CCNet 82/2003 - 7 October 2003

Why do so many of us experience the violence of nature in dreams? When we dream
about the end of the world or some other catastrophe, are we expressing our
instinctive fear of powers that can destroy us?
     --Mary H Flanagan, Scotland on Sunday, 5 October 2003

The one-dimensional scales used so far to describe Near Earth Objects are
over-simplified. To state the probability for a hit derived from an orbit,
is of little use if the uncertainty of the orbit itself is not emphasized.
The Torino and Palermo scales do not indicate the quality of the orbits and
may scare the general public. Grading new discoveries yellow, orange and
red, with 10 meaning doomsday, may be useful in a science fiction movie. To
name such scales after a town let us denote them "Hollywood scales".
     --Leif Kahl Kristensen, Institute of Physics and Astronomy, University of Aarhus

"These things are completely harmless," [Alan] Harris said of small asteroids
like 2003 SQ222. "They are no more than interplanetary tourist attractions.", 6 October 2003
















Spaceguard UK <>

13 October 2003
1. Introduction
In light of recent and not so recent events The Spaceguard Centre is convening an informal
meeting to bring together those who provide information on Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and
those who report the news to the general public.
Over the past five years we have collectively accumulated a lot of experience in dealing
with reports of potentially hazardous NEOs.  The aim of the symposium is to exchange
experiences and views on this important subject in order to increase our understanding
of the issue, and the ways in which it is, or should be responsibly reported to the public
at large.
2. Aim
To develop a voluntary communication protocol for the dissemination of information
relating to NEOs, in particular the announcement of potentially catastrophic collisions.
3. Timings
11:00 - 16:00 Monday 13 October 2003
4. Venue
The Spaceguard Centre
Llanshay Lane
5. Registration
Registration is free. 
Please contact The Spaceguard Centre to reserve places as space is limited.  It would
also be useful to know whether you would be willing to speak on any of the subjects in
the proposed programme, or on any other relevant topic.
The Spaceguard Centre
Llanshay Lane
Powys  LD7 1LW
Telephone: 01547 520247
5. Programme
11:00 - 11:15  Introduction                                       
J R Tate (The Spaceguard Centre)
11:15 - 11:45  NEO orbits and impact probabilities     
Dr David Asher (Armagh Observatory)
12:00 - 12:30  Recent asteroid scares                            
Dr Benny Peiser (CCNet Moderator)
12:30 - 13:00  Lunch              
13:15 - 13:45  What do the media require?                 
Dr David Whitehouse (BBC)
13:45 - 15:45  Current Reporting Procedures              
J R Tate
15:30 - 16:00  Open Forum                                       
8. Administration
Knighton is accessible by train and road.  Details are available on the Spaceguard Centre
website at
A list of hotels and B&Bs in the area can be provided.
A light lunch will be provided for those who register in advance.


By Robert Roy Britt
And Leonard David
A small asteroid was discovered in late September a few hours after it passed closer to Earth than any previously known space rock. Had it struck Earth's atmosphere, it was too small to pose any serious threat, astronomers said.

The event was a common one, scientists stressed. Hundreds of similar close passes likely occur every year but the objects go undetected.

The flyby occurred, however, during an 8-day stretch when an uncommon number of space-rock reports were made around the world, from sightings of colorful explosions in the atmosphere to reported impacts on the ground. Scientists have made no connections between any of the half-dozen events.

A cosmic whisker

The asteroid is named 2003 SQ222. It came within 54,700 miles (88,000 kilometers) of Earth, or less than one-fourth the distance to the Moon, on Sept. 27, researchers said late last week. That breaks a near-miss record set in 1994. 
However, in both cases, the rocks were probably no larger than a house. That is extremely small compared to other chunks of stone and iron that sometimes pass near Earth.

The discovery was made by Robert Cash of the Minor Planet Research program in Peoria, Arizona. Cash's observations were sent to his group's parent asteroid search program at the Lowell Observatory, as well as to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge Massachusetts, where asteroid observations worldwide are collected.

"In a good month, we find five to 10 near-Earth asteroids, but usually, the ones we discover are as big as mountains, or at least football stadiums, so this one was unique for us," said Edward Bowell, director of Lowell Observatory's Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS).

Further observations by the LONEOS program and other astronomers confirmed the object's rough size, path and time of close approach. It is thought to be less than 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter and to orbit the Sun every 1.85 Earth-years on an elliptical path.

Stephen Ostro, an asteroid specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told it was remarkable the tiny object was noticed.

No worries

Some other asteroids on the list of Top 10 close approaches to Earth are disconcerting, for their larger size suggests had they hit the planet they could have caused local or regional damage.

But 2003 SQ222 is not the sort of rock astronomers worry about too much. Had it been on target, "it would have exploded harmlessly in the upper atmosphere, with an energy comparable to that of a small atomic bomb," Bowell said.

Astronomers estimate there are about 500 million undiscovered asteroids as big or larger than 2003 SQ222 that inhabit the general space through which Earth orbits. About 3,000 of them pass closer than the Moon every year but are not detected, according to Alan Harris of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps 100 of them come closer than 2003 SQ222 each year, Harris estimates.

These rocks go mostly unnoticed because they are too small and too faint in the sky to be detected by the handful of telescopes devoted to asteroid hunting. They sometimes become spectacular fireballs, visible from hundreds of miles around on the ground when they vaporize in Earth's atmosphere.

"These things are completely harmless," Harris said of small asteroids like 2003 SQ222. "They are no more than interplanetary tourist attractions."

Asteroid detections have skyrocketed in recent years, meanwhile, as new electronic cameras increase sensitivity and automated telescopes scan the skies for anything that moves in relation to background stars.

On Sept. 19 this year, another small rock, named 2003 SW130, zoomed by at about 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) distance.

Flurry of activity

Sometimes, asteroids or pieces of them do strike the surface, as apparently occurred with two events last month during an 8-day period of unusually intense terrestrial activity generated from above. The most intriguing of these was an apparent meteor strike in India that injured three people.

2003 SQ222's record-setting close approach came within hours of the Indian meteor, but astronomers doubt any connection between the two events.

The rash of reported events did intrigue scientists, though.

"Right back in the middle of this period of stuff, about a week ago, my wife and I saw a gigantic bolide," said Clark Chapman, an asteroid expert at the Southwest Research Institute, also in Boulder. A bolide is an explosive meteor. "It was the brightest thing I've seen in years."

But Chapman said given the speed with which space objects move through space, and the number of rocks assumed to be out there, even hours of separation between events is a lot.

"It's hard to see how they could be connected, let alone things that are happening over the course of a week or two," Chapman said in a telephone interview. "But, on the other hand, I and many people have noticed there have been a lot of these reports and they don't particularly seem like they are inspired by the other ones. So who knows?"

Copyright 2003,


BBC News Online, 6 October 2003
The chances of being hit by a chunk of space rock are measured in the billions-to-one. Roy Fausset, 59, had the closest of escapes last month when what scientists now say was a meteorite crashed through his New Orleans home.
Most space rocks burn up in the sky

There was dust all over the floor of the entrance way and the two doors leading to a utility room and the powder room had been blown open.

There was ceiling debris everywhere. I thought it must have been a broken pipe, but there was no water.

As I was coming home, I'd noticed something on the roof, but had thought nothing of it. It turned out there was a hole the size of a basketball through the tiles.

Whatever it was, it had passed through the attic, then my daughter's bedroom, through the powder room and into the crawl space under the floor.

I thought it must have been some frozen waste that had fallen from a passenger airliner - they are carrying out improvements at our local airport, so planes have been diverted over our house.

We really dodged the bullet. If anyone had been at home, they might have been killed.
I called the police. An investigator went down into the crawl space and he found some rock fragments. There are no rocks in New Orleans, it's all silt. He said: 'It's a meteorite.'

I took a sample over to the nearby Tulane University, where Stephen Nelson - the head of earth and environmental sciences department - examined it.

He said the rock was rhyolite - which is found in Mexico and Texas. He thought it must have been thrown out of a plane by a vandal or become attached to a plane somehow and then fallen off.

But now, after further analysis, it seems it has a profile consistent with that of a meteorite. The police investigator was right.

I've collected up all the pieces. It's not a meteorite from Mars or Venus, which sell for $1,500 a gram. It probably came from an asteroid, so is only worth $3 - $10 a gram. It might help with the repairs.

But I don't care about the money. I'm just very grateful that no one was injured. We really dodged the bullet. If anyone had been at home, they might have been killed. I think just hearing the noise would have caused me to expire.

One of my neighbours was out in her yard with her children eating popsicles. They heard the impact and thought it was a car accident. If it had fallen 100 feet away, they could all have died.

I've been very disorientated by the whole thing, especially when I consider what a narrow escape we all had and what could have happened.

I keep asking: Why me? Maybe God was telling me something? I certainly went to church on Sunday and I will never mock Him as I did in my foolish youth.

Copyright 2003, BBC


BBC News Onlein, 4 October 2003

Space experts are examining an unusual photograph taken by a Bridgend teenager which appears to show a meteor burning out above his home town.

Jonathan Burnett, 15, has impressed experts at US space agency Nasa with his image of the fiery ball.

He took two photographs of the bright light after it caught his attention while playing with friends.

However, whilst experts at the Spaceguard Centre in Knighton, Powys are "convinced it's not a hoax", they do think there could be another explanation to the so called meteor.

"Opinion is divided at the moment and there are one or two questions which need to be answered," said Jay Tate from the centre, where studies into asteroids and comets are carried out.

"I'm convinced it's not a hoax....I'm less convinced that it's a meteor.

"There are a number of other things it could be including the sun reflecting off an aircraft, a fuel dump being ignited, there's a number of things."
Staff at the centre are putting in calls to the Royal Air Force to see if they can offer an explanation on what the bright light captured by Jonathan could be.

Mr Tate said the teenager had done well to capture the image and would be welcome at their Powys centre anytime.

"This one's quite special because of the photo, but large, bright fireballs are quite common, you'll get them three or four times a year in this country," he added.

Jonathan, who attends Pencoed Comprehensive School, e-mailed his picture to Nasa asking for an explanation.

He was amazed to discover the space experts were so impressed with his snap they had published it on their website.

Mr Tate said it could take up to six months before they discover what the fiery ball was, if the truth ever prevails.

Copyright 2003, BBC


The Sunday Telegraph, 5 October 2003

Everyone has limits to their credulity, and I reached mine last week while looking at a
photograph taken by Jonathan Burnett, a 15-year-old living in Pencoed, South Wales. It shows
the evening sky near his home being rent apart by a spectacular burning object hurtling to
Earth, followed by a huge trail of smoke.

Now, I know as well as the next person that such things can and do happen. I have seen "shooting stars" flit across the night sky. I even have a tiny piece of an iron meteorite in a cupboard somewhere. Yet my first reaction on seeing the photograph (which can be found on the Web by typing "Pencoed meteor" into Google News) was one of incredulity, followed by the suspicion I was being hoaxed. Only after I had checked the date of the email for tell-tale "1/4/03", traced the source to a Nasa website and read the full report on the BBC's website did I begin to feel a bit happier.

There may still be some debate about whether it was a meteor or an aircraft vapour trail, but I am at least pretty convinced that something weird did zoom across the sky last week. Nor was South Wales the only place to witness such things: villagers in eastern India came under real cosmic bombardment last weekend, with flaming debris destroying a number of homes and injuring several people.

Astronomers in northern Europe and California have also reported seeing brilliant fireballs over the past week.

Intriguingly, there were similar sightings in the UK, America and Siberia this time last year - hinting that the Earth is running through some trail of debris left by an asteroid or comet. Whatever: my response to the photograph has made me feel a lot more sympathy for those who once dismissed as ludicrous reports of "stones falling from the skies".

Such scepticism held sway until almost exactly 200 years ago. On July 17, 1803 the French scientist Jean-Baptiste Biot read his paper before the Institut de France, confirming reports that thousands of stones had fallen out of the skies over the village of l'Aigle, near Alencon, Normandy, in April that year.

Until then, the great and the good thought nothing of ridiculing those who made such claims,
with some museums being ordered to remove the "stones" as worthless proof of the stupidity of
the masses.

All this shows the power of cognitive dissonance, by which we struggle to accept things that don't conform to our world-view. First identified in 1957 by the psychologist Leon Festinger
at Stanford University, cognitive dissonance leads to a kind of psychological tension that
people resolve in a variety of ways, from mild scepticism to outright denial of reality. Nor
is it some rare mental condition; millions of people routinely deny reality every day rather
than endure the cognitive dissonance triggered by their actions.

They're called smokers. These days it is hard to be unaware of the research linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease. So those who persist in smoking do so in the face of some pretty compelling evidence that they are doing themselves harm.

According to Festinger's theory, this leads to cognitive dissonance that smokers can resolve in two ways: either quit smoking, or deny the facts. Some smokers take the hard route and quit, but many more opt for denial. Sure enough, studies have found that smokers are much more likely to deny the scientific evidence of health effects than either non-smokers or ex-smokers.

The real problems with cognitive dissonance come when it emerges in relationships with others. Festinger identified three ways in which people try to deal with it. First, they may simply alter their own views to reach agreement (what one might call the "anything for a quiet life" approach). Alternatively, they can try to persuade others to their way of thinking.

Then there is the third way: simply define those who have triggered the cognitive dissonance as not worth bothering with - as mad, bad or dangerous to know. The people most likely to reach for such a resolution are those made most uncomfortable by cognitive dissonance, and Festinger suspected that such people are likely to manifest "authoritarian" personalities, who like bossing people about.

A dismissive attitude towards opponents, refusal to face reality, power-mad: does this remind you of a certain type of person? In the midst of the party conference season, it certainly should.

Copyright 2003, The Sunday Telegraph


The Asian Age, 2 October 2003

Bhubaneswar, Oct. 2: The meteorite fragments which fell scattered across six districts of Orissa have now become bones of contention between two major science research institutes.

The institutes Geological Survey of India and Physical Research Laboratory are caught in a mutual bickering to take possession of celestial stone-like substances. Scientists from both the organisations are apparently making their claims over the 5.7 kg meteorite piece retrieved from Suniti village under Mahakalapada block in Kendrapara district, nearly 100 kms from here. This piece is the heaviest meteorite fragment among several retrieved portions in the last meteorite shower.

Two PRL scientists who soon after the occurrence of celestial event on September 29 evening rushed to Orissa from Ahmedabad have been shuttling between Kendrapara district headquarters and Bhubaneswar to take control over the debris. On Thursday, another senior PRL scientist flew from Ahmedabad to intensify the campaign to obtain the custody over the fragment. However, GIS Bhubaneswar director Mr B.K Mohanty on Wednesday sent a letter along with a copy of the government of India's rulebook to chief secretary citing that "They are the actual custodian of any celestial bodies found in earth surface." The PRL scientists are taking help of Orissa Remote Sensing Application Centre to trace out scattered fragments. While the two institutes tussling over the meteorite piece, the Kendrapara collector Hemant Sharma chose to safe play. The 5.7 kg piece have been sealed and kept in a safe locker. Right now, ORSAC possesses three pieces of meteorite and GSI one.

The regional GSI officials would send few samples of the remnants to its laboratory based at Kolkata to conduct petrological, geo-chemical and isotope studies. Director Mohanty said, "Emphasis will be laid to ascertain the age of the substance." While, PRL will study its radioactive behaviour. The chaotic situation was too prevailing in villagers where the meteorite pieces landed.


Newsday, 1 October 2003,0,3584098,print.story?coll=ny-ap-regional-wire

Associated Press Writer

BERLIN, Conn. -- In a scene that sounds more biblical than plausible, masses of amphibian eggs rained down on Primo D'Agata's porch last month as the remnants of Hurricane Isabel moved through the state.

At first, D'Agata thought the thumping noise he and his wife heard on the back deck Sept. 19 was hail. But when he went outside to take a look, D'Agata discovered tiny, gelatinous eggs with dark spots in the middle.

"I couldn't even pick them up with a spatula, they were so sticky," D'Agata said.

Biologists from nearby Central Connecticut State University say the eggs are likely from frogs. And because no frogs in Connecticut lay eggs this late in the year, scientists and naturalists speculate they may have come up from North Carolina or another warm location on the winds of Isabel.

D'Agata brought a bowl of his mysterious find to a nearby nature center, after the town's animal control officer couldn't identify what had arrived in his yard.

Nicolas Diaz, a naturalist and teacher at New Britain Youth Museum at Hungerford Park, took a look at D'Agata's bowl and told him it looked like amphibian eggs.

"It is quite possible the storm carried the eggs right up the coast and dropped them here in Connecticut," Diaz said. "If you had a strong wind and strong updraft, it could lift something right up," he said.

People often bring animals and plants to the center for identification, Diaz said. But D'Agata's eggs are among the stranger things he's seen.

"It was hard to get my mind around that these had traveled up from some subtropical area," he said.

Some of the eggs were brought to Central Connecticut State University for testing, but their origin could not be determined because whatever was inside them did not live long enough to hatch, said Ruth Rollin, chairwoman of the school's biology department.

Hatched eggs would allow scientists to identify the type of frog or other amphibian, and that identification would point to a region of the country where the animal lived, she said.

D'Agata is keeping two small, water-filled glass jars of the eggs to see if any of them will hatch. He said a few seem to have sprouted what looks like a tail.

"I'm going to let them sit and see what happens," D'Agata said.

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press


Herald Online, 5 October 2003

By ROGER ALFORD, Associated Press
(Published September 20' 2003)

MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (AP) - An eastern Kentucky town that has been struggling through economic decline is hoping that an out-of-this-world attraction can help turn things around.
Geologists in Kentucky have concluded that Middlesboro was built in a meteor crater, and local officials feel sure the discovery will pay huge dividends in tourism dollars.

William M. Andrews Jr., a geologist with the Kentucky Geological Survey, said erosion and vegetation have hidden most signs of the meteor's impact. But enough evidence remains, he said.
"You have the round shape, shattered rock in the middle and deformed rocks around the sides that have been bent, folded or shoved," Andrews said. "That's pretty strong evidence that it was a meteor impact crater."

It's enough to excite local tourism officials, who are hoping people will come from across the nation to visit the town. They're now promoting Middlesboro as the only town in America built inside a meteor crater.

"We're trying to get the word out," said Judy Barton, director of the Bell County Tourism Commission. "This is just another jewel in our crown."

Middlesboro, historically dependent on the mining industry, has been in decline for decades, suffering alongside coal operators. Mines have shut down. Shops have closed. And workers have hit unemployment lines.

With no upturn in sight, local leaders have been trying to bolster the tourism economy.
Barton said more than 1 million people already come to Middlesboro each year to visit Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, home of the famed mountain pass that settlers traveled through into the nation's midsection in the late 1700s.

Tourists can walk the footsteps of the famous frontiersman Daniel Boone, who led the way through Cumberland Gap for a flood of settlers to come into Kentucky and beyond.

Nearby is the Lost Squadron Museum, home to a World War II fighter plane that spent a half century encapsulated in the icy cold heart of a glacier. Some 20,000 people came to Middlesboro last year to see the P-38 Lightning fly for the first time since being pulled piece by piece from beneath 268 feet of ice and snow in Greenland.

The plane was among six fighters and two bombers forced to crash-land during foul weather on July 15, 1942. The crews were rescued from the frigid glacier, but the warplanes were left behind to be slowly buried by snow and ice. A local restaurateur spent some $3 million to recover and rebuild the plane.

Barton said those two attractions keep Middlesboro-area hotels and restaurants busy. When word spreads that people have the opportunity to see an actual meteor crater, Barton believes visits may skyrocket.

In fact, more than 60 geologists arrived in town Thursday to survey the crater themselves, and to be on hand when the Kentucky Society of Professional Geologists declared the city a distinguished geological site.

Andrews said geologists who have visited Middlesboro are confident that the valley is, in fact, a crater.

"Middlesboro is in this strangely round valley in the middle of Appalachia," he said. "You don't get round valleys here. It's not normal."

While the shape of the valley initially drew the interest of geologists, they soon found stronger evidence. Andrews said rocks were found near the center of the basin in 1966 that were so shattered that something out of this world had to have occurred. The theory is that a meteor more than 1,500 feet in diameter struck the earth here some 300 million years ago, creating the crater four miles in diameter.

Copyright 2003, AP


Suzanne Leroy <>

Dear all,

We would like to attract your attention on the new series of conferences, training and field expeditions to be held in the next 5 years, starting in Jan. 2004.

I contact you as former participant to the Brunel conference in 2002 or as someone with interest in the new IGCP 490 on "The role of Holocene environmental catastrophes in human history".
You will be pleased to hear that we have now also received the support of ICSU for a project on "Dark nature: Rapid natural change and human responses".

Please see our webpages:

- ICSU Dark Nature:
- IGCP 490:
- 1st joint meeting -Mauritania 4-18 Jan. 2004:
- 2nd joint meeting - Turkey 20-30 June 2004:

We have also two sessions linked to this theme at the next International Geological Congress in Florence.
- convener  M. Cremaschi and S. Leroy: session T 16-04 on "Geoarchaeology for climatic changes and catastrophic events in human history",
- convener A. Berger and S. Leroy: session G03.12 ""Rapid and Catastrophic Geological Changes and Societal Response".

We invite you to participate.

Hoping that you will be able to take part to some of these  activities and to see you again.

Professor Suzanne Leroy
Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB8 3PH, (West London), UK.,
direct: +44-1895-20 31 78; fax: +44-1895-20 32 17, secr: +44-1895-20 32 15

Rapid and Catastrophic Environmental Changes during the last 10,000 years.

Nature is not always the benign provider of shelter and the carer to all needs. Nature has a dark side, capable of extreme and sudden geological violence. The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and the International Geological Correlation Programme of IUGS and UNESCO have recognised this by funding two new projects.
-ICSU Grant, category I, on "Dark nature: rapid natural change and human response", from 2004 to 2005
-UNESCO-IGCP 490 project grant on "The role of Holocene environmental catastrophes in human history", from 2003 to 2007.

Indicators of these changes are available. We should watch them carefully!
The two first meetings are currently being organised. The first one will be in Mauritania in January 2004 where scientists will forget about electricity and venture into the Saharan desert either on camels back or in four wheel-drive ( Out in the desert, under the shelter of an acacia tree, presentations and discussions will be held on desertification, coastal wetland protection, ground water, dust, upwelling strength, tsunami, health and the collapse of past civilisations. Contact:

The second one wild be held in Turkey in June 2004 and will bring earth scientists, archaeologists and anthropologists together to examine human responses to past rapid environmental change in the ancient world. After the three-day discussion meeting, a field trip will take participants around some of the spectacular cultural and geological sites of western Turkey. Contact:

The other meetings are planned for Mozambique in Autumn 2004 (, Argentina (Eduardo Piovano, and Jose Sayago,, and the Canadian Arctic in spring 2005 (Tony Berger Finally, a wrap-up symposium will take place in Como, Italy, in Autumn 2005 (Alessandro Michetti, The IGCP 490 programme, which is for five years, will have additional meetings in Papua-New Guinea in 2006 (Hugh Davies, and Ted Bryant, and Egypt in 2007 (

The outcomes of these multidisciplinary meetings will be a series of conference proceedings, many of them in the Geological Society of London and a contribution to the webcyclopedia of IUGG.

For IGCP 490 see:
For ICSU-DN see:

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


Leif Kahl Kristensen <>

Dear Benny Peiser

The one-dimensional scales used so far to describe Near Earth Objects are
over-simplified. To state the probability for a hit derived from an orbit,
is of little use if the uncertainty of the orbit itself is not emphasized.
The Torino and Palermo scales do not indicate the quality of the orbits and
may scare the general public. Grading new discoveries yellow, orange and
red, with 10 meaning doomsday, may be useful in a science fiction movie. To
name such scales after a town let us denote them "Hollywood scales".
Announcements should focus on the essential astronomy, so drop what is not
important in the first place,  such as impact energy, background hazard,
time-remaining and simple relations based on observed arcs. The impact
energy depends  mainly on a guessed albedo and may be uncertain by a factor
10. The random background hazard is exactly what we are observing, and
trying to eliminate by catalogues, and simple relations between
time intervals do not exist!

In first announcements stick to the astronomy:  that an object is found
which, at a future date, is predicted to have a closest distance to the
Earth of, say, 1500+/-470 Earth radii. The estimated mean error indicates
BOTH, that the probability is roughly 1E-5, AND, that the orbit is very
uncertain. Further observations are thus needed. These may give a revised
prediction, say 1000+/-200, corresponding to a probability of order 1.5E-8.
This may be small enough to feel safe and drop follow-up, although it may
not be enough to recover the object. Remember that the Earth radius at unit
distance is 8.8", so 200 corresponds to 0.5 degree.  In this example an
increasing mean error will give an increasing probability untill the two
numbers are equal. Then the probability will decrease slowly. In theory the
probability is mainly due to an uncertain orbit, which is also - and
fortunately - the case in practice.

The probability alone can not discriminate between interesting and
uninteresting events. If the closest distance was, say: 6.1+/-0.5 then the
probability is 1.5E-8 as above, and if the object is small too, it may get
the Torino grade zero. However, all astronomers would find such an object
extremely interesting and, the smaller the time-remaing is, the better!

When the orbit is fairly secure then the next two steps to be taken are:
1) an observation campaign should be organized in order to improve the
predictions. It is known how this can be rigorously optimized (Astron.
Nachrichten 322 (2001) 51-53 ). The accuracies of predictions to be
expected for well observed asteroids are, say, 100 km. This is routine in
predictions of occultation tracks, - these problems are very similar.
2) next comes also the photometry and computations of impact energy and the
radiant, from which the object will pop out. The radiant indicates, at an
early level, which countries may be involved or, if it most likely falls at
sea. Rather than announce a grade shortly as, say, T4, it will be
worthwhile to take the trouble to explain the facts above in a few lines.

Leif Kahl Kristensen
Institute of Physics and Astronomy
University of Aarhus
DK-8000 Aarhus C


Yvan Dutil <>

Dear Benny,

Brian Mardsen rigthfully suggest to use the ratio of the time that an
asteroid is observed to the time before the predicated impact to judge
the pertinance of communicating it to the media. Adding to this debate,
I would like to add my own suggestion: why not just add an error bar to the
Torino number. A simple bootstrap analysis of the observation will show
that the Torino number is very likely to be much lower than its figure
value. This simple test could be done each time an object get a Torino
number over 1. It will also indicate the inacuracy of the small number
of observations.


Yvan Dutil


Vishnu Reddy <>

Dear Sir

Good to hear from you. I have been following the event closely and I have
the following information. The object will fell in Orissa was in deed a
meteorite and initial examination has shown that it might be a "veined
Chondrite" of petrographic type 5. A total of 8 kgs of fragments have been
recovered from the areas around the fall. This area is covered with high
elephant grass (about 6 feet hight at some places) making search and
recovery impossible. Major chunk of the fragments were recovered by the GSI
Calcutta Field Office and a few by the Physical Research Laboratory. The
news of fire being caused due to the meteroite has been proved false. In
once incident, a local was cooking with a kerosene stove inside a hut which
was hit by the meteroite and started a fire. But these fires were so minor
that they were repaired with in 4 days of the incident. However, 1 person
has been reported dead after he was hit by a meteorite. Probably the first
ever. I am trying to get his name so that it will be useful for future

My own team has recovered a small fragment which is yet to be confirmed as a
meteroite and studied. With the whole thing happening during new moom period
it has been tough to do justice to my astreroid astrometry and the fall.
If anyone needs any further information please let me know so I can put them
across to the right people back in India.

clear skies and good luck
Vishnu Reddy
Spaceguard India

Department of Space Studies
University of North Dakota


Michael Martin-Smith <>

Dear Benny and CCNet

Dr Marco Landbroek's piece in CCNet about our English schoolboy and his excellent work
with last week's 'fireball' story leads me rather ruefully to remark that my country
(England) has a poor record of retaining such excellent young people in the sciences
where they belong!

Unless and until Britain has a space programme of a sufficiently expansionary and
comprehensively accessible nature capable of utilising such gifts of Nature to the
full, such excellence, and the culture which nurtures it, will continue to be wither
on the vine - or, even more tragically, in time -  be superceded by the more
hopeful generation of formidably bright Chinese students now emerging from her
Universities and technical institutions!

ShenZhou and her successors are the well planned seed-corn of a mighty Harvest to
come. Europe and Britain had better learn to stop wasting their talents in the
parasitic "Compensation, Safety, and Regulation Culture" and head for the still
open Sky before Mandarin Chinese becomes the Lingua Galactica.

I have great respect and admiration for Chinese civilisation, cuisine, science,
and space efforts, but have no desire to see Oswald Spengler's "Decline of the West"
belatedly enacted into reality.

It is doubtful if Chinese planners are listening to the many voices in the West
who wish to "come back to terrestrial reality" and leave all that "space stuff" alone.
They, for their part, will be methodically making themselves at home on the "Fourth
Strategic Territory" (Wang Xilin, Spring, 2002)

While our country and much of the West is ruled almost entirely by lawyers, China's
eight man ruling executive body is headed by a rocket engineer, with seven other
engineers on the Board.

Somewhere between these two extremes must lie a happy medium?

Michael Martin-Smith


Scotland on Sunday, 5 October 2003

Mary H Flanagan

Why do so many of us experience the violence of nature in dreams? When we dream about the end of the world or some other catastrophe, are we expressing our instinctive fear of powers that can destroy us? [or are some people suffering the knock-on effects of recent asteroid scares?, BP]

Dream: I saw the end of the world caused by a meteor landing in Scotland. I was close enough to see the explosion and the earth burning white hot under my feet. The explosion didn't kill me, but did kill the people running away in front of me. I have a clear picture in my head of where the meteor landed - a hilly suburban area facing another hill, such as those in the Borders. But I'm sure it wasn't there, precisely, as the atmosphere and the smells were different.

The meteor hit the bottom of the far hill. I saw the devastation afterwards on my home street. Most of the buildings were reduced to rubble. The sky was artificially dark and the only illumination came from some small blue lights.

Interpretation The ancients believed seeing a meteor meant the gods had given them a gift. It's worth considering if there's a similar gift for you here. Seeing so much destruction could represent a strong desire to change your circumstances. The earth burning beneath your feet might be an image of being forced to move quickly from where you are now, although your ultimate destination is still unclear.

Your home street might represent the path you have been pursuing, especially in relation to the world view you adhere to. The destruction could mean something as familiar as your street is passing away. In other words, an aspect of your lifestyle, attitude or manner, though it may have served you well in the past, is no longer appropriate.

The sky's artificial darkness suggests your vision of destruction is a kind of gift. For the sky isn't really dark, it only appears that way in the dream. The blue lights might be images of whatever is coming into your conscious mind - small now, but growing larger over time. Lights also represent hope, confidence and release from dark feelings. Blue represents intuition and gaining a broader awareness of life, one of the most valuable gifts the universe can offer us.

Copyright 2003, Scotland on Sunday

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CCNet 83/2003 - 7 October 2003

The intense debate about what a schoolboy snapped burning up in
the sky while out skateboarding last week rages on. But the latest
in a long line of explanations comes from aircraft enthusiast Mike
Stradling, who claims 15-year-old Jonathan Burnett actually took
a picture of supersonic Concorde and not a galactic space rock.
Mr Stradling, from Brackla, near Bridgend, said Concorde regularly 
flew over South Wales on its flight path to and from the United
States. He said the flames and long smoke trail were from the
jet's engines hitting full power.
     --icWales, 7 October 2003








icWales, 7 October 2003

IS IT a bird? Is it a plane or is it even a meteor?

The intense debate about what a schoolboy snapped burning up in the
sky while out skateboarding last week rages on.

But the latest in a long line of explanations comes from aircraft
enthusiast Mike Stradling, who claims 15-year-old Jonathan Burnett
actually took a picture of supersonic Concorde and not a galactic
space rock.

Mr Stradling, from Brackla, near Bridgend, said Concorde regularly
flew over South Wales on its flight path to and from the United
States. He said the flames and long smoke trail were from the
jet's engines hitting full power.

His opinion is one of many offered to Jonathan, who contacted an
astronomer at Nasa for an explanation following his remarkable shot.

However, there have been some wacky definitions too including those
from people who've e-mailed the teenager saying the bright orange
fireball was Dr Who's Tardis or even the blazing image of Wales'
red dragon.

But Mr Stradling isadamant. He said, "There's no doubt in my mind
that the picture Jonathan took was of Concorde and not of a meteor.
It regularly flies over South Wales when travelling to and from
the United States.

"The orange flames in the picture would have been from Concorde's

The remarkable shot has made Jonathan from Pencoed, near Bridgend, a
star at Nasa which made his photo Astronomy Picture of the Day -
beating off pictures from professional competitors from around the

Jonathan was taking action photographs of his skateboarding friends
when they spotted the orange ball of fire tearing across the evening

The quick-thinking teenager grabbed his new digital camera to capture
the once-in-a-lifetime frame.

Then he e-mailed his picture to the Nasa space centre in Houston,
Texas, where experts said it was one of the best shots of a meteor
they'd ever seen.

There has been doubt cast over the integrity of Jonathan's
photograph, but space experts are now sufficiently confident his
picture is genuine. In fact, they are so excited about what they're
now describing as a "magnificent" shot that they want to hold
a conference to debate it. They want shooting star Jonathan to be
the guest of honour at the event which is likely to be held at the
SpaceGuard Centre, in Knighton, Powys, which analyses the threat of
asteroids to earth.


The Sun, 7 October 2003,,2-2003461335,00.html
Sun Spaceman

NASA boffins who hailed a British lad's photo as a dramatic snap of
an exploding meteor were exposed as duffers last night.

Jonathan Burnett, 15, had emailed them a picture of what looked like
the trail of a blazing meteor.

NASA saluted it as "Astronomy Picture of the Day" on their website.
But other experts spotted it for what it really was - SUNLIGHT reflecting
off the white trail of a jet.

Robin Scagell, of Britain's Society for Popular Astronomy, said:
"The trail must have been a spectacular sight but it clearly was not
a meteor.

"It was not a hoax and Jonathan is not to blame - he did the right
thing in sending his snapshot to NASA.

"It is surprising NASA jumped to the conclusion this was a meteor
before they examined other possibilities."

The space agency had told Jonathan, of Pencoed, South Wales, that
his picture showed a sofa-sized meteor exploding in a fireball.

Yesterday, they admitted getting it horribly wrong.

And the agency - based in Houston, Texas - has amended its website

It now says: "Perhaps a better hypothesis is an unusual airplane
contrail reflecting the setting sun."

Jonathan took the digital photo while out skateboarding.

His dad Paul said: "We never said this was a meteor in the first
place. It was NASA who said that."
Copyright 2003, The Sun


The Australian, 7 October 2003,5744,7489522%255E1702,00.html

By Selina Day
October 07, 2003

A SPECTACULAR meteor streaked across the skies of south-west Western
Australia overnight, creating a sonic boom as it broke the sound
barrier and startling many country residents.

The meteor vaporised near the Wheatbelt town of Dowerin, 157km
north-east of Perth, about midnight (WST).

It was seen by scores of people between Perth and Bunbury in the south
to Geraldton in the north and Dowerin in the east.

Perth Observatory astronomer Peter Birch said the meteor was brighter
than a full moon as it broke the sound barrier and woke Dowerin

It is rare for a meteor to create a sonic boom. One was heard over
southern WA on May 1, 1995, and there had been one between then and
last night, Mr Birch said.

He said it was probably one of the most spectacular recent meteor
events and more than 50 people had called the observatory to report it.

The random meteor had travelled from west to east, rather than the
more-usual east-west trajectory.

"It was probably about 40km above the earth's surface," Mr Birch said.

"More people heard it than saw it, but there were quite a few people
who saw it, including truckies, so I have no doubt about what it was.

"It's just a meteor that has vaporised in the atmosphere."
The Australian


Press Trust of India, 7 October 2003,000600010004.htm
Mumbai, October 7
A city based amateur astronomer had observed and photographed a
huge fire ball-- the meteorites of the same origin (sic) as those
hit Orissa villages on the evening of September 27, from suburban
Mulund in south Mumbai, exactly a week before.

Rahul Patil, who also made an important observation that the
meteor shower was associated with "Aquarid" (originated from
the constellation Aquarius) meteor shower, had sent the
observations to Nehru Planetarium in Mumbai and the
International Meteor Organisation, Germany.

Confirming the claim, Solar Astronomer of Nehru Planetarium and
Vice-President of Mumbai Amateur Astronomer's Association, Bharat
Adur said "Strangely, no planetaria and none of the leading institutes
doing research in astronomy in the country were found to be studying
this meteor shower" [which is not that surprising inasmuch as the
Aquarids occur in May, whilst the corresponding Orionid meteor shower
happens at the end of October, BP].

Patil said the cosmic shower was not yet over as there were 534
near-earth meteors (sic) in the sky currently, of which 30 asteroids
were passing very close (sic) to earth from September 11 to November
16, 2003.

"Another strike is expected anytime (sic) but where and when depends
on the keen observers" (sic), he told PTI.

They are going to be very close to the earth to the tune of 0.0228
Astronomical Units (one AU= 150 km), the distance less than that of
moon from the earth, Patil said.

Patil said that on September 19, a week before the actual strike in
Orissa, he had observed one of the "bolide" (exploding) meteor moving
from south to west at 8.20 pm and a second one moving from southeast
to west at 8.47 pm.
Copyright 2003, Press Trust of India


Rob Britt <>

Hi Benny:

In our story of Oct. 6, "Small Asteroid Makes Closest Earth Flyby
Ever Noticed," I stated that 2003 SQ222 was discovered by Robert Cash
of the Minor Planet Research program in Peoria, Arizona. Unfortunately
I failed to find out prior to publication an interesting aspect to
the discovery.

The organization Cash works for is actually called Minor Planet
Research, Inc. Cash wrote to say he detected the asteroid using his
home computer in Fountain Hills, Arizona, while beta-testing a
product for the Asteroid Discovery Station (ADS) to be installed at
the Arizona Challenger Learning Center in Peoria, Arizona. The
product, based on automatic moving-object detection software, is
expected to eventually offer students a chance to find asteroids.


Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer,


Ron Baalke <>

The asteroid 1998 SF36 has been renamed ITOKAWA.
August 19, 2003

The asteroid 1998 SF36 which is the destination of "Hayabusa" (MUSES-C)
spacecraft launched from Kagoshima Space Center on May 9, 2003, has
been renamed ITOKAWA by International Astronomical Union after the
name of late Prof. Hideo Itokawa, "the Father of Space Development
in Japan".

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CCCMENU CCC for 2003