CCNet 133/2001 - 12 December 2001

"Imagine the shock, the spiritual struggle, the incredulity, the
defence of and opposition to providence we would see develop if the
possibility that a planet can be shattered be verified as fact! What will
those, who base their framework of knowledge so readily on the unshakeable
stability of the planetary system, say if they see that they have built on
sand, and that everything is entrusted to the blind and fortuitous play of
the forces of nature! I, for my part, think that one should refrain from
all such conclusions."
--Carl Gauss, 15 May 1802

"Odds are good that our planet will be slam-banged by an asteroid or
a comet. It is far from being just a science fiction thriller, played
out for popcorn-crunching movie audiences and subject to bad
reviews. There are certifiable, true-to-life "rocky horror shows" in
our future...and the picture is not pretty. Engineers and scientists here at
NASA's Langley Research Center are sketching out space-based systems to spot
mega and mini- hazards headed this way. One favored place for setting up an
astronomical alarm system is on Earth's moon."
--Leonard David,, 12 December 2001

    Benny J Peiser <>


    Universe Today, 11 December 2001

    Paal Brekke <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Michael Paine <>

    A J Mims <>

    Alastair McBeath <>

    Steve Zoraster <>


Book review
Clifford J. Cunningham, The First Asteroid: Ceres 1801 - 2001, Star Lab
Press 2001

By Benny J Peiser <>

On January 1st 1801, a small 'star-like' object was spotted in the sky that
was to change our view of our universe forever. On that day, Guiseppe
Piazzi, an Italian astronomer discovered Ceres, the first asteroid. The
sighting of this 'minor planet' was seen as a huge triumph for the world's
first ever astronomical search campaign. Piazzi and other observers had been
in pursuit of a starry hunt that was scanning the skies for a missing
planet. Now, it seemed, the planet and thus the last piece in a cosmic
jigsaw had been found. At last, celestial order and planetary harmony seemed
established and complete.

The discovery of the first asteroid is a mesmerising saga. It took place at
the height of the Enlightenment's endeavour to establish an orderly and
mathematically perfect arrangement of our solar system. In his fascinating
and monumental book "The First Asteroid" - which includes among much
captivating information translations of all relevant papers and
correspondence on the first asteroid researchers, Clifford Cunningham evokes
the enthusiasm and hope that accompanied the discovery of Ceres. It also
describes the disenchantment that followed when the detection of further
asteroids shattered the dream of a well-balanced and benign solar system.

The search for mathematical order in the layout of planetary orbits and our
solar system goes back to the very origins of modern astronomy. As a result
of the Copernican Revolution, it soon became apparent that the planets
circumnavigated the Sun in orbits which had considerable distances between
them. Johannes Kepler was the first to discern an unusually large 'gap'
between Mars and Jupiter, an emptiness that, in his judgement, threatened
with dissonance the 'harmonious' arrangement of planetary orbits. Trying to
overcome this perceived imperfection, Kepler conjectured an unseen planet:
"Between Jupiter and Mars I place a new planet".

A century passed before new speculations about the gap between Mars and
Jupiter emerged. While some assumed that the missing planet was yet to be
discovered, Thomas Wright of Durham speculated that a collision with a comet
may have led to its 'final dissolution'. However, theorising about the
'natural order' and 'cosmic harmony' became the hallmark of enlightenment
thinking. In the 1770s, the search for celestial order led Johann Titius and
Johann Bode to the recognition that the progression of planetary distances
could be put in proportional numbers. The discovery that a simple
mathematical law could explain the planetary order of the solar system
excited the scientific community. But what about the empty space between
Mars and Jupiter that disagreed with what soon became known as the
Titius-Bode Law?

Johannes Titius had expressed bewilderment that the new principle of
mathematically corresponding planetary distances seemed incapable to account
for the conspicuous gap and even resorted to heavenly faith: "Should the
Lord Architect have left that space empty? Not at all. Let us therefore
assume that this space without doubt belongs to the still-undiscovered
satellites of Mars." But his mathematical formula as well as his religious
conviction remained largely unknown until Johann Bode, who failed to
acknowledge his original source, published them as his own a few years

For a while, the suggestion that the 'Founder of the Universe' had placed an
unnoticed planet in the capacious gap between Mars and Jupiter rested on the
pious conviction of Titius and Bode. But then, in an extraordinary stroke of
luck, William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781. Bode was quick to point
out that his suggested modus operandi of orbital progression envisaged a
planet at almost exactly the distance Uranus was found! His conjecture was
no longer a religious point of view. The discovery of Uranus swiftly
transformed the tentative theory into a confirmed natural law.

Now that the new law had been established, all that remained to validate its
accuracy was to find the concealed planet between Mars and Jupiter which,
more then ever, was anticipated to be found soon. The hunt was finally on.
Expectations of an undiscovered planet were so high that Baron Franz von
Zach, in September 1800, organised an astronomical meeting devoted to the
world's first ever planetary search campaign. The group of 24 of Europe's
leading astronomers soon became known as The Celestial Police. They divided
the entire zodiac among the 24 members and began a prolonged search for the
invisible planet. Then, hardly three months later, on January 1 1801, an
Italian member of the hunt, Piazzi discovered the object everybody had been
probing for.

"The beautiful order in the solar system established by the discovery of
Ceres seemed to fulfil the hopes and desires of generations of scientists
and philosophers," Cunningham recapitulates the jubilation that followed
this break-through. There was, however, a slight hitch in that the newly
discovered planet was only briefly observed and consequently lost. Its
orbital information was too vague for any recovery attempt, and it was only
with the help of the mathematical genius of Carl Gauss that a more accurate
ephemeris of the object was calculated. Armed with this information, several
astronomers began the search for Ceres.

The German astronomer Wilhelm Olbers rediscovered Ceres exactly one year to
the day after its original detection, on 1 January 1802. The general
delight, however, proved only short-lived as Olbers spotted yet another
'planet' between Mars and Jupiter less than three months later.

Pallas, as the second asteroid was soon to be named, was not only unexpected
but rocked the scientific community. Only one planet was supposed to fill
the gap; and second one essentially shattered the beautiful order of the
solar system and the idea of a consistent arrangement of planetary tidiness.

Bode immediately realised that the "harmonious progression" of planetary
distances would be destroyed by raising Ceres and Pallas to the level of
planets: "I hold myself still convinced that Ceres is the eighth primary
planet of our solar system and that Pallas is a special exceptional planet -
or comet - in her neighbourhood, circulating the Sun. Otherwise, there would
be two planets between Mars and Jupiter, where I have expected only one."

The discovery of Pallas and its bewildering implications triggered two
fundamental reactions: The first was connected with the classification of
the new objects; the second concerned their origins. While Piazzi thought of
the new objects as "wandering stars" to be called either "planetoids" or
"cometoids", most authors simply listed them among the planets. William
Herschel, however, was keenly aware that these new objects threatened the
very foundation of the concept of a regular solar system: "Perhaps one of
them might be brought in to fill up a seeming vacancy between Mars and
Jupiter," he told a meeting of the Royal Society in May 1802. "There is a
certain regularity in the arrangement of planetary orbits, which was pointed
out by a very intelligent astronomer... but this, by admission of two new
stars into the order of planets, would be completely overturned; whereas, if
they are of a different species, it may still be established."

It was this motive of salvaging the 'certain regularities' that drove
Herschel to question the planetary rank of Ceres and Pallas. Consequently,
he not only recognised their relatively small size but also their
distinctive inconsistency with planets and comets. Herschel compared the
appearance of Ceres and Pallas with "small stars, so much as hardly to be
distinguished from them. From this, their asteroidal appearance I shall take
my name, and call them Asteroids." Thus, within a month after the discovery
of Pallas, the suggestion of a new class of solar system objects was
introduced, a classification, however, that remained contentious and
unsupported for more than forty years. Only when further asteroids were
discovered in the 1840s and 50s became it transparent to everyone that these
objects were undeniably asteroids, or 'minor planets' as they became known,
rather than ordinary planets.

Yet the attempt to save the "beautiful order" of planetary distances by
downgrading the new celebrity stars, as Herschel had recommended, did not
find universal support. Baron Zach, for one, championed a radical
alternative to Herschel's idea, at least for a short period of time.

Following in the footsteps of Thomas Wright, Wilhelm Olbers believed that
Ceres and Pallas were the fragments of a medium-sized planet which once
occupied the space between Mars and Jupiter and was shattered to bits by a
collision with a comet. As Cunningham points out, "Olbers was led to the
discovery of Pallas not by pure chance, but on the basis of his exploded
planet speculation. Despite the fact that the discovery of Pallas reinforced
this theory, Olbers did not hold on to his intriguing idea for long. While
Cunningham acknowledges that Olbers abandoned his catastrophe theory of
asteroidal origins rather quickly upon the discovery of Juno in 1804, it
remains unclear what his main reasons were for dropping his premise so

The fact that Juno appeared to have the same orbital period and major axis
as that of Ceres and Pallas were the chief arguments given by Olbers; but
they do not look entirely convincing given that Olbers had earlier used the
same line of evidence in support of his theory. Moreover, the discovery of
Juno and Vesta (in 1807) in exactly the hypothesised location in which he
had assumed to find more space debris, should have reinforced rather than
diluted his idea that these small luminaries were possibly the remnants of a
once larger object.

What, then, may have been the motives that drove Olbers - and his
contemporaries - to abandon this theory completely? For the first time,
Cunningham's spellbinding and comprehensive documentation of the often
confidential correspondence between the first asteroid hunters and asteroid
researchers makes it possible to look behind their public pronouncements and
to identify more pressing, more philosophical apprehension that may have
driven Olbers and in colleagues to drop the catastrophic connotation of

Evidently, it is in these confidential letters that we find the deep
religious and philosophical concerns directly related to the new
astronomical discoveries pondered quite frankly by the first asteroid
researchers. And, I dare to suggest it is the associated anxiety that led
Olbers and others to drop the hypothesis of a catastrophic interpretation of

That Olbers was concerned about his own theory at the outset is apparent in
his letter to Herschel (June 1802) in which he writes about his "idea which
I hardly dare to put forward as a hypothesis ... and which I mention in

Olbers' dithering is not at all surprising in view of what Gauss had written
to him about his 'hypothesis' only a month earlier: "Imagine the shock, the
spiritual struggle, the incredulity, the defence of and opposition to
providence we would see develop if the possibility that a planet can be
shattered be verified as fact! What will those, who base their framework of
knowledge so readily on the unshakeable stability of the planetary system,
say if they see that they have built on sand, and that everything is
entrusted to the blind and fortuitous play of the forces of nature! I, for
my part, think that one should refrain from all such conclusions."

Since that May in 1802, it took almost 200 years for humankind to realise
that our solar system is indeed "entrusted to the blind and fortuitous play
of the forces of nature." Yet while previous generations could only resign
themselves in despair to the blind forces of cosmic disaster, the new
awareness of our vulnerability due to asteroids and comets has led to a
determined search effort to establish order out of asteroidal chaos and to
ensure that we are well prepared and well equipped to offset any future


>From, 12 December 2001

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

Odds are good that our planet will be slam-banged by an asteroid or a comet.
It is far from being just a science fiction thriller, played out for
popcorn-crunching movie audiences and subject to bad reviews.

There are certifiable, true-to-life "rocky horror shows" in our future...and
the picture is not pretty.

Engineers and scientists here at NASA's Langley Research Center are
sketching out space-based systems to spot mega and mini-hazards headed this
way. One favored place for setting up an astronomical alarm system is on
Earth's moon.

Trouble makers

A large number of asteroids larger than a half-mile (1 kilometer) across
lurk in orbits that bring them close to Earth. Objects that size can be real

If any one of them were to hit our planet, social and environmental havoc
would ensue. Locating the whereabouts of a majority of these objects is the
central task of several ground-based telescopic searches now underway.

But watching out for these big bruisers is not the whole story, explains Dan
Mazanek, a NASA Langley engineer who leads the Comet/Asteroid Protection
System (CAPS) study [see video]. The NASA, industry and university teams
tackling these issues are undertaking their research as part of the center's
Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts (RASC) program.

Mazanek told that a far greater number of near-Earth asteroids
(NEAs) exist that are around 300 feet (100 meters) across or smaller.
Millions of these size objects may exist, he said.

"What we're undertaking with CAPS is finding out what it takes to expand the
range of detectable objects both in size and distance, to try and cover the
entire hazard," Mazanek said. The hope is coming up with technology and a
strategy to scan the entire celestial sky on a regular basis, to create a
continuous warning system that can be implemented within 20 to 40 years.

The RASC goal is to develop a system concept that maximizes the range of
detectable objects, and provides a high probability that the objects will be
detected with significant warning time, even upon their first observed
near-Earth approach.


CAPS study members are evaluating a range of threats.

For one, smaller-sized asteroids could cause localized damage. Impact near
an urban area or coastline could result in considerable loss of life,
extensive damage, and economic disruption. Potentially, even a smaller-sized
asteroid hit could rack up trillions of dollars worth of destruction.

In all probability, Mazanek said, the next object that does hit us will be
in the 165 feet (50 meter) to 330 feet (100 meter) size. "We hope it hits
somewhere without ramifications," he said.

Then there are the nastier long period comets. They do not regularly saunter
their way into near-Earth space, having orbital periods that can measure
many millions of years before announcing themselves. They too are a possible
threat and can offer little or no warning time using conventional
ground-based telescopes, Mazanek noted.

"In all likelihood, the ground-based telescopes are not going to have the
sensitivity to pick up these objects with enough time," Mazanek pointed out.
The group has set as a benchmark the spotting of a one kilometer-sized comet
at 5 to 7 Astronomical Units (AU) from Earth. One AU is roughly 93 million
miles (150 million kilometers). "Depending on its orbital trajectory, that
would give you somewhere around a year's worth of warning time," he said.

Then there are objects that get perturbed, making their whereabouts a chancy
state of affairs. "A whole host of objects exist that, over a period of
time, their orbits will change. Being able to pick those out would be
beneficial," Mazanek stated.

Warning time

What the CAPS early work shows are drawbacks if you solely depend on
ground-based equipment contrasted to using space-based detection systems.

For instance, the eyeing of small and or dim near Earth objects by
ground-based telescopes is significantly limited due to atmospheric
turbulence; geographic limitations of telescope location; Earth's day/night
cycle; poor weather; and our celestial buddy -- the Moon -- getting in the

Warning times for long period comets might be on the order of weeks or
months. Only 10 percent of known long period comets have been discovered
more than 100 days before swinging by the Sun. For those pesky smaller
asteroids, potentially no warning time is available if they have not been

The CAPS assessment gives high marks to space-based systems. Detection
hardware could be placed in Earth orbit; at the Lagrange points, nominally
at one AU from Earth; even on the Moon's surface. CAPS might also make use
of existing and future ground-based assets like the Large-Aperture Synoptic
Survey Telescope.

Down-range future

Under review, Mazanek said, is how best to spread out the protection system
in space, using combinations of equipment, dutifully scanning for both long
period comets and near Earth asteroids. Optical interferometry, active laser
ranging, and other space-based detection schemes are being assessed, he

Of course, even with far-flung space-based gear, there's also a drawback.
The placement of CAPS in space is more doable given a "down-range future",
one in which space has become a beehive of activity. That means a busy space
station, lots of reusable in-space transportation, command and data handling
services, lunar gateways, and crew and cargo transfer vehicles flying about
here and there.

The placement and tending of CAPS is greatly influenced by synergistic use
of a growing space infrastructure. "That's a big issue. Maintaining,
servicing, and upgrading CAPS depends on what your vision is for the next 40
years," he said.

Poetic justice

Nearly 30 years has passed since the last Apollo mission in 1972. Along with
its passing, so too did hope of planting a permanent presence on the Moon.
That may change in the future, Mazanek said, and regular sortie flights to
neighboring Luna could give you the ability build and upgrade Moon-based
CAPS hardware.

"I think there's a lot of strong arguments for the Moon being a very ideal
astronomical location for these type of observations. It has a natural,
28-day rotation period to see the celestial sphere," Mazanek said. On the
Moon there are craters deep enough that they are occulted from the sunlight
continuously. That's a perfect locale for plopping down a telescope system,
he said.

"If you have CAPS on the Moon, your only real worry is power, as long as you
can protect equipment against the lunar environment," Mazanek explained.
There's also ready-made poetic justice on the Moon, he added. That is,
outfitting a lunar impact crater with devices to thwart future impactors.

"There's a host of good reasons to go back to the Moon. In my opinion, this
might be another good reason," the Langley study leader said.

Cosmic billiards

Part of the CAPS evaluation is to investigate "revolutionary" technologies
and techniques that can mitigate potentially hazardous near Earth objects.
Mazanek calls it "orbit modification." Thinking of ways to protect the Earth
from an impactor is a study goal, and an aspect of the Langley's
RASC-supported work, he said.

How do you control the orbits of these objects, both from a protection
standpoint and from an exploitation standpoint? Mining or making use of
asteroids and comets for other needs is not too far-fetched of an idea,
Mazanek said.

"There's a huge amount of natural resources available in these objects. If
we ever do go out and colonize the solar system, it's pretty obvious that
we're probably going to use resources available in space and not bring
everything from Earth," Mazanek pointed out. "We have to come up with ways
to live off the land."

Lastly, having a stockpile of small asteroids at the ready -- objects that
are under your orbital control -- might prove critically important.

"There may come an object that's so large you can't deflect it. You could
use your stockpile of small objects as a mechanism to fight the larger one,"
Mazanek. "It is like a game of cosmic billiards, being able to use smaller
objects to deflect larger ones. There's an irony there that has a lot of
Copyright 2001,


>From Universe Today, 11 December 2001

by Jennifer Laing

Carolyn Shoemaker is a 'relative newcomer' to astronomy. Yet she is
acknowledged as the most successful 'comet hunter' alive today. Jennifer
Laing talks to this remarkable woman, who has stepped out from behind her
late husband's shadow, and contributed significantly to our understanding of
our solar system.

Astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker is aware of her unique status in astronomy's
'hall of fame'. "The subject of women in astronomy has long been one that
[has] interested me. I know of quite a number in planetary science, which is
certainly an astronomical variation, but not as many involved in what I
think of as 'pure' astronomy."

Some may be surprised to learn that it is Carolyn, rather than her
better-known late husband Gene, who has the distinction of being the world's
leading and most prolific comet discoverer, work which she only took up in
1980, at the age of 51.

Her work in late adulthood as a 'comet hunter' was beyond Carolyn
Shoemaker's imagination as a young girl. "As a child, I was not
particularly involved with stargazing and [even] less with
astronomy in general."

Neither of Carolyn's parents were scientists, with her father a poultry
farmer and her mother a schoolteacher in her native New Mexico. A junior
high school teacher who had majored in history and business at Chico State
College, now the University of California, Chico, Carolyn Spellman's
scientific destiny began when she met her future husband Gene Shoemaker at
her brother's wedding in 1950. Shoemaker had been her brother's room-mate at
the California Institute of Technology ('Cal Tech'), and was then working on
a Ph.D. at Princeton University on metamorphic petrology.

Married at the age of 22, Carolyn then spent the next 25 years as "homemaker
and mother" to her three children. Dr. Gene Shoemaker's work led him to play
a leading role in organising geological activities for the lunar landings of
the late 1960's and early 1970's, as chief scientist at the United States
Geological Survey (USGS) Center of Astrogeology. He had wanted to go to the
moon himself, but a diagnosis of Addison's disease prevented him from
joining the astronaut program. Instead, he had to watch from the sidelines,
as Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt become the first geologist to walk on the moon in

Carolyn Shoemaker's entry into astronomical history appears to have stemmed
from something akin to the 'empty-nest syndrome.' She tells the story:

"I came to astronomy at age 51 after my 3 children had left home and when I
was looking for something fulfilling to do. I asked my husband, Gene, who
could and did spend most of his time working in geology and planetary science, for
suggestions. It was he who thought I might be interested in the telescopic
search for near-Earth asteroids. I slid gradually into planetary
astronomy as a field, while working on his search program and loved it for
the opportunity to keep on learning new things each day. Of course, the
thrill of discovery of both asteroids and comets gave me a deep
satisfaction." Gene's support was an important ingredient. "He always
supported me in my efforts."

When Carolyn began her search for near-Earth asteroids and comets, she
admits that it was considered an almost eccentric pursuit. The importance of
this research, including understanding the potential risks of an impact for the
future of life on Earth, was then not readily understood.

"Comets are the wild card when we consider the potential for impact on
Earth. We cannot predict the coming of long-period comets well in advance,
and it is necessary to learn more if we wish to defend our planet. We need to know
a great deal more about their structure - are they solid bodies emitting gas and dust or
are they unconsolidated flying snowballs easily broken apart, or are they all shades
in between? Are some asteroids really extinct comets in which the action has
been shut off? Could comets provide a source of water for space travellers?
Did comets bring life to Earth or the nutrients for life?"

The work Carolyn Shoemaker carried out involved studying photographic plates
and films taken 45 minutes to an hour apart of the night sky. The technique
used a stereomicroscope, allowing the researcher to view two plates or films
simultaneously. When one eye looks at one film and the other looks at the
second film, the brain 'meshes' or melds the images together. Asteroids and
comets appear to 'float' above the flat surface of the stars.

It is slow, methodical work, which requires training to discriminate between
dust or grain of the film and near-Earth objects. David Levy, co-discoverer
of Comer Shoemaker-Levy 9, has spoken of
a typical night's work lasting 13 hours, as well as the hours scanning the
pairs of films afterwards. Shoemaker's discovery rate is about 100 search
hours per comet find, and, to date, she has found more than 300 asteroids
and 32 comets.

She says that she has been successful at finding comets for several reasons.
"The Palomar Asteroid and Comet Survey, of which I was a part, used film in
photographing the sky and used stereopsis as a method of detection. I have
good stereo vision. I worked with others who were also willing to work very
hard to obtain the images we needed. Our search was conducted before the
days of the large surveys and before the use of CCDs (charge-couple
electronic devices) with telescopes. We searched a part of the sky where
most comet hunters did not look, a part of the sky ideal for finding

Her passion for her work must have also sustained her through the many long
nights of tedium and painstaking work, combing through exposed films. "My
real love for the night skies developed while observing at Palomar
Observatory in California, and that love has never diminished." Carolyn
Shoemaker has spoken about her ritual when she finds the latest comet. "I
want to dance. I usually go to the staircase and call up to the observers at
the telescope and yell, 'Yay-y-y-y-y!'" It's this exuberance of spirit which she is able
to impart to the general public in lectures and public presentations around the world,
and which may hopefully help to inspire a new generation of comet-hunters
and/or astronomers.

In 1988, Carolyn Shoemaker was awarded, along with her husband, the
Rittenhouse Medal by the Rittenhouse Astronomical Society for the discovery
of comets. She also received an honorary doctorate of science from Northern
Arizona University in Flagstaff in 1990, for her work with comets and

Possibly her most famous discovery was that of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in
March 1993. The Shoemakers and their colleague David Levy found a comet
which consisted of a chain of more than 20 pieces, described as looking like
a 'string of pearls'. This comet had been pulled into fragments due to the
gravitational pull of the planet Jupiter, and was fated to eventually
collide with it. This occurred some 16 months later, in July 1994, when
Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 became the first comet to be recorded impacting

Carolyn Shoemaker acknowledges that "the discovery of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
which impacted Jupiter was doubtless the most satisfying and significant
achievement of my life in astronomy."

"Until then, no one had seen a comet so completely disrupted with its
fragments all lined up and in orbit about a planet; no one had ever seen the
impact upon a planet of a comet or an asteroid. This comet was nature's
grand experiment for man to learn about the structure and makeup of comets,
impact dynamics, the chemistry of Jupiter's clouds and, most importantly, to
gain the awareness that, yes, objects can fall out of the sky and impact
planets, including ours. The discovery of 31 other comets and of many
near-Earth asteroids was also important as a foundation for our
understanding of our solar neighbourhood and the origin of our solar

Part of the Shoemakers' research involved looking at the scars of the
impacts of near-Earth asteroids, which had not been erased by such events as
tectonic activity, and the couple travelled to Australia on a number of
occasions to identify features caused by past impacts.

I recently discovered a link between the Shoemakers' work and that of a
friend of mine, geologist Professor Vic Gostin, who travelled with Mars
Society Australia on their expedition to the Red Centre, to scout for
Mars-like environments here on Earth. Professor Gostin of Adelaide
University had an asteroid named after him (Asteroid (3640) GOSTIN), which
had been discovered by the Shoemakers in 1985. Gostin was accorded this
honour due to his work on meteor impact craters in the Flinders Ranges.

The Shoemakers' rich and productive partnership, both from a personal and
professional standpoint, ended tragically in 1997 on one of these field
trips. The pair were involved in a car crash near Alice Springs, and Gene
Shoemaker was killed instantly, while Carolyn sustained severe injuries. She
eventually recovered, and continues her observation work today with David
Levy and his wife Wendee near Tucson, Arizona.

When asked to rate her own individual contribution and impact on astronomy,
Shoemaker is circumspect. "How does one stand back and evaluate themselves?
I would like to think that I made an important contribution in planetary
astronomy with my pursuit of comets, planet-crossing asteroids, and impact
craters and with a role in the education of others as to the importance of
these bodies.

Because my work preceded that of all but a small group involved in the
search for near-Earth objects, it served to call more attention to them and
to provide a base knowledge about the origin of our solar system and its
solid bodies."

Jennifer Laing is a freelance science writer from Melbourne, Australia and
PR Director of Mars Society Australia.

Copyright 2001, Universe Today


>From Paal Brekke <>

RELEASE NO: 01-112


Scientists have peered beneath the surface of the Sun to discover how large
areas of stormy solar activity, called active regions, form and grow.
Additionally, they've got their best look yet at why sunspots -- dark
blotches on the solar surface, often grouped in active regions -- sometimes
go for a spin.

Read the entire story (incl images and movies) on:

Paal Brekke,
SOHO Deputy Project Scientist  (European Space Agency - ESA)

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,      Email:
Mail Code 682.3, Bld. 26,  Room 001,   Tel.:  1-301-286-6983 /301 996 9028
Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA.        Fax:   1-301-286-0264


>From Andrew Yee <>

Geological Society of America

Jean-Claude Thouret
UMR 6524 Magmas et Volcans
Université Blaise-Pascal
5 rue Kessler
63038 Clermont-Ferrand cedex, France
PHONE: 04 73 34 67 41

Ann Cairns
Director - Communications and Marketing, 303-357-1056

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2001

GSA Release No. 01-66

Scientist anticipates major eruption of Peru's El Misti volcano By Kara
LeBeau, GSA Staff Writer

Boulder, Colo. -- Scientist Jean-Claude Thouret is worried about the one
million people who live in the suburbs and city of Arequipa in southern
Peru. The city's center is only 17 km from the summit of the active El Misti
volcano. Thouret and his colleagues report new findings on El Misti's
geology, past eruptions, and the reasons for probable future eruptions in

Recurring episodes of growth and destruction of El Misti's domes in the past
have triggered avalanches and pyroclastic flows. Alternating explosive
events have catalyzed pyroclastic flows, surges, and tephra falls. On
average, pumice falls occurred every 2,000 to 4,000 years, and ashfall
occurred every 500 to 1,500 years. The extent and volume of the small event
during the 1400's (A.D.) and of the eruption about 2,050 years ago indicate
that future Misti's eruptions, even moderate in magnitude, will entail
considerable hazards to the densely populated area of Arequipa.

"The possible impact of Misti on Arequipa is as worrisome as that of
Vesuvius near Napoli," said Thouret, a professor at the Université
Blaise-Pascal in France. "I have sent several reports to the civil
authorities in Arequipa -- City Hall, Government of the Region of Arequipa,
and National Civil Defense. The Civil Defense regional office in Arequipa
thus became aware of the problem, but damage induced by earthquakes and
landslides in the region has exceeded the potential effects of any eruption,
yet to happen, at El Misti. Therefore, they do not pay too much attention to
the potential volcanic threat."

In the BULLETIN article, Thouret and colleagues do offer other advice: "The
lack of emergency-response policy and the lack of land-use planning prevent
decision makers from regulating city growth. Future growth of the city
should be preferentially oriented southeast and west of the depression but
beyond 25 km from the vent."

Arequipa suffered an earthquake on June 21, 2001. El Misti basically stayed
stable -- fumarolic activity increased at its summit right after the
earthquake, but went back to "normal."

Thouret's work has focused on active volcanoes in Peru including Nevado
Sabancaya, Ubinas, El Misti, and Huaynaputina. (In 1999, he published a
paper on the large-scale 1600 AD eruption of Huaynaputina, 70 km east of
Arequipa, in GEOLOGY.) He became painfully aware of the damage imposed by
volcanoes when he was working on Nevado del Ruiz for his Ph.D. thesis in
Columbia. It erupted on November 13, 1985 and its mudflows alone killed
23,000 people.

"El Misti's eruption is probable but we cannot forecast the magnitude of the
future eruption unless we detect changes in the volcano's behavior a few
weeks or a few months in advance," Thouret said. "We are carrying out more
work in Peru on active volcanoes and hazards, as well as on old volcanic
deposits such as the widespread Tertiary ignimbrites. When I say 'we,' I
mean a group of French and German geologists-volcanologists from the
Université Blaise Pascal (Clermont-Ferrand, France), the French Institute
for Research and Development (IRD), and from the University of Göttingen
(Germany). Of course, we also work in Peru with Peruvian colleagues of the
Geophysical Institute of Peru and from two Universities in Lima, in the
framework of an international agreement for research and cooperation."

To read the abstract of this article, go to

To obtain a complimentary copy of this or any other GSA BULLETIN article,
contact Ann Cairns at .


>From Michael Paine <>

Duncan and Benny

Observatory Calls Budget Plan a Threat to Survival
New York Times

An uncanny reminder of the situation in Australia in 1996, when John Howard
came to power.
"The (Bush) administration believes the science foundation has a superior
system for subjecting research proposals to competitive reviews based on
merit before financing them. Astronomers and Smithsonian officials counter
that the initiative betrays a deep misunderstanding of how the observatory
operates and say that wrenching away its independence could effectively
destroy a system that has fostered major discoveries."

This will inevitably affect the Spaceguard program, if only because of
competition for funds.



>From A J Mims <>


Seldom do I disagree with anything you say but again must I protest about
the suggested policy of keeping the public out of the know "for their own

It does no harm to announce then retract a possibility of asteroidal impact
in ten years or 30 years or even tonight at midnight. The public knows how
accurate scientific forecasts are from past experiences. And a few red faces
promotes humility and increases the quality of research and reporting. It is
not bad for the science as it raises the interest of the public in an area
mostly neglected. And increased funding [perhaps]. Honest mistakes are no
sin. And some do not enjoy the prospect of a few elite who decide what is
proper for the public to know. Would these elite really release information
that they believed to be accurate but in their minds would cause undue
worry?  I would rather know that the truth will come out and perhsps we
could at least have some warning to make peace with God or prepare some
archival information to leave to those who might evolve after our passing.
Except for this minor point; thanks for the excellent site. 

A J Mims
member IEEE, AAAS, INNS, Cognitive Science Society

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I am not advocating to keep any information secret - quite
the opposite. After all, I am calling for an end to ineffective and
nonsensical the 72 hours 'secrecy period'. Scientific impact probabilities
are and should be posted on aproved websites, such as Andrea Milani's
RiskPage. However, experience has shown that it is extremely harmful to the
integrity and reputation of the NEO community whenever a temporary impact
alert is officially announced in the full knowledge that additional data -
most likely - will eliminate the potential threat altogether. BJP


>From Alastair McBeath <>

Dear Benny,

I have to say I continue to find the CCNet notices of value, and that they
pretty well cover exactly the ground of interest to me. Not everything is of
use, as you'd expect, but I think you've got the balance of material about
right. The science/humanities crossover area impact and climate studies
involve can't be a rigid one, and it is of some concern how easily inflamed
some people get about all this. Unfortunately, everyone has a view, but few
have the necessary background knowledge in both camps to comment sensibly.
The problem runs both ways of course, as colleagues in the archaeo-historical fields regard
some of the comet/impact scientists as little more than cranks meddling in
matters they know nothing about. Whether right or wrong, sadly this can be
how a few sometimes come across.

All best wishes, Alastair.


>From Steve Zoraster <>


If it quacks like a duck....   The Shentalinsko-Cheremshan geologic
structure described below is located in Tatarstan, a Republic in the Russian
Federation, situated at the confluence of the Volga and Kama rivers. I am
copying this from the "Internet Geology New Letter", which provides free
translations of abstracts and summaries of articles published in Russian
petroleum geology journals.  The online source for the article is provided
at the bottom of this e-mail.

Steven Zoraster

-----Original Message-----
From: James Clarke []
Sent: Monday, December 03, 2001 5:56 AM
To: Internet Geology Readers
Subject: Internet Geology News Letter no. 126, December 3, 2001

Ring Structure in Basement of South Tatar arch

Internet Geology News Letter No. 126, December 3, 2001

Super-giant Romashkino oil field and other fields occur on a gigantic ring
structure in the basement rocks. This feature, the Shentalinsko-Cheremshan
structure, has a diameter of 250 km and is expressed clearly in the gravity
and magnetic fields in the form of a ring distribution of anomalies. The
outer zone of this ring structure is a belt of gravity maximums.  Within
this outer belt is a belt of minimums. The transition area between the two
is a zone of steep gradients that coincides with faults in the crystalline
basement. Positive and negative belts encircle the central part of the
structure, where the intensive Cheremshan maximum is located. This inner
maximum is cut by narrow minimums, which rarely reach the outer rings.
Development of the Shentalinsko-Cheremshan ring structure began with
formation of an isometric arch in the Earth's crust due to introduction of
mantle material. This sector is reflected in the gravity field by the strong
Cheremshan maximum. The arching led to development of radial and
intersecting faults and to the formation along them of synclinal troughs and
narrow grabens in Late Archean and Early Proterozoic time.  Subsequently
inversion (downwarping) of the arch took place with development of ring
faults and the ring frame.
The ring frame experienced differential movements during all the Precambrian
and Phanerozoic, accompanied by various lithofacies changes in
sedimentation. The final stage of the Shentalinsko-Cheremshan arch was
during Akchagyl time of the Pliocene, when in the eastern part the
Romashkino segment of the block separated and rose along the ancient
Altunino-Shunak fault.  This basement block is the core of the crest of the
South Tatar arch. To the west individual blocks subsided step-wise, passing
into the flank of the Melekess depression.  

The paleo-arch that was present in the sedimentary cover at the site of the
modern Shentalinsko-Cheremshan ring structure apparently was oil-bearing in
the Devonian clastic sediments.  Subsidence of the western part and
separation of the Romashkino block led to break-up of this field. Most of
the hydrocarbons became concentrated on the raised Romashkino and
Aktashsko-Novo-Yelkhov blocks, which were separated from the western part of
the structure by the Kuzaykin and Altunino-Shunak graben-like downwarps. The
western part of the structure was broken up, and the oil deposits in the
Devonian clastics were preserved only where seals were good.  The rest of
the oil migrated along faults into the higher parts of the section and was
preserved in favorable traps in Carboniferous rocks or as bitumen deposits
in Permian rocks. Taken from Stepanov, Bogatov, and Dokuchayeva, 1981;
digested in Petroleum Geology, vol. 18, no. 12.

Copyright 2001 James Clarke.  You are encouraged to print out this News
Letter and to forward it to others.  Earlier News Letters are available at:

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