PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet, 36/2000 - 21 March 2000
------------------------------


(1) MISLEADING ASTEROID ALERT
    Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

(2) RESEARCHERS DISCOVER EXTRATERRESTRIAL GASES IN BUCKYBALLS
    NASANEWS@Ames" <nasanews@mail.arc.nasa.gov>

(3) 'FOSSIL EVIDENCE' IN MARTIAN METEORITE DUE TO CONTAMINATION
     Bill Wheaton <waw@ipac.caltech.edu>

(4) EROS' NORTH POLAR REGION
    Ron Baalke <BAALKE@kelvin.jpl.nasa.gov>

(5) VELOCITY OF LARGE COMETARY DUST PARTICLES
    D.W. Hughes, UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

(6) CCD PHOTOMETRY OF ASTEROIDS 1982 TA & 1997 LY4
    P. Pravec et al., ACADEMY OF SCIENCE OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC

(7) NEA APPROACHING THIS WEEK USEFUL FOR RAISING AWARENESS
    Daniel Fischer <dfischer@astro.uni-bonn.de>

(8) ASTEROID 2000 EW70
    Brian Marsden <brian@cfaps1.harvard.edu>

(9) ASTEROID HOLMES
    Jeremy Tatum <UNIVERSE@uvvm.UVic.CA>

(10) HOLMES NO ASTRONOMICAL IGNORAMUS
     Les Cowley <lev@dial.pipex.com>

(11) GLOBAL WARMING
     Konrad Ebisch <kebisch@zycor.lgc.com>

(12) CRITIQUE OF GOLD’S THEORY OF UNLIMITED OIL
     Steve Drury <s.a.drury@open.ac.uk>

(13) AND, FINALLY: SINKING OF TITANIC WAS COSMIC DISASTER
     Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

============
(1) MISLEADING ASTEROID ALERT

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

On 15 March 2000, another ambiguous asteroid alert was issued on the
internet. Since then, the announcement has been posted on numerous
mailing lists and news websites (see Daniel Fischer’s news report
further below). This time, however, the alert was announced by members
of the media, not by the astronomical community. In a somewhat
equivocal "Minor Planet Astro Alert", posted to subscribers of their
asteroid mailing list (asteroid@skypub.com), the U.S. American
astronomy journal Sky & Telescope, claimed that the newly discovered
asteroid 2000 EW70 "could threaten Earth at some future date."

While this vague formulation is rather speculative, given its lack of
any specific data, there is no evidence, to my knowledge, to suggest
that asteroid 2000 EW70 poses any threat to collide with Earth in the
near future. Asked whether he could comment on 2000 EW70, Brian Marsden
has confirmed that he is "not aware of any computations showing that
any impact is remotely possible during the next several decades" (see
his remarks further below).

Speaking from my own experience, science writers, web authors and net
moderators are well advised to consult with the experts in the field
before publishing misguided or alarmist asteroid alerts. Mind you, this
advice is perhaps even more valid for some rash NEO researchers who
have been prone to issue rushed impact warnings, often quite
unnecessarily.

Benny J Peiser

=================
(2) RESEARCHERS DISCOVER EXTRATERRESTRIAL GASES IN BUCKYBALLS

From NASANEWS@Ames" <nasanews@mail.arc.nasa.gov>

March 20, 2000

John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA
Phone:  650/604-5026, E-mail:  jbluck@mail.arc.nasa.gov

Cheryl Ernst
University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI
Phone:  808-956-5941, E-mail:  ernst@hawaii.edu

RELEASE:  00-20AR
RESEARCHERS DISCOVER EXTRATERRESTRIAL GASES IN BUCKYBALLS

Extraterrestrial gases, including helium, are trapped in "buckyball"
molecules in a layer of sedimentary clay found in many places on
Earth, according to a paper to be published March 28, 2000, in the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The discovery provides a new tool for tracing asteroid and comet
impacts in Earth's geological and biological records.  A University
of Hawaii geochemist and her colleagues, including a NASA scientist,
found gases that did not originate on Earth inside buckyballs, or
fullerene carbon molecules.

The fullerene molecule is a hollow, cage-like structure typically
made of 60 or more carbon atoms; it is also referred to as a
"buckyball," in honor of Buckminster Fuller, designer of the geodesic
dome that resembles the molecule.

"We discovered extraterrestrial noble gases trapped inside buckyballs
in a one-inch thick sedimentary layer of clay that is exposed at
several locations on Earth," said Ted Bunch, a scientist at NASA's
Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "The buckyballs
containing the gases arrived on Earth about 65 million years ago
during an asteroid impact that scientists theorize ended the age of
the dinosaurs. The clay layer that formed from fallout of the impact
debris was globally distributed," Bunch explained.

Luann Becker, of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI; Robert
Poreda, of the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY; and Ted Bunch
of NASA Ames, discovered the extraterrestrial gases in the
fullerenes.  An advance copy of the article will be posted on the
Internet on March 21 at http://www.pnas.org

"Helium from different sources on Earth, like our atmosphere or the
emissions from volcanoes, have a very different isotopic signature
from the helium in a meteorite," Becker said.  An isotopic signature
is the ratio of the isotopes of an element; for example, terrestrial
helium consists of a small amount of helium 3 (whose nucleus has two
protons and one neutron), and mostly helium 4 that has 2 protons and
2 neutrons.  Cosmic helium is mostly helium 3.

"The helium we found within the fullerene cages of Australia's
Murchison meteorite, for example, is similar to the helium that
existed when our Solar System first formed," Becker stated. That
finding points to a cosmic source for the fullerenes, the researchers
say.  In contrast, molecules formed in the high pressure and
temperature of an earthly impact or the heat of wildfires that
followed would have encapsulated terrestrial helium, according to the
researchers.

They say the finding also supports the theory that atmospheric gases
and organic compounds arrived on the Earth's surface during asteroid
and comet strikes early in the planet's history when impacts were
very numerous. The discovery relates to previous work by Becker and
Bunch, published in Nature in July 1999 that first identified
naturally occurring fullerenes in a meteorite. The scientists found
significant quantities of very large fullerene molecules, some
containing as many as 400 carbon atoms, in samples from the
4.6-billion-year-old Allende meteorite that landed in Mexico three
decades ago.

The subsequent work examined several Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary
clay sediments distributed worldwide, including deposits in Denmark,
New Zealand and North America. In each case, the researchers found
fullerenes that encapsulated noble gases with unmistakable
extraterrestrial and possibly extra-solar isotopic signatures.

The scientists examined the one-inch clay layer because it is a
well-studied sediment that contains extraterrestrial iridium and
highly shocked minerals resulting from an asteroid impact 65 million
years ago. A highly shocked mineral is one that has experienced
temperatures of more than 2,000 C and pressures of about 400,000
atmospheres from impact shock. The clay layer documents a period of
abrupt change in biological evolution, including mass extinction of
the dinosaurs, now generally attributed to the impact of a
carbonaceous asteroid with the Earth.

Becker said she hopes to expand the research to examine other periods
of mass extinction such as the even more devastating event that
formed the 250-million-year-old Permian/Triassic layer of sediment.
She added that she hopes to determine if impacts with Earth trigger
global change, including whether fullerenes of extraterrestrial
origin delivered gases and carbon necessary to establish life on
Earth.

"We now have a powerful new tracer to look at sediment layers very
carefully," Becker said. "It opens new possibilities in looking at
the problem of how planetary atmospheres evolved and maybe even how
life evolved on Earth and perhaps on other moons and planets."  She
said she also hopes to work with astronomers to study the formation
of fullerenes. "We have yet to learn why these things are there and
what they tell us about carbon in the universe. We need to figure out
how to establish their existence and how to search for it."
Grants from the NASA Cosmochemistry and Exobiology programs supported
the research.

============
(3) 'FOSSIL EVIDENCE' IN MARTIAN METEORITE DUE TO CONTAMINATION

From Bill Wheaton <waw@ipac.caltech.edu>
[as posted on the ACC mailing list, 17 March 200]

Forwarded by Larry Klaes <lklaes@bbn.com>

"Jerry Palmer and I happen to have just attended a Von Karmann
lecture at JPL last night, a panel discussion on the Mars program. 
Dan McCleese (the Mars Program Scientist at JPL) was on the panel. 
He said that, last month, a leader of the team that in 1996 reported
evidence for fossil life in martian meteorite ALH84001 stated that it
is now clear that terrestrial contamination is the explanation. Thus
it appears that the case on ALH84001 is pretty nearly closed. Even
so, educated opinion about the prospects for eventually finding some
life, past or present, on Mars, ranges all over the map -- it's a
wide open question."

=================
(4) EROS' NORTH POLAR REGION

From Ron Baalke <BAALKE@kelvin.jpl.nasa.gov>

NEAR image of the day for 2000 Mar 20
http://near.jhuapl.edu/iod/20000320/index.html

On March 11, 2000, this image of Eros' north polar region was acquired
by the imager on the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft, from a range of 206
kilometers (127 miles). The area shown in the image is 10 kilometers
(6.2 miles) across. Most of the north polar region is heavily cratered
but the region to the left (part of the "saddle") has a lower crater
density, indicating that the surface has been modified since it first
formed. Eros' rotational axis lies nearly parallel to its orbital
plane, much as with the planet Uranus, giving the asteroid exaggerated
"seasons." Now, it is northern summer and the north pole is in
continuous sunlight. The Sun will set there this June, at Eros'
equivalent of Earth's autumnal equinox. At that time, Eros' south pole
will begin 12 months of continuous illumination while the north pole
remains in darkness.
--------------------------------------------------------
Built and managed by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics
Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, NEAR was the first spacecraft launched in
NASA's Discovery Program of low-cost, small-scale planetary missions.
See the NEAR web page at http://near.jhuapl.edu for more details.

=============
(5) VELOCITY OF LARGE COMETARY DUST PARTICLES

D.W. Hughes: On the velocity of large cometary dust particles.
PLANETARY AND SPACE SCIENCE, 2000, Vol.48, No.1, pp.1-7

*) UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD,DEPT PHYS & ASTRON,SHEFFIELD S3 7RH,S
   YORKSHIRE,ENGLAND

The Whipple formula for the emission velocity of meteoroid dust from:
the surface of a cometary nucleus is reviewed and it is concluded that,
in normal circumstances, the dust velocity is 'low', typically being
less than 20% the radial gas velocity. If, however, the dust particle
contains some embedded snows when it leaves the cometary nucleus, its
final velocity is considerably increased. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science
Ltd. All rights reserved.

=================
(6) CCD PHOTOMETRY OF ASTEROIDS 1982 TA & 1997 LY4

P. Pravec*), L. Sarounova, M. Wolf, I.R.V. Ferrin, J. Zhu: CCD
photometry of asteroids (4197) 1982 TA and 1997 LY4. PLANETARY AND
SPACE SCIENCE, 2000, Vol.48, No.1, pp.59-65

*) ACADEMY OF SCIENCE OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC,INST ASTRON,CZ-25165
   ONDREJOV,CZECH REPUBLIC

We present results of our photometric observations of the Apollo
asteroid (4197) 1982 TA and the Mars-crosser 1997 LY4. Their synodic
rotation periods (3.53802 +/- 0.00005) and (46.07 +/- 0.02) h,
respectively, have been derived. The fast rotation of (4197) suggests a
lower limit of the bulk density of 1.1 g/cm(3). The mean diameter of
(4197) is likely in the range 3-6 km, The present knowledge does not
support a possibility that (4197) is an extinct cometary nucleus as
suggested from its orbit. The smaller (1.4-3 km), slowly-rotating
asteroid 1997 LY4 is an elongated object with the equatorial axis ratio
greater than or equal to 1.8. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights
reserved.


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

(7) NEA APPROACHING THIS WEEK USEFUL FOR RAISING AWARENESS

From Daniel Fischer <dfischer@astro.uni-bonn.de>

Dear Benny,

the moderately close approach of asteroid 2000 EW70 to Earth this
week could be used for raising the awareness of these kinds of
objects and that they really exist and not just in the movies. With a
maximum brightness like Pluto EW70 will remain something for serious
amateur astronomers, but its maximum angular speed of one second of
arc per one second of time combined with a good northern declination
makes me wonder: Couldn't one image this object moving over the sky
in real-time (i.e. at video rate, with 25 or 30 frames a second) and
make this feed available for television (or at least do a webcast)?
With a larger amateur (let alone university) telescope and image
intensifier tube and a small video camera it could be done, or with
an astronomical CCD camera that permits fast readout a few times a
second. Orbital elements and ephemeris are in the MPEC 2000-E57 of
March 13:
http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/mpec/K00/K00E57.html (there are no new elements).

In http://www.geocities.com/skyweek/mirror/181.html (story 3) I wrote:

  "Asteroid to pass Earth in 5 Earth-Moon distances, could reach 14th mag.

  On March 9, 2000, the 1-meter LINEAR patrol camera in New
  Mexico picked up a fast-moving asteroid that could threaten
  Earth at some future date: 2000 EW70 had magnitude 17.5 when
  first detected, but the asteroid should brighten 20-fold next week
  as it makes a moderately close flyby, passing only 0.013
  Astronomical Units from Earth on March 22nd. 2000 EW70 will
  then be at about 11h 30m RA and +25 deg. declination near the
  UMa/Leo border. Small CCD-equipped telescopes can capture
  trailed images of 2000 EW70 during this period. Any telescope
  that shows Pluto visually, like 10-inch aperture or larger, should
  show this object - around closest approach, its unusually rapid
  motion (about 1 degree per hour!) should be perceptible in a
  high-power eyepiece." (The original source was an S&T alert mail.)

Regards, Daniel

================
(8) ASTEROID 2000 EW70

From Brian Marsden <brian@cfaps1.harvard.edu>

Dear Benny,

My main comment is that there have been *several* orbit updates of 2000
EW70 since MPEC 2000-E57 on March 13, the most recent being on MPEC
2000-F15 on March 20. These follow-up MPECs each contain new orbits for
many hundreds of minor planets, so the newer results for 2000 EW70,
together with observations through March 19, are not set out with the
prominence of MPEC 2000-E57.  The changes are actually quite modest,
but the new data, plus in particular any that may be obtained during
the next week or so (after which further observations will not be
possible), will be very useful for examining the circumstances of
future approaches to the earth. I am not aware of any computations
showing that any impact is remotely possible during the next several
decades.

Regards
Brian

================
(9) ASTEROID HOLMES

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

Hello, Benny:

Interested to see the bit about Holmes today. It is also quoted in
the official citation for asteroid Holmes, which I wrote. I don't
remember exactly what it says, but I dare say an internet expert can
pull it out of the web at the stroke of a key.

Jeremy

==================
(10) HOLMES NO ASTRONOMICAL IGNORAMUS

From Les Cowley <lev@dial.pipex.com>

Benny,

Re "Sherlock Holmes & the Solar System", Holmes was no astronomical
ignoramus or if he was in 1878 when he first met Watson he took pains
to correct the lapse.  At the time of the case of the Greek Interpreter
he was able to discuss some of the finer points of celestial mechanics.
"It was after tea on a summer evening, and the conversation, which had
roamed in a desultory spasmodic fashion from golf clubs to the causes
of the change in the obliquity of the ecliptic ... ".  

Les Cowley
  Halos http://www.lc.dial.pipex.com/halo/halosim.htm

==================
(11) GLOBAL WARMING

From Konrad Ebisch <kebisch@zycor.lgc.com>

Dear Benny: 

You printed an abstract of a LA times article of a study that concluded
that Global Warming is not necessarily a threat, and might even save
some people from freezing to death. 

My immediate reaction is that freezing to death is not all that large
as a cause of death. I suspect that a greater benefit would be a longer
growing season to alleviate hunger in cool climates like Russia,
Mongolia, and Manchuria and improve agricultural success in places
where modernity has mostly alleviated hunger such as Britain,
Scandinavia, and Canada. 

Konrad Ebisch

==================
(12) CRITIQUE OF GOLD’S THEORY OF UNLIMITED OIL

From Steve Drury <s.a.drury@open.ac.uk>

For review and critique of the latest of Gold's books "The Hot, Deep
Biopshere" see the latest issue of the Geological Magazine (not
on-line). Copyright prevents me posting my review.

Steve Drury

==================
(13) AND, FINALLY: SINKING OF TITANIC WAS COSMIC DISASTER

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

[http://www.smh.com.au/news/0003/21/text/pageone7.html]

Monday, 20 March 2000

Sunspot pattern 'played a part in sinking of Titanic'
By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent

A COMBINATION of unusual solar activity and bad timing helped sink
the Titanic, a new study of sunspots suggests.

Research by Edward Lawrence, a scientist at the Meteorological Office
for more than 30 years, suggests that the liner set sail across the
North Atlantic at the riskiest possible time for iceberg collisions.
The paper, published in the Royal Meteorological Society journal
Weather, also reports that a sudden drop in temperature recorded by
the crew hours before the collision was a sign that icebergs were
nearby.

Although the politics, personalities and procedures surrounding the
sinking of the Titanic in the early hours of April 15, 1912, with the
loss of 1,500 lives, have been documented in detail, Mr Lawrence
believes that the role of the weather has been neglected. Mr
Lawrence, 87 of Bracknell, Berks, said: "Everyone thought that the
weather was so lovely that it couldn't have had anything to do
with it. But it was a weather phenomenon."

His study of records suggests a strong connection between the number
of icebergs in the area where the Titanic sank and the 11-year cycle
of rising and falling sunspots -- dark patches that spasmodically
appear on the surface of the sun. The Little Ice Age of the late 17th
century coincided with a period of extremely low sunspot activity.

Mr Lawrence also found that one or two years before a sunspot
minimum, stronger than normal anti-cyclones tend to form above the
north-west North Atlantic. These are associated with light westerly
winds, more northerlies than usual and colder sea temperatures. As a
result, icebergs are more commonly found at the southern extreme of
their range in the North Atlantic in these years.

The maiden voyage of the Titantic in 1912 came just over a year
before the sunspot cycle reached its minimum in July 1913. At this
time, there were more icebergs than usual, and the ocean was colder
than normal, said Mr Lawrence. April is also the start of the spring
peak for icebergs.

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2000

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