CCNet DIGEST, 5 January 1999


(2) ASTEROID 1998 XB
    Alan W. Harris <>

    The Times, 31 December 1998

    Chandra Wickramasinghe <>

    Mike Baillie <>

    Bernd Pauli <>

    Xinhua News Agency

E.A.M. Koutsoukos: An extraterrestrial impact in the early Danian: a
secondary K/T boundary event? TERRA NOVA, 1998, Vol.10, No.2, pp.68-73


High-resolution lithostratigraphic and foraminiferal studies of a
section spanning the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary at Poty,
Pernambuco, in north-eastern Brazil, indicate a possible
extraterrestrial bolide impact in the earliest Danian, approximately
at the boundary between the P alpha and Pla foraminiferal zones
(approximate to 100,000-200,000 years after the K/T transition), in
southern Atlantic low-latitude regions. Tsunami deposits have been
related to the Chicxulub impact structure in Mexico and dating of a
similar deposit at Poty suggests a slightly later event here.
Hypothetically, the presence of Danian fauna in older sediments could
have been caused by multiple re-working events of unconsolidated
Chicxulub distal impact ejecta or bioturbation. However, identical
microfossil distributions occur in other sampled sections, thereby
excluding that possibility. It is possible that there were multiple
cometary impacts during a few hundred thousand years around the K/T
transition. Copyright 1998, Institute for Scientific Information Inc.

(2) ASTEROID 1998 XB

From Alan W. Harris <>

>It is good that Al drew attention to the problem (which is much more
>general than in the case of 1998 XB, of course), but I'm sorry he did
>not mention the role of the Czech astronomer Petr Pravec in coming up
>with the solution.

Dear Benny, Brian, et al,

Brian is of course right that I should have mentioned Petr's work in this,
for which I apologize.  In my message to David Morrison, which he
reproduced with some editing in his NEO News, I was more explicit in
stating Petr's role in evaluating the magnitude of 1998 XB.  I copy that
below.  In part of my message that David edited out, I even indicated that
Petr was too modest:  his own data alone gives an identical but
statistically superior result to the solution he chose using all of the
data weighted appropriately.

Best regards,

Alan Harris

>From Al Harris (12/18/98):

I have reviewed the file of magnitudes of 1998XB, and concur with Petr
Pravec' analysis.  After tinkering around as best he can to salvage all the
other data, the answer Petr gets is essentially H = 16.0, to which I
concur.  One could interpret the huge scatter as a long period lightcurve
variation exceeding 1.0 mag in amplitude.  I regard this as improbable;
much more likely the "variation" is simply noise.  But even so, the H value
couldn't be under around 15.0, still much fainter than the earlier
estimates.  Allowing for both phase curve model uncertainties and
lightcurve variation, I would suggest a value of H = 16..0 +/-0.5.
[Morrison note: his is a factor of 6 fainter than previously reported].


From The Times, 31 December 1998

Nigel Hawkes, science editor of The Times, is today appointed CBE
in recognition of his services to newspapers and science. "I am
delighted if embarrassed," said Mr Hawkes, 55, who has been writing for
the newspaper for eight years. "It's possibly because the Government is
very interested in the public understanding of science. I try to write
about results and explain what has been found. I find it interesting
and exciting and I think readers do too."


From Chandra Wickramasinghe <>

Dear Benny:

You might like to carry the letter I published in The Independent (24th
December) in your mail - it concerns the star of Bethlehem, which the
group might find interesting.

Yours sincerely



Letters Editor
The Independent

Dear Sir


There have been several astronomical explanations for the Star of
Bethlehem. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) the discoverer of the laws of
planetary motion had suggested the Star was none other than a
conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the year 7BC. In the
present century alternative suggestions have included a comet or a
nova, occurring sometime around 5BC before the death of King Herod.
None of the astronomical explanations offered, however, fits the scant
account of this event available in the Gospel according to Matthew II
(2-12). Matthew thus states: "....the star which they (The Wise Men)
saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood where the
child was....." A "star" travelling across the sky in this way and
seemingly standing still over a particular terrestrial location cannot
easily be reconciled with a nova, comet or planet. So another
explanation seems to be necessary.

There is now a growing body of evidence to support a theory originally
advocated by Victor Clube and Bill Napier that the history of our
civilisation has been punctuated by episodes of cometary missile
impacts. (See: Victor Clube and Bill Napier The Cosmic Winter
(Blackwell Oxford 1990); F. Hoyle and N.C. Wickramasinghe, Life on
Mars: the case for a cosmic heritage, (Clinical Press, Bristol,1997)).
Such events would surely have played a crucial role in the evolution of
myths as well as religious beliefs.

An impact event of this type involving the explosion in the atmosphere
of a small cometary missile occurred in Tunguska, Siberia early this
century. The Russian Newspaper Sibir of July 2 1908 reported thus, from
a vantage point some distance away from the epicentre of the explosion:
"Early in the ninth hour of the morning of June 30 a very unusual
natural phenomenon was observed here. In the village of Nizhne-
Karelinsk....the peasants saw a body shining very brightly, indeed too
bright for the naked eye, with a blue-white light...."   This account
bears comparison with a mediaeval account of a "fireball event", cited
by Victor Clube, Bill Napier and Mark Bailey: "A very terrifying
apparition and sign of wonder has been seen in Bamberg and
Liechtenfels. In the year 1560, on the twenty-eighth of December, [this
apparition] was seen in the sky which first had its beginning over
Ebersberg in Franconia, and rose directly over Zeyl, and then from Zeyl
[moved] towards the town call Elpmann....and stopped still there for a
long time...."

Recent archaeological evidence from sites in Tunisia and Sweden point
to an asteroid impact in the Middle East around 1000BC (British
Archaeological Reports S728, 1998). This would accord well with Old
Testament accounts of the destruction of Jericho which are full of
graphic descriptions of stones raining down from the skies, and where
Joshua is said to have bid the sun to stand still in the sky (Old
Testament, Book of Joshua). What Joshua must have seen was clearly not
the Sun standing still, but the distant glow of an immense fireball.
One might wonder whether the account in Matthew II (2-12) of the
Christmas Star is an event of a similar kind, although smaller in scale
and viewed at a safe distance of perhaps a hundred kilometres away.

Several early Christian writers have referred to the extraordinary
nature of the Star of Bethlehem. For example in the second century
Ignatius of Antiochia in an Epistle to the Ephesians XIX wrote thus:
"The star was so bright that its light was unspeakable and its newness
caused astonishment....a new star unlike any of the other well-known
planetary bodies..." This might well have been another example of a
Tunguska type event - a fragment of a comet approaching the Earth,
entering the atmosphere and eventually exploding in the skies over the
Middle East some distance away from Bethlehem. A cometary missile
impact, of the kind that has punctuated history since the end of the
last Ice Age, would then have heralded the birth of Jesus Christ. On
such a picture one would also expect a multitude of smaller meteoroids
to follow the larger cometary missile. It is then easy to understand
how the resulting spectacle of a great meteor shower came to be
immortalised as a "host of Angels".



From: Mike Baillie <>

Exodus to Arthur: catastrophic encounters with comets.
In: ARCHAEOLOGY IRELAND, No 46, Winter 1998

M Baillie

This book should be of interest to quite a wide range of people, not
least archaeologists, ancient historians, environmentalists and those
who study myth. It attempts to answer a question raised by a small
group of British cometary astrophysicists, with strong Armagh
connections, relating to bombardment of Earth by cometary debris. These
catastrophists, Mark Bailey, Victor Clube and Bill Napier, let's call
them catastrophists for want of a better word, have studied the recent
history of several meteor streams and convinced themselves that, from
time to time, over the last five millennia or so, the Earth has
intersected the debris streams from a series of now dead comets. 

During these intersections the risk is increased that, rather than just
running into the dust and pea sized grains which we witness regularly
as 'shooting stars', we are hit by larger fragments of the original
cometary body. The last big piece to hit us was probably the Tunguska
object which exploded over Siberia in 1908 with a force equivalent to
perhaps 20 megatons. The only argument is whether this 40 to 100 metre
diameter 'lump' was an asteroid (i.e. a random rock) or a piece of a
comet (perhaps something which is part of a more coherent stream of
debris). What is certain is that it flattened around 2000 square
kilometres of Siberian forest without leaving a crater.
Now if our cometary catastrophists were just an isolated bunch of
enthusiasts with 'bees in their bonnets' they could probably be ignored
- but they aren't, nor are they isolated. It has become apparent to a
wider range of astrophysicists that when they look at the handful of 2m
to 6m object which are observed to explode in the Earth's atmosphere
each year (these have been recorded by satellites and by sophisticated
ground listening stations); when they factor in the several
Tunguska-class episodes in the last century or so (of which Tunguska
just happens to have been the largest); when they factor in the 1994
gigantic impacts on our distant neighbour Jupiter, and when they factor
in the involvement of a giant impact in demise of the dinosaurs some 65
million years ago, that comets are a real hazard to human populations
on Earth. So, what is the question? The question posed is this: given
what is now known by scientists, it seems inevitable that there must
have been significant impacts in recent millennia - specifically in the
five millennia of human civilisation - where is the evidence? The
current answer is that, as far as any archaeologists or ancient
historians are concerned there is no good evidence for any major impact
(this applies to either a single massive impact equivalent to perhaps
1000 megatons, or to what Clube and Napier term a 'cosmic swarm' where
the Earth may have been hit by many Tunguska-class objects within a
short time, namely days to decades).

However, as will be immediately apparent to most readers of Archaeology
Ireland, in recent millennia there have been notable Dark Ages,
collapses of civilisations and population movements, almost all of
unknown cause. It is when these two aspects are put together that the
question is seen in a stark light. Scientists are saying 'we must have
been hit, where is the evidence', archaeologists and ancient historians
are saying 'we have the symptoms of unpleasant happenings, of unknown
cause'.. It is into this current impasse that this new book Exodus to
Arthur intrudes.

Exodus to Arthur

Back in 1988 some of the very first evidence for unpleasant
environmental downturns came out of the long - 7000 year - Irish oak
tree-ring chronology which had been constructed in Belfast from modern
trees, building and archaeological timbers and bog oaks. In short
pieces in Archaeology Ireland (Vol 2, Nos. 2 and 4) these events at
1628 BC, 1159 BC, 207 BC and AD 540 were christened 'marker dates'.
This term was conjured out of the air because, even when they were
first noted in the tree-ring records, they seemed to hang pretty close
to known periods of human trauma e.g. the first two seemed close to the
start and end of the great Bronze Age Shang dynasty in China.  So,
these dates looked as if they might show up in different records,
workers might expect to note their effects, they might show up as
markers. A decade later, not only have these markers not gone away,
rather they may be even more significant than first thought. First, it
became apparent that the happenings around AD 540 were global in
character. We now know that if we define the period of downturn as AD
536-545, in that period European oaks register their 3rd worst
conditions in 1500 years; Fennoscandian temperature reconstruct their
second coldest summer in 1500 years; Foxtail pines from the Sierra
Nevada reconstruct their 2nd, 3rd and 4th coldest years in 2000 years;
Fitzroya from Chile show their coldest year in 1500 years, etc. (none
of the other extreme years match up). Put bluntly, the episode around
AD 540 is totally anomalous; no volcano in the last 1500 years has
shown anything equivalent, so, what caused the event? 

Well, when a lot of bits of evidence are pulled together, we find that
there is no good evidence for a major volcanic eruption around 540. In
fact at least two Greenland ice cores run into problems around that
time - strange in itself. As there are Mediterranean descriptions of a
'dim sun' we can be pretty sure that the sky was loaded with dust or
vapour of some kind. If that wasn't from a volcano, could it have been
from a comet? Strangely, Bailey, Clube and Napier had proposed back in
1990 that, in their view, given the larger than normal number of big
meteor showers recorded in China, that the Earth was at increased risk
of bombardment between AD 400 and 600. Putting those strands together
suggested that, just maybe, we were onto something.

However, there were some other aspects which were even more alarming, 
two in particular. When all the elements of happenings around 540 were
accumulated - dim sun, famines, Justinian plague, plague in Ireland,
earthquakes, inundation - it could be seen that there was a
considerable resemblance to the happenings at the biblical Exodus. This
may seem like a major jump in logic, but, in fact, several writers had
proposed that the Santorini eruption, which might be the 1628 BC
tree-ring event, could have been somehow involved in the Exodus story
with it's prominent 'pillar of cloud by day and fire by night'. But it
was the second aspect which was most surprising; Carl Sagan and Ann
Druyan in their book Comet note that there were comet sightings at the
start and end of the Shang dynasty.  But, the start of the Shang could
quite easily be the same 1628 BC event and it's end could be the 1159
BC event. Readers can check for themselves what happens 470 years after
the Exodus, with the dating framework supplied by Archbishop Usher of
Armagh, working in the early 17th century.

Now all of this would be merely amusing were it not for the flood of
additional information which descends onto the story once a very simple
premise is given. The premise is that, at 1628 BC, 1159 BC, 207 BC and
AD 540 the Earth and its human passengers suffered some sort of
interaction with comets or their debris. 

For example, around 207 BC Livy records 'stones falling from the sky'
and the Romans bring back the goddess Cybele - a meteorite - from Asia
Minor to save Rome. On a more Irish note, O'Cleary, compiling the
Annals in Donegal in the early 17th century, has 1629 'BC' 'lakes
breaking out' a pretty plausible reference to a tectonically induced
'seiche'. On its own this would mean little, but taken with a 6th
century AD unfinished dug-out boat in Lough Neagh, it might be a
recurring theme. However, it is when we turn to mythology that the
story really takes on a definite theme. We're forced to look at myths
because several of the traditional death dates for King Arthur fall in
the window AD 536-545. A quick excursion into Arthurian myth seems to
provide the answer missing from conventional history. Arthur is tied up
with Merlin and the legend of the Holy Grail. Themes include a
'wasteland', a 'Dolorous blow', magic mists etc. It turns out that
virtually all the Arthurian stories can be traced back to earlier
Celtic - Irish - tales.  Not only is Arthur seen as an Apollo figure -
Apollo a bright sky god brings plague to Troy in the 12th century BC -
he is equated to Armagh's own CuChulinn - another bright god who is a
rebirth of the Celtic god Lugh.  But the god Lugh is famous because of
a story called the Fate of the Children of Turenn. In this Lugh is
described as having a face as bright as the setting sun, too bright to
look at. But Bres in astonishment asks the druids why the sun should be
rising in the west, the direction from which Lug was approaching, when
every other day he rises in the east. The druids answer tells it all.
They say that it is the ‘splendour of the face of Lug Lamfada’. Lamfada
means ‘of the long arm, or the long reach’. So in mythology Arthur is a
rebirth of a bright faced god, as bright as the setting sun, who is
named for his long arm, and, who comes up in the west. A description
which pretty well has to be a comet close to the Earth. But Lug carries
a fiery spear and indeed lets fly three throws of this terrible spear
associated with a great mist, darkness and thunderous noise.. It is
Lugh's spear that resides in the Grail castle and which delivers the
Dolorous Blow causing the wasteland in Arthurian/Grail legend, etc.,
etc., etc.  It turns out that myth gives us a clearer picture of what
happened than history seems to be able to manage.
The best handle can be obtained on the 540 event - because a lot of
information is well dated - the earlier events are much more diffuse
and would need a lot of work to make a coherent story - at best we can
see hints of possible global events in the 17th and 12th centuries BC.
But given that at AD 540 we are talking about a truly global event,
with possible global events at the earlier dates, it seems very strange
that the following can be said. If we think of the ancient kingdom of
Ulster, then the oaks which first showed the environmental events grew
in Ulster. The oak chronology was built in Ulster. Usher and O'Cleary
both worked in Ulster. Bailey and Napier study cometary hazards in
Ulster. CuChulinn is the Ulster hero. The ancient Celtic oath (thanks
to Chris Lynn for pointing this out) was 'we will not move from this
place unless the stars fall from the sky, the earth quakes and the sea
comes over the land'.  The only question remaining is this: were they
remembering the 1628 BC event (around which time the 1st Shang emperor,
T'ang, dreamt of two suns in the sky doing battle; the western sun
winning) or the 1159 BC event (around which time, at the end of the
Shang, 'many gods and spirits were annihilated in this battle, and
several stellar dignitaries were replaced by newcomers to the celestial
domains' {for the interested reader this mythical Battle of Mu bears
interesting comparison with CuChulinn's paroxysm}).  As to the other
question: where is the evidence for cometary effects in recent
millennia?  Now we know.

Exodus to Arthur is to be published by Batsford early this year.
Price 19.99.


From Bernd Pauli <>

BOND P. (1999) Fossilized remnant of dinosaur killer found (ASTRONOMY
NOW, January 1999, p. 9):

The fossilized remnant of an asteroid that may have caused the global
extinction of dinosaurs has been found by Frank Kyte, a geochemist from
University of California at Los Angeles. In a recent issue of the
journal Nature, Kyte described how he found the fossil meteorite while
studying the boundary layer between Cretaceous and Tertiary sediments.
It was hidden in mud and buried on the bed of the Pacific Ocean.
Although the 2.5 mm long granule no longer contains all of its original
minerals, it has retained its original shape and texture. According to
Kyte, it is probably a fragment of the asteroid which collided with the
Earth near Mexico's Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago. His findings
suggest that the meteorite’s composition resembles a metal- and
sulphide-rich carbonaceous chondrite asteroid, as opposed to the porous
materials that would more likely be found in a comet. Detailed analysis
also identified high levels of iridium, an element found in relative
abundance in asteroid meteorites. This indicates that the dinosaur
killer was more likely to have been an asteroid than a comet. - Peter


Conjunction of Moon and Planets No Disaster: Astronomer


SHANGHAI (Jan. 2) XINHUA - The conjunction of the moon and the nine
planets to form a cross in the sky in 1999 is no symbol of misfortune,
but rather a normal astronomical phenomenon, according to a senior
Chinese astronomer.

Calculations indicate that the nine planets of the solar system and the
Earth's moon will form a large cross next August, with the Earth at the
intersection. This unusual astronomical event has been  interpreted by
some mystics as a symbol of the end of the world.

Zhao Junliang, director of the Shanghai Observatory, said this
extraordinary phenomenon is caused by the various revolution cycles of
the nine planets around the sun, and will not cause any natural
disasters, including earthquakes.

The solar system formed the same cross in 110 B.C., and no major 
natural disasters were mentioned in historical records, Zhao said, 
adding that astronomical phenomena similar to the leonid meteor shower
in 1998 will also occur in 1999, offering golden opportunities for
astronomical research and observation.

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