CCNet, 94/2000 - 25 September 2000

     "The discovery by marine archaeologists of the
     submerged remains of buildings which may be the basis
     for the story of Noah's Ark is likely to re-open a
     long-standing debate: The great question is: Did Noah
     over-react? Did he, all that time ago (probably
     between 5460BC and 4820BC) mishandle the crisis and
     make too much of a drama out of what was, in essence,
     a spell of exceptionally wet weather?"
          -- Oliver Pritchett
             The Sunday Telegraph, 17 September 2000

     "Finally, the point that human activity is 'severely
     disrupting almost all life on the planet' is a tired
     cliche which tells only half the truth. The other half
     of the truth is that, far more than earlier severe
     disruptions, and utterly unlike the final disruption
     of life on this planet which must inevitably come when
     the sun dies, human activity has both a destructive
     and a creative aspect. The implications of human
     creativity are so immense as to potentially place us,
     here and now, not only at the dawn of history but very
     close to the dawn of life itself -- a mere four
     billion years into a process of unpredictable but
     completely open-ended growth."
      -- Stephen Ashworth,
         Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society

    Ron Baalke <>

    Albuquerque Journal, 24 September 2000

    The Sunday Times, 24 Sepetmber 2000

    Andrea Boattini <>

    National, 19 September 2000

    Stephen Ashworth <>


From Ron Baalke <>

Double Trouble: Two New Binary Asteroids
Sky & Telescope
September 23, 2000

It's been seven years since the Galileo spacecraft spotted
little Dactyl in orbit around minor planet 243 Ida, marking
the first iron-clad discovery of a binary asteroid. But
since then other such doubles have been identified, and the
list has just gotten two new entries: 762 Pulcova and 90
Antiope. William J. Merline (Southwest Research Institute)
and six colleagues captured Pulcova's pairing on February
22nd using the 3.6-meter Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and
Antiope's on August 10th using the 9.8-meter Keck II
telescope. Both instruments were equipped with an
adaptive-optics system that minimized the effects of
atmospheric turbulence. (Merline also headed the team that
discovered a moonlet around 45 Eugenia in 1998.)

In an online abstract of a presentation to be made at a
planetary-science meeting next month, the team notes that
Pulcova's companion is about 4 magnitudes dimmer than its
140-km-wide parent, suggesting that it is perhaps 20 km
across. The moonlet circles Pulcova every 4.0 days at a
mean distance of about 800 km.

The situation with Antiope is more unusual because the two
components have nearly the same brightness, thus making
each roughly 85 km across. They are separated by just 170
km and complete one joint spin every 16.5 hours. Until now
dynamicists had assumed that asteroidal satellites were
most likely captured impact debris, but Antiope's
near-twins can't be explained so easily. Merline and his
team can't rule out a very thin bridge of material
connecting Antiope's twosome, but they think it unlikely.
Previous computer simulations by William Bottke (also at
Southwest Research Institute) hint that if an object is a
rubble pile it can be cleaved into halves by an impact or a
close encounter with a massive object.


From Albuquerque Journal, 24 September 2000

Sunday, September 24, 2000

By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer

STALLION RANGE CENTER - Grant Stokes, Frank Shelly and 
their colleagues never intended to turn an astronomical 
field on its head. "We're not astronomers," Stokes said 
recently, sitting in a block building atop a small hill 
near the north end of White Sands Missile Range. "We're
systems engineers."

Outside a pair of telescopes stood ready, waiting for the 
sun to set so they could get to work. Down a hall and 
around a corner, Shelly's computers hummed expectantly,
ready to suck up and analyze the data the telescopes 
collected. Over the last three years, those computers and
telescopes have revolutionized the hunt for asteroids.

Originally developed for Air Force satellite hunting, the
system has proven remarkably adept at finding city
block-size chunks of rock hurtling through our solar
system. In just three years, the upstart project known as
LINEAR - the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research Program -
has moved into third place on the International
Astronomical Union's all-time list of most prolific
asteroid-discovering observatories.

They are ahead of astronomers who have toiled for decades 
at the task, trailing only the European Southern 
Observatory and the king of the hunt, the venerable Palomar
Observatory in California.

"This isn't yet the most prolific site," Stokes said as he
surveyed his group's spot in the latest rankings. "Palomar
is. But we'll catch them." It's the sort of talk that would
sound like bravado were it not for the project's remarkable

During the first six months of this year, Stokes' project
found 41 new near-Earth asteroids. All the other asteroid
hunters in the world combined found just 12.

Even with a proposal in Britain to build a new, larger
asteroid-hunting telescope, LINEAR is likely to lead the
field for years to come, said Brian Marsden, head of the
International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, the
group responsible for keeping track of all the asteroids
LINEAR and the other asteroid hunters find.

"LINEAR is going to be doing this for several more years to
come and doing it well and dominating the field," Marsden
said. The question now for the scientists, Stokes said, is
how many asteroids there really are.

The scientists expect that as they search more astronomical
nooks and crannies, they will reach a point where most of
the asteroids have been found, and the rate of new asteroid
discoveries will drop. So far, that has not happened,
Stokes said. So now that Stokes and his colleagues have
demonstrated that their technology works, they are shifting
into a new phase of their work, he said - learning how to
best use it to efficiently scan the sky.
Through the back door

Frank Shelly learned to program computers at the New Mexico
Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. Never in his
wildest dreams did he expect to be in the asteroid-hunting

The group "came into astronomy by the back door," he said.
It was the mid-1990s, and the team was developing a new 
generation of satellite-hunting technology for the U.S. Air

Employed by the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, the scientists were out near the
cutting edge of the development of electronic cameras for

The cameras are based on the same technology used in video 
cameras, and give telescopes extraordinary sensitivity to
faint light. The Lincoln team wanted to test its ability to
see satellites, which appear as faint dots of light
streaking across the night sky.

"You have to search very broad areas of the sky for faint
moving objects," Stokes explained. That, in a nutshell, is
the problem faced by the asteroid hunters.

Think of the constellations as an unchanging backdrop.
Amidst those millions of stars, an occasional point of
light moves. The Greeks first noticed the phenomena,
dubbing them "wandering stars" - what we now know as

Stokes and company are chasing wandering stars far too
faint to be seen with the naked eye - it takes a powerful
telescope to spot them. Called asteroids, they are space
boulders that can be as large as a small town, leftovers
from the formation of our solar system. Most of them
peacefully orbit the sun in a doughnut-shaped cloud
between Mars and Jupiter. Occasionally, though, one gets
lassoed by the gravitational tug of the giant Jupiter and
flung into the inner solar system. There, on very rare
occasions, one collides with Earth, with dramatic

That's what scientists believe happened 65 million years
ago, when an asteroid's collision with Earth caused the
extinction of the dinosaurs. It's the sort of 
high-consequence event that is so improbable that it
doesn't get much high-level government attention, but there
was enough in the mid-1990s for the Air Force to throw a
modest amount of funding at the researchers.

Their charge - to see if the satellite-hunting technique
they were using could be adapted to the hunt for near-Earth
asteroids. The results were spectacular and came at a time
when NASA was gearing up its asteroid-hunting efforts. So
the space agency began chipping in $750,000 a year for the
work. "We were there at the right time," Stokes said.
Mapping the sky

As dusk fell, telescope operator Matt Blythe went through
the nightly ritual - taking off the telescopes' covers,
making sure their elaborate cameras' cooling systems were
working, opening the telescope domes. Since last year, two
telescopes at the missile range site have been devoted
to the comet-hunting task. Once dark settles, the
telescopes are then handed over to the computer.

Methodically, it directs them to march across the sky hour
after hour, snapping images of little chunks of sky and
storing them on computer disk. Over the course of a night,
the telescope hits each spot five separate times. Then in
the morning, Shelly's computer wizardry takes over.

He has written a program that compares each of five images
of each chunk of sky. Anything that doesn't change must be
a star, so it is removed from the image. Left are little
trails of dots - a wandering star, an asteroid.
It's not uncommon for the group to see 4,000 asteroids in a
single night, and it's likely that fully half of them are
undiscovered. But most are safely ensconced in the asteroid
belt between Mars and Jupiter, where they can do no harm.
A few though, leave odd streaks on Shelly's computer
monitor - moving too far to be a main belt asteroid.
That's the real prey, Kelly explained as he pointed at one
of the images on his computer screen - a likely near-Earth

The LINEAR team sends data on the entire batch of asteroids
it's seen to Marsden's group, located at Harvard
University, where they are catalogued and matched against
the known orbits of previously discovered objects to
see which ones are new.

A few times a month, one is singled out because of orbits
that might some day take them close to Earth as 
"potentially hazardous asteroids." Those are the objects
that get special attention at Marsden's Minor Planet
Center. None appear to be a threat so far, and experts like
Stokes say the threat of Armageddon from a space rock is

Copyright 1997 - 2000 Albuquerque Journal


From The Sunday Times, 24 Sepetmber 2000

By Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

SCIENTISTS have dismissed claims that taxing fuel will stop
global warming, because new evidence shows it is caused
mainly by the sun.

The temperature rise, previously blamed on the burning of
fossil fuels, results primarily from an increase in solar
radiation, according to studies to be released this week.

The research, some of it by by the European Space Agency
(ESA), uses satellite and other astronomical data to show
that earlier computer models severely underestimated the
sun's impact.

The potential political impact is huge. Governments
worldwide have accepted scientists' warnings that they must
cut carbon dioxide emissions and used them to justifiy tax
increases and road charges.

Scientists measured a global average temperature rise of
0.6C over the past century. This is predicted to exceed 2C
by 2100. The rise has partly melted the North Pole and the
Greenland and Antarctica ice caps and made British winters
far warmer.

The new studies say the main reason is a solar energy surge
and a particularly big increase in ultraviolet (UV) light.
This has coincided with a doubling in strength of the sun's
magnetic field.

Much of the data on the sun's role in global warming was
gathered by the ESA's sun-watching Soho satellite. Paal
Brekke, Soho's deputy project scientist, said the results
could change thinking on climate. "Taxing carbon-based
fuels may be good for other reasons but our evidence
suggests it will not be much help in keeping the Earth
cool," he said.

Global warming is caused by the Earth's atmosphere acting
like the glass of a greenhouse. The air lets light through
but prevents the heat generated when it hits the ground
from being radiated back into space.

The main cause had seemed to be the 30% rise in carbon
dioxide levels since pre-industrial times from fossil fuels
burnt by motor vehicles, power stations and other
activities. The sun's role was considered secondary.

Scientists previously calculated that the sun radiates only
0.7% more energy than 150 years ago, causing about a tenth
of global warming. Brekke and others say the models
underestimated the 3% UV light increase over the same
period, generating extra ozone that locks more heat into
the atmosphere.

Copyright 2000, Times Newspapers Ltd.


From Andrea Boattini <>

Dear Benny,

We would like to present to the readers of the CCNet the
"Arcetri NEO Precovery Program", (ANEOPP). It is a project
dedicated to the identification of NEO trails on
photographic archives. Most of this work is carried out at
the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory, Florence, Italy, at
the local plate library. It consists of a few thousand
plate copies from some of the major sky surveys (POSS-2,
....). The Digitized Sky Survey is also often used,
especially for astrometric purposes. This activity is
similar to the one led by the German team DANEOPS, but,
from time to time, we get access to further archives. Right
now one us (A. B.) is in Edinburgh, searching for NEO
trails on the UK Schmidt Telescope plate archive: it is
part of a collaboration with Mike Read, of the Royal
Observatory at Edinburgh.

ANEOPP has been quite successfull so far. In a little more
than one year more than 50 single-opposition NEOs have been
precovered. They also include two lost Amors, 1998 NU and
1992 BL2, located in this last week.

Thank you for you attention,


Andrea Boattini
Giuseppe Forti



The Arcetri Near Earth Object Precovery Program (ANEOPP) is
dedicated to the systematic search of NEO images on
existing photographic plate archives.

It was created in July 1999 out of a collaboration between
Andrea Boattini, Astronomical Observatory of Rome, and
Giuseppe Forti, Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory in
Florence. Later other people became involved with this
project: Roy Gal, Maura Tombelli, Luciano Tesi and Germano

The main goal of ANEOPP is to locate newly discovered NEOs
on old observations as soon as possible. This reduces the
amount of time needed from follow-up observing stations in
securing preliminary orbits for future recoveries. The
contribution of this program has been conceived as a
segment of the worldwide NEO follow-up efforts under the
coordination of the Spaceguard Central Node. It also works
in close collaboration with the Department of Mathematics
at the University of Pisa and with the observing activities
at the amateur observatories of San Marcello Pistoiese and

For more information regarding search techniques and
preliminary results, you can check our Home Page at:


From National, 19 September 2000

By Staff Reporter
September 19, 2000

Turkey's Minister of Culture, Istemihan Talay, has granted
the National Geographic Black Sea expedition a permit to
recover artifacts from the sea floor, the Society announced
September 19.

The permit was presented to Society Executive Vice
President Terry Garcia at a news conference attended by
Turkish TV and print media in Ankara, on Tuesday. Alpay
Tasinli, director general of the General Directorate of
Monuments and Museums of the Ministry of Culture, Terry
Garcia, and chief archaeologist of the Black Sea project
Fredrik Hiebert also participated.

The announcement by the Turkish government comes on the
heels of Robert Ballard's discovery of what appears to be
remnants of human habitation more than 300 feet (nearly 100
m) below the surface of the Black Sea, approximately 12
miles (18 km) off the Turkish shore. Evidence suggests 
these people must have thrived in a coastal setting before
a catastrophic flood inundated the area many thousands of
years ago.

Ballard, famous for discovering the wreck of the Titanic,
startled the world a week ago with the announcement that he
had found the remains of a building with a hewn beam and
wooden branches that formed the walls and roof of a
structure-most likely a house. His expedition also found
and photographed stone tools, possibly a chisel or an axe,
and ceramic storage vessels.

Evidence of human settlement on the submerged shoreline
gives credence to the theory that a massive flood-believed
to have been caused about 7,500 years ago when the
Mediterranean broke through what is today the
Bosphorus-caused the people living around what was then a
fresh-water lake to abandon their homes in a hurry. There
has been conjecture that the rapidly rising water level may
have been the basis for the story of the biblical flood. It
is hoped that the remnants of the abandoned settlements
will shed light on the ancient civilization.

"We are pleased to be working closely with the Turkish
government toward our mutual scientific goals. We are
grateful for their prompt action on this matter," said
National Geographic Society President John Fahey.

Ballard said he was delighted that the permit had been
granted. "We can now move forward to the next phase of the
expedition, which is the dating process to establish the
age of the artifacts we recover. I thank the Minister of
Culture and the Turkish government for their
collaboration," he said.

The schedule for the recovery of any artifacts has not yet
been set. The expedition is due to conclude at the end of

(c) 2000 National Geographic Society.


From Stephen Ashworth <>

Dear Benny Peiser,

Regarding Corey Powell's chutzpah: you might also have
mentioned the crazy logic displayed in the quotation of his
which you supplied.

Surely nobody can seriously dispute the notion that Homo
sapiens as such will one day no longer exist. But to hold
this over his readers as a vague threat somehow hinting at
the futility of all human endeavour is invalid: the issue
is not whether H. sapiens is or is not immortal, but rather
whether it turns out to be an evolutionary dead end or the
stepping-stone to worthy successors. This is true both from
an evolutionary point of view (regarding the objective
future course of life in the universe) and from the point
of view of one's personal sense of the meaning of one's
life in the greater scheme of things.

Meanwhile, Brandon Carter's "Doomsday argument" is an
obvious fallacy, of the type which appears whenever one
tries to apply a statistical argument to a unique case.  It
is "unlikely that we would be among the very first
hundredth of a percent of all those people" -- the meaning
of this statement is that if you were to select people from
a number of random moments in history, only a tiny minority
of your selections would come from any particular tiny
portion of the historical range surveyed, such as for
example the dawn of history. But if you make only one
selection -- us, at this moment in history -- the
statistical argument can tell you nothing. (If you toss a
coin only once, the calculus of probabilities of getting
heads or tails is powerless to tell you whether, on that
one particular toss, you get in fact a head or a tail -- a
point which remains valid even if the coin is biased so as
to produce heads 99% of the time.)

Finally, the point that human activity is "severely
disrupting almost all life on the planet" is a tired cliche
which tells only half the truth. The other half of the
truth is that, far more than earlier severe disruptions,
and utterly unlike the final disruption of life on this
planet which must inevitably come when the sun dies, human
activity has both a destructive and a creative aspect. The
implications of human creativity are so immense as to
potentially place us, here and now, not only at the dawn of
history but very close to the dawn of life itself -- a mere
four billion years into a process of unpredictable but
completely open-ended growth.

A process in which CCNet plays a crucial role!

Stephen Ashworth
Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society
Webmaster, Space Age Associates

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February 1997 on, can be found at


CCNet ESSAY, 25 September 2000


Michael Paine explains why the International Astronomical
Union should adopt a less confusing nomenclatura which
is in line with the new discoveries about our Solar System.

By Michael Paine <>

25 September 2000

Although I am not a scientist and have not been a party to
IAU discussions I would like to propose some name changes
to improve the PR image of research into asteroids and
comets. My experience is that reporters tend to lose
interest when they hear scientists talk about 'minor'
planets and especially 'objects' - Near Earth Objects,
Potentially Hazardous Objects (this could, of course,
include a kitchen knife but the play on the word 'foe' is
useful), Kupier Belt Objects and Trans-Neptune Objects. It
seems that the term 'object' gets used when researchers
can't distinguish between asteroids and comets. Something
that sounds more exciting is needed.


CCCMENU CCC for 2000