CCNet 89/2003 - 21 October 2003

Arecibo (2380-MHz, 12.6-cm) radar observations on Oct. 18 and 20 UT show
that the recently rediscovered (IAUC 8223) near-earth-object 1937 UB has a
strongly bifurcated appearance. Our images show two separate components of
roughly equal sizes, consistent with an orbiting binary pair.
      --Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, 20 October 2003

For six decades, researchers assumed Hermes was making other close approaches to Earth,
but they didn't know enough about its orbit to determine whether the planet was at
risk of some future direct hit. Now they know. Earth is safe from Hermes, at least for
100 years, according to computations by Chesley and his colleague, Paul Chodas.
Thereafter, no one can yet say exactly what path Hermes will travel.
      --Rob Britt,, 20 October 2003

(1) 1937 UB (HERMES) A BINARY ASTEROID?, 20 October 2003


    Anchorage Daily News, 20 October 2003

    A. A. Harrison <>


    Rolf Sinclair <>

    Andy Smith <>  

    Hermann Burchard <>

    James A. Marusek <>

     Cardiff University, 18 October 2003

(1) 1937 UB (HERMES) A BINARY ASTEROID, 20 October 2003

Circular No. 8227
Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams
Mailstop 18, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
IAUSUBS@C... or FAX 617-495-7231 (subscriptions)
CBAT@C... (science)
URL ISSN 0081-0304
Phone 617-495-7440/7244/7444 (for emergency use only)


1937 UB (HERMES)
J. L. Margot, University of California, Los Angeles; M. C.
Nolan, V. Negron, A. A. Hine, D. B. Campbell, and E. S. Howell,
National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center; L. A. M. Benner, S. J.
Ostro, and J. D. Giorgini, Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and B. G.
Marsden, Minor Planet Center, write: "Arecibo (2380-MHz, 12.6-cm)
radar observations on Oct. 18 and 20 UT show that the recently
rediscovered (IAUC 8223) near-earth-object 1937 UB has a strongly
bifurcated appearance. Our images show two separate components of
roughly equal sizes, consistent with an orbiting binary pair. The
range-Doppler separation between components was 150 m at 1.5 Hz on
Oct. 18.2 and 600 m at 0.7 Hz on Oct. 20.1. The Doppler broadening
of each component was 0.8 Hz on Oct. 18 and 0.6 Hz on Oct. 20.
Preliminary estimates of the diameters, based on visible range
extents, are 300-450 m. Upper limits to the spin period of each
component are 13-21 hr for the above size range. Additional data
are needed to provide an unambiguous orbital solution and to verify
whether the system is in a doubly synchronous configuration. Radar
and lightcurve observations throughout this apparition would be
extremely valuable."

(C) Copyright 2003 CBAT
2003 October 20 (8227) Daniel W. E. Green


By Robert Roy Britt

A large near-Earth asteroid discovered in 1937 but not seen since was found again last week.

The rediscovery ends an investigation, ongoing for 66 years, while the boulder the size of a modest town repeatedly slipped by unnoticed.

The space rock, called Hermes, is well known to asteroid experts for its passage about twice as far from Earth as the Moon back in 1937. At the time, astronomers didn't know of any object that had ever come closer.

Hermes orbits the Sun on an elongated path that crosses the orbits of Earth and Venus, and then curves well out into the solar system. The new observations suggest it may be larger than originally thought, perhaps about a mile wide (1-2 kilometers).

Steven Chesley of NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), called Hermes' elusiveness "the last real big remaining thorn in the side for this business" of large-asteroid detection.

Closer still

For six decades, researchers assumed Hermes was making other close approaches to Earth, but they didn't know enough about its orbit to determine whether the planet was at risk of some future direct hit. 
Now they know.

Earth is safe from Hermes, at least for 100 years, according to computations by Chesley and his colleague, Paul Chodas. Thereafter, no one can yet say exactly what path Hermes will travel.

Hermes, also named 1937 UB, is capable of bringing civilization to its knees were it to smack into Earth. Scientists have now calculated that it came even closer to Earth during its years in hiding. The closest, in 1942, was about 1.6 times the Earth-Moon distance.

Why was the big boulder not found until last week?

"People weren't looking in a real systematic way until the 1990s," Chesley said in a telephone interview. "There haven't been any real close passes to Earth since the '40s and '50s."

Nowadays, various search programs routinely spot asteroids, even some no larger than football fields that zoom by closer than the Moon. In fact, the closest known pass ever by a space rock that didn't hit the planet was recorded last month.

The recovery

Hermes was originally discovered by German astronomer Karl Reinmuth. It was found anew in a collaborative effort.

Brian Skiff of the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth Object Search program (LONEOS) in Arizona first spotted Hermes.

"I didn't recognize it to be Hermes when I found it," Skiff told, "It was just an unusually bright fast-moving asteroid." Astronomers find asteroids by their motion against comparatively still background stars. The uncertainty in the sky position of Hermes at the time, however, "was the whole width of the sky," he said.

Skiff sent images of the then-unknown object to the Minor Planet Center, an international clearinghouse for asteroid data. There, Timothy Spahr tied it in with other recent LONEOS observations as well as from the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project in New Mexico.

The object's identity was confirmed with the help of follow-up observations by James Young at the Table Mountain Observatory in California.

Astronomers were sure this was Hermes. But they couldn't quite get its current path to match up with the 1937 observations. That job was left to Chesley and Chodas at JPL. It wasn't easy.

"This was the most demanding trajectory computation I've ever run across," Chesley said. He explained that with each pass through the inner solar system, Hermes' path has been altered by the gravity of Earth and Venus. But none of those interactions was known with precision.

The problem was akin to seeing the final inches of a billiard ball's motion after it's been bouncing off other balls for awhile, Chesley said. "By the time a ball finally comes to rest, it's hard to know what its complete path amongst all those balls was."

He added that "you almost have to know the answer before you can compute the answer."

There is no indication that Hermes will ever hit Earth, but astronomers will keep an eye on it to get a better handle on the rock's orbit around the Sun and future passes near Earth.

"It will remain a potentially hazardous asteroid probably for many centuries," Chesley said. More data, including radar observations expected during the next couple of weeks, should help researchers better assess the past and future movements of Hermes, he added. At present, no pictures of Hermes exist that show it as more than a point of reflected light.

Inevitable find

The first asteroid to be discovered was Ceres, in 1801. But Ceres was an easy target, roughly 590 miles (950 km) wide. It stays in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Astronomers had predicted about two years ago that Hermes might make an approach late this year that would be near enough to allow rediscovery.

Hermes will pass within about nine Earth-Moon distances later this year, the rediscovery team now says. Chesley said a little luck was involved in finding Hermes so soon on its current close approach to Earth. But someone would have found it before the end of the year, he's sure.

"There's no way this one would have passed through our net this time," he said.

The asteroid will be visible in 8-inch and larger backyard telescopes in late October, according to Roger Sinnott, senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine [Software for locating Hermes].

Copyright 2003,


Anchorage Daily News, 20 October 2003

The Associated Press

FAIRBANKS -- Something strange happened in Bush Alaska.

About a month and a half ago in the Yukon River village of Ruby, word began circulating about a swath of trees the size of a football field, some with trunks as big as 55-gallon barrels, that had mysteriously snapped off on an island nine miles upstream.

The 150 or so residents in the remote village 200 miles west of Fairbanks immediately began speculating about what caused it.

"There were different theories," said Pat McCarty, who inspected the site twice. While some residents thought it was caused by wind, others suggested that a meteor, or even a UFO, was responsible for the destruction, McCarty said.

"It's kind of strange the way the trees are all standing and all of a sudden there are no trees, they're all lying down," said McCarty, 50. He said he has lived in Ruby his entire life and never seen anything like it.

"It's like a gigantic helicopter came down, hovered, knocked the trees flat and on the way out clipped some other trees," he said.

Dozens of giant white spruce trees were uprooted and large cottonwood trees were snapped like toothpicks 10 to 20 feet up, McCarty said.

"These were some big trees," he said. "They were just knocked down."

Nobody knows when it happened. A pilot who flew over the area at the start of the moose hunting season in September was the first to notice the hole in the woods on what's called Ninemile Island.

"One of the pilots came in asking if there was a plane wreck up there," McCarty said.

Mike Spindler, refuge manager for the Nowitna National Wildlife Refuge in the neighboring village of Galena, 50 miles downstream of Ruby, heard the rumors. He said when he heard the location and description of the area, he began to put two and two together.

Spindler flew over the area last month with the refuge's fire management officer, forester Bob Lambrecht, and Lambrecht had spotted the clearing.

"He looked down and said, 'Oh, that's a microburst,'" Spindler recalled.

Microbursts are rare weather phenomena that produce tornado-force winds in an isolated area during a thunderstorm by creating a rapid, downward burst of air that spreads out and picks up even more speed when it hits the ground, according to meteorologist Tim Shy at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

Precipitation pushes against the air and acts like a piston, pushing air downward. At the same time, dry air evaporates the precipitation and cools the air, making it more dense and creating more velocity.

The air hits the ground at 50 to 60 mph and spreads in a circular pattern like a cup of water being poured onto the floor, Shy said.

As it spreads, the wind speed increases to 100 mph or more.

A microburst typically covers a very short distance in a very short time, Shy said.

While Spindler and Lamb-recht didn't land to inspect the site, they said the devastation was obvious from the air.

"I've flown in this area for 14 years and seen blowdowns, but I've never seen an intensively cleared area like this," Spindler said. "There wasn't anything standing in that area."

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press


A. A. Harrison <>

Some of you may find his paper posted on the Los Alamos National Laboratory
Web Site interesting.


Cometary panspermia explains the red rain of Kerala

Godfrey Louis & A. Santhosh Kumar
School of Pure and Applied Physics, Mahatma Gandhi University,
Kottayam - 686560, Kerala, India.

Date: October 5, 2003

Red coloured rain occurred in many places of Kerala in India during July to
September 2001 due to the mixing of huge quantity of microscopic red cells in the
rainwater. Considering its correlation with a meteor airbust event, this
phenomenon raised an extraordinary question whether the cells are
extraterrestrial. Here we show how the observed features of the red rain
phenomenon can be explained by considering the fragmentation and atmospheric
disintegration of a fragile cometary body that presumably contains a dense
collection of red cells. Slow settling of cells in the stratosphere explains the
continuation of the phenomenon for two months. The red cells under study appear
to be the resting spores of an extremophilic microorganism. Possible presence of
these cells in the interstellar clouds is speculated from its similarity in UV
absorption with the 217.5 nm UV extinction feature of interstellar clouds.
Keywords: astrobiology, exobiology, panspermia, extraterrestrial life & red rain.



From 20-23 October, a workshop on "Early Warning Systems:  Do's and Don'ts" is taking place in Shanghai This workshop includes an interactive forum where you could read the workshop's daily summaries and participate in a question and answer session.

The workshop is convened by Michael Glantz from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A. and is sponsored by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Science Foundation, the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, and the U.S.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Rolf Sinclair <>

Second notice:

The Seventh Oxford Conference on Archaeoastronomy will be held in
Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, June 20-27, 2004. The theme of the meeting is
"Bridging Anthropology and Astronomy". This is the latest in a series of
international conferences focused on the study of how peoples throughout
history and prehistory have been affected by astronomical phenomena, how
they have used these phenomena, and what role they played in their
cultures. Earlier meetings in this series were held at Oxford University
(UK) in 1981, Mexico (1986), Scotland (1990), Bulgaria (1993), Santa Fe
(USA) (1996), and Tenerife (Spain) (1999). Information about the meeting is
at <>.

Posted by Rolf Sinclair

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


Andy Smith <>  

Hello Benny and CCNet,

It is important for us to monitor and participate-in
legislative activities, in all of the countries
interested in planetary protection.

In the U.S., we have strong support in the House of
Representatives (Space Science Sub-Committee) and
there is  a program, in the Senate, which should help
us. It is the relatively new Natural Hazards Caucus.
However, they do not yet recognize the A/C dangers. We
have been working with the NHC Work Group (WG), to
promote increased awareness and to get our cause on
their agenda.

Congressional Briefing

The WG is co-sponsoring a congressional briefing
entitled "The Human Dimensions of Disasters: How
Social Science Research Can Improve Preparedness,
Response and Recovery", on October 27th, in Room 2154
of the Rayburn House Office Building, at 2pm. Dr.
William Anderson, of the National Research Council,
will moderate presentations by three distinguished

We encourage all who can to attend this presentation
and to help us to call attention to the A/C problem.
The contact is Johanna Ebner at or 202-383-9005.

Disasters Roundtable

Also, a Disasters Roundtable Workshop is planned on
Oct. 22, entitled "Hazards Watch: Reducing Disaster
Losses through Improved Earth Observations". Three of
these roundtables are held annually and they provide
an excellent opportunity to educate policy makers and
their staffs about the A/C issues. The agenda is
available at  . You can
register on-line  or call 202-334-1964. Chances are
these folks are also not aware of our detailed

We invite those who plan to attend to let us know, so
we can coodinate our inputs and notify the NHCWG.
We really need representation, in the Washington area,
to attend such important meetings as these. So many
major policy makers are still not aware of our

The Asteroid Tugboat (AT)

Leonard David, a real friend of A/C planetary
protection, wrote an excellent article (15 Oct.) for
Space.Com on the AT and there is an interesting
feature in the November 2003 issue of the Scientific
American. This effort is part of the impressive
initiative by Rusty Schweickart, Clark Chapman, Piet
Hut, Edward Lu (now on the Space Station)  and the
B612 team. It is great to see more activity in the
impact mitigation arena and we wish them the best.
Because so much of the threat population is much
smaller than a kilometer (200 meters or less) this
concept has great merit.


Andy Smith
International Planetary Protection Alliance  


Hermann Burchard <>

Dear Benny,

   Nature Science Update has a story about fossil Bermuda albatros from
400K yrs ago.  The poor birds were swamped by a sudden rise in sea level
at the time due to an interglacial warm period.  This must have been
really sudden!

Olson, S. L. & Hearty, P. J. Probable extirpation of a breeding colony of
short-tailed albatross (Phoebastria albatrus) on Bermuda by Pleistocene
sea-level rise. Proceedings of the National Acedemy of Sciences USA,
published online, doi:10.1073/pnas.1934576100 (2003).

This was the fourth warm period counting back in time from the last ice
age, each cycle very nearly 100K yrs in duration:

Glacial Cycles and Astronomical Forcing R. A. Muller, G. J. MacDonald,
SCIENCE 277 (1997), 215-218, Fig. 2].

Muller & MacDonald do not not support the Milankovitch theory of
precession of the Earth's internal axis of rotation.  That, they write,
was valid in the earlier age of before 1M yrs ago, when the glacial cycle
was more rapid, at 41K yrs.  They argue FOR CAUSATION BY FRESH
INTERPLANETARY DUST and and tilting of the ecliptic causes the 100K yr
cycle:  "..can be understood if the mechanism that links orbital
inclination to climate is the accretion of extraterrestrial dust. In 1994,
Muller.. postulated that the sudden onset of the 100 k.y. cycle might have
been be caused by an increase in the amount of interplanetary dust or
meteoroids at that time. An abrupt increase in accreted dust at about 1 Ma
was subsequently reported by Farley in a study of 3He in sediment..."

Knowledge of sea level rise, higher than at present, during interglacial
warm periods is in fact not new.  It is mentioned in ROADSIDE GEOLOGY OF
TEXAS by Darwin Spearing, Mountain Press, Missoula, 1991.  Among my
favorite Gulf beach resorts is Rockport, TX (near Corpus Christi), where
there are inland dunes and sandbars, now overgrown with thickets of Live
Oak (Quercus virginiana).  These are quite a bit higher than present Gulf
waters, and Roadside Geology explains this by the ancient rise in sea
level during an interglacial warm period, but doesn't give a date.

    Hermann G. W. Burchard


James A. Marusek <>

Dear Benny

In the mid 1970's, I witnessed a most unusual event. I lived less than a block from the Pacific Ocean on the coast of California. Dusk was approaching, perhaps 30 minutes away. The moon was particularly large as it hung over the waves. Then I saw it. A small bright light a few degrees from the moon. It started out looking like an unusually bright star but with each passing second, the size grew. After about 20 seconds, the object was the size of the moon and approximately twice the brightness.  A thought passed my mind that I was witnessing the End of the World and that I had the best seats in the house. The object grew to twice the diameter of the moon and then disintegrated. All that was left was a long twisted trail along its trajectory. The entire event lasted approximately one minutes.

What I witnessed that day was very reminiscent of the fireball in South Wales as photographed by Jon Burnett, Gary Green and others.

The next day on the news, the Air Force announced the unusual sighting was due to a missile launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The object witnessed by thousands along the coast of California was a large booster stage reentering Earth's atmosphere.

James A. Marusek


Cardiff University, 18 October 2003

A Cardiff University scientist has unearthed documentary evidence describing the theory of evolution by natural selection, which predates Darwin's Origin of Species by 60 years. Professor Paul Pearson discovered an account of the theory - regarded as one of the most important in the history of science - in a rare 1794 publication by geologist, James Hutton. Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859.

Professor Pearson, of the University's School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, tracked down a copy, which runs to three volumes and more than 2000 pages, in the National Library of Scotland. Couched in the middle of the second volume is a whole chapter on the selection theory. It supplements an earlier discovery of a similar account in an unpublished manuscript by Hutton, the Elements of Agriculture.

Writing in the journal Nature, Professor Pearson explains how Hutton's experiments in animal and plant breeding led him to observe that new traits arise in animals and plants in every generation. He appreciated that this "seminal variation" is passed on to the offspring, unlike the variety induced by differences in soil or climate.

Hutton went on to argue that "those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be most liable to perish", whereas the best adapted survive to multiply the race. Thereby species would be continually adapting to local conditions, and also able to meet the demands of a changing environment.

"Although he never used the term, Hutton clearly articulated the principle of evolution by natural selection," said Professor Pearson. "However he specifically rejected the idea of transformations between species. For him, it was all about how separately created species adapt to their local conditions."

Darwin always maintained, and his private notebooks have shown that he came to his selection principle independently of two earlier authors - Patrick Matthew (writing in 1831) and Williams Wells (writing in 1818).

Professor Pearson suggests: "It may be more than coincidence that Wells, Matthew and Darwin were all educated in Hutton's home town of Edinburgh, a place famous for its scientific clubs and societies."

"There is no question of Darwin knowingly stealing Hutton's idea. But it is possible that an old half-forgotten concept from his student days later resurfaced, as he struggled to explain his many observations on species and varieties made voyaging around the world in HMS Beagle."

"Darwin rightly gets the credit for applying the principle to the transformation of species and assembling the evidence that convinced the scientific world."

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CCCMENU CCC for 2003