CCNet 16/2001 - 30 January 2001

"There is something to be said for history-- Pluto has been
considered a major planet for three generations, not the year or so that
Ceres was historically called a major planet. I believe that until
we land on Pluto and find incontrovertible evidence that that world does
not wish to be called a planet, that we should leave things as they are.
--David H. Levy, 29 January 2001

"They've done exactly the right thing. It's an emotional question.
People just don't like the idea that you can change the number of planets.
It's inevitable that other museums will come around, though. The
Rose center is just slightly ahead of its time."
  --David Jewit, University of Hawaii who co-discovered the
first Kuiper Belt object   with Jane Lu, a professor
at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

"At the heart of the debate is our very definition of the word
"planet." Currently, there isn't one. The International Astronomical
Union (IAU), a worldwide body of astronomers, is the official keeper
of names. It has no strict definition of a planet, but has decreed that
there are nine major planets, including Pluto. This, however, is not very
satisfying. If the IAU doesn't really know what a planet is, how can it
know there are nine?"
Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer, Frankfurter Allgemeine
Zeitung, 2 January 2001

"Benny: The IAU may now decide to redirect Mir's fall onto
Liverpool, but you have hit the nail on the head with today's Pluto
--Spanish based CCNet subscriber, 29 January 2001

    BBC Online News, 30 January 2001

    Larry Klaes <>

    The Independent, 30 January 2001

    NASA Astrobiology Institute, 29 January 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Michael Paine []

    Andrew Yee <>

    The Daily Telegraph, 30 January 2001

    David H. Levy <>

     Phil Plait, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2 January 2001

     Gerrit Verschuur <GVERSCHR@LATTE.MEMPHIS.EDU>

     Kelly Beatty <>


From the BBC Online News, 30 January 2001

India's Defence Minister, George Fernandes, has estimated that as many as
100,000 people may have died and 200,000 been injured in last Friday's
devastating earthquake. Gujarati officials however, maintain the final death
toll is unlikely to exceed 20,000.



From Larry Klaes <>

ARCHAEOLOGY: What Drives Societal Collapse?

Harvey Weiss and Raymond S. Bradley*

The archaeological and historical record is replete with evidence for
prehistoric, ancient, and premodern societal collapse. These collapses
occurred quite suddenly and frequently involved regional abandonment,
replacement of one subsistence base by another (such as agriculture by
pastoralism), or conversion to a lower energy sociopolitical organization
(such as local state from interregional empire). Each of these collapse
episodes has been discussed intensively within the archaeological community,
commonly leading to the conclusion that combinations of social, political,
and economic factors were their root causes.

That perspective is now changing with the accumulation of high-resolution
paleoclimatic data that provide an independent measure of the timing,
amplitude, and duration of past climate events. These climatic events were
abrupt, involved new conditions that were unfamiliar to the inhabitants of
the time, and persisted for decades to centuries. They were therefore highly
disruptive, leading to societal collapse--an adaptive response to otherwise
insurmountable stresses (1).

In the Old World, the earliest well-documented example of societal collapse
is that of the hunting and gathering Natufian communities in southwest Asia.
About 12,000 years ago, the Natufians abandoned seasonally nomadic hunting
and gathering activities that required relatively low inputs of labor to
sustain low population densities and replaced these with new labor-intensive
subsistence strategies of plant cultivation and animal husbandry. The
consequences of this agricultural revolution, which was key to the emergence
of civilization, included orders of magnitude increases in population growth
and full-time craft specialization and class formation, each the result of
the ability to generate and deploy agricultural surpluses.

What made the Natufians change their lifestyle so drastically? Thanks to
better dating control and improved paleoclimatic interpretations, it is now
clear that this transition coincided with the Younger Dryas climate episode
about 12,900 to 11,600 years ago. Following the end of the last glacial
period, when southwest Asia was dominated by arid steppe vegetation, a shift
to increased seasonality (warm, wet winters and hot, dry summers) led to the
development of an open oak-terebinth parkland of woods and wild cereals
across the interior Levant and northern Mesopotamia. This was the
environment exploited initially by the hunting and gathering Natufian
communities. When cooler and drier conditions abruptly returned during the
Younger Dryas, the harvests of wild resources dwindled, and foraging for
these resources could not sustain Natufian subsistence.  They were forced to
transfer settlement and wild cereals to adjacent new locales where
intentional cultivation was possible (2).

The population and socioeconomic complexity of these early agricultural
settlements increased until about 6400 B.C., when a second postglacial
climatic shock altered their developmental trajectory. Paleoclimatic
evidence documents abrupt climatic change at this time (3), the last major
climatic event related to the melting continental ice sheets that flooded
the North Atlantic (4). In the Middle East, a ~200-year drought forced the
abandonment of agricultural settlements in the Levant and northern
Mesopotamia (5, 6). The subsequent return to moister conditions in
Mesopotamia promoted settlement of the Tigris-Euphrates alluvial plain and
delta, where breachable river levees and seasonal basins may have encouraged
early southern Mesopotamian irrigation agriculture (7).

By 3500 B.C., urban Late Uruk society flourished in southern Mesopotamia,
sustained by a system of high-yield cereal irrigation agriculture with
efficient canal transport. Late Uruk "colony" settlements were founded
across the dry-farming portions of the Near East (8). But these colonies and
the expansion of Late Uruk society collapsed suddenly at about 3200-3000
B.C. Archaeologists have puzzled over this collapse for the past 30 years.
Now there are hints in the paleoclimatic record that it may also be related
to a short (less than 200 year) but severe drought (9-11).

Following the return to wetter conditions, politically centralized and
class-based urban societies emerged and expanded across the riverine and
dry-farming landscapes of the Mediterranean, Egypt, and West Asia. The
Akkadian empire of Mesopotamia, the pyramid-constructing Old Kingdom
civilization of Egypt, the Harappan 3B civilization of the Indus valley, and
the Early Bronze III civilizations of Palestine, Greece, and Crete all
reached their economic peak at about 2300 B.C. This period was abruptly
terminated before 2200 B.C. by catastrophic drought and cooling that
generated regional abandonment, collapse, and habitat-tracking.
Paleoclimatic data from numerous sites document changes in the Mediterranean
westerlies and monsoon rainfall during this event (see the figure), with
precipitation reductions of up to 30% that diminished agricultural
production from the Aegean to the Indus (9-11).

Climatic effects. High-resolution lake, marine, and speleothem cores and
tephrochronostratigraphy document abrupt aridification and linkage with
Akkadian empire collapse at Tell Leilan, Syria (9-11).

These examples from the Old World illustrate that prehistoric and early
historic societies--from villages to states or empires--were highly
vulnerable to climatic disturbances. Many lines of evidence now point to
climate forcing as the primary agent in repeated social collapse.

High-resolution archaeological records from the New World also point to
abrupt climatic change as the proximal cause of repeated social collapse. In
northern coastal Peru, the Moche civilization suffered a ~30-year drought in
the late 6th century A.D., accompanied by severe flooding. The capital city
was destroyed, fields and irrigation systems were swept away, and widespread
famines ensued.  The capital city was subsequently moved northward, and new
adaptive agricultural and architectural technologies were implemented (12).
Four hundred years later, the agricultural base of the Tiwanaku civilization
of the central Andes collapsed as a result of a prolonged drought documented
in ice and in lake sediment cores (13).  In Mesoamerica, lake sediment cores
show that the Classic Maya collapse of the 9th century A.D. coincided with
the most severe and prolonged drought of that millennium (14). In North
America, Anasazi agriculture could not sustain three decades of exceptional
drought and reduced temperatures in the 13th century A.D., resulting in
forced regional abandonment (15).

Climate during the past 11,000 years was long believed to have been
uneventful, but paleoclimatic records increasingly demonstrate climatic
instability.  Multidecadal- to multicentury-length droughts started
abruptly, were unprecedented in the experience of the existing societies,
and were highly disruptive to their agricultural foundations because social
and technological innovations were not available to counter the rapidity,
amplitude, and duration of changing climatic conditions.

These past climatic changes were unrelated to human activities. In contrast,
future climatic change will involve both natural and anthropogenic forces
and will be increasingly dominated by the latter; current estimates show
that we can expect them to be large and rapid (16). Global temperature will
rise and atmospheric circulation will change, leading to a redistribution of
rainfall that is difficult to predict. It is likely, however, that the
rainfall patterns that societies have come to expect will change, and the
magnitude of expected temperature changes (17) gives a sense of the
prospective disruption. These changes will affect a world population
expected to increase from about 6 billion people today to about 9 to 10
billion by 2050. In spite of technological changes, most of the world's
people will continue to be subsistence or small-scale market
agriculturalists, who are similarly vulnerable to climatic fluctuations as
the late prehistoric/early historic societies. Furthermore, in an
increasingly crowded world, habitat-tracking as an adaptive response will
not be an option.

We do, however, have distinct advantages over societies in the past because
we can anticipate the future. Although far from perfect and perhaps subject
to unexpected nonlinearities, general circulation models provide a road map
for how the climate system is likely to evolve in the future. We also know
where population growth will be greatest. We must use this information to
design strategies that minimize the impact of climate change on societies
that are at greatest risk. This will require substantial international
cooperation, without which the 21st century will likely witness
unprecedented social disruptions.

References and Notes

1. H. Weiss, in Confronting Natural Disaster: Engaging the Past to
Understand the Future, G. Bawden and R. Reycraft, Eds. (Univ. of New
Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 2000), pp. 75-98.
2. O. Bar-Yosef, Radiocarbon 42, 23 (2000).
3. F. Gasse, Quat. Sci. Rev. 19, 189 (2000).
4. This flooding may have altered thermohaline circulation (THC),
although there is as yet no direct paleochemical data demonstrating a
shutdown or reduction in THC at this time.
5. A. N. Goring-Morris, A. Belfer-Cohen, Pal=E9orient 23, 71 (1997).
6. S. K. Kozlowski, The Eastern Wing of the Fertile Crescent (BAR
Intl.Series 760, Oxford, 1999) [publisher's information].
7. R. M. Adams, Heartland of Cities (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago,
9. H. M. Cullen et al., Geology 28, 379 (2000) [GEOREF].=20
10. M. Bar-Matthews et al., Earth and Planetary Science Letters 166, 85
11. G. Lemcke, M. Sturm, in Third Millennium BC Climate Change and Old
World Collapse, H. N. Dalfes, G. Kukla, H. Weiss, Eds. (Springer, NATO ASI
49, Berlin, 1997), pp. 653-678 [publisher's information].
12. I. Shimada et al., World Archaeol. 22, 247 (1991).
13. A. Kolata et al., Antiquity 74, 424 (2000).
14. M. Brenner et al., in Interhemispheric Climate Linkages, V.
Markgraf,Ed. (Academic Press, New York, 2001), pp. 87-103 [publisher's
15. J. S. Dean et al., in Themes in Southwest Prehistory, G. J.
Gumerman, Ed. (Schl. Amer. Res. Press, Santa Fe, 1993), pp. 53-86
[publisher's information].
17. The leaked Summary for Policy Makers of the upcoming Third
Assessment Report by the IPCC gives estimates of 1.5=B0 to 6.0=B0C.=20
18. H.W.'s research was supported by the National Endowment for the
Humanities, NSF, Malcolm H. Wiener Foundation, Leon Levy, Raymond
Sackler, and Yale University, and R.S.B.'s research was supported by the
NSF and the U.S. Department of Energy. We thank H. F. Diaz, M. K.
Hughes, M. Moseley, and E. J. and D. S. Bradley for comments.

H. Weiss is at the Departments of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages
and Civilizations, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA. E-mail: R. S. Bradley is at the Department of Geosciences,
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003, USA. E-mail:

Copyright 2001, AAAS


From The Independent, 30 January 2001

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

30 January 2001

Powerful evidence that life on Earth originated in outer space is published
today by scientists who have created the biological building blocks of
living organisms in a laboratory designed to mimic interstellar dust clouds.

The findings support the belief that life originated with the help of
complex organic molecules that rained down on Earth from comets and other
cosmic debris.

Scientists from the Ames Research Center near San Francisco, part of the US
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the University of
California at Santa Cruz claim they not only generated complex molecules,
but the compounds organised themselves into cell-like "vesicles" on contact
with water.

The researchers' equipment was designed to replicate the conditions of
interstellar dust clouds such asthe Eagle Nebula photographed by the Hubble
space telescope, where temperatures can reach near absolute zero (minus

The researchers added simple molecules such as ammonia, carbon monoxide and
dioxide, and methanol to a mixture of fine ice particles trapped in a
vacuum. When they irradiated the mixture with ultraviolet light, they found
to their surprise that complex organic molecules were created. The molecules
"self assembled" as aggregates of circular vesicles, reminiscent of a living
cell's outer membrane.

Lou Allamondola, the team's leader, said the aim of the study was to find
out what sort of compounds Nasa might expect to find in comets and other
planetary bodies, which would help the agency in future space missions. "We
expected ultraviolet radiation would make a few molecules that might have
some biological interest, but nothing major," he said.

"Instead, we found that this process transforms some of the simple chemicals
that are very common in space into larger molecules which behave in far more
complex ways, which many people think are critical to the origin of life."

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, surprised the scientists in the degree to which the environment of
an interstellar dust cloud complex was hospitable to the creation of organic
material. Scott Sandford, a member of the research team, said: "Instead of
finding a handful of molecules only slightly more complicated than the
starting compounds, hundreds of new compounds are produced in every mixed
ice we have studied. We are finding that the types of compounds produced in
these ices are strikingly similar to many of those brought to Earth today by
falling meteor-ites and their smaller cousins, the interstellar dust

Equally surprising was the finding that some of those complex molecules
possessed properties that were important to life, such as the ability to
form a membrane enclosing a "bag" of biological chemicals.

Dave Deamer, professor of chemistry at the University of California at Santa
Cruz, said the microscopic vesicles created by the molecules in the presence
of water resembled living cells with membranes. "All life today is cellular,
and cells are defined by membranes that separate the [inside] cytoplasm from
the outside world," he said. "When life began, at some point it became
compartmented in the form of cells. But where did the first cell membranes
come from?"

Several lines of evidence point towards space being an important generator
of life's complex building blocks. Scientists have found that the
three-dimensional structures of organic molecules in comets tend to be a
"left-handed" form similar to those on Earth.

Otherscientists have found the window of opportunity for life to begin has
narrowed. Research has shown that the early Earth was bombarded with
life-destroying comets much later in its history than was realised. Yet the
earliest signs of life are being pushed further back towards the planet's
origins some 4.5 billion years ago.

This supports the view of Sir Fred Hoyle, the British cosmologist who
proposed in the 1960s that life on Earth could have been "seeded"
bybiological molecules fromouter space. His ideas were ridiculed at the

Copyright 2001, The Independent


From NASA Astrobiology Institute, 29 January 2001
To a biologist, the ingredients needed to form life include water, heat and
organic chemicals. But some in the astrophysics and astronomy community
argue that life, at least advanced life, may require an additional
component: a Jupiter-sized planet in the solar neighborhood.

"A long-period Jupiter may be a prerequisite for advanced life," said Dr.
Alan Boss, a researcher in planetary formation. Boss, who works at the
Carnegie Institution of Washington, is a member of the NASA Astrobiology
Institute (NAI).

In our own solar system, Jupiter, with its enormous gravitational field,
plays an important protective role. By deflecting comets and asteroids that
might otherwise hit Earth, Jupiter has helped to create a more stable
environment for life to evolve here. It's generally believed that a massive
impact was responsible 65 million years ago for wiping out dinosaurs on
Earth. If not for Jupiter, it's possible that many other such impacts would
have occurred throughout Earth's history, preventing advanced life from ever
gaining a foothold.

Jupiter is significant not only for its size but also for its location in
our solar system, far from the Sun. Because it orbits at slightly more than
5 AU (astronomical units-the distance between the Earth and the Sun is 1
AU), there is plenty of room in the inner part of our Solar System to
accommodate a range of smaller planets.

Within the inner solar system there exists a region, known as the habitable
zone, where liquid water, and therefore life, can potentially exist on a
planet's surface. Without liquid water, life as we know it is not possible.
The habitable zone around our Sun stretches roughly from the orbit of Venus
to the orbit of Mars. Venus is generally believed to be too hot to support
life. Earth, it appears, is just right. And the jury is still out on Mars. 

Understanding the role that Jupiter plays in our own Solar System helps
astronomers focus their search for habitable planets around other stars.
"If," Boss explains, "a Jupiter-mass planet on a stable, circular orbit
[around another star at] around 4 to 5 AU was found, without any evidence
for other gas giant planets with shorter period orbits, such a discovery
would be like a neon light in the cosmos pointed toward that star, saying
'Look here!'. That star would be a prime target for looking for a habitable,
Earth-like planet."

But to date, no such planetary systems have been found orbiting distant
stars. That's due in large part to the technique used by astronomers to
search for extrasolar planets. The technique that has been used to locate
most of the 59 known extrasolar planets is called radial velocity or Doppler
spectroscopy. It is based not on observing a distant planet directly, but by
observing the effect that the planet's gravity has on the motion of the star
it orbits.

As a giant planet moves around a star, its gravity pulls the star first one
way, then the other. "Strictly speaking, Copernicus had it wrong," said
Boss. "Planets don't move around their stars; they actually move around the
center of mass of the planetary system, and so does the star." This motion
of the star is detectable from Earth as a minute periodic shift in the color
of the star's light.

When a clear pattern emerges in this color shift over a number of orbits of
the planet around the star, astronomers are confident that they have
detected a giant extrasolar planet. "We can infer the presence of planets
indirectly by observing the wobble of a star in space caused by its motion
around the center of the system," said Boss. By studying this wobble pattern
in detail, they can determine a minimum mass for the planet, its distance
from the star and the shape of its orbit.

To date, however, nearly all of the giant planets found have been much
closer to their stars than Jupiter is to the Sun. None of the extrasolar
Jupiters discovered so far orbits with a period large enough to encourage
the formation of a habitable Earth-mass planet. Astronomers believe that
this is probably an effect of the radial velocity search technique, not
necessarily an indication of what's actually out there. Because closer-in
planets orbit their stars more frequently, it takes less time for an
Earthbound observer to see a pattern emerge in its star's wobble than it
would for a planet farther out, with a longer orbital period.

One shouldn't conclude, however, that Solar-System-like configurations are
rare-indeed, such systems could still be quite commonplace. We just haven't
found them yet. Jupiter, for example, takes 12 years to orbit the Sun. To
firmly identify a similar-sized planet at a similar distance from another
star would require a minimum of 24 years, or two full orbits.

Boss points out that "several planet search programs have been in action
since 1987. Their accuracy has increased significantly in the last five
years, so we can expect that long-period Jupiters will be found by these
programs in the coming years-it is just a matter of a few more years before
astronomers should start to find them. So stay tuned!"

What Next?

Future projects for the discovery of extrasolar worlds include NASA's Space
Interferometry Mission, due to be launched in 2005. This space-based
telescope will be better able to detect the motions of distant stars. In
2011, NASA hopes to launch the Terrestrial Planet Finder, which would search
for light reflecting off of distant planets, including planets as small as
Earth. This space-based telescope would be able to also determine a planet's
temperature and the composition of its atmosphere.

Copyright 2001, NASA


From Andrew Yee <>

News Services
University of Arizona
Tucson, Arizona

Contact Information:
Jonathan I. Lunine, 520-621-2789,

Jan 29, 2001

Only Solar Systems with Jupiters May Harbor Life, UA Scientist Says

By Lori Stiles

The search for Earth-like life on other worlds should focus on solar systems
with Jupiter-like planets, a University of Arizona scientist reports today
in the Jan. 30th issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of

Jupiter-like planets flinging Mars-sized objects toward their sun-like stars
would deliver the water needed for carbon-based terrestrial life, said
Professor Jonathan I. Lunine of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, chair of
the UA Theoretical Astrophysics Program.

That, evidence says, is what happened in our solar system, Lunine concludes.

"The bottom line is, the asteroid belt certainly had much more material when
the solar system was forming than it does today, and Jupiter was responsible
for clearing most of that material out," he said.

As the solar system formed, Jupiter's powerful gravity perturbed asteroids
to accrete into larger and larger objects -- terrestrial "embyros" as big as
Mars or bigger -- then tossed them into very unstable elliptical orbits.
Those that hit Earth when flung toward the inner solar system delivered the
water that now fills Earth's oceans. That happened when Earth was about half
its present size.

Lunine and Italian and French colleagues published in the November 2000
Meteoritics and Planetary Science their model of how planetary embryos
supplied most of the Earth's ocean water. Authors on the article are
Alessandro Morbidelli and Jean Petit of the Observatory de la Cote d'Azur,
John Chambers of NASA Ames, Lunine of the UA, Francois Robert of the Paris
Museum of Natural History, Giovanni Valsecchi of the Institute for Space
Astrophysics (Rome), and Kim Cyr of NASA Johnson Space Center.

A solar system with water-bearing asteroids but no giant planets might not
evolve habitable worlds with oceans, they conclude.

The deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio in Earth's seawater is the key clue as to
the source of the oceans. Seawater contains 150 ppm deuterium, or heavy
hydrogen. That's about five or six times the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio
found in the sun and in the solar nebula gas, known from measurements made
at Jupiter. But it's only about a third of the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio
measured in comets Halley, Hyakutake, and Hale-Bopp,. The findings
contradict the popular idea that comets supplied the Earth with oceans.

"If deuterium abundances in the asteroid belt are correctly reflected by the
meteorites, planetary embryos sent careening by Jupiter into the Earth are
by far and away the biggest contribution to Earth's water,'" Lunine said.

That Mars meteorites are richer in deuterium than Earth's seawater is
consistent with the model. Lunine said. So is the scenario that Earth's moon
was created when a Mars-sized object slammed into proto-Earth, an idea
developed by UA planetary sciences Professor Jay Melosh and others, Lunine

Astronomers in the past half decade have discovered that there are more
planets outside our solar system than in it. They have found what may be
giant gas planets at least as massive as Jupiter in orbit around 50 nearby

All of the newly found gas giants are closer to their stars than Jupiter is
to the sun -- some as close to their parent stars as Mercury is to the sun.

That giant gas planets exist in the inner solar system "has enormous
implications for the frequency of habitable Earth-like planets in the
galaxy," Lunine said.

The radial velocity observing technique used in the discoveries reveals
planets by the Dopper effect of starlight. But the technique is blind to
planets that may be farther out in their solar systems. Lunine has found in
research he did with David Trilling of the University of Pennsylvania and
Willy Benz, University of Bern, Switzerland, that for every giant planet
detected close to a parent star, two or three giant planets orbit farther
out, waiting to be discovered.

With no plausible theory of how objects more massive than Jupiter can form
so close to their parent stars, theorists like Lunine have modeled the
complicated story of how Jupiter-like planets might form far out in the
solar system and migrate inward. The gist of the story is that some planets
migrate all the way in and transfer all their mass to the sun and disappear.
Others migrate only partway in before the gaseous disk disappears, at which
time inward migration stops and terrestrial planets form from leftover rocky

Jupiter, at about 5 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, is well beyond the
"habitable zone," the region where liquid water is stable. (Earth is one
astronomical unit from the sun.)

"If giant planets existed closer to a star than 5 AU -- say, at 3 AU --
there would still be terrestrial planets in stable orbits," Lunine said.
"But they could well be dry because the giant planet would have tossed
water-bearing material away from the habitable zone."

Or, if the giant gas planet were very distant in the outer solar system, it
likely would fling water bound in planetary embryos to a region too cold for
life. And it would send too few water-bearing embryos in toward terrestrial
planets at 1 AU, Lunine added.

"In that case, you might end up with a big but icy terrestrial planet at 4
or 5 AU -- too cold to support life as we know it," he said.

Lunine is a member of a key project for a future space astrometry mission
called SIM.

Astrometry, a technique that measures the motions of stars with extreme
precision, will do a better job in finding Jupiter-like planets that are
moderately distant from their parent stars than does the radial velocity
technique. Astrometry will also give actual rather than minimum planet
masses, unlike the radial velocity method.

Direct imaging is the ultimate technique for planet searches, however,
because the spectra, or colors of light, from a planet reveal planetary
atmospheres and history.

The UA-led Large Binocular Telescope consortium, the California-led Keck
Telescope consortium, and Europe's impressive national giant telescopes are
developing adaptive optics for the direct detection of extra-solar planets.
Future space-based, very long baseline interferometers called Terrestrial
Planet Finder and Darwin promise to be more powerful tools in planet

"If you really want to discover another Earth, you've got to understand
where the Jupiters are and what they've done to their solar systems over
time," Lunine said. "You might find water vapor in the atmosphere of that
second Earth, but you don't know if that water vapor is supported by an
ocean that is a kilometer, 10 kilometers or 5 meters deep."

Lunine recently argued the case at a workshop for participants in the
Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) project. UA collaborates with Lockheed
Martin to develop a winning design for TPF, a space observatory that NASA
plans to launch in 2012 as part of Origins Program.

Lunine and other UA scientists working on TPF, including Nick Woolf and
Roger Angel of Steward Observatory, propose a precursor project to TPF for
direct mapping of Jupiter-like planets.

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at ]


From Michael Paine [mailto: ]

Dear Benny,

The transcripts and Real Time audio of The Genesis Factor by Paul Davies are
now available at:

It covers the origin of life and the possibility of exchange of life between
plants and star systems.

Michael Paine


From Andrew Yee <>

[ ]

Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Young researchers prepare to launch cubic satellites

By Satoshi Yamada, Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Three small satellites, each designed and developed by Japanese university
students, will be launched into space over a one-year period beginning in

The satellites are part of a project set up by Tohoku University in Miyagi
Prefecture, Tokyo University and Tokyo Institute of Technology to nurture
younger researchers through practical experiments -- in this case by
observing the Leonid meteor shower.

In light of the launch failures that have marred Japan's space program in
the past, the satellites will be placed in orbit aboard rockets launched by
foreign countries. The universities are raising technical and financial
support for the launches from relevant companies in order to help enhance
interests among Japan's young researchers.

One of the student research teams, led by Tohoku University and the
Institute of Space and Astronomical Science and monitored by the Education,
Science and Technology Ministry plans to launch a satellite to monitor the
next major Leonid meteor shower, which will occur over North America in
November 2002. The satellite was designed in 1999 by a team of university
students led by Hiroshi Hamano, who at the time was a senior and is now
pursuing a graduate degree. The team's design received the Idea Award at the
1999 Satellite Design Contest, which is considered a major career boost for
young researchers eyeing careers in the satellite industry.

Hajime Yano, an assistant researcher at the the Institute of Space and
Astronautical Science who is involved in the project, praised the team's
design. "The idea to directly observe the impact of meteor showers on the
Earth is unique," he said. Yano is a veteran of a U.S. National Aeronautics
and Space Administration project to observe meteor showers from an airplane.

The Leonids are seen at an altitude of about 200 kilometers, higher than
most meteor streams, and are thus monitored more clearly from satellites on
the orbit 300 kilometers above the Earth than from the ground.

According to Yano, detailed photographs of the Leonids will enable
researchers to observe meteorites more easily before they hit the Earth's

The team has come up with a 50-centimeter-long cubic satellite that weighs
about 50 kilograms and is equipped with several types of digital cameras
that can capture a variety of light rays. The satellite will be
"piggy-backed" into space on a U.S. or Russian rocket before August 2002.

The project created by the university students has attracted attention
internationally, and the research team is considering the participation of
11 organizations in eight countries such as the United States and Britain in
the project by receiving data. "When I first heard that our satellite will
be really launched, I became afraid that we could not complete it," Hamano

Tohoku University's Assistant Prof. Kazuya Yoshida said, "The project as an
experience-oriented education in space engineering is a golden opportunity
for students. We want to invite participation in the project without the
framework of universities."


'Dice' satellites

Meanwhile, two "dice" satellites developed by Tokyo University and Tokyo
Institute of Technology will be launched in November at Baikonur space
station in Kazakhstan. The satellites, which are made of 10-centimeter
square panels weighing about one kilogram each, will be launched with
assistance from the Japan-U.S. University Space Systems Symposium, which
comprises university and space-related organizations from the two countries.

The Russian rocket Dnieper will place the two Japanese satellites, along
with 16 other satellites, into orbit about 400 kilometers above the Earth's
surface. The two satellites will be the first satellites made by Japanese
university students to be launched into space.

Tokyo University will use its XI-1 satellite to test communication equipment
and solar battery function, while Tokyo Institute of Technology will be
running tests on its own communications equipment.

More than 10 students took part in the XI-1 project, from initial design to
assembly. "For students, practical experience is very precious. They should
take advantage of the opportunity to learn systematic procedures," said
Tokyo University Assistant Prof. Shinichi Nakasuka, who advised the team.
"In three years, I want to develop the original satellite into a new,
high-performance one."

Copyright 2001 The Yomiuri Shimbun


From The Daily Telegraph, 30 January 2001

By Ben Fenton in Washington
THE Pentagon has held its first war games in space and discovered that it
could be vulnerable to a serious defeat, military planners said yesterday.

The five-day exercise, aimed at finding out how to defend America's
satellites and destroy those of a potential enemy, is thought to have had
alarming results. Set in 2017, the deadly serious game - acted out in
Colorado - involved two countries, codenamed Red and Blue, but obviously
representing China and the United States.

Maj Gen William Looney III, commander of US air force space operations,
said: "We don't normally play space. The purpose of this game was to focus
on how we really would act in space."

The military has been reluctant to talk about the results of the war game,
but it is believed both sides used "cyberattacks" - efforts to disable each
other's mainframe computers. The "Chinese" side also tried a pre-emptive
strike by buying up all the commercial satellites it could find, blocking a
vital source of support that the Pentagon has come to rely on.

Unexpected side-effects of the war game are thought to have included the new
tactic of hijacking an opponent's satellites and using it to broadcast

Copyright 2001, The Daily Telegraph



From David H. Levy <>

Dear Benny,

You countered my so-called political arguments with political arguments of
your own! Actually, had you been a part of the interview process for the AP
article, or had you bothered to check any of my articles on the subject, you
would not so quickly dismiss my argument.

Yes, I knew Clyde Tombaugh and admired him, and yes, I knew how unhappy this
debate made his last years. However, both he and I subscribed to the
definition of a planet that states that if the body (that orbits the Sun
directly, and is not a moon) is big enough to condense granavitionally to
form a sphere, then it's a planet. If not, it's a minor planet or an
asteroid.  It's a simple and natural definiition.  If we want to bring Ceres
back into the world of major planets, that is also fine.

Additionally, there is something to be said for history-- Pluto has been
considered a major planet for three generations, not the year or so that
Ceres was historically called a major planet. I believe that until we land
on Pluto and find incontrovertible evidence that that world does not wish to
be called a planet, that we should leave things as they are.

David H. Levy


From Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2 January 2001

A Ball of Frozen Gases

By Phil Plait

GREENBELT. This might seem like an odd question. Of course, it's a planet.
It was discovered in 1930, and we have been calling it a planet for more
than 70 years. It's big, and it orbits the sun, so it must be a planet.

Not necessarily. There was a heated debate recently over just what to call
Pluto -- a major planet like Jupiter or the Earth or a minor planet or
smaller object like an asteroid or giant comet. Though the debate has died
down somewhat, astronomers still discuss the issue. To an outsider, the
argument might seem to be about semantics. But to an astronomer, a name has
a deeper meaning. It is a clue to the behavior of an object and perhaps to
its origin. In addition, astronomers are people, and most of them are fond
of Pluto and think it should be called a planet.

There are many reasons to debate Pluto's status. For one thing, Pluto is
weird by anyone's definition. With a radius of 1,130 kilometers (700 miles),
it is by far the smallest planet. Mercury, the next smallest, is more than
twice the diameter of Pluto and has 10 times the volume. Our own moon, which
is in fact small compared to moons of other planets, is 50 percent larger
than Pluto.

Pluto has a moon, named Charon, which is very large compared to Pluto
itself. Charon is roughly half as big as Pluto, which is the largest ratio
of moon to planet size in the solar system. Our own moon holds second place,
with a radius only one-fourth that of the Earth. Pluto appears to be a ball
of frozen gases, the least dense of the "solid" planets and more like a moon
of the outer planets than a planet itself.

Perhaps most peculiar is Pluto's orbit. It crosses Neptune's, bringing it
closer to the sun than Neptune for 20 years out of its 250-year orbit. There
is no chance of a collision, though. Pluto's orbit takes almost exactly one
and a half times that of Neptune's, so that whenever Pluto is nearest to
Neptune's orbit, Neptune is always on the other side of the Sun. If Pluto's
orbit were changed even slightly, it would eventually have a close encounter
with Neptune, which would either fling it out of the solar system or plunge
it toward the sun, where it would collide with Jupiter and be ejected from
the solar system. Either way, an object near Neptune that does not have the
type of orbit Pluto does would be quickly lost.

Astronomers now think that Pluto might have been the largest member of a
family of objects, most of which were not in fixed orbits and were tossed
out of the solar system. These objects are actually a subset of a vastly
larger collection of icy bodies recently proved to exist beyond Pluto's
orbit. Pluto might simply be the biggest chunk of ice out of a gang of
millions or billions of such chunks.

Worse, in October 2000, astronomers announced they had found a fairly big
object with an estimated diameter of roughly one-fourth that of Pluto's. A
month later, another object was found that might be as large as half Pluto's
size and bigger than the largest asteroid, Ceres. It is quite possible that
there are objects even farther out that are even bigger than Pluto.

These objects erode at the argument for calling Pluto a true planet. If it
is really just the biggest example of a group of supercomets, then perhaps
its status as a planet should be in doubt. At the heart of the debate is our
very definition of the word "planet." Currently, there isn't one. The
International Astronomical Union (IAU), a worldwide body of astronomers, is
the official keeper of names. It has no strict definition of a planet, but
has decreed that there are nine major planets, including Pluto.

This, however, is not very satisfying. If the IAU doesn't really know what a
planet is, how can it know there are nine? Perhaps confusing the issue was
the idea to give Pluto dual status as a major and a minor planet. This
thought has its merits, but in the end was turned down by the IAU. For the
time being, Pluto remains simply a planet.

Fanning the fire, a paper has been released by two planetary astronomers,
Alan Stern and Hal Levison, both from the Southwest Research Institute in
the United States. They have worked out a logical scheme on dividing objects
into major and minor planets.

By their new definitions, there are eight major planets in the solar system
together with a large number of minor planets, of which Pluto and Ceres are
the largest of the latter. This plan might appease everyone, except for the
holdouts who still want Pluto to be considered a major planet. Clearly,
Stern and Levison think Pluto is a minor planet. Levison once said, "I
firmly believe that if Pluto were discovered today, we wouldn't be calling
it a planet." Given the number and size of objects being found today, he
might very well be correct. After all, Ceres was thought to be a planet when
it was first discovered in 1801, but was downgraded to an asteroid when
several more objects like it were found.

As for myself, I might be an astronomer, but I'm human, too. I have seen
every planet in the solar system with my own eyes except for tiny, distant,
frigid Pluto. If it were reclassified as a minor planet or just another icy
object, then my roster would suddenly be complete, and I will have seen
every major planet in the solar system.

Phil Plait is an astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Maryland, but is perhaps best known for his Web site
www.badastronomy.comJan. 1, 2001

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2000

The paper by Alan Stern and Hal Levison can be accessed at



Would a real planet be in an orbit that crossed that of another real planet?
Surely we should give some consideration to our definition of a planetary
system - one in which the objects at the very least do not run the risk of
collision because orbits intersect, even if at present they are not quite

Gerrit Verschuur


From Kelly Beatty <>


At 11:59 AM 1/29/01 -0000, you wrote:
>After almost two years of silence, the notorious Pluto debate is back in
full swing:...

Tyson's decision to exclude Pluto was certainly noted at the time of the
Rose Center's opening early last year. (I guess this proves that a story
really isn't news until it's issued as a NASA press release or covered by
the New York Times.) Another salvo was fired last August, when Brian Marsden
called for a vote on the matter among those attending a Kuiper Belt session
at the IAU meeting. A check of your archives shows no reference to that
event, but the curious can find it in our archive of IAU stories at

Kelly Beatty

From the Sky & Telescope archive, 14 August 2000

Last year, when the International Astronomical Union's higher-ups interceded
in a testy debate over the status of Pluto and declared the far-flung world
to be a planet, not everyone was pleased. Brian A. Marsden, who heads the
IAU's Minor Planet Center, had argued that Pluto should be considered both a
major planet and a minor planet - and he still feels that way. On August
11th, during the IAU meeting being held in Manchester, England, Marsden
informally polled a group of roughly 100 planetary scientists to ask whether
Pluto should be classified as a regular planet, a trans-Neptunian object, or
both. (TNOs are icy bodies that populate the solar system beyond Neptune's
orbit. Currently more than 300 of them have been discovered, most of them a
few hundred kilometers across.) The vast majority of the audience voted for
dual citizenship.
During the presentation that preceded Marsden's vote, Michael A'Hearn
(University of Maryland) had compared Pluto's situation to that of the
equally mysterious fossil Archeaopteryx - a bird according to some
paleontologists, but a dinosaur according to others. "A dual classification
is a practical way to deal with boundary cases" like Pluto, says A'Hearn.

However, that won't happen any time soon. In early 1999 IAU General
Secretary Johannes Andersen announced that the IAU considers Pluto a planet,
period. Moreover, the MPC does not yet have a separate scheme for
classifying TNOs; they continue to receive designations as asteroids. Pluto
expert Alan Stern (Southwest Research Institute) is among those who oppose
dual classification. He says the planet-versus-TNO debate is ill-posed:
"It's like asking whether Mike A'Hearn is a human being or a North American.
One has to do with [origin], the other with location."

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