CCNet 60/2003 - 27 August 2003

"Krakatau, Java erupted on 27th August 1883 and was one of the largest
volcanic eruptions in human history, creating sound waves that could be
heard 4000 km away and awakening people in Southern Australia. The
eruption column reached a height of =25 km. Most of the ensuing deaths
were caused by the many tsunamis that thundered along the coastline from
late afternoon August 26th, to midday on the 27th August. The 40 m high
tsunamis generated ravaged the shores of the Sunda Straits and caused
36,000 deaths in 295 coastal fishing villages, whilst casualties were
recorded as far away as 800 km."












Krakatau, Java erupted on 27th August 1883 and was one of the largest
volcanic eruptions in human history, creating sound waves that could be
heard 4000 km away and awakening people in Southern Australia. The
eruption column reached a height of =25 km. Most of the ensuing deaths
were caused by the many tsunamis that thundered along the coastline from
late afternoon August 26th, to midday on the 27th August. The 40 m high
tsunamis generated ravaged the shores of the Sunda Straits and caused
36,000 deaths in 295 coastal fishing villages, whilst casualties were
recorded as far away as 800 km. Much of Krakatau was very low altitude
and therefore the huge tsunamis swept headlong further inland than in
higher areas. Many areas are recorded to have flooded as much as 10 km
inland, and a Man-of-war ship was carried a similar distance and
stranded 10 m above sea level. 

The explosion caused the collapse of the Rakata Cone, resulting in the
northern half slumping into the sea and a caldera 270 m deep formed
below sea level to replace it. There were 4 large eruptions, occurring
at 05:30, 06:44, 10:02, 10:52, with the third explosion being the
largest and generating the biggest tsunamis. The tsunamis were generated
3 minutes after 3 of the explosions, although the tsunami associated
with the largest explosion preceded it by 15 minutes.

What caused Krakatau tsunamis?

Pyroclastic flow deposits may have generated the smaller tsunamis, but
it is unlikely that the largest tsunami could have been triggered in
this way. The largest tsunami may have been generated by the violent
impact of huge masses of unwelded ignimbrite erupting in the largest
explosion and being deposited up to 10-15 km away before a whole minute
had passed.

Another hypothesis involves the largest tsunami being caused by a
submarine explosion, although there is little evidence of the deposits
that such an event would produce.  Run-up heights (the height of the
wave as it approaches the shore from its peak to its trough) along the
Sunda Straits are estimated to be 15 m, whilst further away in the Java
Sea they are estimated at 2 m.  Several hundred kilometres of the
coastlines of Java and Sundra were devastated, and the port of Anjer was
completely destroyed, whilst even as far away as the Bay of Biscay,
which is 17,255 km distant, small signals could be detected. The waves
took just 37 hours to reach the shores of the English Channel, although
they were greatly diminished by then.


Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny

I just found out about this imminent seminar  in Indonesia. It is a
great credit to the Indonesian government for organising a seminar on
this type of natural disaster - the Krakatau death toll was around
80,000 with many from tsunami. There are lessons here for other nations.

Michael Paine
International Seminar/Workshop on Tsunami
"In Memoriam 120 Years Of Krakatau Eruption - Tsunami And Lesson Learned
From Large Tsunami"

August 26th  - 29th  2003,  Jakarta and Anyer

To remember the great eruption of Krakatau 120 years ago in August 27th
1883 and to awakening the people around the tsunami and earthquake prone
area to the possibility of upcoming tsunami disaster, Meteorological and
Geophysical Agency  (BMG) and Department of Marine Affairs and Fishery
(DKP) of Indonesia will organize seminar and workshop in Indonesia. This
occasion is in cooperation with ICG/ITSU, IUGG Tsunami commission and
several related government institutions in Indonesia.


The Baltimore Sun, 25 August 2003,0,6722743.story?coll=bal-news-nation

Collision: Scientists and others differ over the extent of resources
that should be devoted to spotting incoming space rocks.

By Dennis O'Brien

Every few years, astronomers who study asteroids are accused of crying

In 1998, one group predicted that an asteroid was headed toward a
collision with Earth in 2028. A day later, another group said the
estimate was based on faulty data and there was no chance of a disaster.

In April 2002, astronomers announced that they'd found an asteroid a
half-mile wide that has a 1-in-300 chance of hitting Earth. But it
turned out that Asteroid 1950 DA, as it's formally known, won't arrive
until March 16, 2880.

Hollywood has done its part, too. Movies such Deep Impact and Armageddon
have entertained millions with tales of death-dealing rocks that are
heading Earth's way.

Experts say alarms like these are the price we pay for better
surveillance of the heavens - and they're likely to continue as long as
astronomers keep looking skyward.

"These asteroids were passing by before - it's just that we didn't have
an ability to see them," said Clark Chapman, a planetary scientist at
the Southwest Research Institute in Arizona.

Curiosity and concern

Asteroids are small celestial bodies that orbit the sun, mostly between
Mars and Jupiter. Scientists believe they're made of the same rocks and
metals that formed the planets, and they've long been objects of
curiosity and concern.

NASA, for example, spends $3 million a year to search for asteroids that
are potentially big enough to wipe out the planet - meaning bodies at
least a kilometer (about 0.6 mile) in diameter.

About 100 scientists and researchers work on the asteroid search around
the world, and they expect to have 90 percent of the dangerous rocks
identified by 2008.

But at least one group of astronomers says that effort isn't enough.

"We're not alarmists. We're not worried about this happening tomorrow.
We're just saying more attention should be paid to something that could
really turn off the lights in a big way," said Thomas D. Jones, a former
shuttle astronaut and leader of an effort to increase funding for
asteroid searches.

Wiped out the dinosaurs

According to the Southwest Research Institute's Chapman, the world's
current asteroid fixation dates back to 1980, when Luis W. Alvarez
hypothesized that a large asteroid had wiped out the dinosaurs by
hitting Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

"If one killed off the dinosaurs, I guess it hit home that someday one
could kill us off," Chapman said.

NASA began to focus on asteroids in 1990, when a series of highly
publicized close calls piqued public interest and prompted Congress to
appropriate funds to search for them. Spaceguard, a worldwide effort
established in 1991, has so far found 650 asteroids at least a kilometer

In a recent letter to Congress, Jones joined 10 astronomers, historians
and other experts who argued that Spaceguard's efforts aren't enough.

They want the United States to increase spending almost sevenfold to
build better telescopes and look for smaller asteroids. The smaller
rocks, they note, hit more often - about once every thousand years.
Their impact would have the force of a nuclear blast that could destroy
major cities and perhaps entire countries.

"One of the big questions facing us as a species is, how much stuff is
out there that poses a danger to us, and how much of a danger is it?"
said Lucy Ann McFadden, a University of Maryland astronomer who signed
the letter. "We really don't know."

Jones, McFadden and others say the United States should hire more
observers and build larger telescopes dedicated to the search for
200-meter asteroids, often too small to spot now but big enough to cause
a major regional catastrophe on impact.

Near Earth Objects

Most asteroids are in a doughnut-shaped belt between Mars and Jupiter.
They revolve in the same direction as Earth and take three to six years
to complete an orbit. But others reside outside the belt, and any that
approach within 30 million miles are classified as Near Earth Objects,
or NEOs.

Comets can also be NEOs, but they generally travel much farther away
than asteroids and are less likely to strike Earth.

Based on records of asteroid hits and the number of asteroids actually
found by astronomers - about 100 a year - experts estimate that there
are roughly 1,100 NEOs. But that's just a guess.

"We really don't know how many there are," said Brian Marsden, who
operates the Smithsonian's Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass.,
where newly discovered asteroids are listed.

Hits and close calls

History is filled with asteroid hits and close calls. Many scientists
credit asteroids with wiping out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago,
forming the Chesapeake Bay 35 million years ago and creating a mile-wide
crater in Arizona a mere 50,000 years ago. Researchers say asteroids
also might have first brought water to the planet, allowing dinosaurs
and other life forms to thrive.

In 1908, an asteroid 330 feet wide exploded over Siberia, creating the
equivalent of a 10-megaton nuclear blast that felled trees over 40
square miles.

In January 2002, a 300-yard-wide asteroid that could have destroyed an
area the size of New England missed Earth by 500,000 miles - about twice
the distance to the moon.

Scientists agree that a strike by a kilometer-wide asteroid would cause
global catastrophe, clouding skies, dropping temperatures and killing
off most plants and animals. Even smaller asteroids that break up in the
atmosphere can cause tremendous destruction. The 1908 Siberian asteroid
generated enough blast force to kill thousands if it had struck an
inhabited region.

"If you happen to be in the area where a 10-megaton blast occurs, it's
still going to cause serious damage, whether it leaves an impact crater
or not," Jones said.

But not all astronomers are convinced that a search for smaller
asteroids is necessary. "Identifying smaller asteroids may seem like
they're worth doing, but the question is, are they worth doing in place
of other programs?" Chapman said.

Then what do you do?

A key question: Is there anything we do about an Earth-bound asteroid
once we know about it? Movies notwithstanding, technology to throw an
asteroid off-course would take about two decades to develop, said David
Morrison, who oversees NASA's asteroid efforts at the Ames Research
Center at Moffett Field, Calif. The method would depend on the
asteroid's composition, size and speed, but recent studies have focused
on changing its orbit with rockets or solar deflectors planted on the

Still, the chances that a kilometer-wide "doomsday asteroid" will hit us
are minuscule - by NASA's estimate, once or twice every million years.
But NASA says there are an additional million smaller asteroids at least
50 meters across out there.

"We are likely to be hit somewhere on Earth by one of those, with an
energy equivalent to a large nuclear bomb, sometime in the next couple
of centuries," Morrison warns on a NASA Web site.

After the 1998 scare, the International Astronomical Union established
protocols calling for peer review of asteroid discoveries that would
check all calculations within 72 hours. But Morrison noted that there's
nothing to prevent rushing to publication on the Internet:

"It's a very open process, but we're going to post the information [on
Web sites] anyway and let the chips fall where they may. I'm sure there
will be other controversies."

Copyright, The Baltimore Sun


New Scientist, 24 August 2003

Every day, astronomers make thousands of observations of asteroids and
other celestial objects in the hope of finding one that no one else has
seen. The task of sorting through them falls to Brian Marsden and a
couple of colleagues at the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. Eugenie Samuel Reich talks to him about his affection for
the amateur skywatchers whose work is crucial to astronomy

You have daily contact with a lot of amateur astronomers and have got to
know many of them. What sort of people are they?

They tend to be people with considerable persistence. Most amateur
astronomers are somewhat possessed by what they are doing. By definition
an amateur is someone who's retired, or who's got another job, who puts
in a day at the office and then gets home and sits at the telescope.
There are relatively few female amateur astronomers. There are many
professionals, but the only amateurs I can think of are a woman in Italy
who regularly makes observations of asteroids and one in Japan, who does
some work on supernovae - exploding stars - with her husband.

Many observations today are made by large professional surveys that
search for near-Earth asteroids by making tens of thousands of
observations each night. What can amateurs contribute?

Most of the work that amateurs do involves following up on observations
that the large surveys have done. When we get reports of an object that
could be a comet or a near-Earth object, we post a rough prediction of
its orbit on a web page. Then people let us know where they see the
object, which helps us refine its orbit to the point where we can number
it. We have between 120 and 150 observatories doing this follow-up work
at any given time, and probably 90 per cent of them are amateurs.

An amateur astronomer is often seen as someone gazing up through their
telescope from their backyard. Does that still hold?

Nowadays people have very automated set-ups. They have telescopes taking
film or digital images - with charge-coupled devices or CCDs - of the
sky and often they study these from the comfort of their homes. It is a
far cry from the rugged astronomer in his backyard. We get relatively
few visual reports nowadays. They are so hard to do.

The CCD is particularly suited to spotting supernovae as you can compare
the new image with the archive. In the UK two amateurs, Mark Armstrong
and Ted Boles, are doing a great job on supernovae using CCDs. Armstrong
operates his telescope by remote control on the roof of his house in

Other amateurs find supernovae without realising. They make their images
available online and then professionals scrutinise them using more
advanced software. Nowadays you don't even need a telescope to do
astronomy, because you can look at professional images or the images of
other amateurs. I myself started out as an amateur, but I was never an
observer. I made orbital calculations.

However, the first amateur to start discovering supernovae - Bob Evans,
a clergyman in Australia who has been doing it since 1981 and has found
more than any other amateur - did it entirely visually. He used no
photographs or CCD images.

How would you go about making a visual discovery?

You need to look at hundreds of galaxies per night to have a chance of
seeing one. Evans would simply look from one galaxy to another and he
had all the galaxies memorised, so he would know if he saw a change. He
would know if the galaxy didn't look right, if perhaps there was a new
star or a supernova in it. And rather than write it down at the time, he
would just remember where he had seen it, so he could look at more
galaxies each night. Then he'd write it down the next day.

The British amateur astronomer George Alcock worked like that too. After
finding four comets he decided comets, with their characteristic fuzzy
appearance, had become easy for him, so he tried novae - stars that
brighten suddenly and temporarily - and he found five of them too. He
had to learn all the stars so he'd know if there was something new
there. When you think about it, that's a tremendous thing.

Are amateur observations really as good as professional?

Most amateurs produce very high-quality data. They make mistakes, but so
do professionals. For example, we've actually had quite a few reports of
Neptune as a nova from professional astronomers, in one case from the
director of an observatory. I usually reply with a one-word message,
"Neptune". One thing that happens twice a year to some amateurs is that
they get their observations systematically wrong, and then we realise
they neglected to make the change from daylight saving time. The
professionals don't make that mistake.

Most discoveries are made by professional surveys, yet the amateurs play
a crucial role. How do they get credit?

This is one of the problems we have. The surveys notch up lots of minor
planets, but their work is dependent on what we do here at the Minor
Planet Center to link their observations to those of others, and on the
amateurs who make those other observations. So does the survey's
observation really count as a discovery? It does, when it reports it
first. However, surveys often don't realise what they have seen and so
don't report the object as new. So we give extra credit to people who
are among the first to report an object and who know what they have

For example, in 1983 Alcock reported his fifth comet. I had heard that
people working with the Infrared Astronomical Satellite had seen some
kind of fuzzy object a week before. When I heard about Alcock's comet I
contacted them and told them to send me their data by the next day at
noon or I would call it Comet Alcock. They sent in their data, and in
the meantime another independent observation came in from Japan. So we
called it Comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock. IRAS saw it first, but they hadn't
even looked at their plates properly. I really think that if you're
making a discovery, you should appreciate that you have a discovery.
Alcock was like that: he really knew when he had something special.

It's too bad we can't give the amateurs more credit. I'm a firm believer
in giving credit. Amateurs are going out of their way to do this work.

How many amateurs are usually involved in the discovery of a new object?

I'll give you an example. A large asteroid, 3 or 4 kilometres across,
was spotted on 22 May this year by the LINEAR telescopes in Socorro, New
Mexico, which are run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's
Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington. A professional Czech observer got onto
it half a day later, and we refined the orbit further. Later we got
reports from amateur astronomers in Mallorca in the Canary Islands, from
an amateur in Lafayette, Indiana, and from the Tenagra II telescope in
Arizona which I happen to know is owned by amateur Mike Schwartz. We
then knew exactly where it was and so 24 hours after the first sighting
we sent out our announcement. The interesting thing was that the final
observation was made by Paulo Holvorcem, an amateur astronomer who is a
professional mathematician and wasn't even at a telescope. He was
looking at Schwartz's images on the internet. The telescope was in
Arizona, but he was in Brazil.

This is such a bright object that I'm quite surprised no one had seen it
before. We might well get a report of a prior sighting. Some amateurs do
archive work. Reiner Stoss, who is in Germany but uses the Mallorca
observatory, likes to look at old photographic plates to see if he can
find a previous sighting of a reported new discovery. If he does that
for this asteroid, and the orbit matches up, the eventual credit for the
discovery may not go to LINEAR.

Where are most of your amateurs based?

It's very odd, but our most active amateurs are in the UK. It's
surprising because they have inferior skies. Then there are people in
the southern hemisphere and they really have an advantage because the
professional surveys don't look there.

You are responsible for evaluating all astronomical observations. Sounds
like a huge job...

It is. We get a few hundred reports every day, some containing just one
observation, others several thousand. The LINEAR telescope can report
over 60,000 observations in one night. Yet we have only three people
here to process them all. The number of observations has vastly
increased. The first asteroid was logged in 1801, and we reached 10,000
in early 1999. But since then, we've logged another 55,000. The large
increase is mainly the result of the huge sky surveys for detecting
near-Earth asteroids.

Many of your colleagues at the centre have been with you for quite some
time. Do you need a long perspective to do the job well?

Dan Green, who runs the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, which
is responsible for reporting on astronomical objects that are not
asteroids, has been here since 1980. My associate Gareth Williams has
been here 13 years. Yes, you need to understand what has happened in the
past. So many professional astronomers don't seem to have an
appreciation for anything that happened more than five years ago. A lot
of the amateurs are in it for a long time. They might do it for a few
years and then have a family and then go back to it. I certainly think I
have good successors in Dan and Gareth.

Didn't Gareth marry your daughter?

Yes he did. He came here in 1990, the year my daughter joined the US
navy, so in the beginning they only met a few times. But she came back
here two years ago and was living in our basement and they were both
around and were married last October. We fell behind in orbital
calculations that month.

Copyright 2003, New Scientist


Astrobiology Magazine, 26 August 2003

By Leslie Mullen
When diseases like SARS, Mad Cow Disease and Monkeypox cross the species
barrier and infect humans, they dominate news headlines. Just imagine,
then, the reaction if potentially infectious pathogens were found in
rock samples from Mars.

As we look toward exploring other worlds, and perhaps even bringing
samples back to Earth for testing, astrobiologists have to wonder: could
alien pathogens cross the "planet" barrier and wreak havoc on our world?

Even though there is no proof of bacterial or viral pathogens anywhere
except Earth, there is already a worried advocacy group called the
International Committee Against Martian Sample Return, and science
fiction novels like "The Andromeda Strain" depict nightmare alien
infection scenarios. The possibility of cross-planetary contamination
has concerned NASA since the early days of the Apollo program, so, as a
precaution, the astronauts were quarantined for three weeks after they
left the moon.

Chris Chyba, who holds the Carl Sagan Chair for the Study of Life in the
Universe at the SETI Institute, says there are two types of potential
alien pathogens: toxic and infectious. Toxic pathogens act as a poison
on other organisms. Infectious pathogens are viruses or bacteria that
are passed between organisms, causing sickness.

Some viruses and microbes rely on specific biological systems in order
to replicate and infect their host, so not all pathogens affect all
organisms the same way. Chicken farmers, for instance, can remain
untouched by a disease that decimates their flocks. It could be that a
martian microbe would enter the human body, but is rendered harmless
because it is incompatible with human physiology.

"After living in the dirt of Mars, a pathogen could see our bodies as a
comparable host; they could treat us 'like dirt,'" says John Rummel,
NASA's Planetary Protection Officer. "But, to quote Donald Rumsfeld,
we're dealing with the unknown unknowns. It could be that even if the
microbes lived inside us, they wouldn't do anything, it would just be
this lump living inside you."
The conditions on Mars are much different than those in the human body,
so an inert pathogen seems the most likely scenario -- especially since
any life on Mars would have evolved without humans being present.
Co-evolution is why some pathogens only affect certain organisms.

Infectious pathogens evolve based on the reactions of their hosts. As
the host develops defenses against a predatory pathogen, the pathogen
has to devise new means of sustaining itself within the host (or risk
its own extinction).

Some toxins also developed through co-evolution. As predatory organisms
seek food, their prey develop ever more sophisticated means to escape
being eaten. Many organisms developed specially targeted toxins as part
of this evolutionary arms battle.

Rummel says that humans have evolved a complex defense system to prevent
us from getting sick from a whole host of disease and pathogens. But
non-specific microbes - where human physiology did not influence their
evolution - may evade our defense mechanisms.

The best way to understand the spread of potential alien pathogens is to
examine the spread of such non-specific pathogens on Earth.

One example of a non-specific toxic pathogen is cyanobacteria that
produce hepatotoxins (toxins affecting the liver) and neurotoxins.
According to Chyba, cyanobacteria living in lakes on the alpine pastures
of Switzerland have been implicated in a hundred cattle poisonings over
the past 25 years. Chyba says the cyanobacteria most likely did not
develop their toxins in order to escape predation from cows (or to kill
the cows in order to eat them!).

"Rather, the susceptibility of cattle to these toxins seems simply to be
an unfortunate coincidence of a toxin working across a large
evolutionary distance," Chyba writes.

An example of an infectious pathogen working across large evolutionary
distances is the bacterium Serratia marcescens. It is found in a variety
of animal species, and also can be found free-living in water and soil.
Its transmission from human sewage has resulted in the decimation of
Caribbean elkhorn coral.

"The distance between humans and corals emphasizes the possibility that
certain organisms may prove pathogenic across a wide evolutionary
divide," Chyba writes.

Of course, the evolutionary divide between humans and coral would not be
as wide a gulf as between any martian organisms and human beings. Yet
one theory for the origin of life on Earth is that it was transferred
here from Mars by meteorites. This variant of the "Panspermia" theory
suggests that life on Earth and any life on Mars might be closely

If Mars and Earth share the basis for life, this life would presumably
have evolved well beyond the original form. Such a large evolutionary
divide could provide protection from infection. But it could also mean
that if infection does occur, it might be related closely enough to some
Earth life to blaze through that population unchecked.

Human infection is not the only concern of planetary protection. Life on
Earth forms an interconnected, highly dependent web, so a pathogen
affecting any life on Earth could have serious repercussions for the
health and environment of our planet.

Protecting the Earth is, of course, an international concern. The
Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council on
Science, through consultation with the United Nations, makes
recommendations to space-faring nations on planetary protection policy.
The United Nations Outer Space Treaty of 1967 requires that the
introduction of extraterrestrial materials must not adversely alter the
Earth's environment.

The treaty also says that we must not contaminate other planets as we
explore outer space. Astrobiologists especially are concerned about
inadvertently transmitting microbes from Earth. Bacteria can endure the
cold, dry vacuum of space, so a long journey of months and even years
may not be sufficient to ensure spacecraft sterilization. Our search for
life elsewhere will be frustrated if we come across microbes on another
planet, only to later find that we were the ones who brought them there.

The previous Mars landers, from Projects Viking and Pathfinder, were
constructed and handled in clean environments to prevent Earth microbes
from hitching a ride to the Red Planet. The Mars Exploration Rovers
"Spirit" and "Opportunity" that currently are headed for Mars followed
similar "clean handling" guidelines.

The MER missions will not bring samples of Mars back to Earth, but
future mission proposals do include bringing samples back for testing.
For instance, one recent Mars scout proposal suggests collecting
atmospheric dust. The spacecraft would fly through the atmosphere,
collect the dust, and then sterilize the dust as it flies back to Earth.

This strategy follows the guidelines set by a 1997 US National Research
Council report, which said sample returns must be either contained or

"Sterilization might present a problem for some samples, but it is well
suited to atmospheric dust since you have a dry medium," says Rummel.
"Sterilization involves heating, and that wouldn't alter the dry dust

Fearing that containment or sterilization will not be adequate for
protecting the Earth from potential pathogens in martian samples, some
have suggested that the International Space Station (ISS) should be used
to study samples. But Rummel doesn't agree.

"A lot of time and resources are needed to keep the station where it is,
but what goes up must eventually come down," says Rummel. "ISS has an
orbital life of decades, not hundred of thousands of years. Knowing
that, we need to ask if it is a good place to conduct biological

"Containment is also a problem, since there's not much space to work
with," Rummel adds. "What do you do if a person on board is exposed? The
Earth, on the other hand, has ample space to deal with accidents, or to
build a new lab next door, if necessary."

The only samples that have been returned to Earth so far have come from
the moon. Astronauts on the Apollo missions returned 379 kilograms (835
pounds) of rock and soil from the Moon, and three Russian spacecraft
(Luna 16, 20 and 24) also returned moon samples. The samples were kept
in sealed containers until they arrived at their respective laboratories
for study.

Some might argue that the precautions of containment or sterilization
are not necessary, since samples from other celestial bodies have been
falling on Earth since its origin. Comets and asteroids are believed to
have impacted the Earth frequently in its earliest years, seeding the
young planet with water and organic chemicals.

In addition, many meteorites have been identified as originating from
Mars. A storm of controversy erupted when, in 1996, NASA researchers
claimed to have found fossilized life forms in the martian meteorite ALH
84001. Although this claim is still hotly debated, some see it as
evidence that martian microbes already have arrived on our planet.

"There may indeed be a natural exchange of microbes between Earth and
Mars," says Rummel. "But we're being cautious, and we will apply the
appropriate controls. We can't make the risk zero, but we can make it
very small. That's the reason why space exploration is so important --
it allows us to start to address the sorts of questions we are asking."

What's Next

According to Rummel, there are no set plans to bring a Mars sample back
to Earth. However, some proposals discuss having both the European Space
Agency and NASA launch martian sample return missions by 2011, with
samples returning to Earth by 2016.

Sample return missions currently in progress include spacecraft designed
to sample a comet, an asteroid, and the solar wind. Although life is not
likely to be found in these places, the precursor chemicals that make
life possible may be present.

NASA's Stardust mission, launched in 1999, will reach comet Wild 2 in
January 2004. Stardust will return to Earth with both cometary and
interstellar dust particle samples in January 2006.

NASA's Genesis mission was designed to collect solar wind samples. The
spacecraft was launched in August of 2001 and is now collecting
particles coming off the sun. The samples will be returned to Earth in
September 2004.

Japan's MUSES-C spacecraft, launched May 2003, is headed for asteroid
1998 SF36. After its arrival in June 2005, the spacecraft will gather up
to one gram of material from a variety of sites on the asteroid. The
samples are expected to arrive back on Earth by June 2007.


Andrew Yee <>

Penn State Erie
A'ndrea Elyse Messer, (814) 865-9481,

August 25, 2003

Planetary Tilt Not A Spoiler For Habitation

Erie, Pa. -- In B science fiction movies, a terrible force often pushes
the Earth off its axis and spells disaster for all life on Earth. In
reality, life would still be possible on Earth and any Earth-like
planets if the axis tilt were greater than it is now, according to Penn
State researchers.

"We do not currently have observations of extrasolar planets, but I
imagine that in the near future, we will uncover some of these small
planets," says Dr. Darren M. Williams, assistant professor of physics
and astronomy, Penn State Erie, the Behrend College. "The issue before
us is what will they be like? Will they have moons? What will their
climates be like? Will they be teaming with life or will life be rare?

"I suspect, based on simulations and our own solar system, that many
Earth-like planets will have spin axes that are tipped more severely
than Earth's axis."

Williams, working with David Pollard, research associate in geoscience
at Penn State, used general circulation climate models to simulate a
variety of tilts, carbon dioxide levels and planets. They reported on
their findings in the International Journal of Astrobiology.

The researchers first looked at present-day Earth with tilts of 23, 54,
70 and 85 degrees. Earth's tilt today is about 23 degrees. The
simulation that mimicked today's Earth and tilt closely matched today's
climate, including regional precipitation patterns, snow and ice cover
and drought.

"Tilts greater than the present produce global annual-mean temperatures
higher than Earth's present mean temperature of about 57 degrees
Fahrenheit," says Williams. "Above 54 degrees of tilt, the trend is for
the global annual-mean temperature to decrease as tilt increases."

The Penn State scientist explains that this decrease occurs because more
land exists north of the equator in present-day Earth. Annual-mean
temperatures, however, are not the best way to determine if a planet
might be habitable, as seasonal temperature variations could be extreme.

The researchers also looked at these tilted Earths with ten times the
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas
increases the temperatures on a planet. These models produced Earths
with 11 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit higher annual-mean temperatures.

Because all planets will not have Earth's geography, the researchers
took a page from Earth's history and modeled a 750-million-year-old
Earth representing the Sturtian glaciation and a 540-million-year-old
Earth, the closest approximation available for the Varanger glaciation.

"During the Sturtian, land masses were mainly equatorial and clumped
mostly within 30 degrees of the equator," says the Penn State Erie
researcher. "In the Varanger model, everything is close to the south

While current day Earth is about 30 percent land to 70 percent water,
these ancient geographies are about 22 percent land and 78 percent

"The highest temperatures and seasonal variations happen with the
largest land areas at the mid to high latitudes," says Williams.

The researchers also ran some of the model Earths with zero tilt.

"Present Earth is one of the most uninhabitable planets that we have
simulated," says Williams. "Approximately 8.7 percent of the Earth's
surface is colder than 14 degrees Fahrenheit on average, and this
percentage peaks at 13.2 percent in February owing to the large
landmasses at high latitude covered by snow."

The only planets colder than today's Earth are those planets simulated
with no tilt.

The Varanger simulation, with most land in the southern hemisphere, is
the most extreme with 15.6 percent of the surface below 14 degrees
Fahrenheit in July and 9.3 percent of the surface above 122 degrees
Fahrenheit in January. On average, nearly 28 percent of this planet's
land mass is uninhabitable by Earth standards.

"This simulation suggests that planets with either large polar
supercontinents or small inventories of water will be the most
problematic for life at high obliquity," says Williams.

None of the planets with increased tilt had permanent ice sheets near
the equator. This, however, does not guarantee that a world is suitable
for life, the researchers note. The extremes of temperature on most of
the simulated earths would make it difficult for all but the simplest
Earth life forms to survive. Extremes caused because the tilt puts large
portions of the planet in 24-hour darkness or 24-hour sunlight for long
periods would also inhibit photosynthetic organisms.

The researchers suggest that even with high tilt, life can exist on the
planets they modeled.

"Provided the life does not occupy continental surfaces plagued
seasonally by the highest temperature, these planets could support more
advanced life," the researchers say. "While such worlds exhibit climates
that are very different from Earth's, many will still be suitable for
both simple and advanced forms of water-dependent life."

So there is no reason to eliminate Earth-like planets with more tilt
than Earth from future searches for life beyond the solar system.

"We have one planet and we have a lot of species on this planet, but it
is only one data point," says Williams. "Maybe one day we will figure
out everything about life on our own planet, but no where near what is
possible elsewhere."

The National Science Foundation supported this work.

The International Journal of Astrobiology, founded in 2002, is published
by Cambridge University Press. The editors are Dr. Simonj Mitton
(Cambridge), and Dr. Lynn Rothschild (NASA-Ames), .


EDITORS: Dr. Williams may be reached at 814-898-6008 or at by
email. Dr. Pollard may be reached at 814-865-2022 or at by

============= LETTERS =============


Alan Boyle <>

Dear Benny:

In response to a Cosmic Log column last week, a reader (later
identifying himself as Sean Ferris) suggested that a minor planet should
be named after Douglas Adams of "Hitchhiker's Guide" fame, and so far
the response to the idea has been favorable. I thought a fitting
asteroid would be 2001 DA42, a designation that contains the year of
Adams' untimely death, his initials and 42, the answer to the Ultimate
Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. I wondered if it would be
appropriate to put this question (about the asteroid, not the UQLU&E) to
the CCNet community.

Here's the item in that contains
the suggestion:

NAME AN ASTEROID: How does Asteroid Jesus strike you? Or Asteroid Coyote
Thunder? Or Trusco Camu-Camu? These are just some of the suggestions
sent in by Cosmic Log readers responding to Thursday's item about the
system for naming minor planets.

Some nominated their own names or the names of relatives, which would be
a no-no under the International Astronomical Union's guidelines. To my
mind, the top prospect is Douglasadams, a name that would honor the late
author of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." And I think I've found the
perfect asteroid.

Admittedly, it wouldn't be the first minor-planet tribute to Adams'
work. Oh, sure, there's an asteroid named Adams, but that actually
honors 19th-century astronomer J.C. Adams. The best tribute to Douglas
Adams so far came just before his death in 2001, when the Minor Planet
Center announced that an asteroid was being named after Arthur Dent, the
lead character in "The Hitchhiker's Guide."

A Cosmic Log reader writing under the nom de plume Anarchy Ape thinks
it's time to honor Adams in his own right: "He was an adamant supporter
of the space program and should be honored," says Ape.

In addition to his seriousness about space exploration, Adams also
brought a touch of mind-twisting whimsy to his writings: I particularly
like the idea that the answer to the ultimate question is well-known -
42 - and that it's the "question to the ultimate answer" that's the

Thus, if I were in charge of naming minor planets, I would go with a
rock in the main asteroid belt currently known as 2001 DA42, discovered
by the LINEAR program. Its numerical designation incorporates the year
of Adams' death, his initials and the number 42 to boot.

The name isn't up to me, of course: Rather, that's something that the
folks at LINEAR and the IAU will have to decide. But if there's not
already a Douglasadams in the works, I think 2001 DA42 would be the
perfect candidate.

--- Best, Alan Boyle, MSNBC


Andrew Ball <>

Input for CCNET?

Best wishes,

Subject: Planetary Defense Studio @ USC Fall 2003
From: "thangavelu-girardey" <>
Date: Sun, 10 Aug 2003 23:28:17 -0700
Greetings ISUers !
Guess what we have in store for this fall at the University of Southern
California in sunny (not baking yet!) southern Cal ?  System
Architectures for Planetary Defense. Read on.......
Cataclysmic events, triggered by mechanisms both internal to planet
Earth and extraterrestrial, continue to shape life on Earth. This course
will look at extraterrestrial processes involved such as cometary and
asteroidal impacts and their effects and examine potential resonant
mechanisms and create innovative space system concepts for mitigation of
such a threat. Class will study :

Recent research and evidence of cratering on Earth.
-Effects of Impact
-Alternative space and ground segment architectures for threat
mitigation will include :
-Survey and Detection
-Threat Assessment
-Avoidance, Mitigation and Neutralization
-Damage Control and Recovery
-Post-Event, Long Term Adaptation Strategies
Participants will propose their alternative system architecture concepts
ideas to a panel of experts at midterm and they will work on a team
project that will then be presented to a panel of experts for final
review and feedback.
Please call Marietta in the AME Dept @ 213 740 5353 for more details. Of
course, I would be happy to answer any questions re. course as well.
Madhu Thangavelu
310 378 6259


Theresa Cooper <>


please could you advertise the following debate arranged as part of
Cardiff Astronomical Society's celebration of National Astronomy Week.

Details attached, its free and all are welcome.

Joint Patrons:
Professor Sir Martin Rees (Astronomer Royal)
Professor Sir Arnold Wolfendale
Professor John Brown (Astronomer Royal for Scotland)

National Astronomy Week aims to raise the profile of astronomy and space
science within the UK. It gives the opportunity for every astronomical
and scientific organisation, amateur or professional to combine in
providing events and observing sessions. The focus of the week is the
planet Mars to coincide with its closest approach to the Earth for 6 000
years and to capitalise on the expected media coverage this will

Saturday August 30th  2.30 pm.  National Museum and Gallery Cardiff
This will be a free event and open to the public.
A debate entitled:
Is There Life on Mars? The Case For and Against.

This will be presented by Professor Mike Edmunds, Head of the Department
of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff University and Vice President of
Cardiff Astronomical Society and
Dr Jonathan Davies, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Cardiff

This will last approximately 1 hour and the audience will be invited to
vote on the evidence presented.

Any further information (maps etc.) is at

Many thanks

Theresa Cooper


AFP, 26 August 2003

NEW DELHI (AFP) - While Indian authorities blamed Islamic militants*
[*media euphemism for terrorists] for car bombings in Bombay that killed
52 people, astrologers are convinced the culprit was Mars, which is
dangerously close (sic) to Earth.

Astrologers believe the current positions of the moon, Mars, Saturn and
Rahu -- an imaginary malefic planet in the horoscope -- bode ill for the
near future, with the Indian government due to make wrong decisions and
the public responding violently.

Astrologer R.L. Kanthan told The Times of India that the spell of
misfortune will not ease until September 20 with the movement of Mars,
the planet that "portends violence, wars, bloodshed and combat".

Satish Sharma, another astrologer, saw Thursday as a day of arson and
rioting, as the Earth, Mars and the sun would be all in one line.

He said another example of the impending chaos was the political turmoil
in India's most populous state Uttar Pradesh, whose leader, Mayawati,
quit Tuesday.

Sharma noted that the symbol of Mayawati's party was the elephant --
associated with Rahu.

"Rahu is traditionally associated with fire and sudden explosions,"
added fellow astrologer Mahendra Mishra.

He was more pessimistic than his colleagues, saying the current danger
would not be over until Mars enters Pisces on December 6 --
coincidentally the anniversary of the 1992 razing of a mosque in Ayodhya
by Hindu fanatics which set off India's deadliest riots since

At least 52 people were killed and 150 injured Monday in bombings
outside the landmark Gateway of India monument and in a busy market near
a Hindu temple.

Officials have blamed the attacks on local Islamic militants working
with Lashkar-e-Taiba, an extremist group founded in Pakistan but banned
there last year.

Copyright 2003, AFP

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