CCNet DIGEST 10 July 1998

      "The End of the World Cup is nigh"!

    Ted Bryant <>

    Lew Gramer <>

    Ron Baalke <>

    E.P. Grondine <>

    M.D. Hicks et al., CALTECH

(6) ASTEROID 1991 VH

    D. Bockelee Morvan et al., PARIS OBSERVATORY


From Ted Bryant <>

Dear Dr. Peiser:

I am involved in the description of geological signatures of
catastrophic tsunami. Most of this work is concentrated around the
southeast coast of New South Wales, Australia. Recently we extended our
work to Queensland and Western Australia. This has led us to believe
that these three coastlines were severely impacted by catastrophic
tsunami about 400 radiocarbon years ago. As the coastlines do not share
a common body of water, we now believe that we are looking at the
impact of a fragmenting comet into the oceans around Australia, and the
generation of catastrophic tsunami. The New South Wales coast evidence
shows that there have   probably been 6 events along this coast in the
last 6-7,000 years. We think one of the biggest events occurred very
early and have some evidence to suggest that it was also generated by a
comet impact that was shared by other sites globally. Aborigines
certainly witnessed these events. They have legends both for comet
impacts and tsunami. For more information I invite you to visit my web
sites at

Dr. Ted Bryant
Assoc. Prof. in Geosciences,
University of Wollongong,
Wollongong, N.S.W.,
Australia, 2522.
phone:  61-242-213-172
fax:    61-242-214-250


From Lew Gramer <> [as posted on meteororb-list]

Saw this on the AAVSO list, and thought it (somewhat) more appropriate


------- Forwarded Message

From: "Marvin Baldwin" <>
Subject: Re: June observing
Date: Sun, 05 Jul 98 00:24:14 PDT

Brian Skiff just laid out some amazing statistics about asteroid
discoveries and I've gotta see if I'm understanding this correctly. The
asteroid survey telescope, the LONEOS Schmidt, just in the month of May
alone, took data resulting in 8000 asteroid position measurements and
the discovery of 145 previously unknown asteroids??

At the same time, month of May alone, the military project, LINEAR,
took data resulting in 80,000 asteroid position measurements and
discovered 3600 previously unknown asteroids about 1% of which were
determined to be near-Earth objects??

Are these 3600+ newly found asteroids tracked sufficiently to fix their
orbits or are most of them simply lost until they are picked up again
in the future in a similar manner with the possibility of matching them
up with the old data and fixing their orbits at that time?

Are most of these new asteroids being found when they are nearby or are
they being spotted half way across the solar system?

Then there is the question concerning the size of the near-Earth
objects (statistically speaking) and the additional question,
concerning the discovery rate, as to how many are expected to be found

Marv Baldwin
Butlerville, Indiana, USA

From Brian Skiff

Arne asked some possibly rhetorical questions about our June observing,
and we've chatted since then, but I'll fill in folks here in case
there's some interest.

We try to run the LONEOS Schmidt, which is an asteroid survey
telescope, whenever the Moon is less than 80-percent illuminated. After
the June Full Moon, my colleague Bruce Koehn observed for a few nights
with our summer student Chris Onken (from Univ of Minnesota), then I
took over for a couple of nights.  Actually, these were formal training
nights for Chris, and I didn't do much besides watch.  On the first of
these nights Chris chose some fields that included our first near-Earth
asteroid discovery, 98MQ, so things started well. Chris worked alone at
LONEOS for three more nights while I did follow-up astrometry of
asteroids at our 1.1-m telescope; on the last of these nights I got a
preliminary lightcurve for 98MQ (period of 6-7 hours, but an amplitude
of only ~0.06 mag.---tough to do accurately at mag. 17.5 with the 1.1-m
telescope).  Then I was back at LONEOS for the succeeding nine nights,
violating all kinds of Arizona labor laws in the process.  Just about
gave it all away mentally/physically, too.  Should have gone directly
back to Sun-like stars photometry at the venerable 21-inch on Mars
Hill, but took two days off to recoup. (If I sounded completely
incoherent on the NPR interview that ran last Monday, it was because
I'd just gotten out of bed after the thirteenth of the fourteen nights
when they called.)

We're taking about 200 data frames of 17.4Mb each on these short summer
nights; call it 3.5Gb (8Mb per minute!).  The reduction software, which
Bruce and Chris are working on, is primitive enough that we barely get
a handle on the moving objects, and certainly nothing's been done to
pick up the variables and supernovae that doubtless show up on these
frames.  We're covering about 600 square degrees three times each night
to R mag. 18, so there's a lot of real estate involved. The reductions,
which are done on the fly by four high-end Pentium II towers (no
keyboard or monitor), are basically complete for the moving objects
only a few minutes after the final frame is taken. In May, a much
cloudier and problem-plagued run, we reported about 8000 asteroid
positions to the Minor Planet Center, among which were 145 discoveries.
To put this in perspective, during the same period LINEAR (a military
project) produced _80,000_ positions and was credited with over 3600
asteroid discoveries, including half a dozen comets and basically all
the near-Earth objects found in the interval (some three dozen). (Your
military tax dollars at work!)

I found the June dark run very satisfying aesthetically. Thanks to the
low winter-like extinction values, which Arne reported on (around
0.12-0.14 in V), the nights were absolutely gorgeous. The evening &
morning twilights were likewise wonderfully saturated in color.  I
found the zodiacal light was readily visible both morning & evening; I
got to see a fairly old and a quite young Moon; saw the Pleiades go
from being difficult in bright twilight to being well up in full
darkness as Venus slipped past it; saw Aldebaran within a day or two of
heliacal rising; saw the activity associated with the unexpected
Pons-Winnecke meteor shower; spent parts of several nights doing visual
deep-sky observing in the Milky Way and eastwards with my Pronto
telescope, which showed stars to V mag. 14 on these glorious nights.

The most amazing thing of all, of course, was that I got _paid_ to do 
this! (Your NASA tax dollars at work!)

It appears to be clearing up again tonight, so I'm off to spend some
NSF tax dollars doing photometry on stars....

All for now.



From Ron Baalke <>

Joint Astronomy Center

Contact numbers:

Jane Greaves (JAC)
phone (USA) (808) 969 6562 (until July 3rd)
phone (USA) (805) 683 6722, room 214 (from July 5th)

USA Press Contact:
Stuart Wolpert (UCLA)
phone (USA) (310) 206 0511

UK Press Contact:
Helen Walker (RAL)
phone (UK) 01235 446490

Wednesday 8th July, 1998

Astronomers discover a nearby star system just like our own Solar System

HILO, HAWAII -- An international team of astronomers from the Joint
Astronomy Centre (JAC) in Hawaii, the University of California at Los
Angeles (UCLA) and the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh announced today
the discovery of a ring of dust particles around a nearby star, Epsilon
Eridani, that appears to signify a Solar System very similar to our

The ring is "strikingly similar" to the outer comet zone in our Solar
System, and shows an intriguing bright region that may be particles
trapped around a young planet, said JAC astronomer Jane Greaves, who
led the research team.

"What we see looks just like the comet belt on the outskirts of
our Solar System, only younger," said Greaves, who presented the
findings today at the "Protostars and Planets" Conference in Santa
Barbara. "It's the first time we've seen anything like this around
a star similar to our Sun. In addition, we were amazed to see a bright
spot in the ring, which may be dust trapped in orbit around a planet."

Why is Epsilon Eridani so interesting?

Greaves was a member of the international team that reported new images
of dusty disks around the hotter stars Fomalhaut and Vega in April
(Dusty Disks). However, the new image of Epsilon Eridani is even more
exciting for several reasons:

"Epsilon Eridani is far more similar to our Sun than either Vega
Fomalhaut." she said. "This star system is a strong candidate for
planets, but if there are planets, it's unlikely there could be life
yet. When the Earth was this young, it was still being very heavily
bombarded by comets and other debris."

"It is also a star in our local neighbourhood, being only about 10
light years away, which is why we can see so much detail in the new

Epsilon Eridani is clearly visible to the naked eye, in the
constellation Eridanus (the River), which stretches from the foot of
Orion (near the bright star Rigel) to the 9th brightest star in the
sky, the southerly Achernar (barely visible from the USA and Europe).
Epsilon Eridani is among the 10 closest star systems to the Earth.

"If an astronomer could have seen what our Solar System looked like
four billion years ago, it would have been very much as Epsilon Eridani
looks today," said Benjamin Zuckerman, UCLA professor of physics and
astronomy. "This is a star system very like our own, and the first time
anyone has found something that truly resembles our Solar System; it's
one thing to suspect that it exists, but another to actually see it,
and this is the first observational evidence."

The research team -- which also includes astronomers from the
University of Arizona, University College London, and the Rutherford
Appleton Laboratory -- has submitted its findings to the Astrophysical
Journal Letters, the most widely-read scholarly journal in astronomy.

More about the discovery:

Beyond Pluto in our Solar System is a region containing more than
70,000 large comets, and hundreds of millions of smaller ones, called
the "Kuiper belt". The image obtained by Greaves' team shows dust
particles that the astronomers believe are analogous to our Kuiper belt
at the same distance from Epsilon Eridani as the Kuiper belt is from
our Sun. Although the image cannot reveal comets directly, the dust
that is revealed is believed to be debris from comets, Greaves said.

Epsilon Eridani's inner region contains about 1,000 times more dust
than our Solar System's inner region, which may mean it has about 1,000
times more comets, the astronomers said. Epsilon Eridani is believed to
be only 500 million years to 1 billion years old; our Sun is estimated
to be 4.5 billion years old, and its inner region is believed to have
looked very similar at that age.

In our Solar System, the first 600 million years was a time of "heavy
bombardment" when the planets were assaulted by massive meteorites and
other celestial objects until the gravitation of Jupiter and Saturn
cleaned out these destructive objects. Life on Earth probably did not
start until after the era of heavy bombardment, said JAC astronomer
Wayne Holland.

How was the new image obtained?

The new image -- which is from short-radio wavelengths, and is not an
optical picture -- was obtained using the 15-meter James Clerk Maxwell
Telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii. The JCMT is the
world's largest telescope dedicated to the study of light at
"submillimeter" wavelengths. The team of astronomers used a
revolutionary new camera called SCUBA (Submillimeter Common User
Bolometer Array), which was built by the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh
(which is now the UK Astronomical Technology Centre). SCUBA uses
detectors cooled to a tenth of a degree above absolute zero (-273
degrees Celsius) to measure the tiny amounts of heat emission from
small dust particles at a wavelength close to one-millimeter.

Implications and mysteries of the new discovery

What is the significance of the similarity between Epsilon Eridani and
our own Solar System?

"The implication is that if there is one system similar to ours at such
a close star, presumably there are many others," Zuckerman said. "In
the search for life elsewhere in the universe, we have never known
where to look before. Now, we are closing in on the right candidates in
the search for life."

Epsilon Eridani is probably too young to support even primitive life,
the astronomers said, but there may be other similar star systems that
are billions of years older, and are good candidates to search for
life. Although astronomers have not yet located a star system that is
the right age with the right atmosphere to support life, they are
getting closer.

A region near the star that is partially evacuated indicates that
planets may have formed, the astronomers said; the presence of planets
is the most likely explanation for the absence of dust in this region
because planets absorb the dust when they form.

What is the bizarre bright spot in the image obtained by the

"There may be a planet stirring up the dust in the ring and causing the
bright spot," said Bill Dent of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, "or
it could be the remnants of a massive collision between comets."

Epsilon Eridani is about three-quarters as massive as the sun, but only
one-third as luminous. When astronomer Frank Drake conducted the first
serious search for radio signals from other civilizations in the late
1950s, Epsilon Eridani was one of the first two stars he studied.
Today, researchers know something Drake did not: Epsilon Eridani is
much too young to have intelligent life. However, the new image shows
there may be at least one planet, and perhaps life in the future.

In addition to Greaves, Holland, Zuckerman and Dent, the astronomers on
the project are Gerald Moriarty-Schieven and Tim Jenness at JAC; Harold
Butner at the University of Arizona, Tucson; Walter Gear at University
College London; Helen Walker at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory; and
UCLA graduate students Richard Webb and Chris McCarthy.

Information and images are available on the World Wide Web at website

The JCMT is operated by the Joint Astronomy Centre, on behalf of the UK
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the Netherlands
Organisation for Scientific Research, and the National Research Council
of Canada. This work was also supported, in part, by NSF and NASA
grants to UCLA.


From E.P. Grondine <>

Benny -

Several days ago I read a short piece in which it was claimed that two
previously unknown small tribes of people had been discovered living in
isolation on the north coast of Indonesia.  These people supposedly
have dark skin and dark hair, which is not that unusual in that part of
the world, but what was truly unusual was that it was claimed that the
people of these tribes supposedly communicate not with speech but
entirely by sign language.

This immediately called to my mind Charles Pellegrino's most recent 
book on the myth of Atlantis and the explosion of Thera, "Unearthing
Atlantis".  In this work Pellegrino had speculated that the reported
deafness of both Moses and Murshilishi might have been caused by an
incredibly loud sound which accompanied the explosion of Thera.
Pellegrino calculated an estimate of the size of the noise and how far
the atmospheric shock wave must have traveled, and concluded that this
hypothesis was entirely likely.

Thinking along these lines, it seems to me that some impact  explosions
must also have produced sounds so loud as to be deafening. I do not
think that this effect of impact explosions has been widely noted, and
I do not think that researchers may be on the lookout for reports of
wide-spread deafness.

A little further down this path, the K/T event must have produced a
tremendous atmospheric shock wave, one that certainly must have led to
the loss of hearing by every animal on Earth.  An eyeball estimate of 
the K/T shockwave leads me to suspect that not only must it have been
big enough to lead to deafness, indeed, it was probably large enough to
rupture the cells in the lungs of every animal on Earth exposed to it.

I have observed that the animals which survived the K/T impact event
were those which burrowed and lived at least part of the time below
ground.  I used to think that this burrowing allowed them to escape the
fire caused by the K/T impactor, a fire which must effectively have
burned up the entire surface of the Earth.  Now, I wonder if the other
animals may not have died even earlier.  In any case, determining the
exact cause of death will lead to much better models of K/T size
impacts, and so this is probably best left to the specialists.

Returning to our Indonesian tribes, it would be lovely if they were
survivors of the "wall of water" impact, but it is most likely that
they are either simply a fraud like the purported primitive people
which were supposedly "discovered" in the Philippines some years back,
or that they may have simply developed and inherited the lack of
hearing through isolated breeding.

Ah well, no harm done in speculating (at least of the scientific
variety), and in any case it will be most interesting to see how
these "new" tribes turn out.

                                     Best wishes -


M.D. Hicks*), U. Fink & W.M. Grundy: The unusual spectra of 15
near-Earth asteroids and extinct comet candidates. ICARUS, 1998,
Vol.133, No.1, pp.69-78


We present moderate resolution reflectance spectra from 0.55 to 1.0 mu
m for 15 near-Earth asteroids and extinct cometary nuclei candidates
obtained at the Catalina Station 1.54-m telescope near Tucson, Arizona.
Though our limited wavelength coverage often makes firm classification
difficult, an analysis of our measurements reveals that there is an
over-representation of asteroids with unusually deep 0.9-to 1-mu m
absorption features, Several of our objects have spectra consistent
with Q-type asteroids and within the limits of our signal-to-noise
ratio, are compatible with a chondritic composition. It is apparent
that the near-Earth asteroids as a population have an unusual taxonomic
distribution, one that is much closer to that of meteoritic falls than
may have been previously assumed. (C) 1998 Academic Press.

(6) ASTEROID 1991 VH

P. Pravec*), M. Wolf, L. Sarounova: Occultation/Eclipse events in
binary asteroid 1991 VH. ICARUS, 1998, Vol.133, No.1, pp.79-88


We present the results of photometric observations of the Apollo
asteroid 1991 VH. Its lightcurve consists of two components: the first
is the rotational lightcurve with period P-s = (0.109327 +/- 0.000003)
d and amplitude 0.09 mag, while the second, with period P-t = (1.362
+/- 0.001) d, shows two minima with depth 0.16-0.19 mag, each with a
duration of about 0.10 d, and little or no variation at phases between
them. We present a model of the occulting/eclipsing binary asteroid
with the secondary-to-primary diameter ratio d(s)/d(p) = 0.40 that
explains the observed lightcurve, In this model, the primary's rotation
is not synchronized with the orbital motion and produces the
short-period lightcurve component (P-s). The orbital period is P-1. The
mutual orbit's semimajor axis is estimated to be a (2.7 +/- 0.3) d(p);
the eccentricity is 0.07 +/- 0.02. The similarity between the
lightcurve of 1991 VH and those of 1994 AW(1) (Pravec and Hahn, Icarus
127, 431, 1997) and (3671) Dionysus (Mottola et al. 1997, IAU Circular
6680) suggests that binary asteroids may be common among near-Earth
asteroids. Based on the three known cases, we tentatively derive some
typical characteristics of this new class of asteroids. They are mostly
consistent with the hypothesis that binary asteroids are generated by
tidal disruptions of weak, gravitationally bound aggregates (so-called
''rubble piles'') during encounters with the Earth (Bottke and Melosh,
Nature 281, 51, 1996). A possible relationship between the population
of binary asteroids and the belt of small near-Earth asteroids is
discussed. (C) 1998 Academic Press.


D. Bockelee Morvan*), D. Gautier, D.C. Lis, K. Young, J. Keene, T.
Phillips, T. Owen, J. Crovisier, P.F. Goldsmith, E.A. Bergin, D.
Despois, A. Wootten: Deuterated water in comet C 1996 B2 (Hyakutake)
and its implications for the origin of comets. ICARUS, 1998, Vol.133,
No.1, pp.147-162


The close approach to the Earth of Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) in March
1996 allowed searches for minor volatile species outgassed from the
nucleus. We report the detection of deuterated water (HDO) through its
1(01)-0(00) rotational transition at 464.925 GHz using the Caltech
Submillimeter Observatory. We also present negative results of a
sensitive search for the J(5-4) line of deuterated hydrogen cyanide
(DCN) at 362.046 GHz. Simultaneous observations of two rotational lines
of methanol together with HDO in the same spectrum allow us to
determine the average gas temperature within the telescope beam to be
69 +/- 10 K. We are thus able to constrain the excitation conditions in
the inner coma and determine reliably the HDO production rate as (1.20
+/- 0.28) x 10(26) s(-1) on March 23-24, 1996. Available IR, UV, and
radio measurements led to a water production rate of (2.1 +/- 0.5) x
10(29) s(-1) at the time of our HDO observations. The resulting D/H
ratio in cometary water is thus (29 +/- 10) x 10(-5), in good agreement
with the values of(30.8-(+3.8)(5.3)) x 10(-5) (H. Balsiger et al.,
1995, J, Geophys. Res. 100, 5827-5834). and (31.6 +/- 3.4) x 10(-5) (P.
Eberhard et al., 1995, Astron. Astrophys. 302, 301-316) determined in
Comet P/Halley from in situ ion mass spectra, The inferred 3 sigma
upper limit for the D/H ratio in HCN is 1%. Deuterium abundance is a
key parameter for studying the origin and the early evolution of the
Solar System and of its individual bodies. Our HDO measurement confirms
that, in cometary water, deuterium is enriched by a factor of at least
10 relative to the protosolar ratio, namely the D/H ratio in H-2 in the
primitive Solar Nebula which formed from the collapse of the protosolar
cloud. This indicates that cometary water has preserved a major part of
the high D/H ratio acquired in this protosolar cloud through
ion-molecule isotopic exchanges or grain-surface reactions and was not
re-equilibrated with Hz in the Solar Nebula. However, there are strong
presumptions that interstellar grains were partly mixed in the early
nebula prior to cometary formation with water reprocessed in the warm
inner part of the nebula and transported by turbulent diffusion. 
Scenarios of formation of comets consistent with these results are
discussed. (C) 1998 Academic Press.

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