CCNet, 4 October 1999


   “Although the French mathematician Lagrange discovered the equilibrium
   solutions for a gravitational system of three bodies as long ago as
   the 1770s, it was not until 1906 that the first astronomical
   observations were made of an asteroid that illustrates the stability
   of such behavior when it, Jupiter and the sun are located near the
   vertices of an equilaterial triangle. Right? Wrong! [...]It is wrong
   because an observation of a Trojan has now been recognized from
   1904! This happened on Sept. 26 when Gareth Williams, Associate
   Director of the Minor Planet Center, was examining the orbit of
   1999 RM11...”
                -- MPC Press Information, 1 October 1999


    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Michael Paine <> wrote:

    BBC Online News

(6) 4000 BP EVENT
    Alasdair Beal <>



The earliest observation of a Trojan

Produced at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA),
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Although the French mathematician Lagrange discovered the equilibrium
solutions for a gravitational system of three bodies as long ago as
the 1770s, it was not until 1906 that the first astronomical
observations were made of an asteroid that illustrates the stability
of such behavior when it, Jupiter and the sun are located near the
vertices of an equilaterial triangle. Right?

Wrong! The Heidelberg astronomer Max Wolf indeed discovered the
asteroid TG, later known as (588) Achilles, in February 1906, and
within a matter of weeks, the significance of the fact that it
preceded Jupiter in its orbit by some 55 degrees was illustrated by
Carl Charlier of Lund. In October of the same year, (617) Patroclus
was discovered, this one then 57 degrees following Jupiter in its
orbit. Collectively known as Trojans and named for heroes on both the
Greek and Trojan sides in the ancient war, further such objects
discovered throughout the century have fully confirmed Charlier's
interpretion. With the publication of the latest batch of Minor
Planet Circulars earlier this week, as many as 170 Trojans had been
given permanent numbers (a point that taxes the efforts of those who
search the pages of The Iliad and other works for suitable names!).
There are also 113 Trojans that have been observed at two or more
oppositions and will surely qualify for numbering and naming in the

In what way is the above claim wrong? It is wrong because an
observation of a Trojan has now been recognized from 1904! This
happened on Sept. 26 when Gareth Williams, Associate Director of the
Minor Planet Center, was examining the orbit of 1999 RM11, a recent
discovery from the LINEAR (Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid
Research) project. In a collaboration with this project, he had first
linked together observations of some 4600 previously unknown
asteroids in multiple-night data obtained with the LINEAR telescope
in New Mexico during the second week in September. This particular
object, recorded by LINEAR on four different nights, was one of a
handful of new Trojans that Williams recognized in the data. He was
then able to identify observations from single nights of data from
the Spacewatch and LONEOS near-earth-object projects on Sept. 3.
After bootstrapping this 10-day orbit calculation back to find two
more nights of LONEOS observations in early August, the improved
orbit calculation was good enough to reveal that the same object had
been recorded by NEAT, Eleanor Helin's near-earth-object project at
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on two consecutive nights (again
linked in collaboration with Williams) in April 1996, when it had
been designated 1996 HJ22. Williams also realized that it had been
photographed during Helin's program with the 0.46-m Schmidt at
Palomar in November 1978, when it was called 1978 VH6. On linking the
1999, 1996 and 1978 observations together, it was then trivial for
him to complete the job and indentify single-night observations of
the object in 1988, 1987, 1985--and 1904.

So what was this 1904 observation? Interestingly, special attention
was drawn to it at the time, because the observer was looking for a
specific slow-moving object. The observation was in fact made by the
celebrated observer Edward Emerson Barnard with what was then the
largest working telescope in the world--the 1-m refractor at the
Yerkes Observatory. Barnard was looking for Phoebe, the ninth
satellite of Saturn, discovered six years earlier, but for which the
orbit determination was still unclear. Discoverer William H.
Pickering had provided Barnard with an ephemeris for the satellite,
and on the evening of Sept. 12, Barnard detected an object close to
this prediction. He estimated the magnitude as 16.7 and established
that it moved to the west over the course of some 25 minutes and
possibly slightly to the south.

Later, when Pickering had been able to do a more complete analysis of
the Phoebe data, he pointed out that Barnard's object was 2 arcmin
from Phoebe's position and suggested it was a star. In a paper he
wrote about his observation for the Astronomische Nachrichten in
1907, Barnard quite indignantly pointed out that "no one at all
familiar with micrometer work with a large telescope would for one
moment question the fact that this object was moving", and
furthermore, he verified that there was no star at the position on a
photograph of the region obtained by Pickering. Suggesting that the
motion was probably too great for it to be a satellite of Saturn
anyway, Barnard remarked that the object had to be an asteroid, but
that "If an asteroid, it is doubtless lost for good". Nevertheless,
he added that "Some time the position of this faint asteroid may be
important and I wish to put the observations on record". The object
was therefore interpolated into the asteroid designation system of
the time as OVa, which in the modern system was changed to A904 RD.

Although Barnard dismissed the possibility that his object was an
unknown Saturnian satellite, was he aware that it was in fact moving
more slowly than other asteroids known at the time and thus likely to
be farther away? He measured the westerly motion in right ascension
to be 0.226 arcsec per minute. The computed value for 1999 RM11 at
the time would have been 0.222 arcsec. (The declination motion was
0.042 arcsec per minute to the south, but Barnard's declination
observations relative to the comparison star covered only 5 minutes
and he wisely chose not to supply a figure.) Of course, since the
object was near the meridian when Barnard observed it around 10 p.m.
local time, the slow motion of a Trojan would not be too obvious,
although it would have been only some two-thirds of that of a
main-belt asteroid. Given his consideration at the time that he was
observing Phoebe, it is difficult to fault Barnard for not
recognizing that he had instead made the earliest observation of an
object belonging to a new dynamical class; if he had, he would
presumably have made an effort to follow up the object on subsequent
nights. As it was, he thought he had also observed Phoebe near
Pickering's ephemeris a month earlier, although he later dismissed
that observation as spurious. However, even in his 1907 paper,
written when the discovery of three Trojans had been established, he
made no hint at the possibility he had glimpsed--and lost--a fourth.

Could Barnard's 1904 observation have been explained prior to this
careful reconstruction by Williams just 95 years later? That would
have been very difficult, though perhaps not entirely impossible to
do from the published data. In 1978 the Palomar observations were
made on three of four consecutive nights, and an orbit computation
shows that the object is indeed a Trojan. That computation was
made--again by Williams--in 1996 and published a couple of weeks
before the 1996 observations were made. The fact that the 1978-1996
linkage was not made at the time illustrates the current general
(though not always complete) intractability of the identification
problem when a moderately good orbit is lacking at any of the

The 1904 observation is perhaps not "important" in the sense that
Barnard meant, because it really does not add anything to the
determination of 1999 RM11's orbit. A calculation covering the
1975-1999 data "predicts" it within 3 arcsec, which is as well as it
fits if it is included in the computation with unit weight. In fact,
the single-night observations in 1975, 1985, 1987 and 1988 are also
essentially unnecessary for the orbit determination, in that an orbit
from the 1978, 1996 and 1999 data alone represents them within their
likely uncertainties; in this case the 1904 residual increases to 4
arcsec, still acceptable for single-star micrometry, and with a
calculated visual magnitude of 16.5 from the modern data, showing
that there was no doubt about the object's identity.

The only importance to Barnard's observation of 1904 is historical: a
suggestion of what might have been. Barnard could have been the
discoverer of the first Trojan in the group following Jupiter. A year
and a half would still then elapse before the discovery of the first
member of the preceding group.

Brian G. Marsden

1999 October 1


Copyright 1999, Minor Planet Centre


From Andrew Yee <>

From the Albuquerque Journal, 1 October 1999

Friday, October 1, 1999

UNM Scientist Puts Date on Meteorite
By John Fleck, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

If there was life once on Mars, it got an early start.

According to research by a University of New Mexico scientist, the
little blobs of carbon that have been fingered as possible fossils in a
Martian meteorite formed 4 billion years ago, when Mars was a warmer,
wetter place than the freezing, airless desert it is today.

Lars Borg's contribution answers the question of the age of the carbon
minerals in the controversial meteorite, which won worldwide notice in
1996 when a team of NASA scientists said the minerals were evidence of
ancient Martian life.

"That's essentially been a big mystery," Borg said of the age question.

Like much in the ongoing scientific debate about the issue, Borg's
research, published today in the journal Science, will not settle the
question of whether there was life on Mars.

"There's no one piece of evidence that says 'Hey, these are Martian bugs,' "
Borg said this week.

Researchers found the 5-pound meteorite in 1984 on an Antarctic ice
sheet, where they believe it had been sitting for some 13,000 years.

Scientists are still arguing about the details of the rock's history,
but they agree it was knocked from the surface of Mars about 16 million
years ago.

Something, perhaps a meteorite, blasted the rock off Mars, sending it
on a looping path through the solar system that eventually brought it
to Earth.

In 1996, a team of NASA scientists announced that it believed the rock
had once been home to Martian bacteria.

There's been controversy ever since, with a growing consensus among
scientists that there's no evidence for life in the rock.

A key piece of the NASA scientists' evidence was found in little
carbon-based minerals, which they said were formed by living creatures.

The scientists didn't know how old the minerals were.

If it could be shown that they formed in the recent past, when Mars was
a frozen wasteland, that would have meant there was little chance of

Borg, then a researcher at the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration's Johnson Space Center, set out with his colleagues to
try to settle the age question.

They measured two different substances that act as atomic clocks in the
rock, and came up with estimate ages of 3.9 billion and 4 billion

That's a time when scientists believe life could have existed on Mars,
said Adrian Brearley, a UNM professor who's studied the Martian

"It was in the early history of Mars when it was warmer and wetter,"
Brearley said. It's also about the same time scientists believe life
first appeared on Earth.

While Borg's work won't settle the life on Mars debate, it does provide
valuable insight into understanding when and how rocks formed on the
Martian surface, Brearley added.

"It gives us a better framework in terms of the geologic history of
Mars," Brearley said.

Borg left Johnson Space Center in June to move to the Institute of
Meteoritics at UNM, where he's helping to set up a laboratory to study
the age of rocks from Mars and the moon.

NASA hopes to send a spacecraft to Mars to bring back a sample, and
Borg said one of the most important things about his meteorite work is
the demonstration that tiny samples of the rock can be dated.

Copyright 1999 Albuquerque Journal


From Andrew Yee <>

European Space Agency
Press Information Note Nr. 12-99
Paris, France 30 September 1999

Planets, planets everywhere

Moon craters help us understand how extrasolar planets form

More than a dozen planets orbiting other 'suns' have been found in
the last few years, but ... are they the rule or the exception? The
European Space Agency's infrared space observatory, ISO has shown
that the formation of extrasolar planets must be a very common event.
As explained in today's issue of the journal Nature (30 September),
ISO has found that almost all young stars are surrounded by a disc of
debris -- a requisite for planet making -- while most above a certain
age do not have discs. Correlating these data and certain events in
the history of our own Solar System, such as the formation of the
Moon's craters, astronomers postulate that the discs of older stars
have vanished because they have already condensed into planets.

The authors, an international team led by Harm Habing, from Leiden
University (The Netherlands), wanted to know if stars belonging to a
particular class were more likely than others to form planets. In our
own Solar System planets formed out of a disc of small particles of
dust, so every star surrounded by such a disc is a potential
planet-forming star. The astronomers therefore chose a sample of 84
nearby stars, all of them very common and in the most stable phase of
their lives -- the 'main sequence' -- but of different ages. Which
ones would have discs?

Discs are difficult to see because they emit very faintly; only a few
had been positively detected so far. Using ESA's highly sensitive
infrared space observatory, ISO, the international team found that 15
stars in their sample did have a disc. Then they analysed the ages of
the stars: it turned out that most of those younger than 400 million
years had discs, while the great majority of the older ones did not.

"We show for the first time that the presence of a disc around a main
sequence star depends strongly on the star's age. Why do those above
a precise age not have discs? We searched for clues in our own Solar
System, and realised that it was just when the Sun was that age
(about 400 million years) that planets were forming", Habing says.

In our Solar System, several facts demonstrate that very soon after
the formation of the planets the disc orbiting the Sun disappeared.
Some evidence comes, for instance, from Moon craters. These 'scars'
on the lunar surface were made while the planets were completing
their formation phase and the Sun was losing its own disc of debris,
during the 'clean-up phase' of the Solar System. The newly-born
planets scattered the remaining planetesimals, which were ejected
from the system, fell into the Sun or collided with other large
bodies -- such as the Moon. The age determinations of lunar rocks
brought back by the Apollo missions prove that all this happened when
the Sun was 300 to 400 million years old.

In the light of these facts, the authors postulate that the young
stars in their sample -- those with a disc -- are now undergoing
their 'heavy bombardment' period. When this process finishes, the
disc will vanish and proto-planets will orbit the star instead.

Does this theory mean that all stars for which a disc cannot be
observed are surrounded by planets?

"This is something we cannot say. That's where the knowledge barrier
is", Habing answers. "However, we think the Sun has the same history
as the other planetary systems. When the planets form they destroy
the disc".

Note (*)

The paper about this discovery is published in Nature, on 30
September 1999. Hyperlink to Nature:

Footnote about ISO

The European Space Agency's infrared space observatory, ISO, operated
from November 1995 to May 1998, almost a year longer than expected.
An unprecedented observatory for infrared astronomy, able to examine
cool and hidden places in the Universe, ISO made nearly 30 000
scientific observations.

For more information please contact:

ESA Public Relations Division
Tel: +33(0)
Fax: +33(0)

Martin F. Kessler (ISO Project Scientist)
Tel: +34 918131254

Other science contacts:

Harm Habing, Leiden University, The Netherlands
Tel: +31 71 527 5916

Carsten Dominik, Sterrenkundig Instituut "Anton Pannekoek", Amsterdam (Nl)
Tel: +31 20 5257477

Rene Laureijs, ISO Data Centre, Spain
Tel: +34 91 813 1367

Marie Jourdain de Muizon, LAEFF, Madrid, Spain, and Observatoire de Paris
Tel: +34 91 813 1261

For more information about ISO and ESA's Science Programme visit the
ESA Science Website at: (a 'subscribe to us'
service to receive ESA Science News by e-mail is available), where
you will find another interesting ISO story on the giant planets in
our Solar System; an associated video clip is now available for
viewing on Tracker 2000 -- the multimedia service of the ESA's
Science Website: , and can be
ordered via an on-line form.

To get even more on ISO, surf the ISO web-site:


From Michael Paine <> wrote:

That refreshing reflection on our great scientific achievements, the
Ig Nobel Awards, have just been conducted. See
for a report and
for the "official" website

Michael Paine


From the BBC Online News


1 October 1999

Journalists had a funny feeling about Len Fisher when they visited
the Englishman's Bristol University laboratory. Anyone who spends
that much time and effort researching the best way to dunk a biscuit
in a cup of tea had to be in line for a top award - and so it proved.

At a ceremony in front of 1,200 spectators and a worldwide Internet
audience, Len Fisher was honoured with the Ig Nobel Prize for

The Ig Nobels are a spoof on the Nobel Prizes which will be handed
out over the next few weeks. The Ig Nobel committee recognises some
of the more questionable contributions to life at the end of the 20th

As they say: These are awards for achievements which "cannot, or
should not, be reproduced".

"England has always had a reputation of really treasuring its
eccentrics, and this is where it's finally paying off," said Harvard
Professor Marc Abrahams, editor of the science humour magazine Annals
of Improbable Research and master of ceremonies at Harvard's
Sanders Theatre.

Like most winners, Dr Fisher accepted his prize in great spirit.
"It's basically scientists pulling each others' legs," he said.

International headlines

The Bristol researcher made headlines around the world when he
announced he had cracked the physics of dunking.

He wrote an equation to show what happens when the starch globules in
a biscuit absorb liquid, producing a gunge that breaks off and falls 
to the bottom of the cup. From this, he was able to advise everyone
on the technique that would result in the perfect dunk.

The obvious importance of this research was underlined by the award
of another Ig Nobel to the British Standards Institution. They were
honoured for their six-page specification on the proper way to make a
cup of tea.

Other winners included: Dr Arvid Vatle of Stord, Norway, who
painstakingly determined which kinds of containers patients choose
when submitting urine samples; Hyuk-Ho Kwon of Seoul, who developed a
self-perfuming business suit; and Steve Penfold of York University in
Toronto for his doctoral thesis on the sociology of Canadian donut

The Ig Nobel for Peace went to Chari Fourie and Michelle Wong of
Johannesburg, South Africa, for their car burglar alarm which
consists of a detection circuit and flame thrower.

Sheldon Glashow, winner of a real Nobel for physics in 1978, was the
prize in the annual win-a-date-with-a-Nobel-Laureate contest.

Copyright 1999, BBC

(6) 4000 BP EVENT

From Alasdair Beal <>

Dear Benny,

A key person in developing the idea that some major event occurred
around 4000 years ago is Moe Mandelkehr, whose original papers on 'An
Integrated Model for an Earthwide event at 2300BC' were published in
SIS Chronology & Catastrophism Review between 1983 and 1988 (SISR V,
1983, pp. 77-95; C&CR IX, 1987, pp. 34-44; C&CR X, 1988, pp. 11-22).

CCNet subscribers may be interested to know that Moe has two new papers
on the subject in the current issue of SIS Chronology & Catastrophism
Review: The Causal Source for the Climatic Changes at 2300BC' and 'The
Causal Source for the Geological Tansients at 2300BC' (C&CR 1999:1, pp.
3 - 16).

The SIS WWW Home Page is at

Best wishes,

Alasdair Beal,
Editor, SIS Chronology & Catastrophism Review,
10 King George Avenue,
Chapel Allerton,
Leeds LS7 4LH,
Great Britain

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