CCNet DIGEST, 10 August 1998
* MODERN MYTHOLOGY
"Both films got unexpected publicity last spring when some
astronomers predicted that an asteroid -- one mile in diameter --
would likely hit the Earth in 30 years. Before people could check
to see if they would have paid off their credit card debt by then,
NASA and other agencies debunked the report, saying the object
would cleanly miss us." (Ken Hart; see review below)
* MODERN FACTS
26 July 1998: It's official. Armageddon has just passed Deep
Impact to become the top film of 1998. Armageddon's [US] total is
at $149.3 million. <email@example.com>
(1) GREENLAND METEOR FOUND?
Thomas Randall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(2) SEC FAULTS ASTEROID-HUNTING COMPANY
MSNBC Space News
(3) THE SKY IS FALLING
(4) ALPO OBSERVING ALERT: THE 1998 PERSEIDS
Jim Bedient <email@example.com>
(5) MARTIAN METEORITES PROVIDE NEW INSIGHT
Andrew Yee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
(1) GREENLAND METEOR FOUND?
From Thomas Randall <email@example.com>
Read this on the sci.astro newsgroup today:
"According to the mayor of Nuuk (Agnethe Davidsen) the Greenland Meteor -
which fell to the ground on early December 9th 1997 - was found today by two
local park rangers.
The meteor was found near the settlement Qeqertarsuatsiaat
(Fiskenaesset) about 150 km south of Nuuk (Godthaab).
The locality is called Marraq (The Moraine) and is near an abandonned
American airstrip from WWII.
Nuuk, Greenland "
(2) SEC FAULTS ASTEROID-HUNTING COMPANY
From MSNBC Space News
Agency says SpaceDev misled public; allegations disputed
MSNBC STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Aug. 7 Federal regulators are going after a small company that has
promoted itself, over the Internet and elsewhere, as preparing to
launch a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid around 2000.
THE SECURITIES and Exchange Commission said Thursday that SpaceDev
Inc., based in San Diego, and its chairman, James Benson, had violated
federal securities laws by making false and misleading statements to
The SEC, seeking an order compelling SpaceDev to refrain from future
violations, asked for a public hearing before an administrative law
judge. Phil Smith, the corporations chief operating officer, denied
the agencys allegations. He characterized the SECs complaints as a
dispute over wordsmithing.
We intend to carry this through and fight it, he told MSNBC in a
telephone interview from San Diego. He said that SpaceDev had received
serious expressions of interest from scientists at NASA and other
institutions and that he was confident the SECs action would not
hinder the companys plans.
SpaceDev, which made a public offering of its stock this spring, is
traded on the over-the-counter market. The company said it planned to
raise money by selling space on the planned Near Earth Asteroid
Prospector to scientists seeking to transport their instruments to the
asteroid, and by selling data obtained from the asteroid.
NASA said Friday that it was considering a proposal from Carnegie
Mellon University researchers to place a rover aboard SpaceDevs probe.
The SEC alleged that SpaceDev misled the public by projecting 1998
revenues of $10 million and earnings of $2 million, without disclosing
the need for NASA to approve potential projects; and by saying it had
an agreement with the space agency for the use of its Deep Space
Network, a satellite communication system needed for the companys
Some people invested in this, but we caught it very quickly, said Dan
Shea, director of the SECs Central Region. Investors have to be
extremely wary about promotions of new technology and ask hard
questions before they invest, Shea said in a telephone interview from
his Denver office.
SpaceDevs Smith expressed surprise at the agencys complaints.
Theyre telling us that they dont think were going to meet our
projected targets through the end of the year without the rest of the
year going by, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright 1998, MSNBC
(3) THE SKY IS FALLING
From Ken Hart
When it comes to kids' fiction, Chicken Little might have been the
most paranoid character this side of the guy who wouldn't eat Green
Eggs and Ham. Still, the sky has fallen through movie screens this
summer, thanks to the duo of disaster, Deep Impact and Armageddon.
Hollywood hasn't exactly been a bastion of originality lately, so it's
not surprising to see similar films come out around the same time. But
these two films really push it! Back in May, DreamWorks' Deep Impact
hit. Starring Téa Leoni, Morgan Freeman, Elijah Wood, and others, the
film depicts a huge comet on a collision course with Earth. The only
thing that can prevent a planetary catastrophe is a comet-destroying
space mission led by Robert Duvall. In Touchstone's Armageddon, you can
take the same basic plot, change the comet to an asteroid, put Bruce
Willis and Ben Affleck in the spaceship, and you're set. Not since the
volcanic pair of Dante's Peak and Volcano melted down at the box office
last year have two movies competed so closely.
Unlike that pair, however, our colliding couple blasted the box office.
Deep Impact packed an emotional and financial wallop that carried it
past the much more hyped Godzilla. Also, despite nearly unanimous bad
reviews, Armageddon has sucked up money like a neutron star, and it
should finish up as the most profitable (and most predictable!) film of
Both films got unexpected publicity last spring when some astronomers
predicted that an asteroid -- one mile in diameter -- would likely hit
the Earth in 30 years (sic). Before people could check to see if they
would have paid off their credit card debt by then, NASA and other
agencies debunked the report, saying the object would cleanly miss us.
Nevertheless, the story definitely got us all wondering what we would
do if a big asteroid or comet were on a collision course. According to
older movie knowledge, even a close call with such an object could make
us all helpless before slimy carnivorous plants.
There is reason for concern. After all, it's now generally accepted
that the dinosaurs were wiped out when an asteroid crashed into the
Yucatan about 65 million years ago, throwing tons of dirt into the
atmosphere and blotting out the sun for a time. The resulting drop in
temperature killed many plants and wrecked the food chain. The larger
dinosaurs did not survive; the small, scavenging mammals and Geraldo
Theories still hover over what happened in Tunguska, Russia in 1908.
Something exploded there, flattening trees for miles around. Some
scientists think it was a comet about 300 feet in diameter. Others
speculate that it was a very, very tiny black hole, and loyal X-Files
fans know what really happened. Beware the black oil! In 1994, the
fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 spectacularly collided with
Jupiter. For months afterward, the resulting collision left "scars" on
the gas giant's surface that were two to three times the size of Earth.
If a mile-wide comet did hit us, it would impact with a force equal to
between 1,000 and 1,000,000 megatons of TNT. That would be at least
67,000 times the size of the A-Bomb blast that hit Hiroshima in World
War II. In light of this and the natural catastrophes that are already
affecting the planet, many people are preparing for the worst.
For a quick primer on "Near Earth Objects" like asteroids and comets,
check out the NEO Database on the Deep Impact official site, or keep
reading for a deeper look at our celestial brethren. As for me, I'm
going to play it safe and put in my bid for a condo on the Moon.
PREPARING FOR THE BANG
It's a Comet! Duck!
You're sitting in your favorite bar, and the words "special report"
flash across the TV screen. The news? A five-mile-wide asteroid is
heading toward Earth in two months, there's no way to stop it, and
you're standing on Ground Zero. Would you like more pretzels?
Even assuming the target zone were evacuated for miles around, such an
impact would almost certainly result in the deaths of tens of
thousands, perhaps even tens of millions or more. If the asteroid hit
solid land, tons of displaced dirt would cover the skies, robbing us of
the sun's warmth for possibly months or longer. If it landed in the
ocean, the resulting tidal waves would demolish cities along the
coastlines. Global weather patterns would be thrown into chaos,
altering the planet's ecology and fracturing the food chain. The Jerry
Springer Show would go off the air, and the Björk tribute album would
never be made. So what's the bad news?
In today's world, ecological problems like El Niño are getting blamed
for everything from mudslides to high coffee prices, but some good has
come from the strife. People who expect to face hurricanes and
tornadoes are taking more precautions and preparing themselves and
their families for a worst-case scenario, one in which they may have to
do without food, energy, and assistance for days.
Although the Noah's Ark site is packed with dire Millennium warnings
about alien visitations, the ultimate battle between Good and Evil, and
the New York Knicks winning the NBA championship, its Emergency
Preparedness Information area offers surprisingly good advice. Devoid
of apocalyptic messages, the page provides sensible tips on how to
prepare for a natural disaster.
Look over the recommended list of supplies to keep you going for 72
hours and get suggestions on how to build community. (Banding together
could be a life-saver if disaster strikes.) You can also use the site
to compare notes with like-minded individuals, ranging from
"born-again" Christians to Reiki practitioners to survivalists to those
simply concerned with disaster precautions.
Likewise, Earth Shakes asks the simple question, "Are you prepared?" It
has survival packs and supplies for sale, plus information on how to
raise awareness about disaster planning. Buy packs for your buddies and
co-workers! You can purchase either a small or deluxe pack, complete
with solar/crank AM-FM radio, gloves, and other equipment. (Box of
Oreos not included.)
Aside from digging a really deep hole and stockpiling 2,000 cans of
chicken noodle soup, what else can you do? You can place your bets on
the future. If the Earth will someday become uninhabitable -- whether
due to a colliding comet or our own abuses -- the human race will need
somewhere else to go. Organizations like the National Space Society
actively encourage the manned and unmanned exploration of space. As
part of that mission, the NSS gives students the opportunity to submit
ideas for Space Shuttle experiments and to participate from school as
they're conducted in space.
Besides details about past and present projects, the NSS site also has
question-and-answer sessions with such astronauts as Apollo 11's Buzz
Aldrin. Many members held parties earlier this year to celebrate Tom
Hanks' HBO miniseries about the Apollo missions, From the Earth to the
The Planetary Society, co-founded by the late Carl Sagan, also strongly
believes in the value of space exploration. Its site provides much
information about the cosmos, the ongoing search for life (not UFOs),
and advice on how to get others interested in the subject. If you think
the exploration of space is a foolish, money-wasting venture, check out
this site and find out why these missions are so vital to our future.
My vote for the most intriguing (or far-fetched) idea goes to the
Artemis Project. It's an attempt to organize a privately funded mission
to explore the solar system and build inhabitable bases on the Moon. In
the short term, Artemis hopes to increase public awareness of the
importance of space exploration. If it really wants to attract members
in our health-conscious society, it should use this slogan: "The Moon
has one-sixth of Earth's gravity. Lose weight instantly!"
(4) ALPO OBSERVING ALERT: THE 1998 PERSEIDS
From Jim Bedient <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Contact: Robert Lunsford (info at end of this story)
The Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) invites all
observers to submit records of their counts of this year's Perseid
Conditions are not favorable for watching this year's Perseids, which
peak early Wednesday morning August 12. A 78 percent waning gibbous
will rise approximately 10 p.m. local daylight time Tuesday evening and
will be high in the sky during the peak of this year's activity.
The shower was named for the constellation from which the meteors seem
to originate. While Perseid meteors are swift and can appear in any
portion of the sky, tracing their trail backwards will point to an area
near the Double Cluster of Perseus, which is located between the
constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia.
Since many of the fainter Perseid meteors will be obscured by the
intense moonlight, observers will be limited to perhaps seeing 25-35
meteors during the last few hours before morning twilight.
Observations may be possible during the hour between the end of evening
twilight and moonrise, but the radiant (the area of the sky the meteors
appear to come from) will be situated low in the northeast at that
time, thereby reducing the number of Perseid meteors visible. Only when
the radiant is high in the sky (after midnight) are the Perseids seen
at their best. Unfortunately, the moon will also be high in the sky
For 1998 the best observing strategy would be to face toward the north
away from the intense moonlight. Despite the moon, rural sites away
from light pollution still offer better views of the meteor shower. If
you can watch for only an hour or two, it would be better to watch
between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. rather than during the evening hours. Perseid
rates will be much stronger during the morning hours.
The ALPO Meteors Section is interested in receiving hourly counts from
observers who wish to do more than just watch the show. Basic data
* The number of Perseids viewed
* The number of sporadic (random) meteors viewed
* The starting and ending times of your watch (preferably in Universal
Time, though local time will also be acceptable)
* Notation of any breaks taken during this period
Serious observers are also invited to estimate the magnitude of each
meteor seen. After your watch, it is interesting to chart your
magnitudes to obtain a graph of the brightness of the Perseids and to
compare your results to others.
It is also important to note any clouds, trees, hills or other
obstructions that hide the sky from your field of view.
It is also very helpful to include at several times during the watch
the magnitude of the faintest star one can see. Observers will most
likely be able to spot stars between the magnitudes of 4.0 and 5.0
during the Perseid activity this year. Exact magnitudes can be obtained
from star charts available at local libraries or by consulting the
August 1997 issue of "Sky & Telescope" magazine.
Please send your meteor counts to the: Robert Lunsford, ALPO Meteors
Section Recorder at: 161 Vance Street, Chula Vista, CA 91910-4828.
Those with access to e-mail may send it to:
The Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers is the country's
oldest organization dedicated to serious study of our solar system.
The ALPO offers a number of observing programs for beginning and
advanced amateur astronomers. Observation reports are published in the
quarterly journal, "The Strolling Astronomer." For more information
about the ALPO, write to ALPO Membership Secretary, P.O. Box 171302,
Memphis, TN 38187-1302; e-mail to:
James R. Bedient email@example.com
Operations Supervisor firstname.lastname@example.org
Honolulu CERAP http://www.pixi.com/~wh6ef
Federal Aviation Administration http://www.serve.com/meteors
(5) MARTIAN METEORITES PROVIDE NEW INSIGHT
From Andrew Yee <email@example.com>
CONTACT: Lipschutz, (765) 494-5326 or (765) 494-5204;
Compiled by Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709;
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;
August 4, 1998
Martian meteorites provide glimpse inside Red Planet
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Though scientists can't trace Martian
meteorites back to their specific sites on the Red Planet, a Purdue
University study shows that the travelers contain more chemical clues
to the location and history of their native neighborhoods than
Michael Lipschutz, professor of chemistry, analyzed the trace element
content of the 12 meteorites that are known to have originated from
Mars and found that the rocky fragments came from six different regions
below the surface of the planet.
He also found that each of the six regions operated as a "closed
system," blocking the transfer of materials such as dust and vapor
"Since even vapor transfer did not occur between the regions, the
composition of each Martian meteorite can be considered an accurate
reflection of its source region, and therefore can provide detailed
information on each region's location and history," Lipschutz says.
The study was published in the July issue of Meteoritics and Planetary
Science, which focused on the Martian meteorites. Lipschutz also wrote
the chapter on meteorites for the 40-chapter Encyclopedia of the Solar
System, which will be available in August.
Based on concentrations of 15 volatile trace elements, which are the
chemical elements most likely to condense last as the planet solidified
from a cloud of dust and gas, Lipschutz was able to divide the
meteorites into six major groups from as many different parent regions.
He then compared the groupings to previous studies that had divided the
meteorites into six classifications based upon other chemical contents
Because the groupings were virtually identical -- a finding that
indicated that the trace elements were intact and had escaped
contamination from outside influences -- Lipschutz says the volatile
chemical contents of the meteorites can serve as reliable markers to
assess information on their thermal histories.
"These rocks provide samples from and glimpses into six chambers within
the Martian mantle," Lipschutz says. "Each of the 12 Martian meteorites
appears to have crystallized in a location deep within the planet, and
was excavated only when its chamber was opened by an impact."
Lipschutz says it is unusual to find samples where the chemical markers
are so well preserved.
"The amazing thing is that whatever chemical and geological events Mars
experienced through time, all of the elements -- volatile or not --
were able to remain intact," Lipschutz says. "This is unlike the
situation in other extraterrestrial bodies, such as the Moon and many
asteroids, where heating caused by events such as the shock of an
impact can vaporize the volatile elements and destroy evidence of past
Further studies may help pinpoint the location of each of the regions,
and could shed light on Mars' geological history, Lipschutz says.
His study was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration's Cosmochemistry program.
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