PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 1/2002 - 2 January 2002
-----------------------------


   "Ever worry about being hit by an asteroid? How about being eaten by a
   bear? Both awful fates figured in a recent astronomical debate that
   started out scholarly, with one group scaling down the risks of an
   asteroid striking Earth, then another group invoking the bear scenario
   to make fun of the first group's assumptions. To non-scientists, the
   dispute may have seemed like an academic numbers game set in the
   silence of space. But it had some astronomers shouting mad down here
   on Earth, arguing that the stakes involve public perceptions about the
   threat to Earth from asteroids, and perhaps public funding for efforts
   to determine the risk."
        --Dan Vergano, USA TODAY, 1 January 2002


   "Dr Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University, Belfast, has now completed
   the review that PPARC commissioned on possible telescope facilities
   within its sphere of influence that could be available for NEO related
   activities. Some recommendations have been made for the use, in
   particular, of two telescopes on La Palma in the Canary Islands and
   this will be followed up in earnest over the next few months.  While
   details of the source of funds to support ongoing operations still
   need to be identified, suitable telescopes will become available that
   could assist the work of tracking NEOs (so that once found they are
   not lost again), finding new NEOs (fainter and therefore smaller and
   more numerous than have been discovered before), and follow up
   observations (to characterise NEOs). The planned use of the Isaac
   Newton telescope on La Palma to find faint NEOs will be tested during
   a pilot run, still to be scheduled but taking place some time in the
   six-month period starting in February 2002. We can even hope that this
   pilot study will itself discover a new faint NEO or two."
        --Lord Sainsbury, 1 January 2002 


(1) SCIENTISTS ARGUE OVER ODDS OF ASTEROID HITTING
    USA Today, 1 January 2002

(2) IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE NEO TASK FORCE
    - AN UPDATE
    Lord Sainsbury

(3) GOVERNMENT POLICY AND FUTURE PLANS FOR NEOs
    Colin Hicks

(4) ASTEROID INFORMATION CENTRE LAUNCHED
    The Daily Telegraph, 1 January 2002

(5) SPACECRAFT SWANSONG: DS1'S SURPRISING, PUZZLING FINAL COMET ENCOUNTER
    Space.com, 2 January 2002

(6) HUMPHREY APPELBY MEMORIAL CENTRE
    Tony Beresford <aberesford@iprimus.com.au>

(7) NO NEED FOR ANOTHER BRITISH MUSEUM
    Larry Robinson <lrobinsn@ix.netcom.com>

(8) SPECULATED IMPACT CRATERS - THE NEED FOR A DATABASE
    Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>


===========
(1) SCIENTISTS ARGUE OVER ODDS OF ASTEROID HITTING

>From USA Today, 1 January 2002
http://www.usatoday.com/news/healthscience/science/astro/2002-01-01-asteroid-danger.htm

By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Ever worry about being hit by an asteroid? How about being eaten by a
bear?

Both awful fates figured in a recent astronomical debate that started
out scholarly, with one group scaling down the risks of an asteroid
striking Earth, then another group invoking the bear scenario to make
fun of the first group's assumptions.

To non-scientists, the dispute may have seemed like an academic numbers
game set in the silence of space. But it had some astronomers shouting
mad down here on Earth, arguing that the stakes involve public
perceptions about the threat to Earth from asteroids, and perhaps public
funding for efforts to determine the risk.

An indication of that ongoing concern surfaced Jan. 1, 2002 in Great
Britain when a collection of science centers launched the Comet and
Asteroid Information Network to "provide timely, accurate and unbiased
information" about potential asteroid strikes.

The current trouble over mixed messages started last month when Sloan
Digital Sky Survey researchers, led by Princeton's Zeljko Ivezic,
announced that only about 700,000 half-mile-size rocks dwell in the
asteroid "main belt" between Mars and Jupiter, not the 2 million such
objects they expected to find. The Sloan project usually sets its sights
on more distant objects: Its main mission is to survey far-off galaxies.

>From the survey, published last month in the Astronomical Journal, the
researchers set only 1-in-5,000 odds of a city-size asteroid smacking
into Earth and killing hundreds of millions of people sometime in the
next century - down, they said, from the roughly 1-in-1,500 odds set by
earlier estimates.

Some newspapers responded with stories about the lowered threat from
above, drawing the ire of astronomers who directly study "near-Earth"
asteroids, ones that travel outside the main belt closer to the Sun in
Earth's neighborhood, of which about 1,500 are known. One scientist
called the Sloan report "BLATHER" on an astronomy discussion list,
objecting not to its estimate, but to its methods.

Another critic, David Morrison of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett
Field, Calif., says objections to the Sloan study center on:

* Using main-belt asteroids as a surrogate for near-Earth asteroid
numbers.

* Basing the estimate on the assumption that one massive asteroid strike
happens every 100 million years. Critics called this an arbitrary
assumption.

* The notion that the estimate lowered the risk. Jet Propulsion
Laboratory estimates have varied from 1 in 4,000 to 1 in 8,800, Morrison
notes. While some have placed the risk as high as 1 in 1,000, that
estimate never represented a consensus among near-Earth astronomers.

Either way, critics note there isn't a huge amount of difference between
1 in 1,000 and 1 in 5,000 odds, statistically. It's the appearance of a
falling risk, rather than the reality, that triggered their dismay.

The critiques climaxed with an anonymous parody of the Sloan
announcement, sent from the "Slone Digital Survey," that suggested the
risk of a North American being eaten by bears was way down, based on a
survey of African hippos. The "Slone 'Digital' Survey," noted the
parody, "gets its name from the fact that one of its major purposes is
giving a middle finger to researchers in other areas."

In response to such objections, Ivezic suggested that critics "haven't
read our paper very carefully."

Caught somewhat in the middle of the controversy is asteroid expert
Robert Jedicke of the University of Arizona in Tucson. He was quoted as
an outside expert in the Sloan announcement, agreeing with the numeric
value of its risk-impact estimate, part of the study he calls
unimportant.

>From his perspective, the study is most valuable for providing a uniform
survey of the main-belt asteroids. He says the Sloan near-Earth-asteroid
threat estimate is right mostly by accident, based on the assumption of
one massive impact every 100 million years.

The perception that the risk from space has been overstated comes at a
bad time for near-Earth-asteroid studies. In England, planned increases
in spending on detecting nearby asteroids seems secure but somewhat
slowed. In mid-December, NASA briefly threatened to shut down research
on near-Earth objects at the massive Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto
Rico, before backing down when complaints rolled in. And planned budget
cuts threaten the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge,
Mass., a center for studying objects in our solar system.

Despite these potential setbacks, other signs of progress in the field
exist. After a few false starts, the system for alerting the public to
possibly dangerous asteroids appears to be working. Over the
Thanksgiving holiday, astronomers first flagged asteroid 2001 VK5 as a
possible troublemaker, then downgraded it to harmless after further
analysis, without startling the public.

Earlier this year, the spectacular landing of NASA's NEAR-Shoemaker
space probe on the asteroid Eros brought public awareness of the
proximity of asteroids to a high level.

At the recent American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco,
studies on Eros, a nearby asteroid that never crosses Earth's orbit,
tackled the question of main-belt asteroids swooping into our
neighborhood. At the meeting, William Bottke of the Southwest Research
Institute in Boulder, Colo., suggested the potato-shaped asteroid
slipped out of the main belt only 16 million years ago. Determining how
often asteroids zip into Earth's neighborhood is important, says
astronomers, in understanding the odds of one catastrophically smacking
into our planet.

Since Sept. 11, "I think that we now better understand what it means to
have an unthinkable disaster. In a sense, it verifies the notion that we
should protect ourselves against disasters to the extent we can," says
astronomer Richard Binzel of MIT.

Protests over Arecibo's called-off closing and critical reaction to
alternate estimates of the risk from space, Binzel says, reflect some
frustration among scientists who have long sought support to understand
the asteroids they've discovered, not merely list them.

And the outlook isn't great. "The current budget for the Near-Earth
Objects Observations program faces some especially difficult choices,"
writes Colleen Hartman, who heads solar system exploration at NASA, in a
recent letter sent to the space community. In a protest of the initial
Arecibo facility shutdown, the Planetary Society, a space advocacy
group, calls such efforts vital, saying, "A Near-Earth Object that
struck the Earth 65 million years ago triggered the extinction of the
dinosaurs and most species then flourishing. Another such object could
come our way at any time."
 
Copyright 2002 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

===============
(2) IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE NEO TASK FORCE
    - AN UPDATE

>From the British National Space Agency
http://www.bnsc.gov.uk/downloads/NEOTF_recommendations1f.doc

By Lord Sainsbury

It is now over 9 months since the initial Government response to the
recommendations of the Task Force that I set up to report on potentially
hazardous Near Earth Objects - asteroids and comets that pass close
enough to the Earth to be called 'near'. 

In this update I am pleased to announce the choice of the location for
the UK NEO Information Centre as the National Space Science Centre
(NSSC) in Leicester supported by the Natural History Museum (NHM).  I
look forward to seeing this Centre developing in harmony with the
ongoing research activities in the UK and internationally.  The UK
Centre will share information with the range of other locations that are
active in the field.  This will include those in the NSSC Consortium;
Queens University Belfast, Royal Observatory Edinburgh Visitor Centre,
United Kingdom Astronomy Technology Centre, University of Edinburgh,
Queen Mary University of London and the University of Leicester as well
as the recently set up Spaceguard Centre in Wales.  It is hoped that
many other sites will be able to update their information on NEOs and
make use of the developments at the new information centre. 

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University, Belfast, has now completed the
review that PPARC commissioned on possible telescope facilities within
its sphere of influence that could be available for NEO related
activities.  Some recommendations have been made for the use, in
particular, of two telescopes on La Palma in the Canary Islands and this
will be followed up in earnest over the next few months.  While details
of the source of funds to support ongoing operations still need to be
identified, suitable telescopes will become available that could assist
the work of tracking NEOs (so that once found they are not lost again),
finding new NEOs (fainter and therefore smaller and more numerous than
have been discovered before), and follow up observations (to
characterise NEOs).  The planned use of the Isaac Newton telescope on La
Palma to find faint NEOs will be tested during a pilot run, still to be
scheduled but taking place some time in the six-month period starting in
February 2002.  We can even hope that this pilot study will itself
discover a new faint NEO or two. 

Various groups worldwide are now considering the NEO issue from an
international perspective and recent meetings such as the Japanese
International Workshop have helped to develop ideas for better and more
broadly based collaboration amongst the observation and orbit
calculation groups worldwide.  It is also significant that the European
Space Science Committee (ESSC) of the European Science Foundation (ESF)
considered the NEO issue, along with other important issues, in its
general position paper covering recommendations to Ministers of European
Space Agency (ESA) Member States.  On NEOs it reported that "The
ESSC-ESF endorses the conclusions of the UK Task Force and believes that
the threat posed to humanity by NEO impacts is real and similar in
character to other risks of low probability but high consequence which
governments take very seriously e.g. earthquakes and volcanic activity."


A great deal has been achieved in 2001 with the success of NASA missions
such as NEAR and Deep Space 1, which rendezvoused with asteroids and
comets, but much more is planned from new scientific missions.  The ESA
Rosetta spacecraft to Comet Wirtanen is currently being put together at
the ESA integration and test facility at ESTEC in the Netherlands; one
of its scientific instruments was successfully completed in the UK and
safely delivered to the spacecraft earlier this year.  ESA's work beyond
Rosetta will be focussed in the new Aurora programme for planetary
exploration that was brought forward to the recent ESA Ministerial
Council which I hosted in Edinburgh.  The definition phase of the
programme was approved at the meeting, and I committed the UK's
participation.

I will ensure that further progress with implementation of the
recommendations of the Task Force is reported at
www.nearearthobjects.co.uk and via the UK NEO Information Centre. 

Lord Sainsbury of Turville
December 2001

More detail related to specific areas follows.

Update on the Task Force Recommendations

Telescopes applied to NEO activities
(covering recommendations 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5)

1. The Fitzsimmons Report to PPARC on the use of telescopes within the
UK's sphere of influence makes a number of recommendations on the use of
the telescopes on La Palma, at the European Southern Observatory (ESO),
and elsewhere.  It reiterates the longstanding commitment by PPARC to
carry out high quality scientific research into NEOs on any of its
telescopes including its large ones via the peer review process.  The
specific proposals made by Fitzsimmons for the use for large NEO
programmes of the telescopes in the Isaac Newton Group on La Palma have
been discussed at governing board level with PPARC's Spanish and Dutch
partners.  The Jacobus Kepteyn Telescope (tracking of NEOs found
elsewhere) and the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT)(search for fainter NEOs
and characterisation of NEOs) may be available subject to funding being
identified.  The planned use of the INT will be tested for a few nights
to be scheduled some time during the observing period of 6 months
starting in February 2002, in a pilot run expected to prove the
equipment and software in its planned configuration. 

NEOs and scientific research
(covering aspects of recommendations 3, 6 & 8)

2. No specific further action has been taken in the area of broadening
the inclusion of NEO activities in scientific mission planning but it is
becoming clear that this approach is becoming more widely accepted.  The
UK supported, and, from PPARC funds subscribed its share to the
definition phase of the new Aurora planetary exploration programme
approved at the recent ESA Ministerial Council.  The programme
objectives include the possibility that space missions to NEOs will be
one tangible way that such activity can be funded in the future.  Other
possibilities will also be addressed in the future. 

3. As to mounting further space rendezvous missions, recent successes
should increase the interest and improve the chances for such missions.
A number of proposals in this area are under development and will be
considered for funding within the US and Europe. 

4. There is no new activity to report in the area of multi-disciplinary
studies beyond the ongoing work on the IMPACT project of the European
Science Foundation where the UK Open University is involved. 

Coordination of astronomical observations
(recommendation 7)

5. Work is progressing to place the funding of the Minor Planet Center
(MPC) on a firm financial footing and the International Astronomical
Union (IAU) has signed a formal contract regarding the organisation of
the IAU MPC, ensuring that its operation and data access policies will
allow it to continue its key role as the global clearing-house for data
and orbit computations for NEOs. 

Studies into mitigation measures
(recommendation 9)

6. A workshop, "International Space Cooperation: Addressing Challenges
of the New Millennium" was organised in March 2001 under the auspices of
the international activities committee of the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).  It addressed this area and made
some suggestions.   The workshop included a working group which
considered "An international approach to detecting Earth-threatening
asteroids and comets and responding to the threat they pose".  The group
explored the issues surrounding Earth-threatening asteroids and comets
and made recommendations on how the international community should
approach the issues posed by these objects. More details can be found at
http://www.aiaa.org/information/international.html

Increasing international understanding of the issues
(recommendation 10 & 11)

7. The OECD Global Science Forum will consider a coordinated  proposal
on an NEO activity at its January 2002 meeting.  A workshop with the
specific aim of producing recommendations to the Global Science Forum
(GSF) of the OECD for action by Member States is planned.  The UK will
help to carry forward the recommendation from the UN World Space
Conference  (UNISPACE III) "...to improve the international coordination
of activities related to NEOs".  To this end the UK is working with the
US and other  countries to consider the role of the UN in this area.
Most importantly support has been offered by relevant international
organisations such as the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the
International Astronomical Union (IAU), The Spaceguard Foundation and
the European Space Science Committee (ESSC) of the European Science
Foundation (ESF) as well as the European Space Agency. 

National coordination and information dissemination
(recommendations 12, 13 & 14)

8. The BNSC is continuing its lead role in Whitehall on policy in the
NEO area. In carrying out this task it has been well supported by its
partners from PPARC, OST, FCO and MOD.  The Emergency Planning Division
of the Cabinet Office will continue to lead in their area of expertise.


9. The newly launched NEO Information Centre will address significant
aspects of recommendation 14 and has the potential to assist with parts
of recommendation 13. More details will follow as the centre becomes
operational. 

BNSC January 2002

================ 
(3) GOVERNMENT POLICY AND FUTURE PLANS FOR NEOs

By Colin Hicks, Director General of the British National Space Agency

Paper presented at the RAS Meeting on 14 December 2001

NEOs are dangerous. Their impact can change your life. We all know that,
and none more so than Harry Atkinson whose hair has faded over the past
two years as he has led the UK Task Force on NEOs.

I expect avid students of Hansard will already know that yesterday a
written Parliamentary Question was asked as follows:

Question (Ann Keen):
What is the current position with regard to the Government Response of
24 February 2001, to the Recommendations contained in the Report of the
Near Earth Object Task Force, which was set up by the Minister for
Science?

Answer (Patricia 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 www.nearearthobjects.co.uk.

So, when it is published, the updated response will be appearing roughly
two years after the establishment of the NEO Task Force.  That is a good
time to take stock of progress - and we will be very happy to be judged
on what has been achieved in those two years.

How far have we come? I well remember that when I wrote in January 1999
to a number of governments around the world seeking their assistance and
input into the Task Force, I was met with incredulity and amusement.
Some thought that this might be the personal crusade - or harmless
eccentricity - of a new DG of BNSC?  I was even asked by one
international delegation whether my letter was a clever English joke
which they could not understand.

Two years later the mention of NEOs may still sometimes be the subject
of humour in the press but we are securing serious global attention for
the issue.  For that we owe a great deal of gratitude to the members of
the Task Force (Harry Atkinson, Crispin Tickell and David Williams). 

The initial government response in February 2001 to the NEO Task Force
Report made it clear that the UK government's intention was to pursue,
above all, international support for any programme related to NEOs.
That remains the priority.  We have said throughout that this is an
issue which should be addressed internationally. Like climate change it
merits proper international coordination rather than simply being
addressed on a national scale.   I will return to international
activity, and what we expect to happen, towards the end of this talk.
But first let me address other aspects.

Scientific research

A great deal has been achieved in the field of scientific research
during 2001 with the success of NASA missions such as NEAR and Deep
Space 1, which went to intercept asteroids and comets. 

As has been clear from the programme of talks today, the scientific and
space communities are now fully engaged in considering how existing
instruments and future missions could be applied, an example of that is
what was done with re-examining and reanalysing results from SOHO to
identified comets grazing and falling into the sun.

But much more is planned from new scientific missions.  The ESA Rosetta
spacecraft to Comet Wirtanen is currently being put together at the ESA
integration and test facility at ESTEC in the Netherlands; one of its
scientific instruments was successfully completed in the UK and safely
delivered to the spacecraft earlier this year. 

As to mounting further space rendezvous missions, recent successes
should increase the interest and improve the chances for such missions.
A number of proposals in this area are under development and will be
considered for funding within the US and Europe.   Earlier presentations
have emphasised the range of options which are being considered. 

The changing mood in the scientific community towards work on NEOs is
well illustrated by the recent views which have come from the European
Science Foundation (ESF). The European Space Science Committee (ECSS) of
the ESF considered the NEO issue, along with other important issues, in
its general position paper covering recommendations to Ministers of
European Space Agency (ESA) Member States.  On NEOs it reported that
"The ESSC-ESF endorses the conclusions of the UK Task Force and believes
that the threat posed to humanity by NEO impacts is real and similar in
character to other risks of low probability but high consequence which
governments take very seriously e.g. earthquakes and volcanic activity."

At the Ministerial the UK supported, and, from PPARC funds subscribed
its share to, the definition phase of the new Aurora planetary
exploration programme.  The programme objectives include the possibility
that space missions to NEOs will be one tangible way that such activity
can be funded in the future.  Other science programme mission like Gaia
and Bepie-Columbo may also be able to contribute to our understanding as
may the new small mission plans from ESA.  We will hear this evening
from Marcello Coradini about the positive approach being adopted by ESA
although the possibilities may, as ever, be limited by the availability
of funding - even though imaginations have now been stimulated to
consider new options and new ways of using old instruments.

In the area of multi-disciplinary studies we have just heard from Ian
Gilmour about the IMPACT project of the European Science Foundation
where the UK Open University is involved. 

Telescopes

Some months ago, Dr Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University, Belfast,
completed the review that PPARC commissioned of possible telescope
facilities within its sphere of influence that could be available for
NEO related activities.  Since that report was produced, PPARC has been
in discussion with our Spanish and Danish partners in the La Palma
Governing Board. I hope that we will soon see good progress on his
recommendations for use of the Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) and the
Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope (JKT).
 
Mitigation measures

A workshop, "International Space Cooperation: Addressing Challenges of
the New Millennium" was organised in March 2001 under the auspices of
the international activities committee of the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).  It addressed this area and made
some suggestions.   The workshop included a working group which
considered "An international approach to detecting Earth-threatening
asteroids and comets and responding to the threat they pose".  The group
explored the issues surrounding Earth-threatening asteroids and comets
and made recommendations on how the international community should
approach the issues posed by these objects. More details can be found at
http://www.aiaa.org/information/international.html .

National coordination

The BNSC is continuing in its role as the lead Government Dept. on the
NEO issues and has been well supported by its partners from PPARC, OST
and MOD.  The Emergency Planning Division of the Cabinet Office will
continue to lead in their area of expertise.  

Everyone here will know that a competitive process has been running this
autumn to select a UK NEO Information Centre.  I expect that when the
updated response is published it will include an  announcement of  the
result of that competition.   You will understand, of course, that as I
am a Trustee of one of the bidders I have been excluded from the
decision making process by Chinese walls.

International activity

As I said earlier, this has been for me the priority area.  And since
January 1999, attitudes towards NEOs as a policy issue have been
revolutionised, largely as a result of the NEO Task Force Report.  We
have found ourselves pushing at a series of open doors and various
international groups are now considering the NEO issue from a truly
international perspective.

Recent meetings such as the Japanese International Workshop have helped
to develop ideas for better and more broadly based collaboration amongst
the observation and orbit calculation groups worldwide. 

Most importantly support to the NEO area has been offered, or is being
increased, by relevant international organisations such as the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the UN
Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS), the Committee
on Space Research (COSPAR), the International Astronomical Union (IAU),
the Spaceguard Foundation and the European Space Science Committee
(ESSC) of the European Science Foundation (ESF) as well as the European
Space Agency (ESA).  

Soon after publication of the NEO Task Force Report we were approach by
the OECD to see what part they might play in taking forward its
recommendations.   As a result, the UK made an outline proposal to the
OECD Global Science Forum (GSF) in June 2001 for the establishment of a
working group.  It was agreed that we should prepare a more detailed
proposal.  Since June a UK coordinated group has been preparing that
detailed proposal which is due to go back to the OCED GSF early next
year.  We have had good input to the paper which is being prepared from
countries like Denmark, Italy, Japan, and the USA as well as from the UK
itself.

The UK coordinator expects to recommend the formation of a working group
with terms of reference which require it to hold meetings and a work
shop, and to report back by December 2002 with options for action.  The
January 2003 meeting of the OECD GSF might then decide how to take this
forward as an international effort.

Alongside this OECD work, and consistent with it, the UK has worked with
the UN COPUOS to take forward its recommendation that work should be
established "...to improve the international coordination of activities
related to NEOs".  To this end the UK is working with the US and other
European countries to consider the role of the UN in this area.  Again
the UK is coordinating this work and the present plan is to take the
output from the OECD working group when it appears and to use UN COPUOS
as one of the implementation bodies.

The Future

The Progress Report which should shortly be published will not be the
last one.  We will continue to pursue all these lines of work and to
report progress. 

==============
(4) ASTEROID INFORMATION CENTRE LAUNCHED

>From The Daily Telegraph, 1 January 2002
http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/01/01/unews.xml&sSheet=/portal/2002/01/01/ixport.html

A NEW centre is to provide the public with information on the likelihood
of Earth being hit by an asteroid or comet, the Government has
announced.

The Information Centre on Near Earth Objects (NEOs) will also analyse
the potential threat to humankind, Science Minister Lord Sainsbury says.
It is set to open in Easter 2002 and will cost 300,000 over the next
three years.

It will operate out of the National Space Science Centre in Leicester.
The centre will feature exhibitions and inter-active facilities giving
details about asteroids and comets, the effects of impact and the
chances of collision.

Lord Sainsbury said: "The potential threat from NEOs to our planet has
been an issue of increased international interest and concern over
recent years. By setting up an information centre we are helping the UK
play a full and prominent role in an area that requires international
action."

Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore believed the centre would give people
"useful" information for people on an important issue. "There is always
a small chance we could be hit by one of these asteroids and the more
people know the more we can do to make plans," he said. "Don't forget
the cost is extremely small."

Scientists recently reported humans have a one in 5,000 chance of being
wiped out by an asteroid impact over the next century. The odds are more
comforting than a previous estimate of one in 1,500 over a 100-year
period.
 
Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2001.

=============
(5) SPACECRAFT SWANSONG: DS1'S SURPRISING, PUZZLING FINAL COMET ENCOUNTER

>From Space.com, 2 January 2002
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/ds1_swansong_020102.html

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
 
As NASA engineers waved an ethereal goodbye to the Deep Space 1 spacecraft
Dec. 18, communicating with the scrappy robot for the final time across 10
light-minutes of space, astronomers back home were just saying hello to the
spacecraft's prized catch, the crazy comet Borrelly.

Data and imagery sent back by Deep Space 1 after a Sept. 22 flyby of the
comet show mysterious jets of material shooting into space with unexpected
force in strange directions, like the shocks of white emanating from a mad
scientist's head.

Borrelly's head, meanwhile, is not screwed on straight.

While the comet isn't quite driving scientists mad, it's certainly got them
scratching their own noggins.

Off kilter

As a comet approaches the Sun, water ice and other chemicals, along with
dust, boil off its rock-hard nucleus, generating a cloud of debris called a
coma, or head. The head is what sometimes makes a comet visible from Earth,
when sunlight reflects off the material.

During the flyby, Deep Space 1 measured interaction of all this comet stuff
with the solar wind -- charged particles that race outward from the Sun. As
expected, the solar wind flowed around the comet.

But the nucleus was not at the center of the flow. It was like watching the
wake of a boat spread farther and faster on one side than on the other.

"The formation of the coma is not the simple process we once thought it
was," said David Young of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Young led a
team that measured the wake.

Another instrument on the spacecraft, called PEPE (Plasma Experiment for
Planetary Exploration), also examined the coma. Beth Nordholt, a researcher
at the Los Alamos National Lab, which helped build the instrument, said the
PEPE data have yet to be fully analyzed. But already, she said, it confirms
the offset coma.

Answers may come

PEPE data may also show a relationship between the distorted head and the
comet's crazy jets.

"It appears as if there's a jet that is driving a tremendous amount of mass
away from the nucleus of the comet," Nordholt said in a telephone interview.

Simple enough. But there's a big problem: The jet that would be needed to
create the offset does not match the jet seen in Deep Space 1 pictures,
Nordholt said.

The visible jet shoots out about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the
5-mile-long (8 kilometers), potato-shaped comet. Oddly, material emanates
mostly from the middle of the comet, whereas scientists had expected a more
even distribution. Adding to the perplexity, the primary jet does not point
toward the Sun, as expected based on observations of other comets.

The comet's activity may come with a price.

Borrelly dishes out so much material from its midsection -- some 2 tons
every minute -- that it will likely break in half within 10,000 years, says
Laurence Soderblom, U.S. Geological Survey researcher who led the imaging
team.

There are other Borrelly enigmas to ponder.

Researchers announced earlier this month that Borrelly is darker than any
other known object in the solar system, reflecting less than 3 percent of
the sunlight that hits it and absorbing the rest.

As black as photocopier toner, they say. Yet the brightest minds don't fully
understand how anything in space can be so dark. The finding points to a
surface made of carbon and iron, but experts say they aren't sure of this.

And no one yet knows what's inside a comet.

Like Halley

While Deep Space 1 has generated many puzzles, it has also contributed to a
new level of confidence among comet researchers.

Until the flyby, a huge chunk of knowledge about these frozen relics of the
solar system's earliest years relied on what was known of comet Halley,
which was examined in a 1986 flyby.

Since then, scientists have observed comets through telescopes using
assumptions and constraints based on their knowledge of Halley. No one knew
for sure if these baselines were correct, and thus how accurate various
studies of other comets have been.

Nordholt says that while Halley and Borrelly are quite different in terms of
their exact composition and behavior, they are all-in-all very much alike,
confirming suspicions that most comets likely formed in a similar manner and
at a similar time -- back when the solar system was gathering itself
together some 4.6 billion years ago.

"Borrelly seems to come from the same primordial stuff that Halley comes
from," she said.

Deep Space 1 findings therefore help confirm a host of other studies.

"The observational work that has been done telescopically has led us to the
correct conclusions," said Nordholt.

So while Deep Space 1 has laid down an abundant foundation of data for comet
researchers, future missions will have plenty of glory to claim as they seek
to determine the contents of comets and help unravel their strange behavior.

Copyright 2002, Space.com
 
============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(6) HUMPHREY APPELBY MEMORIAL CENTRE

>From Tony Beresford <aberesford@iprimus.com.au>

Benny,

My feeling about the UK Government's NEO Centre is summed up in the
suggestion that it would most appropiately be named the "Humphrey
Appelby Memorial Centre", after the character done so well in that old
British TV comedy series "Yes, Minister" by the recently deceased Sir
Nigel Hawthorne.

Anthony C. Beresford  FBIS FRAS

=============
(7) NO NEED FOR ANOTHER BRITISH MUSEUM

>From Larry Robinson <lrobinsn@ix.netcom.com>

Dear Benny:

I have enjoyed your postings of news on the British government's NEO
effort. The dialog has been going on for months now, years even. The
latest announcement of the new NEO Information Centre is reflective of
what has appeared to many of us to be a great deal of talk and very
little action on the part of the British government. I am not sure we
need another British museum. It is obvious that what is needed is a
southern hemisphere survey similar in capabilities to the many northern
hemisphere efforts that have been underway for some time now. Even
another energetic and capable NEO FOLLOW UP station in the northern
hemisphere would be a welcome addition.

At 2AM January 1, there was a rather strong plea for follow up
observations of the recently discovered NEO, 2001 YB5, posted by Andrea
Milani, at NEODys, which is worth repeating:

"Asteroid 2001 YB5 is coming to a close approach to the Earth, which
should take place on 7 January.  However, the 7 (and probably the 6
already) it will move so fast, and the ephemerides will be so uncertain
(unless it is observed before), that it might be very difficult to
observe. After the closest approach it goes in the direction of the sun
and becomes invisible.

...yes, the column P_RE in the .risk file means probability of an impact
with the Earth for the date specified in the first column.

Of course the risk in this case is very minor, never above 1 in 10
millions in the list of Virtual Impactors we have obtained (not only it
is Torino Scale 0, it is always less than -4 in the Palermo Technical
Scale). Nevertheless, to lose track of an asteroid for which we cannot
exclude the possibility of an impact on our planet is a proof of the
stupidity of mankind, and I would be grateful if some of you out there
observing in such a cold night can do something about this."

Is the British NEO telescope slewing to follow this object? This small
band of amateurs in Kansas is. Over 139 observations were made early
Monday morning. The full moon was in the way last night. We were even
able to get a preliminary estimate of the rotational period of this
asteroid.

What is amazing to me is how a group of unpaid, unschooled amateurs
operating on donated equipment and a modest grant from NASA OSS can
contribute more to NEO follow up than one of the greatest government's
on earth. I guess that is the price of democracy. It seems that debate
and public relations take on lives of their own and become more
important
than the real work at hand. We have similar problems in this country. 
You must look no further back than a couple of weeks to the near tragic
decision to shut down Arecibo's minor planet efforts to see parallels.

I wish you and your countrymen Godspeed in getting something meaningful
working soon.

Larry Robinson
Sunflower Observatory 739
14680 W 144th Street
Olathe KS 66062
http://btboar.tripod.com
lrobinsn@ix.netcom.com

=================
(8) SPECULATED IMPACT CRATERS - THE NEED FOR A DATABASE

>From Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

Dear Benny

CCNet subscribers might be able to help me with an enquiry (with
apologies to Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, the brilliant writers of the
sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf for the opening sentence).

Is there a repository for information about speculated impact craters on
the Earth and if not, why not?

Natural Resources Canada maintains a database of CONFIRMED impact
craters but there does not seem to be a similar list for speculated
impact craters. Over the last few years I have been corresponding with
several scientists who are working on possible impact craters - a dozen
or so. Although these people sometimes exchange information with fellow
researchers at conferences and by email, and sometimes publish their
speculations, it seems that there is a need for a more formal record of
possible/speculated craters. This could include the contact details of
people working on a particular geological feature and the nature of that
work so they could contact fellow researchers. Importantly it should
also include cases where further research establishes that some
speculation was incorrect and the evidence that led to this conclusion.

Perhaps NRC could consider expanding its existing database to cover this
need. Any takers?

regards
Michael Paine

PS Yes Sydney has a serious bushfire crisis but, by the time reports
make it overseas, it sounds like half of the city is burning. In reality
several hundred homes on the edge of bushland are under possible threat
and a few dozen have been lost. The biggest danger may well be the smoke
and related photo-chemical smog that is causing breathing difficulties
for many Sydneysiders.


-------------------------------------------------------------------
THE CAMBRIDGE-CONFERENCE NETWORK (CCNet)
--------------------------------------------------------------------
The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational
use only. The attached information may not be copied or reproduced for
any other purposes without prior permission of the copyright holders.
The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be
found at http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/cccmenu.html.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the
articles and texts and in other CCNet contributions do not necessarily
reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the moderator of this
network.



CCCMENU CCC for 2001

The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of

The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.