CCNet 13/2001 - 26 January 2001

What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing,
and what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.
--Kermit the Frog

    Ron Baalke <>


    Andrew Yee <>

    Andrew Yee <>

    SpaceDaily, 25 January 2001

    Ananova, 24 January 2001

    Matthew Genge <>

    Matthew Genge <>

    Andy Smith <>


From Ron Baalke <>

From Anchorage Daily News, 24 January 2001,2392,232667,00.html

Night sky show likely a meteor
SPECTACLE: The FAA and the troopers received calls about a greenish-white

By Liz Ruskin

Sandra Lemke and her daughter were driving home Monday evening, near the
Huffman Road exit of the Seward Highway, when something bright lighted up
the night sky.

"It streaked across the sky, with chunks kind of breaking off and then
burning out," she said. "It was bigger than anything I've ever seen before."

It was about 75 degrees above the horizon, she said, and traveled east to
west. Her teenager was awestruck. "Oh Mom, what was that?" she asked.

Lemke said she thought it might be space junk falling into the Earth's
atmosphere. She'd read that the Russian space station Mir was having
problems. Maybe a chunk of it fell off.

Scott Johnson, a spokesman for the Air Force Space Command in Colorado
Springs, Colo., said it was probably a meteor. He said he hadn't been
notified of any man-made space debris falling at that hour.

The Lemkes weren't the only ones floored by the spectacle. The Federal
Aviation Administration got two calls Monday night from people in the
Glennallen area who both reported a greenish-white flash. Both callers said
it occurred at 8:20 p.m. Lemke said her dashboard clock read 8:27 p.m.

No aviation accidents or overdue flights had been reported to the FAA that
evening, according to the agency's operations center. The Alaska State
Troopers in Glennallen took a similar report.

Karen Engstrom and her 9-year-old daughter were walking their dog near
Anchorage's University Lake when they saw it. "It lit up the sky," she said.
"It was like fireworks."
It had a beautiful tail and seemed so close it looked like it was landing in
the inlet, she said. Her daughter made a wish.

Engstrom figured it was a meteor. "Either that or a jet engine landing in
someone's bedroom," she said.

A meteor is a streak of light across the sky, and especially bright ones are
called fireballs. They are caused by naturally occurring space debris,
usually ranging in size from a grain of sand to a pebble. The particles
hurtle easily through the vacuum of space and then plow into the Earth's
thick atmosphere. The friction of the air causes them to vaporize in a
white-hot streak.

Because the debris hits the atmosphere traveling to 45 miles per second, an
object the size of a grain of rice can produce a mile-long tail.

Fireballs, because of their brightness and sudden appearance, give the
illusion of closeness. Airline pilots have swerved for meteors that were
actually 100 miles away, according to Sky and Telescope magazine.

Sometimes fireball fragments fall to Earth and are recovered, as happened
last year in British Columbia. That fireball, which exploded in the night
sky on Jan. 18, was witness from Juneau to the Yukon.

Whatever she saw Monday night, Lemke said, it was amazing. She wanted to
honk her horn and ask other drivers if they saw it, too. "I've lived in
Alaska for 22 years and it was just the most interesting thing I've ever
seen," she said.

Copyright 2001, Anchorage Daily News



Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC                    January 25, 2001
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Helen Worth
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, MD
(Phone: 240/228-5113)



On Feb. 12, NASA makes history when mission controllers attempt to bring a
spacecraft down to the surface of an asteroid for the first time.

Controllers will send commands to the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft to initiate
a four-hour series of engine burns designed to set the spacecraft down
gently on the asteroid Eros at about 3:01
p.m. EST.

The target site is on a saddle-shaped area known as Himeros on the
Manhattan-sized asteroid. The goal is to obtain high-resolution imagery as
NEAR Shoemaker, which has completed its one-year orbital mission of Eros,
slowly drops to the surface.

A media briefing to discuss the mission's science results and the details of
the descent to the surface of Eros is set for 1 p.m. EST, Wednesday, Jan.
31, in the James E. Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW,
Washington, DC. The briefing will be carried live on NASA Television with
question-and-answer capability for reporters at participating NASA Centers.

Speakers for the briefing will be:
-  Dr. Edward Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science,
   NASA Headquarters
-  Dr. Andrew Cheng, NEAR Project Scientist, The Johns Hopkins
   University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, MD
-  Dr. Mark Robinson, Imaging Team member, Northwestern
   University, Evanston, IL
-  Dr. Jessica Sunshine, Staff Scientist, Science Applications
   International Corp., Chantilly, VA
-  Dr. Robert Farquhar, NEAR Mission Director, APL

On Monday, Feb. 12, 2001, "Descent to Eros" events will be held at the
Applied Physics Laboratory's Kossiakoff Center, in Laurel, MD. Media
interested in covering the descent activities at APL should contact Helen
Worth, APL Public Affairs Office.

A brief summary of the Feb. 12 activities are:
- 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EST -- Recap of the mission
- 1:45 to 3:30 p.m. EST -- Descent Activities from the NEAR
  Mission Operations Center (broadcast live on satellite).

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, a press conference is scheduled at 1 p.m. EST in
APL's Kossiakoff Center to discuss details of the landing. Because NEAR was
not designed to land, there is very
little chance the spacecraft will continue to operate after it reaches the
surface of Eros.

Due to the expected launch of the space shuttle mission in February, live
coverage of the descent-day activities on Feb. 12 and the post-mission
briefing on Feb. 14 will not be broadcast on NASA TV, but will be available
on a separate satellite. Details regarding those two events, including
updated satellite information, will be provided early next month.

NASA TV is broadcast on GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees
West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and
audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz.


From Andrew Yee <>

[Extracted from ScienceNOW, AAAS.]

Thursday, 25 January 2001, 7:00 PM

How to Become a Crater Rater

Here's a way to mark the year 2001 -- and take part in your own space
odyssey -- without leaving your desk. At a new Web site, you can become a
"clickworker" who helps planetary scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center
in California. After completing the site's short tutorial, you're ready to
scrutinize decades-old photos snapped by the Viking orbiters and classify
martian craters as fresh, degraded, or "ghost."

Crater data could help answer questions such as how fast the surface of Mars
ages and what causes it to change. But scientists and grad students now
spend many tedious months classifying the splotches. The Clickworkers pilot
project should show the level of interest in this kind of work and whether
people with minimal training can perform it accurately, says NASA knowledge
engineer Bob Kanefsky.

So far, so good: Since its 17 November launch, Mars Clickworkers has chalked
up more than 200,000 crater identifications. And collectively, the amateurs
seem to be doing almost as well at crater identification as expert planetary
geologists, Kanefsky says. If that continues, the project may expand to
newer, higher resolution images from the Mars Global Surveyor.

* Mars Clickworkers

Copyright 2001 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


From Andrew Yee <>

University of Massachusetts-Amherst
Contact: Elizabeth Luciano,
Immediate Release: Jan. 25, 2001

Climate Change Played A Role In Collapse Of Ancient Societies, Suggests
UMass Researcher
UMass geoscientist and Yale archeologist combine forces; project published
in Science

AMHERST, Mass. -- Sudden climate changes may have been a major factor in the
collapse of several societies during the past 10,000 years, according to a
study by a team of researchers with ties to the University of Massachusetts.
The study offers an intriguing window on the future, the scientists suggest.
Raymond Bradley and Harvey Weiss offer details in the Jan. 26 issue of the
journal Science. Bradley is head of the geosciences department at UMass.
Weiss, a Yale University archeologist, holds an adjunct post at UMass.
Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including the
National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and
the U.S. Department of Energy.

"In general, climate is a major factor when societies unravel, but at times
in the past, it's been the decisive factor," said Bradley, whose studies on
global warming and greenhouse gases have received extensive notice in recent
years. The theory differs from widely held views that societies were
resilient and adaptable in the face of changes in the external environment,
but failed due to combinations of social, political, and economic forces.

The two scientists combined their expertise, comparing when various
societies fell apart with occurrences of major climate changes. Scientists
are able to determine the climate of past centuries with high accuracy, by
studying sediments that are layered along lake bottoms, and the chemistry of
ice cores, as well as of stalagmites and stalactites in caves. "We felt
there were sufficient examples to point out the links," Bradley said.

The societies they considered existed during prehistoric and early historic
times, and were located all around the world, including Africa, the
Mediterranean, and North and South America. The team defined collapse as an
abandonment of an established community, due to a lack of available food. In
many cases, farming and harvesting efforts faltered during prolonged
droughts. Lacking adequate food, the societies became nomadic and followed
the rains.

"Societies that have been close to subsistence levels had certain
expectations about weather conditions, such as amounts of rainfall, and
their patterns of existence -- their infrastructures -- were built on those
expectations," Bradley said. "Such expectations would have been handed down
for generations. Thus, a sudden climate shift, such as a drought, would have
presented completely unfamiliar conditions. If a major climate shift
persisted, it would have caused unprecedented disruption in their ability to
secure food."

When societies did collapse, the team found, several elements related to
climate change were generally present: the change was abrupt; was persistent
over decades or even centuries; and was unprecedented in the experiences of
the people living during those times. "The change had to be of a sufficient
magnitude to threaten the food supply," said Bradley.

Turning to the future, Bradley said: "It's fairly inarguable that the
population is going to grow from 6 billion today to nearly 9-12 billion by
the year 2050, according to the United Nations. A lot of the developing
world lives at subsistence levels, and is already vulnerable to year-to-year
variations in climate." The combination of accelerated population growth and
projected changes in the climate "make for a potent mix for real problems on
a global scale," he suggested. Furthermore, although scientists can
reasonably project population and temperature, it's harder to determine how
and where rainfall patterns will change during the next half-century. "Due
to the modern political systems, people may not be able to follow the rains
as they once did."

The concern extends to the developed world, as well, he said: "Much of our
infrastructure -- our hydroelectric dams, our levees, and coastal
construction -- were built based on weather patterns that we expect to
continue. But if you have a hydroelectric dam, and you can't meet the
society's demand for electricity, that's a problem," said Bradley, pointing
to the energy crisis in California. "We're somewhat insulated by technology,
and we're not going to starve, but even in the developed world there may be

Raymond Bradley may be reached at or 413-253-7058.


MODERATOR'S NOTE: I'm afraid what we have here is another flawed attempt to
associate the current global warming scare with *real* natural disasters
that occurred in ancient times and which may have contributed to the
collapse of a number of highly developed civilisations. The facts are clear
and simple: In *all* cases of archaeologically evidenced civilisation
collapse (e.g. those ancient societies that terminated around 2300 BC, 1200
BC or 540 AD), the global or hemispheric temperatures at the time of
collapse suddenly *deteriorated*. This catastrophic drop in temperature is
unambiguously documented in narrow tree-rings and acidity peaks found in
ice-cores. In short, these are the destinct and most reliable markers that
correspond to the start of civilisation collapse (see: Benny J Peiser,
Trevor Palmer and Mark Bailey [1998], Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age
Civilisations, Oxford). The abruptness is due to the fact that we are
dealing, almost certainly, with short-term natural catastrophes rather than
continuous climate change for which there is no dendrochronological
evidence. These sudden climatic downturns have been clearly detected in the
tree-ring and ice-core records (see M.G.L. Baillie [1995]: A Slice through
Time: Dendrochronology and precision Dating, London). I should also stress
that *all warming periods* during the Holocene are well documented to be
associated with population expansion, economic growth and civilisation
building. It is only when temperatures deteriorate that populations,
economies and societies contract - or, as has happened in the past, even
collapse. Last but not least, many of the 20th century's worst droughts and
food crises were the direct result of political mismanagement or genocidal
strategies (e.g. those in China, Russia and many in Africa). Nowadays, these
problems could be tackled and largely overcome by technological advances and
international co-operation - if there is political progress and economic
growth in those countries most prone to year-by-year climate variation.
Benny J Peiser


From SpaceDaily, 25 January 2001
MOSCOW (AFP) Jan 25, 2001
Russian space technicians are considering an offer by the US space agency
NASA to join in the operation to bring down the ageing Mir space station,
due for a Pacific Ocean splashdown in early March, officials said Thursday.

NASA has offered technical assistance in ensuring a safe re-entry for the
space station which has been troubled by numerous glitches over the past two
years, ITAR-TASS quoted Yury Grigoriyev, deputy director of the Energiya
construction company, as saying.

The American offer has been made solely in the case of an emergency, he

The Russian Space Agency has indicated previously that it could call on US,
French or Australian aid to ensure the security of the operation.

International experts have warned that technical failures could cause the
operation to go badly wrong, endangering regions far from the planned
splashdown site.

"The United States possesses powerful radar equipment that can help us
observe the trajectory of the station's movements," Russian Space Agency
spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said.

The space station is being brought down after 15 years in orbit after
becoming increasingly erratic.

2000 Agence France-Presse.


From Ananova, 24 January 2001

Scientists believe it will be possible to forecast earthquakes by measuring
the polarisation of light reflected by the Earth's surface.

The discovery is based on the study of the Earth's geoelectrical field,
observing alterations in areas traditionally prone to earthquakes and then
predicting short-term future activity.

It is thought the alterations will forecast impending earthquakes, making it
possible to warn people to evacuate the area.

The prediction would be confirmed by a measurement of underground pressure
near the surface of the Earth where it corresponds to the altered
geoelectrical field.

Pravda reports a University of Moscow team hopes its discovery will mean
observation posts can be set up to monitor magnetic fields.

Copyright 2001, Ananova



From Matthew Genge <>

Scientists love terminology, its one of these subjects that can give us
hours of harmless fun arguing with each other without anyone feeling
particularly put out afterwards. The whole of this taxonomy and
classification business is all about putting circular pegs in square pigeon
holes to try and work out how the pegs relate to each other.

In CCNET (25th Jan, 2001) Duncan Steel quite rightly corrects the use of
Meteor in connection with a meteorite and points out that meteoroid is the
best term to use, 'oid' of course meaning 'a thingy-like thing'. The problem
is always where do you draw the arbitary line between the thingy and its
thing. Probably the best place for a lower limit to meteoroid is 1 mm rather
than 100 microns suggested by Duncan since micrometeorites up to a mm can be
recovered from Antarctic ice. Objects between 1 mm and a few centimetres
usually being completely destroyed during atmospheric entry and larger
objects, if tough enough, reaching the surface to produce meteorites.

A useful upper limit for meteoroid is probably given by the largest known
meteorites, i.e. the Cape York shower at about 70 tonnes of iron in total.
Which taking ~90% mass loss during atmospheric entry suggests preatmospheric
sizes of around a hundred cubic metres. Close to the size suggested by
Duncan which is roughly equivalent to the minimum size of crater-forming

Personally I'm more concerned that 'asteroid' is rather an inappropriate
name for several billion tonnes of rock and metal that's definitely not a
'star-like thingy', but then I'm a meteoritist.


From Matthew Genge <>

Johnson and Fegley's discovery (Icarus, 146, 2001) that tremolite
Ca2(Mg,Fe)5[Si8O22)(OH,F)2 can remain metastable for geologically
significant periods under the atmospheric conditions of the venusian surface
is intriging, however, is tremolite likely to be a significant constituent
of venusian surface rocks?

On Earth tremolite is associated with contact metamorphism of impure
dolomites and forms by the reaction of dolomite and quartz. Terrestrial
dolomites are formed either by diagenesis of biotic carbonates or by direct
precipitation from saline solutions. Neither seems particularly likely to
have occurred on the venusian surface. Carbonates might be expected to be an
important constituent of the venusian surface due to reactions with the
atmosphere considering its high partial pressure of CO2 and elevated
temperatures. However, such 'weathering' reactions are a feature of the
present environmental conditions of Venus and would post-date any early
water-rich epoch.

One source of carbonate rocks that might be appropriate for Venus are the
magmatic carbonates as represented by carbonatites. These are a relatively
rare on Earth, having around 300 occurrences worldwide, but there is
circumstantial evidence that such lavas occur on Venus. The sinuous Canali
observed in Magellan images, which can be several thousand km in length, are
thought to have been formed by very low viscosity magmas. Carbonatites
lavas, such as those at Oldoinyo Lengai in Tanzania, have viscosities of
~0.005 Pa s less than  water and solidus temperatures a few hundred degrees
higher than ambient surface temperatures on Venus. Carbonatite lavas would,
therefore, certainly be fluid enough to have formed the Canali.
Significantly melting experiments on carbonated mantle peridotites suggest
that parental mantle-derived carbonate melts are dolomitic and thus if
present on venus could enable the formation of tremolite through interaction
with later water-bearing basaltic magmas. Observations of carbonate viens
within oceanic mantle-derived xenoliths also suggests that carbonate melts
are not restricted to the continental lithosphere on Earth and could be
generated in the same source regions as basaltic magmas albeit under lower
degrees of partial melting.

Unless the venusian mantle is significantly richer in carbonate than the
Earth's, carbonatites are, however, unlikely to be abundant constituents of
the venusian crust and any tremolites that formed within them are likely to
be rare and sparsely distributed. More likely survivors from a 'wet'
venusian past are perhaps likely to be amphiboles such as hornblende and
kaersutite both which are found in terrestrial basic and ultrabasic rocks,
and micas such as biotite and phlogopite which are relatively refractory.
Such minerals could be present within early venusian basic and ultrabasic
rocks, however, their detection on the surface would only be possible in
exposed ancient terraines or in the chance occurrence of crustal xenoliths
within more recent flows. Considering the extensive resurfacing of Venus
areas of old terrain would have to be specifically targetted by a lander in
order to search for the presence of water-bearing minerals. Such a mission,
unless a rover, would have to have the main objective of investigating the
geological history of Venus rather than its current activity.
Instrumentation needed to search for hydrous minerals, however, need not be
specialised since a Raman or infra red spectrometer can be used to
characterise a wide range of minerals including those with structural water
(OH stretches around 2900 to 3100 cm-1).
Dr Matthew J. Genge
Researcher (Meteoritics)
Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
Tel: Int + 020 7 942 5581
Fax: Int.+ 020 7 942 5537
Staff internet page


From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNetters,

The CCNet report, on the interview with Dr. Atkinson, was very encouraging.
He is also clearly supporting the need for an orbiting asteroid/comet
hunting and early-warning system (to help us find the mass of very dangerous
sub-kilometer NEO). This system, which might also be a valuable component of
the interception and deflection system (ADS), would go well with our
excellent and increasing terrestrial asteroid telescope (TAT) facilities and
teams and we hope his optimism and hard work are rewarded. Our Russian and
Japanese colleagues have also stressed this need.

Asteroid/Comet Emergency Magnitude Comparison (ACE)Scale

In addition to its great value as an information and communication tool,
CCNet is very helpful in
promoting collaboration on critical issues. The impact comparison work done
by Michael Paine fits well with our ten-step exponential ACE scale. Step 1,
as you will recall, is a Tunguska or Barringer size object(50 meter or 20
megaton range) and each increasing step doubles the NEO diameter (Step 10 is
about the size of the 25 kilometer range).

In our Table, the first column is for the step number, the second is for the
NEO average width (in km). The third is for the destructive kinetic energy
(in megatons of TNT equivalence).The step number compares roughly to the log
of the destructive kinetic energy.

The forth column is for the risk interval or average time, in years, between
like events. The log of this value is roughly equal to the step number plus
1. These values are roughly within an order-of-magnitude of other estimates
and we use the Scale to give public groups some feeling for the danger
magnitudes associated with NEO of different sizes. Most terrestial dangers
(earthquakes, vocanic eruptions, etc.) are at or below Step 2.

We are on the way to defining a simple comparison scale, similar to the
Richter Scale. As mentioned, earlier, the Torrino scale does not serve this
purpose, because it also includes the impact risk and that makes it
difficult to explain to the public and to use, to show how the impact
effects compare and scale. 

U.S. Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus

The Space Sub-Committee of the House Science Committee has been interested
in our issue for several years and they have done a lot to help. However,
there has been no focal-point in the Senate.

This Caucus is the start of that interest and we were delighted to hear
about the recent meeting. We have contacted them and asked them to add the
asteroid/comet threat to their list (the list is now limited to terrestrial
natural dangers). We have also offered to help them get expertise (to brief
them on the dangers and on the ongoing global prevention and preparedness

We are making a list of experts, in the Washington area, who could help them
and we would appreciate a contact from anyone who wants to be on that list.
The Caucus co-chairmen are both from areas with significant coastal exposure
(Sen. Stevens is from Alaska and Sen. Edwards is from North Carolina). The
organizers of the Caucus want to involve both parties and both houses of the
Congress and it is in our interest to help them, as much as we can.

It would also be helpful for other groups, including NASA, the Planetary
Society, the AIAA, the IAU, the Tsunami Society, etc. to contact them and
stress the need to include asteroid/comet impact. Our numbers are growing
and the giggling is decreasing. Dr. Atkinson remarked, appropriately, about

Planetary Protection Association (PPA)

There is a clear need for an open international association to strongly
advocate increased activity, in the U.S. and globally, aimed at developing a
quick-reaction interception/deflection capability and developing good plans
for civil emergency preparedness, especially for the coastal cities. 

We are starting to form such a group. Several organizations are actively
supporting the need to increase the early-warning activities and this
should, of course,get a top priority. However, the other vital areas are not
being well represented by public groups. In addition to our representations
to the policy makers and to emergency preparedness planners, we will work
closely with and promote all of the other groups....including the CCNet,
SSF, SGF, IAU, Tsunami Society, AIAA, etc.

We need a good, small Board of Directors, a web page, a few additional
contributors, etc. All are invited to join and to help. We feel it is appropriate for us, the
people of this planet, to provide much of the leadership needed for this
important work and we greatly appreciate what has been done, to-date, by so
many of you. Your examples are a source of inspiration.


Andy Smith

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