PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet, 11/2000 - 26 January 2000
--------------------------------


     QUOTES OF THE DAY

     "At about the same time as the Spanish iceball reports,
     a truck in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, was struck
     by an apparent iceball coming from on high. On later
     investigation, there was found to be a residue described as
     "a sticky goo mixed with shredded newspaper".
         -- Jeremy Tatum, University of Victoria, Canada


     "The dinosaur-bird fossil, 120 million years old and named
     Archaeoraptor, that was displayed until last week at the
     National Geographic Society in Washington, is not what it
     seems. It is either an elaborate fake or a mistake by its
     Chinese discoverers. Hailed as an important find for the
     theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs, the fossil is a
     composite of two creatures. About the size of a turkey, it
     combines a bird-like upper torso and head with the tail and
     claws of a small dinosaur, according to a Chinese     
     palaeontologist and a National Geographic scientist."
         -- Ian Brodie, The Times, 26 January 2000


(1) ICEBALLS NOT RESTRICTED TO SPAIN
    Jeremy Tatum <UNIVERSE@uvvm.UVic.CA>

(2) DARWINISTIC FORGERY ?
    THE TIMES, 26 January 2000

(3) YUKON METEOR BLAST
    Space Science News <express@spacescience.com>

(4) NEAR SPACECRAFT PASSES FINAL TEST
    http://near.jhuapl.edu/news/flash/00jan24_1.html

(5) UPDATE ON ROSETTA MISSION TO COMET WIRTANEN
    ESA News <sciweb@estec.esa.nl>

(6) EUROPEAN ASTROFEST RETURNS TO LONDON
    ASTRONOMY NOW

(7) ASTEROIDS 2001: FROM PIAZZI TO THE THIRD MILLENNIUM
    Carlo Blanco <PIAZZI2001@alpha4.ct.astro.it>

(8) THE CHOSEN PLANET
    THE TIMES, 26 January 2000

(9) AMINO ACIDS & EXTRATERRESTRIAL ORGANICS
    Iain Gilmour <I.Gilmour@open.ac.uk>

(10) THE STRUCTURE OF COMETS AND ORIGIN OF DNA/RNA
     Andrew Glikson <geospectral@spirit.com.au>

(11) AND FINALLY: AN ALTERNATIVE CAUSE OF "WEATHERING"
     Ed Grondine <epgrondine@hotmail.com>

==============
(1) ICEBALLS NOT RESTRICTED TO SPAIN

From Jeremy Tatum <UNIVERSE@uvvm.UVic.CA>

At about the same time as the Spanish iceball reports, a truck in
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, was struck by an apparent
iceball coming from on high. On later investigation, there was
found to be a residue described as "a sticky goo mixed with
shredded newspaper".

Jeremy Tatum

MODERATOR’S NOTE: Jeremy, could you please provide some additional
sources or references for your rather interesting note.

====================
(2) DARWINISTIC FORGERY ?

From THE TIMES, 26 January 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/Times/frontpage.html?999

DIONOSAUR FIND IS A FAKE

Washington: The dinosaur-bird fossil, 120 million years old and
named Archaeoraptor, that was displayed until last week at the
National Geographic Society in Washington, is not what it seems
(Ian Brodie writes). It is either an elaborate fake or a mistake
by its Chinese discoverers. Hailed as an important find for the
theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs, the fossil is a
composite of two creatures. About the size of a turkey, it
combines a bird-like upper torso and head with the tail and claws
of a small dinosaur, according to a Chinese palaeontologist and a
National Geographic scientist.

Copyright 2000, The Times Newspapers Ltd.

====================
(3) YUKON METEOR BLAST

From Space Science News <express@spacescience.com>
http://spacescience.com/headlines/y2000/ast25jan_1.htm

Science@NASA Space Science News for January 25, 2000

Yukon Meteor Blast: A thunderous meteor streaked over Canada's Yukon
Territory last week. Now a NASA airplane has flown through the debris
cloud in search of extraterrestrial particles.

January 25, 2000 -- Last week, one of the most dramatic meteors in 10
years streaked across the skies of the Yukon Territory in Canada.
Witnesses reported two sonic booms, a foul odor, and sizzling sounds
heard all the way from Alaska through northwestern Canada. Based on
readings from defense satellites and seismic monitoring stations,
scientists estimate that the meteor detonated with the energy of two
to three kilotons of TNT.

"I have never seen anything quite like this before," said Joe Clarke
of Marshlake, Yukon, who saw the meteor at 0845 PST (1645 UT) on
January 18. "When it started, the flash lit up the mountains 15 km
away as bright as daylight, then it just drifted across the sky. The
contrail looked to me like the ones left by shuttle launches. It just
hung there for at least 1/2 hour. [It's the] wildest thing I could
ever imagine seeing."

There was no major meteor shower on January 18. The Yukon fireball was
probably what astronomers call a sporadic meteor. The inner solar
system is filled with tiny dust particles that have bubbled off
innumerable comets as they pass close to the Sun. These particles,
called meteoroids, hit the Earth from random directions producing 2 or
3 sporadic meteors per hour every night.

Scientists from NASA and the Department of Defense are interested in
the the Yukon event. Samples of dust or rock fragments from the
explosion could reveal the origin of the meteoroid. Defense
specialists would also like to know what the meteoroid was made of to
help calibrate the sensors they used to detect the fireball.

On Friday, January 21 -- just three days after the explosion -- an
Airborne Sciences ER-2 aircraft from NASA's Dryden Flight Research
Center flew to the Yukon Territory of northwestern Canada in an effort
to collect atmospheric samples of the meteor's lingering debris trail.
The region, near the town of Carcross, is mostly unpopulated.

Scientists gathered samples of the debris cloud at an altitude of 
65,000 feet with an instrument called the Aerosol Particulate Sampler
(APS). The APS is a system of two small five-inch by four-inch paddles
that deploy simultaneously from the ER-2's left wingtip. The paddles
are coated with a silicon oil that collects particles from the high
altitude air stream. After a period of exposure, the paddles are
withdrawn into hermetic enclosures that prevent contamination during
the aircraft's return to Dryden. The paddles will be removed and sent
to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for analysis.

The ER-2 also carried a camera capable of taking black and white
photos of eight-mile wide swaths of the region in an effort to locate 
any impact craters and other scarring of the earth, such as flattened
areas of forest, that may have been caused by the explosion and impact
of meteorites that separated from the meteor.

On June 30, 1908, a huge explosion occurred in the sky above the
central Siberian wilderness near the Tunguska River in Russia. The
concussion from the blast, estimated at 20 megatons of TNT, leveled
trees in an area nearly 40 miles in diameter. Oddly, the
explosion produced no crater or other evidence of impact.

Scientists at NASA and the University of Wisconsin conducted a
computer simulation that strongly suggests that the Tunguska culprit
was an asteroid, the most common class of meteorite. The simulation
indicated that an asteroid about 100 feet in diameter and moving at a
speed of 10 miles per second would disintegrate at a height of about
five miles above the ground - approximately the same altitude at which
the Tunguska object is believed to have exploded. Information gleaned
from the January 18 meteorite in Canada might enhance understanding of
the Tunguska event.

===================
(4) NEAR SPACECRAFT PASSES FINAL TEST

From http://near.jhuapl.edu/news/flash/00jan24_1.html

NEAR Aces Final Flight Test
January 24, 2000

The NEAR spacecraft passed its final flight test last week, flawlessly
rehearsing the 30-hour rendezvous sequence that will precede its orbit
of asteroid Eros.

The sequence includes a low-phase flyby on Feb. 13, during which NEAR
will fly directly between Eros and the sun. The pass affords a unique
opportunity to map the minerals on Eros' northern half under optimal
lighting; a similar operation in October will cover the asteroid's
southern hemisphere.

NEAR remains on course for its Feb. 14 rendezvous with Eros, which is
now about 15,250 miles (24,400 kilometers) away from the spacecraft.
The NEAR team continues searching for small moons or space debris
around Eros, though none appear in the approach images NEAR has taken
over the past two weeks. The latest pictures from NEAR -- as well as a
second movie of the asteroid's rotation -- will appear on the NEAR Web
site this week.

===================
(5) UPDATE ON ROSETTA MISSION TO COMET WIRTANEN

From ESA News <sciweb@estec.esa.nl>

Exactly three years to go before launch! That was the challenge
facing approximately 80 scientists and mission managers from ESA
member countries and the United States as they gathered this week at
the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The
Netherlands for a progress report on the Rosetta mission to Comet
Wirtanen.

More at:
http://sci.esa.int/newsitem.cfm?TypeID=1&ContentID=8931&Storytype=11
===================
(6) EUROPEAN ASTROFEST RETURNS TO LONDON

From ASTRONOMY NOW
http://www.astronomynow.com/astrofest/

Europe's premier astronomy and space show returns to London next 
month. For full details see our special European AstroFest pages.

Friday, February 4th, 2000
Session One (morning)

Will the Universe expand forever?
  Iain Nicolson

Britain’s place in space
  Paul Murdin, British National Space Centre

Stopping the cycle of cosmic catastrophes
  Benny Peiser, Liverpool John Moores University

The search for life on extrasolar planets
  Alan Penny, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Session Two (afternoon)

Gian Domenico Cassini: pioneer of planetary astronomy
  Allan Chapman, Oxford University

Near-Earth Asteroids
  Brian Marsden, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Spring asterisms
  Ian Ridpath

NASA’s Great Observatories in space: part 1
  Steven Hawley, NASA Astronaut

Saturday, February 5th, 2000
Session Three (morning)

Origins of the constellations
  Ian Ridpath

Out of the blue: a cosmic history of water
  Paul Murdin, British National Space Centre

The Kuiper belt
  Brian Marsden, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

One additional lecture to be announced.

Saturday, February 5th, 2000
Session Four (afternoon)

Black holes — the observational evidence
  Iain Nicolson

Light, lenses and astrolabes: the golden age of Arabic astronomy
  Allan Chapman, Oxford University

Detecting the light from an extrasolar planet
  Alan Penny, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

NASA’s Great Observatories in space: part 2
  Steve Hawley, NASA Astronaut

Conference programme may be subject to change due circumstances
beyond our control.
                                      
European AstroFest 2000 is organised by Astronomy Now magazine.

========================
(7) ASTEROIDS 2001: FROM PIAZZI TO THE THIRD MILLENNIUM

From Carlo Blanco <PIAZZI2001@alpha4.ct.astro.it>

Dear colleague,

among the activities to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe
Piazzi's discovery of 1 Ceres from the tower of Palermo Observatory on
January 1st 1801, the international conference "Asteroids 2001: from
Piazzi to the 3rd Millennium" has been planned.

Organized by the Osservatorio Astronomico "G.S. Vaiana" di Palermo, 
the Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiche e Astronomiche dell'Universita` di
Palermo, the Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia dell'Universita` di
Catania, the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Catania and the Osservatorio
Astronomico di Torino, it will be held in Palermo from 11 to 16 June,
2001.

The main topics should concern the main belt asteroids with single
sessions devoted to the interrelationship with Kuiper Belt and NEA.

Following the conference, the University of Arizona Press will publish
the book "Asteroids III".

In order to estimate the number of participants, I invite you to state
your intention to take part in the meeting by filling the enclosed
form and send it back to

             CERES2001@OAPA.ASTROPA.UNIPA.IT 

I thank you very much for your contribution to the organization of
Piazzi conference.

Sincerely yours


Carlo Blanco

-----------
Asteroids 2001: from Piazzi to the 3rd Millennium
        Mondello, (Palermo), Italy, 11-16 June 2001




Name                             Surname

Institution

Postal address

Phone

Fax

e-mail

I will participate: yes (  ), may be ( ), no ( )

                      ----------------------------

send back to: CERES2001@OAPA.ASTROPA.UNIPA.IT

=======================
(8) THE CHOSEN PLANET

Form THE TIMES, 26 January 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/Times/frontpage.html?999

A new book concludes that we are alone in the Universe.
Nigel Hawkes reports

Why Earth is a lonely planet

Look at the stars and what do you see? A lifeless Universe of
atoms and molecules performing their lonely dance, or a cosmos
teeming with living things, many of them uncannily human in shape
and unexpectedly fluent in English?

There has always been a strong inclination to believe that we are not
alone, fostered by science fiction and viewable nightly on television
in the form of Star Trek or The X Files. In the past 25 years this has
also become the majority view of orthodox science, based largely on
the sheer statistics.

"Billions and billions of stars" was the mantra of the late Carl
Sagan, the American astronomer who, with his colleague Frank Drake,
was largely responsible for changing the intellectual climate. Given
so many stars - a hundred billion in our own galaxy, the Milky Way,
alone - and the belief that life on Earth had evolved of its own
accord, it became impossible to believe that similar life had not
evolved elsewhere.

But that is exactly what two American scientists, Peter Ward and
Donald Brownlee, argue in Rare Earth (Copernicus/Springer) due out in
the next few days. "The underlying theme is that the Earth is a
charmed place," says Brownlee, Professor of Astronomy at the
University of Washington in Seattle. "We know of no other body that
is even remotely like it."

Brownlee and Ward (a palaeontologist and Professor of Geology at the
same university) do not argue that life itself is rare. It would be
difficult to do so, given recent evidence that bacteria flourish in
some of the most remote and inhospitable crevices on Earth - deep in
the crust and around the boiling water that bubbles up from vents in
the sea floor, to name but two.

The Rare Earth hypothesis, indeed, holds that simple life may be
nearly everywhere, but complex life almost nowhere. "You need to have
a vast amount of time to let evolution ramp up to animals, and we
think there are only a small number of planets where this could
happen," says Ward.

FULL ARTICLE at
http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/Times/frontpage.html?999


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


(9) AMINO ACIDS & EXTRATERRESTRIAL ORGANICS

From Iain Gilmour <I.Gilmour@open.ac.uk>

Dear Benny:

There is a misconception about amino acids as indicators of
extraterrestrial organics. The occurrence of isovaline in particular
is not exactly rare, though its precise biological function is poorly
understood.

Isovaline occurs naturally as major constituents of cytotoxic peptides
produced by soil fungi such as Trichoderma viride and Trichodema
reesii (Bruckner and Pryzbylaki, 1984). The last time I visited Stevns
Klint I would not have described the outcrops there as exactly
soil-free!

Bruckner, H., and Pryzbylski, M. (1984) J. Chromatog 296, 263-275.

Iain Gilmour
Planetary Sciences Research Institute
The Open University, UK

===========================
(10) THE STRUCTURE OF COMETS AND ORIGIN OF DNA/RNA

From Andrew Glikson <geospectral@spirit.com.au>

Dear Benny,

In their letter of 25.1.00 Hoyle and Wickmasinghe suggest "the
biological molecules would be vastly amplified within cometary
interiors", whereas in a communication to me of the same date
Wickmansinghe writes: "The amino acid content of carbonaceous
chondrites, synthesised abiotically, is largely irrelevant to
panspermia.  It is the volatile component of cometary outflows
that carry biological particles and biological molecules in our
model.".

It is generally assumed, although to date not directly observed, that
comets form loose aggregates including silicate blocks (possibly
including carbonaceous chondrites), ice and vapour.  In terms of Hoyle
and Wickmansinghe's model, whereas the silicate blocks contain abiologic
amino acids, the ice and vapour contain biologic amino acids (and
possibly also viruses).  Such proposed dichotomy in the composition of
comets overlooks the dynamic interchange of volatiles between silicates
(ie. the carbon in carbonaceous chondrites), ice and vapour, for example
during near-sun grazing.  Such interchange would hardly allow spatial
separation of biologic and abiologic amino acids in vapour, ice and
solids.

So far as "vastly amplified" molecules within cometary interiors is
concerned, apart from an occupation of the interior of comets by
abiologic amino acids contained in silicates, the authors will be aware
that (1)  the chance of amino acids combining at random into a protein
molcule - the basic molecule of life - is 1 in 10^130 - a process likely
to require favourable conditions (temperatures under 150 degrees
celsius) as may exist on some planets, and (2) viruses, which contain
either DNA or RNA (but never both) can not multiply on their own except
as parasites within living organisms.

A clarification would be appreciated whether the authors accept
the validity of Ockham's razor principle, namely that no more
variables need be invoked in a scientific hypothesis than required
by the evidence?

Andrew Glikson
26.1.00

===============
(11) AND FINALLY: AN ALTERNATIVE CAUSE OF "WEATHERING"

From Ed Grondine <epgrondine@hotmail.com>

Hello Benny -

    I read the note in CC Letters on the theories of "alternative"
Egyptologists with some amusement.  Another cause of "weathering" in
ancient sandstone monuments is visitors urinating on them. This may
be seen at Petra, and is probably the case with the Sphinx.
    While not as romantic a hypothesis to explain the wear as an
extremely ancient Egyptian civilization dating back to 10,000 BCE, it
is certainly a more real one.

EP


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