) from 24-26 June 2002, to highlight the important aspects of his life
and work.

Topics under discussion include:
Fred Hoyle's World View  · Stellar Nucleosynthesis and the Life and Death of
Stars Big-Bang vs Steady-State Cosmology · Quasi-Steady State Cosmology ·
The role of the creation field from Mach's principle · Origin of Chemical
Elements · Anomalous redshifts of Quasars · Interstellar molecules ·
Interstellar dust · Stellar evolution · Cosmical electrodynamics ·
High-energy astrophysics · Iron whiskers in space · Extragalactic dust ·
Origin of Microwave Background · The nature of dark matter · Fred Hoyle's
contributions to biology · The modern theory of panspermia · Search for
micro-organisms in the atmosphere · Evolution of species according to Hoyle
· Science fiction as a vehicle of scientific communication · Fred Hoyle as a
science populariser

Speakers at the event include:
· Eight Fellows of the Royal Society
· The Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees
· Sir John Maddox, Emeritus Editor of Nature
· Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge, whose work with Hoyle led to our
present-day understanding of the origin of chemical elements in stars.
· Arthur C Clarke (via video link in Sri Lanka)
· Hermann Bondi, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government and Chair
of the European Space Agency, with whom Hoyle founded the theory of
accretion (the mechanism by which stars "suck in" nearby interstellar
matter) and the Steady State Theory of the Universe.


For booking enquiries:
Contact Samantha Emmotts, Tel: +44 (0)29 2087 5117, email:

For academic enquiries:
Contact Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, Tel: +44 (0)29 2087 4201,
email: or visit


>From Mark Hess <>
Cynthia M. O'Carroll / Krishna Ramanujan                 
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.       June 18, 2002
(Phone: 301/614-5563 or 301/286-3026)

Stephanie Kenitzer
American Meteorological Society
(Phone: 425/432-2192)

RELEASE: 02-96


NASA researchers have for the first time used a rainfall-measuring satellite
to confirm that "urban heat-islands" create more summer rain over and
downwind of major cities, including Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio and

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd and colleagues at NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Center, Greenbelt, Md., found that urban areas with high concentrations of
buildings, roads and other artificial surfaces retain heat and lead to
warmer surrounding temperatures, and create urban heat-islands. This
increased heat may promote rising air and alter the weather around cities.

"Cities tend to be one to 10 degrees Fahrenheit [.56 to 5.6 Celsius] warmer
than surrounding suburbs and rural areas and the added heat can destabilize
and change the way air circulates around cities," said Shepherd. Rising warm
air may help produce clouds that result in more rainfall around urban areas.

Using the world's first space-based rain radar aboard NASA's Tropical
Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite, Shepherd and colleagues found
that mean monthly rainfall rates within 30-60 kilometers (18 to 36 miles)
downwind of the cities were, on average, about 28 percent greater than the
upwind region. In some cities, the downwind area exhibited increases as high
as 51 percent.

It was also found that, on average, maximum rainfall rates in downwind
regions often exceeded the maximum values in upwind regions by 48 percent -
116 percent. These results are very consistent with earlier related
experiments in St. Louis, Missouri and near Atlanta.

Mostly during the warmer months, the added heat creates wind circulations
and rising air that can produce clouds or enhance existing ones. Under the
right conditions, these clouds can evolve into rain-producers or storms. It
is suspected that converging air due to city surfaces of varying heights,
like buildings, also promotes rising air needed to produce clouds and

"A recent United Nations study estimates that 80 percent of the world's
population will live in cities by 2025, so a better understanding of the
impact of urban land use change on Earth's water cycle system is vital,"
Shepherd said.

The study appears in the July 2002 issue of the American Meteorological
Society's Journal of Applied Meteorology.

Earlier research has used ground-based instruments, including rain gauge
networks, ground-based radar, or model simulations, to show that urban heat
islands can impact local rainfall around cities like St. Louis, Chicago,
Mexico City and Atlanta.

Although useful, many of these studies were limited to specific cities that
had access to relevant data from special observation networks or computer
model simulations. But satellites broaden the scope of such research by
monitoring changes in rainfall patterns over urban areas on global scales
over long periods of time.

"For example, we can now investigate cities around the world simultaneously
that have been identified as producing urban heat island-induced rainfall
rather than focusing resources on one location," said Shepherd.

By showing how space-borne platforms can be used to identify rainfall
changes linked to cities and urban sprawl, the research may help land
managers and engineers design better drainage systems, plan land-use, and
identify the best areas for agriculture. Also, it highlights the need for
scientists to account for impacts of urbanization when they design computer
models that forecast the weather or predict regional climates.

This study was funded by the TRMM Project Science Office and NASA

TRMM is a joint NASA/Japanese Space Agency mission to study tropical
rainfall and its implications for climate. Each day, the TRMM spacecraft
observes the Earth's equatorial and tropical regions, including the
southernmost United States and all of Africa.

TRMM is part of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise.

The mission of NASA's Earth Science Enterprise is to develop a scientific
understanding of the Earth System and its response to natural or
human-induced changes to enable improved prediction capability for climate,
weather and natural hazards.

The American Meteorological Society ( is the
nation's leading professional society for scientists in the atmospheric and
related sciences.

For more information and images, please see:

For more information on TRMM, go to:

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