Don Yeomans <>

    CNN Interactive

    MSNBC <>

    Brad Schaefer <>

    Steve Dick <dick@ARIEL.USNO.NAVY.MIL>

    John Michael <>

    NASA Science News <>

    Patrick Helminger <>

    Peter Snow <>


From Don Yeomans <>

Dear Benny,
Thought your readers might get a kick out of the following UPI release
from Bangkok, Thailand.  As an aside, I note that comet
55P/Tempel-Tuttle will be nearly 3.5 AU from the Earth on Nov. 15,
Don Yeomans - JPL
BANGKOK, Thailand, Nov. 13 (UPI) -- A Thai astronomer has calculated
that the Tempel-Tuttle comet, which is the cause of an expected
spectacular meteor shower next week, will collide with Earth on  Nov.
15, 2097, causing planet-wide devastation.
The Nation newspaper (Friday) quotes Khao Muanwong (``KAO
MUAN-wong''), who holds a doctorate in astronomy and is the former
dean of Khon Kaen University's Faculty of Science, as saying the
impact of the comet could be accompanied by huge floods and
earthquakes and possibly the end of life on Earth.
The Tempel-Tuttle comet, discovered by Wilhelm Tempel and Horas Tuttle
in 1865, orbits the sun every 32.9 years. It is slightly more than a
mile in diameter.
Khao says, ``According to my calculation, based on an astronomical 
database researched by D.K. Yeomans of NASA, when the comet returns
in 2097, it will hit the Earth.''
He says others are aware of the probable impact but have avoided going
public with the news.
He says, ``I feel that NASA has already tried to do something to stop
the comet but have not publicized it yet. The only way to avoid the
damage is to destroy the comet.''
The Leonid meteor shower, which accompanies Tempel-Tuttle when it
comes close to Earth every 32.9 years, is expected to create a
once-in-a-lifetime display over much of Asia on the night of Nov.
Hotels and other accommodations in northern Thailand, where viewing
conditions are expected to be optimal, have been booked out for months
in anticipation of the meteor shower.


From CNN Interactive

November 13, 1998

CNN -- On Tuesday, the Earth will experience the most intense meteor
shower in 30 years as the planet passes though a trail of comet

While civilians around the world are waiting to enjoy the show put on
by the shooting stars, the U.S. military is bracing for star wars.

That's because while the Earth's atmosphere protects the planet itself
from the flying debris, satellites in orbit are vulnerable to the
cloud of sand-sized meteors traveling 100 times faster than speeding

The Leonid meteor shower will happen just as the Pentagon is beefing
up for a showdown with Iraq, and experts are concerned the meteors
could damage spy, communication and navigation satellites.

"These are the basic backbone of our ability to carry out our military
missions worldwide and warn of impending attack," explained Col. Pete
Worden. Worden will be monitoring the meteor shower from Asia, where
viewing will be best.

"Over the last couple of years, there have been intensive efforts by
the Air Force Space Command to assess the threat that we might have.
And they've concluded there is potentially a serious threat and that
we needed to take it seriously and figure out ways to mitigate that
threat," he said.

The meteor show comes from a comet called Tempel-Tuttle, which orbits
the sun every 33 years. Each November the Earth passes through some
part of the comet's long trail of dust and debris. Since
Tempel-Tuttle's orbit brought it close to the Earth this year, the
shower should be especially intense.

No one knows for sure how the satellites will weather the onslaught
from outer space. Experts predict the chance is about 1 percent that a
satellite will get hit.

The impact could bash the satellite or form an electrical charge.
"That (charge) could travel along areas of the satellite and get into
a critical component and burn it out," warned Worden.

Space Command said it has contingency plans ready in the event a
satellite is damaged -- including backup satellites already in orbit.

The National Reconnaissance office, which controls U.S. spy
satellites, said it's working with Space Command to monitor the storm
and to act if necessary to protect U.S. national security.

Copyright 1998, CNN


Leonids could pose threat to spy satellites, other spacecraft
By Alan Boyle
Nov. 13 —  The Leonid meteor storm, due to sweep over Earth on
Tuesday, poses such a potential threat to satellites that it’s
playing a role in the Pentagon’s plans for a potential attack
on Iraq. But while satellite experts are wary of the storm, chances
are that the Leonids will be remembered as nothing more than a light

THE LEONIDS of 1998 and 1999 have been touted as the mother of all
meteor storms and a potential threat to the 500-plus satellites in
Earth orbit. Earth is due to pass through the trail of
interplanetary dust and ice left behind by Comet Tempel-Tuttle, with
the height of the storm projected to come at 2:43 p.m. ET Tuesday.
The Leonids pose no danger to Earth itself, since most of the
micrometeorites are smaller than a grain of sand and readily burn up
in the atmosphere. But in space, the effect could be analogous to
sandblasting satellites with a hail of grit moving at 226 times the
speed of sound.
That’s led some experts to predict a “satellite Armageddon,” with
the potential to affect spacecraft that provide vital
telecommunications, broadcast services, weather data — and even
military intelligence.
Sources have told NBC News that the Leonids are a factor in the
preparations for potential military action against Iraq. If the
United States were to go on the offensive, military strikes may have
to be interrupted Monday and Tuesday because of the meteor storm’s
potential impact on surveillance satellites, the sources told NBC.
If spacecraft monitoring the situation in Iraq sustain damage, that
could affect the United States’ ability to keep track of Iraqi
forces and assess the damage done during the strikes.
The surveillance satellites fit the profile for vulnerability to the
meteor storm: They’re relatively large, they’re in geosynchronous
orbit and they’re bristling with sensitive equipment and antennas.
But military spokesmen said they expected the Leonids to have no
impact on the Pentagon’s communications. “Our communications
satellites are in good shape, they’re ready to do the job,” said
Col. Mike Kelly, deputy commander of the 50th Operations Group at
Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.
Kelly declined to comment on surveillance satellites but said it
would be business as usual for the Pentagon’s communication networks
during the meteor storm, with no change in routine.
“Our main thing is to know the status of the spacecraft, have it
doing its mission and have its payload pointed to its customer on
the ground,” he said.  Even if a satellite is damaged, the Pentagon
can turn to a deep array of backup communications systems, Kelly
Although national security may not be at risk, just one satellite
glitch can have a huge impact down on Earth — as shown by last May’s
failure of the Galaxy 4 spacecraft, which disrupted pager and
broadcast services as well as data traffic and even bank transfers.
The world is much more dependent on satellite communications than it
was during the last Leonid outburst in 1966.
Could tiny bits of grit really affect multimillion-dollar
spacecraft? Experts point to the European Space Agency’s Olympus
telecommunications satellite, which failed during the 1993 Perseid
meteor shower. In Olympus’ case, the cause was far more subtle than
a rock blowing the spacecraft to bits. Instead, the shower of
particles created an electrical field that frazzled the satellite’s
For all these reasons, William Ailor, director of the Center for
Orbital and Re-entry Debris Studies at the Aerospace Corp., contends
that this year’s Leonids will represent the “largest such threat
ever experienced.” But he also acknowledges that “Armageddon” would
be too strong a term. 
Ailor’s best guess is that the Leonid storm will affect one or two
satellites.. “Unless it happened to be a satellite that was unlucky
enough that it affected delivery of service to the ground, you
wouldn’t see anything,” he said.
That’s little consolation if the affected satellite happened to be
yours. "The chances of having a satellite hit are less than a tenth
of 1 percent,” said astronomer Donald Yeomans of NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, who has drawn up projections for the coming
storm. “On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a satellite that
cost hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s prudent to take every
evasive action you can.”
Yeomans said the most vulnerable spacecraft were the Advanced
Composition Explorer and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, two
research satellites that are parked 1 million miles from Earth at a
point where the gravitational pulls of the sun and Earth are in
balance. Astronomers say the meteor storm will be more intense at
the balance point, which is known as the L-1 Lagrange point.
Yeomans estimates the risk of damage at 1 percent for SOHO, which
studies the sun and its outer atmosphere. ACE, which monitors the
solar wind and cosmic rays, is running about a 5 percent risk of
damage. “If anybody is going to get hit, ACE is,” he said.
Bob Sodano, mission director for ACE operations at NASA’s Goddard
Space Flight Center, agrees that the satellite is “in the bull’s
eye.” He said the ACE team would be watching the spacecraft
particularly closely for five hours before the expected peak, and
five hours afterward.
Despite all the high-level preparations, Ailor cautions that
predictions and percentages are an iffy thing when it comes to the
Leonids. In 1899, for example, planetary perturbations blacked out
the expected fireworks, while the 1966 storm was an unexpected treat
for North America. “This particular storm has had a history of being
a little irregular and unpredictable,” he said.


Yeomans figures that the Leonids will blaze at about the same
strength a year from now, with peak visibility in Europe and North

And after that? Yeomans said the Leonids are likely to fade away as
Earth’s orbit diverges from Comet Tempel-Tuttle’s debris trail. The
astronomer, who also heads NASA’s effort to track comets and
near-Earth objects, pooh-poohed a report that Tempel-Tuttle just
might collide with Earth in the year 2097.

“That’s complete rubbish,” Yeomans said of the claim, which surfaced
in a Bangkok newspaper and was attributed to a Thai astronomer using
JPL’s comet database. “I don’t know what this gentleman was doing,
but he wasn’t doing it right. I think probably what he did was
forget the planetary perturbations and just used a two-body
approximation. Anyway, it’s nonsense, of course.”

Yeomans said his calculations showed that Tempel-Tuttle would come
no closer than 326 million miles from Earth in 2097.

Copyright 1998, MSNBC


From Brad Schaefer <>

With the upcoming Leonid meteor storm, we are all well aware
that meteors can have important effects of humans, ranging from the
psyche to satellites.  Meteors interact with humans in many ways,
from religion, to sources of metals, to scientific discovery, to
confusion with nuclear weapons, to catastrophic impacts.

The December 1998 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine (pages 68-75)
has an article of mine which Cambridge Conference readers might
enjoy.  It describes many historical episodes of "Meteors that
Changed the World". The first episode describes how meteorites
jump-started the Iron Age by providing a source of already smelted
iron.  Inuits also jumped to the Iron Age by taking pieces of the
huge Cape York meteorite. Next are told the tales of how the Idaean
Mother saved the Roman Empire from Hannibal and how the Red River
meteorite (in the hall near my office!) was seized from Pawnee
pilgrims with desperate Indian attacks. The slow and chaotic fall of
the Roman Empire was a time of intense competition between
religions, with the Emperor's worship often playing a key role.  The
next episode tells how the depraved boy-emperor Elagabalus raised
worship of the Black Stone of Emessa to the official Roman religion,
with fantastic and decadent rituals.  [I just returned from Rome,
and had the pleasure of seeing Elagabalus' Temple on the Palatine
still in fairly good condition.]  Another possible meteorite is the
Black Stone of the Kaaba, the most sacred treasure of Islam. The
article contains the first close-up picture I've ever seen of the
Black Stone. I remind readers of the proposal by Elsebeth Thomsen
that the Black Stone is a good match with impactite from the Wabar
meteor crater in the Empty Quarter [discovered by the father of the
notorious traitor Kim Philby]. I have recently seen the impactite
returned by Philby in London's Natural History Museum and agree that
it matches descriptions of the Black Stone in detail. The episode
with the greatest 'impact' concerns the dinosaur killer at
Chicxulub, with the narrative pointing to the many cycles of
prediction/testing/confirmation as an example of science at its
best.  The final episode reminds readers that the Tunguska blast,
the Brazilian Tunguska, and Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 all demonstrate
that bombardment is ongoing, and the paradigm in public thinking has
turned completely around.

The article is available in the magazine or at the Web address

Brad Schaefer


From: Diann Thome
To: Steve Dick
[as posted on the History of Astronomy Discussion List]

We were talking the other day about meteor showers / shooting stars,
and were wondering what myths and legends were told about them in
earlier times? Not so much about the stones which fell from the sky,
but about the periodic showers that come up at certain times of the
year.  What did some ancient people think these were?  -- Diann


From Steve Dick <dick@ARIEL.USNO.NAVY.MIL>

The "interpretations" of the Leonid showers were not so much
physical as cultural, political and religious. See my  "Observation
and Interpretation of the Leonid Meteors over the Last Millennium" in
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 1, 1 (1998), 1-20,
where I cite many of the ancient descriptions, dating back to 902
A.D.  Here are excerpts from two of them:

The 1002 event, seen in China and Japan:

Period Khien-ping, fifth year, ninth month, 35th day of the cycle
(October 14th) there were seen moreover thousands of small stars,
which appeared in the group alpha, gamma, delta   Cancri, and went
as far as the group lambda, mu, Ursae Majoris. Generally a large
star was seen followed by a half score of small stars. Among them
were seen two stars as large as a quart measure; these went, one to
the star Sirius, the other to the group phi, rho, tau Sagittarii,
and vanished.

An Arab account of the 1202 A. D. storm, visible in the Middle East
and China:

And in the year 599 [A. H.], on the night of Saturday, on the last
day of Muharram, stars shot hither and thither in the heavens,
eastward and westward, and flew against one  another, like a
scattering swarm of locusts, to the right and left;  this phenomenon
lasted until day-break; people were thrown into consternation, and
cried to God the Most High with confused clamor; the like of it
never happened except in the year of the mission of
the Prophet, and in the year 241.

For Aristotelians, the terrestrial-celestial dichotomy prevented the
identification of meteors as cosmic in origin.  Because the heavens
were unchangeable, any observed change had to be Earthly, or
meteorological, thus the term "meteor".

Steven Dick
U. S. Naval Observatory


From John Michael <>

Dear Benny,
Whilst looking for various historical records of past Leonid
skywatches as background material for our people who will be watching
from the chambered mounds at Barclodiad y Gawres, Anglesey, and
Arthur's Stone, Gower, S.W. Wales, I found this interesting material
about Native American records of the 1833 event.
"One of the few dateable events among the various records of native
Americans was the 1833 appearance of the Leonid meteor shower.
Historically recognized as one of the greatest meteor storms on
record, it made a lasting impression among the peoples of North
The most obvious accounts of the Leonid storm appear among the various
bands of the Sioux of the North American plains. The Sioux kept records
called "winter counts," which were a chronological, pictographic
account of each year painted on animal skin. In 1984, Von Del
Chamberlain (Smithsonian Institution) listed the astronomical
references for 50 Sioux winter counts, of which 45 plainly referred to
an intense meteor shower during 1833/1834. In addition, he listed 19
winter counts kept by other plains Indian tribes, of which 14
obviously referred to the Leonid storm.
The Leonids also appear among the Maricopa, who used calendar sticks
with notches to represent the passage of a year, with the owner
remembering the events. The owner of one stick claimed records had
been kept that way "since the stars fell." The first notch on his
stick represented 1833. Story telling was a very important method of
record keeping among most native Americans and several seem to have
been influenced by the Leonids of 1833. A member of the Papago, named
Kutox, was born around 1847 or 1848. He claimed that 14 years prior to
his birth "the stars rained all over the sky."
A less obvious Leonid reference may exist in the journal kept by
Alexander M. Stephen, which detailed his visit with the Hopi Indians
and mentions a talk he had with Old Djasjini on December 11, 1892.
That Hopi Indian said "How old am I? Fifty, maybe a hundred years, I
cannot tell. When I was a boy of so big (eight or ten years) there
was a great comet in the sky and at night all the above was full of
shooting stars‹ah! that was a very long time ago, maybe a hundred
years, maybe more."
During the probable lifetime of Old Djasjini there was never a "great
comet" and a sky full of meteors in the same year, but he might be
referring to two separate events such as the sungrazing comet 1843 I
and the great Leonid storm of 1833, both of which occurred early in
his life.
The Pawnee have a story about a person known as Pahokatawa, who was
supposedly killed by an enemy and eaten by animals, but then brought
back to life by the gods. He was said to have come to Earth as a
meteor and told the people that when meteors were seen falling in
great numbers it was not a sign that the world would end. When the
Pawnee tribe witnessed the time "the stars fell upon the earth," which
was in 1833, there was a panic, but the leader of the tribe spoke up
and said, "Remember the words of Pahokatawa" and the people were no
longer afraid.
Although the Pawnee learned not to be afraid, there were native
Americans who feared meteors. Why such beliefs came about is almost
impossible to guess, but some of the best examples are as follows:
The Blackfeet of Montana believed a meteor was a sign that sickness
would come to the tribe in the coming winter, or that a great chief
had just died. The Kawaiisu (California) thought a meteor that started
high and fell to the horizon was an omen of sickness and death.
The Cahuilla thought a meteor was the spirit of their first shaman,
Takwich, who was disliked by his people. Takwich was said to wander
the skies at night looking for people far from their tribe. When
someone was found, he stole their spirit, and sometimes even the
person, took them back to his home and ate them.
The Shawnee believed meteors were beings "fleeing from the wrath of
some adversary, or from some anticipated danger."
There were other beliefs which generally did not strike fear into the
hearts of native Americans. Some of these are as follows:
The Wintu (northern California) explained meteors as the spirits of
shamans traveling to the afterlife. The Chumash (California) referred
to meteors as Alakiwohoch, which simply meant "shooting star." They
believed a meteor was a person's soul on its way to the afterlife.
The Luiseņo (California) believed they were merely stars which 
suddenly moved. The Eastern Pomo (North Central California) thought
meteors were fire dropping from heaven."
The full account can be found at:

John Michael
Sefydliad Morien Institute
Astro-Archaeology & Astro-Mythology


From NASA Science News <>

**New Website Announcement**

Leonids, Live!

Next week during the Leonid meteor shower NASA scientists will
launch a helium-filled weather balloon from the Marshall Space
Flight Center.  The payload will include a video camera to record
the Leonid meteors.  High above the clouds, at 100,000 ft, and far
from city lights the view could be spectacular. Transmissions from
the balloon will be broadcast on the web at


From Patrick Helminger <>

Dear Benny

It might be of interest to the readers of this forum that a very
comprehensive book on tektites has been published recently. See the
book review of the German edition in the Journal of the Planetary
and Meteoritical Society!

189 pages, 25 x 16 cm,
amply B&W illustrated plus 42 colour photographs
by Guy Heinen
the price should be around 40 US$ (shipping included)
for any further info please contact the author at

Best greetings,
Patrick Helminger


From Peter Snow <>

Dear All,

I am trying to source a Gamma Camera view of the centre of our
Galaxy for an article. Could anyone help me with this.  I would be
most grateful.

Peter Snow
3 Norfolk St
New Zealand

The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe, please
contact the moderator Benny J Peiser at <>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational
use only. The attached information may not be copied or reproduced for
any other purposes without prior permission of the copyright holders.
The electronic archive of the CCNet can be found at

CCCMENU CCC for 1998