CCNet DIGEST, 9 February 1999

     (The New York Times, 9 February 1999)

     "If Pluto had been discovered by a Spaniard or Austrian, I doubt
     whether American astronomers would object to reclassifying it as a
     minor planet. Before he died, Clyde Tombaugh himself said he was
     reconciled to the perception of Pluto as one of many Kuiper Belt
     objects -- minor denizens of the outer solar system."

    Andrew Yee <>

    The New York Times, 9 February 1999

    E.P. Grondine <>

    Ron Baalke <>



From Andrew Yee <>

SINTEF (Foundation of Scientific and Industrial Research of the
Norwegian Institute of Technology) Trondheim, Norway

Contact at IKU: Atle Mork
Tel.: +47 73 59 11 63

January 1999

Meteor impact in the Barents Sea

By Christina B. Claussen
Illustrations: IKU and SINTEF Graphic Centre

Armageddon, the earth's meeting with a giant meteor, has been
Hollywood's latest terror scenario and big money earner. But the
phenomenon is real. During the summer, geologists from IKU Petroleum
Research drilled into the center of a gigantic meteor crater in the
Barents Sea. The "hole" is 40km in diameter and is evidence that a
giant from the asteroid belt entered the earth's atmosphere and struck
right off Norway's northern coast.

The severe collision with a meteorite occurred about 150 million years
ago and may have led to an extensive environmental catastrophe.
Hollywood movies have certainly amply nourished our fantasies, but
temperatures of around 10 000 degrees Celsius and flood waves which
spread from Canada to Russia are hard to relate to. Mud, rock and
materials from the sea floor were flung into the atmosphere in a
violent inferno. When the enormous forces finally settled, it became
cold and calm. Dust and particles created a carpet that blocked out the
sunlight, and what followed is known as an atomic winter. The event had
great effect on life on earth. Large parts of the organic life were
affected. And the Mjoelnir Crater was created.

Rare discovery

The discovery of the crater in the Barents Sea was a coincidence.
Norway's sea area is systematically mapped, using seismic registration
in a continuous search for potential oil and gas reservoirs. It was in
this way that the enormous formation, north of Hammerfest, was noticed.
In the beginning, geologists thought it was an ordinary salt formation
or submarine volcano. But certain indications meant that Steinar
Gudlauggson, from the Department of Geology at the University of Oslo,
had suspicions that this could be a very rare case. Geologists from IKU
and the University of Oslo then put their heads together. Could it be a
parallel to the often-mentioned Chicxulub Crater in Mexico, by many
scientists regarded as responsible for the final extinction of the

A detailed and time-consuming project was implemented. IKU already
operated in this very region and could loan a series of core samples
from close to the crater to be analysed. After an extensive study of
400 000 quartz grains from the actual area, the work provided the
answers. Some of the grains contained traces of shock deformation, a
characteristic crackle in the species of rock that evidence that
enormous forces had worked their way in. Traces of iridium were found,
a rare element in the platina group that is far more common in objects
from space than on the earth's surface. With two such clear indicators,
the researchers could establish that they had found one of the world's
seven marine meteor craters.

Geological gem

"If we take a look at the moon, all of the holes on the surface are
craters of meteor impacts," says project leader Henning Dypvik of the
University of Oslo. "That's actually how it is with the earth too, but
rivers, mountains and vegetation gradually wipe out traces.

"The Mjoelnir Crater is extremely well preserved because, to a large
extent, the environment in the sea takes care of the layer of
sedimentary rock on the sea floor. All the geological layers in and
under a submarine meteor crater function as solid documentation on the
earth's development over millions of years."

At the end of August, the crater was drilled by a team from IKU. The
121m long core sample is described within the subject as a "geological
gem". The Mjoelnir Crater is one of the few instances where both the
crater and the displaced material were found and described. The crater
and the sediment, therefore, carry unique information about the process
and consequences of such an impact.

Researchers from the project team of University of Olso,
Vitenskapsmuseet (NTNU) and IKU will continue to uncover the crater's
inner most secrets and will hopefully be able to tell us how life on
earth survived being hit by a meteor 2km wide at a speed of 30 000
km/per hour.

Gemini fakta

* A meteor is a relatively large fragment from the asteroid belt. A
meteor consists of minerals and metals and are different from comets
which come from outer space and mainly consist of ice.

* Meteorites fall on the earth daily. According to statistics, a
meteorite 250m wide will hit earth creating a crater 5km wide about
once every 10 000 years.

* In all, man knows of 160 craters on the globe, but just seven of
these are submarine.

* The drilling of the Mjoelnir Crater was supported by Norsk Hydro,
the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, Philips Petroleum Company
(Norway), Saga Petroleum, Seateam and Statoil.

seismic registrations shows the form and size of the crater. The
diameter is 40 km and precise situation is 73 40=B4N, 20 40=B4E.


From The New York Times, 9 February 1999


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and Pluto by any other
name ("Minor Planet No. 10,000," for instance,) would still be a
no-account little dot in the sky you couldn't see without a good

But in recent weeks, astronomers have been partly agog over rumors that
planetary catalogers were plotting to send Pluto back to the minor

Pluto, generally acknowledged to be the ninth planet in the solar
system, is the only one discovered by an American (Clyde Tombaugh in
1930), and American astronomers have been particularly put out during
the past couple of months by suggestions from a section of the
Paris-based International Astronomical Union that maybe Pluto should be
officially listed as No. 10,000 in the roster of minor planets.

The proposal, which stirred up a hornet's nest of astronomical
politicking, was made by Dr. Brian G. Marsden, an Englishman who
directs the Minor Planet Center of the Harvard-Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. The center operates under
the aegis of the International Astronomical Association.

The Minor Planet Center, a clearinghouse for all observations and
measurements of minor planets, keeps an official tally of "Small
Objects" (called either asteroids or minor planets) whose orbits are
precisely known.

At the moment, 9,999 such objects are listed (most of them in the
Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter), and the center plans a
ceremony for the designation of No. 10,000. Since Pluto has some of the
characteristics of asteroids, Marsden would like to see it accorded
dual citizenship, as a planet and as No. 10,000 on the small-object
list. Because growing numbers of Pluto-like objects are being
discovered in the outer reaches of the solar system, and because
Marsden expects that eventually objects as large or larger than Pluto
will turn up, he argues that Pluto should be given special status as
first among equals in the Minor Planet league by assigning it the
number 10,000.

His idea was that Pluto's "Social Security number," as he calls it,
could be bestowed on the object as part of a ceremony on March 2, when
the identity of No. 10,000 will be announced.

The proposal caused an uproar.

While some astronomers called it reasonable, others, including Dr.
Donald K. Yeomans of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.,
deemed the idea an outrage.

The Committee of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American
Astronomical Society denounced the proposal, saying: "This action would
undoubtedly be viewed by the broader scientific community and the
general public as a reclassification of Pluto from a major planet to a
minor planet. We feel that there is little scientific or historical
justification for such an action."

Last week, the anti-10,000 party gained clear ascendancy when the
Secretariat of the International Astronomical Union announced that its
Small Bodies Names Committee of the Division of Planetary Systems
Sciences had "decided against assigning any Minor Planet Number to

But Marsden was not giving up without a struggle. A few hours
after the union's announcement from Paris, he issued an appeal to
rank-and-file astronomers who receive official communications from his
organization to help with the designation of No. 10,000. He invited
e-mail responses from ordinary astronomers (as distinguished, he said,
from astronomical bureaucrats) to whether No. 10,000 should be Pluto,
or if not, what other object deserved the honor.

Whatever happens, the dispute, which has left bad blood, involves
pigeonholing and semantics, not science.

Everyone agrees that Pluto is like major planets in that it is
spherical, that it is a lot bigger than the garden variety of "minor
planets," that it has a thin atmosphere and that it has a large moon --
traits that distinguish it from common asteroids.

But everyone also agrees that Pluto is much smaller than all the major
planets, that it has a wildly eccentric orbit that tilts far out of the
plane of the solar system and that it is made mostly of ice --
characteristics that seem to show closer kinship with a family of
"Trans-Neptunian Objects" than with the eight main planets: Mercury,
Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Trans-Neptunian Objects, of which nearly 100 have been discovered since
the first one was found in 1992, are minor planets beyond the orbit of

Some say the current spate of scholarly snarling stems more from national
pride than from scientific issues.

"If Pluto had been discovered by a Spaniard or Austrian, I doubt
whether American astronomers would object to reclassifying it as a
minor planet," one astronomer privately acknowledged. "Before he died,
Clyde Tombaugh himself said he was reconciled to the perception of
Pluto as one of many Kuiper Belt objects -- minor denizens of the outer
solar system."

But the dispute also hinges on language. To some people, even scientists,
the qualifying words "minor" and "lesser" seem to connote inferiority.

One of the satellite galaxies of our Milky Way used to be called the
"Lesser Magellanic Cloud," but the name apparently sounded demeaning
-- perhaps even politically incorrect -- so it was changed to "Small
Magellanic Cloud."

Fans of the English language point out that even "lesser" and "minor" things
can be very good.

In geography, there is nothing inferior about the Lesser Antilles or
the Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The Lesser Sunda Archipelago is the sole
habitat of the Komodo dragon, a monstrous man-eating lizard much in
demand by zoos around the world.

Music lacking minor keys would be impoverished, and minor league
baseball can be more exciting than games played in the overpaid majors.

Religious processions rooted in ancient Roman tradition that continued
through the Christian era included the Major Rogation, held on April 25,
and the Minor Rogation, on the 37th day after Easter; who is to say which
is the more inspiring parade?

In Swift's Gulliver's Travels, rival parties of midgets battle over
whether an egg should be opened at the broad end or the narrow end.
Disputes over the designation of Pluto, named for the dirty old god of
death and the underworld, seem just as silly.

Copyright 1999, The New York Times Newspapers Ltd.


From E.P. Grondine <>

I have come across a work which I think that those Conference
participants involved in historical work will find extremely useful,
if not essential.  The work is "Die Metalle im Alten Orient" by Karen
Reiter.  Reiter includes ancient iron as part of her study of metals
(Eisen, pages 344-399), and if it has to do with ancient iron, which
was nearly all meteoritic before about 1300 BCE, if its not in there,
then there is a reference to it there.

It is my conclusion that Reiter's work will prove of immense value in
clearing up the obscure translations of impact related ancient texts.
Besides discussing the ancient words for iron, Reiter also exhaustively
details the artifacts.

In this regards I note that Reiter reaches the same conclusion that the
late Ted Wertime and his colleague James Muhly of the University  of
Pennsylvania reached many years ago in their compendium, "The Coming of
the Age of Iron": There is a dramatic increase in the supply of iron
shortly after 1600 BCE, several hundred years before smelted iron comes
into use; nearly all of this iron is meteoritic, and the price of iron
in terms of gold and silver drops markedly.

Clearly this iron did not appear by magic, and it seems most likely to
me that the "great stones" of the Joshua/T'e Hantilish/Tantalus impact
event of ca. 1584 BCE were iron.  Of course this remains a hypothesis,
barring the recovery of iron meteorites from the impact site itself, the
identification and mapping of which should allow a determination to be
made whether the reference to "hail stones" was a later scribal
insertion or a description of contemporaneous atmospheric phenomenon.


From Ron Baalke <>

Douglas Isbell
Headquarters, Washington, DC                     February 8, 1999
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

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

RELEASE: 99-13


Asteroid 433 Eros is slightly smaller than predicted, with at least two
medium-sized craters, a long surface ridge and a density comparable to
the Earth's crust, according to measurements from NASA's Near Earth
Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft.

NEAR's science instruments observed about two-thirds of Eros on Dec.
23, 1998, as the spacecraft flew by the asteroid following an
unsuccessful firing of its main engine a few days earlier. A subsequent
successful firing of the engine put NEAR on course to rendezvous with
Eros to begin its planned yearlong orbital mission starting in
mid-February 2000.

Scientists and engineers at The Johns Hopkins University Applied
Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, MD, which manages the mission, and
science team members from affiliated institutions quickly planned the
valuable flyby observations in the wake of the unsuccessful engine burn
on Dec. 20.

During the flyby, 222 photos and supporting spectral observations of
Eros were taken from as close as 2,375 miles (3,830 kilometers) from
the asteroid by the spacecraft's multispectral imager, infrared
spectrometer and radio science experiment. "The flyby of Eros has given
us fundamental information that will help us plan a better orbital
mission at Eros," said Dr. Andrew F. Cheng, NEAR project scientist at
APL. "It has taken some of the risk out of our orbit insertion maneuver
and early operations."

First observed from the Earth more than 100 years ago, Eros was known
to be an S-type asteroid with high concentrations of silicate minerals
and metal. However, few details about its structure or composition are
observable from the ground. The NEAR flyby produced evidence of
variations in surface color and reflected light (or albedo) that
suggest the asteroid has a diverse surface makeup. Closer observations
during the comprehensive yearlong orbital study of Eros will be needed
to determine its precise composition.

The science team has determined that Eros is slightly smaller than
originally estimated from ground-based radar observations, with a size
of 21 by 8 by 8 miles (33 by 13 by 13 kilometers), versus an estimate
of 25.3 by 9 by 8 miles (40.5 by 14.5 by 14 km). The asteroid rotates
once every 5.27 hours and has no discernible moons.

The asteroid's density is approximately 1.55 ounces per cubic inch (2.7
grams per cubic centimeter), close to the average density of Earth's
crust.  This makes Eros about twice as dense as asteroid 253 Mathilde,
a C-type, carbon-rich asteroid that NEAR flew past in June 1997, and
about the same density as S-type asteroid 243 Ida, which NASA's Galileo
spacecraft flew past in 1993. Eros and Ida are the only S-type
asteroids for which mass and density have been determined.

Flyby imaging of the asteroid's surface revealed a prominent elongated
ridge that extends along its length for as much as 12 miles (20 km).
"This ridge-like feature, combined with the measurements of high
density, suggests that Eros is a homogeneous body rather than a
collection of rubble" such as Mathilde appears to be, said Dr. Joseph
Veverka, of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, who heads the mission's
imaging team. "It might even be a remnant of a larger body that was
shattered by an impact.."

The surface of Eros is pocked with craters. The two largest craters are
four miles and 5.3 miles (8.5 and 6.5 km) in diameter, less than half
the size of asteroid Mathilde's largest craters. The existence of
fewer, smaller craters could be an indication that Eros has a
relatively young surface when compared to Ida.

NEAR and Eros will cross paths again in February 2000. The spacecraft
will then be inserted into orbit around the asteroid and begin its
yearlong study. Images taken during orbit are expected to have more
than 200 times better resolution than those obtained during the flyby
and will be taken from as close as nine miles (15 km) from the
asteroid's surface.

Flyby images of Eros and a related movie, an asteroid  shape model and
a chart of spectral observations are available on the NEAR mission Web
site at:


R. Dudley: Atmospheric oxygen, giant Paleozoic insects and the evolution
of aerial locomotor performance. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY,
1998, Vol.201, No.8, pp.1043-1050


Uniformitarian approaches to the evolution of terrestrial locomotor
physiology and animal flight performance have generally presupposed
the constancy of atmospheric composition. Recent geophysical data as
well as theoretical models suggest that, to the contrary, both oxygen
and carbon dioxide concentrations have changed dramatically during
defining periods of metazoan evolution. Hyperoxia in the late
Paleozoic atmosphere may have physiologically enhanced the initial
evolution of tetrapod locomotor energetics; a concurrently hyperdense
atmosphere would have augmented aerodynamic force production in early
flying insects. Multiple historical origins of vertebrate flight also
correlate temporally with geological periods of increased oxygen
concentration and atmospheric density. Arthropod as well as amphibian
gigantism appear to have been facilitated by a hyperoxic
Carboniferous atmosphere and were subsequently eliminated by a late
Permian transition to hypoxia, For extant organisms, the transient,
chronic and ontogenetic effects of exposure to hyperoxic gas mixtures
are poorly understood relative to contemporary understanding of the
physiology of oxygen deprivation. Experimentally, the biomechanical
and physiological effects of hyperoxia on animal flight performance
can be decoupled through the use of gas mixtures that vary in density
and oxygen concentration. Such manipulations permit both
paleophysiological simulation of ancestral locomotor performance and
an analysis of maximal flight capacity in extant forms. Copyright
1998, Institute for Scientific Information Inc.

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CCNet LETTERS, 9 February 1999

    Alan Fitzsimmons <A.Fitzsimmons@Queens-Belfast.AC.UK>

    Greg Bryant <>

    Ed Grondine" <>


From Alan Fitzsimmons <A.Fitzsimmons@Queens-Belfast.AC.UK>

In reply to Simon Mansfield's letter, it would be somewhat strange
to give Pluto's moon a number and not Pluto itself! When one finds
objects with moons in the Solar system, it is always the more massive
body discovered first, then the moon(s). Hence designations are always
assigned to the primary body, then to the moons. A recent example of
this was the discovery of Dactyl, the satellite of (243) Ida by the
Galileo spacecraft. The proper nomeclature is (243) Ida 1 for this
object. Hence if Pluto HAD been numbered, Chiron would probably
have had a designation something like (10000) Pluto 1.

Simon's question about other Pluto sized bodies is quite timely.
Judging from a show of hands at a workshop on Minor Bodies in the Solar
System held in Garching last November, the majority of researchers in
this field believe that there are many other 2000-km sized bodies out
there to be discovered. It turns out that roughly 30% of the
trans-Neptunians found so far are in Pluto-like 3:2 resonance orbits
with Neptune, so they're not that hard to find either, although the
relative number of Plutos in Neptune resonance to those in the
"classical" Kuiper-Belt beyond 40 AU is of course unconstrained by
observations at present!

If one looks at the searches by Clyde Tombaugh and Charles Kowal, the
its pretty clear that objects like Pluto with high albedos must be
pretty rare. However, drop the albedo to 4% as is assumed for most
distant trans-Neptunians, and neither of these searches were that
sensitive to large objects beyond 40 AU. A 2000-km object at 50 AU with
an albedo of 4% has a magnitude of ~V=19.5, fainter than the
large-scale plate surveys but easily detectable with the smaller CCD
sensitive surveys of today. Given the increase in rate of discovery of
trans-Neptunians (from 1 in 1992 to 5 in 1993 to 30 last year), if this
continues then the next object of Pluto size may well be discovered in
the next few years. Of course, this will immediately be given a
provisional asteroidal designation (as is proper), then no doubt the
arguments will start about its status as well! This is another reason
why it is very important that the IAU come up with good rules for the
classification of asteroids and minor bodies.

Alan Fitzsimmons
Queen's University of Belfast


From Greg Bryant <>

For some years, I've been reading the arguments, for and against, for
defining Pluto as a major planet, whether it be on the Web, in
magazines, or in introductions to comet ephemerides.

It seems to me that we've forgotten something very important from the
lessons learnt from the discoveries of extra-solar worlds : orbital
eccentricity and orbital inclination are no longer defining
characteristics of planetary status. To argue that a planet must have
an orbital eccentricity or inclination much, much less than Pluto seems
to be a very Earth-centered view of the Universe.

And what of the future?  What happens if a 5,000 km diameter object is
discovered at a distance of ~100 AU from the Sun, in an orbit not too
dissimilar from other to-be-discovered smaller objects? Would such an
object be classed as a planet (being larger than Mercury?) or would it
be just another (fascinating) entry in a minor planet catalogue?

Where do we draw the line in defining planetary status? I have a great
deal of respect for the astronomers on both sides of the debate.  I
think that more work needs to go into the rules before decisions are

In the meantime, with apologies to the Millennium debate, minor planet
researchers could always privately define Pluto as (0) Pluto-Charon if
it helps their tabulations.....:)

Minor planet (10000) could always be assigned to 1992 QB1 if it was
felt that its orbit was good enough. After all, it was the defining
discovery that "proved" the existence of the Kuiper Belt. I have a
vague recollection that Brian Marsden stated in an early MPEC that the
Kuiper Belt discovery was one of the most important Solar System
discoveries of this century.

Best regards,
Greg Bryant
Comet Tales newsletter


From Ed Grondine" <>

In a recent post to the conference Bob Kobres cited some translations
of omen texts in which the word "beaks" was used. The cometary "beak",
Assyrian "shipru", is discussed at length (pages 278-279) along with a
number of other astronomical terms by Robert Chadwick in his doctoral
dissertation "Celestial Cults and Celestial Observations in the Late
Assyrian Period", February, 1986, University of Montreal. I found a
copy of his study at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, and I do not
know if it is obtainable in any other way.

The bottom line on "shipru", comes from the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary
(CAD) under the word "sipru": "crest coma (of a comet), summit (of a
triangle), excresence on an animals head.  It can also mean part of an
arrow, probably the feathers."

It is important when dealing with translations of ancient texts to
remember that the understanding of modern scholars of the languages
involved is not perfect, but instead is being slowly improved. To state
the obvious in the case of "shipru", an excrescence on an animals head
is a horn, and the part of the arrow referred to is most probably the
arrow's head.

In closing, I'd suggest that if you run into a translation which in part
is either too obscure or confusing, it often pays to go back to the
original and then trace the translation process itself, using the
most modern materials available to you.

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