CCNet 103/2003 - 11 November 2003

Across Britain, more than 40 million people - in airports and buses, in law
courts and football clubs, at railway stations and banks, radio and television
stations, in superstores, schools and universities and those at home are expected
to fall silent for two minutes at 11am on Armistice Day, Tuesday 11th November.
The Two Minute Silence marks the moment the guns fell silent at the end of the
First World War - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in
1918. It is a moment to remember all those who have given their lives for freedom and
democracy in the conflicts of the last century and in the early years of this
new millennium.


    Rainer Arlt <>

    Houston Chronicle, 10 November 2003

    St Louis Post-Dispatch, 7 November 2003

    Newsday, 10 November 2003

    The State, 10 November 2003

    Space Daily, 8 November 2003



An unusual double Leonid meteor shower is going to peak next month over parts of Asia and North America.
October 10, 2003: The Leonid meteor shower is coming. Twice.

Bill Cooke of the Space Environments Group at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center explains:
"Normally there's just one Leonid meteor shower each year, but this year we're going to have
two: one on Nov. 13th and another on Nov. 19th."

Both are caused by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which swings through the inner solar system every 33
years. With each visit the comet leaves behind a trail of dusty debris--the stuff of meteor
showers. Lots of the comet's old dusty trails litter the mid-November part of Earth's orbit.

"Our planet glides through the debris zone every year," says Cooke. "It's like a minefield.
Sometimes we hit a dust trail, sometimes we don't." Direct hits can spark a meteor storm,
which is defined as more than 1000 shooting stars per hour. "That's what happened in, for
example, 1966 and 2001," says Cooke. "Those were great years for Leonids."

"This year we're going to brush past two of the trails--no direct hits," he says. Even so,
"we might have a nice display."

The first shower is expected on Nov. 13th around 17:17 UT. For about three hours centered on
that time Earth will be close to some dust shed by Tempel-Tuttle in the year 1499. Sky watchers
in Alaska, Hawaii and along the Pacific rim of Asia are favored. They'll see anywhere from a
few to 40 meteors per hour--"if they can avoid the glare from that night's gibbous Moon,"
cautions Cooke. A good strategy for moonlit meteor observing: travel to high altitudes where
the air is clear or stand in the shade of a tall building or hillside.

Curiously, the Moon will be much closer to the 1499 trail than Earth will be. "If the Moon had
an atmosphere to catch the comet dust, there would be about 1400 meteors per hour in lunar
skies--a real storm," notes Cooke. Instead, the Leonids will simply hit the ground.

Most Leonid meteoroids are microscopic, and when they hit the Moon they do little more than
raise a puff of moon dust. But a few will be bigger: the size of golf balls or grapefruits.
Traveling about 160,000 mph, these impactors can cause explosions visible from Earth. (For more
information about this, read the Science@NASA story Explosions on the Moon.)

"This year we won't be able to see any lunar impacts," notes Cooke, "because most of the Leonids
will strike the far side of the Moon. Some will hit the Earth-facing side, but the ground where
they hit will be sunlit. That makes it very hard to see the explosions."

The second and more impressive shower arrives almost a week later on Nov. 19th when Earth
approaches a trail shed in 1533. "Sky watchers up and down the US east coast will have the
best view," says Cooke. "For a while around 07:28 UT (2:28 a.m. EST), they could see more
than one meteor per minute." The Moon, a thin crescent on Nov. 19th, won't be bright enough
to interfere with the display. (Nor will it be close to the cometary dust stream, so once
again there will be no visible lunar explosions.)

Cooke assembled these forecasts using data from several researchers who have done a good job
predicting Leonid storms in recent years: Peter Jenniskens at NASA's Ames Research Center,
Jeremie Vaubaillon of the Institut de Mecanique Celeste et de Calcul des Ephemerides in France,
and Esko Lyytinen. They mostly agree that Earth will encounter dust streams on Nov. 13th and
19th, but there is less consensus about how intense the resulting showers will be. Lyytinen, for
 instance, predicts a maximum of just 30 meteors per hour on Nov. 19th. Vaubaillon says 100.

Who's right? See for yourself. Be outside when the time comes, looking up.


Rainer Arlt <>

Dear Benny,

There was a Leonid meteor announcement in the CCNet today.
A compilation of Leonid model predictions is now published
by Vaubaillon, Lyytinen, Nissinen and Asher. The editorial
board of WGN, the Journal of the Int. Meteor Org. has agreed
to put the article online immediately. I am appending the
announcement with the key table of that paper below. The
information might be useful for CCNet readers.

Best regards,

Leonid predictions published in WGN, Journal of the IMO

An article by J. Vaubaillon, E. Lyytinen, M. Nissinen, and D.J. Asher
is now in press for the October issue of WGN, vol. 31. The paper is
already available at       or on the mirror site

The authors' compilation of 2003 Leonid models is given below. Larger
values of Da_0 correspond to fainter meteors. f_M measures the extent
to which a trail has stretched in the along-orbit direction being 1.0
for a 1-revolution trail and closer to zero for more stretched trail
sections. Negative values of f_M occur when the order of meteoroids
is reversed due to planetary perturbations. ZHR is the measure for
visual hourly meteor rates with the radiant in the zenith and a stel-
lar limiting magnitude of +6.5.

Trail  Model           Da_0   f_M    Time    UT               ZHR
1499   Asher&McNaught  0.28  ~0.03   Nov 13, 13h15            -
1499   Asher&McNaught  0.26  ~0.8    Nov 13, 18h20            -
1499   Lyytinen        0.28  ~1.6    Nov 13, 16h40 half a day 100
1499   Vaubaillon                    Nov 13, 17h17            120
1533   Asher&McNaught  0.30  -0.04   Nov 19, 06h30            -
1533   Lyytinen        0.30  ~0.1    Nov 19, 08h              dozen(s)
1533   Vaubaillon                    Nov 19, 07h28            100
1333   Asher&McNaught  0.12  ~0.02   Nov 20, 00h50            -
1333   Lyytinen              ~0.02   Nov 20, 01h30            20
1333   Vaubaillon                    Nov 20, 01h26            15
 736   Lyytinen       -0.008         Nov 22, 21h              10
 736   Vaubaillon                    Nov 22, 22h02             2
 636   Vaubaillon                    Nov 23, 02h56            10
1733   Lyytinen        0.11          Nov 19, 00h25        a few dozen?

On behalf of the editorial board of WGN,
Rainer Arlt

Rainer Arlt  --  Astrophysikalisches Institut Potsdam --
Visual Commission - International Meteor Organization -- --  phone: +49-331-7499-354  --  fax: +49-331-7499-526


Houston Chronicle, 10 November 2003

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Just last month, a meteorite slammed into a village in eastern India.

Eleven people were injured and two homes were destroyed by fire.

Perhaps more unsettling, in 1908, a space rock screamed into Earth's atmosphere, exploding in
the sky over a remote Siberian forest with a force greater than a 10-megaton nuclear blast.

Fires started, wildlife perished and trees fell for miles in every direction.

These days, efforts under way to detect comets and asteroids on a potential collision course
with Earth include an unassuming scientist from Ridgewood, N.J., with an idea for a better

William Hoffman doesn't have a company, or investors for his detection system, called "Looking
out for you." But he received a patent (U.S. No. 6,452,538), and some distinguished astronomers
say his idea is intriguing.

Hoffman wants to place telescopes on the outer-space side of telecommunications satellites
where they can continuously scan the heavens, free from cloud cover that often hampers
earthbound telescopes, to look for what astronomers call NEOs, or Near Earth Objects.

The data would beam down to a ground station and be sent -- for a fee -- to schools or
institutions or individuals who could use it to pinpoint the rocks' orbit.

"I can't speak for NASA, but personally I think it's a great idea if he can make it work," said
Dan Mazenek, an aerospace engineer based at NASA's Langley Research Center and director of
a study on how best to search for large comets and asteroids that might strike Earth.

"If he can get the money to put telescopes up there, then I'm interested in the results," said
Lucy McFadden, a University of Maryland astronomer and a director of NASA's Dawn Discovery

McFadden was one of 13 scientists and researchers who signed an open letter to Congress in July
warning of the threat from space and urging the government to invest in some kind of system
to help guard against a significant hit.

"There are lots and lots of people that would buy into the idea of helping protect the Earth
by signing onto a program like this," said Kelly Beatty, executive editor of Sky & Telescope
magazine. Whether they would pay for the privilege is another question, he added.

Copyright 2003 The (Hackensack) Record


St Louis Post-Dispatch, 7 November 2003

Mission could shed some light on how the moon was formed

Lunar craters have given us tantalizing bits of information. Scientists hope a mission proposed for 2009 can tell us more.

Looking forward to the lunar eclipse tonight? The real show was 4 billion years ago.

Back then, volleys of meteoroids, many dozens of miles wide, bombarded the young moon. The energy blasted holes miles deep into the lunar landscape and flung boulders into space. Some impacts shook the entire moon with their force, said lunar geochemist Randy Korotev of Washington University.

"I often think I wish I could have been there to see it," said Korotev. "But I don't know where I'd stand."

Lunar craters are some of our best clues about the Earth's first half billion years. Our planet took a similar beating back then, but the evidence has been erased by plate tectonics and weather. Missions to the moon have delivered clues about the era, but debate rages over how the nascent days of the solar system looked. Now three Washington University scientists are helping propose an unmanned mission in 2009 to the dark side of the moon, as it's known colloquially, to learn more.

Craters on the near side of the moon, where the Apollo astronauts explored, have their own secrets. Among other things, analysis of moon rocks has suggested that the moon formed in less than a million years, and led scientists to theorize the existence of a hot moon sea.

One giant crater, known as Imbrium, is especially enigmatic. That crater was formed by a rocky meteoroid about 40 miles across, said Washington University chemist Larry A. Haskin. The meteoroid blasted rock out from more than 4 miles deep inside when it hit.

In 1998 a NASA spacecraft called the Lunar Prospector scanned the moon's surface and found relatively high amounts of a trace element called thorium concentrated in rocks in the general area of Imbrium.

Moon rocks brought back from that area by Apollo astronauts had shown high concentrations of thorium, so scientists had mistakenly theorized that these elements were evenly distributed in a layer deep within the moon. As meteoroids punched into the moon's interior, the theory went, the thorium was blasted out onto the surface.

Yet the moon surface is pockmarked with craters. If the thorium was in fact evenly distributed, Lunar Prospector would have detected it all over the moon.

The fact that the thorium was found on only one side raises intriguing questions. Were "tides," as Haskin called them, pulling the thorium on a sea of melted rock toward the Earth?

"Nobody knows yet," said Haskin, who has been studying the Imbrium crater for years with Korotev and Washington University planetary geologist Bradley L. Jolliff. The three are now trying to answer another question: Was the Imbrium impact simply the last of a long line of impacts, or was it part of a sustained barrage that scientists call the "cataclysm"?

The answer may lie on the moon's far side. NASA recently determined that a mission to take rock samples from a crater there would be one of four candidates for a 2009 unmanned effort. The trio here is helping develop a proposal for the endeavor.

If rocks from that side of the moon are the same age as the samples taken near Imbrium - roughly 3.9 billion years old - that could mean the cataclysm was real.

And that, in turn, would rewrite the early history of our solar system.

Copyright 2003, St Louis Post-Dispatch


Newsday, 10 November 2003,0,3409451.story?coll=sns-ap-science-headlines
Associated Press Writer

THE DALLES, Ore. -- The National Park Service has proposed a marked trail to commemorate Ice Age floods through four Western states that left canyons, valleys, lakes and ridges that still dominate the terrain today -- some so dramatic they can be seen from outer space.

Picture an ice dam 30 miles wide, forming a lake 2,000 feet deep and 200 miles long, stretching from the Idaho panhandle into western Montana, containing more water than Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined.

Now picture that dam giving way, the water thundering out in 48 hours, through four states, across Washington and into the Pacific.

These cataclysmic events, called the Missoula Floods, took place at the end of the last Ice Age, 14,000 years ago -- the biggest scientifically documented floods ever.

Yet no marked trail commemorates the floods' path or explains their significance to the public. A growing number of amateur and professional geologists fascinated by the floods think that's a shame, and a Park Service study has proposed a remedy.

The study, issued in 2001, suggests an Ice Age Floods National Geographic Trail that would follow the 600-mile path of the flood, mostly along existing highways, with signs highlighting important features.

The interpretive flood pathway would cross four states as part of the national park system, recognizing the floods and the 16,000 square miles they covered as a nationally significant resource.

Some markers already exist along the floods' trail, but they were placed by a variety of organizations and are hit and miss, according to Jim O'Connor, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Park Service study envisions a comprehensive route, with towns near key flood features as "gateway communities." Hiking and horse trails, canoeing and kayaking routes would help visitors realize the scope of what happened. The study also recommends that no private land be taken for the project.

The Ice Age Flood Institute, a private nonprofit group that educates the public about the floods, would also like to see visitors' centers on the trail.

But while funding for the Park Service study came from Congress, Congress has not followed up.

"No bill has been introduced yet," said Dale Middleton of Seattle, president of the flood institute, which met Oct. 11 to discuss the project. "We are trying to get someone in the Northwest congressional delegation to do so."

Evidence of the floods are everywhere. They hit the Columbia River near present-day Wenatchee, Wash., probably swelling the river to 4,000 times its present-day flow and spilling over the Columbia River Gorge.

The gorge, 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep, couldn't contain the water, which scoured the rock walls clean and spilled over, probably widening the gorge.

Geologists compare the gorge to a nozzle that sent the floods pouring out in a wall of water perhaps 500 feet high at 80 mph, putting Oregon's Willamette Valley under 400 feet of water as far south as the Eugene area and present-day Portland.

"Most of Portland is a big sand and debris bar deposited where the flood slowed down as it spread out over the Portland Basin," said O'Connor, who is with the USGS Portland office and has researched the floods extensively.

Willamette Valley's fertile soil -- which attracted settlers from the Oregon Trail -- comes from deposits of flood silt that reach 100 feet deep in places.

"The Oregon Trail might have gone somewhere else if the floods hadn't filled the valley full of sand and silt," he said.

Residents of Portland's comfortable Alameda Ridge and posh Lake Oswego still curse as they tussle with boulders on their property, unaware that they may have ridden the floods for 500 miles encased in icebergs.

The Willamette Meteorite, at nearly 16 tons the largest ever found in the United States and the sixth-largest in the world, apparently also rode the flow. It was identified near West Linn south of Portland in 1902 and is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Flood deposits 50 feet thick in the Beaverton area west of Portland are considered a factor in the area's vulnerability to earthquakes.

In what is now eastern Washington, water flooded today's Spokane Valley to a depth of about 500 feet. The floods ripped away bedrock and formed deep canyons, or "coulees," which remain. Erosion and washed-out channels are visible from space. Some scientists say they curiously resemble those on Mars.

O'Connor said it is not clear whether the floods hit inhabited regions.

Scientists also believe that the Missoula Floods occurred repeatedly over the course of about 2,500 years, as new glacial ice dams plugged the river outlet, Glacial Lake Missoula refilled with water, and the dam then ruptured once again.

University of Montana geology professor David Alt, author of "Glacial Lake Missoula and its Humongous Floods," says the lake broke through ice dams and refilled at least 36 times, probably averaging once every 50 years.

U.S. Geological Survey experts have estimated the flow near the dam breach at 10 times more than the combined flow of all the rivers in the world.

But scientists have often disagreed over the floods' size, scope and frequency. Some have been pilloried for what they thought, none more than J Harlen Bretz, a geologist who worked at the University of Chicago and did extensive field work on the floods.

In 1923 he came up with the theory of a catastrophic flood that deluged the landscape over a matter of days. According to Alt, Bretz's theory contradicted prevailing scientific thinking that geologic events took place gradually, not all at once.

Bretz's colleagues denounced him, but eventually they realized that his research was right. By the time Bretz died in 1981, well into his 90s, he'd been vindicated.

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press


The State, 10 November 2003

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Scientists have launched a project to construct a highly accurate calendar of key events in what they call "deep time," the almost unimaginable span since Earth was born 4.5 billion years ago.

Sponsors think a precise prehistoric time scale can help them better interpret what is happening to our planet and predict what may lie ahead as the world gets warmer. For example, they hope the project, called CHRONOS (Greek for "time"), will help settle arguments over the causes and effects of climate change on the evolution and extinction of species.

Project director Bruce Wardlaw, a geologist at the U.S. Geologic Survey in Reston, Va., said the purpose was to "produce a global time scale of Earth's history to solve problems for the benefit of society."

Researchers are counting on tools and technologies developed over the last 10 years to greatly increase the accuracy of the geologic time scale, said Samuel Bowring, a geology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Bowring told a deep-time conference in Washington in October that the goal is to achieve a resolution of 1/10th of 1 percent - far better than the existing errors of 2 percent or more - by 2015. That would cut some uncertainties from millions to thousands of years.

Scientists from multiple disciplines are involved in the effort. Physicists are perfecting their ability to determine the age of a rock by the rate of decay of radioactive elements. Geologists recently learned how to relate periodic switches in the magnetism of the seafloor to events on land. Chemists can precisely date lava and ashes from ancient volcanoes. Biologists have learned to read the "molecular clocks" in living cells that tell when a species was created. Astronomers connect regular changes in Earth's orbit around the sun to geologic records.

Researchers say a finer time scale is needed because existing geologic "clocks" are notoriously inaccurate, sometimes off by millions of years. They are based mostly on evidence contained in layers of rock laid down eons ago, as can be seen vividly in the walls of Grand Canyon.

These ribbons of stone are twisted, broken and partly erased by wind, water, volcanoes and the rise and fall of mountains, making their interpretation subject to significant errors.

"There are lots of missing sections in the rock record," Bowring said. Some geologists liken the existing record to a net - "a lot of holes tied together with string."

For example, the death of the dinosaurs is commonly blamed on a giant comet or meteor that smacked into the ocean about 65 million years ago. But geologists can't date the impact to within a million years, making it uncertain whether the collision preceded or followed the dinosaurs' extinction.

Project scientists say a special concern is the risk of an abrupt climate change - a rapid rise or fall of 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit in global temperature in less than a century - as happened repeatedly in the distant past.

The fear is that the gradual climate warming over the last 150 years could eventually reach a tipping point, as when hot water suddenly turns to steam, and send the world's temperatures soaring.

"Climate can change on a dime," said Gerilyn Soreghan, who teaches geology at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

"We see more and more evidence for abrupt climate change," said Isabel Montanez, a geologist at the University of California in Davis. She said climate records showed that carbon dioxide - a "greenhouse gas," which contributes to global warming - was approaching its highest level in 20 million years, long before human ancestors appeared.

"We've seen what happens when CO2 levels go that high; the climate responds very dramatically," Montanez said. Sea levels, rainfall, glaciers and plant and animal life all are affected.

"We know climate varied dramatically in the past, but we don't really know all the causes," Paul Renne, the director of the Berkeley Geochronology Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., said in a telephone interview. "If we know how fast things can happen, then we can gear up for cold snaps or a warm spell over the lifetime of a few generations."

For example, Renne suggested it might be unwise to keep rebuilding houses on North Carolina's low-lying Outer Banks, since global warming already is raising sea levels and increasing storm damage.

"The study of ancient biology tells us that several times in Earth's history there have been `near-death' experiences, when large fractions of the Earth's life suddenly died out from asteroid impact or changes in atmospheric composition and climate," Peter Ward, a paleontologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, wrote in his book, "The Life and Death of Planet Earth."

"We are likely to, in a way, relive the past," Ward said.

"The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see." - Winston Churchill

On the Web:

For more information on the Web, go to: and

Space Daily, 8 November 2003
The European Space Agency (ESA) announced on Friday that budget reasons was forcing it to axe
a mission aimed at looking for planets similar to Earth.

The 10-year Eddington planet search mission, due to have been launched in 2008, has been dropped
and a mission to Mercury by the spacecraft Beppi Colombo has been reduced, with the scrapping
of a planned lander to that planet, it said.

The decision was made by the ESA executive despite a petition signed by 414 European astronomers,
who had asked for the Eddington project to be retained.

All rights reserved. 2003 Agence France-Presse.

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