CCNet 82/2002 - 12 July  2002

"An all-party group of MPs yesterday attacked the GCSE national
curriculum as being so boring that it was putting off some pupils for life.
But last night one of Wales's leading space scientists Dr Paul Roche said
work has already started on bringing the excitement of discovery back into
classrooms. Dr Roche said, "As an educational topic [the impact hazard]
is great, as it covers a mass of subjects - astronomy, chemistry, geology,
physics, environmental sciences, anthropology, paleontology, zoology,
statistics, even archaeology. It puts them all together in an exciting and
topical area. This is a topic which is of particular relevance now, as
mankind is finally in a position - potentially - to avert such a threat, if
only we knew if there was a threat or not."
--Tony Trainor, The Western Mail, 12 July 2002

"NASA announced last year that the U.S. cost of the space station,
already estimated at about $30 billion, was heading for overruns that
could reach $600 million or more. The agency told Congress that it was not
even certain what the final cost would be."
--Associated Press, 11 July 2002

    The Straits Times, 12 July 2002

    David Morrison <>

    Brian G. Marsden <>

    Louis Friedman <>


    The Western Mail, 12 July 2002

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Jiri Borovicka <>

     Oliver Morton <>

(11) RE: "DIAMOND DEARTH RAISES DOUBTS" (CCNet 81/2002, 11 July 2002)
     Oliver K. Manuel <>

     CNN, 11 July 2002


>From The Straits Times, 12 July 2002,1870,131335,00.html?

WASHINGTON - The United States government has been urged to invest more
money in tracking near-Earth objects such as small asteroids that might
threaten the planet.

Such early detection is necessary should defensive action be needed to
deflect any space rock on a collision course with Earth.

The call came about a month after an asteroid, about the size of a football
field, passed within 192,000km of Earth.

The rock, which was zooming past at the rate of 10km per second, was only
discovered by astronomers three days after it flew by.

While the asteroid is small compared to some, it would have been capable of
causing massive devastation had it crashed into Earth.

A similar-sized rock is thought to have exploded above Tunguska, Siberia in
1908, destroying thousands of hectares of forest.

While the US Air Force is not responsible for tracking near-Earth objects, a
member of the space roundtable panel on Capitol Hill, Brigadier-General Pete
Worden, said such a mission would be appropriate for the service and an
assignment could occur 'in the next few years'.

He noted that such a warning centre could be run by the air force and
coordinated with non-military groups that track objects currently.

According to the authoritative astronomy website,, the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) spends about US$4 million (S$7.1
million) yearly on programmes that track space objects larger than a
kilometre in diameter.

However, it does not track objects the size of the recently-discovered
asteroid, which was between 50m and 100m in diameter.

But increased funding should be used to track these smaller objects as well,
the panellists said.

Other vocal advocates have also long called for similar changes, whether
funded by Nasa or other agencies or institutions.

Copyright 2002, Singapore Press Hold.


>From David Morrison <>

NEO News (07/11/02) Senate NEO Roundtable

Dear Friends and Students of NEOs:

On July 10 a round-table discussion of the asteroid impact threat was held
in one of the office buildings of the U.S. Senate. This discussion was
sponsored by various pro-space organizations (e.g., space lobbyists) and did
not have official status, as would a Congressional hearing. However, it
included presentations by Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Chair of the
House Space
Subcommittee, Colleen Hartman, NASA Director of Solar System Exploration,
and General Pete Worden, Deputy Director of the U.S. Space Command, so it
was in fact a rather high-profile event that should be of interest to many
readers of NEO News. Following is a listing of the program, my own summary
based on the webcast (I did not attend in person), and two press reports on
the round-table discussion.

David Morrison



July 10, 2002


Marc Schlather, President, ProSpace

Colleen Hartman, Director, NASA Solar System Exploration Division

Dana Rohrabacher, House of Representatives, Chair of Space and
Aeronautics Subcommittee

Brian Marsden, Director, Minor Planet Center, Harvard-Smithsonian CFA

Simon P. Worden, Brig Gen USAF, Deputy Director of Operations, U.S.
Space Command

Lee Valentine, Executive Vice President, Space Studies Institute

Evan Seamone, Articles Editor, Iowa Law Review


Richard Godwin, Executive Director, The Watch

Warren Greczyn, Senior Aerospace Engineer, ANSER (AIAA representative)

Thomas Morgan, NASA Minor Planets Program Scientist

Rick Tumlinson, Executive Director, F.I.N.D.S.



Schlachter introduced the topic and laid out the general issues of the NEO
impact hazard, emphasising that this is a real threat and deserves serious
government consideration.

Hartman spoke on "NASA's Near Earth Observations Program". She gave an
overview of the impact hazard and the NASA program, which she said now
receives approximately $4M per year. She explained the Spaceguard goal, the
reason for dealing first with NEAs that are capable of
causing global catastrophes, and the primarily NASA interest in
science-driven investigations of NEAs. She noted that we will obtain
long-lead-time warning as a result of a Spaceguard-type survey.

Rohrabacher affirmed his strong interest in the NEO hazard issue and also in
the development of dual-use space technologies that might allow DoD missile
defense technologies to be used for planetary defense against asteroids. He
derided global warming, reiterating his often-stated position that much of
the global warming issue is nonsense, but then added that if only a small
fraction of the funds spent on global warming were instead diverted to the
impact hazard
that would be a great thing. He feels that NEAs can be an opportunity, as
well as a threat, and that we should be looking for ways to use NEAs as
space resources.

Marsden spoke on "Tracking Near Earth Objects In Practice", describing the
work of the Minor Planet Center (MPC), including display of various data
products (mostly dealing with the recent example of NEA 2002MN). His focus
was on his own group, and he did not mention others with orbital and impact
computational capability such as JPL and Pisa. Here and in later discussion,
Marsden implied that he did not agree with the Spaceguard philosophy with
respect to impactors smaller than 1 km, suggesting that as we move to
smaller NEAs we are likely to find objects with much less warning, perhaps
as little as a few days. He also called for a southern-hemisphere site to
find objects that "come up at us from the south". He was the first on the
panel to explicitly raise fear of a short-warning impact. In response to
further questions about the international issues, Marsden mentioned the role
of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and described the IAU review
procedure, but suggested that he did not really agree with this approach,
especially since it is not focused on objects that are found during their
final plunge toward collision.

Morgan responded to Marsden in later discussion by speaking favorably of the
IAU review procedure, emphasizing the value of ensuring that predictions are
robust before releasing information. He was the only speaker to refer even
obliquely to issues of false warnings and general credibility of the
prediction process. Morgan also spoke to the advantages of international

Worden spoke on "National Security Perspectives on the Asteroid Threat "
(speaking for himself personally and not for the USAF). He began by noting
the USAF observations of small (kiloton) atmospheric explosions and the
potential of these to trigger a nuclear war in unstable areas of the globe.
He stated that the planet was hit three times in the 20th century by 100m
impactors [I don't know of any]. He proposed that the defense against NEAs
be assigned to the USAF Space
Command and that a coordinating and information office be set up at Cheyenne
Mountain. As we move to dealing with smaller NEAs (down to 50m diameter) he
stated that the new generation of ground-based USAF surveillance systems
could find most of them within the next decade, but this will not happen
unless the mission is specifically assigned to the USAF. Worden advocated
supplementing this with a space-based surveillance system planned for the
end of this decade, and he also made a plug for a fleet of micro-spacecraft
to make in situ measurements of many diverse NEOs. Press reports (see
following stories) focused on Worden's presentation.

Valentine discussed "Diversion and Mitigation Scenarios and Technologies",
advocating a wide range of ideas from the immediate to the far future --
even suggesting that we should be working on technologies to deflect one
asteroid into another as a means of defense. He presented many options and
did not try to prioritize them or estimate their costs.

Seamone discussed "The Legal Basis for International Cooperation". He
advocated establishing a system for dealing with NEA impact disasters within
the framework of international law. He discussed international and legal
issues in the context of the Skylab & Mir reentries, noting
that more than 80 governments had in place plans in case Mir fragments fell
on them. He suggested that under international law, it should be the first
priority of all governments to take action to defend and protect their
citizens against general environmental collapse, and this that is the kind
of threat we face from NEAs. His position is discussed in detail under "NEOs
and the Law" in the News Archive of the NASA Impact Hazard Webpage

Other discussion included mention by Greczyn of the new AIAA (American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) position paper on planetary
defense. This is summarized in Space News for July 1, 2002.

Tumlinson presented an emotional appeal for action. He claimed that to the
public, near misses like 2002MN are unacceptable -- as if there had actually
been an impact and millions of casualties. He also asserted that it is
unacceptable that we are finding some of these
NEAs after closest approach rather than before. He compared defense against
asteroids to defense against terrorists and proposed that asteroid defense
be assigned to the new U.S. Office of Homeland Security.

In final summaries, there were repeated calls for a coordinating body within
the US government to deal with the threat, with Worden arguing for
assignment of the planetary defense task to the USAF while the science
program stays with NASA. Marsden asked for more funds for the MPC, addition
of a southern search telescope, and formation of a coordination center so he
will know to whom to report if a short-term threat is identified (e.g., "on
a weekend"). NASA representatives Hartman and Morgan focused on the current
search programs, affirming that NASA takes the issue seriously and is doing
its job. Their emphasis was on peer-reviewed science, not the larger
societal and mitigation issues raised by other speakers. Notable by its
absence was discussion of international programs to deal with either NEA
searches or mitigation plans. In particular, the report of the UK NEO Task
Group was not mentioned. There was also little effort in this forum to
distinguish between kiloton-scale explosions in the atmosphere and larger
impacts with major potential for surface damage, or to correct the
misperception that NEA searches are trying to find incoming objects within
the last few days or weeks before they strike the planet. Schlather as
moderator ended on the note that we must act now -- with this kind of low
probability threat we cannot wait (as we usually do) for an actual
occurrence before taking action.


NEO News is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near
Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts.  These opinions are the
responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions
of NASA, the International Astronomical Union, or any other
organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact
For additional information, please see the website:  If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute
original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this


>From Brian G. Marsden <>

Dear Benny,

Thanks for inviting me to express my own views of this interesting session
in the U.S. Senate's Dirksen building on Wednesday. Perhaps it is
understandable that, as a speaker, my perception of the meeting was somewhat
more favorable than Dave Morrison's, but I must say that, as time goes by, I
incline more and more to the view that to tackle the NEO problem is more one
of defense--international defense--than one of science.

But let me first correct some of Morrison's misconceptions about my own
presentation. Contrary to what he says, I certainly did include in my
presentation significant mention of the excellent work being carried out at
NASA-JPL on impact computations. My focus was indeed on the recent example
of 2002 MN (why not?), but I went out of my way (to the extent of running
out of my alloted time) to stress the contributions of various participants
in this case (including how Sky and Telescope magazine in the U.S. and the
British National Space Centre--not I--brought this object to the attention
of the press). For example, although the LINEAR program recorded the object
on both June 17 and 18, I drew attention to the important contribution of
the Campo Imperatore group near Rome in observing this object around the
middle of this 24-hour period, with the appreciation that the apparent
motion had substantially decreased by then, directly showing that the object
was rather dramatically receding from the earth. Indeed, observations from
Europe, whether from Italy, Germany, England, the Czech or Slovak Republics
or elsewhere, are frequently important in bridging the gap between
consecutive nights of observations in the U.S. and Canada, thereby allowing
in most cases a rather definitive announcement of a new NEO and what it is
doing within some 36 hours of the time the first image was obtained. If
there is indeed to be no impact in decades, probably centuries or more (and
I cannot think why Morrison accuses me of stressing short-warning impacts),
such a time lapse would seem to be more than adequate. As for the
impact-probability calculations, I have the highest respect for what the JPL
group, and also the Pisa group, is doing and have frequently been on record
as saying so. Since Morrison was not present, he was not able to see the
shock on some of the younger congressional-aide faces in the audience with
regard to the JPL-Pisa idea that 2002 MN might conceivably collide with the
earth as early as 2068, so I hope I am forgiven for shrugging this off with
the reassurance that the impact assessment is an ongoing effort, and that as
further observations are (hopefully) obtained such a calamity is likely to
become a complete non-issue.    

Given that H = 18 is only a rough delimiter, strongly dependent on the
unknown albedo, between objects larger than or smaller than 1 km across,
Colleen Hartman and I nicely agreed (as I remarked) that we had now found
602 of the NASA assignment. Given that these are coming along at a rate of
more than 100 per year with no sign of abatement, we may yet have a bit to
go to reach 90 percent, but I really don't think this point is particularly
relevant. I actually think our searches and follow-up activities at the 1-km
level (given that some 450 of the 1-km known NEOs have been observed at more
than one opposition and thus have very good orbit determinations) are going
very well. They are going so well, in fact, that I have for some time
thought we should instead be officially concentrating on NEOs down to
diameter 300, or even 200 meters. That this is the principal goal of the
U.K. Task Force Report is so well known by now that it was scarely necessary
to mention it at the Space Roundtable. With more than 1600 such discoveries
out of a likely total of perhaps 40,000 (at 200 meters), and the number
known currently increasing at more than 400 annually, we're really not doing
as badly at the 200-meter level as some would have us believe, although the
time needed to acquire half of them, say, could obviously be sped up with
the availability of more and larger telescopes (including some for follow-up
purposes, beyond the limits of the amateur astronomers who are so helpful
with the brighter objects), indeed in both the southern and northern

But 2002 MN, and the fact that it is the largest object known to have come
closer than the moon (actually, to one-third the moon's distance) since
Tunguska (yes, I fully understand that the operative word is "known", for
dozens of such objects must pass by unknown every year), is causing many
people also now to entertain the thought that we really ought seriously to
consider addressing the NEO problem down to a size of 50 meters, even if
there must be a million such objects, and we've so far found only 1800 (but
increasing at 500 per year). Of course we've got a long way to go before the
likely centennial impact does not take us unawares, but I agree with Pete
Worden that we should be open to the idea of tackling this aspect of the
problem, which of necessity becomes a military-type problem. Yes, we know
that it's different from the problem of terrorism, but it's not all that
different in the eyes of many people nowadays. In talking with several
ostensibly informed members of the press about 2002 MN, I was struck by
their shock that we simply did not have the 50-100-meter NEOs under control.
To deal with 50-meter (and perhaps even 200-meter) NEOs also requires a
military-type budget. As Colleen pointed out, NASA indeed should in part be
doing science. But it does so with very limited funds, and even now,
science-budget money spent by NASA on NEO searches is simply money therefore
not available for doing real planetary science. 

With regard to the IAU NEO impact-prediction review procedure (whatever
caused this to come up in the discussion?), I think this is particularly
irrelevant now that two groups, at JPL and in Pisa, are routinely carrying
out the NEO impact-probability computations with essentially identical
results. If there were a significant and serious difference, then a review
might be in order (and not one shrouded in secrecy for three days), but that
is unlikely to happen. In fact, the whole review discussion has never
involved a significant difference in computations from the same data. The
review process need address only what is said, not what is computed. And
what is said should be reviewed, not just by astronomers, but by a group
with expertise also in many other disciplines. This hearkens back to the
other main idea brought up the roundtable, concerning the need for a
coordinating body to deal with the NEO threat, not, I would say, just in the
U.S. government, but with ties to similar bodies in other governments and,
presumably, allied in some way through the U.N.


>From Louis Friedman <>


This (the quote below in bold and your headline) is just the kind of thing
that can destroy the credibility of space mission and NEO science advocates.
The ideological position of those who like weapons as solutions is simply
amazing. Imagine if global warming could be solved with a massive arms
program and NEO protection required conservation of natural resources. 

I hope our NEO advocacy community is not seduced by such statements. 


Dr. Louis Friedman
Executive Director, The Planetary Society 

At 01:44 AM 7/11/2002, you wrote:


CCNet 81/2002 - 11 July  2002

**"Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.), chairman of the space and aeronautics
subcommittee of the         House Science Committee, said the potential
danger to Earth from space objects is greater         than that posed by
global warming.** He suggested that some of the money spent on global
warming research could be used to fund more work on tracking space objects.
Such funding could be used to first locate and track asteroids and comets,
and later to find ways to defend Earth against the threats and eventually to
use the space objects for the benefits    of the Earth's
population, Rohrbacher said."
         --Jason Bates,, 10 July 2002

"Let us now do the groundwork for the yet unknown environmental challenge
that will come        some day in the form of a major impact. If we don't
develop anything now, and we suddenly  find something on a collision course
with the Earth, our only choice will be to use nuclear
weapons, with all the associated risks of blowing the object into pieces or
not providing   enough push. Therefore, it is important to test and develop
something now."
         --PROJECT B612


>From, 11 July 2002

By Edna DeVore
SETI Institute Director of Education and Outreach

"Why aren't you using this telescope to search for asteroids? Don't you know
that near-earth asteroids are the biggest threat to the survival of
everything, including us, on this planet? Why is it that you astronomers
don't focus on what's important?" an earnest man asked at the recent
American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Albuquerque, pointing at a
model of the SOFIA observatory.

He was a local citizen with a passion for saving the human race from the
sure destruction of asteroid impact. He wanted to know how NASA's future
infrared airborne observatory, SOFIA, would be used to find NEOs (Near Earth
Objects), a collection of boulder- to mountain-sized rocks that travel
around the Sun, passing through our immediate neighborhood. In his opinion,
all astronomers should be working on one project: the discovery and tracking
of asteroids and comets that pass near Earth. He was convinced that
professional astronomers were on the wrong track if they studied anything
Indeed, there is a genuine reason to be concerned. Earth has been hit by
asteroids and comets many times over the past 4.5 billion years since its
formation. There's a big hole in the Arizona desert, Meteor Crater, a.k.a.
Barringer Crater, where a rock about 35 meters (38 yards) across plowed into
the Earth approximately 40,000 years ago. The energy of that impact has been
estimated as equivalent to 300 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs -- a big
explosion with lots of damage.

More famously, the death of the dinosaurs is attributed to a worldwide
catastrophe caused by the impact of an object estimated to be about 12
kilometers (7 miles) across on the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago
creating the Chicxulub Crater -- a much bigger explosion with global

Anyone looking at the Moon can see lots of craters, uneroded evidence of
impacts collected over billions of years. And there have been two near
misses this year. In March 2002, a big rock (estimated 40-80 meters, or
44-87 yards) swung by Earth only a little farther away than the Moon, and on
June 14, an asteroid the size of a soccer field buzzed the planet with
closest approach a mere 75,000 miles, 1/3 the distance to the Moon. That was
a close call. There is reason to be concerned.

So, why not use the biggest (largest diameter) telescopes on the ground, in
space, or in airplanes like SOFIA to discover and track asteroids? Isn't
bigger always better? Not necessarily.

I explained to the earnest citizen that SOFIA would be very useful in
determining the size of asteroids and comets via occultation research and
even the composition via spectroscopy, but not particularly useful in making
initial discoveries. The same is true of the great Hale Telescope on Mt.
Palomar in California, the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, and even the Hubble
Space Telescope in orbit about Earth. The reason is simple. These telescopes
"see" objects with exceptional clarity because they can collect a great deal
of light from even the dimmest objects in the sky such as distant galaxies
or nearby small objects like asteroids. All this light allows for superb
resolution, capturing the exquisite details invisible to smaller diameter

But none of these big telescopes "see" very much of the sky at a time. They
have a small field of view (FOV). For example, the FOV for SOFIA is about 8
minutes of arc (astronomers use "arcminutes"). If you hold a penny at arm's
length, the eye of Abraham Lincoln is about 8 arcminutes across. For
comparison, the Moon is 1/2 degree, or 30 arcminutes in diameter. The
Palomar telescope's FOV varies according to the instrumentation used; at a
maximum it's about the size of the full Moon, but more typically just a
couple of arcminutes. A large diameter telescope is good for details, but
not the right tool for observing larger areas of the celestial sphere in a
single image.

To find asteroids or comets, it's much more useful to survey a "big" piece
of the sky, to look for the tracks they make speeding through the
neighborhood. You want a telescope with a wide FOV that is designed to see a
big piece of the sky at once, not a telescope with a large diameter mirror.
A quick survey of NEO observatories confirms this. The telescopes used by
the LONEOS and Catalina projects see 2.9 x 2.9 degrees at a time-a block of
sky equivalent to 36 full Moons lined up edge to edge in a 6 x 6 array.
Others see a smaller portion of the sky, as little as a 38 arcminute FOV,
but run automatically to survey the sky continuously. Of the telescopes
dedicated to NEO searches, the primary mirrors vary from 0.5 to 1.2 meters
in diameter. They're moderate-sized telescopes with wide FOVs.

An NEO can be discovered as it makes a streak on the image or appears in
different places on successive images because it moves across the field of
view as it orbits the Sun. By comparing several different images of a piece
of the sky over time, the orbit of the NEO can be derived. We'll know where
it is, predict where it is going, and understand whether we need to worry
about that object or not.

So far, the NEO searches have turned up more than 1,900 objects tracked by
the Minor Planet Center (MPC). About 600 of these are larger than 1 km in
size, and about 440 are watched as potentially hazardous objects. You can
see an up-to-date map of the asteroids and comets at here.

The man from Albuquerque knew about the NEO projects, but during our
conversation came to understand that wide FOV telescopes are best for
finding NEOs and that the "biggest" telescopes aren't necessarily the right
tool for the job. Sometimes, bigger isn't better.

Copyright 2002,


>From The Western Mail, 12 July 2002

Tony Trainor
SCIENTISTS are planning new measures to help sweep away the classroom
refrain about boring science.

An all-party group of MPs yesterday attacked the GCSE national curriculum as
being so boring that it was putting off some pupils for life.

And the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee urged the Government
to pump at least 120m into school science laboratories as a quarter of
comprehensive labs were found to be so poor they affected the quality of

But last night one of Wales's leading space scientists Dr Paul Roche said
work has already started on bringing the excitement of discovery back into

Dr Roche is a national schools astronomer leading the Faulkes Telescope
project at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, now the base of a
space education project for the whole of the UK.

In partnership with Cardiff University, Techniquest and the Setpoint
network, Dr Roche has been touring schools in Britain to fire the
imaginations of people young and old and en-courage their interest in

Next Thursday he will visit Olchfa School in Sketty, Swansea, before giving
a public lecture hosted by Vaynor and Penderyn High School at Cefn Coed
Community Centre in Merthyr Tydfil. The presentations will examine the
potential threat posed by asteroids and comets that might impact with the

Dr Roche said, "As an educational topic it is great, as it covers a mass of
subjects - astronomy, chemistry, geology, physics, environmental sciences,
anthropology, paleontology, zoology, statistics, even archaeology.

"It puts them all together in an exciting and topical area - especially
since movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon a few years back.

"This is a topic which is of particular relevance now, as mankind is finally
in a position - potentially - to avert such a threat, if only we knew if
there was a threat or not.

"Figures suggest there are more staff working in a typical McDonald's
restaurant than scientists involved in researching this problem."

Dr Roche added, "From my perspective, this subject area is a great way to
involve schools and the general public in `real science' and show them the
relevance of what would, on the surface, appear to be irrelevant, blue skies

He welcomed the select committee report that called for school science to be
brought into the 21st Century.

Dr Ian Gibson, the Labour committee chairman, said science should be the
most exciting subject but the requirement to cram in facts left little time
to explore interesting ideas.

"We need to encourage a new generation of young scientists and to en-sure
that the rest of the population has a sound understanding of scientific
principles," he said.

The Faulkes Telescope Project will give schools and the public a view of the
heavens through giant robotic telescopes in Hawaii and Australia, via
internet controls at Techniquest in Cardiff and the Spaceguard UK
headquarters in Knighton, Powys.

The 7.5m project, based at the University of Glamorgan, has been made
possible by a 6.5m donation by Dr Martin "Dill" Faulkes.

Dr Roche said, "We hope to establish Wales at the forefront of this unique
project, placing the UK at the leading edge of astronomical education."

Trinity Mirror Plc 2002


>From Andrew Yee <>

Media Relations
Pasadena, California

Robert Tindol, (626) 395-3631


Caltech geophysicists find four active volcanoes in Andes with innovative
satellite radar survey

Four volcanoes in the central Andes mountains of South America, all
previously thought to be dormant, must now be considered active due to
ground motions detected from space, geophysicists say.

In a paper appearing in the July 11 issue of the journal Nature, California
Institute of Technology geophysics graduate student Matt Pritchard and his
faculty adviser, Mark Simons, unveil their analysis of eight years of radar
interferometry data taken on 900 volcanoes in the Andes. The data were
gathered from 1992 to 2000 by the European Space Agency's two remote-sensing
satellites, ERS 1 and ERS 2.

Of the four centers of activity, Hualca Hualca volcano in southern Peru is
especially worth close observation because of the population density in the
area and because it is just a few miles from the active Sabancaya volcano. A
second volcano now shown to be active, Uturuncu in Bolivia, is bulging
vertically about 1-to-2 centimeters per year, according to the satellite
data, while a third, Robledo caldera in Argentina, is actually deflating for
unknown reasons. A fourth region of surface deformation, on the border
between Chile and Argentina, was unknown prior to the study, so the authors
christened it "Lazufre" because it lies between the two volcanoes Lastarria
and Cordon del Azufre.

While the study provides important new information about volcanic hazards in
its own right, Pritchard, the lead author, says it also proves the mettle of
a new means of studying ground deformation that should turn out to be vastly
superior to field studies. The fact that none of the four volcanoes were
known to be active -- and thus probably wouldn't have been of interest to
geophysicists conducting studies using conventional methods -- shows the
promise of the technique, he says.

"Achieving this synoptic perspective would have been an impractical
undertaking with ground-based methods, like the GPS system," Pritchard says.

The sensitive data is superior to ground-based results in that a huge amount
of subtle information can be accumulated about a large number of geological
features. The satellites bounce a radar signal off the ground, and then
accurately measure the time it takes the signal to return. On a later pass,
when the satellite is again in approximately the same spot, it sends another
signal to the ground.

If the two signals are out of phase, then the distance from the satellite to
the ground is either increasing or decreasing, and if the features are
volcanic, then the motion can be assumed to have been caused by movement of
magma in the subsurface or by hydrothermal activity.

"You can think of a magma chamber as a balloon beneath the surface inflating
and deflating. So if the magma is building up underground, you expect a
swelling upward, and this is what we can detect with the satellite data."

Given the appropriate satellite mission, all the world's subaerial volcanoes
could be easily monitored for active deformation on a weekly basis. Such a
capability would have a profound impact on minimizing volcanic hazards in
regions lacking necessary infrastructure for regular geophysical monitoring.

Another unusual finding from the study that shows its promise in better
understanding volcanism is the Lascar volcano's lack of motion. Lascar has
had three major eruptions since 1993, as
well as several minor ones, and many volcanologists assume there should have
been some ground swelling over the years of the study, Pritchard says.

"But we find no deformation at the volcano," he explains. "Some people find
it curious, others think it's not unexpected. But it's a new result, and
regardless of what's going on, it could tell us interesting things about
magma plumbing."

There are several possible explanations to account for the lack of vertical
motion at the Lascar volcano, Pritchard says. The first and most obvious is
that the satellite passes took place at times between inflations and
subsequent deflations, so that no net ground motion was recorded. It could
also be that magma is somehow able to get from within Earth to the
atmosphere without deforming surfaces at all; or that a magma chamber might
be deep enough to allow an eruption without surface deformations being
visible, even though deformation is occurring at depth.

The study is also noteworthy in that Simons and Pritchard were able to do
their work without leaving their offices on the Caltech campus. The data
analysis was done with software developed at Caltech and the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, and the authors say this software was critical to the study's success.

Simons, an assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech, and Pritchard are
scheduled to attend a geophysics conference in Chile in October, and will
try to see some or all of the four volcanoes at that time.

Related Links

* Dr. Mark Simons
* Nature
* Images for Download


>From Andrew Yee <>

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Contact: Anne Stark
Phone:(925) 422-9799



Astrophysicists Discover Possible Nanodiamond Formation In the
Early Solar System

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- An astrophysicist from Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory's Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics has found that
some nanodiamonds, the most famous and exotic form of stardust, may instead
have formed within the inner solar system.

The findings argue with the wide held belief that nanodiamonds recovered
from meteorites from the asteroid belt have been the most abundant type of
presolar stardust grain.

IGPP Director John Bradley, in conjunction with scientists from the Georgia
Institute of Technology, the University of Washington, NASA Goddard Space
Flight Center and the Natural History Museum in London, report their
discovery in today's edition of Nature.

"We presumed that if we studied (micro) meteorites (also known as
interplanetary dust particles) from comets further out in our solar system,
we would find more nanodiamonds," Bradley said. "But we're just not seeing
them. One theory is that some, perhaps most, nanodiamonds formed within the
inner solar system and are not presolar at all."

Interplanetary dust particles are collected in the stratosphere using NASA
ER2 aircraft and they are made up of irregularly shaped grains of carbon
and/or silicates.

One origin of stardust is from supernovae, the cataclysmic deaths of a star.
For more than 30 years, astrophysicists have looked to stardust, a sort of
remnant of stars, to tell the story of our solar system's origins.

But Bradley and the group of researchers report that at least some of the
oldest cometary interplanetary dust particles contain little or no
nanodiamond stardust at all.

"This raises all sorts of questions about the origins of our solar system,"
Bradley said. "Our findings are consistent with recent research that has
detected nanodiamonds within the accretion discs of other young stars that
are similar to our early solar system."

The group concludes that an alternative explanation for the lack of
nanondiamonds in the early meteorites is that all meteoritic nanodiamonds
are presolar, but that their abundance decreases
the further they are from the sun. In that case, our understanding of
large-scale transport and circulation within the early solar system is

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national
security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply
science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for
the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.



>From Jiri Borovicka <>

Richard Clark <> wrote (CCNet, 11 July 2002)

> Hello Benny,
> The recent discussion on impact events triggering a larger human response
> has been quite interesting. I would point out that, on a very small scale,
> there has already been an incident of (anthropogenic) celestial fireworks
> a politically tense situation. During the Gulf War an upper stage from a
> recent Russian launch reentered on a track that took it over Israel. It
> not trigger a response from Israel. A study of this event would be useful.

Dear Benny,

I think that the reason for no response could be that the object (Kosmos
2122 B) came from wrong direction. By chance, the re-entry of this rocket
body was photographed by 6 fireball cameras operated by our institute. Part
of the trajectory stretching from Poland to Romania at the altitudes from 80
to 60 km, when the ablating object had visual magnitude of about -9, was
captured. This certainly was not the direction from Iraq.

Detailed analysis of the photographs and a comparison of the observed
trajectory with the the trajectory computed on basis of the last known
orbital elements was published in Borovicka J. and Spurny P.: Satellite
decays photographed by a fireball network. In Small Spacecraft, Space
Environments, and Instrumentation Technologies, eds. F.A. Allahdadi, E.K.
Casani, T.D. Maclay, Proceedings of SPIE Vol. 3116, pp. 168-176 (1997)

Jiri Borovicka
Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic


>From Oliver Morton <>

another snippet from the GRL press release that might be of interest

best, o

7. Listening to falling fireballs

If a meteor fell over Mongolia and no one was there to hear it, would it
still make a sound? Zgarblic et al. provide the beginnings of an answer to
that question, making the first recording of the mysterious sounds from
streaking Leonid fireballs. The researchers listened to "popping" sounds
from a pair of bolides during a 1998 meteor shower, noises that they are
unable to fully explain. Previous research noted the phenomenon of
simultaneous sound and flash in fireballs, which is unexpected because - as
thunder follows lightning - any noise from fireballs should be delayed due
to the speed difference between light and sound. Although the authors were
able to rule out the hypothesis that the sounds were caused by vibrations
from low frequency radio waves, they are currently trying to determine the
cause of the electrophonic sounds. They speculate that even lower frequency
radio waves may be responsible for their observations.

Title: "Instrumental recording of electrophonic sounds from Leonid

Goran Zgrablic, Neven Grbac, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia;
Dejan Vinkovic, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky;
Slaven Garaj, Silvija Gradevcak, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
(EPFL), Lausanne, Switzerland;
Damir Kovavcic, Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi
Avanzati (SISSA), Trieste, Italy;
Nikola Bilivskov, Zeljko Andreic, Rudjer Bovskovic Institute, Zagreb,

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics (JGR-A)
paper 10.1029/2001JA000310, 2002

(11) RE: "DIAMOND DEARTH RAISES DOUBTS" (CCNet 81/2002, 11 July 2002)

>From Oliver K. Manuel <>

Dear Benny,

Zurong Dai is exactly right in concluding that nanodiamonds were not formed
around ancient stars at all, but in the solar system.

How do we know?

1. Two types of xenon were present at the birth of the solar system [Nature
240, 99 (1972)]:

a) "Normal" xenon, Xe-1, like that here on Earth
b) "Strange" xenon, Xe-2, enriched in Xe-136

2. Initially, primordial helium was closely linked with "strange" xenon,
Xe-2 [Science 195, 208 (1977); Meteoritics 15, 117 (1980); Icarus 41, 312

3. Nanodiamonds are composed of carbon with an ordinary C-13/C-12 ratio and
they contain high concentrations of ordinary, primordial helium [Science
195, 208 (1977); Meteoritics 15, 117 (1980); Icarus 41, 312 (1980)].

4. The Galileo Mission found evidence of "strange" xenon in Jupiter's helium
rich atmosphere.

These observations, "strange" isotope ratios in the Sun, and the link of
"normal" xenon, Xe-1, with iron sulfide in meteorites and planets are
explained in a Discovery news report
<>, on my web page
<>, and in a few recent papers [Comments Astrophysics
18, 335 (1997); J. Radioanal. Nucl. Chem. 238, 213 (1998); J. Fusion Energy
19, 93 (2000); 32nd Lunar & Planetary Sci. Conf., Abstract 1041 (2001); J.
Radioanal. Nucl. Chem. 252, 3 (2002)].

"Strange" heavy elements were assigned to "Superheavy Element Fission" in
the 1970s and now to "Interstellar Diamonds".  Both catchy titles amount to
little more than magical interpretations of experimental data.

With kind regards,

Oliver K. Manuel
Professor of Nuclear Chemistry
University of Missouri
Rolla, MO  65401  USA
Phone: 573-341-4420 or -4344
Fax: 573-341-6033


>From CNN, 11 July 2002
WASHINGTON (AP) -- If the international space station is to fulfill its role
as an orbiting laboratory, NASA will need to give crew members more time for
research, add some equipment and send up additional resupply flights,
scientists say in a new report.

The scientists, assembled by NASA to recommend research priorities for the
space station, said Wednesday that a scaled-back, modified version of the
orbiting laboratory would not be able to accomplish many science objectives
once envisioned for the multibillion-dollar laboratory.

The scaled-back version of the space station, called "core complete" in NASA
slang, would be limited to three crew members and would exclude some science
equipment originally visualized for the space lab.

"We can do a lot of science with core complete," said David A. Shirley, a
retired Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist and vice chairman of
the science task force. "But to do all of the science, we need to go beyond
core complete."

In the study, the 23-member science task force said that if NASA decides not
to develop the space station beyond "core complete," the agency "should
cease to characterize the ISS as a science-driven program."

The study said the major issues in establishing a well-rounded program of
space station research are the amount of crew time available for research,
the need for more frequent resupply missions to deliver research equipment,
the addition of a centrifuge and other science facilities.

NASA announced last year that the U.S. cost of the space station, already
estimated at about $30 billion, was heading for overruns that could reach
$600 million or more. The agency told Congress that it was not even certain
what the final cost would be.

Sean O'Keefe, a former federal budget officer, was named NASA's
administrator in January with the assignment of bringing control to space
station and general agency cost overruns. He has promised to formulate a
plan by fall. The science task force's report was to be given to a NASA
advisory commission for evaluation, which will be sent to O'Keefe for
consideration in the final plan.

The space station now has three permanent crew members, but officials said
that is the minimum needed just to maintain the complex craft, leaving
little time for research. The station was originally envisioned to have
seven or more crew members, but the number is limited now because an
attached spacecraft, to be used as an emergency life boat, can only
accommodate three. Plans to build a bigger rescue craft have stalled.

An outside committee last year recommended to NASA that "core complete"
should be the space station's immediate goal, and shuttle flights to the
station should be limited to four each year.

In the science task force report, the panel said that an additional annual
shuttle flight is needed for science payloads and that one crew member must
be selected as the station "science officer" who conducts research full

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.

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