CCNet DIGEST 6 July 1998

    Jana Ticha <> wrote:

    Sormano Astronomical Observatory <>

    Sky Reporter <>


    Steven Excell <>

    Ed Grondine <>


From Jana Ticha <> wrote:

Dear Benny Peiser,

I am always interested in information about NEO research and its public
context presented on CC Digest.

I think that it might be useful for members of the CCNet to read also
about NEO activities in small countries (whose economic circumstances
are not very good for basic research), to fill a lack of information
about European NEO efforts (as suggested by our ODAS' colleagues) and
moreover to read something not only about discoveries, but also about
the necessary follow-up astrometry of NEOs. Therefore you can kindly
find short information about our work at Klet Observatory below.

Best regards

Jana Ticha



Klet Observatory is known as one of most prolific minor planet
discovery sites (350 numbered minor planets in 1978-1998) and in recent
years also belongs to the leading observers regarding CCD follow-up
astrometry of NEOs (since 1993). For example 5125 precise astrometric
positions were measured this year, including 1385 positions of Near
Earth Asteroids. This number includes as many as 19 of 21 Potentially
Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) discovered since the beginning of this year.
Six from these PHAs (1998 CS1, FH12, FF14, HD14, HT31 and 1998 KJ9)
were found out and measured as confirmation observations, the first
observations after discovery, according to the Minor Planet Center' WWW
TheNEOPage. These results have been made using 0.57-m reflector + CCD
and 0.63-m photographic telescope only.

Now new 1.02-m telescope equipped with CCD camera is being built at
Klet Observatory. The main goal of this project will consist in CCD
follow-up astrometry of fainter NEOs in substantially longer arc in
discovery opposition and recoveries of NEOs in the second opposition to
improve their orbits, but some observing time will be devoted to the
special search programme. All observing time will be dedicated to the
Klet team (Jana Ticha, Milos Tichy and Zdenek Moravec).

Our project uses existing infrastructure of our observatory and
upgrades existing dome. New optics and CCD detector is funded partly by
the state support in Southbohemian region of the Czech republic and
partly by the government grant.

For more information you can visit our homepage     or

We hope that - after completing this new larger telescope - we shall be
able to participate more usefully in study of small bodies in the Solar
System and in the international(!) effort to recognize and reduce
asteroid and comet hazard. (1998 July 5)

Jana Ticha (
Director of the Klet Observatory


From Sormano Astronomical Observatory <>

A list of close encounters of asteroids with planets Mercury, Venus and
Mars for the next two hundred years is available at

Objects have been selected on the basis of their Minimum Orbital
Intersection Distance from the planet (MOID < 0.02 AU) and integrated
numerically (taking into account perturbations by all planets except
Pluto, but including the Moon as a separate body), looking for close
approaches within 0.02 AU.

A similar list (containing close approaches with the Earth) is also
available at

Piero Sicoli and Francesco Manca
Sormano Astronomical Observatory (
MPC code 587


From Sky Reporter <>

July 3, 1998

Astronomers Say They Have Found a New Class of Asteroid



In a press release distributed Thursday, Dr. David Tholen and a
graduate student, Robert Whiteley, reported that the asteroid circles
the sun entirely within Earth's orbit. All other known
Earth-approaching asteroids travel in orbits that lie at least partly
outside Earth's orbit. [....]

But Dr. Gareth Williams of the Central Bureau for Astronomical
Telegrams in Cambridge, Mass., cast doubt on the assertion that the
asteroid orbits the sun entirely within Earth's orbit.

"That orbital calculation was based on just two brief observations of
the object, one lasting seven minutes on the night of Feb. 23, and the
other on Feb. 24 for four minutes," Williams said. "Of the solutions we
plotted, some showed the asteroid's orbit to be entirely within the
Earth's orbit, but others showed part of the orbit outside the Earth's
orbit." [....]

In any case, Tholen said, "1998 DK36 is nothing to lose sleep over.
It's the ones we haven't found that are of concern."

(C) 1998 Sky Reporter

    Flights of Physics Fancy in Hollywood

By Kenneth Chang

July 2 — “It’s the size of Texas, Mr. President,” Billy Bob Thornton’s
character intones with due solemnity early in the movie Armageddon.
“It’s what we call a global killer, the end of mankind.”
Hmm, an asteroid the size of Texas speeding right at Earth. That’s just
the first instance of the makers of Armageddon making up the science.
In reality, there aren’t any asteroids the size of Texas out there. Not
Of course, no one expects a premium on scientific accuracy in a summer
popcorn movie. But we thought we’d offer some appreciation for just how
silly Hollywood physics can be.
[Warning: we divulge the plot, but that’s hardly the reason to go see
the movie, anyway. And the ending? They save the world. See? You
weren’t surprised, were you?] Okay, let’s run through the numbers.
Spinning the Space Station
En route to the asteroid, the two space shuttles head to the Russian
space station to refuel. (Why does the space station just happen to
have few hundred thousand pounds of highly explosive rocket fuel lying
around? We’ll just stick to the movie’s main physics fantasies.)
To simulate gravity (and save movie makers the trouble of faking
weightlessness), the cosmonaut aboard the space station—no one calls it
Mir—fires a few rockets to put the space station into the spin. How
fast does it need to spin to reproduce Earth gravity?
Assuming the space station’s spoke arms—where the shuttles dock—are
about 50 feet long, the answer is 8 revolutions a minute. That
makes it impossible to dock—it’d be like trying to drive a car on
ice-covered roads into a spinning parking garage. There’s another, more
fundamental, problem: The artificial gravity points in the wrong
Think of spinning rides at the amusement park. The spinning motion
creates an artificial gravity, an effective outward-pushing force. On
the space station, the spinning would tend to throw the astronauts down
the station’s spoke arms and back onto the shuttle. Also, the
artificial gravity would taper off to nothing at the center.
But, the movie’s artificial gravity somehow points down, not outward,
and appears to work equally well throughout the station. The astronauts
walk around happily, at least until the station … well, special effects
Oops, Missed the Turn
After they leave the space station, they head to the moon, and then
pull a slingshot U-turn with all engines blasting, ostensibly using the
moon’s gravity, to increase their speed and come up behind the
Imagine you’re in your car approaching a sharp hairpin turn. You floor
the accelerator. What happens? You fly off the road.
Same thing here. In the real universe, that maneuver would send the
spacecraft flying right past the moon and away from the asteroid.
Houston, We Have a Math Problem
When the movie astronauts arrive at the asteroid, that’s where the real
numbers problems arise.
The movie’s plot is to drill an 800-foot-deep hole, drop in a nuclear
bomb, boom! and the explosion blows the asteroid in two pieces that fly
apart in a V-pattern, missing Earth on both sides.
Characters repeatedly refer to a “zero barrier” point. Closer than
that, and supposedly there’s not enough time for the two pieces to
spread out and miss Earth. One newscaster says the asteroid passes zero
barrier 3 hours, 37 minutes before impact. Multiply that time by the
asteroid’s 22,000 mph speed. That means zero barrier is 80,000 miles
out from Earth.
Earth is 8,000 miles wide. Assuming the asteroid is headed toward the
bulls’-eye middle, that means you have to deflect both halves by half
that, or 4,000 miles. At the zero barrier point that means changing the
course of the rocks by 2.8 degrees. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Try Giving It a Push
Except Texas is big. Real big. At 800 miles across, it’s one-third
wider than the largest known asteroid.
Something this big is also heavy. Assuming the asteroid is a nice,
round, 800-mile-wide sphere and as dense as a typical asteroid, it
would weigh about 7 billion trillion pounds. (That’s 7, followed by 21
(In the production notes, director Michael Bay says, “We decided to
take liberties and underscore the jeopardy. We didn’t think the
audience would believe something 5 or 6 miles long could kill the
Earth.” It’s our fault Hollywood movies can’t be realistic.)
Now let’s figure out how fast you have to push those two chunks in the
up and down directions to make them miss. Simple calculation: 4,000
miles divided by 3 hours, 37 minutes equals 1,106 mph.
How much energy is that, blasting two half-Texas-size rocks to just
over 1,100 miles per hour? The equivalent of 500 million 10-megaton
nuclear bombs. The would-be world rescuers brought along just one bomb.
Just Beneath the Surface

The movie also makes a great fuss about detonating the bomb 800 feet
down. Again, this is a Texas-size asteroid. That means they buried the
bomb 0.02 percent of the way down to the center. Scaling this down to
more manageable dimensions, if the asteroid were the size of a football
field, and the 50-yard line is the center of the asteroid, the yahoos
in the movie buried their firecracker less than three-quarters of inch
from the end zone.
Would a nuclear bomb detonated 800 feet down into Earth split the
planet in half? Would it even break apart Texas? No and no.
Even if the asteroid did split, what are the chances that it would
split into exactly two equal shapes that travel along the perfect paths
to avoid the Earth? Nil.
One last thought: They’ve destroyed the asteroid and are now zooming
back to Earth at 22,000 mph. How do they stop?
Disclaimer: Armageddon was made by Touchstone Pictures, a part of
Disney. ABCNEWS is also a division of Disney. But that doesn’t mean we
have to say anything nice about Armageddon.

Copyright 1998 ABCNews


From Steven Excell <> [as posted on the meteorite-list]

None of the science is remotely accurate. Armageddon makes Deep Impact
look like a Ph.D. thesis by comparison.

In Armageddon:

The Earth is bombarded with periodic meteor showers for many weeks
leading up to the expected arrival of the Big One. The showers are
shown far in outer space heading towards the Earth for a direct hit. 
There is no bollide breaking up on entry into the Earth's atmosphere. 
Yet, Manhattan is pelted with meteorites like a shotgun blast. The
meteors streak in almost horizonal to the streets of New York City.

The main asteroid reminds me of Superman's secret lair at the North
Pole -- stalagmites everywhere -- and no smooth surface with impact
craters or pock-marks. Yet, one of the two space shuttles land in this
geologic briar patch without injury.

The asteroid has its own Grand Canyon -- complete with sedimentary
layers and erosion.

The asteroid has gravity because rovers travel with wheels on the
ground, the space shuttle makes a glide landing and people walk around
without tethers. However, one of the rovers jumps over the abyss of the
Grand Canyon. So this is an asteroid where gravity comes and goes.

The space shuttle flies in outer space and around the moon like an
airplane or WW II fighter plane. Of course, no one is weightless in
outer space while on the shuttle (they walk around).  Yet they
practiced weightlessness in the NASA water tank training facility
before taking off.

The astronomer who discovers the main asteroid is an improverished,
drunken reprobate who lives in a junky trailer and fights with his
combative wife -- yet the astronomer owns his own major observatory.  
Now that I think about it, most of my astronomer friends became
impoverished after buying their telescopes -- and some had to convince
their doubting spouses that a telescope was a more important investment
than their annual IRA contribution -- so this part may be accurate
after all.

The movie is so bad, I almost slept through it.  My wife actually gave
it a B+ as an "action movie," and said, "It was like science fiction
without the science."

Steven Excell
Seattle, Washington USA


From Ed Grondine <>


These suggestions are freely offered for you to use as you see fit,
with no expectation of compensation.

                                       E.P. Grondine
Dear Mr. Spielberg,

I went out and saw the movie "Armageddon" last night. Luckily for you
there at Dreamworks it is not going to be the summer block buster which
Disney has hoped for. We may have found out how much action is too much
action, and it is quite likely that your own movie "Deep Impact" is
going to continue to make money for the rest of the summer, despite the
wide spread criticism it has received for having too little action.

While at the time Deep Impact was made the special effects studios 
were all under tremendous demand, I think that with another $10 to $15
million dollar expenditure now you could add some action to the movie
and turn it from a good movie into a great one, and thus increase its
long run revenue flow substantially.

Here's how:

First off, Deep Impact lacks a sense of suspense, because the audience
can not picture the impact which is going to occur at the end of movie.
I know you tried to correct this by the advertising campaign that
accompanied the opening of the movie, but there is an even better way.

By relying on Dreamworks' superb abilities to render dinosaurs, used so
well in Jurassic Park, you could open the movie by showing the K/T
impact event very realistically.  The first scene would center on a
pack of small predator dinosaurs hunting a herd of large herbivore
dinosaurs in what is now Canada. Now these small predator dinosaurs are
not stupid and are actually evolving into an intelligent species.
Open with a face shot of the leader of the predator pack, who signals
his fellows into stampeding one of the large herbivore dinosaurs
into a pit-trap.  The small predators surround the pit, and as their
leader raises a rock above his head to throw onto the trapped herbivore,
the K/T asteroid comes down.  There is a blinding flash of light, a
rumbling of the Earth, and then a cloud of vaporized rock rushes over
the horizon and sets everything, including the small predators, on fire. 
The segment would end with a face shot of the completely burned small
predator dinosaur leader, showing that he is aware that he is dying and
wondering what happened.  This would beat the hell out of Charlton
Heston's speech in Armageddon.

The next improvement to the movie could be made immediately before the
President's announcement. Here there could be a development of the
Russian astronaut's character: He comes home to his apartment to a wife
about to leave him for obsessing about his secret work and giving her
little time.  At the time of the Presidential announcement there could
be other simultaneous announcements by other national leaders,
European, Japanese, closing with the Russian astronaut's family's
reaction. Besides leading to greater involvement on the part of
overseas audiences, this set-up could lead to more action shots at Deep
Impact's close.

The first few frames of the Spaceship Messiah approaching the comet
look so much like a plastic model that they force a suspension of the
suspension of disbelief in any viewer.  Copying these frames through
some gauze or a vaseline plate might do the trick here.

After the Messiah fails, Deep Impact's action drags. Stock footage of
the launch of Titan 4 rockets, computer renderings of the failure of
their nuclear charges to stop the comet, stock footage of launches of
smaller Atlas rockets, and the failure of their nuclear charges as well
could be inserted to heighten the sense of approaching doom. You could
throw in a European Ariane 5 or Japanese H-2 launch for the foreign
market.  The President's final speech could be overdubbed from "our
Titans have failed" to "our rockets have failed". 

At the time of the impact, the flooding of New York is shown, then the
flooding of Washington.  As the kid begins to run up the mountain,
shots of the flooding of Richmond could be spliced in to give a greater
sense of the approaching tidal wave.

Now comes the real good part.  A false conclusion, a la the first
Terminator film.

In reality, the Messiah's final effort would just lead to smaller
fragments, and additional shots show this.  First show the kid, his
girlfriend, and the baby being set on fire from the thermal blast of
these small fragments burning up in the atmosphere.  This is
destruction on a more human scale, something that Deep Impact has
failed at.

To increase demand in the European market, next cut to Ireland on fire
going under water from the tidal wave.  For the South American market,
show Miami on fire being swamped.

Next comes the impact of a large fragment on, say, Saint Louis or

Then blow the Messiah's astronauts' families to bits as they sit at the
control room in Houston.  You could accomplish this by re-creating the
control room shot from the "final farewell" scene and then detonating
some explosives outside of the set.  Use plenty of stage blood.

Next show Paris on fire going under the tidal wave, which should
greatly increase French speaking revenues.

Finally, show the Russian astronaut's family fighting fires that are
being set by fragments from the impact falling back to Earth.

To account for all this added action, at the end, when the President is
standing in front of the ruins of the Capitol, after he describes the
floods, insert couple of frames for a long pause before he goes on to
say "We have survived".

Like the release says, Mr. Spielberg, feel free to use these. But if
you ever decide to take over the Warner Brothers television network,
please give me a call. I have a couple of treatments for some science
fiction shows that should be able to clear Star Trek from the airwaves.

                                        Best wishes -

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