PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 13/2002 - 23 January 2002
------------------------------

"We're going to have some revenge on a comet called Tempel 1"
--Peter Schultz, Brown University


"The Deep Impact mission hopes to reveal the nature of the threat
and how to deflect it safely. On American Independence Day 2005, Deep
Impact will reach its target, the six- kilometre diameter comet Tempel 1.
The space probe will release a 350-kilogram (770 lbs) projectile into the
heart of the comet at 10 kilometres per second (six miles per second). It
is expected to blow a crater the size of a football field and 20 metres (65
feet) deep. The comet will survive but should reveal the nature of its
interior to add to scientific knowledge and to guide any future plans to
deflect a killer comet with a nuclear nudge."
--BBC, 21 January 2002


"Since January 2000, at least 762 online companies have closed or
declared bankruptcy, according to Webmergers, a San Francisco research
and advisory firm. "It's the entrepreneurial equivalent of the Cretaceous
die-out," said Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future, a
nonprofit research firm in Menlo Park. "Every six or seven years, an
intellectual asteroid comes in Silicon Valley and wipes everything out." 
--San Fransisco Chronicle, 22 January 2002


(1) SCIENTISTS HUNT FOR ASTEROIDS
    BBC News Online, 21 January 2002

(2) SCIENTISTS LOOK FOR CLUES TO SPACE ROCK'S HISTORY UNDER CRATER
    Miami Herald, 22 January 2002

(3) WHEN DID EARTH GET ITS FIRST DRINK OF WATER?
    Astronomy.com, 21 January 2002

(4) ELECTROPHONIC METEORS AND METEOR-ATMOSPHERE COUPLING
    Slaven Garaj <slaven.garaj@epfl.ch>

(5) GRANTS FOR EXPEDITIONS
    Charles Cockell <csco@bas.ac.uk>

(6) ISO AND ASTEROIDS
    Daniel Fischer <dfischer@astro.uni-bonn.de>

(7) MACE 2002: SECOND ANNOUNCEMENT
    Reiner M. Stoss <rstoss@hrz1.hrz.tu-darmstadt.de>

(8) ASP AND ASTRONOMICAL LEAGUE SURVEY AMATEUR OUTREACH
    Ron Baalke <baalke@zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

(9) AND FINALLY: 'STARS FELL ON ALABAMA'
    The Daily Mountain Eagle, 21 January 2002

============
(1) SCIENTISTS HUNT FOR ASTEROIDS

>From BBC News Online, 21 January 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1768000/1768618.stm

"The dinosaurs were just not smart enough to spot their nemesis coming and
do something about it - but we are," says Dr Duncan Steel, an expert in the
detection of meteors, asteroids and comets.

The scientist from Salford University, UK, warns that humans must learn the
lessons from 65 million years ago, when it is thought the impact of a giant
space rock on the planet accelerated the end of the dinosaur dynasty.

"I think it would be grossly stupid of us not to tackle it head-on," he told
the BBC's World Service's Discovery programme.

Much research is being done to investigate how the Earth might protect
itself against any future strike. But with much of the southern hemisphere
sky unpatrolled by asteroid and comet-seeking telescopes, it is clear our
efforts to stave off some future, apocalyptic event could be stepped up.

Global disaster

To date, there is no record of anyone having been killed by an asteroid
impact but the devastation that would be caused by a large one is so
terrible that, statistically, you are more likely to die from a space-rock
impact than in a plane crash.

The dinosaurs could do nothing about it - could we?
 
When an asteroid called 2001 YB5 whizzed past the Earth on 7 January, 2002,
it missed the planet by more than half a million kilometres (300,000 miles)
- but, at the speed the Earth is travelling in its orbit, that distance
accounts for only a few hours.

2001 YB5 was probably 300 metres (980 feet) across. When a large body
estimated at only 50 metres (160 feet) in size exploded above the Siberian
forest in 1908, it flattened trees over a wide area.

A less frequent threat but one that could be even more deadly and even
harder to predict is that of a comet.

Nasa action

Comets come from the frozen outer reaches of the Solar System and are very
difficult to spot before they reach the distance of Jupiter, by which time
it could be too late to plan a defence. So what are scientists doing to
prevent collision?

An ambitious Nasa space probe under construction plans to strike back as
project worker, Peter Schultz of Brown University, Rhode Island, explains:

"We're going to have some revenge on a comet called Tempel 1 with the Deep
Impact mission."

The Deep Impact mission hopes to reveal the nature of the threat and how to
deflect it safely.

On American Independence Day 2005, Deep Impact will reach its target, the
six-kilometre diameter comet Tempel 1.

The space probe will release a 350-kilogram (770 lbs) projectile into the
heart of the comet at 10 kilometres per second (six miles per second). It is
expected to blow a crater the size of a football field and 20 metres (65
feet) deep.

The comet will survive but should reveal the nature of its interior to add
to scientific knowledge and to guide any future plans to deflect a killer
comet with a nuclear nudge.

'Back door' omission

The search for comets and asteroids is stepping up.

So far, it is centred in the USA, though teams in Japan and Britain are
setting up information centres and may adapt telescopes in the Canary
Islands to join the search.

But a telescope powerful enough to see a small asteroid can only search a
small strip of sky at a time and at present no one is searching in the
southern hemisphere.

This worries Dr Duncan Steel, who used to run a search programme in
Australia.

"A third of the sky is currently not being searched because there is no
Southern Hemisphere search programme," he warns.

"In essence, at the current time, our back door is open because no one is
looking down there."

Copyright 2002, BBC

=============
(2) SCIENTISTS LOOK FOR CLUES TO SPACE ROCK'S HISTORY UNDER CRATER

>From Miami Herald, 22 January 2002
http://www.miami.com/herald/content/news/world/digdocs/103334.htm

BY ROBERT S. BOYD
Herald Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Scientists have begun drilling a mile-deep hole into a massive
underground crater that was left by a mountain-size asteroid or comet that
slammed into earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Earlier this month, they reached the uppermost layer of broken rocks buried
beneath Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula that were smashed, twisted and hurled
about by the tremendous force of the collision.

The researchers hope to learn exactly what the space invader did when it
penetrated the earth's crust in a fiery ball of unimaginable violence. The
goal is to better understand how the impact devastated the global
environment.

``Since we can't go back 65 million years in a time machine, drilling down
to the 65 million year level is the best we can do,'' said James Powell, the
executive director of the National Physical Science Consortium at the
University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

`THE TRANSITION'

The catastrophe marked ``the transition between the Age of Reptiles and the
Age of Mammals,'' said David Kring, a planetary scientist at the University
of Arizona in Tucson and a leader of the drilling team from Mexico and the
United States.

``Mammals were able to develop because the impact caused a complete change
in the biological landscape of earth,'' Kring said in an interview. ``Then
evolution took advantage of the change.''

The smashed rubble, technically known as breccia, was found 2,800 feet below
ground, about 25 miles southwest of the Yucatán city of Merida. The crater
is called Chicxulub (pronounced cheek-shoo-loob) for the village located
over its center.

Kring, a principal investigator in the Chicxulub Scientific Drilling
Project, said the drill would bring up rocky cores about as thick as a
baseball bat that would reveal the complete history of the disaster.

``For the first time, we will be able to see the entire geology of the
structure, all the way down to the bedrock of the continental crust,'' he
said.

Between the breccia and the bedrock, researchers expect to find a thick
stony sheet that was melted by the intense heat of the long-age crash. The
volume of the molten material could have been as much as 24,000 cubic miles,
enough to fill Hudson's Bay or the Gulf of California with lava.

``People have a hard time understanding the scale of this impact,'' Kring
said. ``It moved millions of tons of rock, some of it more than 60 miles.
Material 20 miles beneath the surface was affected by the shock wave. A
large part of the earth's crust was uplifted and folded by the blast.''

Poisonous gases, dust, smoke and fire from the impact blotted out the sun,
lowered temperatures and contaminated the air for months or years, killing
more than 75 percent of the plant and animal species.

COLLISION COURSE

Wary of another such calamity, astronomers have begun a search for all large
``Near Earth Objects'' that might be on a collision course with the planet.
For example, they spotted an asteroid the size of three football fields that
streaked within 500,000 miles -- twice the distance to the moon -- on Jan.
7.

If a space rock is detected early enough, scientists hope they will be able
to deflect it with a nuclear-armed missile. Even a slight change of course
could be enough for a far-off object to miss the earth.

Powell, who is not a member of the Chicxulub project, said the drilling
could clear up some mysteries, such as whether the space intruder was a
comet or an asteroid.

Asteroids are rocky objects orbiting between earth and Jupiter. Comets are
balls of ice and frozen gas from beyond Pluto that periodically swoop
through the solar system. Comets are considered more dangerous than
asteroids because their enormous speed multiplies their power.

In addition, Powell said the drillers might find traces of sulfur-rich rocks
in the crater, helping to explain why the atmosphere poisoned so many living
creatures.

Copyright 2002 Miami Herald

=============
(3) WHEN DID EARTH GET ITS FIRST DRINK OF WATER?

>From Astronomy.com, 21 January 2002
http://www.astronomy.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000/000/000/727zxhuk.asp

Water and Planets May Have Come Later: The discovery of extrasolar
carbonates may revise our understanding of the solar system's history.

by Vanessa Thomas

Water is the lifeblood of our planet's biosphere. No matter how technically
advanced we become, even the most basic human needs continue to rely on
water. Without water, we simply can not exist.

Just when did water first arrive in the solar system? Quite soon,
astronomers had thought. They have found carbonates - minerals that
precipitate from liquid water - in some very old asteroids dating back to
the early solar system. If carbonates were on hand that long ago, liquid
water and planetary bodies large enough to contain that water must have been
around, too.

However, a group of astronomers recently found carbonates where no planets
or liquid water could exist. Surprisingly, the first carbonates found beyond
our solar system lie in the expelled death shells surrounding two expired
stars.

"Our finding suggests that not all carbonates found in the solar system were
formed in association with liquid water, and this of course sheds new light
on the formation history of the solar system," says University of Amsterdam
astronomer Ciska Kemper, lead author of an article discussing the results in
the January 17 issue of Nature.

The international team headed by Kemper studied observations of the Bug
Nebula (NGC 6302) and the Red Spider Nebula (NGC 6537) by the decommissioned
Infrared Space Observatory (ISO). These nebulae are shells of material
expelled from and shaped by central dying stars. The nature and amount of
the carbonates found in each nebula suggests they were not formed on
water-bearing planets.

"The amount of carbonates we find is equivalent to at least 30 Earth masses,
far too large to be the relic of a hypothetical planetary system present
before the star became a planetary nebula," Kemper explains. "On Earth,
where the formation of carbonates proceeds very efficiently, the mass ratios
between carbonates and silicates (the most common mineral on Earth) is about
1-2 percent. Indeed, a planetary system of several thousands of Earth masses
is required to produce more than 30 Earth masses of carbonates."

Kemper adds that for ISO to have observed these minerals at infrared
wavelengths, they must be in the form of minuscule grains. "Even if we
assume that these ... carbonates are formed in lakes and oceans on several
thousands of planets, then all these carbonate sediments, which are
typically large rocks, should be shattered into micron-sized grains. It is
very unlikely that any shattering process is efficient enough to produce so
much mass in such small grains."

Also unlikely, Kemper says, is the development of new water-bearing planets
in the approximately ten-thousand-year-old nebulae. The amount of time "is
too short for a new planetary system to form," she states.

Kemper's team concludes that the calcite and dolomite carbonates detected in
the Bug and Red Spider Nebulae must have formed by some other process. The
scientists cannot say that any of the carbonates in our solar system were
also formed by this alternate method, but the possibility exists. If this
second method was at work here, carbonates could have existed before planets
formed and water flowed.

Copyright © 1996-2002 Kalmbach Publishing Co.

============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(4) ELECTROPHONIC METEORS AND METEOR-ATMOSPHERE COUPLING

>From Slaven Garaj <slaven.garaj@epfl.ch>

Dear Benny and colleagues,
 
I would like to draw your attention to a recent article from our group,
entitled: "Instrumental recording of electrophonic sounds from Leonid
fireballs", by G. Zgrablic et al. The article considers the phenomenon of
the electrophonic meteors and it will appear in the Journal of
Geophysical Research.
 
The electrophonic sounds, which are heard simultaneously with an appearance
of a bright meteor, are a longstanding astronomic mystery. This is the
contra-intuitive phenomenon: normal sounds from a meteor should lag behind
the meteor couple of minutes, due to relatively small velocity of sounds. A
full evaluation of the electrophonic phenomenon was undermined by the lack
of instrumental recordings - only witness reports existed.

In the article, we present the first instrumental recording of the
electrophonic sounds detected during the ILWC expedition to Mongolia. We
demonstrate that physical characteristics of electrophones from Leonid
meteors cannot be explained satisfactory in the framework of the
existing theories. In addition, it is suggested that the coupling of meteors
to atmospheric charge dynamics and ionosphere is much stronger than
previously expected. This can have more general implications, beyond the
electrophonic phenomenon.
 
Preprint of the article and additional information, pictures and videos can
be accessed at the project's web page: http://fizika.org/ilwcro/results/
 
In addition, I would like to direct you to the project "Global Electrophonic
Fireball Survey", coordinated by D. Vinkovic from Univ. of Kentucky. The aim
of the project is to collect witness reports of the electrophonic sounds. If
you experienced electrophonic phenomena, please fill up the on-line form and
make an important contribution to the understanding of this effect. Web
address: http://gefs.ccs.uky.edu/
 

Greetings,
 
Slaven Garaj
ILWC coordinator

Institute of Nuclear Engineering (IGA)
Department of Physics
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)
CH-1015 Lausanne
Tel.: +41 (21) 693 4337
Fax: +41 (21) 693 4461
e-mail: slaven.garaj@epfl.ch
homepage: http://nanotubes.epfl.ch/garaj/

============
(5) GRANTS FOR EXPEDITIONS

>From Charles Cockell <csco@bas.ac.uk>

Expeditions or field work with a theme that links Earth and space may be
able to get some support from the Twenty-one Eleven Foundation.

Founded in 1994, the Foundation has been awarding grants to expeditions
since 1995. The deadline for grant applications is March 31st and the
Foundation usually gives five  grants of $500 each year to expeditions that
work at the interface between space and environmental sciences. The
Foundation is seeking to expand its grants proramme, but currently, because
grants are modest, it prefers to fund small expeditions for whom the
contribution can make a difference rather than large projects.

Charles Cockell, who established the UK-based charity said 'The Foundation
was established to do something active in supporting expeditions and
fieldwork that link space exploration and earth exploration. Some
environmentalists tend to view space exploration as a waste of money because
we should be sorting out problems on Earth and those supporting space
exploration sometimes regard environmentalists as a thorn in the side.
However, many environmental projects depend upon data made available from
space, particularly satellite data. Many proposals for the exploration of
space use data on, for example, microbes in extreme environments on Earth.
The preservation of Earth and the exploration of space are two mutually
inclusive goals. They are two prongs in a long-term strategy. The Foundation
seeks to do its bit to support the development of this philosophy by funding
expeditions that link Earth and space exploration'.

Since 1995 the Foundation has helped fund over 20 projects including an
expedition to use satellite imagery to map endangered African wildlife
reserves, an expedition to study micro-organisms in snow and ice as a
possible exobiological habitat and a study on the Mir space station to study
the response of enclosed miniature ecosystems to microgravity, among others.

The Twenty-one Eleven Foundation web site is at www.2111.org

__________________________
Dr. Charles Cockell,
British Antarctic Survey,
High Cross,
Madingley Road,
Cambridge.
CB3 0ET. UK

Tel : + 44 1223 221560
e-mail : csco@bas.ac.uk

==========
(6) ISO AND ASTEROIDS

>From Daniel Fischer <dfischer@astro.uni-bonn.de>

Dear Benny,

in the latest issue of the ESA Bulletin, number 108, there is a long review
of asteroidal reasearch performed with the ISO satellite. Quoting from the
abstract, "ISO has delivered a wealth of new and unexpected results
concerning asteroids, but the archive still has many hidden treasures." This
magazine is available FOR FREE from the ESA Publications Division, ESTEC,
P.O.Box 299, NL-2200AG Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Daniel

==============
(7) MACE 2002: SECOND ANNOUNCEMENT

>From Reiner M. Stoss <rstoss@hrz1.hrz.tu-darmstadt.de>

The "Meeting on Asteroids and Comets in Europe", MACE 2002, will be held
from May 17th to 19th at the Visnjan Observatory in Croatia. The goals of
the meeting are:

To connect observers over borders and language barriers.
To improve the technology and techniques of observing.
To search for goals of small observatories in the future.
To support joint programmes

The Scientific and Local Organizing Committee has proposed the following
tentative programme:

17.05.2002 Friday
- arrival at Visnjan
- accommodation
- 19:30 official opening and welcome dinner
- 21:30 poster placing/presentation and welcome reception

18.05.2002 Saturday
- 08:30 breakfast
- 09:30 talks/presentations start
- 10:30 coffee break
- 11:00 talks 
- 13:00 lunch
- 14:30 excursion - visit to the Spacegurd-HR telescope site
- 16:00 visit the "vine roads of Visnjan vineyard"
- 19:30 dinner
- 20:30 round tables on topics of common interest

19.05.2002 Sunday
- 08:30 breakfast
- 09:30 excursion to the city of Pula (historic K&K KM Pola observatory)
- 13:30 lunch
- 14:30 talks
- 16:00 coffee break
- 16:30 talks 
- 19:00 dinner - official end of the meeting
- 21:00 unofficial part, round tables/local vine degustation

20.05.2002 Monday
- excursions (Farra observatory, Crni vrh observatory, Postojna cave)
- Istra peninsula (Porec, Lim, Rovinj, Motovun, ....)
- other ?

The scientific programme will include invited and contributed talks on the
most recent advances in telescope design, observing methods and future
projects for small observatories. The contribution will range from
presentation of various observatories to specific projects and scientific
results. Participants who wish to contribute either with a talk or with a
poster presentation are kindly requested to send an abstract before April
30th to: <andreic@rudjer.irb.hr> Abstracts received after this date can not
be considered for oral
presentation and can be accepted just for poster presentation. All accepted
contributions will be published in the proceedings in printed and electronic
form.

EXHIBITION
An exhibition of posters presenting various observatories/projects will be
organized. The poster panels are 120 cm in height and 70 cm in width.
Posters will stay on display for the entire duration of the meeting.

REGISTRATION FEE
A registration fee of 50-80 EUR per participant (will be announced until
April 30th) is payable on arrival. The charge for registration includes the
opening dinner at Friday, lunches and dinner during the conference (Saturday
and Sunday), coffee breaks, and half-day excursion to the City of Pula.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Limited financial support (in the form of grants for the registration fee)
will be provided for participants in need of such support. Participants who
are in need of financial support are invited to contact the Meeting Office
by the end of April.

SOCIAL EVENTS
The programme includes a welcoming dinner on Friday 17th May at 19:30
Excursions to the nearby location of the future "Spaceguard-HR telescope"
and visit to the Visnjan vineyard road in the afternoon of 18th of May. A
half-day excursion is scheduled in the morning of Sunday 19th May to visit
the remnants of the old navy observatory in Pula from which Johann Palisa
visually found 28 asteroids. Round tables and "degustations" in various
occasions. Optional tours will be organized to various locations on the
Istra peninsula and vicinity and are planned for Monday, May 20th, if a
minimum number of participants will join.

MEETING VENUE
MACE 2002 will be held at the Visnjan Observatory, Croatia. Visnjan is a
small, picturesque, medieval town situated on the west rim of the Istria
peninsulas highlands. Visnjan is near to the city of Porec, a famous tourist
center on the Adriatic Sea. Near are also all the cultural and naturalistic
places of the Istra peninsula.

TRANSPORT
For air connection Trieste International Airport is commonly used, which is
approx. 70 km north-west from Visnjan, or the airport of Venice ~200 km
westward. There is a regular bus from Trieste to Visnjan, but for meeting
participants a special transport can be organized in contact with the
Meeting Office. Train and bus connections are available from the all over
Europe. The best way to come from central Europe is by car :o)

ACCOMMODATION
For 40 participants a free of charge accommodation in the spartan (4-8 bed)
students dormitories will be available in contact with the meeting office.
Private accommodation and hotels in the nearby cities, of different
categories (15-80 EUR/night) will be available for meeting participants.
Some of the free of charge dormitories will be given to participants which
apply for grants. The rest will be given on a first come first serve basis.

VISA
No visa is required for the participants from the European Union and many
other countries, but there exist some excemptions for a few east European
countries. In the case you need a visa please contact the Meeting Office and
the nearest Croatian Embassy or Consulate to arrange it.

CLIMATE
Temperatures in mid May are usually around 22°C with sensible difference
between night and day.

MEETING OFFICE
Visnjan Observatory
Istarska 5, HR-52463
Visnjan, Croatia
Tel: +385 52 449 212
Fax: +385 52 449 212
e-mail:
korado@astro.hr
rstoss@hrz1.hrz.tu-darmstadt.de

SCIENTIFIC ORGANIZING COMMITTEE
Luciano Bittesini (Farra d'Isonzo Observatory) Italy
Korado Korlevic (Visnjan Observatory) Croatia
Jaime Nomen (Ametlla de Mar Observatory) Spain
Petr Pravec (Ondrejov Observatory) Czech Republic
Herbert Raab (Linz Observatory) Austria
Jure Skvarc (Crni Vrh Observatory) Slovenia
Stefano Sposetti (Gnosca Observatory) Switzerland
Reiner Stoss (Starkenburg Observatory) Germany
Juraj Toth (Modra Observatory) Slovakia
Zeljko Andreic (Rudjer Boskovic Institute) Croatia

WEBSITE
For additional information please visit the MACE 2002 website at:
http://www.astro.hr/mace2002/

Thank you very much for your attention and see you in Visnjan.

Yours sincerely,
Korado Korlevic
on behalf of the SOC and LOC

===============
(8) ASP AND ASTRONOMICAL LEAGUE SURVEY AMATEUR OUTREACH

>From Ron Baalke <baalke@zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

Astronomical Society of the Pacific
390 Ashton Avenue
San Francisco, CA  94112
http://www.astrosociety.org
(415) 337-1100

Media contact: Robert Naeye, Editor, Mercury magazine
    (415) 869-2913
    rnaeye@astrosociety.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                              January 22, 2002

ASP AND ASTRONOMICAL LEAGUE SURVEY AMATEUR OUTREACH

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), in conjunction with the
Astronomical League (AL), is conducting a web-based survey of amateur
astronomers who do, or want to do, public outreach activities of any kind.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the survey will help the ASP and
AL make informed decisions about what kinds of materials or activities might
help amateurs do more and better outreach. The survey is part of an NSF
planning grant called Amateur Astronomers as Outreach Ambassadors.

"We know that most amateur astronomers concentrate on observing. But many
amateurs express their enjoyment of astronomy by helping others enjoy the
universe through public star parties, school visits, talks to youth and
community groups, and other activities," says ASP Executive Director Mike
Bennett, principal investigator for the survey. "We want to hear from any
amateur astronomer who has ever done outreach, or who thinks he or she might
want to. Eventually, this will lead to improved products and services to
help amateur astronomers improve the quality and quantity of their public
outreach efforts."

"Hundreds of amateur astronomers in the United States have conducted public
outreach to schools, scout groups, churches, and other organizations. Most
have never had the benefit of having anyone help them put together a
presentation package for outreach activities. The ASP's project will help us
provide such assistance," says Barry Beaman, past President of the AL and
current AL liaison to the ASP. "My great hope is that this assistance will
help not only those already pursuing public outreach, but encourage many
others to go out and tell the public about our wonderful universe. The
Astronomical League is very pleased to be a part of this important project."

The survey is available through the ASP's website at

www.astrosociety.org/education/astronomer-survey.html

It should take about 10 minutes to complete. The ASP expects to make
the results of the survey available by late 2002.

The non-profit Astronomical Society of the Pacific was founded in 1889 in
San Francisco, and is still headquartered there today. The ASP has since
grown into an international society. Its membership is spread over all 50
states and 70 countries and includes professional and amateur
astronomers, science educators of all levels, and people in the general
public. The ASP publishes the bimonthly Mercury magazine for its members, a
technical journal for professional astronomers, and an on-line teachers'
newsletter. The ASP also coordinates Project ASTRO, a national astronomy
education program. The Society produces a catalog of extensive
astronomy-related products for educators and the public.

The Astronomical League (www.astroleague.org/) is a non-profit federation of
more than 250 local astronomy societies across the United States. These
organizations, along with Members-at-Large, Patrons, and Supporting members,
form the largest amateur astronomical organization in the world. The AL's
basic goals are to encourage an interest in astronomy (and especially
amateur astronomy), and to promote astronomy education and astronomical
research throughout the United States. The AL publishes a quarterly
newsletter called The Reflector.

FROM THE MINOR PLANET MAILING LIST [date]. For the full text or to
subscribe, please visit:
MPML Home page: http://www.bitnik.com/mp
MPML FAQ: http://www.bitnik.com/mp/MPML-FAQ.html
MPML's Yahoogroups page: http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/mpml

=============
(9) AND FINALLY: 'STARS FELL ON ALABAMA'

>From The Daily Mountain Eagle, 21 January 2002
http://www2.mountaineagle.com/NF/omf/eagle/news_story.html?[rkey=0016477+[cr=gdn

New state license plate sprinkled with stars, music notes

ELANE JONES

Every five years Alabama vehicle tags are redesigned and Alabama's newest
license plate has stars and music notes sprinkled all across the top
surrounding a slogan "Stars Fell On" with Alabama written across the bottom.


The new tags were created by a graphic artist in Gov. Don Siegelman's
office. But the slogan on the tag has been a large part of Alabama history
for many years.

The slogan was actually an inspiration from the song "Stars Fell On
Alabama," which was written in the 1930s by Mitchell Parish and Frank
Perkins and was sung by Jimmy Buffet at Siegelman's January 1999
inauguration .

The slogan is also the title of a book written in 1934 by Carl Carmer. When
Carmer's book was first published, it was touted as a book of folk ways and
was both celebrated and scorned for its portrayal of racial violence.

Even the Alabama State Department of Tourism has used the slogan in
promoting Alabama. But not many Alabamians could actually tell you how the
slogan came into being in the first place.

It all began on a November night in 1833. On November 12-13 a spectacular
meteor shower could be seen in the skies across the Southeast. The shower
created so much excitement across Alabama that the event became known as
"the night stars fell on Alabama."

But that's not the only night 'stars fell on Alabama.'

There is proof that the stars literally fell on Alabama on two different
occasions in 1954.

The first incident took place on November 30, 1954, when Ann Hodges of
Sylacauga became the first human ever recorded to be struck and injured by a
meteorite.

This 'falling star' weighed eight and one-half pounds and landed on Hodges
as she rested on her living room couch. She suffered severe bruising to her
hip, but she also gained instant celebrity status because her 'falling star'
is now housed in the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa.

The second incident might not be as famous as Hodges', but as Clarence
"Dick" Watkins of Sumiton will assure you, it'll have folks stopping and
listening for a while.

Watkins said that in July of 1954 another 'star' fell to earth and he has
the piece to prove it.

"My wife, Helen, and I were sitting on the front porch of a friend's house
over here on the top of the hill on Coon Creek Road when it happened,"
Watkins said. "We were just enjoying the summer evening, when all of a
sudden we saw this bright white light streaking from the sky.

"It came down and when it got about 1/2 mile high it just exploded and
rained fire down all over the mountain. I had heard of shooting stars, so I
thought that's what it was. I was 23 years old at the time, but I still
remember that night just like it was yesterday."

But it took Watkins, who is now 70, almost 50 years to go over on the
mountain top in the area where the meteorite landed.

About two years ago, he ventured there in search of his 'falling star' and
now he can say he literally owns a piece of Alabama history.

"I knew it was there all the time, but I just kept putting off going over
there," Watkins said. "There's still a lot of the meteorite scattered over
the mountain top.

"Some of the pieces are small, some are real big. The piece I have is about
six inches in diameter. The fellow who went with me has a piece four times
bigger than mine."

Watkins said he could tell how hard the meteorite hit the earth when it
fell, because the piece he has was buried about half way in the ground when
he found it.

"When you see it you automatically know what it is, because you've seen
pictures of meteorites in books and on TV," he said, "and it's not like
anything you see in this area. A lot of people have commented on how it
looks and how heavy it is."

Watkins gets to tell his story about the night he saw stars falling on
Alabama quite a lot because, even though they've heard it many times, one of
his buddies at one of his favorite hangouts, T.J.'s Grocery near Sipsey and
the Mulberry Fork boat landing near the store, will get him to tell it over
and over again when they spot a stranger.

Now he'll have a new car tag to go along with his story and his piece of a
'falling star.'

COPYRIGHT ® 2002 Daily Mountain Eagle

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