CCNet 141/2002 -  4 December 2002

"Our terms of reference are to provide an advisory service to the
Israeli Govenment through ISA, to initiate new observational studies
of NEOs using existing and soon-to-be-acquired equipment, to perform
follow-up observations of NEOs discovered elsewhere, to promote
educational activities concerning NEO research and satisfy public interest
in this field, and to trigger and coordinate activities concerning NEOs for
the Israeli amateur astronomers."
--Noah Brosch, Wise Observatory, Israel             

"Some suggest it's more a matter of good fortune than good
management that the human species has survived asteroid strikes at
all. Addressing a Queensland astronomy conference in July, local
researcher Michael Paine and British social anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser
said it was only sheer luck that a massive impact wiped out the dinosaurs
and gave rise to the mammals, and that no other major impact has
since terminated us."
--Australian Magazine, 30 November 2002

"If unwashed apples and rogue asteroids don't get you, then sex,
salt and sunbeds will."
--The Times, 1 December 2002

    Ilan Manulis <>

(2) STEVE OSTRO TO RECEIVE KUIPER PRIZE (Many Congratulations, Steve!)
    NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <>

    Montrose Press, 3 December 2002

    Australian Magazine, 30 November 2002

    Ron Baalke <>

    Andy Smith <>

    The New York Times, 3 December 2002


>From Ilan Manulis <>

Dear Benny,

The following announcement, made yesterday, is relevant for the subscribers
of CCNet. It comes as a result of many years of efforts by the undersigned
to promote NEOs research in Israel. Needless to say, this development is
encouraging for the NEOs community as a whole.

Best regards,

Ilan Manulis

Dr. Andrea Carusi
President, the Spaceguard Foundation

Dear Dr. Carusi:

This letter is to inform you and other members of the Spaceguard Foundation
that the Israel Space Agency (ISA) decided to create a Knowledge Center on
NEOs. The decision follows an evaluation process whereby tenders to initiate
and operate such a Center were submitted by a number of groups in Israel. A
one-year renewable grant was allocated by ISA and we expect that the grant
contract will soon be signed.

The Knowledge Center will operate from Tel Aviv University (TAU) and will
use initially the facilities of the Wise Observatory. The investigators that
form the initial governing body of the Center are Professors Dina Prialnik
and Morris Podolak from TAU's Department of Geophysics and
Planetary Sciences, Professor Meir Meidav from TAU's School of Education,
and Professor Elia Leibowitz and Dr. Noah Brosch from TAU's School of
Physics and Astronomy. We co-opted to the board Mr. Ilan Manulis and Mr.
Eran Ofek, both experienced asteroid observers at our observatory. Dr. Noah
Brosch, Director of the Wise Observatory, will manage the Center.

Our terms of reference are to provide an advisory service to the Israeli
Govenment through ISA, to initiate new observational studies of NEOs using
existing and soon-to-be-acquired equipment, to perform follow-up
observations of NEOs discovered elsewhere, to promote educational activities
concerning NEO research and satisfy public interest in this field, and to
trigger and coordinate activities concerning NEOs for the Israeli amateur

At present, we are in a final definition and organization phase and expect
to have the first observations performed soon. We rely on a new re-imager
for the Wise Observatory 1.0-meter reflector that images a 1.2 degree flat
field at f/3 on a SITe CCD with 2048x4096 pixels. We are also in a process
of defining a research program focused on a specific kind of NEOs.

Although we are not formally applying at this time for membership in the
Spaceguard Foundation, we thought that an informative message to this
organization is now in order. We would appreciate any advice you would care
to tend. Hoping for future productive collaborations,


Noah Brosch

|               Dr. Noah Brosch                          |
|          Director, the Wise Observatory                |
|        Dept. of Astronomy & Astrophysics               |
|         School of Physics & Astronomy                  |
| Beverly and Raymond Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences  |
|     Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel        |
|    Voice [972]-3-640-7413 or [972]-3-640-7414          |
|          Mobile phone [972]-54-752-912                 |
|           FAX   [972]-3-640-8179                       |
Best regards,

Ilan Manulis

(2) STEVE OSTRO TO RECEIVE KUIPER PRIZE (Many Congratulations, Steve!)

>From NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <>

PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Guy Webster  (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.                          
December 3, 2002

News Release:  2002-215             

Kuiper Prize Going to JPL Pioneer in Radar Study of Asteroids

For his years of research demonstrating the power of radar techniques to
wrest information from near-Earth asteroids, Dr. Steven Ostro will receive
the prestigious Gerard P. Kuiper Prize next year from the American
Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences.

Ostro studies asteroids as a senior research scientist at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. He began probing these miniature
planets with radar more than 20 years ago, and was essentially the only
researcher doing so through the 1980s. The field has grown in the past
decade, with increasing recognition of the scientific importance of

"Not only has Steve pioneered this field, he has trained a whole posse of
young scientists who are now helping to reveal these incredibly fascinating
worlds," said Division for Planetary Sciences Chair Dr. Richard Binzel, a
planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.

"Steve has done groundbreaking work in a new area of solar system
exploration," said the division's 2001 chair, Dr. Mark Sykes, a planetary
scientist at the University of Arizona, Tucson. "With radar imaging of
asteroids, he has provided insights into the shapes and collisional
evolution of these very common solar system objects. He does things we
couldn't do otherwise without sending a spacecraft, and he works with an
intensity and meticulousness that make him a good model for all of us."

Ostro and his colleagues have successfully obtained radar echoes from nearly
200 asteroids, mostly ones that cross Earth's orbit but also including many
in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. "Every single one of
them is unique in its own way," Ostro said. "It's
been just one remarkable object after another."

Telescopes, radar experiments have revealed exotic shapes, such as the
dogbone configuration of asteroid Kleopatra and the elongated shape of
Geographos. They have disclosed unusual motions, such as the slow wobbling
of Toutatis. They have shown craters and other geological
features on asteroids' surfaces. They have identified some asteroids as
metallic, some as unconsolidated heaps of rubble and some as pairs orbiting
each other while they orbit the Sun.

"I feel extremely fortunate to be doing this work," Ostro said. "It's like a
Star Trek fantasy -- seeing a world that no one has ever seen before. That's
what I've been able to do over and over."

The radar experiments require large dish-shaped antennas, such as those at
the Goldstone, Calif., facilities of NASA's Deep Space Network, and the
National Science Foundation's Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The
Goldstone antennas serve primarily for communicating with distance
spacecraft and get additional use for radio astronomy, including radar
investigations. With radar, a radio signal is beamed to the target, and the
echo brings information about the object that has reflected it.

"It's not a passive observation like other areas of astronomy. It's more
like performing an experiment on the object," Ostro said. "We stimulate the
object to give up its secrets. We send out questions and get back answers."

Among the most important answers from any near-Earth asteroid are exactly
how far away it is and how fast it is traveling. That information allows a
much more precise calculation of its orbit than is possible from only
repeated optical observations of the same asteroid. With orbital
calculations that incorporate radar-observation data, the forecast of the
asteroid's likelihood of striking Earth can often be extended for centuries
into the future.  Earlier this year,
observations by Ostro and colleagues were used to show that an asteroid
named 1950 DA has a slight chance -- possibly one in 300, probably much less
-- of hitting Earth on Saturday, March 16, 2880, which makes 1950 DA the
most hazardous known asteroid. To date, NASA has discovered about half of
the estimated potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroids, and, besides the
extremely remote possibility of 1950 AD, none is on a path that will impact
the Earth.

Near-Earth asteroids make inviting destinations for initial human
exploration of the solar system beyond the Moon, Ostro said. Many would be
relatively easy to reach and offer useful resources, such as metals, complex
organic compounds and chemically bound water, for wider-ranging space

The prize Ostro will receive next September is named for Gerard The
1,200-member Division for Planetary Sciences awards it to one scientist each
year "whose achievements have most advanced our understanding of the
planetary system." Ostro will be the 20th recipient. Previous winners have
included Carl Sagan, James Van Allen and Eugene Shoemaker. Ostro will be the
first JPL scientist to receive the Kuiper Prize. The California Institute of
Technology's Dr. Peter Goldreich received it in 1992.

Ostro is a New Jersey native who earned bachelor's degrees in liberal arts
and ceramic science from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.; a master's
degree in engineering physics from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; and a
doctorate in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology.  He began working at JPL in 1984.

The California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages JPL for NASA.


>From Montrose Press, 3 December 2002
MONTROSE -- A digital camera stationed on top of Montrose High School
captured images of a spectacular Thanksgiving meteor explosion.

The Montrose station is part of the statewide All-Sky Network, a project
sponsored by the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, MHS earth science
teacher Mike Nadiak said. About 12 MHS students have been involved in
constructing and operating the camera. There are 10 All-Sky sites at schools
across Colorado.

The images were captured by the camera, which looks down into a convex
mirror, Nadiak said. The mirror looks up into the sky and shows a field of
view almost down to the horizon. The camera is connected to a computer,
which runs a meteor detection program. Any moving light-emitting object in
the sky is captured as a digital image on the computer.

Witnesses said Thursday's fireball appeared at 6:20 p.m. Thursday and
illuminated entire mountain ranges.

It lingered for seven or eight seconds and was followed by a series of sonic
booms, physicist Chris L. Peterson, a member of the Denver Museum of Nature
& Science's meteorite investigation team said Monday.

Based on the fireball's brightness and duration, Peterson suspects the rock
weighed 1,000 to 2,000 pounds before it entered the atmosphere and blew

It probably was about the size of a filing cabinet, bigger than the usual
basketball-size variety, he said.

Peterson, owner and operator of the Cloudbait Observatory west of Colorado
Springs, is analyzing more than 260 witness reports posted on his Web site.

Those accounts suggest the fireball exploded 10 to 20 miles above the ground
in the remote mountainous region in western Colorado, he said, adding some
debris may have pelted the earth.

Joe Kaputa was one local witness to the meteor event.

"After we ate, we played a game of Yahtzee, then we went outside to shoot
off pop bottle rockets," said Kaputa, who spent the evening on the far end
of Montrose County near Crawford. "It was about 6:19 p.m. All of a sudden,
there was a bright light, bright as daylight, and a dull orange glow.

"I told my friend, a meteor just hit over there in that sagebrush. My friend
said, 'If it was a meteor we should hear an explosion.' About 20 to 30
seconds after that we heard a series of explosions that lasted for a full 30

Copyright 2002, Montrose Press


>From Australian Magazine, 30 November 2002

Tracking down huge space rocks hurtling towards Earth isn't just the stuff
of Hollywood.

On a clear night you can see forever. Well, almost forever - if you have the
funding. Gordon Garradd spends the dark hours on a hill above his property
at Loomberah, in northern NSW, scanning the sky with his home-made
telescope. A few nights a month, he drives three hours to join colleague Rob
McNaught at the Anglo-Australian Siding Spring Observatory in the
Warrumbungle Range, where they have access to a bigger and better telescope.

They are tracking what are known as near Earth objects, or NEOs, commonly
called asteroids. These lumps of rock and metal are remnants from the
formation of our solar system more than four billion years ago - "near"
means within 200 million kilometres of Earth. Garradd and McNaught's main
aim is to track NEOs already spotted by more powerful telescopes in the
northern hemisphere.

In a way, the two men are remnants themselves - leftovers from a
government-funded Australian team that once searched the southern skies.
Funding was cut when the Liberals won power in 1996. These days, they
receive some minor funding from NASA in the United States, while the
University of Arizona, home of a strong astronomy program, is about to help
refit an old Siding Springs telescope to concentrate on NEO work, including
searching for new rocks. "It will be the only professional survey in the
southern hemisphere," says Garradd. "But it's nowhere near the size of the
equipment they're using in the US, where they can cover a lot of sky to
quite faint magnitudes."

For "hundreds of thousands to a million dollars a year", Australia could be
in the front line of world efforts - certainly in the southern hemisphere,
where little else is being done. "It's loose change for the government,"
says Garradd.

Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's near Earth object program office at the
famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, has high praise for the
shoestring work done by Garradd and McNaught. He says NASA's plan is to find
and track 90 per cent of large-scale (more than a kilometre in diameter)
NEOs by 2008. "It assumes we know how many are out there, but the estimate
changes - from 900 to 1000 to 1100, and then back again. At the moment, we
have well over 600 and so we believe we're more than halfway there. But with
any survey like this, the easy ones are found first and it will become more
difficult as we go."

After that, NASA will decide what smaller rocks it will hunt - and there are
hundreds of thousands of them, all but unknown. "Not only are there more of
them, but they're harder to find and they can still cause considerable
regional damage or tsunamis," says Yeomans. Any rock with a diameter of more
than 50 metres has the potential to penetrate the atmosphere and crash-land
or explode.

Every dinosaur-mad child knows how a whopping asteroid, probably more than
10km in diameter, destroyed the giant lizards 65 million years ago - and the
remnants of that global impact are now believed to be buried in ocean
sediment off the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. On June 30, 1908, an asteroid,
less than 100m wide, scything through the atmosphere at more than 11km a
second, exploded over the remote Tunguska region of central Siberia. That
blast is believed to have had the force of 20 million tonnes of TNT, or
10,000 Hiroshima bombs. Hundreds of thousands of trees were flattened in an
area covering 3000 square kilometres as the blast's shock wave travelled
twice around the world.

The most likely scenario is that if and when it is calculated that a major
NEO is to strike, there should be time to react - and Bruce Willis won't be
needed to blow it up, as he did so heroically in Armageddon. The most likely
solution will be to nudge it slightly off its orbit, using some sort of
rocket. This will see it sail by Earth, just another space rock. In 1997,
the US Air Force calculated such a mission would cost more than $2.5 billion
and take 15 years to prepare.

Somewhere out there, a kilometre-wide rock called Asteroid 1950 DA is
circling. It's nowhere near Earth now, but our descendants 35 generations
hence might be advised to take cover. The worst-case scenario is that on
March 16, 2880 - St Patrick's Day - 1950 DA will collide with Earth, ruining
more than a few green beer parties. It could blast a crater up to 20km wide
and, if it hits a populated area, kill many millions over a blast site that
will spread out for a hundred kilometres in any direction. But it's a
one-in-300 shot - and the odds of collision will probably lengthen
considerably when a firmer trajectory is plotted. Asteroid 1950 DA is likely
to slip by, as hundreds of other space rocks do every year.

Yeomans describes 1950 DA as an "interesting object". What makes it so is
that NASA's scientists, by a combination of timing and luck, have been given
more precise projections of a potentially threatening asteroid than ever
before. First spotted in 1950, hence the name, 1950 DA was tracked for 17
days before fading from view. Fifty years later, on New Year's Eve, 2000, it
was seen again, and initially mistaken for a new rock. Once it was
recognised, and the data from this sighting plotted against that of the
original, scientists were able to make their collision call. "So, over the
next couple of hundred years, we really do need to investigate this object,"
says Yeomans. "Once we have that information, we can make more definite
calculations to find out whether it's a threat or not. More than likely it's
not, but at the moment it's number one on our list."

Every day, we are bombarded with 25 tonnes of what is literally stardust -
the remnants of other heavenly bodies that burn up while falling through
Earth's protective atmosphere. Every thousand years or so, a rock at least
the size of a soccer field can be expected to make full impact. There is
potential to be "blind-sided" by one of these if it swings close to the Sun
and remains undetected until just before it hits Earth.

It's not unusual for such rocks to sweep by at close range and only be
spotted once they have passed. For example, on March 8, a rock the size of
an 18-storey building, known as 2002 EM7, passed less than 500,000km from
Earth - just a little further out than the Moon. It was not spotted until
four days later when it had moved out of the Sun's glare. Then on June 17,
another asteroid, 2002 MN, was spotted two days after it had flown by. With
a diameter of more than 100m, it passed at a distance of only 120,000km, one
of the closest fly-bys ever recorded. It's estimated that each year, 25
asteroids roughly the size of 2002 EM7 pass at relatively close range.

But does anyone care? The US, Britain and Japan are the only countries
putting anywhere near serious money or resources into the hunt for killer
rocks, although the Europeans are now showing interest. In our largely
unmonitored southern hemisphere, the Australian government is not
particularly interested. Australia has a representative on a working party
set up by the global science forum of the OECD - the Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development - to evaluate NEOs and reach consensus
on the level of risk and what international cooperation is needed. It's due
to report early next year.

Earlier this year, Science Minister Peter McGauran was presented with a
letter calling for a renewal of local funding for NEO tracking. It was
signed by 91 scientists from around the world, including high-profile
Australians Paul Davies and Karl Kruszelnicki. The minister remarked that he
worried about lots of things, but killer rocks weren't among them. "I'm not
going to be spooked or panicked into spending scarce research dollars on a
fruitless attempt to predict the next asteroid," he said in a 60 Minutes
television interview.

The scientists, including the most eminent in the field, were surprised not
so much by McGauran's refusal to reinstate funding but by his dismissive
tone. Dr Duncan Steel, who headed the axed program and who has since
relocated to the University of Salford in Britain, says the minister has
been ill-advised. He claims Australia's astronomy lobby is biased in favour
of cosmology, or deep space research, rather than planetary investigation
within our solar system. "They [the cosmologists] are afraid funds will be
taken from their very important projects in which they study stars and
galaxies far, far away that have no implications for human survival - unless
you believe in astrology."

Steel repeats his accusation, originally made on the same 60 Minutes
program, that Australia is regarded as a "pariah" within planetary
investigation circles. "The government's response has now caused great
offence elsewhere," he says.

NASA's Yeomans, one of those who signed the disregarded letter, is more
diplomatic, but recalls seeing reactions similar to McGauran's from US
politicians 15 years ago. "We used to get what we called `the giggle
effect', where people would roll their eyes and say, `Don't we have
something more serious to worry about?' But in the long-term scheme of
things, this is worth investigating at some level. It's certainly not more
important than terrorist attacks or gun control, but this should get some

Yeomans points out that the astonishing pictures from the impact of the
Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet on Jupiter in 1994, the first collision of two solar
system bodies ever observed, helped swing US public opinion towards the need
to search for NEOs; Hollywood blockbusters such as Deep Impact and
Armageddon played a part in raising public consciousness. He is heartened by
British Government interest, including a review of how its telescopes can
search for rogue rocks and the drawing up of evacuation plans in case of

But how NEO information is interpreted by the media and therefore the public
remains a problem. On July 18, a newly discovered asteroid, 2022 NT7,
suddenly assumed killer status when it was announced there was a very remote
chance it could collide with Earth on February 1, 2019 - much too close a
time-frame to shrug off. NASA researchers cautioned that the likelihood of
impact was six-in-a-million and that further plotting of 2002 NT7's
trajectory would almost certainly rule out a hit.

This didn't stop the press, particularly in Britain, from whipping up
alarmist headlines. The usually responsible BBC online service led the way
with headlines such as "Space rock on collision course", while several of
the more sober broadsheets followed with similar stories of impending doom.
The story was played down in Australia and the US. Within days, scientists
were able to rule out any collision.

Yeomans says NASA's policy is to release information as it becomes
available, trusting it will be used responsibly. This also avoids any charge
of cover-up. "If you hide anything or sit on it, then you're in even deeper
trouble. So we're trying to redouble our efforts to make the impact
probability business more understandable. It's not an easy concept to grasp,
and the public is not used to dealing with low-probability events."

Humans assess risk in two ways: scientifically and intuitively, says
Professor Paul Slovic, a psychologist at the University of Oregon and author
of The Perception of Risk. The intuitive response tends to make us more
reconciled to natural calamity - fire, flood, earthquake, even asteroid
strike. Human-made risks - technology gone crazy, war and terrorism - bring
out a deeper fear.

"A point about terrorism is that we don't know its scope, and that produces
a feeling that if we don't attend to it then there's no limit to the harm it
might do," Slovic says. "You might not fully know their [the terrorists']
intentions or where they're going to strike next. There's a lot of unknown
associated with it and that can be very frightening."

Slovic says we believe researchers when they say it's not a matter of "if
but when" there will be a significant asteroid strike - but we see "when"
not being in our lifetimes. "However, if something immediate is suddenly
spotted, well, there will be a lot of interest. It's as if it has to cross
some threshold of imminence before we pay attention."

Some suggest it's more a matter of good fortune than good management that
the human species has survived asteroid strikes at all. Addressing a
Queensland astronomy conference in July, local researcher Michael Paine and
British social anthropologist Dr Benny Peiser said it was only sheer luck
that a massive impact wiped out the dinosaurs and gave rise to the mammals,
and that no other major impact has since terminated us.

"The main obstacle we face is a political system that uses uncertainty as an
excuse for doing nothing," they said. "However, it is certain that one day
mankind will be faced with a major, devastating impact. The only
uncertainties are when this impact will occur and whether there is
sufficient time to prevent or mitigate it. Currently, we are barely better
off than the dinosaurs."

Copyright 2002, Australian Magazine


>From Ron Baalke <>

                              (TUNGUSKA 2003)
                          INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE



                           1. GENERAL INFORMATION

In 2003 there will be 95-th anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska event. Despite
numerous hypotheses, there is still no consensus on "what it was". The
hypotheses vary from a meteorite fall, and a gas outburst to an "alien
spaceship" (see, for example, Tunguska 98, and Tunguska 2001 conferences).
Thus due to large interest in scientific and general public, administration
of Evenkia has decided to organize, and hold an international conference
"95-th Anniversary of the Tunguska event" (i.e. "Tunguska 2003") in cities
of Moscow, and Krasnoyarsk, and in a settlement of Vanavara (which is about
70 km from the Tunguska epicenter). And, of course, a trip to the Tunguska
epicenter is planned.

So if even you are not a scientist, but just interested to visit the
epicenter as a tourist, for example, anyway you are welcome! Besides
Tunguska, topics of the conference included related items, i.e other similar
(whatever origin, as we don't know Tunguska's origin) natural events
(including on other scales). Also a cultural program is to take place.
Publication of Proceedings of the conference is planned.

                              2. PLACE AND TIME

The conference will be held in Moscow, a capital of Russia, and in
Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, and in a settlement of Vanavara, Evenkia.

Planned dates of the conference are on June 25-26, 2003 in Moscow, June
28-29 in Krasnoyarsk, and June 30 - July 2 in Vanavara and for the trip to
the Tunguska epicenter (see below). Currently, a possible shift of the
schedule is no more than 1-2 days (it will be "zeroed" in a couple of
months). A few days long trip to the Tunguska epicenter right after the
conference is planned, as it was during Tunguska 95, and Tunguska 98, and
Tunguska 2001 conferences. If you want to better understand what does the
trip mean, you can look at some pictures.

And, of course, you can participate just in any part of the conference (just
in Moscow, if you are not interested to visit the epicenter; or just in the
trip to the epicenter, if you are a tourist, for example).


Administration of Evenkiya;
National reserve "Tungusskii";
Moscow State Engineering Physics Institute (Mephi);
"Krosna" gallery
Zolotarev B.N.
Batygina E.K. (coordinator)
Romeiko V.A.
Rodionov B.U.
Zotkin I.T.
Soukhenko O.S.
Ol'khovatov A.Yu.

                            4. SCIENTIFIC PROGRAM

Main topics of the conference are the following:

     - new factual data on Tunguska;
     - new interpretations of Tunguska;
     - summaries and reviews of our knowledge on Tunguska;
     - other natural phenomena resembling Tunguska (maybe on other scales);
     - history of Tunguska research;
     - Tunguska in works of art.

Submission of titles of reports and abstracts is prefered by e-mail to an
e-mail address given here. Please, e-mail your abstract in the body of your
e-mail (not as attached file) as simple text (abstract's volume - up to 2
kb). If for some reasons it is a problem for you, please, let us know. A
deadline for reports (titles and abstracts) submission is May 30, 2003.
More info is to be posted later

                             5. CULTURAL PROGRAM

To be posted later

                               5. CONTACT INFO

*For general info (about travel, accomodation, etc.), please contact Elena
Phone: + 7  (095) 956-1910
Fax: + 7  (095) 207-7594

*For info about scientific program, and submission reports, etc., please,
contact me (i.e. Andrei Ol'khovatov)

                     6. WEATHER AT THE CONFERENCE AREAS

                Vanavara (70 km from the Tunguska epicenter)

                         UPDATES ARE TO FOLLOW SOON



>From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

As we approach the completion of another safe solar orbit, we want to
express our appreciation to all of the participants in the CCNet, for their
interest in planetary protection and for their many contributions to the
meeting of this - the most important technical challenge in history. We have
come a long way, in the last decade or so, but there is much, much more to

The NEO Inventory

This year, we will surpass the record global 2001 discovery rate of 438 NEO
and almost reach 500, it seems. The LINEAR program is contributing about 60%
of the total, the NEAT telescope family will find about 30% and LONEOS and
SPACEWATCH will find about 5%, each. Also, there were 10 other search groups
successfully participating in this vital hunt. About 30% of the LINEAR
discoveries were larger than a kilometer (NEAT 23%, LONEOS 20% and
SPACEWATCH 10% -- Bravo SPACEWATCH, for finding those hard-to-find NEO).

The global discovery rate has increased from the single-digit level, in the early 90's, to
three digits, now. The total NEO inventory is now just a little over 2,000.....but
that is less than 2% of the total threat population....and most of them are
too small to find with our exiting 1-meter range systems. The "small ones"
have destructive energies ranging from 10 to 10,000 megatons or so, per

Because the need for larger telescopes and/or more sophisticated CCD cameras
is so evident, we appreciate the interest that has been shown by some of the
existing larger telescopes - especially the SLOAN and the NEWTON. We also
appreciate the initiatives now underway to develop larger survey systems,
like the LSST(DMT) and the PAN-STARRS and new orbiting systems, such as the
GAIA and the SUBMILLIMETRON. This is truly a race against the clock. We know
the next rock-bomb is on-the-way and "all of the chips are on the table".

Impact Threat Dialogue

We are happy to see the ongoing dialogue, on this important matter, and we
commend the fireball data collection and analysis efforts. However, we
caution against changing our impact risk numbers, based on that data alone.
Both the lunar crater and meteorite data bases suggest, to us, that the risk
of the next Tunguska class hit is closer to 1 in 100 per year than it is to
1 in 1,000...and we feel it is prudent to err on the side of caution.

We want to recognize and express our appreciation to the very dedicated
team, of the Moscow University Lunar and Planetary Department (V. Shevchenko
et al), for the great job they have done of surveying the lunar craters and
supplying this valuable data, to us all, via the Web.

AIAA Planetary Defense Conference (PDC)

We note, with pleasure, the plans being made by the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics, to hold a Planetary Defense Conference, in Los
Angeles, in early 2004. Since the PDC at the Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory, in 1995, we have not had a large and comprehensive meeting on
this vital subject, in the USA. We hope it will be possible to bring
togeather as diversified a group of specialists  as we had at that meeting
and that the proceedings will also be made available on the Web. The
international AIAA conference sessions that we chaired, a few months ago,
addressed the subjects of concern, but the broad conference scope limited
in-depth coverage.

We especially encourage Spaceguard (and all branches), Space Shield, CCNet
and all of our friends in industry, the media and the Congress, to support
this meeting. The level of support and interest, in the AIAA, seemed to be
falling, for a few years following the issuance of the landmark AIAA
position papers (in the early 1990's) and we welcome this very impressive
new conference plan. We will do all we can to help.


Andy Smith / International Planetary Protection Alliance (IPPA)


>From The New York Times, 3 December 2002


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - In this world of new occupations, David Ropeik, a former
television reporter, is the director of risk communication at the Harvard
Center for Risk Analysis. As a professional "risk communicator" for a
research group, Mr. Ropeik writes essays, books and opinion articles about
reasons for people's fears, using the tools of statistics, psychology and
evolutionary biology.

With terrorist alerts, threats of war with Iraq and outbreaks of West Nile
fever, Americans seem eager to hear someone who can explain why they are
afraid and, perhaps more important, whether their fears have reasonable

Mr. Ropeik (pronounced roh-PEEK) writes essays on risk and reads them on
"Morning Edition," on National Public Radio. A book by Mr. Ropeik and George
Gray, "Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's
Really Dangerous in the World Around You," was recently published.

Mr. Ropeik, 51, and his organization are also drawing attention because of
their critics, who contend that the center, which is mostly financed by
industry, is too closely tied to its sponsors, issuing studies about the
products they make.

The criticism even emerged during a Congressional hearing over the
confirmation of Dr. John D. Graham, the center's founder, who won approval
to head a regulatory department in the White House Office of Management and

David Ropeik spoke about his roles and the controversies in interviews here
and later by telephone.

Q. Let's begin with basics. Define risk analysis.
A. We want to know how big or small a risk is, how expensive various
solutions will be, to know if we do something about this risk in this way,
what will that do to other risks? Will it make them go up or down?

Risk analysis is meant is to be thoughtful, rational, informed about
complicated, often emotional issues, so that decisions we make are good,
smart and informed.

I think there are many examples of where people are more or less fearful
than the facts suggest they ought to be. When people are over- or
under-afraid, based on what the statistics suggest they ought to be of any
given risk, they make bad choices.

Q. Give us some examples of what you consider bad choices.
A. Let's talk specifically about terrorism. When people are afraid of
flying, they drive. I know of the mother of a United Airlines flight
attendant who, in the wake of 9/11, was afraid of flying. So a few weeks
after 9/11, she drove to a family function several states away. She was
killed in a car crash. She was too afraid of a low risk - flying - and her
risk perception led her to a choice that was dangerous.

Another example? People, when they read about high-risk situations,
sometimes want to protect themselves by buying guns. I don't say that's good
or bad; that's their choice. But it's been demonstrated that more guns
bought for self-defense will go off in a crime, suicide or accident than for

Q. Don't people sometimes have very good reasons for making risky choices?
A. It's entirely rational for us to want to protect ourselves and to try to
survive. If you are walking through the woods and you see something on the
ground, something that could be either a snake or a stick, you're not going
to do a risk analysis of what is there. You're going to jump out of the way.

We're biologically programmed to do this, to protect ourselves. And when you
don't have all the facts you will over- or underreact to a risk, based on
your instincts.

At the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, we analyze how big or small a risk
might be, how one risk compares to another, and the effectiveness and costs
of various risk management strategies, to identify how to maximize risk
reduction with the most efficient use of limited resources.

Q. Do you think that one of the legacies of 9/11 is that we've become an
overly fearful society?
A. All the scientific literature about risk says that we humans react to a
new risk with more fear than after we've lived with it for a while. This was
new. There are, however, many things the government could be doing better.

To stem emotional reactions, it's important that the government be open and
communicating with the public. During holidays lately, we get all these
condition orange, condition yellow alerts. What do they mean? They should
tell us what we should be doing in response. Should we be looking for
packages on the street? Should we be on alert for people scaling fences at
reservoirs or chemical plants?

Q. American airports are now centers of elaborate security rituals. Do you
think the aviation industry is trying to reshape our perception of flying
risks, or are we really safer?
A. I would say both. You could say all the visible security is an
overreaction because it's a lot of money being poured into what many people
seem to think is some risk reduction, but probably is minimal.

As The Economist recently put it, it's a bunch of guys in uniforms looking
butch, pretending to scare terrorists. It seems that the flaws are still
there and if somebody really wanted to sneak through, he could, like Richard
Reid with his bomb-laden sneakers.

But then, if you are afraid of flying, you'll drive, and driving is by far,
statistically, a much greater risk - 41,000 Americans will be killed in
motor vehicle crashes in the calendar year coming up, roughly.

If we're less afraid of flying because of the show of confidence that those
butch guys in uniforms at the airports are offering, we can make more
informed, reasonable decisions that ultimately may reduce our physical risk.

Q. What is your take on how the government has communicated the potential
risks of radioactive "dirty bombs"?
A. I think the government fanned our fears with how it described the risk of
dirty bombs, rather than helping put the risk in perspective.

The truth is, if a dirty bomb does go off at some point, the terror will be
higher than the actual physical damage, and the government should put that
into perspective. There is, after all, a real physical danger from the
terror, as well as from the device itself.

Government officials called it a "weapon of mass destruction," which
according to all the scientists quoted at the time, it is not. It is very
bad for the neighborhood where it goes off, which is where most of the
radiation stays. It carries little greater physical risks than any
conventional explosive.

Q. On the biological front, we have the West Nile virus. With birds dropping
from the trees and people dying, should we worry?
A. The spread of West Nile virus perfectly illustrates how risk perception
can lead to more fear than the actual risk seems to warrant. Compare the
fear in areas where the virus is just showing up - pretty high - with fear
of the same virus where it has existed for a few years. The risk of getting
it is the same everywhere, but it's more frightening to people for whom it's

Q. The founder of your center, Dr. Graham, is now the administrator of the
O.M.B.'s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. During his
confirmation hearings, Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, said he
was unfit for the job because of "his history of conducting research that
places anti-regulatory policy objectives before academic accuracy and
integrity." How do your respond to this and other similar accusations?
A. It was very painful for the faculty at the center, and I speak now on
their behalf, to go through this because it questions the credibility of the
entire center's science.

Q. She wasn't the only one to level that sort of accusation. Robert Kuttner,
in The American Prospect, a liberal publication, wrote that Dr. Graham "has
taken loads of self-serving industry money to underwrite his Harvard
Center." He suggests that the issues the center takes on are very much
determined by your financial backers. How did you react to his critique?
A. I felt that this fellow had a view on things that came through. He's a
columnist. He's an analyst. However, I think the point he raises is right
on. Is that kind of rational cost-benefit thinking going to attract
Greenpeace, or the Sierra Club, or National Audubon, or whatever? Less
likely than it's going to attract corporations who find comfort in that
careful, non-emotional, non-value-based, but "just the facts, please," sort
of approach.

Q. What do you personally fear?
A. I'm afraid of being an overweight 51-year-old white guy and not eating
well and not getting enough exercise. I'm afraid of not making the right
lifestyle choices. But, you know, ice cream still tastes good.

I'm afraid of my 17-year-old son starting to drive. He's in a pretty
high-risk group there. And he's my son.

Most of us are much more afraid of risks to our children than we are to
ourselves. That's why asbestos at our kid's school is much more frightening
than it is at the workplace.

Q One senses that you live by the F.D.R. adage "We having nothing to fear
but fear itself."
A. Yes. We have to recognize that there are very real risks out there, but
one of them is fear.

Copyright 2002, The New York Times

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