CCNet 117/2000 - 14 November 2000

"Only a day after the original announcement, the threat from SG344
was downgraded and the public's confidence was played again. It should be
no surprise that the major press and majority of the public do not take
the asteroid threat seriously. After the same mistake in 1998 with
asteroid 1997 XF11, a new set of guidelines was implemented to stop this
kind of embarrassment. These rules were supposedly followed for this
new asteroid, but they obviously remain inadequate. The threat was
downgraded after the original data, previously studied, was reanalyzed. Do
the new guidelines specifically state that the data needs to be
double or triple checked before such an announcement? If so, how could this
happen again? How many times can NASA and Co. cry wolf before all public
confidence corrodes?"
    -- Steve Russell, 12 November 2000

"In 1995 NASA promised Congress that it would have all potentially
dangerous objects in space identified by 2005. But a report
released in September by a British task force discloses that the space
agency is years behind schedule, largely because it has spent only $2
million a year on the project. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the
European Space Agency are now considering funding the task force's key
recommendation: building the world's first [large, BJP] telescope
dedicated to finding threatening comets and asteroids. [...] As the lead
author of the British report, former European Space Agency Chairman Harry
Atkinson, explains, "The risk of cataclysmic asteroid impacts is very small.
A one- kilometer asteroid arrives on average every 100,000 years. But if
that was the risk of an accident in a nuclear power station, we
would spend a lot of money to reduce the risk."
    -- Los Angeles Times, 11 November 2000

    Your World USA, November 12, 2000

    The Los Angeles Times, 11 November 2000

    The Times of India, 14 November 2000

    The Indian Express, 14 November 2000

    Ron Baalke <>

    David W. Pankenier <dwp0@Lehigh.EDU>

    Ron Baalke <>

    Thursday's Classroom for Nov. 13, 2000

     Duncan Steel <>

     Duncan Steel <>

     Malcolm Miller <>

     The Los Angeles Times, 13 November 2000


From Your World USA, November 12, 2000

By Steve Russell

The world has known for some time that the Earth is under a constant threat
from passing asteroids. What is not commonly known, or fully understood, is
the seriousness of this threat.  The one organization that does understand
the threat is NASA, and they are the ones fueling
the public fire of fallacy. The only time the major media networks cover the
issue, is after they have passed us by so they can report the good news that
we are all still safe and NASA is doing a good job. What is not commonly
reported, is that we are only tracking about 10% of potential Near Earth
Objects (NEO's), and the critical deficiency in the number search programs.

Since 1996 when Australia's current Prime Minister John Howard, stuck his
head in the proverbial sand and scrapped the best tracking program in the
Southern Hemisphere, the world has been in serious danger.

Asteroids with an Earth Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) of 0.05
AU or less, are generally considered as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids
(PHA's). To put this in perspective, the Moon is 0.0025 AU from Earth, or 1
Lunar Distance.

We are discovering asteroids at an increasing rate with distances far too
close for comfort.  Asteroid 2000 UK11, measuring 25-80 meters, passed Earth
on November 1 2000 at just 4 lunar distances. NASA recently admitted that it
was only discovered one week before it missed
us! The 250-meter wide 2000 UK11 asteroid passed Earth on November 7 2000 at
only 6.1 lunar distances. It was only discovered on October 25 2000 by Mitts
LINEAR search program.

Toutatis Threats

Toutatis, named after a Celtic god, is one of the largest known PHA's and
has an orbit that is inclined less than half-a-degree from Earth's. This
means that when it comes close to Earth, there is little chance it will pass
above or below us, it remains relatively level with Earth.

Another remarkable and troubling characteristic of Toutatis is its
extraordinarily complex spin patterns. The vast majorities of asteroids, and
every planet, rotate around a single pole.  However, Toutatis rotates around
two axes. It spins around one with a period of 5.4 Earth-days and the other
once every 7.3 days. The result is an asteroid that travels through space
tumbling like a badly thrown football.

On December 1992, the 5km long Toutatis made a close approach to Earth at
about 10 Lunar Distances. Recently, on October 31 2000, Toutatis passed less
than 29 lunar distances from earth.  On September 29 2004, Toutatis will
pass just 4 lunar distances from Earth, closer than any other known PHA will
come during the next 30 years.

Although these distances may seem relatively harmless, NASA's public
handling of the situation provokes questions regarding the reality of the

Toutatis and NASA

If NASA completely understands a situation, they will generally inform the
public with lots of interesting and helpful facts before the event
transpires. When a possibly threatening situation arises, and they are not
100% sure of the outcome, they generally wait until the last minute
after everything is fine to report the matter. Even then, they sometimes
make light of the issue to give the appearance that nothing was ever wrong
in the first place.  As they have done with Toutatis.

In a post on October 31 2000 (the day of closest approach), NASA poked fun
at asteroid Toutatis with a Halloween headline of "Trick or Treat: It's
Toutatis!" Among the facts were references to vampires, M&M chocolate, and
children dressed as Toutatis tumbling around imitating the spin angles of
the asteroid.  Since asteroids like Toutatis are definitely not treats to
have around, the trick that has been played on us all is that NASA has again
downplayed the seriousness of the issue, deceiving the public perception of
the threat.

The articles states, "Contrary to some press reports in the late 1990's, the
variability of Toutatis' orbit does not render the asteroid's path

The article goes on to quote Jon Giorgini of JPL's Solar System Dynamics
group as saying,   "Actually, we know Toutatis' orbit better than that of
any other near-Earth asteroid. The radar data we collected during close
approaches in the 1990's let us usefully predict its trajectory
over a few hundred years, from about 1300-2500 AD. We're safe from
collisions for at least several centuries." 

Then NASA states, "Clearly, though, continued monitoring is warranted."

It certainly is, because a previous NASA statement made back in 1995 when
Toutatis was not so close, clearly stated, "One consequence of the
asteroid's frequent close approaches to Earth is that its trajectory, more
than several centuries from now cannot be predicted accurately."

The latest article states, "Toutatis follows an elliptical orbit around the
Sun that just won't hold still. Orbital resonances and close encounters with
Venus, Earth, Mars and Jupiter constantly alter the shape of the asteroid's
path as it loops through the solar system every
3.98 years... Such gravitational encounters, which nudge the asteroid from
its intended [Ed. predicted] path, are orbit-altering experiences for

Information not stated, but implied, is that the orbit of Toutatis takes it
deep within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  Every re-entry into
this debris field exposes it to unknown gravitational forces and random
collisions with debris, resulting in an exit trajectory that is essentially,

What makes the journey through the asteroid belt a greater reason for
concern, is the possibly unstable structure of Toutatis itself. Radar images
from 1992 and 1996, show two chunks of rock connected by a narrow neck-like
structure. It has been theorized that two distinct asteroids may have become
stuck together during a coincidental collision in the past, which formed
Toutatis.  One half is approximately 4km in diameter; the other half is
approximately 2.5km. What would happen if this narrow coupling of the two
asteroids broke under the immense gravitational forces of Jupiter (like
Shoemaker-Levy), or during a collision in the asteroid belt?

Such unpredictable factors warrant continual observations and further
searches for the remaining 90% of threats. The numerous searches conducted
in the Northern Hemisphere are doing an excellent job in finding these
needles in the eternal haystack of space. Many of these needles discovered
by the Northern Hemisphere eventually journey to the Southern Hemisphere
where only critical locations like Australia can keep a watchful eye on
these threats. However, since there is no longer a suitable project
operating in Australia, they are essentially reburying the needles and
remain blinded by ignorance.


Australia has the only national government that has canceled a successful
asteroid search program. The current Prime Minister John Howard withdrew
funding for their low-cost "Spaceguard Australia" project in 1996. This mere
$100,000 per annum project was responsible for 30% of near-Earth asteroid
discoveries and approximately 60% of crucial follow up recoveries from the
Northern Hemisphere in its final three years of operation.

Since 1996, no professional government funded search has existed in the
Southern Hemisphere.  This problem was raised in the recent British report
titled "Report of the Task Force on potentially hazardous Near Earth
Objects." The British report virtually ignored any potential contribution
from Australia. Not because of any perceived lack of expertise, but because
of the unwillingness of the Australian government to cooperate with the
international effort.

Rob McNaught conducts the only professional search effort on a shoestring
budget. Mostly NASA funds the search; John Howard obviously considers this
to be a trivial issue. Since the closure of Australia's Spaceguard program,
The Planetary Society Australian Volunteers have been in contact with
Australian parliamentary members in an effort to get the program reinstated.
A strong advocate and coordinator of this organization is Michael Paine
( A proposal to reinstate the program, prepared by Mr.
Paine can be found at: http:\\

Early in 1996, DR Duncan Steel, founder of the original [Australian]
Spaceguard program, was approached by the Australian government asking what
could or should be done by the Department of Defense. After DR Steel replied
in great detail, a response that was sent on the behalf of
Bronwyn Bishop, Minister for Defense Industry, Science and Technology
stated, "defending people against comet impacts is not a defense issue." It
is ironic that every other country in the world regards this threat as a
serious defense issue. So much so, that US Congress recently tripled NASA's
allocated budget for the detection of NEO's.

A concerned Mr. Paine sent a letter to Mrs. Bishop's office that highlighted
this and other issues. After sending another letter due to non-response, he
received a letter stating that, "Whilst Defense is a major user of space,
this is only on the basis that it... contributes to
surveillance and [gathering] intelligence, mapping, navigation, and
communications... Possible that the Department of Industry, Science and
Tourism may have an interest in this matter... Referred your letter to the
Hon John Moore, MP."

What was her logic? Surely, the tracking of asteroids and comets would come
under surveillance or mapping intelligence. Why was the letter forwarded to
the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism? Could the destruction of
Australia affect their tourism business?

After the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism realized the stupidity
of involving them in this discussion; they followed up with yet another
absurd decision to pass the letter on to the Minister for Employment,
Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Could the destruction of Australia
solve their unemployment problems?

The Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs sent the
letter straight back to the Minister for Industry, Science and Tourism. A
response was then eventually sent from their office stating that, "While
other Commonwealth agencies, including the Department of Defense, have
considered funding NEO research, I am not aware that any currently view such
research as sufficiently important to justify the appropriation of funds."

Well I guess peace of mind and safety for not only Australia, but the world,
is not sufficiently important after all!

Despite Australia getting more than their fair share of hits in the past,
their government still has the nerve to dismiss the threat. All this
ministerial buck-passing demonstrates perfectly the Australian government's
completely ignorant attitude towards threats from space, and blatant
disregard for the serious efforts being conducted in every other corner of
the Earth.

Public Confidence Played Again

In early November 2000, the public was told of an object designated 2000
SG344 which could be an asteroid or piece of space junk from the 1970s.
Despite uncertainty about the exact orbit, scientists announced that there
was an alarming 1 in 500 chance of it hitting Earth in 2030.
NASA's principal engineer Paul Chodas told the press that the chance of a
collision was about 1000 times greater than any other asteroid-like object
yet discovered.

What is of even more concern, is that it was only discovered on September 29
2000. How can there be confusion as to whether or not it is man-made space
junk? Isn't NORAD tracking all our rubbish already?

After NASA was targeted in a recent battering of posts on the Internet from
the concerned public, the Near Earth Object web site posted a news article
on SG344. "Recognizing the public interest over possible impacts from small
Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA's), the International Astronomical Union has
established a process to provide international expert review of any
discoveries or calculations that predict a close encounter with a
non-negligible chance of future impact. This review process has been
exercised to confirm the calculations, based on current observations, of a
close encounter with a low probability of impact on 21 September 2030 by a
very small asteroid-like object, designated 2000 SG344."

Only a day after the original announcement, the threat from SG344 was
downgraded and the public's confidence was played again. It should be no
surprise that the major press and majority of the public do not take the
asteroid threat seriously. After the same mistake in 1998 with asteroid 1997
XF11, a new set of guidelines was implemented to stop this kind of
embarrassment. These rules were supposedly followed for this new asteroid,
but they obviously remain inadequate.

The threat was downgraded after the original data, previously studied, was
reanalyzed. Do the new guidelines specifically state that the data needs to
be double or triple checked before such an announcement? If so, how could
this happen again? How many times can NASA and Co. cry wolf before all
public confidence corrodes?

NASA and 1998 OX4

Asteroid 1998 OX4 was originally discovered by a team at the University of
Arizona that managed to successfully track it for two weeks. It is believed
to be 300m to 400m in diameter and has a 1 in 10 million chance of hitting
Earth in 2046. That is slightly better odds than the 1 in 14
million chance of winning the National Lottery. At the time, 1998 OX4 was
the second object discovered with a non-zero chance of a collision. What is
of serious concern now, is that it has gone missing!

Focusing on 1998 OX4, the recent British report lists four years that it
could theoretically strike Earth. Those years are 2014, 2038, 2044 and 2046.
It has been reported on the Internet that the Near Earth Objects - Dynamic
Site (NEODys) previously listed the year 2078 in their impactor table with a
distance from Earth of 0.0000568AU. While attempting to verify these
reports, I found that NEODys has removed this listing and posted a note at
the bottom stating that the list is, "Based on 21 observations (of which
there are 1 rejected outliers)". I have written to NEODys to hear their
explanation, but they have not responded. In the world of statistics, an
outlier is an observation that does not comply with the rest of the
averages, and has been removed for the sake of consistency. Has this year
been removed for consistency or because it means a confirmed direct hit? A
distance of 0.0000568AU equates to 5,270 miles from the center of the Earth.
Since the Earth is approximately 8,000 miles in diameter, this is virtually
a direct hit!

Upon close examination of the British report, NASA's Deep Impact project is
repeatedly mentioned throughout the text. This mission has been designed to
propel a half-ton solid copper projectile into the nucleus of Comet 9P
Tempel 1 in 2005.  This experiment will provide measurements
of the impact and determine how much the comets orbit is altered.

With the orbit of 1998 OX4 bringing it back towards Earth in 2002, 2004 and
2006, it has been recognized that comet Tempel 1 and asteroid 1998 OX4 will
be in the exact same region of space in April 2005. Is this mere
coincidence, or forward planning on NASA's behalf? Is NASA planning to alter
the orbit of a known Earth impactor in 2005?

Take Action

With the ever-increasing likelihood that there is an asteroid out there with
our name on it, now is the time for governmental action. We have already
fallen victim to a number of extremely close passes with virtually no
warnings or time to respond. We can no longer expect to stay on the narrow
path of protection, blinded by the ignorance of those in power. I urge you
to write to your politicians demanding more action and better notification
of future incoming threats.  It is your money; you have the right to know
what is out there.

c2000 Your Own World USA


From The Los Angeles Times, 11 November 2000

The danger of asteroids isn't fantasy. Deflection might not be possible, but
detection should be pursued. NASA's recent reversal of its prediction that
an asteroid could hit the Earth in 2030--the second such reversal in two
years--might lead many to conclude that the danger of asteroids and comets
is more the stuff of movies than real life. In fact, dozens of space objects
enter Earth's atmosphere every day. Most streak harmlessly across the sky as
"shooting stars," more wonderful than frightening.

However, objects 50 meters in diameter, like one that flattened 1,200 square
miles of forest in Siberia in 1908, strike the Earth every 100 years on
average. The Tunguska asteroid exploded above the Siberian forest in a
brilliant blue fireball. Had it arrived five hours later, St. Petersburg
might have been destroyed, along with its hundreds of thousands of people.

In 1995 NASA promised Congress that it would have all potentially dangerous
objects in space identified by 2005. But a report released in September by a
British task force discloses that the space agency is years behind schedule,
largely because it has spent only $2 million a year on the project.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the European Space Agency are now
considering funding the task force's key recommendation: building the
world's first [large, BJP] telescope dedicated to finding threatening comets
and asteroids. Astronomers in the United States say they have had trouble
overcoming what they call "the giggle factor"--the tendency to snicker at
asteroid warnings, viewing them as Chicken Little scenarios.

The British report, however, offers a rational reason for the sort of
increased spending that astronomers at NASA have been unable to obtain. It
points to a growing body of astronomical research showing that asteroid
impacts are statistically more likely to harm humans than some other, more
commonly recognized perils. As the lead author of the British report, former
European Space Agency Chairman Harry Atkinson, explains, "The risk of
cataclysmic asteroid impacts is very small. A one-kilometer asteroid arrives
on average every 100,000 years. But if that was the risk of an accident in a
nuclear power station, we would spend a lot of money to reduce the risk."

None of this is to encourage NASA to fund improbable "Star Wars"-like
technologies in the highly unlikely chance that they might soon be able to
ward off or deflect space objects. Deflection theory was seriously embraced
in 1996, when the Air Force quietly carried out a study of options for
diminishing the chance of an asteroid impact. One would be to fire
explosives or a projectile from an unmanned spacecraft to nudge an asteroid
out of Earth's path; another would be to somehow attach solar sails to an
asteroid to change its orbit. At present this is the stuff of fantasy.

The focus now should be on mapping potentially dangerous objects in the
solar system. Improved detection would make deflection far more feasible,
because the earlier a space object is detected, the less force will be
required to change its path. Minimal force would nudge an asteroid out of
Earth's way if the asteroid could be detected and intercepted a year in
advance, but phenomenal force would be required for an object only two
months away.
Deflecting space objects may still be more a premise for a Bruce Willis
movie than a technologically feasible priority for Congress, but detection
should be an urgent priority now.

c2000 LA Times


From The Times of India, 14 November 2000

Asteroid could strike in 2030, say scientists

LONDON: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has predicted that an
asteroid, which could unleash a force 100 times greater than the Hiroshima
atomic bomb, may strike earth on September 21, 2030.......


From The Indian Express, 14 November 2000

LONDON: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has predicted that an
asteroid, which could unleash a force 100 times greater than the Hiroshima
atomic bomb, may strike earth on September 21, 2030......


From Ron Baalke <>

Press Release (for immediate release):

Astronomers Predict Eclipse of Naked-Eye Star by an Asteroid Monday Morning,
Nov. 20

The event will be visible from West Virginia to Chicago and North Dakota

Your videorecording of the eclipse can give new information about the star
and asteroid

If you are within a 65-mile (104-km)-wide band crossing the Midwest and
western Canada, you can see the naked-eye star Tejat wink out for about 10
seconds as it is covered by the asteroid Sulamitis shortly before sunrise
Monday morning, November 20. Millions of early risers in Charleston and
Huntington, West Virginia; Dayton, Ohio; Muncie and Gary, Indiana; Chicago,
Illinois; Madison and Eau Claire, Wisconsin; St. Paul, Minnesota; Grand
Forks, North Dakota; Brandon, Manitoba; and many other smaller towns in the
path have a chance to see this
event, the eclipse of the brightest star predicted to be eclipsed by an
asteroid as seen from the U.S.A. since such predictions have been computed
starting in 1975. The eclipse will occur at 6:41 am EST in West Virginia and
southern Ohio, 6:42 am EST in western Ohio and Indiana, 5:43 am CST in the
Chicago area, 5:44 am in western Wisconsin and the Minneapolis area, 5:45 in
central Minnesota, 5:46 in northeastern North Dakota, 5:47 in southwestern
Manitoba, and 5:48 to 5:49 am CST across Saskatchewan.

The eclipse, called "occultation" by astronomers, can be seen with the naked
eye, but binoculars or camcorders will give better views of it. The
International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) seeks videorecordings of
the eclipse. IOTA plans to analyze the observations to determine the size
and shape of both the asteroid and the star, and even to map variations in
brightness across the star, which is a red giant 100 times the diameter of
the Sun 232 light-years away in the constellation Gemini, the Twins.  Since
the star is so large, even though it is very far away, it will take 2 to 3
seconds for the edge of Sulamitis to cover and uncover it. Consequently, the
disappearance and reappearance will be gradual. The path where the star will
be totally eclipsed will be 43 miles (69 km) wide. This path will be flanked
to the north and south by 11-mile (18-km) wide zones where the star will be
partially covered for a few seconds, causing it to dim considerably, but not
completely disappear. Therefore, the total path width, including the partial
occultation zones, is 65 miles (104 km). The path also crosses southwestern
Virginia and North Carolina, but the event occurs too close to sunrise
there; small telescopes will be needed there to see the star in the bright
dawn twilight.

More information about the occultation, including maps showing the predicted
path and full sky charts for locating the star, are given on IOTA's Web site
at There is still about half a
path-width uncertainty in the location of the path (it could be a little
north or south of the described path) which will be reduced with the last
prediction that will be posted on the web site Friday evening, November 17.
Sulamitis is in the main belt of asteroids between the orbits of Mars and
Jupiter; its orbit does not intersect that of the Earth so there is no
danger of it hitting the Earth.  The items below will also be on that Web


Locating the star is relatively simple. The sky chart illustrates the
directions given below, especially the one with stars and lines on the Web
site. The crescent Moon will be high in the southeast. Look in the opposite
direction, low in the west, and you will see Jupiter and Sirius, the
brightest objects in the sky after the Moon. Between Jupiter and Sirius is
Orion, whose belt of three fairly bright stars is distinctive. Above the
belt is the bright red star Betelgeuse.  Far above it is the distinctive
pair of bright stars, Castor and Pollux, with Pollux on your left.
Three-fifths of the way from Pollux to Betelgeuse is the moderately bright
star Alhena. Directly to the right of Alhena, by about the same distance as
Castor is from Pollux, is a pair of fainter stars.  The upper left of these
is Tejat, the star that will be eclipsed.


Those with camcorders can easily videotape the event. First, point at the
Moon, zooming in until you focus on it. Then switch to manual focus and
leave it at that position. Then point the
camcorder at Jupiter, and make small manual focusing adjustments, if
necessary, to bring it and nearby stars into focus. Then zoom out some, and
locate Betelgeuse, Castor, and Pollux, then Alhena, as described above. Zoom
in to see the fainter stars, then keep Tejat in the field of view during the
minute of the eclipse in your area (the predicted time of the event is
accurate to half a minute). We will also want the accurate time of the
event, which can be done by recording the strong clear-channel station WLS
in Chicago at 890 on the AM dial. We will record that station along with
accurate short-wave time signals from the time station WWV (at 5.0 and 10.0
MHz if you have a short-wave radio) to calibrate WLS.  If you successfully
record the eclipse, we will need your longitude, latitude, and height above
sealevel, information that can either be determined with a GPS receiver or
from Web sites (enter your address at or similar sites to
get a map of your area, and set "map clicking" to "show Long./Lat.").
Height above sealevel can be found from the topographic maps at  IOTA members in your area can help with this process, but
your work will save us time to facilitate the analysis.  If you videorecord
the eclipse, send a message describing briefly what you did, your location,
and your contact e-mail and telephone number to IOTA at or
to IOTA, c/o D. Dunham, 7006 Megan Lane, Greenbelt, MD 20770. We will ask
you for your videotape if it might be useful for our analysis.


Tejat means "foot" in Arabic since it is in the "foot" of Castor.
Astronomers usually refer to the star as "mu Geminorum" where "mu" is the
Greek letter.  The "official" proper name is "Tejat Posterior" to
distinguish it from the similar star near it (below and right of Tejat on
the sky charts) which is rarely called "Tejat Prior" but more frequently
called "Propus" or "eta Geminorum". Tejat (Posterior) has a diameter of
about 83 million miles (133 million km), 100 times that of the Sun; if it
were centered at the Sun's location, Mercury would orbit beneath its
surface. Since it is 232 light-years away, the light we see now from the
star left it in 1768 (uncertain by +/-15 years).


Sulamitis was the 752nd asteroid discovered, so it is asteroid number 752.
It was discovered by G. Neujmin and M. Belyavskis at Simeis Observatory in
the Crimea on April 30, 1913. The asteroid is estimated to be 41 miles or 61
km in diameter, but this is uncertain by several miles and its shape is not
known. At the time of the occultation, Sulamitis will be 133 million miles
(214 million km) from the Earth. Sulamits was named after the Old Testament
character Sulamith, probably the Queen of Sheba. Sulamitis is a feminine
form of Sulaiman, which is the Arabic form of Solomon, meaning "peaceable".


The path location was predicted on November 11 by Dr. Martin Federspiel at
the Freiburg Planetarium in Freiburg, Germany (e-mail, phone +49-761-2017946), using accurate observations
of Sulamitis obtained by Ronald Stone at the U. S. Naval Observatory in
Flagstaff, AZ (e-mail and by Bill Owen at Jet Propulsion
Laboratory's Table Mountain Observatory near Wrightwood, CA (e-mail up through November 8. 
The star position was accurately measured by the European Space Agency's
HIPPARCOS satellite in the early 1990's. IOTA members Jim Stamm, Sam Falvo,
Scott Degenhardt, Jan Manek, Richard Nugent, Richard Wilds, and Rob Robinson
provided information used here and posted on IOTA's Web site.


David Dunham, the president of IOTA, can be reached by e-mail at, although during the day later this week it will be quicker
to reach him at He is now in California at (562)
430-2391, but later this week will be returning to Maryland, home phone
(301) 474-4722, office phone (240) 228-5609 (the latter has phone mail that
I will be checking frequently remotely). Questions can also be answered by
IOTA's Web master, Rob
Robinson (e-mail in Bonner Springs, KS or
by IOTA member Scott Degenhardt in Murphysboro, TN (e-mail

Joan and David Dunham
7006 Megan Lane
Greenbelt, MD 20770
(301) 474-4722


From David W. Pankenier <dwp0@Lehigh.EDU>

Dear Benny,

This new publication may be of interest to Cambridge Conference list

Zhentao XU, Purple Mt. Observatory, Nanjing, China,
David W. Pankenier, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA, USA
Yaotiao JIANG, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China

Historical astronomical records can play an important role in modern
research, especially in the case of ancient Chinese astronomical data.
Sunspot and auroral records are important for the study of solar
variability, solar and lunar eclipse records for the study of the Earth's
rotation, records of Comet Halley for the study of orbital evolution, 'guest
star' records for the study of supernova remnants, and planetary conjunction
records for research in astronomical chronology.

In the past, Western scientists have not been able to exploit these valuable
data fully because the original records were difficult to find and
interpret, and complete English translations have not been available.
EAST-ASIAN ARCHAEOASTRONOMY is the first comprehensive translation into
English of such astronomical records for modern research. The book also
features an introduction to East Asian astronomy and offers guidance on how
to use the records effectively. It will not
only be a valuable research tool for astronomers, but should also be of
great interest to historians of China and Chinese science.


Astronomical Observations in Ancient China
Astronomical Observations in Oracle-bone Inscriptions
Solar Eclipses
Lunar Eclipses
Comet Halley
Guest Stars
Aurora Borealis
Clusters of Multiple Planets
Original Texts of the Chinese Observational Records

Volume 5, Earth Space Institute Series, Gordon and Breach Scientific
Publishers (Amsterdam, 2000), 444 pp., Cloth, ISBN 90-5699-302-X, US$115 (76
Pounds sterling/127 Euros)

A second volume containing complete translations of all cometary and meteor
shower records is currently in preparation.


David Pankenier


From ESA News <>

One of the most exciting things about meteor showers is their sheer
unpredictability. Just when astronomers think they know all about a
particular shower, something happens to spring a surprise. One of the least
predictable of the annual meteor showers is the Leonids, which appears each
year around 16-18 November.

Although this year's shower is not expected to reach storm proportions, ESA
scientists are continuing their efforts to learn more about the cosmic
debris that is incinerated as it enters Earth's upper atmosphere.

Find out more about the Leonids at:


From Ron Baalke <>

Kathleen Burton
Nov. 13, 2000
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA


A team of NASA researchers and their collaborators report their findings
from last year's Leonid meteor storm in today's special issue of the journal
"Earth, Moon and Planets."

The scientists - all members of the NASA and U.S. Air Force-sponsored Leonid
Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign - discussed their results in a series of
astrobiology-related papers in the peer-reviewed journal. While their
findings covered a range of areas, the key results reported have
implications for the existence and survival of life's precursors in comet
materials that reach Earth.

"Last year's Leonid meteor storm yielded rich research results for NASA
astrobiologists," said Dr. Peter Jenniskens, a NASA astronomer based at Ames
Research Center and principal investigator for the airborne research
mission. "Findings to date indicate that the chemical precursors to life --
found in comet dust -- may well have survived a plunge into early Earth's

Jenniskens and his international cadre of researchers think that much of the
organic matter in comet dust somehow survived the rapid heating of Earth's
atmospheric entry. "Organic molecules in the meteoroid didn't seem to burn
up in the atmosphere," he explained. They may have cooled rapidly before
breaking apart, he concluded.

Another manner in which organic matter can somehow survive the fiery plunge
into Earth's atmosphere was discovered by a team from the Aerospace
Corporation, Los Angeles, who detected the fingerprint of complex organic
matter, identical to space-borne cometary dust, in the path of a bright
Leonid fireball. This "fingerprint" is still under investigation to ensure
that trace-air compounds are not contributing to the detection.

Another finding with potentially important implications for astrobiology is
that meteors are not as hot as researchers had previously believed. "We
discovered that most of the visible light of meteors comes from a warm wake
just behind the meteor, not from the hot meteoroid's head," said Jenniskens.
This warm wake has just the right temperature for the creation of life's
chemical precursors, he said.

Utah State University researchers found that, during the meteors' demise in
the atmosphere, their rapid spinning caused small fragments to be ejected in
all directions, quite far from the meteoroid's head. This is an important
finding for astrobiology,  because it means that meteors may be able to
chemically alter large amounts of atmosphere.

This year, the 2000 Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak twice -- once
on Thursday night November 16 and again on Friday night November 17.
Although not as strong as last year's storm, meteors will be visible across
the continental United States, with the East Coast predicted to provide the
best meteor viewing. Each night, optimal East Coast viewing will be at
approximately 2:50 a.m. (EST). West Coast observers can glimpse the showers
beginning after 11:00 p.m. (PST), and peaking between midnight and 1:30 a.m.
Astronomers recommend that, because this year's showers take place during a
last-quarter moon, optimal observing conditions demand a wide field of view,
with the moon behind trees or buildings.

An observing tool called the "Leonid MAC flux estimator" is available for
the general public at: It predicts how much
meteor activity is expected at a particular U.S. observing location. Further
images from 1999's meteor storm, information about "Earth, Moon and Planets"
and other Leonids information can be found at:

Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, dissemination and future
of life in the universe. NASA's Ames Research Center, in the heart of
California's Silicon Valley, is the Center of Excellence for NASA's
astrobiology research. It is also the location of the central offices of the
NASA Astrobiology Institute, an international research partnership - among
NASA and non-NASA agencies and institutions - to further astrobiology


From Thursday's Classroom for Nov. 13, 2000

The 2000 Leonid meteor shower is just around the corner. This year's display
of 100 or so shooting stars per hour might not match the anticipated Leonid
meteor storm in 2001, but experts say it's still worth watching.  This
week's episode of Thursday's Classroom includes lessons
and activities that will help kids (1) figure out where to look for Leonid
meteors, (2) prepare for a meteor watch, and (3) count the meteors they see.

For more information please visit:


From Duncan Steel <>

From Asta Pellinen-Wannberg

Dear colleagues,

Please find enclosed the 1st Announcement for the Meteoroids 2001 conference
in Kiruna, Sweden. Please feel free to pass this message on  to anyone you
know who might be interested.

Looking forward to seeing you in Kiruna

Asta Pellinen-Wannberg, Local Organising committee


First Announcement on METEOROIDS  2001

6-10 August 2001

This conference will be the fourth in a series of meteoroid meetings which
have been held every few years since 1993, the last being in Tatranska
Lomnica in 1998. It will accommodate a broad range of meteoroid research:
dynamics, sources and distribution of these bodies, the physics and
chemistry of their interaction process with the atmosphere as well as the
space weather aspects in the form of their hypervelocity impact threat to
spacecraft. Due to the high Leonid activity during recent years, much
research has been devoted to these topics with both traditional and new
optical, radar and in-situ methods from ground, airplane and spacecraft.

Due to the recent recurrence of the Leonids, a session on historical
observations of meteors and perspectives on meteor science will be included,
but most of the meeting will be devoted to new results, new observations and
new techniques. Much meteor stream modelling work has preceded the recent
Tempel-Tuttle visit; in 1998 the quite moderate Leonids extended over a day,
while in 1999 the sharp and much more intensive maximum was correctly
predicted. There has been another opportunity to observe the Leonids
(November 2000) and improve the models so the proposed conference is at a
very optimum time to provide a forum for an overview of progress in the
dynamics and modelling of meteor storms and valuable results are to be
expected on understanding important (e.g. satellite damage) commercial

In radar applications the data collection and signal processing techniques
have developed hugely within a few years. Besides the traditional VHF meteor
radars, large aperture VHF and UHF facilities as Arecibo and EISCAT have
been used for meteor studies. With these extremely sensitive instruments,
the mysterious head echo process can be studied with very high spatial and
time resolution observing the effects on the background ionosphere
simultaneously. Radars are important tools for studying the various origins
of the meteoroids. Recent work (the AMOR and Arecibo instruments) has been
able to provide definitive evidence for the expanding field of Interstellar
Particle detection.

In-situ measurements on meteoroids and the observation of the interstellar
particles with Ulysses spacecraft started a new era of space-borne
experiments. Observational data about the local interstellar medium and the
outer solar system including the Kuiper belt objects raise interest again in
the orbital and collisional evolution of meteoroids, including "icy"
meteoroids. In a similar way the observation of debris shells in
circumstellar systems bears a new application of the study of the
"meteoritic complex" from the fragmentation of large parent bodies to the
formation of a dust cloud.

New global problems such as indications of climate change are being tackled.
Meteoric constituents have an effect on the physics and chemistry of the
atmosphere at and below the deposition heights. Especially, it is important
to understand the impact of these on the artificial constituents. Studies of
how the addition of meteoric constituents affect different atmospheric
phenomena such as noctilucent clouds and ozone chemistry have increased in
interest. Studies of meteoroid chemical composition and the ablation
processes can even provide information about the state of early conditions
in the solar system.

Hypervelocity impact effects on spacecraft is a very important application
of the meteoroid science. The results from the meteor stream modelling
discussed above especially for meteor shower periods are important. The flux
of meteoroids large enough to penetrate the spacecraft and cause great
damage is very low even during the Leonids. The more numerous smaller
particles are much more dangerous since they can induce surface charging and
trigger spacecraft anomalies similar to the high speed solar wind.
Especially interesting is the relation between the meteor triggered
anomalies and high solar activity. The growing number of satellites and
consequently of space debris will rapidly increase the risks for impact
damage on spacecraft.


The following scientific areas are proposed for this meeting:

* Historical observations and perspectives on meteoroids
* Dynamics, sources and spatial distribution of meteoroids including
sporadic, swarm and interstellar meteoroids
* Physics and chemistry of meteoroid interaction process in the atmosphere
including both head echo and trail effects
* Impacts of meteoric constituents on atmospheric phenomena
* Hypervelocity impact effects on spacecraft
* Leonids - meteor storms and their short-term environmental effects
With observations done with the following methods:
* Optical observations of meteors including cameras, telescopes and lidars
* Radar observations with meteor and large aperture radars
* In-situ measurements of meteoroids


Prof. W.J. Baggaley, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Prof. Oleg Belkovich, Kazan State University, Russia
Dr. Gerhard Drolshagen, European Space Agency, Netherlands
Prof. Eberhard Grun, Max-Planck-Institut fur Kernphysik, Germany
Dr. Robert Hawkes, Mount Allison University, Canada
Dr. Peter Jenniskens, NASA Ames Research Center, USA
Dr. Ingrid Mann, European Space Agency, Netherlands and
The University of Muenster, Germany
Prof. David D. Meisel, State University of New York, USA
Dr. Edmond Murad, Air Force Research Laboratory, USA
Dr. Asta Pellinen-Wannberg, Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Sweden
Dr. Vladimir Porubcan, Astronomical Institute SAV, Slovakia
Dr. Junichi Watanabe, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Japan
Prof. Iwan Williams, University of London, UK

Asta Pellinen-Wannberg
Eivor Jonsson (secretary),
Christina Juren
Rick McGregor (webmaster),
Birgitta Maatta

More information can be found on our web-site:
which will now be continuously updated as we get more information.



From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

As many meteor watchers wait for the action on November 17th/18th, this
newspaper article from soon after last year's event provides some food for
thought with regard to naming celestial objects. OK, the writer makes some
mistakes and has some misconceptions (confusing
meteors/meteoroids/meteorites, spelling Tempel-Tuttle incorrectly, the
"naming" of stars), but he does show what many members of the public likely
feel on this matter. Perhaps part of the reason for the protests over
discussions on the classification of Pluto - likely to burst forth again if
the meaning of "planet" is to be debated and decided within astronomical
ranks - comes from people's antipathy towards astronomers apportioning to themselves the naming
rights. I do not necessarily agree with the writer's stance, but it is a
valid viewpoint. The parallel with the naming of new species is also

Duncan Steel

Shower power

Paul Evans
The Guardian
Wednesday November 24, 1999

So much for the Leonids. Encouraged by reliable reports of clear night skies
and fortified with plenty of coffee, we waited for the second
once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event this year.

All right, we knew the meteorites were not shooting stars from the Leo
constellation and were in fact the grit spray from an old cosmic shuttle bus
called the Temple-Tuttle comet, but with a predicted shower of 1,000
meteorites an hour, this was going to be fantastic.

There was a shower: it was the usual wet stuff. The clouds that were
supposed to be confined to the far west blanketed the whole sky. While the
most spectacular meteorite shower in living memory - not to be repeated for
more than 30 years - was going on above the clouds, below them it was
raining. Damn.

While I was hanging about in the dark, cold drizzle, it occurred to me that
the colonisation of nature by scientific language is far more
anthropomorphic than it seems. Why do we accept the naming of comets after
space nerds? Hurricane Lenny is currently ravaging the Caribbean - Lenny

Thousands of creatures bear the Latinised names of people who "discovered"
them, as if they had no identity before that. The fact that I did not
actually see the meteorite spectacular doesn't
mean that it wasn't a wonderful event.

Why do we have to give natural phenomena human forms to endow them with
significance? Surely this is a terrible failure of language.

However, as a local story this week demonstrates, there can be an up side to
all this. A woman who is a keen amateur astronomer and registered blind has
had permission to name a star after the people who helped her get thousands
of pounds of benefit entitlement.

The star will be called "The Benefit Shop, Dudley". Well, it does have a
poetic ring to it.

Copyright, Guardian Newspapers Limited 1999.


From Malcolm Miller <>

Dear Benny,

I think you should continue to include climate change stuff in the general
content of CCNet and not put it in a special once-a-week bulletin.

In my opinion, CCNet is the place for material about any kind of catastrophe
that has or might affect not just civilization, but society, life, the
fossil record, history, the future, etc.  It
should certainly include impacts, vulcanism, earthquakes, and changes in the
atmosphere, biosphere, or hydrosphere that have more than local effect.

Malcolm Miller


From The Los Angeles Times, 13 November 2000

"So, you knew the election would be close, but you never expected this
back-and-forth vote with recounts and computer glitches? Those who see
meaning in the stars say they saw it coming. The culprit? The planet
Mercury, which began its apparent retrograde--or backward-- movement in the
heavens for the last time this year on Oct. 18 and ended it at 9:22 p.m. EST
on election day. Now, with the snafus in the presidential election,
including charges that Florida voters were confused by the odd ballot
configuration, astrologers are saying, "We told you so."........

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