CCNet 134/2001 - 18 December 2001

"As it took with the terrorism business, it takes a nasty event to
bring people to their senses. One of these days we'll get another
Tunguska, and then people will think about putting some money into
--Brian Marsden, The Independent, 14 December 2001

Ann Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if
she will make a statement on the Government's response on 24 February
to the recommendations contained in the report of the Near Earth Object
Task Force.
Ms Hewitt: An updated response is nearing completion and will be
published shortly.
-- House of Commons, 13 December 2001

    House of Commons, 13 December 2001

    Wired News, 14 December 2001

    The Independent, 14 December 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>


    Ron Baalke <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    Ron Baalke <>

     Andy Smith <>

     Peter Nockolds, LONDON, UK <>

     Peter Nockolds, LONDON, UK <>

     Tom Van Flandern <>


>From House of Commons, 13 December 2001

Near Earth Object Task Force

Ann Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will
make a statement on the Government's response on 24 February to the
recommendations contained in the report of the Near Earth Object Task Force.

Ms Hewitt: An updated response is nearing completion and will be published
shortly. Copies will be put with the report and the Government response
which were placed in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy of this response
and press release will also be found at


>From Wired News, 14 December 2001,1294,49124,00.html

By Mark K. Anderson

Robert Duvall, Bruce Willis and Sean Connery have all had cinematic bouts
with "planet killer" asteroids, but the actual hazard such interplanetary
cannonballs pose is both more gradational and more uncertain than Hollywood

The more likely threat from collisions with asteroids and comets comes not
from chunks of space rock the size of Texas, as in the movie Armageddon, but
rather from objects mere tenths of a mile across, which are harder to find
and track.

This is one of the subjects to be covered Friday when Britain's Royal
Astronomical Society hosts a symposium in London in an attempt to jump start
the U.K.'s involvement in the search for Near Earth Objects.

The last planet killer came 65 million years ago and wiped out the
dinosaurs. Yet these objects -- roughly the size of a small city -- are now
thought to collide with Earth only once every hundred million years.

When they do, of course, they are what Grant Stokes of MIT's Lincoln Lab
euphemistically calls an "evolutionary reboot."

On the other hand, it was less than a hundred years ago that a football
field-sized asteroid or comet exploded into the atmosphere over Tunguska,
Siberia, yielding a blast many times more powerful than the atomic bomb that
flattened Hiroshima.

Since the region was unpopulated, the casualties of the Tunguska event were
mostly trees and forest wildlife. The chance of a Tunguska-like impact
happening again during any given year is now estimated at one in 250.

"A hundred-meter sized object could kill a city," said Mark Bailey of the
Armargh Observatory in Northern Ireland. "When you look at the actuarial
risk, it would pay you to seek out asteroids as small as one or two hundred
meters across."

The U.S. now leads the worldwide hunt for Near Earth Objects, spending a
million dollars a year on telescopes in New Mexico, Arizona, California and
Hawaii. This program has to date found more than 700 asteroids or comets
whose orbits brush close to the Earth's.

But these new discoveries are heavily weighted toward the planet killer end
of the spectrum. It's still unknown how many nearby chunks of space rock or
stray comet fragments there are that, if they fell to Earth, could cause a
"sub global event."

"If anything, getting hit in the ocean is worse than getting hit on land,
especially for the smaller objects," said Duncan Steel of the University of
Salford, U.K. "Something two or three hundred yards across would generate a
tsunami which would really be fatal for the cities on the coastline around

According to a recent British government report (PDF), the telescopes now
hunting and tracking Near Earth Objects work well in studying potential
planet killers. But to find and follow the smaller and more populous sub
global event objects, larger telescopes would be required.

"As it took with the terrorism business, it takes a nasty event to bring
people to their senses," said Brian Marsden of Harvard's Minor Planet
Center. "One of these days we'll get another Tunguska, and then people will
think about putting some money into this."

Stokes of MIT, the principal scientist behind the most successful Near Earth
Object hunter to date -- a NASA/Air Force telescope called Linear --said the
Near Earth Object programs are good science as well as good insurance.

"It's worthwhile doing," he said. "But if you asked me about the dangers to
the life of me and my children, I'm much more likely to perish driving on
Route 128 than I am in an asteroid hit.

"I do not expect us to find a large object on a collision course with Earth.
That would be against the odds. But if there is one, by some chance, you
really want to know."

Copyright 1994-2001 Wired Digital Inc. All rights reserved.


>From The Independent, 14 December 2001

Worried about an asteroid strike destroying our planet? Well, you should be,
says Ian Brown. Scientists believe the danger is all too real

Humanity could one day be caught between a rock and a hard place - and it
just could be a very large fast-moving rock. The potentially catastrophic
threat posed to humanity by an asteroid colliding with the Earth is to be
discussed at a meeting today of the Royal Astronomical Society in London.

This is not the stuff of purely academic debate or Hollywood science
fiction. Last year, the Government set up a Task Force on Potentially
Hazardous Near Earth Objects to consider the threat. This made 14
recommendations for action, including some thoughts on what are the options
for deflecting any object on a collision course with Earth.

Meanwhile, both Europe and America aim to take a much closer look at the
problem. Among today's speakers, Marcello Coradini of the European Space
Agency will explain Europe's plans to study the physical nature of asteroids
and comets. The American National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(Nasa) has several spacecraft either already in space or planned for launch
within the next few years.

Europe's Rosetta mission, the first probe aiming to orbit a comet, is
scheduled for launch in 2003. GAIA, a space telescope due for launch around
2010, will be able to detect asteroids as small as 500 metres wide. Another
probe, called BepiColombo, will also be able to search for unknown asteroids
between the Sun and Earth although its main destination is Mercury. These
Near Earth Objects (NEOs) are particularly dangerous, since they can
approach the Earth from the direction of the Sun, and so be masked by its

Today's meeting will also discuss how British astronomers and researchers
will work with the international Spaceguard programme, and how the asteroid
hazard ranks against other large-scale potential disasters (such as nuclear
power station accidents).

One of the meeting's organisers, Duncan Steel, a physicist from Salford
University, says that this is astronomy close to home. "Only recently has
the importance of comets and asteroids to our own planet been recognised,"
Steel says. "But quite apart from potential impact catastrophes, NEOs are
worlds in their own right. Studying them is becoming a central feature of
solar system exploration. The next few years promise a wealth of interesting
information on asteroids and comets."

Steel is urging governments around the world to take the issue more
seriously. "The UK has the expertise in astronomy. We have the telescope
facilities in the Canaries, Hawaii and elsewhere that would be ideal in
making a contribution to a wider international effort. This is something to
be taken very seriously, but nothing has been done," he says.

Millions of asteroids and comets orbit our Sun, but only a tiny fraction
approach the Earth. Don't breath a sigh of relief yet, though. These objects
range in size from pebbles to mountains. And because they travel at very
high speed even the medium-sized objects pose a potential danger. At
present, 291 potentially hazardous asteroids have been firmly detected. But
astronomers estimate that there are between 750 and 1,100 near-Earth
asteroids bigger than one kilometre, the minimum size thought to pose
catastrophic risk.

Such objects, of course, have collided with Earth since its formation. Some
brought the carbon and water which made life possible. Others caused
widespread changes in the Earth's surface and climate. It is now generally
accepted that a 10-kilometre asteroid killed the dinosaurs 65 million years

In 1994, astronomers were treated to a rare - and sobering - direct glimpse
of the devastation caused by such impacts. Thankfully it wasn't here on
Earth. They were watching fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 bombard
Jupiter in a cataclysmic display of cosmic violence.

The amount of damage caused by a NEO's impact with Earth would depend on its
size. In 1908, an asteroid or comet 50 metres across exploded above Siberia,
devastating a vast but uninhabited forest. Such an impact over a city would
have instantly levelled it. An asteroid over one kilometre would release
energy equivalent to 10 million times the power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb
and wreak global catastrophe. The report of the UK's Task Force questions
how prepared we are to address the risk. "The threat from Near Earth Objects
raises major issues," it says, "among them the inadequacy of current
knowledge, confirmation of hazard after initial observation, disaster
management (if the worst came to the worst), methods of mitigation including
deflection, and reliable communication with the public."

The Task Force, led by Harry Atkinson, a former chairman of the European
Space Agency council, was specifically asked to confirm the nature of the
hazard; the potential level of risk; and advise on what further action
should be taken.

His report concludes: "Discussions of this global problem with the US
Department of Defence, Nasa, ESA and the UK Defence Evaluation and Research
Agency have thus far provided no clear position on what should be done,
although it is clear that the highest priority lies in the provision of
improved observation to provide the maximum possible warning time."

There are two main options for deflecting NEOs, the Task Force says. Launch
one or more small spacecraft many years in advance of the predicted
impact-date to rendezvous with and gently "nudge" the NEO away from its
collision course. Or last-minute deflection using high energy explosive
devices - "the use of which would need to be very carefully considered," it
adds, with very British understatement. "Mitigating any impact by deflection
would appear to be a more attractive option than break-up, since the latter
might well result in a greater number of smaller NEOs to cope with
worldwide," it adds.

The risk from comets is estimated to be between 10 and 30 per cent of that
from asteroids - but the advance warning period for a potential impact from
a long-period comet may be as short as a year compared to decades or
centuries for asteroids.

At present, the British National Space Centre is to take the lead in
Whitehall policy on the threat posed by NEOs. But the Government is also
looking into the options for a dedicated British Centre for Near Earth
Objects. The successful applicant is expected to be announced any day now.

Duncan Steel, however, is not impressed: "The only remit of this centre is
to give information, not do any research," he said. "We have to stop talking
and start taking action."

Copyright 2001, The Independent


>From Andrew Yee <>

News Service
Stanford University
Stanford, California

Mark Shwartz, News Service
(650) 723-9296; e-mail:


Geophysicist studies life in the early solar system
By Etienne Benson

Between the cataclysmic impact that created the Moon around 4.5 billion
years ago and the first evidence of life 3.8 billion years ago, there may
have been long periods during which life repeatedly spread across the globe,
only to be nearly annihilated by the impact of large

The early Earth, in other words, may have been an interrupted Eden -- a
planet where life repeatedly evolved and diversified, only to be sent back
to square one by asteroids 10 or 20 times wider than the one that hastened
the dinosaurs' demise. When the surface of the Earth finally became
inhabitable again, thousands of years after each asteroid impact, the
survivors would have emerged from their hiding places and spread across the
planet -- until another asteroid struck and the whole cycle was repeated.

"We know that large asteroid impacts can sterilize or partially sterilize
planets," says Norman Sleep, a professor of geophysics at Stanford who will
present the theory at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in
San Francisco on Friday, Dec. 14.

"An asteroid a few hundred kilometers in diameter will boil off much of the
ocean and leave the rest of the ocean very hot, so all that will survive
will be high-temperature organisms living deep in the subsurface," he says.
Rock vapor and water would fill the atmosphere, killing off any life on the
surface with temperatures upwards of 1,000 C (1,800 F).

The only organisms that could survive such an impact are thermophiles --
heat-loving microbes -- buried half a mile or more below the Earth's
surface, where the effects of the burning atmosphere would have been muted
to a survivable 100 C (212 F). Those organisms may have given rise to much
of the life on today's Earth.

Sleep calls the region where those organisms would have lived the
"Goldilocks Zone" -- deep enough for microbes to avoid the heat of the
burning atmosphere, but not so deep that they ran afoul of the Earth's
internal heat.

Since there are no records of life before 3.8 billion years ago, there is no
direct proof that Sleep's theory is correct. But several strands of evidence
are highly suggestive.

The first is that two of the three major branches of life that exist on
Earth today -- Archaea, Bacteria and Eukarya -- began with organisms that
were designed to live in extremely hot environments, the kinds that would
have existed for millions of years after the impact of a large asteroid.

A glance at the names of modern members of the Archaea and Bacteria branches
turns up an overwhelming number of "thermos" -- Thermococcus, Thermotoga,
Thermoproteus and others. All of them thrive at temperatures above 80 C (176
F), with some managing to eke out an existence in conditions that would
literally boil most organisms alive. (The current record-holder can survive
in environments above 115 C [239 F], says Sleep.)

"The roots of these two branches of the tree are clearly thermophile, which
is exactly what's going to survive in a large impact," says Sleep.

Where Eukarya -- the branch that includes yeast, worms, corn and humans --
fits into the story is less certain. "It's unclear whether Eukarya, which we
are, has a thermophile root or not," says Sleep. "We may never have had a
high-temperature-organism ancestor. But clearly two of the three branches
look like asteroid survivors: very complex, highly-evolved organisms that
are thermophile."

The second strand of evidence is geophysical. Although it has long been
thought that early Earth would have been rendered lifeless by continual
asteroid bombardment, there are now good reasons to believe that our planet
was struck by fewer than 20 large asteroids between the time of the
Moon-forming impact and the first fossil signs of life. That would leave
hundreds of millions of years between each asteroid strike, during which
complex organisms -- and life itself -- would be free to evolve.

When asteroids did strike, only those organisms that could find some kind of
shelter would have survived. The most obvious refuge is deep within the
Earth itself, but Sleep believes there may have been another, more exotic
way for early organisms to survive such Earth-shattering catastrophes.

Martian invaders

Perhaps, says Sleep, some of the asteroids that struck the early Earth were
large enough to destroy all life on the planet, even those organisms hidden
deep within the crust. There was still at least one other place where life
could have survived, even flourished, before
returning to Earth: Mars. Although Mars is now a frigid desert, four billion
years ago it may have been a warm, water-filled oasis as friendly to life as
early Earth.

But could a microorganism really have survived the trip from Earth to
Mars? To successfully complete the interplanetary journey, a microbe
first would have to survive an asteroid impact powerful enough to free a
chunk of rock from the grip of gravity. Once in space, the traveler would be
faced with conditions harsher than anything found on Mars or Earth: total
vacuum, subzero temperatures, harmful radiation and the passage of perhaps
thousands of years before the interplanetary dart hit its target. Even then,
the colonizing microbe would have to hope that some of its descendants were
buried deep enough in the rock to avoid burning up in Earth's atmosphere.

Sleep says these factors make the trip difficult, but not impossible. Models
have shown that the initial shock of ejection from a planet isn't
necessarily deadly, especially for the hardiest microbes, and especially
from a small planet like Mars where the atmosphere is thin and gravity is
relatively weak. "You don't sterilize a milk bottle by throwing it off your
roof," he explains.

And laboratory experiments have shown that earthly microbes, especially if
hidden in cracks deep within a meteorite, can survive the harsh conditions
of space at least for a few years. Of course, no one has tested whether they
can survive for thousands of years, but there's no reason to think they
can't, notes Sleep. "Conditions are not good for microorganisms, but they're
not bad," he adds.

So it is possible that life came from another planet -- but did it really
happen? So far there is no direct evidence of life on other planets or
asteroids, although it is becoming clear that conditions exist, at least on
Mars and Europa -- one of Jupiter's inner moons -- where microbes that live
comfortably in Earth's harsher climates would have felt at home. As Sleep
put its, Mars "is no more uninhabitable than Antarctica" -- uncomfortable
for humans, but perfect for some microbes.

Conclusive evidence for or against the theory only will come when scientists
can examine samples from other planets and asteroids, something that is
still a long way off. But Sleep says he's not frustrated by the sometimes
slow pace of studying early life.

"The origin of life is one of the fundamental problems of science, and it
always has been. Living at a time when you can do that, it's not something
I'm going to pass up," he says.


Norman Sleep, Geophysics, (650) 723-0882,

EDITORS: This press release was written by science writing intern Etienne
Benson. The American Geophysical Union will hold its annual fall meeting
Dec. 10 to 14 at the Moscone Convention Center, 747 Howard Street, San
Francisco, CA 94103. Prof. Norman Sleep will give the opening talk at AGU
Session U51A, "Origin and Early Evolution of the Earth I," on Fri., Dec. 14,
8:30 a.m. PT in Room 134. For more information, visit the AGU website at .

Relevant Web URLs:


>From Andrew Yee <>

[Extracted from Leonid Multi-Instrument Aircraft Campaign (MAC) website,]

December 11, 2001


High speed imaging has now for the first time shown details in the head of a
meteor that reveil the dimensions and shape of the sources of light that
make a shooting star. In a series of unique images obtained by Leonid MAC
participant Prof. Hans Stenbaek-Nielsen of the University of Alaska, a
meteor is seen to develop from a ball of light into a an object with a bow
shock and a tail. These results were unveiled in a standing-room only
special session "The 2001/2002 Leonid meteor storms" at the Fall Meeting of
the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco on December 11, 2001.

Prof. Nielsen used an unusual intensified high frame-rate camera, specially
designed for sprite observations. This camera records video images at a rate
of 1000 frames per second. Nielsen, a Danish national, observed from a site
at Pokers Flat, Alaska, and had to continually watch a video screen to catch
the meteor in flight. The images shown above are frames #200, 300 and 400
from a 463 millisecond sequence of a bright Leonid meteor at 10:48:59 UT,
November 18. These are false-color images. The originals are in black-and-white
only. The red color is chosen arbitrarily to highlight contrast. The frames are cropped in
horizontal direction. The vertical field of view is about 6 degrees.

The meteor starts as a very localized ball. Then it brightens and develops a
tail, and one can clearly see the shock set up around the front.

"Our images for the first time confirm that most meteor light comes from a
bright plasma just behind the meteoroid," says Leonid MAC PI Dr. Peter
Jenniskens of the SETI Institute at NASA Ames Research Center. This confirms
conclusions made indirectly from spectroscopic studies in prior Leonid MAC
missions. "The images now provide dimensions of the gas cloud behind the
meteoroid", says Jenniskens, "and tell us how long organic molecules have to
endure a hot plasma before cooling down". Just behind the gas cloud, a wake develops
that is thought to be due to green forbidden line emission of OI at 557.2 nm.

Jenniskens believes that the bow shock may be a consequence of the vapor
cloud of ablated material surrounding the meteoroid growing to sizes larger
than the mean-free path in air at altitude. "This emission may be
responsible for some of the ionised emissions of Mg+ and Ca+ that are
observed in bright Leonids", he says, "more so when the meteoroids are
larger". The pictures for the first time show the meteor's bow shock.

The special Leonid storm session was organised by Jenniskens in
collaboration with Prof. Chet Gardner of the University of Illinois.
Presentations included this and other first results of the 2001 Leonid
campaign, new modeling of meteor physical processes, studies of the erosion
of organic matter in meteoric plasma, the expected mass distribution of
Leonid meteoroid fragments, and the announcement that tiny 1 nm sized dust
grains of recondensed vapor may now have been detected in the upper

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at]



Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington                   Dec. 17, 2001
(Phone: 202/358-1727)

Martha J. Heil
Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pasadena, Calif.
(Phone: 818/354-0850)

RELEASE: 01-246


NASA's adventurous Deep Space 1 mission, which successfully tested 12
high-risk, advanced space technologies and captured the best images ever
taken of a comet, will come to an end Dec. 18, 2001.

"American taxpayers can truly be proud of Deep Space 1," said Dr. Colleen
Hartman, Director of NASA's Solar System Exploration Division, Washington.
"It was originally designed to be an 11-month mission, but things were going
so well that we kept it going for a few more years to continue testing its
remarkable ion engine and, as a bonus, to get close-up images of a comet. By
the time we turn its engines off tomorrow, Deep Space 1 will have earned an
honored place in space exploration history."

Shortly after 3 p.m. EST Tuesday, engineers will send a final command
turning off the ion engine, which has used up 90 percent of its xenon fuel.
After Earth's final goodbye, the spacecraft will remain in orbit around the
Sun, operating on its own. Its radio receiver will be left turned on, in
case future generations want to contact the spacecraft.

"Deep Space 1 is a true success story," said Dr. Charles Elachi, director of
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. "We are proud that
future generations of spacecraft will benefit from its accomplishments."

Deep Space 1 leaves the technologies it flight-tested as legacies for future
missions, which would have been impossible without its trailblazing
technology tests. Enabling spacecraft to travel faster and farther than ever
before, Deep Space 1's ion engine was once a science fiction dream. Now this
ion engine has accumulated over 670 days of operating time.  Future Mars
missions may use this technology to return samples from the Red Planet.

Deep Space 1's successful test of autonomous navigation software was a major
step in the path of artificial intelligence for spacecraft. Using images of
asteroids and stars collected by the onboard camera, the spacecraft was able
to compute and correct its course without relying on human controllers on
Earth. NASA's Deep Impact mission will use a system based on autonomous
navigation to reach the nucleus of comet Tempel 1.

Within nine months after launch, Deep Space 1 had successfully tested all 12
new technologies. As a bonus, near the end of the primary mission, Deep
Space 1 flew by asteroid Braille. In late 1999, its primary mission
complete, Deep Space 1's star tracker failed to operate. So in early 2000,
engineers successfully reconfigured the spacecraft from 185 million miles
(300 million kilometers) away to rescue it for a daring extended mission to
encounter comet Borrelly.

In September 2001, Deep Space 1 passed just 1,349 miles (2,171 kilometers)
from the inner icy nucleus of comet Borrelly, snapping the
highest-resolution pictures ever of a comet. The daring flyby yielded new
data and movies of the comet's nucleus that will revolutionize the study of

Launched on October 24, 1998, Deep Space 1 was designed and built in just
three years, the shortest development time for any interplanetary spacecraft
NASA has flown in the modern age. It was the first mission in NASA's New
Millennium program. In addition to its technical achievements, Deep Space 1
is an ambassador of Earthlings' goodwill, carrying with it a compact disc of
children's drawings and engineers' thoughts.

"I'm not sad it's ending, I'm happy it accomplished so much," said Dr. Marc
Rayman, Deep Space 1 project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
Pasadena, Calif. "I think it inspired many people who saw the mission as
NASA and JPL at our best -- bold, exciting, resourceful and productive."

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages
the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Spectrum Astro
Inc., Gilbert, Ariz., was JPL's primary industrial partner in spacecraft

Additional information on Deep Space 1 is available at:


>From Ron Baalke <>

Space probe shows comet sense

Deep Space 1 reveals Borrelly's dark secrets.

Nature Science Update
December 14, 2001

A state-of-the-art space probe has shed new light on what may be the darkest
object in the Solar System.

The potato-shaped comet Borrelly, although less showy than its better-known
cousin Halley, is turning out to be something of an enigma, researchers told
this week's meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Bad behaviour

As if Borrelly's blackness wasn't enough, other DS-1 data suggest that it is
also behaving very strangely for a comet.

The Sun's heat boils off ice, other chemicals and dust trapped in comets. On
bodies such as Halley, these emissions occur evenly. But jets of material
spew out from patches in Borrelly's narrow middle section. "They look just
like nozzles," says Laurence Soderblom of the US Geological Survey in
Flagstaff, Arizona.

Full story here:


>From Andrew Yee <>

News Service
Stanford University
Stanford, California

Mark Shwartz, News Service
(650) 723-9296; e-mail:


Ancient civilizations shaken by quakes, say Stanford scientists
By Etienne Benson

Archaeology sometimes raises more questions than it answers. How do you
explain a city that bustled with activity one day only to be buried under
feet of silt the next? Or walls that collapsed in an instant, crushing the
people standing next to them? Or rows of heavy stone columns, all toppled in
the same direction?

Until recently, most researchers trying to explain these enigmatic disasters
pointed to wars, fires or flash floods -- or simply shrugged their shoulders
and kept digging.

But new research by geophysicists at Stanford and elsewhere is painting a
picture of an ancient world in which earthquakes destroyed fortified
buildings, changed the course of rivers and made elite rulers vulnerable to

One of the proponents of that picture is Amos Nur, the Wayne Loel Professor
of Earth Sciences at Stanford, who will moderate a session on the impact of
natural disasters on ancient civilizations at the fall meeting of the
American Geophysical Union on Dec. 14. Robert Kovach, a professor of
geophysics at Stanford, will co-moderate the session.

Ancient quakes

The idea that ancient civilizations were shaped by earthquakes is still
controversial, but a growing number of archaeologists and geophysicists
believe that earthquakes might have intervened at crucial moments in

Nur's research on the ancient city of Megiddo, also known as Armageddon,
provides one example. By studying ancient texts and archaeological evidence,
Nur demonstrated that earthquakes, and not repeated conquests, could have
been responsible for the city's sandwich-like layers of ruined buildings.

Other research suggests that earthquakes -- caused when fault lines release
built-up tension -- could have done more than just level cities; they may
have brought down civilizations as well. According to Nur, storms of
earthquakes raging over periods of 50 to 100 years might have helped bring
the Bronze Age to an end.

In hierarchical societies where wealth was concentrated in the hands of a
few well-fortified elites, says Nur, earthquakes that toppled columns and
cracked walls could have instantly changed the balance of power. That would
have been especially true during times of war or revolt.

The Harappan enigma

Manika Prasad, a research associate in the Rock Physics Laboratory at
Stanford, has helped expand the study of ancient earthquakes beyond the
Eastern Mediterranean. Together with Nur, Prasad is
studying the contribution of eartquakes to the collapse of the Harappan
civilization in South Asia.

The Harappan civilization mysteriously disappeared in 1900 BC, after almost
2,000 years of continuous existence. Some researchers have argued that the
civilization slowly declined because of changing trade patterns; others, now
mostly discredited, blamed Aryan invaders from the north.

Prasad and Nur blame earthquakes. Last January, a catastrophic earthquake
struck the southern edge of the former Harappan territory, a coastal area
near the border between India and Pakistan. In 1819, a similar earthquake
raised an 80 to 100-kilometer (50 to 62 mile) ridge of earth about 20 feet
(6 meters), creating an artificial dam known as the "Allah Bund" (God's
Dam). Both earthquakes are evidence that the Harappan region, though not
near a traditional fault zone, is seismically active.

The evidence of seismic activity in the region, combined with the recent
discovery of an ancient riverbed at the center of the former Harappan
region, offers a possible explanation for the
civilization's decline.

Four millennia ago, one or more quakes could have blocked or diverted the
water that flowed through the riverbed, say Prasad and Nur. That would have
helped turn the part of the Harappan region into the desert it is today --
and destroyed the Harappan civilization in the

The collapse of the Mayan Classic Period

While Nur has focused on the Mediterranean and, more recently, Harappan
civilizations, Stanford Professor of Geophysics Robert Kovach has been
studying the role of earthquakes in the Mayan
civilization of Central America.

When the Mayan Classic Period ended in the late 9th century A.D., the cities
of Quirigua and Benque Viejo (Xunantunich), now located in Guatemala and
Belize, were suddenly abandoned. According to Kovach, the cities could have
been destroyed by a single earthquake centered on the Chixoy-Polochic and
Motagua fault zones.

But evidence for earthquake damage in Mesoamerica is harder to come by than
in the Mediterranean. Documents that can be mined for hints about ancient
catastrophes are rare, and tropical vegetation quickly overwhelms any
archaeological evidence that might point to a major temblor.

With the help of Bernabe Garcia, a former graduate student at the Stanford
Center for Latin American Studies, Kovach was able to piece together
evidence of past quakes by looking at the effects of recent quakes on
structures at archaeological digs. The evidence suggested that an earthquake
struck the Mesoamerican region in the late 9th century, just as the Mayan
Classic Period was collapsing. Like Nur, Kovach thinks the Mayans' rigidly
hierarchical society could have made the quake especially damaging.

Other research

Despite growing evidence of the effects of ancient earthquakes, some
researchers remain skeptical. Iain Stewart, a geologist at Brunel University
in England, will argue at Friday's AGU session that earthquake damage is
hard to distinguish from the effects of poor construction, ground
instability or human intervention.

Other researchers, however, have warmed to the idea that earthquakes may be
a missing piece of the archaeological puzzle. At the AGU session, Italian
geologist Luigi Piccardi will present research linking earthquakes to
ancient Mediterranean sanctuaries such as the temple at Delphi. Erhan
Altunel of Osmangazi University in Turkey will propose that massive
earthquakes may have helped destroy several ancient Turkish cities. And
Italian researcher Emanuela Guidoboni
will present a case study of two ancient earthquakes that led to the
collapse of temples in Sicily.

According to Prasad, the spread of geographical information systems
technology, which allows different types of data to be integrated into a
single map, should make the study of ancient earthquakes increasingly easy.

"A lot of information is out there," she says. "It's just a matter of
piecing it together."


Amos Nur, Geophysics (650) 723-9526,
Robert Kovach, Geophysics (650) 723-4827,

EDITORS: This press release was written by science writing intern Etienne
Benson. The American Geophysical Union will hold its annual fall meeting
Dec. 10 to 14 at the Moscone Convention Center, 747 Howard Street, San
Francisco, CA 94103. Prof. Amos Nur and Prof. Robert Kovach will moderate
AGU Session U52B, "Archaeological Evidence for Historic and Prehistoric
Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions and Their Impact on Human Settlements,"
on Fri., Dec. 14, 1:30 p.m. PT in Room 134. The media are invited to attend
an advance press briefing with Prof. Nur and Prof. Kovach on Thurs., Dec.
13, 3:00 p.m. in Room 112. For more information, visit the AGU website at .

Relevant Web URLs:



>From Ron Baalke <>

                                  HVIS 2003

 Hosted by the European Space Agency's Research & Technology Centre (ESTEC)

                               7-10 April 2003
                          Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin
                         Noordwijk, The Netherlands

The Hypervelocity Impact Symposium is a regular event that is dedicated to
enabling and promoting an understanding of the basic physics of high
velocity impact and related technical areas. This international event
provides a forum for researchers to share and exchange a wealth of knowledge
through oral and poster presentations and technical exhibits.

HVIS 2003 will be the eighth symposium in a series. It will be hosted by
ESTEC and held in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The dates of the conference
coincide with the tourist season in the bulb district and Noordwijk is
located in this district.

The technical sessions will be held at the Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin,
Noordwijk during April 7-10, 2003.

All papers presented at the Symposium will be published in a refereed volume
of the International Journal of Impact Engineering.

Symposium topics

   * Hypervelocity phenomenology studies
   * High-velocity launchers and diagnostics
   * Spacecraft meteoroid and debris shielding and failure analysis
   * Material behaviour under high velocity impacts
   * Fracture and fragmentation
   * High velocity penetration mechanics and target response
   * Analytical and numerical simulation techniques
   * Asteroid impact and planetary defence technology
   * Penetration mechanics of shaped charges and explosively formed
   * Planetary impacts

Call for papers

Abstract of proposed papers are solicited from those actively interested and
involved in hypervelocity impact. The preferred method of submitting
abstracts is using the form on this web site.

If it is not possible to submit your abstract through the web site, it may
be submitted by e-mail as an attachment or by mailing a printed copy, along
with a diskette copy to the following address:

HVIS 2003
ESTEC Conference Bureau
Postbus 299
NL-2200 AG Noordwijk
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-71-565-5005
Fax: +31-71-565-5658

Abstract must be received no later than May 15, 2002

Authors will be notified in June 2002 of the review decision for their
proposed paper. An author's packet will be mailed to authors whose abstracts
are accepted.

Acceptance of an abstract indicates preliminary acceptance of a paper for
publication in the International Journal of Impact Engineering, subject to a
technical peer review with final recommendation on the basis of such review.

Abstract Guidelines

   * Abstracts should be at least 500 words plus figures and references.

   * The official language is English.

   * Abstracts must be cleared for public release with unlimited
     distribution. An abstract booklet of accepted papers will be
     distributed at the symposium.

   * Include name, address, affiliation, phone number, fax number and e-mail
     address of the primary author.

   * Indicate author's preference for oral or poster presentation

   * Indicate appropriate topic.

Commercial Exhibits

Commercial Exhibits will be on display during the entire symposium giving
attendees ample opportunity to meet with company representatives. Companies
interested in exhibiting should contact the ESTEC Conference Bureau, P.O.Box
299, 2200 AG Noordwijk, NL. Tel.. +31 71 5655005, Fax: +31 71 5655658,


 August 2001    Abstract 1st call
 January 2002   Abstract 2nd call
 May 2002       Abstracts due
 June 2002      Notification to authors
 September 2002 Papers due for review
 October 2002   Preliminary Programme and Registration details
 February 2003  Deadline for Hotel Reservation
 March 2003     Final papers due
 April 2003     HVIS Symposium

HVIS Web site



>From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

We want to wish all of you (who share the great enlightenment) a very merry
christmas and a happy and impact-free new year.

The Watch

We have passed the 400 NEO discovery-point. This year's hunt has already
established another record. 1998 was our first 3-digit year (204) and each
following year has shown a significant increase. Our next goal is the 1,000
point and we can reach that with the 6 existing search facilities....if they
are able to operate near full-time.

The ultimate goal....which will require help from the larger telescopes, the
construction of a special terrestrial survey system (like the 8 meter
Dark-Matter Telescope) and a few orbiting 10,000 NEO per year
and the completion of most of this vital hunt in a decade. 

LINEAR found about 61% of the new discoveries and we are all very grateful
to the dedicated MIT and U.S. Air Force operating and management staff folks
for their skills and dedication. The NASA/JPL NEAT team found about 22% and
we are equally grateful to them and to the Lowell LONEOS team (11%) and the
pioneering SPACEWATCH team (4%), for their valuable contributions.

There are about 70 potentially hazardous asteroids (PHA) in the total and
about 100 (25%) are wider than a kilometer.

Thanks to the CCNet Family

We have almost made it safely through another orbital cycle....and this
network (CCN)is uniquely qualified to appreciate the significance of that
fact. We thank all of you for your efforts and contributions.

To us, in the International Planeatry Protection Alliance (IPPA), the age of
asteroid/comet emergency awareness and enlightenment started in about 1990
and we see this Century as probably the most critical one in history. We now
have both the knowledge and the equipment needed to protect ourselves and we
are truly in a race with that rock. We are still moving much too
slowly and we still have very little political and monetary support.

We have divided the Century into 4 phases. Phase 1 is from 1990 to 2015 and
the risk of a hit (Tunguska or larger), in this phase, is about 1 in 4 (1 in
100 per year)...a truly alarming risk, in the light of the possible
consequences (which might include the destruction of several major coastal

We, in the global enlightened community (EC), increased our discovery rate,
significantly, and made some progress in the other areas (planetary defense
and civil preparedness). Much of this progress is due to the efforts of
volunteers from many disciplines... and we thank them all, again and again.
Salute to Fred Whipple

David Levy wrote an excellent article about our distinguished colleague, Dr.
Fred Lawrence Whipple, for the January issue of Sky and Telescope magazine.
Dr. Whipple started, at the Harvard College Observatory, in 1931; built the
organizational foundation for the Minor Planet Center; developed the
dirty-snowball comet theory and has made many other contribitions to the
important specialty of space surveillance. We want to thank Dr. Comet (the
deserved name used in the Levy article) for all that he has done and
continues to do, at a spry 95 years of age.

NASA Comet/Asteroid Protection Study (CAPS)

Leonard David wrote an excellent article, in the 12 December issue of the newsletter, about the subject study, which is being conducted at
the NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia (on the edge of the
Chesapeake crater). We will be watching, with great interest, as this
program develops. We hope they will take full-advantage of all of the
work which has been done by our Russian and other colleagues and that a
global team-effort will be associated with this activity.

Mayan Committee

We have formed a new working group of representatives of the Mayan culture,
to discuss and study the events leading to the great exodus and we will
report on our progress.

Coastal City Emergency Preparedness (CCEP)

Finally, we encourage all CCNet participants, who live in coastal areas, to
contact the emergency
preparedness (EP) offices in their areas and to urge them to develop rapid
tsunami evacuation plans, similar to the ones in Hawaii, Japan and
elsewhere, on the Pacific. We will soon provide the CCNet a draft of the
preliminary public guidelines (which we plan to submit to the EP community).
Perhaps we can collectively sponsor an EP information service. Public
information, community preparedness (the marking of routes, etc.) and
evacuation training will be essential, for the saving of life in an
asteroid/comet emergency (ACE). Please let us know, if you are able to find
receptive EP contacts. So many of the offices we have contacted have no
appreciation of the problem.

Double Cheers,
Andy Smith


>From Peter Nockolds, LONDON, UK <>

Graeme Waddington has questioned the usual reading of  'dies Dominica"

Here we note that Hathorn has followed Stubbs in the usual assumption that
"die Dominica" refers to a Sunday, whereas in mediaeval (not medieval!)
monastic tradition the phrase should more correctly be rendered as the
Lord's day and as such may refer either specifically to a Sunday or,
generically, to any ecclesiastical feast day (which included all sundays) in
a monastry's liturgical calendar.

His argument does not seem impossible, and indeed would resolve the
difficulty of the Moon having been invisible if Gervase had been referring
to a Sunday. Unfortunately although Waddington expresses his challenge to
the 'usual assumption' regarding 'die Dominca' with some confidence he does
not support this by citing texts other than Gervase.  If he can cite other
texts it would be helpful if he would.

Peter Nockolds
33 Vicarage Road
SW14 8RU


>From Peter Nockolds, LONDON, UK <>

Reply to Paul Withers, Meteor storm evidence against the recent formation of
lunar crater Giordano Bruno. [MAPS 36, 525-529 (2001)]

Whilst rejecting Hartung's lunar impact hypothesis Withers admits the
possibility that the event may have been real, perhaps fitting Nininger and
Huss's meteor transit hypothesis. In view of the problems relating to the
date of the phenomenon he also admits the possibility of unreliability in
the source, the medieval chronicle of Gervase. There are in fact substantial
historical reasons for questioning the reliability of the source.

A wider reading of the chronicle might lead the modern reader to suspect
that Gervase does not meet all the criteria of scientific reliability. He
reports several instances of miracles [e.g. AD 1171, 1181] and visions
[1186] and reports what is apparently an aurora borealis as three people in
the sky, two of whom wear bishops' mitres [Oct 12 1188].   He describes
atmospheric phenomena visible across England on 29th November 1177 and links
these to the victory of Christians over Moslems at Ramleh in Palestine which
took place four days earlier.   Although many real events may have been
reported and interpreted as omens, the concern with affirming victories over
Islam raises the question that the whole event could have been invented by
Gervase or others, and inserted into the chronicle.

Withers acknowledges that the Moon was not visible on the particular night
with which he is concerned.  However it would have been visible both
Palestine and through most of the Arab world.  This new Moon marked the
beginning of the Moslem year AH 574. The supposed event took place during
the time of the Crusades.  The Moon is a well-known symbol of Islam. The
Qu'ran contains a reference to the splitting of the Moon. The phenomenon
described by Gervase could be interpreted as portending the defeat of Islam.

The day in question was also the 23rd anniversary of the coronation of
Frederick Barbarossa as Holy Roman Emperor. Accession days of monarchs are
widely celebrated as a 'feast-day' for the monarch in question. As Frederick
was elected to this office the coronation marks the beginning of his reign.
At that time the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem was under threat.
Ambassadors from the kingdom were seeking help from Christian rulers in
Europe.  Frederick had fought in the unsuccessful Second Crusade of 1145-9
and according to Runciman 'longed to do battle again with the infidel'.

Gervase's interests were cosmopolitan: he describes European events such as
the treaty between the Pope and Barbarossa in 1177 in some detail. Gervase
has already related atmospheric phenomena of the previous year to the defeat
of Moslem armies. The lunar phenomenon described for June 18th 1178 could
then be a piece of propaganda, holding the prospect of the defeat of Islam
if Barbarossa would intervene.

Stubbs, who edited the most recent edition of the chronicle considers that
Gervase began to assemble his chronicle in 1188. The report would certainly
be apposite at this time. Jerusalem fell to the Moslems in 1187 and in the
following year Barbarossa set out at the head of a fresh crusade.

If this is propaganda it is not clear whether Gervase knowingly played a
part in inventing it or whether he passed on the reports of others in good
faith. Likewise it might not be clear if it was fabricated in 1179 or
subsequently. However there is certainly good reason to believe that it may
be propaganda.

If this is propaganda then no astronomical explanations of this report are
required.  Astronomers who use historical chronicles as sources of
scientific data may wish to consider such possibilities of distortion.

Peter Nockolds


>From Tom Van Flandern <>

Comment on CCNet 2001 December 7: (2) MOON OR CAPTURED ASTEROID? Alan
Gilmore describes the theory that Triton is an asteroid captured from the
"Kuiper belt". But that theory creates more mysteries than it answers.
Two-body capture under gravitation alone is impossible under the laws of
dynamics. Tidal capture and collision are extremely low-probability
phenomena that require excessive fine-tuning to achieve. Frictional capture
by a nebula around Neptune works too well: The friction continues until
Triton crashes into Neptune unless something makes the nebula disappear
immediately after capture. Moreover, given the similarities between Neptune
and the other gas giant planets, why should Neptune alone have started with
no natural, regular moons of its own when the others have four or more?

The following article offers a more viable alternative. It is updated from
that published in "Worlds apart", a Focal Point debate between W.B. McKinnon
and T. Van Flandern over the origins of Pluto, Charon, and Neptune's moons,
Sky&Tel. 82, 340-341 (1991). It is based extensively on research reported in
"The satellites of Neptune and the origin of Pluto", R.S. Harrington and
T.C. Van Flandern, Icarus 39, 131-136 (1979).

On the Origin of Pluto and Triton
By Tom Van Flandern <>
[Meta Research <>]


Three of the four gas giant planets in the outer solar system, Jupiter,
Saturn, and Uranus, all have natural satellite systems which resemble
miniature planetary systems. Ignoring captured asteroids, these planets each
have four or more large moons revolving in roughly circular orbits in the
plane of their planet's equator, and in the same direction as their planet's
spin. Especially for Jupiter and Uranus, the spacing of these moons is
regular as well because the orbital periods are synchronous, with ratios of
roughly 1:2:4:8.

However the orbit of the ninth planet, Pluto, crosses the orbit of the
eighth planet, Neptune. And Neptune's two outer moons have uniquely
irregular orbits. These two anomalies in the outer solar system stand out,
because no other major planet or satellite crosses the orbit of another; and
because Triton is the only major (non-asteroidal) moon in the solar system
which revolves in the opposite direction from its planet's spin. Neptune's
other classical moon, Nereid, has an orbit so elongated that it is close to
the threshold of escape from Neptune into its own solar orbit.

Moreover the tilt of Triton's orbital plane to Neptune's equator, 20 degrees
(ignoring the retrograde motion), is greater than for any natural moon of
any other planet. And Nereid's orbit is not only tilted by 27 degrees, but
so elongated that it is close to the threshold of escape.
Interestingly, Pluto's orbit also has an anomalously high inclination at 17
degrees. Another anomaly is that Pluto has a moon, Charon, with a diameter
half as big as its own. Such a relatively large moon of a planet is also
unique in the solar system.

An unusual origin for these bodies is suggested by these odd facts. Since
Pluto, Triton, and Charon are similar to each other, but different from most
other moons in size, density, and composition, their formation seems likely
to have something in common. Two schools of thought have arisen about this.
The first holds that, after forming as planetesimals in solar orbit, Triton
was captured by Neptune, and Charon was captured in a grazing impact event
with Pluto. The second holds that, after all forming as moons of Neptune,
something caused Pluto and Charon to escape and Triton to remain behind in
an irregular orbit.

Scenario without improbable events

We begin our reasoning with the frequently heard conjecture that the solar
system was originally formed with one or more additional major planets
beyond Neptune. Occasionally over billions of years, a passing star may
approach the Sun close enough to disrupt the orbital motion of the Sun's
most distant and loosely bound planets. Strongly disrupted planet orbits
will escape the solar system. Less strongly disrupted planet orbits are
likely to cross the orbit of a planet further in. Sooner or later, two
planets with non-resonant, crossing orbits will have a close approach. This
remains true even if initially the orbits are inclined, because such orbits
must precess until they eventually intersect. If the two planets are
comparable in mass, the most probable result of a close encounter is that
one of them gets ejected from the solar system, while the orbit of the other
will become elongated, and cross the orbit of the next planet further in.
This "chaos" induced in the outermost planet orbits by passing stars must
evolve until most such planets have escaped the system.

The situation is different when any remaining outermost planet with a
chaotic orbit is not sufficiently massive to seriously disrupt the orbits of
regular planets further in. But it will still be massive enough to disrupt
the satellite system of a regular planet on the occasion of any close
approach. In our solar system, the outermost regular planet remaining today
is Neptune.

At the US Naval Observatory in 1978, my late colleague Bob Harrington and I
did some calculations to determine what would happen next. We started
Neptune with a set of four regular moons in synchronous, circular orbits in
the plane of Neptune's equator, modeled on the regular moon systems of
Jupiter and Uranus. We then allowed hypothetical "Planet X" candidates to
make close approaches to Neptune, and observed what happened in the computer
to Neptune's moons.

In these trials, we learned that if the disrupting body, which we call
"Planet X", was more massive than about 5 Earth masses, Neptune's moons
usually escaped, and Neptune's own orbit was changed in the process. If
Planet X was smaller than about 2 Earth masses, the disruption of Neptune's
moons was too slight to resemble what we observe. But for disrupter masses
between those limits, and especially near 3 Earth masses, the hypothetical
Neptune moons were often disrupted in ways similar to what we observe at
Neptune today: escaped moons and moons with reversed motion.

In particular, we found encounter conditions in which one of Neptune's
regular moons was reversed in direction (as for Triton); another was left
near the threshold of escape (as for Nereid); and yet another was forced to
escape Neptune completely and enter a solar orbit which crossed the orbit of
Neptune (as for Pluto). Tidal forces from Neptune would subsequently
partially melt Triton, increasing its density, causing loss of volatile
elements, and circularizing its orbit, just as observed.

The orbit of the escaped Neptunian moon often resembled that of Pluto's
present-day orbit, even with its roughly 3:2 resonance of orbital periods,
which turns out to be moderately insensitive to initial conditions.
Interestingly, in these trials it was easily possible to get two Neptunian
moons to escape. When that happened, the escapes were in the same general
direction and with similar velocities. But once Pluto recedes far from
Neptune, its own gravitational sphere of influence (within which it can hold
moons of its own) expands to about 10 million kilometers. This means that
any body closer than that to Pluto and roughly co-moving with it will become
permanently trapped as a moon of Pluto. Tidal forces would then circularize
the orbit of such a moon, bringing it closer to Pluto, and melting and
increasing the density of Pluto and its moon in the process.

The final state would be just like what we observe: Charon is just such an
unusually large moon of Pluto with quite high angular energy, as if its
orbit around Pluto were once quite a bit larger than it is today. Our
scenario predicts that both bodies were former, independent moons of
Neptune, stripped away by Planet X; and that Charon passed from Neptune's
sphere of influence directly into Pluto's, without ever being in a solar
orbit of its own.

Given our starting premise of additional original planets beyond Neptune,
there is nothing improbable about any of the subsequent events. It seems
altogether natural that planetary systems of other stars will have this same
characteristic, that the satellite system of their outermost regular major
planet will have been disrupted (like Neptune and Triton), and with some
former moons now in planet-crossing orbits (like Pluto and Charon).

Scenarios with low-probability events

By contrast, the competing theory that Triton was captured does require some
event of low probability to have occurred. A purely gravitational capture,
even aided by tidal friction, is extremely improbable. If drag through a
nebula surrounding Neptune aided in the capture of Triton, that same nebula
would cause Triton's decay into Neptune in short order. A collision between
Triton and a Neptunian moon is not only a low probability event, but rather
destructive as well.

Similar remarks apply to the formation of Charon by a collision with Pluto.
If the previous hypothetical solar orbits of these objects were similar,
they would be forced to librate and avoid collisions; but if dissimilar,
then collisions are of extremely low probability. Moreover collisions
generally result in either accretion, or else destruction of the target
body. Splitting of the target body into two stable, orbiting bodies is
another extremely low-probability event.

In the scenario with no events of low probability we outlined above, a
single, coherent theory provides plausible explanations for the odd and
unique orbital characteristics of Neptune's existing moons, Triton and
Nereid; why Neptune no longer has a normal satellite system; where Pluto and
Charon came from; why there are virtually a "double planet" with high
angular energy; why their orbits cross the orbit of Neptune; and why Pluto
and Triton have high orbital inclinations and larger-than-expected

[This paragraph was written in 1992:] Moreover the theory points to the
intervention of a "Planet X" at some past epoch. Unexplained perturbations
in the outer planet orbits have also suggested to some astronomers that
another planet remains yet to be discovered. If such a body was found, and
it had a Neptune-crossing orbit and a mass near 3 Earth-masses, we would
consider that a virtual proof for our scenario that Pluto and Charon are
escaped moons of Neptune.

[This paragraph was added in 2001:] Since 1992, astronomers have discovered
a whole new asteroid belt in the trans-Neptune region, with many of these
asteroids on Neptune-crossing orbits. Recent work on theoretical mechanisms
in connection with the exploded planet hypothesis indicates that disruption
of planetary interiors by a close approach to another planet is a possible
explosion trigger mechanism. So a trans-Neptunian asteroid belt seems
consistent with the entire scenario described here. The hypothetical Planet
X may once have existed and disrupted Neptune's moons, been rendered
unstable by the close approach to Neptune, and subsequently exploded into
thousands of trans-Neptunian asteroids in solar orbits.

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