PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 20/2001 - 5 February 2001
-------------------------------


"Russian scientists warned Sunday that 38 asteroids will hurtle
Earthwards in 2001, some passing the planet as near -- or as far --
as 1.84 million kilometres (1.1 million miles) away. But they scotched
fears of planetary debris causing earthquakes, tidal waves and other global
catastrophes, saying close encounters of the asteroid kind were not a reason
for panic. The now identified flying objects would hurtle past Earth at a
distance of less than 30 million kilometres (18 million miles), the
Moscow-based International Centre for the Study of Small Planets told
Interfax."
--Agence France-Presse, 4 February 2001


"NEAR-Shoemaker (as the probe was recently renamed in honour of the
late US astronomer Gene Shoemaker) has shown that the 20-mile long
asteroid is rich in iron, magnesium, silicon and aluminium but about
half as dense at it should be if it was made of solid rock, as most
scientists had anticipated. "We have had to rethink our ideas and now
believe that Eros -- and other asteroids -- may actually be dense
aggregates of pebbles and stones, with some spaces in between," said
asteroid expert David Hughes of Sheffield University. If correct, this
poses a major problem for any future Bruce Willis who tries to save Earth
from an onrushing asteroid. Most ideas about protecting our world
from rogue objects envisage landing a nuclear bomb on its surface and
then detonating it so the offending body is blasted into harmless
pieces. But such a device would have much less effect if exploded on
something composed of smaller rocks. These would absorb more of the blast
while the trajectory would hardly be affected by the explosion. "We
may have to think up some other way to save Earth, if that were the
case," said Hughes."
--Robin McKie, The Observer, 4 February 2001


"There was heartening news this week for admirers of the composer
Gustav Holst. Apparently the planet Pluto is thought by some good
judges not to be a real planet at all. It ought to be degraded, they
say, to the rank of comet. If so, this would vindicate the judgment of
Holst in keeping his suite, The Planets, to the number he started out with.
People offered Holst the chance to expand the work after Pluto swam into
the general consciousness round about 1930, four years before he
died. "Look here, Holst, old chap," they told him, "we seem to have found
this new planet. Wouldn't you like to tag it on to your suite?" "Thanks
very much," Holst replied, "but I think I'll stick to the suite as it
stands, if you don't mind."
--The Guardian, 3 February 2001


(1) EARTH FACES 38 CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE ASTEROID KIND, RUSSIA WARNS
    SpaceDaily, 5 February 2001

(2) EARTH FACES 38 CLOSE ASTEROID ENCOUNTERS: RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS
    Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5 February 2001

(3) ASTEROIDS APPROACH EARTH ALL THE TIME
    Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

(4) BID TO LAND ON ASTEROID COULD SAVE EARTH FROM DISASTER
    The Observer, 4 February 2001

(5) RAS MEETING ON THE GEOLOGICAL RECORD OF IMPACTS ON THE EARTH
    Jacqueline Mitton <aco01@dial.pipex.com>

(6) LUNAR METEORITES AND THE LUNAR CATACLYSM
    Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

(7) SPACE ARCHAEOLOGY
    EGYPT REVEALED MAGAZINE, February 2001

(8) ASTEROID STICK AND MOON CARROT: THE FUTURE OF A TWO PLANET ECONOMY
    Michael Martin-Smith <martin@miff.demon.co.uk>

(9) AND FINALLY: THE UNFINISHED PLANETS? MUSIC WORLD SPLIT OVER PLUTO
CONTROVERSY
    The Guardian, 3 February 2001

==================
(1) EARTH FACES 38 CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE ASTEROID KIND, RUSSIA WARNS

From SpaceDaily, 5 February 2001
http://www.spacedaily.com/news/010204113445.64gfujk4.html
 
MOSCOW (AFP) Feb 04, 2001
Russian scientists warned Sunday that 38 asteroids will hurtle Earthwards in
2001, some passing the planet as near -- or as far -- as 1.84 million
kilometres (1.1 million miles) away.
But they scotched fears of planetary debris causing earthquakes, tidal waves
and other global catastrophes, saying close encounters of the asteroid kind
were not a reason for panic.

The now identified flying objects would hurtle past Earth at a distance of
less than 30 million kilometres (18 million miles), the Moscow-based
International Centre for the Study of Small Planets told Interfax.

The asteroid known as "PH5" would come the closest, flying past the planet
on July 25, only 1.84 million kilometres away, Professor Mikhail Smirnov of
Russia's Institute of Astronomy was quoted as saying.

Asteroid "WT24" will be only 1.86 million kilometres away when it passes the
Earth on December 16.

However, the proximity of the asteroids posed no threat to Earthlings,
Smirnov said.

Asteroids can be as large as one kilometre across, but most are tiny
rotational bodies that revolve around the Sun in orbits mostly between the
planets Mars and Jupiter.

"They can in no way cause any change to Earth's orbit. Nor can they cause
tidal surges or ebbings or any other undesirable consequences. Neither the
Earth itself nor the people on it will feel anything," Smirnov added.

The Moon revolves around the Earth at a distance of about 400,000 kilometres
(240,000 miles), or four times nearer than even PH5 will pass by.

The flight paths of all asteroids expected near Earth's orbit between now
and 2176 have been mapped, and none of them foresee a collision with the
Earth, though longer-term forecasting is not possible without more powerful
computers, Smirnov said.

He added that intermittent rumours an asteroid was going to collide with the
planet were "fiction or a sign of incompetence."

"If a real asteroid threat does appear in the future, humankind will
undoubtedly find a way to prevent it," he concluded.

Vadim Simonenko of Russia's Federal Nuclear Centre at Snezhinsk
(Chelyabinsk-70) said technology would be able to cope with any danger by
finding the hazardous object in space and by adopting measures able to
prevent its impact with Earth.

"Considerable danger still exists from close encounters of Earth with minor
space bodies: asteroids, comets and their fragments," he said in a statement
posted on NASA's website.

But global catastrophes occurred only once every 100,000 to one million
years, with consequences ranging from degradation of the human race to its
total elimination, he added.

Lesser disasters, such as tsunamis caused by falls of large bodies into the
oceans, have higher frequencies of about one every 10,000-100,000 years.

All rights reserved. © 2000 Agence France-Presse.

========
(2) EARTH FACES 38 CLOSE ASTEROID ENCOUNTERS: RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS

From Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5 February 2001
http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/space/2001/02/item20010205034807_1.htm

Russian scientists warned Sunday that 38 asteroids will hurtle Earthwards in
2001, some passing the planet as near, or as far as, 1.84 million kilometres
away.

==============
(3) ASTEROIDS APPROACH EARTH ALL THE TIME

From Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

After the numerous reports about "asteroid near-misses" in the last 12
months, I think it is important to put yesterday's AFP news story about "38
close asteroid encouters" into context. I should point out that asteroids
that approach the Earth "at a distance of less than 30 million kilometres
(18 million miles)," are neither considered "close approaches" nor
"potentially hazardous." Indeed, some of the huge number of small Main Belt
asteroids (i.e. those millions of objects with V-magnitude between 22 and
30) are entring this expansive region all the time. According to the
generally accepted definition of a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA),
only asteroids that have an Earth Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID)
of 0.05 AU or less and an absolute V-magnitude (H) of 22.0 or less are
considered PHAs. In other words, asteroids that cannot get closer to the
Earth than 0.05 AU (~7,480,000 km = ~4,650,000 miles) or are smaller than
about 150 m in diameter (i.e. H = 22.0 with assumed albedo of 13%) are not
considered PHAs. That's why there are only 4 PHAs currently listed as having
a 'close approach' to Earth this year. Obviously, if one changes the MOID to
30 million kilometres, the number of asteroids reaching this region will go
up accordingly.

For more information about close approaches of PHAs, see the
Minor Planet Center's List of PHAs
http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/lists/Dangerous.html
NASA's NEO Pogram Office http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/neo/pha.html.
For information about close approaches by small asteroids, see the Sormano
Astronomical Observatory's Small Asteroids Encounters List
http://www.brera.mi.astro.it/sormano/sael.html.

=========
(4) BID TO LAND ON ASTEROID COULD SAVE EARTH FROM DISASTER

From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

The Observer, 4 February 2001
[ http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/spacedocumentary/story/0,2763,433324,00.html ]

By Robin McKie, The Observer science editor, robin.mckie@observer.co.uk

One of mankind's most audacious space projects is scheduled to meet a dusty
fate next week when a robot probe drops on to a peanut-shaped lump of rock
200 million miles from Earth.

It will be the first time engineers have attempted to land a spacecraft on
an asteroid -- and, if successful, the mission could provide crucial
information about the dangers these giant, craggy objects pose to the human
race.

An asteroid crashing on Earth probably killed off the dinosaurs 65 million
years ago, and scientists now estimate there is a one-in-a-hundred chance
another will hit our planet this millennium.

"These are objects that in the past have caused some bad days for some
species on Earth, namely the dinosaurs," said Ed Weiler, chief scientist at
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). "We consider it
our responsibility to learn as much as we can about them."

The £150 million Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission is the first
to place a spacecraft in orbit round one of these rocky left overs from the
birth of the solar system. The probe took four years to reach its
destination after blast-off from Cape Can-averal in February 1996, and ever
since has been orbiting asteroid 433 Eros, at the sedate rate of 20 mph,
returning a welter
of photographs of its pock-marked, crater-encrusted surface.

The pictures reveal an object which twists and turns in its path round the
sun as if rotating on a giant skewer. The ground is blanketed with rocks and
boulders, some as big as houses. Giant grooves, ridges and craters
criss-cross the surface.

NEAR-Shoemaker (as the probe was recently renamed in honour of the late US
astronomer Gene Shoemaker) has shown that the 20-mile long asteroid is rich
in iron, magnesium, silicon and aluminium but about half as dense at it
should be if it was made of solid rock, as most scientists had anticipated.
"We have had to rethink our ideas and now believe that Eros -- and other
asteroids -- may actually be dense aggregates of pebbles and stones, with
some spaces in between," said asteroid expert David Hughes of Sheffield
University.

If correct, this poses a major problem for any future Bruce Willis who tries
to save Earth from an onrushing asteroid. Most ideas about protecting our
world from rogue objects envisage landing a nuclear bomb on its surface and
then detonating it so the offending body is blasted into harmless pieces.

But such a device would have much less effect if exploded on something
composed of smaller rocks. These would absorb more of the blast while the
trajectory would hardly be affected by the explosion. "We may have to think
up some other way to save Earth, if that were the case," said Hughes.

Given that Eros -- one of a family of asteroids whose orbits bring them
close to Earth -- has a chance of colliding with our planet in the distant
future, this problem is taken seriously by scientists. What is needed, they
say, is more data about the asteroid -- hence the delicate dance of death
that the NEAR-Shoemaker probe will carry out next week.

"We have reached the end of the mission, and have achieved all its
objectives," said Helen Worth, of the Johns Hopkins University applied
physics laboratory which has been running the NEAR-Shoemaker project for
NASA. "We have a little fuel left and will try to use that to land the craft
on Eros -- although the probe was never designed for that."

At 3.30pm on Monday, 12 February, mission controllers will command the craft
to fire a sequence of four bursts of its hydrazine rocket, progressively
slowing the probe until it drops on to the surface of Eros at about 3 mph.
Given the delicacy of the manoeuvre, however, most experts rate the
mission's chances of success at one in 10 and expect the craft to crash and
destroy itself.

Yet the NEAR-Shoemaker team believes the potential rewards justify the risk.
If the probe lands without mishap, it will be able to take photographs on
the surface of one of the solar system's oldest objects -- although its
antenna will have to remain pointing towards Earth, and its solar panels
will have to function to provide power. Hence astronomers' pessimism about
its prospects of survival.

"However, even if we fail, we will have attempted the first controlled
descent and landing of a rocket on an asteroid," said Worth. "We will still
have learnt something. We will have a much better idea what not to do the
next time we want to put something on an asteroid -- like a bomb. And that
could prove to be awfully important."

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

==========
(5) RAS MEETING ON THE GEOLOGICAL RECORD OF IMPACTS ON THE EARTH

From Jacqueline Mitton <aco01@dial.pipex.com>

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
PRESS INFORMATION NOTE

Date: 5 February 2001

Ref. PN 02/04
Issued by: Dr Jacqueline Mitton
RAS Press Officer
Office & home phone: Cambridge ((0)1223) 564914
FAX: Cambridge ((0)1223) 572892
E-mail: jmitton@dial.pipex.com

(On the day of the meeting, please use Jacqueline Mitton's mobile phone
number, 07770 386133.)

RAS Web: http://www.ras.org.uk

THE GEOLOGICAL RECORD OF IMPACTS ON THE EARTH AT ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL
SOCIETY'S LONDON MEETING ON FEBRUARY 9TH

This one-day discussion meeting in the Royal Astronomical Society's regular
monthly programme will review and challenge current understanding of
cratering and impacts throughout the history of the Earth, setting a context
for possible disaster scenarios in the future, which might involve comets,
meteorites,  or asteroids. There will be contributions on some of the best
direct geological evidence for impacts, discussions of global threats,
frequency of impacts, known and potential extinction events, and the
devastating secondary consequences of impacts, which may include
earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, and volcano activity. The keynote talk is
by Christian Koeberl (Vienna), President of the IMPACT programme  of the
European Science Foundation (web site http://ww.esf.org/).

Media representatives are welcome to attend. The meeting is in the
Geological Society Lecture Theatre at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London,
W1.

Meeting organisers: Dr Adrian Jones, University College London
(adrian.jones@ucl.ac.uk), Professor David Price, University College London
(d.price@ucl.ac.uk), and
Dr Monica Grady, Natural History Museum (mmg@nhm.ac.uk).

An outline of the programme is given below.

For more information, contact Dr Adrian Jones
Department of Geological Sciences, University College London, Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT
Tel:    0207 679 2415/2408
Fax:    0207 388 7614
email:  adrian.jones@ucl.ac.uk


Programme:

10.25-10.30       Introduction by Chairman, Professor G. David Price,
University College London

10.30-11.00       1     Evidence of the late heavy bombardment
                        Christian Koeberl (Institute of Geochemistry/Vienna)

11.00-11.20       2     The Chicxulub impact structure: a review
                        Mike Warner (Imperial College London)

11.20-11.40       3     ChicxulubII: Nature of the K/T projectile?
Matthew Genge (Natural History Museum,
London)

11.40-12.00       4     Large impacts and impact volcanism?
                        Adrian Jones (University College London)

12.00-12.20       5     Timing between flood basalts and impacts.
                        Simon Kelly (Open University, Milton Keynes)

12.20-12.40       6     Holocene Impacts and the Difficulties of Detection
                        Benny Peiser (Liverpool John Moores University)

12.40-12.55       7     Simulation of terrestrial shock metamorphism
                        Emma Bowden (University College London)

Afternoon session: (Chair Monica Grady)

14.00-14.15       5     The flux of extraterrestrial material to the Earth'
                        Phil Bland (Open University, Milton Keynes)

14.15-14.30       6     NEO-uniformitarianism: are impacts random in time?
                        Duncan Steel (University of Salford)

14.30-15.00       7     Regularities in impact records; possible cometary
causes
                        Bill Napier (Armagh Observatory, Northern Ireland)

15.00-15.15       8     Origin of the K/T Impactor: Comet or Asteroid?
                        Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory, Northern Ireland)

15.15-15.30       9     Microtektites: exoatmospheric distribution of impact
ejecta.
                        Ralph Lorenz (Lunar Planetary Lab, Arizona)

=============
(6) LUNAR METEORITES AND THE LUNAR CATACLYSM

From Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

This item has just been posted at
http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/PSRdiscoveries/Jan01/lunarCataclysm.html

What would it be like to have 17,000 Chicxulub craters in [200 million
years]? ...Some would have dumped enough heat into the Earth's atmosphere to
boil the oceans away. Perhaps that is why the oldest evidence we have for
life on Earth is 3.85 billion years old - perhaps any life that got started
before that was destroyed in the Cataclysm. On the other hand, there are
some forms of life that might not find it so bad...

regards
Mike

-------------
Lunar Meteorites and the Lunar Cataclysm
http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/PSRdiscoveries/Jan01/lunarCataclysm.html
 
Written by Barbara A. Cohen
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The Moon has been pummeled with asteroids and comets throughout its long,
4.5 billion-year history. While even a single impact can be an impressive
event, there seems to have been one particularly spectacular era about 3.9
billion years ago which saw the formation of 1700 craters 100 kilometers in
size or larger, resurfacing 80% of the Moon's crust. This intense
bombardment, known as the "Lunar Cataclysm," was first suspected nearly 30
years ago, based on the rocks returned by the Apollo astronauts. However,
because the Apollo Moon rocks all come from a relatively small region on the
Moon, many scientists worried that the effect was really just a local
pounding.

In the December 1, 2000 issue of Science, my colleagues, Tim Swindle and
David Kring, and I report that this intense bombardment is also reflected in
lunar meteorites. Because lunar meteorites are a more random sampling of the
Moon than the Apollo samples, the Lunar Cataclysm does indeed seem to have
been a Moon-wide phenomenon. The Earth would not have escaped a similar
beating during this time -- and neither would life on Earth.

Reference:
Cohen, B. A.,T. D. Swindle, D. A. Kring, 2000, Support for the Lunar
Cataclysm Hypothesis from Lunar Meteorite Impact Melt Ages, Science, v. 290,
no. 5497, p. 1754-1755.

FULL ARTICLE at
http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/PSRdiscoveries/Jan01/lunarCataclysm.html

============
(7) SPACE ARCHAEOLOGY

From EGYPT REVEALED MAGAZINE, February 2001
http://www.egyptrevealed.com/020401-satellites.htm

Satellites Explore the Hidden Wonders of Egypt 

by  Toshibumi Sakata, Masahiro Etaya, Sakuji Yoshimura, Jiro Kondo, and So
Hasegawa

The Egyptian pyramids, easily the most famous monuments of the ancient
world, are scattered in the desert on the Nile's west bank. Built during the
Old Kingdom period (about 2800-2200 B.C.) and Middle Kingdom (2040-1780
B.C.), the pyramids are heavily studied, but they still hold riddles
aplenty.

It is reasonable to suppose that, despite some 200 years of archaeological
explorations, some pyramids remain to be discovered in the area, since the
tombs of at least three kings - Menkauhor (of the fifth dynasty), Neferkare
(seventh to eighth dynasty), and Ity (ninth to tenth dynasty) - have never
been found. If we can find these pyramids in their original state, the
purpose and manner of construction and other lingering questions might be
answered.

Tokai University Research & Information Center (TRIC) has for decades been
using satellite data to survey and study archaeological remains and
paleoenvironments around the world. Recently we used data from space, for
the first time in Egyptology, to explore the "pyramid zone" - the Nile's
west bank from Abu Rawash to Maidum.

A central question of our study is whether pyramids like those of the three
giant monuments of Giza could remain undiscovered. Khufu's pyramid, known as
the Great Pyramid, is about 230 meters (755 feet) on a side and 146 meters
(479 feet) high. It is, of course, difficult to envision such a huge complex
being buried under that desert and escaping detection for more than 4,000
years.

Such a pyramid almost certainly would have been looted, and perhaps even
demolished, during the social unrest that followed the end of the Old
Kingdom. Some collapsed and unfinished pyramids - which look like mountains
of rubble or simply foundations without the dramatic stone superstructure -
have been found; such ruined structures became the main target in this
study.

FULL STORY at http://www.egyptrevealed.com/020401-satellites.htm

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

(8) ASTEROID STICK AND MOON CARROT: THE FUTURE OF A TWO PLANET ECONOMY

From Michael Martin-Smith <martin@miff.demon.co.uk>

Dear Benny,

re: Japan Plans To Launch Solar Power Station In Space By 2040
by Takahiro Fukada, Tokyo (AFP) Jan. 31, 2001

I note that the Japanese are moving cautiously towards a logical answer in
their desire to solve, in a non greenhouse gas polluting way, their massive
energy needs on an island largely devoid of indigenous energy sources. This
would truly be a massive project comparable in scale for modern Japan - or
more hopefully an international consortium - perhaps to  the Pyramid
building project of Egypt's Fourth Dynasty. The thought of assembling a
20,000 tons structure in high (GEO) orbit (no unplanned atmospheric
re-entries please!) would daunt the bravest, and did indeed deter the US
Senate some 2 decades ago.

The retreat from Apollo looks more than ever like a myopic gesture. What the
Senators forgot, and possibly present day commentators ignore, is that it
costs 22 times less to lift materials from the lunar surface than it does
from Earth - even without allowing for the use of such new technology as the
Electromagnetic Mass Driver as researched by the late Professor Gerard
O'Neill and the Space Studies Institute at Princeton University back in the
1980's.

Given the long time-scale imagined by the Japanese, whose ideas for lunar
bases similarly call for some 20-30 years' work, what we are seeing is
really quite exciting ; a true economic and ecological rationale for the
development of a two planet economy - from which both non-nuclear
constructive/exploitative solutions for the threat from impacts and the
dispersal of Humanity into the wider Universe might manage - at last -  to
strike a cord in a society whose eyes are firmly fixed on the bottom line.

A lunar base, in addition to these capabilities, offers also a stable and
clear platform for astronomy, potential tourism, and even Helium 3 mining as
a adjunct to SPS. In 5-10 years time the question will suely arise, "What,
if anything, is to follow the International Space Station?"
The answer is clearly the Moon. Some of us in the CCNet have been waving the
asteroid "stick" for some two-three years; maybe at last we now have a
"carrot"? If not, Homo Sapiens is truly misnamed.

Dr Michael Martin-Smith
www.manmedicineandspace.co.uk

==========
(9) AND FINALLY: THE UNFINISHED PLANETS? MUSIC WORLD SPLIT OVER PLUTO
CONTROVERSY

From The Guardian, 3 February 2001
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4129519,00.html

There was heartening news this week for admirers of the composer Gustav
Holst. Apparently the planet Pluto is thought by some good judges not to be
a real planet at all. It ought to be degraded, they say, to the rank of
comet. If so, this would vindicate the judgment of Holst in keeping his
suite, The Planets, to the number he started out with. People offered Holst
the chance to expand the work after Pluto swam into the general
consciousness round about 1930, four years before he died. "Look here,
Holst, old chap," they told him, "we seem to have found this new planet.
Wouldn't you like to tag it on to your suite?" "Thanks very much," Holst
replied, "but I think I'll stick to the suite as it stands, if you don't
mind." (I paraphrase, but not much.)

And thus things continued till the final days of the 20th century, when the
composer Colin Matthews, at the invitation of Kent Nagano and the Hallé,
added a Pluto, which was first performed in Manchester last May. To much
acclaim, it has to be said, though Smallweed continued to think that
Matthews was taking a liberty. This was not, after all, like Mahler's 10th
or Bartok's third piano concerto, a work which had to be completed by others
because the composer died. Holst was still around and said no, and that
should have been the end of the matter. Thank goodness for science, which
now seems likely to relegate Pluto to some brand new suite called The
Comets.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

--------------------------------------------------------------------
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*

CCNet PLUTO DEBATE: PRO AND CONTRA, 5 February 2001
---------------------------------------------------


(1) PLANETARY SOCIETY VOWS TO KEEP PUSHING FOR PLUTO MISSION
    Space.com, 2 Fenbruary 2001

(2) HAYDEN'S TYSON DEFENDS PLUTO EXCLUSION
    Space.com, 2 February 2001

(3) MY SOLAR SYSTEM FOR A PLANET!
    Wendell Mendell <wendell.w.mendell1@jsc.nasa.gov>

(4) PLUTO: AN AMATEUR'S VIEW
    Stuart Atkinson < STUARTATK@aol.com >

(5) THE DEBATE ON PLUTO: TOMBAUGH'S VIEWPOINT (FROM 1994)
    Joe Rao < Skywayinc@aol.com >
 
(6) A BRIEF HISTORY OF MINOR PLANET RESEARCH
    Norbert Giesinger <norbert.giesinger@siemens.at>

=================
(1) PLANETARY SOCIETY VOWS TO KEEP PUSHING FOR PLUTO MISSION

From Space.com, 2 Fenbruary 2001
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/pluto_planetary_society_010202.html

By Stew Magnuson
Spacenews.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON - The Planetary Society will continue pushing NASA to send a
mission to Pluto, the advocacy group's vice president said at a Feb. 1
public meeting designed to rally support for a 2004 launch.

"Let's go there and really find out what [the planet] is all about," Wes
Huntress, vice president of the Pasadena, California-based Planetary
Society, said at a panel discussion at the Washington-based Carnegie
Institute. Approximately 300 members of the public attended the "The Science
and Romance of Pluto" lecture.

NASA halted work on its Pluto-Kuiper Express mission last year, citing the
cost of the project. In December, the agency revived hopes for a mission by
saying it would accept new proposals from universities or research
institutions.

NASA stipulated, however, that the project must cost less than $500 million
and deliver a spacecraft to Pluto by 2020. Proposals are due by March, but
NASA has made it clear that it reserves the right to not select any of the
bids.

The Planetary Society intends to push NASA into accepting one of the
proposals, Huntress said.

"We know how to do this mission," said Alan Stern of the Boulder,
Colorado-based Southwest Research Institute. "There's one thing we don't
know how to do -- get it out of the Washington Beltway."

Panelists and audience members recommended a letter writing campaign to
lawmakers, especially those on the House and Senate Appropriations VA-HUD
and Independent Agencies Subcommittees, which control NASA's purse strings.

Panelist noted that the window of opportunity for a Pluto mission is
closing. The planet revolves around the Sun in an elliptical orbit. The
longer the mission is postponed, the less sunlight will fall on its surface.
By 2020, only a quarter of the planet's surface will be bright enough to be
studied. As it recedes, its unique atmosphere will collapse.

"It doesn't matter if we go there in the Starship Enterprise, there won't be
an atmosphere to study," Stern said.

NASA can send missions to Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus "at its
leisure," Stern added. But this generation will only have one shot to go to
Pluto, he said.

Neil de Grasse Tyson, director of the New York-based Hayden Planetarium,
said he believes Pluto is not a planet but rather a larger member of the
so-called Kuiper Belt [reference page] of ice and rock asteroids. However,
he said he strongly supports a mission to Pluto that would also explore some
of its smaller Kuiper Belt neighbors.

"There's enough uncertainty [about Pluto] that we want to know more about
this place.... There's something to be learned out there."

Pluto and its relatively large moon, Charon [reference page], are similar to
Earth and its own moon, Stern said. Getting a closer look at Pluto may help
scientists understand the origin of the solar system and how Earth's moon
formed.

Copyright 2001, Space.com

===========
(2) HAYDEN'S TYSON DEFENDS PLUTO EXCLUSION

From Space.com, 2 February 2001
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/tyson_responds_010202.html
 
Last week, various media reported that exhibits at the Rose Center for Earth
and Space give short shrift to Pluto, omitting it from planetary displays of
our solar system and implying that it is not a planet. On Friday, Neil de
Grasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the center, explained
the center's treatment of Pluto in an open letter to the
Cambridge-Conference Network, an international network of asteroid
researchers and planetary scientists who have advocated a change in Pluto's
status for more than two years.

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/tyson_responds_010202.html

============
(3) MY SOLAR SYSTEM FOR A PLANET!

From Wendell Mendell <wendell.w.mendell1@jsc.nasa.gov>

Dear Benny,

While showering this morning [Americans are obsessed with bathing], I
meditated on the erudition flowing through CCNet on the subject of Pluto as
a planet. Of course, as pointed out, the problem is not 'Pluto' but rather
'planet'. I wanted to consider what the Answer is for myself personally. Two
inputs from the CCNeurons particularly influenced my ruminations.

The first new consideration for me involves school children. Pupils and
their teachers derive great comfort from being able to name the nine planets
and feel they understand the solar system. If the taxonomy becomes too
esoteric and complicated, many learners and teachers (particularly in the
United States) may be intimidated and be unable to distill the discussion to
their individual comfort levels. This was the point of one commentator,
arguing for leaving Pluto be.

On the other hand, leaving Pluto off the list usually stimulates the
question from the class as to the reason. A probing question is a precious
event for a teacher because it means at least one mind is receptive to new
information for a few seconds. Characterizing Pluto as the Lord of the
Kuiper Belt can lead to discussion of the structure of the solar system with
more detail than is contained in the old mnemonic quoted in every media
article about this controversy.

In my meditation I decided I was most comfortable with the approach of eight
planets plus a question.

The second input influencing me was the definition of a planet using the
property of roundness. A round (natural) object in the solar system almost
certainly has melted (at least somewhat) at some point in its history, most
likely at its birth. With melting comes geochemical differentiation, which
makes the object fodder for the planetary scientist. For large objects
(e.g., terrestrial planets) the source of heat is probably accretion. While
the meteorites tell us that small objects can differentiate, the heat source
is not so clear. Many assume a high dose of radioactive aluminum-25 is
responsible. Others invoke hypothetical electromagnetic heating in a
turbulent early solar milieu. Whatever the source, I have decided that small
round objects should be dignified with the name 'minor planets', signifying
the presence of a heat engine driving internal chemical processing.

Tidy generalizations run into trouble with the major satellites of the outer
planets. The Galilean Satellites are large round objects where the heat
source for the planetary engine can be tidal flexing. Little is known about
Titan and Triton, making any discussion of their 'planetary' properties
suspect. Telling schoolchildren these bodies are planets will muddy the
waters.

I think the pedagogical approach explained by Neil de Grasse Tyson is
wonderful. One must ask then whether defining a 'planet' is worthwhile.
Probably so. That is what the IAU does to keep order and satisfy
lexicographers, encyclopedists, indexers, other gatekeepers of our culture
and its information. It probably will be a messy business.

In that regard, I make a final plea to include the Earth-Moon system as a
double planet. Laskar's discovery of the stabilization of Earth's obliquity
variation by the Moon casts our sterile sister planet as the guardian of
climate and shepherd of the biosphere. Mars may be currently lifeless simply
because it lacks a large moon.

I have other reasons to like this idea that have little to do with this
forum but have to do with my professional life as an advocate of human
exploration of the solar system. To see this other connection, check out my
Viewpoint piece in the forthcoming February issue of the journal, Space
Policy.

I would go so far as to urge a name for the system. We struggle so much with
<Earth> and <Moon>. After 45 seconds of reflection, I decided I liked <Gaea>
as distinct from and in spite of and because of Lovelock's <Gaia> that
unfortunately connotes a sentient planet. (Nevertheless, I am a fan of the
metaphors of Teilhard de Chardin.)

Wendell Mendell

============
(4) PLUTO: AN AMATEUR'S VIEW

From Stuart Atkinson < STUARTATK@aol.com >

Dear Sir,

Having followed, avidly, the debate re Pluto's status over the past week -
and months - I thought I would humbly and respectfully offer some input from
a mere amateur astronomer and voluntary, self-taught but enthusiastic
Outreach educator.

Some background. I am an amateur astronomer living in the north of England,
in a truly beautiful area blessed with mountains, lakes and forests, and -
when the cloud clears, which isn't often - beautiful, star-spattered night
skies. I founded my town's astronomical society 9 yrs ago, and since then
we've gained quite a reputation for staging popular and educational public
events (the recent lunar eclipse watch drew over 150 people, Aug 99's solar
eclipse almost a thousand!) In my spare time I write children's astronomy
books, and also visit local junior (ages 5-11) schools, essentially runnning
a one-man Outreach program with slide shows, demonstrations and workshops...


... all of which, I hope, makes me qualified - if a little hesitatant! - to
at least offer a viewpoint and an opinion on this matter, whilst surrounded
by all CCNet's experts and authorities. :-)

I was moved to write this because, reading through all the offerings from
the more scientifically-accomplished readers, it just struck me that no-one
has really taken into account the opinions of non-astronomers in all this,
the men and women and children "in the street".

History... it's important, you know? And Pluto *has* history. I've spent the
best part of twenty years teaching kids - and their parents! - that the Sun
is faithfully orbited by 9 planets. I do this with slides, photos, and, most
frequently and effectively, a long bit of string, knotted along its length
to show the relative positions of the planets. Going through a typical
"Solar System Tour" it's quickly obvious that there are firm favourites with
the public. Mars is seen as exciting because of its huge volcanoes and
valley... Jupiter because of the Great Red Spot, swirling storm systems and
potentially life-bearing moons.... Saturn? The rings, of course!

And then there's Pluto. Yes, believe it or not, many people actually like
Pluto, in fact they're intrigued by it, even fascinated by it. It takes
*how* long to go around the Sun? Really! It's *how* cold there? You're
kidding! The Sun is just a bright *star* from there? Sheesh...! To the
people "out there"... the people who buy astronomy books, watch Discovery
Channel programs - and buy planetarium tickets - Pluto is A Planet, The Last
Planet.It's a world. It was discovered scientifically (please, not "by an
American for America"! Does that mean Galileo discovered those 4 moons "for
Italy?" ;-) ), it has a whopping big moon, it is a place we could actually
go to, and walk on, and explore..!

I know, I know, so is Eros, or Chiron, or 1992QB1, that's not the point. The
point is that generations of people have grown up with the impression - and
our coillective "expert" assurance - that Pluto is a planet, and that it
marks, in cold ice and hard stone, a very real boundary. "Beyond here lie
the dragons of deep space!", if you will.

I gave a talk at a school here in my hometown a couple of weeks ago, and the
kids were fascinated by Pluto. They were only 8 yrs old, but it already had
an identity for them, they thought of it as a planet, that's what they'd
been told, that's what they believe. And on my slides and charts it was no
different to Mars, Jupiter or Saturn - it orbited the Sun, end of story. I
know, we all know the situation and the reality is a little more complicated
than that, but to an 8 yr old it isn't. To the 7 yr old boy whose face lit
up when I told him that Pluto was so cold he'd freeze solid in moments if he
took off his space suit there it isn't. To the 8 yr old girl who stood at
the far end of the classroom, holding the other end of the piece of string,
who held it up to her face and said to me, with amazement and respect,
"Pluto really is a far-away planet, isn't it?" there's no room for all this
confusion.

So. With the greatest respect, I can't help thinking that it's all very well
for planetarium directors and planetary scientists to grandly debate the
nature of Pluto, to toss around alternative names, classifications and
identities, but to the people out there, in the *real* world, Pluto is, and
will always be, a planet. And I'm not sure we have the right to change that.
I'm not sure anyone has. It's not just re-writing science textbooks, it's
re-writing history, and it's re-writing it with cold, perhaps even arrogant
disregard for the image non-astronomers have of Pluto.

This solar system of ours is a glorious, wonderful place, a collection of
treasures we're still just getting to know. But the more we learn, the
*more* respect we should show for it, not less. It's our place - our
responsibility, our destiny even - to explore these worlds. It's not our
place, or our responsibility, or our *right*, to take an eraser to their
history, to Mankind's history, just because we now have cool enough
equipment to see smaller and fainter chunks of rock than ever before.

I know this debate is well meant, and that the people involved have good
hearts and are making their stand for the advancement of science, and I have
great respect for them all. Maybe it isn't even my place to comment on this.
But if you're asking me to go back to that school, to stand in front of that
wide-eyed class again, to reel out my fraying solar-system-on-a-string, hand
it to that beautiful little girl and tell her "Sorry, Pluto isn't a planet
after all, we made it all up..." then I'm sorry, but I won't do it.

With respect,

Stuart Atkinson,

Cockermouth Astronomical Society,

England.

==========
(5) THE DEBATE ON PLUTO: TOMBAUGH'S VIEWPOINT (FROM 1994)
 
From  Joe Rao < Skywayinc@aol.com >
 
In the wake of all this controversy concerning Pluto, I wondered what its
discoverer, the late Clyde Tombaugh would have thought. Well . . . here
below are exerpts of a letter that he fired off to Sky & Telescope back in
December 1994 (pages 8 and 9).  The letter comes under the heading, "Pluto:
The Final Word."   

"I'm fascinated by the relatively small 'ice balls' in the very outer part
of the solar system.  I have often wondered what bodies lay out there
fainter than 17th magnitude, the limit of the plates I took at Lowell
Observatory.  May I suggest we call this new class of objects 'Kuiperoids'?"

"While we are considering reclassifying astronomy, how about revamping the
Hertzsprung-Russell diagram so the spectral types are alphabetically
ordered?  No, that would wreck extensive catalogs of stella spectra. Or
let's throw out the awkward constellation system!  Alas, that would discard
our beautiful mythology."

"Pluto started out as the ninth planet, a supported fulfillment of Percival
Lowell's prediction of Planet X.  Let's simply retain Pluto as the ninth
major planet.  After all, there is no Planet X.  For 14 years, I combed
two-thirds of the entire sky down to 17th magnitude, and no more planets
showed up.  I did the job thoroughly and correctly.  Pluto was your last
chance for a major planet."

CLYDE W. TOMBAUGH
Mesilla Park, New Mexico

No surprise . . . if ol' Clyde were around today, he'd probably be defending
Pluto's status for planethood.  -- joe rao

================
(6) A BRIEF HISTORY OF MINOR PLANET RESEARCH

From Norbert Giesinger <norbert.giesinger@siemens.at>

Dear Dr. Peiser,

I just found a nice Link re Minor planet history, symbols etc.

http://riemann.usno.navy.mil/hilton/AsteroidHistory/minorplanets.html

Norbert Giesinger

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