CCNet 4/2001 - 9 January 2001

"Some contend that the rest of the world - especially the United
States and its space agency - is not sufficiently serious about defending
the planet from soaring rocks. After a British government report in
September spelled out threats to humankind from hunks of cosmic
debris, some members of Parliament said they could not rely on NASA to spot
all such natural missiles well enough in advance. They urged the
United Kingdom to take up the lead as the world's asteroid cop."
-- Charles W. Petit, U.S. News, 9 January 2001

"The virtual observatory would probably mean a change in the
perception of the astronomer's job, De Young said. "There will no longer be
the tradition of the lone astronomer in the dark, adjusting the
telescope by hand," he said. Instead, many astronomers will just go to
their computers and log in."
-- Deborah Zabarenko, Exite News, 7 January 2001

    U.S. News, 9 January 2001

    SpaceDaily, 9 January

    Excite News, 7 January 2001

    Rainer Arlt <>

    The New York Times, 9 January 2001

    Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

    Joel Gunn <>

    Duncan Steel <>


From U.S. News, 9 January 2001

By Charles W. Petit

Anxiety about asteroids is afoot in Britain. Indeed, some contend that the
rest of the world - especially the United States and its space agency - is
not sufficiently serious about defending the planet from soaring rocks.

After a British government report in September spelled out threats to
humankind from hunks of cosmic debris, some members of Parliament said they
could not rely on NASA to spot all such natural missiles well enough in
advance. They urged the United Kingdom to take up the lead as the world's
asteroid cop.

Banging the drum loudest is British Army Major Jonathan Tate. His day job is
to help run the nation's air-defense system, but all his spare time goes to
planetary defense as leader of a private group called Spaceguard UK. "This
is among the few natural catastrophes we could predict in advance, and head
off," he argues. He figures a good system could give many decades warning,
enough time to engineer a solution - whether to nudge the asteroid off
course with rocket engines, an atomic explosive, or other means.

Under the gun is Lord Sainsbury, the British science minister. Science
budgets in Britain are tight, but he is expected to decide by February
whether to authorize $15 million or so in public funds for an advanced
telescope designed to detect and track faint asteroids. The instrument would
likely be mounted somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. "This is not science
fiction," Sainsbury has already declared. "The risk is extremely remote, but
it is real."

Lurking in space. NASA supports several U.S.-based surveillance teams, with
the goal to detect at least 90 percent of asteroids about half a mile across
whose orbits may someday approach Earth. Experts think about 1,000 exist,
and nearly 500 are already charted. So far, none poses any immediate threat.

Asteroids of that size could devastate continents, or even threaten
civilization. But they are unlikely to hit more often than every few hundred
thousand years. The British worry that smaller, yet still dangerous, meteors
ranging down to a few hundred feet wide are more common but are being
ignored. A rock (or possibly a comet fragment) estimated at less than 100
yards across exploded in the sky over Siberia in 1908, flattening forests
for hundreds of square miles. Such potential city busters could come along
every century or so, says Brian Marsden, director of the Minor Planet Center
at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. Still
smaller ones are more common. In November 1999, Dutch scientists detected a
meteor exploding near the edge of the atmosphere over Germany with the
energy of 1,500 tons of TNT, the equivalent of a small nuclear bomb.

2000 U.S.News & World Report Inc. All rights reserved.



U.Arkansas Targets Asteroid Sample Return Mission

Fayetteville - Jan 8, 2001

In the wake of NASA's successful Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous space
mission, a University of Arkansas researcher is putting together a team of
scientists to take asteroid research to the next level -- bringing asteroid
samples back to Earth.

Derek Sears, professor of chemistry and director of the Arkansas- Oklahoma
Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, has proposed a mission called Hera
that will visit three near-Earth asteroids, obtain samples from them and
return the samples to Earth. The project is named for Hera, a Greek goddess
and mother of the three graces, joyfulness, bloom and brightness.

The Arkansas-Oklahoma center will provide the infrastructure and support
required to produce the mission.

Such a mission has only recently become possible, according to Sears. But
with the advent of new engines for driving interplanetary spacecraft, the
NEAR spacecraft completing a successful mission, and the discovery of 1,000
or more near-Earth asteroids in the past two years, the mission has become

"We have the right engines, another space craft doing a dry run, and we have
plenty of targets," Sears said.

According to current plans, the spacecraft will feature a touch-and-go
sampler designed by Steven Gorevan and Shaheed Rafeek of Honeybee Robotics,
Inc. The sampler will hover above the asteroids and extend a high-speed
drill into the surface. The probe will capture fragments from the drilling
and store them in containers aboard the spacecraft.

The craft will also contain cameras, spectrometers and other scientific
equipment that will record information about the asteroids.

Sears and his colleagues recently gathered at the Lunar and Planetary
Institute in Houston to discuss various aspects of the mission. They talked
about the scientific case for sample return, spacecraft maneuvers in the
vicinity of small asteroids, sample collection devices and planetary
protection issues, and the implications for resource utilization, impact
hazard mitigation and human exploration and development of space.

The mission will address some of the most fundamental questions in science
as defined by NASA's Space Science Enterprise Plan in 1997. Hera addresses
seven of the 11 goals set by NASA in the plan, including:

Information on the formation of the solar system
Stellar evolution and the relationship between stars and planet formation
The origin of molecules necessary for life on Earth
The possibilities of life on other planets.
A record of solar activity
Prediction and possible deflection of Earth-bound objects
A precursor to human exploration and colonization of space

Researchers at NASA's Glenn Research Center determined the mission
trajectory. Hera would launch in January 2006, reaching the first asteroid,
1999 AO10, after eight months. It would spend about 99 days at the first two
asteroids, AO10 and 2000AG6, and 205 days at the third, 1989 UQ, returning
to earth in November 2010.

The current team of researchers planning project Hera includes: Sears, Don
Brownlee of the University of Washington, Carle Pieters of Brown University,
M. Lindstrom of the University of Tennessee, D. Britt of Johnson Space
Center, B.C. Clark of Lockheed Martin Astronautics, L. Gefert of Glenn
Research Center, S. Gorevan of Honeybee Robotics and J.C. Preble of
SpaceWorks, Inc.

Copyright 2001, SpaceDaily

From Excite News, 7 January 2001


By Deborah Zabarenko

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - In the near future, anyone with a computer modem and a
clever idea may be able to explore the cosmos in a virtual space observatory
-- online.

The idea of a national virtual observatory, offered as part of the U.S.
space community's plan for the next decade, could become reality within five
years at an estimated cost of $25 million and a global version could be in
place by 2010, according to Stephen Strom, head of planning and development
at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).

A lot of astronomical data is already available to the public, through NASA
and the space agencies of Europe and Canada. But what scientists envision,
in work to be discussed at this week's meeting of the American Astronomical
Society in San Diego, is a complete archive of the burgeoning observations
from telescopes on the ground and orbiting Earth.

The sheer amount of data can be daunting, because of parallel explosions in
the 1990s in the ability of space scientists to collect material and in the
capacity of computers to store it, Strom said by telephone from Tucson,

"There is a revolution in detective ability; every 18 months, our ability to
image the sky doubles," Strom said. Right now, there are many terabytes --
trillions of bytes -- of astronomical data available for study. By the end
of the decade, the amount of data will be many petabytes. Each petabyte is a
thousand terabytes.

By contrast, a personal computer these days is considered to have a large
memory if its hard drive can hold 20 gigabytes, or 20 billion bytes of


If petabytes of space data were available online, Strom said astronomers and
others could map so much of the sky that it might be possible to make a
digital movie of certain fast-moving features, such as asteroids threatening
Earth or comet-like objects orbiting the Sun outside the orbit of the planet

George Djorgovski of the California Institute of Technology has been a
proponent of the virtual observatory, and was scheduled to offer insights on
its creation at the San Diego conference.

Djorgovski has argued that using data from many telescopes -- from the
orbitting Hubble Space Telescope to the Chandra X-Ray Observatory to
Earth-based telescopes -- would give unprecedented accuracy in observing
celestial phenomena.

Strom and others working on this proposed project recognize that one
stumbling block is a cultural one. While the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration has long had a principle of sharing data collected on large
space missions with the public, the same does not always hold true for
scientists working with ground-based observatories.

"The data have been viewed largely ... as the property of the individual
investigator," Strom said. "We lack the culture of broad public access."

There also needs to be standardization of what would amount to a massive
online database of information, aimed at the world's nearly 10,000
astronomical researchers but also available in some form to the public.

"It's not just a repository of information, but tools to deal with it," said
David De Young of NOAO, who has also worked on the proposed project.

These tools would help scientists and others recognize patterns in what they
were seeing, and would put together impressions of objects using
observations from X-ray, gamma ray, radio waves and optical telescopes,
giving a more complete picture, De Young said by telephone before his
arrival in San Diego.

The virtual observatory would probably mean a change in the perception of
the astronomer's job, De Young said.

"There will no longer be the tradition of the lone astronomer in the dark,
adjusting the telescope by hand," he said. Instead, many astronomers will
just go to their computers and log in.

MODERATOR'S NOTE: The virtual space observatory U.S. astronomers are
contemplating to develop in the next decade has already become a reality in
Britain. The UK's National Schools' Observatory
(, based at JMU's Astrophysics
Research Institute, will be inaugurated this year. Once up and running, it
will provide *every* pupil in Britain open access - via the internet - to a
number of large robotic telescopes situated around the globe. The current
developments in observatorional astronomy are not just a 'revolution in
detective ability;' What we are witnissing is the democratisation of a
scientific activity that used to be the sole domain of a select few. Space
is opening up to all interested in our cosmic environment!


From Rainer Arlt <>


            I M O   S h o w e r   C i r c u l a r


                      QUADRANTIDS 2001

Favorable lunar conditions accompanied the maximum of the
2001 Quadrantid meteor shower. Peak activity was expected
near 12h UT on January 3, corresponding to a solar longi-
tude of lambda=283.16 deg.

Observers were satisfied by good Quadrantid rates in the UT
afternoon and evening hours of January 3, 2001. Radio forward-
scatter observations as reported by Hiroshi Ogawa, Japan,
showed increased Quadratid activity until 20h UT on January 3,
compared with the background activity of December 30-January 1.
Geometrical effects of radiant direction changes will play
a significant role though.

The highest ZHR value is found for 13h30m UT on January 3
or a solar longitude of lambda=283.24 deg (J2000.0). The
ZHR of about 130 is a typical value for the Quadrantids,
but the number of reports for the peak period is very small
whence conclusions are tentative. The peak time may easily
shift by one hour to either side once a more comprehensive
dataset is available.

We are very grateful to the following 23 observers who sent
their reports to the Visual Commission or to the various
mailing lists in time for this first activity overview:

ANDBI Birger Andresen (Norway)  MEIMA Marcel Meima (UK)
BIVNI Nicolas Biver(USA)        NICTE Ted A. Nichols II (USA)
BURWI Wlliam Burton (USA)       PUNNI Nilesh Puntambekar (India)
DAVMA Mark Davis (USA)          RENJU Jurgen Rendtel (Germany)
GLIGE George W. Gliba (USA)     SPAGE George Spalding(UK)
GODSH Shelagh Godwin (UK)       STOWE Wes Stone (USA)
HALWA Wayne T. Hally (USA)      TAIRI Richard Taibi (USA)
HASTA Takema Hashimoto (Japan)  TUKAR Arnold Tukkers (the Netherlands)
HOSDA Dave Hostetter (USA)      UCHSH Shigeo Uchiyama (Japan)
JOHCA Carl Johannink (Germany)  YOUKI Kim S. Youmans (USA)
LINMI Mike Linnolt (USA)        ZHUJI Jin Zhu (China)
MCBAL Alastair McBeath (UK)

Date   Time (UT)  Sollong nObs nIND  nQUA     ZHR
Jan 02   2300     282.63   2    2     17    13 +- 9
Jan 03   0230     282.78   5    3     40    26 +- 4
Jan 03   0510     282.89  13    5    109    17 +- 3
Jan 03   0740     283.00   9    5     98    56 +- 6
Jan 03   0940     283.08  10    8    192    61 +- 4
Jan 03   1120     283.15   6    4     90    68 +- 7
Jan 03   1330     283.24   3    2     33   131 +-23
Jan 03   1500     283.31   4    3     53   118 +-16
Jan 03   1720     283.41   5    3     76    82 +- 9
Jan 03   1910     283.48  10    5    217    95 +- 6
Jan 03   2110     283.57   5    4     98    79 +- 8
Jan 04   0400     283.86   2    1     19    16 +- 4

Solar longitudes refer to equinox J2000.0. nObs is the number
of individual observing periods, nIND is the number of individ-
ual observers providing them, nQUA is the number of Quadrantids
seen. The radiant position was assumed at alpha=230, delta=+49,
the population index used was r=2.1. The expectation value of the
         ZHR = (1 + sum nQUA) / sum(Teff/C),
was used for the averages here, where Teff is the effective
observing time and C is the total correction composed of limiting
magnitude, clouds, and zenith correction. Times are rounded to
the nearest 10 minutes.

Rainer Arlt & Vladimir Krumov,
2001 January 4


From The New York Times, 9 January 2001

Experts Face Off on 'Noah's Flood'

AN DIEGO, Jan. 8 - Two marine geologists from Columbia University in 1996
advanced the idea that a flood of water from the Mediterranean, rushing
through the Bosporus with the force of 20 Niagaras, entered the Black Sea
7,600 years ago. In months, at most two years, the Black Sea rose, inundated
surrounding plains and attained its present dimensions.

As a consequence, the geologists suggested, people in the region had to
flee, and this could explain the rapid spread of early agriculture into
eastern and northern Europe. It was even possible, they said, that the
cataclysm became a part of folk memory, inspiring the Babylonian flood myth
in the epic of Gilgamesh and, in time, the biblical story of Noah.

The geologists, Dr. William B. F. Ryan and Dr. Walter C. Pitman 3rd of
Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, elaborated their hypothesis in
a book, "Noah's Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event That
Changed History," published in 1999 by Simon & Schuster Inc. They could not
have waved a redder flag in the face of some scholars.

Although many fellow geologists have found the research persuasive and the
Black Sea flood plausible, and still do, archaeologists and historians were
skeptical from the start. They expressed their doubts and objections,
politely but firmly, in an encounter with Dr. Ryan and Dr. Pitman here on
Saturday at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

The geological evidence for the flood may be sound, the critics said, but
they thought it a stretch to ascribe to it such widespread consequences for
ancient culture and mythology.

"The large claim connecting the Black Sea flood and Noah's flood can no
longer be sustained," Dr. Andrew M. T. Moore, an archaeologist and dean of
liberal arts at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said in an interview

Dr. Stephanie Dalley, a historian at Oxford University in England and a
specialist on Babylonian mythology, said that the "supposed similarities"
between the Black Sea event and the flood story of Gilgamesh "are random and

For one thing, Dr. Dalley said, it is questionable that a folk memory would
have persisted over more than 4,000 years. But suppose it had. If refugees
from the Black Sea flood carried the memory with them into the Middle East,
where it was eventually written on clay tablets, why is there no flood
mythology in the ancient cultures of Eastern Europe, where other refugees
may have migrated?

Most scholars suspect that the periodic flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates
Rivers is the inspiration for the Babylonian flood story. In this account,
it rained seven days and nights and all dry land vanished; there were no
survivors, except those in a boat. On a philosophical level, Dr. Dalley
noted, the Gilgamesh epic made the point that "before the flood, people
could live forever or until the next disaster, and after the flood, people
died of old age."

By contrast, the Black Sea flooded not by rain but from rising sea levels
far away. The water encroached steadily, but land never vanished from sight
and people had time to flee.

Dr. Dalley concluded that Dr. Ryan and Dr. Pitman "have misunderstood the
meaning of the flood myth in Mesopotamia, and its use in the hypothesis
should be abandoned." Then she added, "But the rest of the hypothesis is
fine, as far as I'm concerned."

Copyright 2001, The New York Times



From Jens Kieffer-Olsen <>

> From
> Don Savage
> * The Dawn mission intends to orbit Vesta and Ceres, two of the largest
> asteroids in the solar system. According to current theories, the very
> different properties of Vesta and Ceres are the result of the asteroids
> being formed and evolving in different parts of the solar system. By
> observing both asteroids with the same set of instruments, Dawn would probe
> the early solar system as well as determine in detail the properties of each
> asteroid. Dr. Christopher T. Russell of the University of California at Los
> Angeles would lead Dawn at a total cost to NASA of $271 million.

Dear Benny,

The above mention of the Dawn mission in conjunction with Dr. Gritzner's
paper "The NEO impact hazard and Option for Mitigation" (pointed to by Bob
Perry on CCNet last  Wednesday ) led me to reconsider our priorities for
manned space flight.

Surely the Moon had to be our first port of call, and surely our long-term
target is to terraform Mars, but for the next couple of centuries the most
rewarding destinations for mankind to explore ( and establish bridgeheads on
) are bound to be asteroids.

In his summary Christian Gritzner describes phase 2 in the prevention of
future NEO impacts as follows ( phase 1 of course is the execution of NEO
detection programmes ): "In-situ exploration of NEOs is very important to
obtain more information about their mass distribution, shape, internal
structure, etc. There are already some asteroid and comet ( including NEO )
exploration missions on the way or in preparation. The research goals of
current and future exploration missions should be extended..."

Landing a manned space craft on an asteroid is considerably easier than
safely areobraking through the tenous atmosphere of Mars. Leaving the
asteroid is a walkover compared to launching a return rocket from the dusty
surface of Mars.

Furthermore NEAs offer the advantage of regular close fly-bys of Earth,
thereby potentially shortening astronauts' journey through space. Delta-v
requirements may vary correspondingly, but Hohmann transfer orbits are not
relevant anyway for missions relating to threatening NEOs.   

'Living off the land' as Robert Zubrin envisages early astronauts on Mars to
do, is no less a possibility on an asteroid ( even if Mars offers the
benefit of an atmosphere rich in CO2 ).  And deliveries from Earth are
feasible to-day as demonstrated by the NEAR mission to Eros.

Naturally the two Martian moonlets qualify as targets for manned exploration
too, but the landing on Mars itself will remain for a long time a deceptive
beacon with the potential of siphoning  funds off the NEO protection
programmes. How ironical it would be, if Earthlings found themselves struck
by an object while celebrating the conquest of Mars!

Jens Kieffer-Olsen, M.Sc.(Elec.Eng.)
Slagelse, Denmark


From Joel Gunn <>

John Mccue,

I have been wondering about the time around the turn of the 8-9th century
A.D. as well. Lamb reports particularly difficult winters in Europe between
760 and 840, with the Nile freezing over in 829. I know from another source
that the Carolingian trade sphere in the North Sea collapsed suddenly in 829
ff. A series of bad winters may also suggest that Charlemagne, who visited
the Pope on Christmas Day of AD 800, may have been more interested in his
well stocked table that making nice with the papacy as historians generally suggest. 

I saw a note in an astronomy journal about an important comet moving inside
the earth's orbit in A.D.710, which reportedly increase the space dust
blocking incoming radiation to the planet. At that time in certain regions
in North America radiocarbon dates become very rare in the two centuries

Some research needs to be done in that time range. It is the nadir of sea
level decline following the A.D. 536 event according to Bill Tanner's 50
year interval sea level determinations. The high frequency of comets your
research reveals suggest some sort of connection that needs to be sorted

(Citations are reported in The Years Without Summer, Archaeopress.)

Joel Gunn


From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

Someone's scanner seems to have suffered an aberration - perhaps an act of

>Dombard AJ, McKinnon WB:
>Long-term retention of impact crater topography on Ganymede
>GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS 27: (22) 3663-3666 NOV 15 2000
> ...
>By applying improved understanding of theologic
>parameters and initial crater shapes to a viscoelastic model...

I think that should read "rheologic"!

Another correction. I wrote that no total lunar eclipse would be visible in
its entirety (after January 9th) from the UK until November 2003. In
addition, a total lunar eclipse will occur on
16 May 2003 that may be seen as the Moon sets in the morning. This gives the
possibility, for early risers, of seeing both the rising Sun and the
eclipsed Moon in the sky at the same time.

Duncan Steel

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