CCNet 113/2001 - 2 November 2001

"Given the intolerability of the present financial situation, which
both prevents the expansion of the MPC staff and may in fact result in
its reduction, it will be impossible to respond to all but the most
urgent communications from observers and others with its traditional
almost legendary speed, and it may be necessary to cut back on the frequency
with which its present services are updated or otherwise provided."
--Brian Marsden, MPEC, 1 November 2001        

"I call upon all CCNet subscribers and friends of the MPC to become
pro-active now. It is essential that we lobby our national space agencies,
as well as seek out potential sources of corporate support, in order to
achieve what the UK Task Force on NEOs has recommended almost a year ago:
to "seek ways of putting the governance and funding of the Minor Planet
Center on a robust international footing". Nothing else will safeguard the
central hub of the international asteroid search project."
--Benny J Peiser, 2 November 2001

    Benny J Peiser <>

    Minor Planet Center, 1 November 2001

    Ron Baalke <>

    Wired News, 31 October 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Hermann Burchard <]

    Andy Nimmo <>

    Michael Martin-Smith <>

    Michael Paine <>

     Christian Gritzner <>

     The Washington Times,  24 October 2001

     Ananova, 2 November 2001


>From Benny J Peiser <>

The MPC is at a breaking point. Brian Marsden issued a wake-up call
yesterday to all NEO astronomers and the international astronomical
community (see his Editorial Notice in the MPEC of Nov. 1 below). Over the
years, Brian and his colleagues at the MPC have gone out of their way to
improve the data flow and services. But there is now a real threat that the
MPC will have to cut back its services if serious financial support is not
soon forthcoming.
For many years, there have been calls and good intentions for better
financial support internationally for the MPC. Despite all appeals and
resolutions, nothing has been done about this. The total failure of the IAU
to address this problem directly and efficiently is particularly depressing.
Its various subcommittes, instead of assisting in this endeavour, have often
seemed obsessed with the low-priority shenanigans and red-herrings which
have only put additional burdens on the MPC.

It is absolutely crucial now that the NEO and astronomical community
understand that the continuously increasing flood of data is threatening to
overload the 3 staff members. The MPC processes more than 70,000
observations on a busy day. To keep up with the growing workload, Brian
Marsden, Gareth Williams and Tim Spahr have to work up to 16-hour days, six
or seven days a week. Everyone will agree that this simply cannot go on much

According to Rob Britt's recent report (Oct. 19 2001), Brian
remains confident that the small MPC crew can "keep an eye on things for
now, but more funding is urgently required to hire two more people, as well
as someone to maintain the sometimes-glitchy computer system that processes
asteroid data and supplies the follow-up observers with the data they need
to go hunting."

I call upon all CCNet subscribers and friends of the MPC to become
pro-active now. It is essential that we lobby our national space agencies,
as well as seek out potential sources of corporate support, in order to
achieve what the UK Task Force on NEOs has recommended almost a year ago: to
"seek ways of putting the governance and funding of the Minor Planet Center
on a robust international footing". Nothing else will safeguard the central
hub of the international asteroid search project.

Benny J Peiser


M.P.E.C. 2001-V02                                Issued 2001 Nov. 1, 14:26
     The Minor Planet Electronic Circulars contain information on unusual
         minor planets and routine data on comets.  They are published
   on behalf of Commission 20 of the International Astronomical Union by the
          Minor Planet Center, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,
                          Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

             Prepared using the Tamkin Foundation Computer Network

          URL  ISSN 1523-6714

                               EDITORIAL NOTICE

                 [reprinted from MPC 43737-43739, 2001 Nov. 1]
We apologize to those who use our free services on the WWW for several
breakdowns in the system during the past month. As discussed in the
Editorial Notice on MPC 43423, September provided a new extreme in record
activity for the Minor Planet Center, mainly of course in attending to
observations and orbits of main-belt minor planets, including a record
number of new discoveries. The corresponding activity in October was at only a slightly
reduced level, but it was sufficient to deplete on several occasions the
available diskspace on the older computers used for most of the WWW
services. We might note that the total number of observations in our files
is now very close to 10 million, a tenfold increase in just six years. 
The procedures that update the data provided in the WWW services were still
carried out on the older computers, because--rightly or wrongly--it was
considered more important for the small MPC staff to attend as promptly as
possible to the large number of new observations of "ordinary" minor planets
received every day.  Although there is now in place an automatic process for
acknowledging the receipt of observations sent to the address, and priority is given to the objects that are more
obviously NEO candidates, the increased burden has recently resulted in
delays of as long as 48 hours in our informing observers of identifications
or new MPC designations for the objects they report. The problem of
attending to observer reports is exacerbated by mistakes and inconsistencies
in some of the designations of the objects reported, gross errors in the
dates and times of observation, and extreme departures from the specified
format that therefore require human (rather than computer) attention to
decipher. Again, we apologize for the delays, which will presumably become
more common as the volume of observations reported continues inexorably to
increase, although we note that the current situation would be alleviated by
the addition of one or two members to the MPC staff.

With the situation near breaking point, MPC Associate Director Gareth
Williams has put in a heroic effort in the past week or two to get some of
the WWW services, as well as the production of the "Daily Orbit Update"
MPECs, operating on the cluster of modern computers developed over the past
couple of years as the result of much-appreciated gifts from the Tamkin
Foundation.  The totality of activities carried out by the MPC is one of
extreme complexity, and both the transfer of procedures from the old
computers to the new and the introduction of new procedures have necessarily
been rather gradual processes, often hampered by hardware problems (cf. MPC
42427) that would be much better solved if the MPC could employ, even
part-time, a systems manager/engineer.

Because of the above-mentioned difficulties, as well as an urgent need over
the full-moon respite from observational activity to spend time getting
additional procedures properly operating on the computer cluster, this batch
of MPCs is a "mini" batch (cf. MPC 42649). The observations of minor planets
received during the past two weeks will be published shortly in a
"mid-month" MPS batch, and they will be documented and filed at the time of
the preparation of the Nov. 30 MPCs. Orbital elements for minor planets are
of course appearing in their usual temporary fashion in the DOU MPECs.   

The MPC sometimes receives unsolicited advice on how some of its activities,
e.g., involving NEOs, could be transferred to other organizations. With the
use of The NEO Confirmation Page and both the individual and the DOU MPECs,
it has been widely acknowledged that the NEO activity is handled very well,
given that not every perceived NEO candidate turns out to be an NEO (or even
a real celestial object); that some NEOs at times masquerade as main-belt
minor planets; and that there has in recent years been the increasing
problem of recognizing when an apparently asteroidal object is in fact a
comet--the discovery announcement of which would then be made by the Central
Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, which is conveniently co-located with the
MPC at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Of course, other aspects
of NEO research can and should be carried out at other organizations. For
example, the group at the University of Pisa uses the observations and
preliminary orbit computations published by the MPC to make variant
computations needed to recognize for its "risk page" objects that have a nonzero probability of earth
impact during the next century.

As was mentioned on MPC 42955-42956, one area of current MPC activity that
could rather obviously be handled by a separate organization is the receipt
of proposals of names of minor planets and the submission of computer files
of edited citations for MPC publication after adjudication by the Committee
for Small-Body Nomenclature. Following, but not because of, this mention in
the July 5 MPCs, the whole question of the appropriateness of continuing to
name minor planets has been discussed by various groups within the IAU,
including again the CSBN.  Although a final decision on the subject is far
from being made, it was decided that the CSBN should conduct an experiment
with regard to the set of names proposed for the current batch of MPCs.
This was done rather than follow the advice on MPC 42956, which was to
accept only those names and citations that were submitted in the proper
form.  If that advice had been followed, only 36 of the relatively small set
of 97 submissions during July 31-Sept. 10 would have qualified, subject to
the need in some cases to rewrite the citations in more acceptable English.
Furthermore, to do this would have eliminated many very good proposals in a
set that the CSBN felt was of particularly high quality--in rather sharp
contrast to the name proposals submitted for the July 5 MPCs.  The procedure
followed was to ask each of the 13 CSBN members to select (secretly) up to
"about" 10 of the 97 proposals as worthy of further consideration.  The 54
name proposals selected by at least one member were then made known to the
CSBN members, and each member was asked to vote (again secretly) for up to
20 of these names. The outcome was that one name received 9 votes, three
names received 8 votes, two received 7 votes, five received 6 votes, five
received 5 votes and ten received 4 votes. These 26 names were therefore
deemed those accepted.  At this point--and not earlier--the corresponding
citations were edited for publication on MPC 43762-43763. 

While there are obvious merits to the above procedure (raising the standards
of minor-planet names; reversing the fact that minor-planet naming has
become so commonplace and indiscrimate that to have a minor planet named for
one can nowadays scarcely be considered an "honor"; greatly reducing the
time and effort spent by the MPC editing and otherwise verifying citations
that are not very understandable; greatly reducing the back-and-forth
discussion in the CSBN on names that are questionable), the CSBN is well
aware that not everybody will be happy with the result.  In particular,
while some names honoring amateur astronomers were accepted, they are
clearly underrepresented in the total, and names that are solely of
significance to the proposers and their friends were excluded.
Nevertheless, it would be difficult to argue that acceptance of just the 36
proposals that were properly formatted would have been a better choice.

Since the action this time by the CSBN was an experiment, not preannounced,
it would be inappropriate to reject the other 71 names outright. Most of
these other names are therefore likely to be accepted by the CSBN for
publication in future MPC batches, with their citations properly edited as
time permits. Of course, this by no means solves the naming problem, and the
MPC has already received 129 further name proposals (again just 36 of them
properly formatted!) that will be sent late next week to the CSBN for
consideration for publication in the Dec. 30 MPCs.

So we come back to the matter of proper funding for the MPC. Recommendation
7 of the U.K. Government Report of the Task Force on potentially hazardous
Near Earth Objects (Sept. 2000) requests that the (U.K.) Government and
other interested parties "seek ways of putting the
governance and funding of the Minor Planet Center on a robust international
footing"; and Recommendation 2/2 of a workshop cosponsored by the American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the U.N. Office of Outer Space
Affairs, the Confederation of European Aerospace Societies and the
International Academy of Astronautics, International Space Cooperation:
Addressing Challenges of the New Millennium (Mar. 2001), also states that
the MPC "should be put on an adequate and stable financial footing". It
ought to be clear from much of what is stated in the above paragraphs that
the matter is now becoming rather urgent. Traditionally, the MPC has relied
on the time-honored practice of generating income from subscriptions to its
services to cover a large fraction of its expenses. The recent policy of the
IAU has been to discourage funding of this type, which is in any case
difficult to assure nowadays, when services are largely provided
electronically, rather than via printed pages (even though the change from
paper to electronic actually increases the expenses, because of a desire to
publish more material and more quickly). In recent years, the diminishing
subscriptional support has been supplemented by what was first a grant from
and then a contract with NASA.  While this support has become essential to
the operation of the MPC, it is not a help when NASA "stretches" a year to
19 months, and the internationality of the MPC makes it inappropriate that
it receive its entire funding from a single government.

One clause of the contract signed between the IAU and the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory on Apr. 17 reads: "Should their combined resources
be inadequate to operate the MPC at the desirable level of activity, the IAU
and SAO will collaborate to identify and attract additional funding and/or
staff for the MPC operations." Although the MPC has sought advice on this
topic from the IAU Minor Planet Center Advisory Committee on more than one
occasion since the contract was signed, no advice whatsoever has been
forthcoming. Indeed, the principal response from the MPCAC Chair has been a
statement, dated Oct. 26, "officially, on behalf of the MPCAC" to the effect
that our making available single-night detections of unidentified minor
planets by ftp (cf. MPC 43423), though carried out as required within six
months of the signing of the contract, was "contrary" to the terms of the
contract. Certainly, this first attempt at making the "one-night stands"
available was incomplete in that it did not yet contain any observations
made prior to 2001: obviously, the intention is to add earlier data (back to
1992) as time permits them to be collected together. Furthermore, while some
may consider the "release" of the ONS to be a high-priority task for the
MPC, past experience with the ONS suggests otherwise (cf. MPC 42955). 

In the absence--so far--of "robust" or "stable" future funding for the MPC,
stopgap measures are of course welcome. The simplest measure is to encourage
more subscribers. While detailed information about subscriptions can be
obtained from, we note here that the regular monthly
subscription rate for the printed MPCs is $22.50, that for the Computer
Service is $10.00, and the latter can be combined with the Extended Computer
Service (which includes all the MPC files) for $35.00. Donations can also be
accepted. On MPC 42955 there was mention of a possible fee for processing
name proposals: the amount discussed was in the neighborhood of
$20.00-$30.00 per name, and it must be stressed that this is strictly a fee
that would allow a name and citation to be prepared for publication--not an
indication that the name is being "sold" (i.e., along the lines of the
International Star Registry). Yet another suggestion is that a fee be
instituted for processing observations, perhaps in the range 0.1-1 cent per
observation, with a minimum charge of $1.00 per e-mail message that could be
waived for observations of objects on The NEOCP. 

In making suggestions for financial support like those in the previous
paragraph, we do not wish to alienate amateur astronomers, who in
contributing observations also contribute their time.  Nevertheless, an
amateur does have a choice of what he or she does, and the MPC has always
tried to be meticulous about assigning credit to amateurs for their work.
But all contributors (amateur or professional) of data to the MPC, as well
as those who either make free use of MPC services or seek advice directly
from the MPC staff, should be aware of the strain the ever-increasing
activity on minor planets is now placing on a staff of 2.5 people. Remember
that, after all, if an MPC staff member is on the job after he has put in the 40 hours per
week for which he is paid, he, too, becomes an amateur; furthermore, to get
the job done, he has little choice but to spend time checking out a batch of
observations of numbered minor planets, a process for which there is scant
credit, whether or not the observations have actually been identified by the

When the Minor Planet Center was located at the Cincinnati Observatory it
was common for as long as six months to elapse between the publication of
batches of MPCs.  And although the Cincinnati staff was comparable in size
to what it is now, the total amount of data processed during those 30 years
was some three times less than what was processed by the MPC in Cambridge
during September 2001 alone.

When the MPC moved to SAO in 1978 the decision was made to issue the MPCs in
monthly batches.  In doing so, we were able to maintain the quality control,
documentation and referenceability that was the hallmark of the Cincinnati
operation--and, indeed, should be expected of any work
carried out on behalf of the IAU.  For more than 23 years this monthly
publication has in fact appeared, with only a very occasional month missed
(and then by prior arrangement) because of staff attendance at scientific
meetings, occasional vacations, etc.  In response to the current widespread
interest in minor planets--which was never the case when the MPC was in
Cincinnati--the MPC is nowadays updating information on new discoveries of
NEOs several times a day (a task formerly handled by the CBAT); observations
of NEOs and orbit computations for minor planets generally are provided
daily; and in recent months, by means of the MPSs and MPECs, we have been
publishing fully checked observations of minor planets and the recent
comets twice a month.  Obviously, we should like to maintain, even to
improve on, the services the MPC provides, in terms of both frequency and
content. But, given the intolerability of the present financial situation,
which both prevents the expansion of the MPC staff and may in fact result in
its reduction, it will be impossible to respond to all but the most urgent
communications from observers and others with its traditional almost
legendary speed, and it may be necessary to cut back on the frequency with
which its present services are updated or otherwise provided.        

Brian G. Marsden             (C) Copyright 2001 MPC           M.P.E.C.


>From Ron Baalke <>

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) News

Observations reveal curiosities on the surface of asteroid Ceres

San Antonio, Texas -- For immediate release

Boulder, Colorado -- October 19, 2001 -- An international team led by
scientists at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has discovered some
curious properties of the largest asteroid, Ceres. The astronomers observed
Ceres with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) at ultraviolet wavelengths using
a resolution higher than previously attained. The resulting images are the
first to resolve detail on the surface of Ceres and show features as small
as 50 kilometers across.

Led by Principal Investigator Dr. Alan Stern of SwRI, the team detected a
dark spot on the surface of Ceres, which it nicknamed "Piazzi" in honor of
the discoverer of Ceres. "Although we can't determine the nature of the spot
with these data, whether it is an area of different coloration or possibly a
crater from an impact by another asteroid, it is pretty big," says Dr. Joel
Parker, also of SwRI, who led the team in the analysis of the images. "The
Piazzi feature has a diameter of about 250 kilometers, which is more than a
quarter the size of Ceres. If it resulted from an impact, the object that hit
Ceres would have been about 25 kilometers across. It must have really shaken
things up."

The high-resolution images allowed the team to refine measurements of Ceres.
Although Ceres is the largest known asteroid -- estimated to contain more
than one-third of the total mass of all other asteroids combined --
researchers still dispute its size, even after 200 years of observations.
The new HST measurements indicate that the asteroid is slightly flattened,
with a diameter ranging from 930 to 970 kilometers. Spinning objects can
have a flattened or "squashed" shape depending on how big they are, how fast
they spin, and what kind of material they are made of. However, the amount
of flattening seen on Ceres is more than expected and may indicate that the
inner structure is not as homogeneous as previously assumed.

"These results are very tantalizing," says Stern. "What we need to be
definitive are observations with better resolution and frequent enough to
follow Ceres through a nine-hour rotation period to track surface features.
This 'movie' would allow us to finally map the surface of Ceres and figure
out what the Piazzi feature is." The team has already proposed such an
experiment with a new instrument to be installed on HST next year.

The analysis of the Ceres images will be published in the January 2002 issue
of The Astronomical Journal. Authors include researchers from SwRI, the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the Observatoire
Midi-Pyrénées in France.

In addition to being the largest asteroid, Ceres was also the first asteroid
to be discovered. In the latter part of the 18th century, astronomers noted
a regular spacing in the planets of
the solar system, but with a gap between Mars and Jupiter where they
expected to find a planet. On January 1, 1801, the Sicilian astronomer
Giuseppe Piazzi at the Palermo Observatory discovered
a moving object in the region. Researchers at the time assumed that this
object, Ceres, was the missing planet. However, early observations indicated
that Ceres was too small to be a planet, and as more such objects were
discovered in the region, they became known as "asteroids" or "minor
planets." Ceres orbits the sun once every 4.6 years at a distance of 41
million kilometers, and it spins on its axis once every nine hours.

EDITORS: The Ceres images are available for viewing and download at

SwRI is an independent, nonprofit, applied research and development
organization based in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 2,700 employees and
an annual research volume of more than $315 million.

For more information about exhaust emission measurements, contact Maria
Martinez, (210) 522-3305, Communications Department, or Dr. Joel Parker,
(303) 546-0265, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San
Antonio, Texas, 78228-0510, Fax (210) 522-3547.

>From Wired News, 31 October 2001,1282,48016,00.html

By Elan Lohmann

The United States can look forward to the most spectacular meteor show since
1966 -- and it might be another 98 years before anything so sensational will
be seen again.

The Nov. 18 Leonid meteor shower will be "very impressive, rare and
something that you'll want to see," said Peter Jenniskens, a research
scientist specializing in the study of meteors at the NASA/Ames Research
Center at California's Moffett Field.

"The August Perseids meteor shower, which normally gets the most annual
astronomer attention, records a rate of about 80 meteors an hour, but this
November's Leonids will record a rate over 2000," Jenniskens said.

Viewing conditions in the United States are expected to be sublime this
year. One reason for this is the new moon, which falls on Nov. 18, when the
sky will be its darkest.

A typical Leonid shower yields about 10 to 15 meteors per hour, but this
year Jenniskens estimates the meteor shower will have as many as 4,200 an
hour at its peak. Viewers along the East Coast will likely see the meteors
fall directly from above, while in the West they will shoot across the sky
at an angle.

The perfect viewing time is estimated to be between 4 and 6 a.m. EST, on
Nov. 18.

"It is a naked-eye event. All one needs is a clear dark sky away from the
city lights to enjoy the phenomena," Jenniskens said.

For a sneak preview, a good resource is the Leonid Flux Estimator, produced
by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence/NASA Ames center. Tools on
the site will calculate the best locations for viewing, the optimal spots
from any town and how active the shower is expected to be in that area.

The whole show should last 2 hours and create the effect of Earth moving
through a trail of dust, Jenniskens said.

An ordinary meteor showers occurs when Earth passes through debris left
behind by comets. But this year, the Earth will be passing through
particularly dense ribbons of comet debris.

The Leonid storm will occur when the Earth passes through a trail of tiny
dust particles left behind by Comet Tempel-Tuttle during its passage in

Tempel-Tuttle orbits the sun every 33.25 years, shedding dust particles as
it is warmed by sunlight. It first crossed the Earth's orbit in 860 A.D. The
earth passes through some of the trail every year, but this year it will be
particularly close.

Jenniskens said the next major Leonid storm will occur again in 2099, which
will be one of its last tours. "The comet will then leave the Earth's orbit
for good," he said.

In November 1833, the show was so spectacular many eyewitnesses feared the
world was coming to an end. In 1966, Americans viewed another excellent
stellar show, while in 1999, Europe witnessed an epic series of showers.

Jenniskens will be participating in the NASA-sponsored 2001 Leonid Multi
Instrument Aircraft (MAC) mission, to be launched out of Edwards Air Force

The 2001 Leonid MAC campaign follows a highly successful airborne campaign
during the 1999 storm visible throughout Europe, when more than 4,000
meteors rained through the sky at its peak. It was the first to be observed
by modern observing techniques.

"Only an airborne mission can bring scientists to the right place at the
right time to view the Leonids, and guarantee clear weather," Jenniskens
© Copyright 2001, Lycos, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


>From Andrew Yee <>

Office of News and Public Information
National Academy of Sciences
Washington, D.C.

Oct. 29, 2001

Scientific Information is Best Defense Against Bioterror Threat

Statement from
Bruce Alberts, President, National Academy of Sciences,
Wm. A. Wulf, President, National Academy of Engineering,
and Kenneth I. Shine, President, Institute of Medicine

News reports are emerging -- seemingly on an hourly basis -- about new
developments that may be linked to bioterrorism. No matter what the source
of these attacks, we believe Americans can best protect themselves by being
armed with the best available information from scientifically
credible sources.

Our nation already has a wealth of information and many experts to help
answer questions about every conceivable threat. Americans can ill afford to
rely on hearsay or information coming from those outside the scientific and
medical communities who may mean well but lack solid data supported by
evidence. We call on journalists, our political leaders, and all citizens to
seek the best available information from the most reliable sources as we
learn more about the magnitude of the current bioterrorism threat.

As we ourselves monitor daily developments, we continue to be alarmed by the
amount of inaccurate information being circulated about anthrax, sending
scores of confused citizens to take action that may, in fact, be
counterproductive. A multitude of Web sites and self-appointed experts have
emerged in the past weeks, hawking everything from gas masks to colloidal
silver. The fact is many of these remedies may well do more harm than good
or have serious side effects.

We urge everyone to take advantage of the useful bulletins being provided by
a number of trustworthy sources. The Web sites of the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, National Library of Medicine, and the Johns Hopkins
Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies, for example, carry information of
excellent quality. Finally, the National Academies have been studying issues
of counterterrorism for many years. While mainly for policy-makers, a
collection of these reports is available free on our Web site for interested

Our nation has tremendous scientific and technical resources that can be
marshaled to help us deal with terrorist actions. The National Academies
stand ready to contribute in every way possible.

Never before has the adage "Information is power" rung so true. Armed with
the facts, Americans can make enormous progress in combating terrorism.


* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
* National Library of Medicine
* Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies
* National Academies collection of reports



>From Hermann Burchard <]

Dear Benny,

risks from potential SMALL NEO (SNEO) impactors < 1 km down to 50 m were
considered too great to be disregarded by all CCNet contributors who in the
last several issues (Oct 29-31) have commented on this matter. The
cost-effectiveness question was raised and suggests a need to look for
alternative schemes with a more practical scope than cataloging all SNEOs.

Here, I am inquiring of the NEO community about the practicality and utility
of a program of short-term SNEO detection vs. exhaustive cataloging. Only
those SNEOs that threaten impact immediately, within a few weeks of
detection, need to be found. This time frame should provide
a chance to launch some well-prepared deflection mechanism (that clearly is
not yet in place, at present).

Some SNEOs can be discovered with plenty spare time for preparations using
visual telescopes.  A large fraction of total hazard from SNEOs originates
from a fairly small number of discrete meteor streams -- how large a
fraction I am not sure. Further narrowing down SNEO search to these few
streams should allow for cost-effectiveness while still providing
substantial protection.

Again, chief among risk makers are primarily the alpha- and beta-Taurids,
according to the prevailing Giant Comet hypothesis of Clube-Napier. Of these
only the day-time beta-Taurids which "come out of the Sun" cannot be
detected visually. Very likely the Tunguska impactor belonged to this group.

For such SNEOs, I believe, long-baseline radar interferometry could be used,
either Earth- or satellite-based, out to a distance of a fraction of an AU.
[See my CCNet notes 21 Mar and 23 Mar (footnote), 2001, a reaction to
remarks in THE TIMES (Higher Ed Suppl 16 Mar): "One problem is a vast
population of objects that would not wipe out humankind on impact, but are
capable of devastating a city and are too small for practical detection."]

The day-time meteor streams were first detected at Jodrell Bank using radar.
Existing radio telescopes have been combined before for long-baseline
interferometry.  From my crude estimates, a 4000 km aperture should be
sufficient using Ku-band radar for one week's notice. I defer to experts who
already understand these things (e.g. see Duncan Steel's book "Rogue

  (a) Orbital dynamics
  (b) Wavelength and baseline (aperture) design
  (c) Radar emission power
  (d) Echo signal reception and decoding

If this is at all workable, how difficult would it be to conduct an
experiment to see how many SNEOs (if any) can be detected in the
beta-Taurids, approaching the general vicinity of planet Earth (out to the
distance of the moon or larger) next June from the direction of the Sun?

Admittedly, a practical scheme like this would have little theoretical
value, neither would it be as attractive a proposal as a general NEO
cataloging effort.



>From Andy Nimmo <>

Dear Dr Peiser,

On Tuesday, the item you began with ended by saying, "Private
enterprise, say Tumlinson and many of the other true believers, is poised to
take over the quest to the Moon and beyond.
"It's no longer pie in the sky," says Tumlinson."

The phrase many space fans used to use back in the 70s and 80s was "Pie in
the sky is a real meal!"  Being positive, this tended to attract favourable
attention, particularly from the young.

In Wednesday's CCN, in their quote from "DEALING WITH THE IMPACT HAZARD"
David Morrison, Alan Harris, Geoff Sommer, Clark Chapman, and Andrea Carusi
said, "The NEO community has a social responsibility to ensure that its
message is not just heard but comprehended by society at large." Im sure we
would all very much agree with this.

Some paragraphs earlier, Duncan Steel asked: "If you, or I, or any of the
other members of the Spaceguard Committee in 1991-92, had been told that a
decade hence we would still not have even one dedicated NEO search telescope
of aperture above two metres, I doubt whether we would have believed it. As
we often say, this is a no-brainer. So why have we been singularly
unsuccessful in getting the job done? That is not a rhetorical question: I
would dearly love to know why, as I simply don't understand."

I am not a scientist, but have been active in space politics for some 45
years now, and it seems to me that there is an omission being made, which
were it to be corrected, just might help a little. I know most of you are
professors and teaching the young in one way or another is your business,
but how come when the space conscious young of UK are about to have their
annual get-together, the UKSEDS Conference, there seems to be nobody going
along from the NEO community?

The Conference takes place in the Dept. of Physics Herschel Building
University of Newcastle on the 10th and 11th of November. (Registration
08:30 - 09:30 on Saturday morning). For full details, or to pre-register, go
to: . John McWilliam MP,
Chair of Parliamentary Space Committee will be attending.

How about some of you coming along and getting to know the students? If you
can persuade the younger generation they will help get the needed Messages

On the Monday immediately following the Conference, the Space Generation
Forum ( are holding a further meeting to:
* To produce policy recommendations to the BNSC and UK government on
what course to follow in both the short and long-term.
* To produce a follow up plan for further projects and policy advice.

The end product will be a document outlining the "youth vision" and this
will be presented to BNSC and also carried to the ESA council of ministers
in Edinburgh later that same week.

Best wishes, Andy Nimmo


>From Michael Martin-Smith <>

The discussions about space colonisation in an earlier CCNet edition, and
the cost benefits of NEO detection/deflection might appear at first sight to
be unconnected. Hoewver, if we now hold that the societal and
ecologial/epidemiological consequences of even quite small impacts are much
larger that pure physics would suggest, and hence that detection without the
means to deflect them would be valueless, we have to accept that we are
going to have to incur quite considerable costs in any programme worth the

It seems logical that the best chance of actually running such a programme
in good time and to recoup some or most to the expense is to set out to
constructively deflect threatening NEOs to our own profit- or even to act
proactively and utilize such bodies before they even become a threat. This
of course would give us far more positive options and would provide the
basis for expanding our capabilities in Space generally. Low cost access to
Space and ISRU for space exploration would be generically useful and put us
in a far better posiion to profit from what is now seen merely as a threat.

Yes there is a stick ( biowarfare, epidemics, major impacts or
supervolcanism etc) pushing us slowly towards the idea of space colonization
-but there is also the carrot of creatively developing hazardous NEOs in a
new space based civilization from which in time  new species of Homo Sapiens
could evolve.

More fundamentally, learning to live in Space will be a growing factor in
the discipline of Astrobiology - defined as the "study of the Origins,
Evolution, and Distribution of Life in the Universe". This is arguably the
greatest defining cultural - even evolutionary - contribution of our
civilization, now under threat, to the tapestry of Life on Earth , and will
stand long after costs, dangers, even direct economic applications have
ceased to concern us.

I propose that this classical definition be expanded to read "Astrobiology
is the study of the Origins, Evolution, Distribution and Future of Life and
Mind in an evolving Universe"

Put this way, Space colonization and NEO extinction avoidance are two halves
of the same coin.

Dr Michael Martin-Smith, author of "Man Medicine and Space"


>From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny

One of my current projects, as a consulting mechanical engineer, is to
evaluate the cost effectiveness of various safety-related devices on
vehicles, such as side airbags. I use published guidelines for this work.
For evaluation purposes the economic cost per fatal road accident is about
AU$1 million (strictly US$500,000 but I suspect the value is higher in the
US). Now this is for a highly localised event and the main costs are from
items such as lost earnings, family and community losses, pain and
suffering, medicial costs and legal services. Property damage amounts to
around $20,000. It is clearly inappropriate to use a localised method for a
natural disaster.

The recently published MAXIMUM PROBABLE LOSS METHODOLOGY issued by the
Australian SPACE LICENSING AND SAFETY OFFICE sets out "a monetary value of
AU$5million attributed to each casualty. The MPL approach is conservative in
not differentiating between fatalities and serious injuries, treating both
as casualties."  This relates to the risk of a rocket launch causing
casulties, including serious injuries. Property damage (assumed 50% of
casualty costs) and clean-up costs are additional.
The 1989 Newcastle (Australia) Earthquake caused 15 deaths, 150 injuries
(interestingly the same fatal to serious injury ratio as road accidents) and
seriously damaged 33,000 buildings. The total estimated cost of the disaster
was $4 billion. This equates to about AU$250 million per
fatality. I acknowledge that the number of fatalities is a very unreliable
indicator of the economic costs of a disaster but it is clear that the
cost-effectiveness methods used for localised events such as car crashes are
inappropriate for large disasters. Furthermore, this
does not account for the effects of shock and distress throughout the
community and the disruption to the economy (points raised by Clark Chapman
and Duncan Steel).

Suppose the "benefit" of Spaceguard is only applied to the savings of US
lives, then the estimated 100 US fatalities per year from comet/asteroid
impacts (based on a global figure of about 3000 per year) amounts to a cost
of $25 billion per year. That is somewhat less than the US is spending on
searching for NEOs! Admittedly, as Oliver Morton points out, the cost of
deflection or mitigation needs to be factored into the equation but there
still seems to be plenty left over for the search effort, including the
LSST. Remember that Spaceguard should give several decades of warning before
an impact so that deflection/mitigation costs are spread over many years (50
years adds up to $1.2 trillion!). On this basis, spending at least $1
billion per year on Spaceguard does not seem so outrageous.

It seems to me there should be an international plan for progressively
scaling up the Spacegaurd search to detect a greater proportion of the
smaller objects. The next step should be the 500m limit proposed by the UK
Task Force but planning should be under way for smaller objects, in
anticipation that technology will improve and that society will demand
protection from predictable and avoidable catastrophes.

On a related matter, before the terrorist events in the USA I was playing
with the idea of a fictitous article along the following lines:

* 1000s of mines with explosive energies greater than H-bombs had been
discovered orbiting the Sun in the region of the Earth
* If the Earth collided with one of these objects they had the
potential to obliterate cities and small countries.
* The source of the mines was unknown but they appear to have been
orbiting the Sun for millions of years. Perhaps they had been planted by
aliens to ensure that no competing intelligent civilisation arose in
this region of the galaxy.
* NASA/USAF had secret missions, costing trillions of $, to find and
defuse these objects without sending the world into panic Take out the
alien intelligence factor, and the secret missions and we are left
with Spaceguard :)

Michael Paine


>From Christian Gritzner <>

Hi Benny,

I just found that about the new Tunguska study at

Best wishes,

Mittwoch 31. Oktober 2001, 19:25 Uhr
Neue Studie: Asteroiden-Einschlag in Tunguska

(ExpeditionZone) - Was die mysteriöse Verwüstung im sibirischen Tunguska
Anfang des letzten Jahrhunderts verursacht hat, blieb bis heute ungeklärt,
da keinerlei Spuren der Ursache entdeckt wurden.

Wie vor drei Monaten im Rahmen einer fantastischen Theorie über
Spiegelmaterie ausführlich berichtet, vernichtete am 30. Juni 1908 ein grell
leuchtender Feuerball die Region um den sibirischen Fluss Tunguska, rund
hundert Kilometer nördlich des Städtchens Vanavara.

Ein unidentifizierbares Objekt krachte mit der tausendfachen Wucht einer
Hiroshima-Atombombe auf die Erde. Über 6.000 Quadratkilometer Kiefernwald
wurden dabei verwüstet, weltweit wurden seismische Erschütterungen
registriert und ein bis nach Europa sichtbares Auroren-ähnliches
Nachglühen erhellte drei Tage lang den Nachthimmel.

Seit 1927 wurde das Areal von zahlreichen wissenschaftlichen Expeditionen
genauestens untersucht, doch es wurden weder ein entsprechend großer
Einschlagskrater noch für das Gestein von Himmelskörpern typische
Bestandteile entdeckt. Dieses Rätsel war seit Jahrzehnten Anlass für
verschiedenste Spekulationen, die bis hin zum Zusammenstoß außerirdischer
Raumschiffe oder einem Schwarzen Loch reichten.

Italienische Geologen und Astophysiker der Universität von Bologna haben
sich seit Anbeginn besonders verdient bei den Forschungen um Tunguska
gemacht. Sie unternahmen nach der Erstexpedition von Prof. Dr. Kulik - dem
ein Grossteil des vorhandenen Dokumentarmaterials zu verdanken ist - immer
wieder Expeditionen in die abgelegene Gegend.

In jahrzehntelanger Kleinarbeit sammelten sie alle verfügbaren Informationen
und Studien über die Katastrophe von 1908 zusammen. Als besonders wertvoll
erwiesen sich dabei auch die in verschiedenen Archiven russischer Behörden
recherchierten Berichte von Augenzeugen. Aber auch die seismischen Daten,
Untersuchungen von Bodenproben und die Fallrichtung der Bäume gaben gute

Nun präsentiert ein interdisziplinäres Team aus Astronomen, Physikern und
Geologen mehrerer italienischer Institute und der Universität von Bologna
den bislang detailliertesten Forschungsbericht über Tunguska in der
aktuellen Ausgabe des Fachmagazins Astronomy and Astrophysics (Vol. 377
Oktober III).

"Wir haben eine genaue Analyse zusammengestellt aus allen wissenschaftlichen
Publikationen und bislang unveröffentlichten Augenzeugenberichten," erklärt
dazu Dr Luigi Foschini vom TeSRE-Institut gegenüber BBC. "Dies erlaubte uns
erstmals, den Orbit des Himmelskörpers zu errechnen." Wobei viele Anzeichen
- wie Orbit, niedriger Einflugswinkel und Geschwindigkeit - eher auf einen
Asteroiden deuten würden.

Demzufolge kam ein rund 4 km durchmessender Asteroid sehr geringer Dichte
mit einer Geschwindigkeit von 11 km pro Sekunde aus dem südöstlichen Himmel
geschossen. Aus der Richtung und allen anderen Faktoren wurden 886 mögliche
Orbits er- und berechnet.

Die Abgleichung mit den Flugbahnen bekannter Objekte mit passendem Orbit
ergab dann eine "Endauswahl" von 2 Kometen und 7 NEAs (NearEarthAsteroids),
Objekten die der Erde gefährlich nahe kommen können. Sie entstehen zumeist
im Asteroidengürtel zwischen Mars und Jupiter, wenn große Brocken
zusammenkrachen und kleine Bruchstücke weggesprengt werden.

Laut Foschini konnte es sich um ein Objekt gehandelt haben, ähnlich dem 1997
entdeckten Asteroiden Mathilde, dessen Dichte nicht viel größer als jene von
Wasser ist. Der Eintritt in die Atmosphäre würde es soweit zerstören, dass
nichts anderes mehr den Boden erreicht, als die Schockwelle.

Die Forschergruppe um L. Foschini, P. Farinella, Ch. Fröschlèe, R. Gonczi,
T.J. Jopek, G. Longo und P. Michel meint jedoch auch, dass dies noch nicht
der Weisheit letzter Schluss sein muss, denn letzten Endes handelt es sich
um Wahrscheinlichkeitsmodell - allerdings das bislang Genaueste.


>From The Washington Times,  24 October 2001

Forty percent of Americans believe supernatural intervention will bring an
end to human history, according to a recent poll.

Half of 1,000 Americans polled are not convinced the physical world will end
someday and another 10 percent are not sure, according to a Barna Research
Group poll conducted in June.

Of the 40 percent who believed in a supernatural end to the Earth,
two-thirds of them said it was "very likely" Jesus Christ would return.
Another 15 percent said it was "somewhat likely" He would come back. The
most fervent believers in a physical return of Christ were evangelical
Christians (75 percent), followed by mainline Protestants (69 percent), then
Catholics (55 percent).

Several of those polled said the world would end either through an
environmental disaster or by war. The poll was commissioned by Tyndale House
Publishers, which was issuing a line of "Left Behind" books, an apocalyptic
series on the end times.

When asked if countries in the Middle East would be entangled in events
surrounding the end, 48 percent said it was "very likely" and 26 percent
said it was "somewhat likely." Of those who believed in the world's end,
half said it was "very" or "somewhat" likely it would happen in their

When asked what would happen to them should there be a Second Coming, 61
percent of those who believed in a world's end said they would go to heaven.
Twenty-eight percent said they did not know. Protestants far outpolled
Catholics (71 percent to 53 percent) as confident they would go to heaven.

Copyright 2001, The Washington Times


>From Ananova, 2 November 2001

Men face extinction, says BMJ report

Men may be in danger of extinction because of sperm banks, fertility
treatment and human cloning.

A report in the British Medical Journal claims attitudes to the role of men
in society may also hasten their demise.

Professor Seigfried Meryn says men already have higher rates for all major
causes of death, shorter life expectancy and women can now do their jobs
just as well.

Professor Meryn, who will speak at the First World Congress on Men's Health,
says: "There is a sustained increase in psychological disorders in men,
including alcohol and substance abuse, mid-life crisis, depression and
domestic violence, while men's increasing aggression also remains an
unsolved health and societal problem.

"Over 30 wars and conflicts rage around the world are, mostly created,
maintained and aggravated by men."

Professor Meryn says there is speculation about the continued existence of
the gender. He says: "With the advent of sperm banks, in-vitro
fertilisation, sex sorting techniques, human cloning and same-sex marriages,
it is reasonable to wonder about the future role of men in society."

The professor believes the launch of initiatives such as the International
Society for Men's Health, the European Men's Health Forum and Men's World
Day, tomorrow, will help the problem.

Dr Ian Banks, president of the European Men's Health Forum, said men worry
about their health but feel unable to talk about it until it is often too
late, reports the Daily Mail. They can find attending a general practice
surgery difficult and they often find it "male unfriendly".

Copyright 2001, Ananova

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