CCNet 128/2001 - 3 December 2001

"Hamas strives for the fulfillment of God's promise as the time
grows long and the Prophet, God Bless Him and Grant Him Salvation,
said, "The Hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews (and
the Muslims will kill them), until the Jews hide behind the trees and
rocks and the trees and rocks will say, "O Muslim, O Servant of God, Here
are the Jews, Come and kill them!"
--Hamas' genocidal programme based on Muhammad's
eschatological prophecy

"According to numerous apocalyptic pamphlets circulating in
Palestinian and other Muslim circles, notably Bin Laden and similar
jihadist circles, Israel, and especially Jerusalem is the center of
this apocalyptic struggle. Jerusalem's (pre-Zionist) significance in Islam
derived primarily from its eschatological significance, the role that it
played on the day of the Resurrection of the Dead and the Last
Judgment. According to a popular eschatological hadith, the Kaabah
stone itself will come from Mecca to Jerusalem on that day. In this world
view, the West, with its secularism and materialism represents a cosmic
enemy that must be destroyed, and Israel, with its control of the holy city
of Jerusalem, the insufferable advance column of that assault."
--Richard Landes, Center for Millennial Studies at Boston

    Haaretz, 3 November 2001

    Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University

    Anne-Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg

    The Associated Press, 2 November 2001

    Witchita Eagle, 2 November 2001

    CNN, 2 December 2001

    BBC News Online, 2 December 2001

    Tallahassee Democrat, 1 November 2001

    JPL/NASA, 29 November 2001

     Andrew Yee <>

     Stephen Ashworth <>

     Eric Stevens <>

     Alastair McBeath <>

     Alastair McBeath <>

     Phillip Clapham <>

     Ilan Manulis <>

     Lawrence Garrett <>

     Mike Baillie <>

     Scott Raeburn <>

     Oliver K. Manuel <>


>From Haaretz, 3 November 2001
By Yoel Marcus
There are times when words simply are not enough. Blood, terror, smashed
bodies, people collecting body parts, ambulances, horror living in the eyes
of survivors - what else can be written of what we see real-time on the TV
screen in attack after attack? That it's intolerable that 53 years after the
founding of the state, Israel is still bleeding? That no country in the
world would put up with being a target for indiscriminate attacks on its
civilians, day after day, month after month? That it drives one crazy to
think that the zealots and fanatics are becoming right in their dark
predictions that `they' won't stop trying to kill us?

The bottom line is that it can't go on this way. Whether it's the Hamas or
the Jihad or the Popular Front, no matter who officially claims
responsibility for this or that attack, it is Arafat's hands that are
bloody. He is responsible both because he knows who is responsible, and
because of his encouragement of the bloodletting of Israelis as part of a
strategy of winning a state "through blood and fire."

We'll go with those who back up what Ned Walker says. The former U.S.
ambassador here said Arafat is linked to the terror groups and is
responsible for the culture of hatred and violence, and is therefore the one
with the power to stop it. On Friday, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer
called retired general Anthony Zinni and gave him a detailed list of alerts
- including information about involvement by Fatah and Palestinian Authority
officers in the planning and execution of the attacks. Arafat certainly knew
what Israel knew - but he didn't lift a finger.

This wave of terror is not exactly a Pearl Harbor requiring a declaration of
war against the PA. But it is close enough to the type of attack that
occurred on the Twin Towers to require any country to respond with due
seriousness. The bombings and the never-ending shootings, have brought us to
a watershed moment when Israel in effect gives an ultimatum to Arafat -
either you take matters into your own hands and eliminate the terrorist
infrastructure, or we'll do it for you.

Most Israelis, and certainly the American government, would prefer that
Arafat do it. If he doesn't impose his authority, he could soon find himself
in unpleasant regions far away from his country. It's up to him to make the
strategic decision to change direction - Israel for sure cannot tolerate
this situation for very much longer.

© Copyright 2001 Ha`aretz


>From the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University

Most Americans ask themselves, "How could someone do this? What madness?"
The more prone to self-criticism and reflection then ask, "What have we done
that might provoke such anger. Palestinians and other Muslims and Arabs
explain that it is our support of Israel that prompts this hatred. We do not
understand the misery that Palestinians live in under Israeli occupation,
the rage and frustration they feel. It is a terrible thing, what happened,
but if you westerners want to know why so many hate you around the world,
consider that the Palestinians suffer under this threat daily.

We need to consider both issues - the motivations of Bin Laden and the
Arab-Israeli conflict in light of Islamism and its apocalyptic world view.
Bin Laden is a central player in a cosmic battle that pits the warriors for
truth against the agents of Satan and evil in this world. (For a good idea
of what this vision consists of, see the web site named in honor of Abdullah
Azzam, Bin Laden's (now dead) mentor and the founder of MAK, the predecessor
to Al Qa'ida,, especially the apocalyptic reading of
the present world situation by a respected Saudi theologian, Sifr al-Hawali
( He uses Daniel to prove that the
second intifada began the "Day of Rage of the Lord." See also, by a moderate theologian who
dislikes the fundamentalists, but nonetheless reads Sura 57 of the Koran as
an apocalyptic prophecy fulfilled in the Trade Center bombing.

Islamism represents what we might call a "fundamentalist" reaction to the
inroads of modernity. Assaulted by a multi-cultural, multi-religious and
secular world, with all that implies about the "relativity" of both
scripture and claims to absolute truth, as well as to the laxities of
observance and morality that seem so much a part of modernity, Islam has,
like Judaism and Christianity, generated revival movements that seek to
return to the "fundamentals" of the faith – Sharia (Islamic law), strict
observances and purity concerns, and an implacably hostile attitude towards
the secular world that undermines such efforts. In the case of Islam these
revival efforts align closely with political efforts to impose religious
uniformity – the veil for women and public prayer for men – and ultimately
connect with theocratic notions of state-sponsored Sharia (including the
mutilation of thieves and the execution of adulterers). This latter tendency
is directly related to the earliest development of Islam in which military
conquest prepared the ground for religious dominion (and only later mass
conversions), and it has intensified in both Sunni and Shi'i circles since
Khoumeini's revolution in Iran in 1979. Islamism represents the more intense
and coercive elements of this fundamentalist Islamic revival, holding out as
a solution to the whole world’s problems the vision of a global culture
under Sharia.

The relative failure of these "utopian" religious ideologies (what we
generically call millennialism) in places like Iran, and their devolution
into terrible civil wars with devastating civilian casualties (Sudan,
Algeria) has, rather than give Islamicists pause, only served to intensify
the belief that, if only these things were properly done, they would work
(i.e., Sunni Taliban rather than Shi'i Iranians). The political aspect of
these conflicts has further intensified around the unbearable blow to
Islamic pride and identity brought on by the existence of an autonomous (and
modernizing) Jewish state in the midst of territories under Islamic dominion
since the first generations of the religion. The vision of a world
successively brought under the peaceful dominion of Islam (conquered areas
known as Dar el Salaam, the realm of peace), while it might have been halted
by the West, was rolled back by Israel in 1948, and again in 1967.

Such developments have sharpened the sense of assault by the modern West and
have come together in a ferocious apocalyptic narrative of the final battle
between good and evil in radical Islamist circles of the Middle East. For
these radicals, the failure of Islam in the modern world comes from corrupt
monarchies and rapidly corrupting secular revolutionary regimes. The West at
a distance may have presented a threat, but Israel represents a desecrating
cultural invasion. The Islamist narrative is not a story of the tides of
civilization, but relentlessly cosmic in scope and urgent in rhetoric. Now
rages the battle between cosmic good (we warriors for Allah) and evil (the
West, especially its most Satanic forces, Israel and the USA).

According to numerous apocalyptic pamphlets circulating in Palestinian and
other Muslim circles, notably Bin Laden and similar jihadist circles,
Israel, and especially Jerusalem is the center of this apocalyptic struggle.
Jerusalem's (pre-Zionist) significance in Islam derived primarily from its
eschatological significance, the role that it played on the day of the
Resurrection of the Dead and the Last Judgment. According to a popular
eschatological hadith, the Kaabah stone itself will come from Mecca to
Jerusalem on that day. In this world view, the West, with its secularism and
materialism represents a cosmic enemy that must be destroyed, and Israel,
with its control of the holy city of Jerusalem, the insufferable advance
column of that assault. As the rest of the world succumbs to Western
blandishments and corruption, Islam alone has resisted, at least that
element of Islam that has renewed and purified itself in recent times in
Islamism. The larger vision, championed by Bin Laden, however goes beyond
this fundamentalist revivalism so familiar to historians of American
culture, itself one of the most fertile soils for revival movements in the
world. For Bin Laden this is no see-saw battle between two sides, this is
the ultimate struggle.

For him, Sharia should rule the entire world, a project he believes that
Muhammed commanded almost 1500 years ago. "Behold!" claims an early and
oft-repeated Muslim text, "God sent me [the Prophet Muhammad] with a sword,
just before the Hour [of Judgment], and placed my daily sustenance beneath
the shadow of my spear, and humiliation and contempt upon those who oppose
me." But as opposed to (what we can reconstruct so far) of Islamic history,
this time the battle is not merely conquest, but annihilation of the enemy.
This is the apocalyptic world of "convert to the true faith or die."

These are the characteristics of the most virulent forms apocalyptic
violence. As with the "first" Crusaders (1096-99), the enemy, demonized, has
no human traits; if they refuse to convert they deserve mass slaughter. The
massacre of Jews at home, of Muslims, Jews, and even of the strange
Christians in the Levant, were all signs of the Lord's Day, the day of
Vindication for his faithful crusaders. Similarly, the 5-10,000 dead - for
Bin Laden better it were 50,000 - are a down payment. This is the first real
blow of Armageddon.

So why the Trade Center and the Pentagon? Why attack symbols when you risk,
as the Japanese did, awaking the slumbering giant? Why the mad disregard for
the realities of the situation? Because Bin Laden lives in a symbolic
universe which he reads apocalyptically. Reflective apocalyptic violence,
whether it comes from an individual like Buford Thomas or Timothy McVeigh,
or the leader of a "new religious movement" like Shinohara and his Aum Shin
Rikyo, views the current (socio-political) world as great tectonic plates in
immense tension, and if the agent of apocalyptic destruction can only set
off an explosion at the very site where that tension is greatest, they can
free the fault line to completely realign the world.

How new is this Islamic apocalyptic reading? Significant recent mutations in
Muslim apocalyptic date back to 1979 (when, in the year 1400 A.H., Khoumeini
took over Iran with millennial plans for a perfect theocracy). In the last
two decades, as this active eschatology passed from Shi'i to Sunni circles
in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this apocalyptic discourse has
taken on many of the traits and techniques of Western apocalyptic (Biblical
themes, sophisticated communication technologies). Al Halawi's book The Day
of Wrath, for example, is posted on the Web and its content is enormously
sophisticated and eclectic in its use of Jewish and Christian sources. At
the approach of 2000, the Christian year became increasingly significant for
Muslim apocalyptic writers, who mixed conspiracy theory, UFOs, and classic
Muslim and Christian apocalyptic to target Israel, and especially their
control of the Temple Mount as the center of the cosmic battle. A Zionist
coalition of Christians and Jews, led by al Dajjal (Islam's "Antichrist"
figure), would trample Al Haram al Sharif in Jerusalem, triggering the final
battle. The "Al Aqsa" intifada, started in the year 2000 in reaction to the
desecrating visit of Sharon. It set in motion the attack of Muslim forces
against the apocalyptic enemy of Israel. The attack on the US strikes at the
other "twin tower" of Western evil.

This kind of apocalyptic violence is hardly new. Indeed Western European
Christianity in its "middle ages" engaged in just this kind of thinking,
producing crusading massacres both against infidels abroad and dissidents at
home, as well as the totalitarian institutions of inquisitorial Christendom.
One of the most important steps towards modern civil society was to abandon
such narcissistic, megalomanic self-perceptions, and restrain religion from
using coercion to articulate its message. Unfortunately, we seem to have
repressed the apocalyptic so firmly in the West, that we don't seem capable
of recognizing it when it reappears elsewhere. And we don’t know how to deal
with the religious expressions of such overwhelmingly anti-modern hostility
to the demands of civil society.

How do we confront such a terrifying and zealous enemy?

By minimizing his fanaticism, and telling ourselves, without further
investigation, that such insanity is really marginal, the work of a madman?
One shudders at the cost of underestimating such implacable and urgent

By telling ourselves that our own sins have aroused his regrettable but
understandable hatred? It makes sense to take apocalyptic hatred seriously;
it is folly to imagine that our sins, however numerous deserve this hatred.

By imagining that if we could just get Bin Laden and some of his associates,
we could also atone to the rest of the Muslim world by sacrificing the sin
offering that their Islamists demand - Israel? The Palestinians, after all
do not really partake of this mad vision, and would settle for satisfaction
in their cause. (As one European put it to an American friend: "When are
your Jews going to realize that it is their support for Israel that is
bringing this misery upon you?") Such thinking, as admirably
self-flagellating or despicably hypocritical and treacherous as it might be
to the cause of civil society, is in any case willfully self-deceptive and
ultimately self-destructive.

And if we look more closely and see how widespread this virulent form of
demonizing apocalyptic has become in global Islam, from its fanatic core to
a widespread Muslim sympathy with its world view, how do we deal with it? No
civil society can tolerate active cataclysmic apocalyptic religiosity, with
its dualistic demonizing and totalizing violence against any dissent. And
any viable civil society must confront the less visible passive forms such
belief takes and which, under conditions of stress, generates its more
violent manifestations. The USA has those tendencies (hence the fearful
symmetry of Robertson and Falwell's reading of the attack as punishment for
our sins of secularism), and we weathered them at the approach of Y2K. That
is the sign of a healthy civil society.

If we would rather not sacrifice Israel to the apocalyptic rage of Islamism
the way we sacrificed Czechoslovakia to the colder but no less ambitious
appetite of the Nazis, and we also do not want to tar all of Islam with the
brush of apocalyptic Islamism, thus joining in their dualistc thinking, if
we want to build a global community that has a chance for peace, then we
must begin to ask ourselves, and our Muslim moderate friends, both political
and personal, some very hard questions about their apocalyptic visions.

This forces us to confront secular modernity's schizophrenic attitude
towards religion. On the one hand, Bin Laden's kind of religiosity
represents the worst of what we, as a culture, renounced in the shift to
modern civil societies - religion as a wielder of power in the name of a
dogmatic theology that cannot tolerate anyone else's religious freedoms. The
denunciations of religion as superstition, infantile neurosis, totalitarian
oppression, all stem from our horror at the inquisitorial institutions and
religious wars such fanaticism engendered. On the other hand, modern culture
is rightly proud of its capaciousness and tolerance of religions, religions
willing to renounce the claim to force others to follow their precepts. Our
secular culture, however, has never really recovered from its anti-religious
sentiments that first inaugurated the age of civil societies (18th-19th
century Enlightenment). Hence we are in a very poor position to distinguish
between the religiosities that support and enhance civil societies, and
those that despise them and seek their destruction. It will not help to
pretend that elements of Islam that have yet to make the step into the civic
agreement of voluntarism have already done so (the liberal "they're just
like us" tendency); nor will it help to brand all of Islam with the brush of
its anti-modern tendencies (the conservative culture-war tendency). To
distinguish will take maturity, discernment, and an honest dialogue with
Muslims of genuine good will who may not yet understand the problems
plaguing their troubled religion.

Richard Landes
Director, Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University


A Position Paper for the Center for Millennial Studies by Anne-Marie Oliver
and Paul Steinberg

The geopsychic center of all the end-time scenarios of the three
monotheistic faiths has always been the "Holy Land," particularly
Jerusalem--a fact which has not been lost on Israelis and Palestinians of
all persuasions and a fact which has played no small part in the
overdetermination of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our work explores the
ways in which traditional Islamic eschatological scripts such as Gog and
Magog, the One-Eyed Man, the Gharqad Tree, and the Hour were revitalized and
politically transvalued to meet the political and psychological demands of
the intifada--the Palestinian uprising which began in December 1987 and
ended, arguably, with the signing of the Oslo Accords. The renaissance of
these scripts was, in many ways, a natural and spontaneous movement, for
what they offered was an immediate means by which the crisis then at hand
could be framed, contextualized, and understood. Although they were largely
presented as immutable, self-fulfilling prophecies, they were, in actuality,
constantly being reinterpreted, often in creative ways.

The cluster of intifada-inspired exegeses surrounding the hadith or
"tradition of the Prophet" of "the Gharqad Tree" provides a good example of
such reinterpretation. The hadith, significantly, appeared early in the
intifada in the 1988 mithaq or "covenant" which announced the formation of
the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS). Created as a Qur'an-based
alternative to the nationalist groups, particularly the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), the new movement, its founders hoped, would soon take
the lead in the revolution then unfolding. "The seventh subject" of the
document is devoted to showing that Hamas, as the militant Palestinian wing
of the Muslim Brotherhood, is but the latest link in the long chain of jihad
waged by the Brothers against "the Zionist invasion"--a chain which includes
the "'36 Revolt," a reference to the uprising directed against both the
British authorities and the Palestinian Jews in 1936; the War of 1948, and
the attacks and incursions following the '67 war. Clenching their argument
on the necessity of war, the authors close the section with an
eschatological prophecy attributed to Muhammad by the renowned collectors of
ahadith, Bukhari and Muslim:

...Hamas strives for the fulfillment of God's promise as the time
grows long and the Prophet, God Bless Him and Grant Him Salvation,
said, "The Hour will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews (and
the Muslims will kill them), until the Jews hide behind the trees and
rocks and the trees and rocks will say, "O Muslim, O Servant of God, Here
are the Jews, Come and kill them!" except the Gharqad Tree because
it is a tree of the Jews."

As "the Hour" approaches, Muslims and Jews, according to a related hadith,
will be arrayed "east and west"--directions which, not surprisingly, were
reinterpreted during the intifada as references to the east and west banks
of the Jordan River. The river, of course, is both the natural and legal
boundary separating Jordan (east) from Israel (west). By extension, "west"
also refers to the Western world, particularly America, with which Israel is
allied. As in all eschatological schemas, the Forces of Light will finally
prevail in a final, determinative battle. Towards this end, all of creation
will turn against the Jews, even the land itself. Their only ally will be
the Gharqad Tree, a thorny bush traditionally believed to speak in oracles.

Some members of the Islamic Movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip aver
that the esoteric tree currently surrounds Israeli settlements as a
protective hedge of natural magic. Others claim that it grows outside the
Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City, the site where Jesus, according to some
hadith, will one day kill the Anti-Christ. Still others ascribe a more
symbolic meaning to the tree. According to one reading popular during the
intifada, the Gharqad Tree represents collaborators, those Palestinians
accused of cooperating with the Israeli military authorities, indeed, all
the forces of the world which conspire with the Jews against the Muslims.

During the uprising, eschatological scripts such as "the Gharqad Tree"
served a variety of functions: 1) They constituted a parallel universe which
both mirrored and shaped the intifada. In this universe, the Muslim, the
Jew, the collaborator, and the foreigner all acquire allegorical analogues,
often fantastic. 2) They served to reinforce and sanctify Palestinian
chosen-ness, ownership of the land, and the transcendental centrality of the
Israeli-Palestinian struggle. 3) As long-cherished constructs became
increasingly demoored from any material base, the signs and wonders of the
Last Days served as radical if imaginary objective correlatives of
revolution and the death, loss, and massive socio-political upheaval which
inevitably accompany it. 4) They constituted a ready-made program for the
attainment of redemption, personal and historical, through rather than
despite catastrophe. Solidarity was enhanced through fearful visions of
ever-greater catastrophe, imminent but perpetually deferred. At the same
time, the population was reassured that "God is with us" and that victory
would one day be theirs. 5) Such scripts further inculcated fear and
distrust in appearances as ideologies in and of themselves while,
simultaneously, placing them within a comfortingly familiar transcendental
framework. Concomitantly, they served to occlude chance and choice at a time
when the future seemed unbearably uncertain for the vast majority of

Copyright 2001, The Times


>From The Associated Press, 2 November 2001

Streaks of brilliant light in the night sky were observed by Oklahomans
across the state late Saturday.

Dozens of Oklahomans reported seeing three or four long streaks of light
moving across the sky shortly after 10 p.m. Witnesses said the streaks
produced sparks as they moved across the sky.

The Associated Press received telephone calls about the lights from Oklahoma
City, Tulsa Enid, Edmond, Owasso, Shawnee and McAlester. Broadcasters
reported that the lights were seen as far away as Denison, Texas and
Wichita, Kan.

A dispatcher at the Kansas Turnpike Authority in Wichita said callers
reported the lights from the Oklahoma border to near Kansas City. In
Hastings, Neb., meteorologist Larry Wirth of the National Weather Service
reported calls from Kearney and Clay Center.

Wirth said callers described a bright light that crossed the horizon from
southwest to northeast and broke.

"People said it appeared to break up into about 30 little balls, with tails,
more or less like fireworks," Wirth said.

Witnesses said the lights appeared white and blue. The National Weather
Service in Norman said the descriptions were consistent with a man-made
object, probably a satellite or space junk, re-entering the atmosphere.

"It was probably either some kind of meteor shower or re-entry of space
junk," said Kevin Brown, National Weather Service meteorologist.

Wirth said NORAD -- the North American Air Defense Command -- reported to
the Federal Aviation Administration's regional center in Minneapolis that
some kind of space debris had broken up in the atmosphere.

NORAD monitors satellites and other space junk that re-enter the atmosphere.

In Topeka, Kan., weather service meteorologist Matt Wolters said such light
shows are not uncommon when space debris enters the atmosphere.

But Saturday night's display was noticed over such a wide area because the
night sky was especially clear, Wolters said.

Copyright 2001, AP


>From Witchita Eagle, 2 November 2001

Authorities received dozens of phone calls around 10:15 p.m. Saturday from
people who reported seeing bright lights in the sky.

The Kansas Turnpike reported receiving calls from as far as Kansas City.

Chance Hayes, meteorologist at the National Weather Service, wasn't sure
what the lights were. His best guess: either a meteor breaking up as it
entered the atmosphere or space trash.

He said the reports were of an isolated incident, which typically doesn't
happen in showers.

Ron Baxter saw the bright lights from his south Wichita home.

"It trailed across the western sky from one end to the other," he said. "It
was huge."


>From CNN, 2 December 2001

OKLAHOMA CITY (CNN) -- A spectacular light show in the skies over Oklahoma
and Texas Saturday night was the result of space junk re-entering the sky,
the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said.

Dozens of bright, twinkling lights with long tails streaked across the night
sky in what looked like a slow-moving meteor shower. The lights were large
and appeared white, blue and yellow.

A NORAD spokesman said the object was an SL12 Russian rocket entering the
atmosphere, and that it posed no danger to anyone on the ground. The
spokesman said such space junk breaks up or disintegrates upon re-entry.

CNN received numerous calls from viewers about the event. One witness in the
Texas panhandle, near Lubbock, said the lights covered a large span of the
Copyright 2001, CNN


>From the BBC News Online, 2 December 2001
A spectacular meteor shower was seen over southern England during Saturday
night. Witnesses from Essex to Sussex watched as burning fragments shot
across the sky. Observers said the meteor fragments were very bright and
could be seen for up to four minutes in places.  The last meteor shower, the
Leonids, was two weeks ago.

Spectacular sight

One observer, Jay Butler in Brighton, said the meteor fragments were
"coloured white and gold".
He had been fishing near Brighton Marina. He said: "The lights appeared in
the south east and were heading inland." Another witness, Bruce Fenton,
watched the phenomenon from Docklands in east London. Viewing from the side
of the River Thames, he said it was "the most spectacular thing I'd ever

The Leonid shower takes place every November
At 2230 GMT, he said about eight meteors moved east to west across London,
taking about four minutes in all, in a brilliant display. Mr Fenton said
that about five minutes later, the surface of the river became very rough
with substantial waves hitting the bank.

Another observer near Rye in Kent said it looked like a stream of comets in
the southern sky.
One astronomer said it may have been a single meteor breaking up. Variable
conditions made it difficult for skywatchers in some parts of the world to
get a good view of the Leonid meteor shower in mid-November. Astronomers had
forecast an intense flurry of shooting stars.

Predictable showers

Observers in North America and some areas in the Asia-Pacific region
reported seeing streaks of light every few seconds. However, clouds and rain
obscured the view for many other people around the globe. The Leonid shower
takes place every November when the Earth passes through the dusty remnants
of comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Meteor showers are usually quite predictable, say astronomers. But none are
due for some time.

Copyright 2001, BBC


>From Tallahassee Democrat, 1 November 2001

By Gerald Ensley

MARIANNA - You watched the meteor shower before dawn on Nov. 18, then went
back to bed with beautiful memories.

Naomi Barbour watched the meteor shower, went back to bed with beautiful
memories - then woke up to a bonus: a yardful of meteorites.

Maybe. Probably not.

But you be the one to tell Barbour, who remains excited by her discovery
nearly two weeks later.

"This is the find of the century to me," Barbour said, as she held a box of
small rocks. "How many people get to pick up meteorites in their back yard?"

Apparently, not many.

Marvin Killgore of Payson, Ariz., earns his living buying, selling and
chasing meteorites. Reached by phone, he said he examines about 1,000
"finds" per year - and no more than two or three turn out to be meteorites.
He said he would have to test a sample of Barbour's collection before
passing final judgment. But after hearing Barbour's story from a reporter,
he said, "The chances she has a meteorite are slim and none.

"It's a kind of interesting story, and I wouldn't doubt it was true - if I
hadn't heard so many like it," Killgore said. "It's not very often anyone
finds a real meteorite."

Meteorites are rocks from outer space that pass into the Earth's atmosphere.
They are called meteors (or "shooting stars") as they burn brightly through
the atmosphere and meteorites once they land.

A six-mile wide meteor is thought to have struck the Earth in prehistoric
times, throwing up a cloud of dust that blocked out the sun and made the
dinosaurs extinct. Smaller meteorites have created craters and crashed
through homes and cars.

Barbour, 48, a retired New York Transit Authority employee, has sent off one
of her rocks to be examined by another Arizona dealer. But here's her story:

On Sunday, Nov. 18, Barbour joined the millions of Americans who watched the
Leonids meteor shower, caused by an ancient comet. She and her adult son,
Michael Pilgrim, stood in the back yard of her rural home about 4:30 a.m.
and marveled at the cascade of bright flashes through the sky. After a
half-hour, they went back to bed.

About 9 a.m., her son took their Columbian bulldog, Max, out to his chain
under a tree. Pilgrim then raced back into the house and told his mother
excitedly, "We've got a bunch of rocks near the dog's tree."

The two went outside and agreed the rocks must be meteorites. They collected
more than 50 palm-sized rocks. All were found within a circular area of
grass about 15 feet in diameter. None had been there before the meteor
shower, Barbour said.

Barbour excitedly called her best friend, Charlie Pratt, also a retired New
York Transit Authority worker, who came over to her house, looked at her
find and joked, "You're rich."

Indeed, meteorites fetch a handsome fee because they tell scientists so much
about the solar system. Most meteorites come from a band of asteroids
orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. Others are chunks of Mars or the Earth's
moon. All have been in space for tens of thousands of years. Killgore said
meteorites sell for $3 a pound to $35,000 a gram, depending on their origin.
The most valuable meteorites are from the moon and Mars.

Barbour has several pounds of rocks.

They are black or gray or reddish with blackened areas - as if burned on one
side. Many are honeycombed with small holes. All are rather light. Barbour
passed a refrigerator magnet over them while a reporter visited, but it did
not stick to the rocks.

The rocks fail the basic tests of meteorites - which are rarely red in
color, usually have no holes, are generally heavier than other rocks their
size and have a magnetic field because of their iron content.

Moreover, the conditions of Barbour's find are unusual - and certainly are
not a result of the Nov. 18th meteor shower.

Steve Kish, a Florida State University associate professor of geology,
explained that each of the "Leonids" was the size of a grain of sand; their
brilliant light was a result of plunging through the atmosphere at 30,000
miles an hour. Had a meteorite the size of any of Barbour's rocks fallen to
earth, the light would have been so bright "it would light up a 10-state
area; it would have been visible even in the daytime," Kish said.

Pratt theorized Barbour's stones were part of a larger meteorite that broke
up before it hit the earth. Killgore agreed that happens occasionally. But,
Killgore said, a large meteor plunging to earth creates a sonic boom heard
for miles - and Barbour concedes she heard nothing. Additionally, such
meteors break up about 10 miles above the earth, scattering debris for

"They don't generally fall only in a small, little back yard," Killgore

To be sure, hundreds of meteors pass through the Earth's sky every day,
though only about a dozen actually land. They are most often discovered in
desert areas, where the dry conditions preserve them for long periods of
time - or Antarctica where thousands have been found preserved in the
glaciers. Less than a half-dozen meteorites have been discovered in Florida,
because the hot, moist conditions soon render them unrecognizable from other

"It's possible (Barbour found meteorites)," Killgore said. "But my guess is
someone is playing a practical joke on her."

Barbour refuses to believe that and hopes the tests prove her right.

"This is no hoax," she said. "This is a blessing."

© 2001 Tallahassee Democrat. All rights reserved


>From JPL/NASA, 29 November 2001

Ocean Inside Jupiter's Moon Callisto May Have Cushioned Big Impact

A recent image from NASA's Galileo spacecraft adds evidence to a theory that
Callisto, the outermost of Jupiter's four large moons, may hold an
underground ocean.

The image shows a part of Callisto's surface directly opposite from the
Valhalla basin where Callisto was punched by a major collision. The
opposition point shows no effect from the impact. Points opposite major
impact features on some similar-size worlds, such as Mercury and Earth's
Moon, show lumpy terrain attributed to seismic shocks from the distant

The new image is consistent with a 1990s model proposing that a liquid layer
could be acting as a shock absorber inside Callisto, said planetary
geologist Dr. David A. Williams of Arizona State University, Tempe.

"Although there is a lot of uncertainty in the computer modeling of
Callisto, it's good that this image supports the hypothesis presented a
decade ago. But it's not a smoking gun, and a lot more evidence needs to be
uncovered before we will know for sure whether Callisto has a subsurface
ocean," Williams said.

"Galileo has given us indications, primarily from magnetometer data, of the
possibility that Europa, Ganymede and Callisto -- three of Jupiter's four
large moons -- have liquid-water layers," said Dr. Torrence Johnson, project
scientist for Galileo at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

"Liquid water is of interest not only for what it may tell us about the
evolution of these bodies, but also for biological implications," Johnson
said. Life relies on liquid water, but an ocean on Callisto would not draw
as much interest in a search for life as one on Europa. An ocean on Callisto
would be much farther below the surface than Europa's ocean. It would also
be trapped between two layers of ice rather than sitting on top of a warm
rocky layer, as models suggest for Europa.

Images taken of Valhalla's opposite point, or antipode, during a May 25,
2001, flyby of Callisto by Galileo, show the same type of cratered surface
seen all over Callisto. In contrast, regions opposite large impact basins on
the Moon and Mercury have grooved and hilly features known as "antipodal
terrains" and attributed to shocks from the impacts.

"The Valhalla antipodal region on Callisto is cratered, but definitely not
grooved and hilly," Williams said. He is processing and analyzing the
Galileo Callisto imagery with James E. Klemaszewski and Dr. Ronald Greeley,
also of Arizona State University. Williams presented a preliminary analysis
today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division
for Planetary Sciences, being held in New Orleans.

Earlier computer modeling of Callisto by Greeley and his student Allison
Watts suggested that if Callisto had a liquid water layer in its interior,
this layer would have dispersed the seismic shock waves from the ancient
Valhalla impact. These shock waves might otherwise have produced grooved and
hilly terrain at the antipode.

Callisto is about the same size as Mercury. Its surface of ice and rock is
the most heavily cratered of any moon in the solar system, signifying that
it is geologically "dead." There is no clear evidence that Callisto has
experienced the volcanic activity or tectonic shifting that have erased some
or all of the impact craters on Jupiter's other three large moons. So, if
the Valhalla impact billions of years ago had reshaped the landscape on the
opposite side of Callisto, those effects would likely still be detectable.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of
Technology in Pasadena, manages Galileo for NASA's Office of Space Science,
Washington, D.C. Additional information about the mission is available
online at: .

The new Callisto image is available online at .

Contact Information:

JPL/Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Arizona State University/James Hathaway (480) 965-6375


>From Andrew Yee <>

Instituto de AstrofŪsica de Canarias
La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain

Instituto de AstrofŪsica de Canarias
Tel: 34 / 922 605 200
Fax: 34 / 922 605 210



This study, carried out by IAC researcher Juan Antonio Belmonte, was
published recently in Archaeoastronomy, the annual supllement of the Journal
for the History of Astronomy.

The exactitude of the alignment of the Egyptian pyramids with the four
cardinal points continues to be an interesting topic that harks back to one
of the first moments in the history of civilization in which astronomy was
pressed into the service of the arts, in this case to monumental
architecture. From the XIX century onwards many investigators have sought to
explain the supposed Egyptian mastery of astronomical principles by
postulating various theories. Recently, the journal Nature gave front page
coverage of a new idea proposed by the British Egyptologist Kate Spence,
according to whom the alignment of the pyramids could have been achieved via
observations of simultaneous transits across the local meridian (an
imaginary semicircle that divides the sky into its eastern and western
halves) of two circumpolar stars, Kochab and Mizar, that were on opposite
sides of the north celestial pole at the time when the pyramids were built,
the chronology of the Great Pyramid being thereby shortened by almost 80
years. The article by the IAC's Juan Antonio Belmonte now critically
examines Spence's proposal and improves on this with a new hypothesis.

As is well known, the pyramids of Egypt, particularly those of the IV
Dynasty Kings Cheops, Khephren and Mycerinus, raised on the plateau of Giza
some 4500 years ago, are orientated with extraordinary accuracy with the
four cardinal points. Belmonte now suggests that this orientation, following
the local meridian, could have been achieved through meridian transit
observations of the stars Phecda and Megrez, belonging to the Leg of the
Bull, one of the most
imporatant Egyptian constellation (equivalent to our Plough in the
constellation Ursa Major). Extending the line joining these two stars leads
us to Thuban (the "pole star" at that time) in the same way that the two
stars Merak and Dubhe today act as pointers to the present Pole Star,

According to this new hypothesis, the greatest accuracy of alignment would
have been achieved around the year 2562 BC; consequently, the Great Pyramid
could have been orientated close to this date, at a moment falling between
the two dates proposed Spence and Belmonte, which would place it at the
start of the reign of Cheops (2589 - 2551 BC) and render unnecessary the
shortening in the chronology advocated by Spence.

Belmonte's hypothesis has important chronological and historical -- even
mythological -- implications that could help towards a a better
understanding of how the Egyptians of the pharaonic era understood the
cosmos and made use of it, among other things, to align precisely their most
important monuments.

Complete text of article also published in issue 1-2001 of IAC Noticias
(only in spanish), at:

Image sequence in betcam format available by phoning 922 605202 or 922

* Movies and images [in Spanish text only]


>From Stephen Ashworth <>

Book review: "Man, Medicine and Space", by CCNet subscriber Michael
Martin-Smith (Writers Club Press, 2000, an imprint of Inc.),
243 pages, 16.95 US dollars.

The current international crisis is a natural time for people in the
developed world to reassess their cultural values and sense of social
direction. In addition to the short-term challenge of violence, this
reassessment could profitably also take into account the long-term dialogue
between traditional religion and progressive science, which has reached a
new level in recent years thanks to developments in the studies of chaos,
catastrophism, biology and astronomy.

In his book "Man, Medicine and Space", subtitled "A Manifesto for the
Millennium", CCNet subscriber Michael Martin-Smith aims to "arouse something
more of an ideological/religious attitude among a larger section of the
public towards space development" (p.230). The logic of his position is
shared by many in the space and astronomical communities (including this
reviewer). It is that the portrait of the human situation amid the panoramas
of cosmic space and evolutionary time painted for us by modern science is
more than a mere catalogue of neutral facts -- it is rather a source of
value, a purposeful cosmic drama in which humanity plays a starring role,
and thus potentially a motivator of social movements on a scale historically
associated with major religious and political creeds.

It is with this insight that Martin-Smith launches a thumbnail sketch of
cosmic and human history, including an unusual discussion of ideas relating
to spaceflight and the heavens in religion and mythology, leading to a
statement of the crisis humanity faces today: it needs to continue to grow
but is not yet aware of how to succeed in this.  The answer is presented
through an overview of what has been achieved in spaceflight so far and what
may be expected in the future, looking forward via space tourism and solar
power satellites to O'Neill colonies, solar-system industrialisation and
starships driven by anti-matter engines.  The author's professional
expertise (he is a medical doctor) informs his descriptions of the
physiological problems faced by astronauts in orbit and the opportunities
for manufacturing pharmaceuticals on the International Space Station.

This is a book for the non-specialist member of the public -- and for his or
her political and spiritual leaders.  By packaging such vast subjects into
243 pages the intention is to put across a broad picture of our current and
future opportunities for growth in space, and thereby to
inspire with optimism. The tone is upbeat, though tempered with a brief
consideration of whether military conflict might ever break out between
orbiting space colonies -- the author very fairly judges that it would be
rash to rule out war in space, but that there are several encouraging
factors (p.213).

More consideration of the possible downside to space colonisation would have
been welcome in order to engage with widespread public fears about
technological progress. For example, there are reasons why one may argue
that it is easier to defend the Earth against an asteroid on collision
course than it is to set a harmless asteroid onto such a course, and thus
Carl Sagan's misgivings about asteroid defence expressed in his book "Pale
Blue Dot" are exaggerated. But a sceptic would need to be convinced. Again,
more than a dismissive jibe at "various bands of ultra-green zealots" (p.60)
will be needed if the message of space colonisation is to attract the
sympathy of those whose habits of thought are shaped by the environmental
movement or the political left.

It would be satisfying to be able to report that "Man, Medicine and Space"
had found the right publisher. Unfortunately it has not. The book has
apparently been typeset and printed directly from the author's rough draft.
There are irritating mistakes in punctuation in every paragraph, numerous
infelicities of expression and minor errors which no alert editor would have
allowed through. For example, the difficulties experienced in the Soviet
manned space programme "led to" the triumphant US Moon-landings (p.88);
0.002 millimetres is put equal to 5 microns (p.164); the Voyager spacecraft
in 1995 are said to have reached a point "some 8,000 billion kilometres from
Earth" (p.149); Mariner 10 is described as being in a parabolic orbit around
the sun and returning to Mercury's orbit "on the return limb of its
parabola" (p.138) -- a manoeuvre which the author justly terms "an amazing

That these errors have survived is clearly the result of carelessness in the
book production process. Unfortunately they cannot help but damage the
book's authority in the eyes of any educated reader. "Man, Medicine and
Space" should be properly edited by a publisher who knows their job if it is
to be effective in conveying the author's passionate argument for an
optimistic vision of the future to the people he most needs to address. That
said, this is a necessary book, promoting (together with Sagan's "Pale Blue
Dot" and others) a viewpoint which will surely be heard more frequently
during the coming century. It is to be hoped that a second, improved edition
will find its way into the mainstream of public debate.

"Man Medicine and Space" (lacking the comma which is necessary between the
first two words) may be viewed on-line at, and purchased
directly from there or from

Stephen Ashworth
Oxford, U.K.
30 November 2001

(Stephen Ashworth is the author of two sci-fi works: the dramatic poem
"Creation", set in a future lunar colony, and the stage play "No Lifeline
But Numbers", set on board a fictional British space station.)



>From Eric Stevens <>

I was metaphorically struck by the imagery of Duncan Lunan's letter (CCNet,
30 November 2001) in which he quoted from the Hebrew Bible:

In Psalm 18, after David calls to God for help, this is what

"Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the
hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. There went up a smoke
out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were
kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was
under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon
the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round
about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. At the brightness
that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of
fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his
voice: hail stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent out his arrows, and
scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. Then the
channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were
discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath from thy

Very figurative, but maybe a folk memory?

Very likely.

I have just finished reading the recently published "Tsunami- The underrated
hazard" [Edward Bryant, Cambridge University Press] and I thought you might
be interested in the patr of the opening in which Bryant tells the following
synthesis of Australian Aboriginal stories:

Begin quote:

"It was a stifling hot day, and all the Burragorang people lay prostrate
around their camp unable to eat. As night approached, no one could sleep
because of the heat and the mosquitoes. The sun set blood red and the moon
rose full in the east through the haze. With just a remnant of red in the
western sky, the sky suddenly heaved, billowed, tumbled, and then tottered
before crumbling. The moon rocked, the stars clattered, and the Milky Way
split. Many of the stars - loosened
from their places - began to fall flashing to the ground. Then a huge ball
of burning blue fire shot through the sky at enormous speed. A hissing sound
filled the air, and the whole sky lit like day. Then the star hit the Earth.
The ground heaved and split open. Stones flew up accompanied by masses of
earth followed by a deafening roar that echoed through the hills before
filling the world with complete noise. A million pieces of molten fire
showered the ground. Everyone was awestruck and frozen in fear. The sky was
falling. Smaller stars continued to fall throughout the night with great
clamouring and smoke. The next morning, when all was quiet again, only the
bravest hunters explored beyond the campsite. Great holes were burnt into
the ground. Wherever one of the larger molten pieces had hit, it had piled
up large mounds of soil. Many of these holes were still burning with flames
belching out. Down by the sea, they were amazed. Fresh caves lined the

Soon stories reached them from neighbouring tribes that not only had the sky
fallen, but also the ocean. These neighbours began talking about a great
ancestor who had left the Earth and gone into the sky, and who had travelled
so fast that he had shot through the sky. The hole he had made had closed
up. This ancestor had tried to get back through the sky by beating on top of
it, but it had loosened and plummeted to the Earth, along with the ocean.
Before anyone could discuss this story, it began to rain - rain unlike
anything anyone had seen before. It rained all day and all night, and the
rivers reached their banks and then crept out across the floodplains. Still
the rain came down, and the people and all the animals fled into the hills.
When the water rose into the hills, the people fled to the highest peaks.
Water covered the whole land from horizon-to-horizon unlike anything anyone
had ever seen before. It took weeks for the water to go down, everyone got
very hungry, and many people died. Nothing was the same after the night that
the sky fell. Now, whenever the sea grows rough and the wind blows, people
know that the ocean is angry and impatient because the ancestor still
refuses to let it go back whence it came. When the storm waves break on the
beach, people know that it is just the great ancestor beating the ocean down

End quote.

Bryant later went on to say:

"The Aboriginal story incorporates numerous published legends in the
southeast part of Australia. One story actually uses the colloquial word
tidal wave for tsunami. Scientific investigations along the Southeast Coast
of Australia now indicate that the Aboriginal stories are not myths, but
legends of one or more actual events. While no Aborigine at the time thought
of writing up a description of any of these tsunami events and publishing it
as a scientific paper in Nature or Science, the legends are just as
believable as any newspaper article or scientific paper. They are just
briefer and less specific. The sky may have fallen in the form of an
asteroid or meteorite shower with large enough objects to generate tsunami
tens of metres high. There is geomorphic evidence along the Southeast Coast
of New South Wales, the Northeast Coast of Queensland, and the Northwest
Coast of Western Australia for mega-tsunami. Certainly the coastal features
are so different in size from what historical tsunami have produced anywhere
in the world in the past 200 years that a comet or meteorite impact with the
ocean must be invoked. The subsequent floods also have veracity. Meteorite
impacts with the ocean put enormous quantities of water into the atmosphere
either as splash or vapourised water from the heat of the impact. That
heated vapour condenses and falls as rain because it is not in equilibrium
with the preexisting temperature of the atmosphere. Research is beginning to
indicate that rivers and waterfalls across Australia have flooded beyond
maximum probable rainfalls - the theoretical highest rainfall that can occur
under existing rain-forming processes. Meteorite impacts with the ocean may
explain not only some of the evidence for mega-tsunami, but also this

Eric Stevens


>From Alastair McBeath <>

Dear Benny,

I've followed the mythological aspects of the recent CCNet discussions
concerning the possible impact events c.2350 BC with some concern. As seems
to have happened repeatedly when impact/comet/meteor scientists have tried
to draw in mythology to their arguments over the last couple of decades, too
often only single examples of commonly out-of-context, translated quotes are
used. This is very unwise, since essential aspects of the deities or events
involved may be being ignored.

Duncan Lunan's comment on the biblical Psalm 18 in CCNet 127/2001 is a case
in-point. Aside from the King James' Bible not being the most accurate
source of biblical quotes, as compared to the original texts, the Israelite
god Yahweh, the god involved in this psalm, is a deity of fire and storm,
who always appears in Old Testament sources as a cloudy or fiery presence,
when he appears at all, as do his agents. The Psalm 18 piece, repeated
almost verbatim in 2 Samuel 22, is simply one of a number of similar
stormy/storm-cloud appearances. Job 36:29-33 specifically states that
Yahweh's Tent is the dark, threatening thundercloud, the same pavilion of
darkness, dark waters and dense cloud as in Psalm 18. Lightning (sometimes
as arrows), fiery or ordinary hail and fire falling from heaven are all
phenomena commonly associated with Yahweh throughout the Old Testament. All
of these require considerable reinterpretation to make them
meteoric/meteoritic. The one unequivocal Old Testament meteoric appearance
is of Daystar, son of Dawn (Isaiah 14:12; a title of Satan's as Lucifer,
"Light-bringer") who falls to the ground from the heavens. I discussed all
this in some detail as "Meteors, Comets, and Millennialism" in "WGN the
Journal of the IMO", Vol. 27, No.6 (1999 December), pp. 318-326.

Psalm 18 is "Of David", and thus may date to the reign of the historical
Israelite King David, c. 1010-970 BC. If this is correct, technically it may
be older as a written text than the Genesis flood narratives (Genesis 6-8 is
a compilation of at least two separate flood myths by the ancient biblical
editors), since the Pentateuch texts are dated only vaguely to sometime
between the c.10th to c.4th centuries BC, and may have been revised several
times within that period. As some other ancient Near Eastern flood myths,
with at times very close similarities to the biblical material, predate
these by up to a millennium or two, all that is clear is that there was a
common theme of flood myths across the ancient Near East, the origins of
which remain obscure except at a general level (i.e. floods, sometimes
locally devastating ones, were widely experienced from time to time).

It is also important to realise the long tradition of fiery, stormy deities
Yahweh appears from in the ancient Near East. Indeed, a careful reading of
some Mesopotamian myths suggests both thunderstorm and volcanic
interpretations may lie at the back of various deities and monsters. For
instance, in the myth "Lugal-E" (the most complete annotated translation is
that by Thorkild Jacobsen in ""The Harps That Once...": Sumerian Poetry in
Translation", Yale University Press, 1987), the god Ninurta goes into the
mountains to battle the demon Azag, where the battle and some of the imagery
preceding it, is described in terms very similar to those of volcanic
pyroclastic flows, with massive clouds of hot dust, ash and cinders laying
waste to vast tracts of the land, while Azag itself is described in terms
that appear to be a cross between an extremely tall tree and a volcanic lava
plug. Azag is eventually destroyed utterly by Ninurta. This myth has
features comparable to the c.300m tall volcanic plug grown by Mont Pelee on
Martinique in the West Indies in 1902-03, whose partial fracturing released
several devastating pyroclastic flows, including that which destroyed the
town of St Pierre and its 30 000 inhabitants in less than four minutes in
1903, before the plug shattered completely later that year, preventing
further such catastrophes.

Given the nature of the Near Eastern to Anatolian and Caucasian mountains,
volcanic, prone to earthquakes, in part underlain by natural oil and gas
traps, it is perhaps worth drawing attention to J V Kinnier Wilson's theory
(see his "The Rebel Land: An Investigation into the Origins of Early
Mesopotamian Mythology", Cambridge University Press, 1979), as he is one of
the few people to tackle even partially the possible link between geology
and mythology in the Zagros Mountains of the modern Iran-Iraq border
especially. He suggested that elements of the ancient Mesopotamian myths
could be attributed to the effects of natural oil and gas spills, sometimes
involving fire, in the Zagros Mountains, drawing attention particularly to a
gigantic prehistoric landslip some 14 km long in the Saidmarreh area, in the
Kabir Kuh hills due east of modern Baghdad, the dating of which may be
sometime between 8000-10000 BC. Much of the geological evidence to support
this idea is still lacking unfortunately, and Kinnier Wilson tried to make
his theory span probably too great a variety of tales, but the geological
facts should not be ignored in searching for the reasons behind the Near
Eastern mythologies, especially as the reinterpretation of the myths this
way is not nearly so severe as is often needed with the comet/impact/meteor

Best wishes,

Alastair McBeath


>From Alastair McBeath <>

Dear Benny,

Following the recent CCNet discussions around Silbury Hill, I note that
"Current Archaeology" 176 (Vol. 15, No. 8, October/November 2001), pp.
336-342 has a well-illustrated piece by Mike Pitts, "Collapse at Silbury
Hill", which describes the heavily-reported collapse at the centre top of
the Hill beginning in May 2000, and what is currently being done to
stabilize it. Of greatest interest is the recently-completed investigative
work, taking core samples through the Hill into the underlying geology, and
a three-dimensional seismic tomography study of the entire Hill, the first
time either has been done in this detail. The results of these findings are
hoped to be available by the end of 2001. According to "Current
Archaeology", English Heritage maintains a website covering major
developments concerning the collapse at:

Best wishes,

Alastair McBeath

>From Phillip Clapham <>

I was incorrect to claim Silbury Hill was invisible except at certain
locations as it can clearly be seen from the main road that runs alongside,
and many other vantage points. What can be seen from only a small proportion
of locations, such as West Kennet long barrow, is Silbury as an horizon
marker, as a shape against the skyline.


>From Ilan Manulis <>

Dear Benny,

While the technical information included in Jeff Kanipe's message is
relatively correct, the V-magnitude is in error. According to the MPC' Minor
Planet Ephemeris Service the V-magnitude for asteroid (4149) Harrison is at
present 17.4, and will remain so for the rest of December. Therefore the
object is not visible with a 4- or 5-inch telescope, as one would need a
much larger telescope to see it.

Best regards,

Ilan Manulis


>From Lawrence Garrett <>

Greetings Benny

Upon seeing the very bright magnitude for 4149 Harrison posted today, I
checked both Guide 7.0 and Brian Warners MPO98, to find this to be magnitude
17.4 not 10.53, far beyond small telescopes.

The MPC confirms the fainter magnitude below.
(4149) Harrison

Ephemeris is based on 10-opp elements from MPO 6175. Last observed on 2001
May 26.

Discovery date : 1984 03 09
Discovery site : Anderson Mesa
Discoverer(s) : Skiff, B. A.

Further observations? None needed at this time.

Date       UT    R.A. (J2000) Decl.   Delta    r     El.    Ph.   V
"/min    P.A.
2001 11 30 00   14 32.20   -07 03.1   3.145  2.351   30.7  12.4  17.4
1.22   103.1

Lawrence Garrett
Assistant Minor Planet Coordinator
ALPO Minor Planet Section


>From Mike Baillie <>


readers might be interested that a major conference on the Justianic plague
of AD 541 is being held by the American Academy in Rome on 13-15 December
2001.  The proximity of this plague outbreak to the AD 540 global
environmental event has to be of considerable interest given the debate as
to whether the environmental downturn was due to a volcanic or
extraterrestrial vector.  Disappointingly the fourteen speakers don't seem
to include anyone outside the field of history and molecular biology and
there is no mention in the conference information of any environmental issue
relating to the outbreak (

It would seem that, yet again, a widely publicised scientific interest is to
be ignored by historians, unless of course thay are serious in their
objective of "understanding the etiology of plague". Looks like we all have
a long way to go.

Mike Baillie


>From Scott Raeburn <>

Dear Benny

I was interested a point in the article "The Magi and the Star" in your
bulletin of 29/11/01. The point is minor, pedantic and harks back to the
"When is the millennium?" question as well.

The author says " we celebrate the birth of Jesus in 1 C.E.". Do we?

My researches a couple of years ago for a short talk on the millennium
dating controversy suggested that our current calendar was developed by
Dionysius Exiguus ("Dennis the Short") around 525 CE (Gould 1997). His basis
was the birth of Jesus on 25th December and a desire to re-start the
calendar from then. He selected the birth year as 753 AUC (Ab Urbe Condita)
on the then extant Roman Calendar.  Now there are a couple of problems with
these choices. The principal historical one is that King Herod died in 750
AUC - but that's been dealt with elsewhere. The other is that the Roman
calendar had New Year at the end of December, not the 25th.

So Jesus was born on 25th December 753 and, according to Jewish tradition,
circumcised on the eighth day of life, i.e. the following 1st January 754 -
New Year's day.

Gould (1997) says that Dionysius selected this day (of the Feast of the
Circumcision of Jesus) as the start of the Christian calendar. All the
subsequent adjustments to the calendar have not changed that basic fact.
Remember also that Dennis had a problem with numbers - he had no concept of
zero and (effectively) only positive integers. So he suggested the AD/BC
system, based around that specific 1st January, numbering years forwards in
whole numbers (AD) or back (BC). The months remained the same as before.
That is, in the new system Jesus was circumcised on 1st January 1 AD.

The corollary to this is that Jesus was born on 25th December 1 BC, as far
as Dennis was concerned!

In the 20th C, the AD/BC nomenclature started to be replaced with CE/BCE,
presumably to avoid imposing too many cultural norms on a global calendar
system in which Christians are a minority. So, we should "celebrate the
birth of Jesus" as occurring in 1 BCE.

In my view, the years of the first decade of Jesus's life were 1 BCE - 9 CE
(go on, count them); of the first century 1 BCE - 99 CE; of the first
millenium 1 BCE - 999 CE. I therefore concluded that the third millennium
started on 1/1/2000 and celebrated accordingly!

Dionysius Exiguus may not have known zero, but I think he certainly knew
what he was doing.

Can anybody with better access to sources confirm or refute this analysis?


Scott Raeburn

PS As an atheist/humanist, I'm not concerned with theological points. I just
have an amateur interest in dating systems - and I really must get a life!

Gould, S J (1997); Questioning the millennium : a rationalist's guide to a
precisely arbitrary countdown; London;  Jonathan Cape, 1997


>From Oliver K. Manuel <>

Dear Benny:

You and readers of the Cambridge Conference Newsletter Are Invited to hear
and comment on paper #146.01 at 10:00 am Thursday, January 10, 2002 at the
AAS (American Astronomical Society) meeting in Washington, D.C where I will
explain "Why the model of a hydrogen-filled Sun is obsolete".

That will be followed by a dissertation presentation (#146.02) by my
student, Cynthia Bolon, explaining Luminosity of an iron-rich Sun

The latest issue of the Journal of Fusion Energy tells how interactions
between nucleons generate energy in hydrogen-rich, 1st generation stars and
in the Sun and other iron-rich, 2nd generation
stars.  [See * for other references]

The oral presentations are scheduled to begin at
10:00 am, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2002 in Room: Georgetown East
Hilton Washington and Towers, 1919 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20009
Tel: 202-797-5820
Fax: 570-450-1582

To register for the AAS meeting:

1. On the web go to

2. Or obtain PostScript or PDF version of the registration form at  (or regform.pdf)
and mail the form and payments to the following address:

         AAS 199th Meeting
         American Astronomical Society
         2000 Florida Ave., NW, Suite 400
         Washington, DC 20009-1231, USA
         Tel: 202-328-2010
         FAX: 202-234-7850

3.  Or you may FAX the registration form and credit card payment information
to: 202-234-7850.
* Other references:
1. Science, vol. 195, pp. 208-209 (1977)
2. Meteoritics, vol. 18, pp. 209-222 (1983)
3. J. Radioanalytical & Nuclear Chem., vol. 238 , pp. 119-121, 213-225
4. Origin of Elements in the Solar System: Implications of Post-1957
Observations, Proceedings of the 1999 ACS symposium organized by Glenn T.
Seaborg and Oliver K. Manuel (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York,
NY, USA), 646 pp.
5. Lunar & Planetary Sci. Conf. XXXII, abstract 1041, LPI contribution no.
1080, ISSN no. 0161-5297

I  hope to see you in Washington!

With kind regards,

Professor of Nuclear Chemistry
University of Missouri
Rolla, MO  65401  USA
Phone: 573-341-4420 or -4344
Fax: 573-341-6033

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>From Marco Langbroek <>

Dear Benny,

The grouplet of 'meteors' observed from Britain last Saturday, described in
item #7 (the BBC news article) of CCNet 128, has also been observed from
Belgium and the southwest of the Netherlands.

When reports reached our Dutch Meteor Society we immediately suspected a
space junk re-entry because of the characteristics of the phenomenon.

Turns out it probably was. According to Alan Pickup's Satellite Decay Watch
page (, the December 1 event
over western Europe was probably due to a piece of the same Russian Proton
rocket that caused a similar event over Oklahoma a few hours later, reported
in the same CCNet issue.

This event clearly was not related to the Leonid shower of two weeks ago
(the context in which the BBC news item put it). We observed the latter
events (Leonids) with teams establishing multistation image intensified
video networks (for orbital determinations) in China and Arizona.
Personally, I was part of the Arizona team and witnessed a great show with
Zenith Hourly Rates near 2000 at 10:35-10:40 UTC, raw counts of up to 40-45
Leonids per minute and bright meteors. Although the ZHR was less than the
1999 storm (which I observed from Spain), I did find this apparition more
impressive due to its long duration and bright meteors. It was the best
Leonid show I have ever seen.

Best wishes,

Marco Langbroek
Dutch Meteor Society (DMS)

Faculty of Archaeology
Leiden University
P.O. Box 9515
NL-2300 RA Leiden
the Netherlands

building 1176, room 021
tel. +31 (0)71 5272926
fax  +31 (0)71 5272429

CCCMENU CCC for 2001