CCNet DIGEST, 16 July 1999

    ScienceNOW, 14 July 1999


    Luigi Foschini <>

    NATURE NEWS SERVICE, 15 July 1999

    NASA Science News <>

    SPACEDAILY, 14 July 1999

    Andrew Yee <>

    J.R. Cronin and S. Pizzarello, ARIZONA STATE UNIV


From ScienceNOW, 14 July 1999

Amateurs Prove Doomsday Asteroid Is Harmless

If the world comes to an end in 2044, it won't be because of asteroid
1999 AN10, a kilometer-wide rock that caused a media sensation earlier
this year (ScienceNOW, 20 April 1999). Professional astronomers have
debated the chances of the asteroid hitting Earth since its discovery
in January, but thanks to some diligent searching by two German
amateurs, the world can rest assured. The "doomsday asteroid" is

Initial calculations by Andrea Milani of the University of Pisa and his
colleagues hinted at a small but nonzero possibility that the rock
would slam into Earth--with apocalyptic consequences--in 2039,
following a close encounter on 7 August 2027. In May, further
observations by Australian amateur astronomer Frank Zoltowski seemed to
worsen the odds; based on his photos, astronomers at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, predicted a 1 in
500,000 chance of an impact in 2044.

From their home in Berlin, amateur astronomers Arno Gnädig and Andreas
Doppler recently searched through the Digital Sky Survey, a set of
photographic plates obtained at Palomar Observatory in California in
the 1950s, which have been digitized and made publicly accessible
through the Internet. Last Sunday, they discovered the asteroid's trail
on a plate taken on 26 January 1955, says Gnädig. On Monday, after
carefully checking their results, they reported their discovery to the
Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where astronomers
Brian Marsden and Gareth Williams used it to calculate a new orbit. The
revised path makes it clear that the close encounter in August 2027
will never happen, and 1999 AN10 won't pose a threat for many decades
to come, says Marsden. "We were a little bit surprised," he adds.

Gnädig points out he and Doppler wouldn't have been able to find the
trail if Marsden and Williams hadn't calculated a revised orbit based
on Czech and Australian observations only weeks ago. "We were just
lucky," says Gnädig. Indeed, Donald Yeomans and his colleagues at JPL
recently carried out an automated search of the Palomar plates, and
came up with nothing. "Either our search constraints were too tight, or
the image was too faint," says Yeomans.

The discovery goes to show, says Marsden, that "there are many great
amateurs out there doing wonderful work for us." David Morrison of
NASA's Ames Research Center agrees. "[This field] has always been a
partnership between professionals and amateurs," he says.


[Caption:] Telling trail. The faint streak of light in this
contrast-enhanced Digital Sky Survey image was caused by asteroid 1999
AN10 on 26 January 1955.

Copyright 1999, AAAS




Movies have been devoted to it, scientists make a fuss about it and, in
the shape of Lembik Opik MP, it has a vocal parliamentary lobby. But
the possible extermination of Homo sapiens by asteroid impact is a test
of society's ability to cope with complex facts and choices.

Mr Opik's claim that the asteroid danger equals that of Chernobyl may
be true in a trivial sense. It would kill far more people than
Chernobyl, but is far less likely to happen, so any individual is at
about as much risk from each other. But this tells us nothing about the
effort we should devote to countering the space menace.

Our awareness of the asteroid threat has grown in recent years as
knowledge of our corner of space has increased. And a detailed search
for possible impactors is a useful wheeze for getting more cash into
solar system studies. But beyond this, judgments get more tricky.

If nuclear weapons are the only way of diverting an imcoming asteroid,
is it worth keeping them in existence for the purpose, or would it be
safer on balance to disarm and risk the impact? What about the industry
needed to support high-technology arms-makers whose business plans have
never recovered from the end of the cold war, or are there potential
new technologies, such as ion thrusters for pushing asteroids gently
aside, that might make benign space policing feasible?

One thing that nobody doubts - last week's report from the National
Audit Office makes the point yet again - is the weapon's industry's
ability to turn a plan into a hard-to-cancel project where budgets are
merely the framework for later over-runs. A global space defense
would be even more difficult to manage than previous projects and needs
much greater thought before it becomes commonly accepted as a

Copyright 1999, Times Higher Education Supplement

MODERATOR'S NOTE: Should you find that this leader's call for "deep
thinking" is rather shallow, you might consider writing to the editor
of THES at:


From Luigi Foschini <>

The expedition has left Bologna on July 14, 1999 at 9 o'clock
(local time) to reach the Forli' airport by bus. The Iljuschin
Il-20 was loaded and land off at 12:00 (local time). Destination:
Moscow. Please find attached a photo of the departure from Forli'
airport. More photos are available at the web site:

In Moscow, the expedition has overcome the main difficulty of the
journey: the Russian Customs. All the equipement and the
instruments were unloaded and inspected. The check takes about 4
hours and half. The Russian Customs sequestrates three
walkie-talkie only. Prof. Longo tried to explain that, in Italy,
even children use walkie-talkie and they are not dangerous. But he
does not succeeded in getting back the three walkie-talkie.

Apart from this little problem, the expedition goes on. They
reached Krasnoyarsk on July 15 and they loaded the helicopter
Mi-26, that will be used to reach the Ceko lake. We have also
carried out a communication test by satellite telephone: it is all
right. They will leave Krasnoyarsk on July 16, at 10:00 local

More informations are available at the Tunguska Home Page, that
will be continuously updated also during the expedition, with
reports from the field:

For the Tunguska99 Press Office:
Luigi Foschini (


From NATURE NEWS SERVICE, 15 July 1999

The end of the world is nigh! (again)

The world has, it seems, survived Nostradamus's predicted apocalypse on
the 4th of July this year; but the Universe is still a dangerous place
to live. When some stars get old, they explode as supernovae -- and an
exploding star is not something you want to be close to. A supernova in
our galactic backyard might wipe out most of the life on Earth. Has
this ever happened in the past? Scientists from Germany believe they
have now developed a method for spotting the fingerprints of nearby
supernovae -- in the depths of the sea.

Stars at least four times as massive as the Sun die spectacularly. When
all of their fuel is exhausted, they start to collapse inwards, and the
inward-rushing material becomes so hot that it bounces back outwards in
an explosion that, for a few glorious days, burns as brightly as an
entire galaxy. Part of the star's mass is scattered out into space,
while a dense core of matter remains behind and collapses to
unspeakable densities, forming a neutron star or a black hole.

Supernovae are going off all the time throughout the Universe, some
close enough that astronomers can study these epic firecrackers in
detail. In 1987, a supernova in one of our neighbouring galaxies, the
Large Magellanic Cloud, provided the brightest cosmic outburst for
hundreds of years. Through powerful telescopes, this supernova is still
visible today as an expanding bubble of hot gas.

But no supernova has been seen in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, since
1604, when the astronomer Johannes Kepler noticed a "new star" in the
night sky. There are older historical records of similar events,
particularly from the astute astronomers of ancient China. Other
supernovae have surely exploded in the Milky Way since the seventeenth
century, but none has, it seems, been bright enough for astronomers to
see without today's instruments. Last year the characteristic afterglow
was discovered of a supernova that occurred around 680 years ago in
disconcerting proximity: perhaps just seven thousand trillion
kilometres away, which is just at the end of the street in cosmic
terms. This would make it the closest known supernova to Earth, and it
is something of a mystery that the keen-eyed astronomers of the time
did not notice it.

But something still closer to home would be hard to overlook. In 1987,
astrophysicist Mal Ruderman pointed out that a nearby supernova (say,
just a thousand trillion kilometres away) would shower the Earth with
high-energy radiation -- X-rays and gamma rays -- that would severely
deplete the ozone layer and expose the planet to the harsh ultraviolet
rays of the Sun. This could prove fatal for much of life on Earth.
Although the outburst would itself be just a bright light in the sky,
the world would be fried by its invisible influence.

Some scientists have speculated that events like this might have indeed
decimated life on Earth in the far distant past, playing a part in the
mass extinctions recorded in the geological record. But a survey of
supernovae in other galaxies gives some reassurance: a supernova this
close is likely to happen only a few times within every hundred million
years. We'd have to be very unlucky to catch a blast within the
timescale of current human civilization.

It is clearly worth knowing, however, just how much the terrestrial
environment has been influenced by nearby supernovae over the course of
time. Now Gunter Korschinek of the Technical University of Munich,
Germany, and colleagues have demonstrated a way to go on archaeological
supernova hunts. They suggest in the 5 July issue of Physical Review
Letters that we look in rocks for substances that supernovae create.

For supernovae aren't just orgies of cosmic destruction; they are, in
fact, amongst the most creative events in the Universe since the Big
Bang itself. In the fury of an exploding star, atoms in the star's
atmosphere experience conditions hot and dense enough to enable them to
fuse together. Nuclear fusion processes in the course of a star's life
create elements such as silicon and iron from the hydrogen and helium
that the star begins life with. But only a supernova can induce the
fusion processes needed to make the heaviest of elements, such as lead
and gold. These elements then get scattered across the cosmos in the

Amongst the products of supernovae is a very rare form of iron, called
iron-60. The atoms of iron-60 differ from those of most natural iron by
having more subatomic particles called neutrons in their nuclei.
Iron-60 does not last for ever; it decays radioactively such that half
of any initial amount has decayed within one and a half million years.
But any iron-60 produced in recent, nearby supernovae should last long
enough to find its way to Earth in dust borne on the expanding shock
wave of the explosion, and there be incorporated into rocks.

Korschinek and colleagues looked for iron-60 in an iron-rich rock
called a ferromanganese crust, which is formed in deep-sea
environments. The crusts grow very slowly by accumulation of metals
dissolved in sea water, and so they should concentrate up any iron-60
in the seas: a few millimetres thickness of the rock contains around a
million years' worth of accumulated material. The researchers extracted
the rock from over a kilometre down in the South Pacific Ocean, and
searched for iron-60 in three layers, the oldest of which was 6-13
million years old. They had to allow for the fact that there is a
pervasive 'background' of iron-60: it is also produced, for example, in
tiny amounts by cosmic rays striking krypton atoms in the atmopshere.

They found that the crust contained at least ten times more iron-60
than the background level. In other words, something must have injected
the iron-60 into the atmosphere over the period during which the crust
was formed. The amount in the middle layer of the crust, which is about
3.7-6 million years old, was particularly high, and the researchers
conclude that it must have come from a supernova as close as a thousand
trillion kilometres exploding during this time -- a Day of Judgment now
long forgotten.

© Macmillan Magazines Ltd 1999 - NATURE NEWS SERVICE


From NASA Science News <>

NASA Space Science News for July 15, 1999

Galaxies in Collision:  Astronomers have used the Hubble Space
Telescope to photograph 81 objects that are pairs of colliding galaxies
or the remnants of recent collisions.  The new images bolster a
prediction of some cosmological models that big galaxies form by means
of collisions between smaller ones.  Some of the new images are quite
striking. They show distorted galaxy shapes and streamers of stars
streching from one galaxy to another.



From SPACEDAILY, 14 July 1999

By Dr. David James Johnson

South Whitley - July 12, 1999 - The recent success of the NASA
sponsored USAF LINEAR Project in the detection of NEO's is a highly
welcome addition to the SpaceGuard effort.

However, I caution, that a mere one or two telescopes is not sufficient
enough to conduct a total sky survey, unless such systems are placed in
all hemispheres, effectively covering the whole sky. Overall, there has
been a lot of debate lately on the subject of asteroid detection, but
action has been at a minimal. 

NASA has had to pull the plug on a comet mission, which would have
yielded a wealth of data on the structure of a comet. In the UK, the
debates in Parliament ended disappointingly, but a call for an
International Cooperative on Spaceguard was sounded, thus possibly
opening the door for a United Nations Spaceguard?

Logically, this UN Spaceguard idea may be the correct avenue to be taken.
As the issues brought up by Spaceguard are or should be of concern to
the entire world, thus logically it should rest with the UN.

However, the UN track record is not very impressive, as politics,
national ideologies and funding concerns continuously slow the process
of achieving whatever goal the UN is pursuing.

If the UN takes up the Spaceguard lead, we can all anticipate many
lessons in diplomacy, as well as fund raising, as the UN teeters on

I for one have always believed that if Spaceguard is to succeed, it
needs to truly be an international cooperative. As it can only achieve
the proposed goals of cataloguing 90% of all NEO's , over the next
decade, if there exists funding to conduct a total sky survey, and
allowances for continued monitoring of these objects.

Issues of funding for such a system are reasonable, at approximately a
half a penny (US) per person, per year in the world, could fund a
network of picket observatories capable of detection, verification and
tracking of these objects, and controlled by the IAU - MPC and the UN,
this would be ideal.

However, maybe another movie, such "Spaceguard, the movie" should be
sought after, as, "Armageddon"  alone netted $201 Million, which is 
much more than the entire worldwide 10 year Spaceguard budget!

Yet National interest will raise its head and hinder such a
cooperative, and continuously cause discontent amongst those of us
involved. The soundness of this idea, needs to be debated.

I have asked the U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright about this
issue. Response is pending, and should be interesting, as she has
possibly never seriously condidered the implications of Earth crossing
asteroids and need for Spaceguard.

Most politicians are more concerned with staying in office, than making
a contribution to future generations.

The primary question here is where does Spaceguard belong?

Should the UN be involved?

Should the United States take a unilateral position and assume a
leadership position in regards to the Spaceguard effort?

And how much money is needed to establish a global observation system
and maintain it for essentially ever more.

I would suggest that representatives from a range of scientific
disciplines should also be involved in this, as ultimately, when that
rock with our name on it arrives, other disciplines will be needed to
rebuild our world. Logically speaking that is,...

Given the probabilities and odds of an object hitting the Earth as
portrayed in Armageddon or Deep Impact, most people figure we have
plenty of time.

This is where a lot of people get stuck, David Morrison commented
recently to this fact, that people just do not understand
probabilities, and this is where a firmly based educational program
could really do some good, such if people can understand the problem,
then they can make an informed decision.

This is also where the UN could provide its best assistance as well,

The time that we waste now on this issue may hinder future generations
in the defense of the Earth. I believe that what we do or do not do
now, directly effects the future.

So if our inaction continues, then our children or their children' s
chances for survival from such an event are reduced significantly.
Weather or not the UN is the correct venue or it rests elsewhere, the
need for a fully implemented Spaceguard program needs to be funded
without further delay.

Regardless of the agendas of the powers at be, a call has already been
ushered for a UN Office for Spaceguard. Realistically this may not be a
bad idea, however, what it may achieve is what bothers me, can it do
anything to promulgate Spaceguard, and insure that the much needed
funding is acquired?

The need for world wide participation in this effort is obvious, and
all nations should be allowed to partake in this project regardless of
ideology or status in the world.

Copyright 1999, SpaceDaily


From Andrew Yee <>

University of Hawai'i
University Relations
Media & Publications
Honolulu, HI 96822
Telephone (808) 956-8856
Facsimile (808) 956-3441

Cheryl Ernst
University of Hawai'i

Luann Becker
UH Manoa, c/o Scripps Institution of Oceanography

For other Work by Luann Becker, see

Louis Allamandola
NASA Ames Research Center Space Science Division

Theodore Bunch
NASA Ames Research Center Space Science Division

For Immediate Release: July 14, 1999


University of Hawai'i Researcher Finds a New Form of Pure Carbon in a
Mexican Meteorite

A University of Hawai'i researcher and her colleagues from the NASA
Space Science Division have confirmed that a new form of carbon
previously made in the laboratory also exists in nature. The finding
indicates that the pure carbon molecules known as fullerenes could have
been a factor in the early history of Earth and might even have played
a role in the origin of life.

University of Hawai'i at Manoa organic geochemist Luann Becker and NASA
colleagues Theodore E. Bunch and Louis J. Allamandola discovered the
presence of fullerene carbon molecules in the 4.6-billion-year-old Allende
meteorite, which has been of interest to scientists since it landed in
Mexico three decades ago.

The scientists' report will appear in the July 15 issue of the British
journal Nature. Becker shared their findings with fellow scientists
during the triennial meeting of the International Society on the
Origins of Life this week in San Diego, Calif.

"It's not every day that you discover a new carbon molecule in nature;
that's what makes this interesting," Becker says. "If it played a role
in how the earth evolved, that would be important."

Fullerenes are soccer-ball shaped molecules (hence their name, which
honors geodesic-dome designer Buckminster Fuller) of 60 or more carbon
atoms. Their discovery in 1985 as only the third form of pure carbon
(along with diamonds and graphite) earned U.S. scientists Robert F.
Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley and British researcher Harold Kroto the
1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The trio accidentally synthesized these
three-dimensional forms of carbon molecules in the laboratory while
trying to simulate the high-temperature, high-pressure conditions in
which stars form.

Scientists hypothesized that fullerenes also exist naturally in the
universe. Becker, who earlier discovered the presence of fullerenes in
deposits at the site of the Sudbury impact crater in Ontario, Canada,
and her colleagues were able to document naturally occurring fullerenes
by exploiting a unique property characteristic of organic molecules.
Unlike their pure-carbon cousins, which maintain a solid state,
fullerenes can be extracted in an organic solvent.

Becker crushed a piece of the Allende meteorite, demineralized the
sample with acids, and used the organic solvent to extract fullerenes
from the residue. The scientists found not only the C60 and C70
molecules believed to be most prevalent, but also significant
quantities of C100 to C400 molecules. This is the first discovery of
higher fullerenes in a natural sample.

Because the multiple atoms in the molecule form a hollow, closed cage
that can trap gasses inside, they may have delivered from their stellar
birthplace both the carbon that is an essential element to life and the
volatiles that contributed to the planetary atmospheres needed for the
origin of life. At the very least, the molecules and their contents
will tell scientists more about the early solar nebula or presolar dust
existing when meteorites like Allende were formed.

The research is supported by a grant from the NASA Cosmochemistry Program.


J.R. Cronin*) and S. Pizzarello: Amino acid enantiomer excesses in
meteorites: Origin and significance. ADVANCES IN SPACE RESEARCH, 1999,
Vol.23, No.2, pp.293-299


The presence of small L-excesses in both of the two enantiomeric pairs
of 2-amino-2,3-dimethylpentanoic acid, in 2-amino-2-methylbutanoic acid
(Isovaline), and in 2-amino-2-methylpentanoic acid from the Murchison
meteorite has also been observed in these amino acids as extracted from
the Murray meteorite. As in Murchison, the alpha-hydrogen analogues of
the latter amino acids, 2-amino butanoic acid and 2-amino pentanoic
acid, were found to be racemates. In addition, L-excesses were observed
in 2-amino-2,3-dimethylbutanoic acid and 2-amino-2-methylhexanoic acid
from both the Murchison and Murray meteorites. The L-excesses observed
in the amino acids from Murray were smaller than those found in their
Murchison analogues. The substantial excess of L-alanine reported by
others was not observed in fractionated (reverse-phase chromatography)
extracts of either Murchison or Murray. Several amino acids were
identified in the Murchison extract that can interfere with
determination of the alanine enantiomer ratio on Chirasil-L-Val unless
removed by a prior fractionation step. The role of ultraviolet
circularly polarized light in generating meteorite enantiomeric
excesses and the possible significance of such excesses to the origin
of terrestrial homochirality are discussed. (C) 1999 COSPAR. Published
by Elsevier Science Ltd.

The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and
educational use only. The attached information may not be copied or
reproduced for any other purposes without prior permission of the
copyright holders. The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from
February 1997 on, can be found at

CCCMENU CCC for 1999