PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 39/2003 - 10 April 2003
----------------------------------

"A claim that the asteroid that struck Mexico 65 million years ago did not cause
the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs triggered heated debate at a meeting
this week. The announcement is based on preliminary analysis of the first core
drilled into the 185-kilometre Chicxulub asteroid crater near the Yucatan Peninsula.
Gerta Keller of Princeton University in New Haven, Connecticut, says that she has
found microfossils there hinting that abundant plankton survived for at least
300,000 years after the impact."
--Rex Dalton, Nature 10 April 2003


"Near Earth asteroids constitute the most accessible source of pristine extraterrestrial
  material in the solar system, apart from the Moon. Human missions to NEAs are seen as
a logical first step to the utilization and settlement of the solar system. The
acquisition of data on the composition and internal structure of NEAs is also a
necessary prequisite to developing an effective strategy to protect the Earth from
asteroid impacts."
--Apostolos Christou, Armagh Observatory


(1) MASS-EXTINCTION CONTROVERSY FLARES AGAIN
    Nature, 10 April 2003

(2) REACHING FOR THE ASTEROIDS
    Peter Bond <PeterRBond@aol.com>

(3) A UK FLOTILLA TO STUDY EARTH-GRAZING ASTEROIDS
    Peter Bond <PeterRBond@aol.com>

(4) ARCHAEOASTRONOMY LINKS STONE-AGE TOMB BUILDERS WITH SUN
    Jacqueline Mitton <aco01@dial.pipex.com>

(5) ULSTER'S BRONZE-AGE MONUMENTS LINKED BUILDERS WITH THE COSMOS
    Jacqueline Mitton <aco01@dial.pipex.com>

(6) LIFE AND DEATH FROM SPACE
    Peter Bond <PeterRBond@aol.com>

(7) VOYAGE TO THE ASTEROID BELT
    BBC News Online, 10 April 2003

(8) CATCH A GLIMPSE OF ASTEROID VESTA
    StarrySkies, April 2003

(9) NASA NEEDS NEW VISION FOR HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT, ASTEROID PROTECTION, EXPERTS SAY
    Space.com, 9 April 2003

(10) MORE ON CONTINENTAL HOTSPOT TRACKS
     Hermann Burchard <burchar@math.okstate.edu>

(11) AND FINALLY: SADDAM'S REGIME IS A EUROPEAN IMPORT
     National Post 10 April 2003 

========
(1) MASS-EXTINCTION CONTROVERSY FLARES AGAIN

>From Nature, 10 April 2003
http://www.nature.com/nsu/030407/030407-7.html

Core from asteroid crater fuels debate on what wiped out the dinosaurs.

REX DALTON

A claim that the asteroid that struck Mexico 65 million years ago did not cause the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs triggered heated debate at a meeting this week.

The announcement is based on preliminary analysis of the first core drilled into the 185-kilometre Chicxulub asteroid crater near the Yucatan Peninsula. Gerta Keller of Princeton University in New Haven, Connecticut, says that she has found microfossils there hinting that abundant plankton survived for at least 300,000 years after the impact.

Many believe that the impact shrouded the Earth in dust and debris, shutting down plant photosynthesis and leading to the rapid demise of most creatures, from marine microorganisms to dinosaurs.

But Keller reckons that the signs of life in the crater core are "the smoking gun" that the asteroid didn't cause the widespread die-out, properly called the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary. What's more, a lack of evidence of compaction in the core hints that the impact crater was much smaller than was thought, says Keller's colleague Wolfgang Stinnesbeck at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany.

So the group subscribes instead to the idea that a series of asteroid impacts brought about the K-T boundary.

Jan Smit, a geologist at Vrije University in Amsterdam who is also studying the crater's sediments, disagrees. He counters that what Keller's team labels 'fossils' are simply spheres of crystal. Plus he cites seismology studies that support a major asteroid having created the Chicxulub crater.

These divergent views were aired at a joint conference of the European Geophysical Society, the American Geophysical Union and the European Union of Geosciences in Nice, France. Listeners were shocked and stunned that two groups could disagree so much.

But the story of the K-T boundary has been long been controversial. It was first suggested about 25 years ago that a life-obliterating asteroid plunged into the Earth to trigger the extinction.

Now dozens of scientists around the world are analysing the results of the first drill of the crater, completed in February 2002, to glean new data on the events of 65 million years ago. Other drills are planned, including one closer to the centre of the impact point, to provide further fuel for debate.

Rex Dalton is the West Coast Correspondent of the journal Nature

© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2003
 
===========
(2) REACHING FOR THE ASTEROIDS

>From PeterRBond@aol.com [mailto:PeterRBond@aol.com]

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS NOTICE

EMBARGOED FOR 00.01 A.M. (BST) ON THURSDAY 10 APRIL 2003

Date: 1 April 2003                   Ref. PN 03/24 (NAM 16)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672 Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047
E-mail: PeterRBond@aol.com Mobile phone: +44 (0)7711-213486

AND

Dr. Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914 Fax: +44 (0)1223-572892
E-mail: jmitton@dial.pipex.com Mobile phone: +44 (0)7770-386133

NAM PRESS ROOM, Dublin, Ireland (8 -11 April only):
Tel.: +353 (1) 677-7608  and  7683 Fax: +353 (1) 677-7566

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

UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting Web site:
http://star.arm.ac.uk/nam2003/

CONTACT DETAILS ARE LISTED AT THE END OF THIS RELEASE.

*******************************************************************

REACHING FOR THE ASTEROIDS

Humans hopping over the surface of asteroids. Extraction of minerals from Earth-grazing chunks of rock. Sounds like science fiction, but scientists are already looking ahead and trying to identify the nearest objects whose resources may be exploited by future entrepreneurs.

During the UK/Ireland Astronomy Meeting in Dublin, Dr. Apostolos Christou (Armagh Observatory) will be presenting new results concerning the most easily reachable Near Earth asteroids (NEAs) so far discovered.

"Near Earth asteroids constitute the most accessible source of pristine extraterrestrial material in the solar system, apart from the Moon," he said.

"These bodies hold, in their chemical makeup, fundamental information about the conditions under which the planets formed and evolved. For a modest cost, inexpensive missions can be mounted to rendezvous with or return samples from a selection of these objects.

"Human missions to NEAs are also seen as a logical first step to the utilization and settlement of the solar system," he added.

"Finally, the acquisition of data on the composition and internal structure of NEAs is also a necessary prequisite to developing an effective strategy to protect the Earth from asteroid impacts."

Christou and his colleagues studied 27 candidate asteroids that had previously been discovered through recent observational surveys. They included boulder-sized objects no more than 40 metres across (1998 KY26), fragments of the large main-belt asteroid Vesta (3361 Orpheus) and binary asteroids (1996 FG3).

They then assessed the asteroids in order to find out which are the easiest to reach and the most accessible to visiting spacecraft. Using a method similar to that used in designing transfer paths to the planets, they found that one object (1999 AO10) requires less energy to achieve a rendezvous than placing an orbiter around the Moon. A further four of the Earth-grazers are easier to reach than Mars or Venus.

Based on these results, Christou concluded that there are no insurmountable technical challenges to launching small, inexpensive satellites to scrutinize these objects. Such missions would typically require 1-2 years to reach their targets before spending several months orbiting or on the surface of the asteroid, studying composition, geology and internal structure.

Eventually, these NEAs may prove to be valuable targets for human expeditions. However, detailed knowledge of their physical properties is currently available for only a small fraction of the known NEA population and only one quarter of the asteroid sample studied by Christou's group.

"We need to know more about these small, elusive objects, so ground-based observational studies of NEA sizes, rotations and spectral types should be a near-term priority," concluded Christou.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The 2003 UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting is hosted by the Astronomical Science Group of Ireland (ASGI) with support from (inter alia) the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the Armagh Observatory, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy and the British Council.

CONTACT:

On the afternoon of Thursday 10 April and on Friday 11 April Dr. Christou can be contacted via the NAM press office (see above).

Normal contact details:
Dr. Apostolos Christou
Armagh Observatory
College Hill
Armagh
BT61 9DG
Northern Ireland
Tel: +44 (0)2837-522928
Fax: +44 (0)2837-527174
E-mail: aac@star.arm.ac.uk

FURTHER INFORMATION AND IMAGES CAN BE FOUND ON THE WEB AT:

Interplanetary Travel - Astrodynamics page (from Friday 4 April) -
http://star.arm.ac.uk/~aac/astrodyn.html

Steve Ostro's asteroid radar site -
http://echo.jpl.nasa.gov/

Scott Hudson's asteroid shape modelling site (including a shape model for 1998 KY26) -
http://www.eecs.wsu.edu/~hudson/Research/Asteroids/index.htm

=============
(3) A UK FLOTILLA TO STUDY EARTH-GRAZING ASTEROIDS

>From Peter Bond <PeterRBond@aol.com>

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS NOTICE

EMBARGOED FOR 00.01 A.M. (BST) ON THURSDAY 10 APRIL 2003

Date: 1 April 2003                   Ref.: PN 03/23 (NAM 15)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672 Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047
E-mail: PeterRBond@aol.com Mobile phone: +44 (0)7711-213486

AND

Dr. Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914 Fax: +44 (0)1223-572892
E-mail: jmitton@dial.pipex.com Mobile phone: +44 (0)7770-386133

NAM PRESS ROOM, Dublin, Ireland (8 -11 April only):
Tel.: +353 (1) 677-7608  and  7683 Fax: +353 (1) 677-7566

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

UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting Web site:
http://star.arm.ac.uk/nam2003/

CONTACT DETAILS ARE LISTED AT THE END OF THIS RELEASE.

*******************************************************************

A UK FLOTILLA TO STUDY EARTH-GRAZING ASTEROIDS

On 30 June 1908, the seemingly endless forests of Siberia received an unwelcome and unexpected visit by an intruder from deep space. As it plunged headlong through the Earth's atmosphere, the incoming asteroid exploded a few miles above the tree tops, flattening the forest over an area about 50 km (30 miles) in diameter. If the 60 metre (200 ft) wide chunk of rock had arrived a few hours later, it could have destroyed a city the size of London or Paris.

Exactly how many of these threatening objects are lurking unseen in the depths of the Solar System no one knows, but scientists estimate that events such as Tunguska occur on average once every 200 years. Larger objects arrive less frequently but pack a much greater punch.

How can we find out more about these Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and possibly find a way of preventing them from sending the human race the way of the dinosaurs? One way is to send spacecraft to study them at close range.

At the UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin, Simon Green (Open University) will describe SIMONE (Smallsat Intercept Missions to Objects Near Earth), a UK-led proposal to launch a fleet of low-cost microsatellites that will individually rendezvous with different types of Earth-grazing asteroids. This would be the first interplanetary microsatellite mission.

With the first spacecraft costing less than 50 million Euro and additional satellites costing 30 million Euro each, a flotilla of five could be launched as a piggyback payload on an Ariane 5 rocket for the normal budget of one spacecraft.

Each 120 kg microsatellite would be despatched to a different target, using onboard solar electric propulsion driven by lightweight, high power solar arrays, a technology in which the UK is a world leader. After rendezvous with the asteroid, five state-of-the art experiments would map its surface in great detail, in addition to determining its mass, density and composition. 

"SIMONE would greatly improve our knowledge and understanding of the diverse NEO population," said Dr. Green. "The data would be crucial for the development of effective methods to deflect different types of objects that might impact the Earth in the future."
 
Assuming a launch by Ariane 5 in 2008 and arrivals 2010-11, the provisional target list includes:
      1989 UQ - a C-type Aten asteroid between 560 and 760 m in diameter
      2001 CC21 - an X-type Apollo asteroid with diameter between 390 and 1100 m
      1996 FG3 - a 1100 m diameter C-type Apollo asteroid with a large moon
      1982 DB (Nereus) - an X-type Apollo asteroid with diameter between 470 and 1330 m
      1999 YB - an S-type Apollo asteroid with diameter of about 640 m

SIMONE+, a larger spacecraft built using the same design principles could provide a low-cost option for longer range interplanetary missions including Mars.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The mission design and feasibility study for SIMONE was recently completed under contract to ESA as part of a Near Earth Objects Space Mission Preparation contract. The mission responds directly to one of the key recommendations of the UK Task Force Report on NEOs, issued in September 2000.

The SIMONE mission study team is led by QinetiQ (UK) in partnership with the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute (PSSRI) of the Open University (UK), SciSys (UK), Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and Telespazio (Italy).

A typical SIMONE payload would include:
· A Multispectral Imaging System, a camera to measure the asteroid's size, shape, topography, morphology and albedo.
· A Radio Science Investigation to determine the asteroid's mass from its gravitational influence on the spacecraft trajectory.
· An X-ray Spectrometer to determine its elemental composition.
· An Infrared Spectrometer for mapping minerals and surface variations.
· A Laser Altimeter to measure the surface topography and range from the spacecraft.

The explosion of the 1908 Tunguska object released energy equivalent to a modern nuclear warhead, about 10 megatons or 500 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. 

The 2003 UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting is hosted by the Astronomical Science Group of Ireland (ASGI) with support from (inter alia) the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the Armagh Observatory, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy and the British Council.

CONTACT:

>From Tuesday 8 April to Friday 11 April, Dr. Green can be contacted via the NAM press office (see above).

Normal contact details:
Dr. Simon F. Green
Space Science Research Group
Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA
UK
Tel: +44 (0)1908-659601
Fax: +44 (0)1908-858022
E-mail: S.F.Green@open.ac.uk

Nigel Wells
QinetiQ Ltd.
Room G061
Arthur C. Clarke Building
Cody Technology Park
Farnborough
Hants.
GU14 0LX
UK
Tel: +44 (0)1252-395791
Fax: +44 (0)1252-393009
E-mail: nswells@space.QinetiQ.com

FURTHER INFORMATION AND IMAGES CAN BE FOUND ON THE WEB AT:
http://pssri.open.ac.uk/missions/index.htm
http://www.esa.int/gsp/completed/neo/simone.html

===========
(4) ARCHAEOASTRONOMY LINKS STONE-AGE TOMB BUILDERS WITH SUN

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

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS NOTICE

EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 A.M. BST WEDNESDAY 9 APRIL 2003

1 April 2003   Ref. PN 03/21 (NAM13)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914    Fax:    +44 (0)1223-572892
E-mail: jmitton@dial.pipex.com  Mobile phone: +44 (0)7770-386133

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672      Fax:    +44 (0)1483-274047
E-mail: PeterRBond@aol.com    Mobile phone: +44 (0)7711-213486

National Astronomy Meeting Press Room (Dublin, Ireland):
Phones: (+353) 1 6777608 and +353 1 6777683    FAX (+353) (1) 677 7566

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

UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting Web site:
http://star.arm.ac.uk/nam2003/

CONTACT DETAILS FOR THIS RELEASE ARE LISTED AT THE END

**************************************************************************

ARCHAEOASTRONOMY LINKS STONE-AGE TOMB BUILDERS WITH SUN

Scientific research at the prehistoric Passage Tomb Cemetery at Loughcrew, one of Ireland's premier archaeological sites, is revealing new data on the astronomical orientations of the passage tombs and relationships in the way they are laid out. Using techniques from the science of archaeoastronomy, this research has already identified significant astronomical orientations
in the larger focal tombs and significant patterns in the relative orientations of the monuments. Frank Prendergast of the Dublin Institute of Technology will present the results of his research to date at the UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin on Wednesday 9 April.

"By examing the relationship between the landscape, the monuments and astronomy, we can complement existing archaeological knowledge and hopefully gain insight into how prehistoric communities might have perceived their place in the cosmos," says Frank Prendergast.

Loughcrew is a nationally important archaeological landscape located 70 km north-west of Dublin in County Meath. It is the site of one of the four major passage tomb cemeteries in Ireland and dates from the Middle Neolithic (3600-3100 BC) and later. The principal type of monument is the passage tomb and some 30 of these survive in varying condition. Typically they consist of
a circular cairn retained by a stone kerb. The tomb lies within the cairn and may be roofed or unroofed. Megalithic art is often inscribed on some of the stones within the tomb.

Previous investigations by archeologists indicate that these monuments were landmarks on the Neolithic landscape, and the larger focal tombs and their smaller surrounding satellite tombs would have had a major impact on prehistoric communities and their ritual and ceremonial practices.

Frank Prendergast's investigations show that two of the largest focal tombs are oriented towards the rising Sun at the equinoxes. On these days, at dawn and for a period of some 20 minutes afterwards, the interior of the tombs are spectacularly illuminated by a shaft of sunlight. At these times, the elaborate engravings on some of the stones within both chambers are clearly
visible in the otherwise dark interior. Equinoctial orientations are not common and their interpretation is controversial.

It is well known that many such tombs found elsewhere in Ireland and beyond, such as at Newgrange, are oriented towards the direction of the rising Sun on the solstices. These are the days in December and June when the Sun's motion in the sky reaches a 'turning point'. The direction of the rising Sun reaches its most northerly and southerly points on these dates and these are observable events. Our prehistoric ancestors would therefore not have required any advanced understanding or knowledge to pinpoint them. By contrast, the equinoxes, which occur in late March and September, are midway between the solstices and are not obvious unique events: to locate them, an observer must track the total annual range of the Sun's rising direction and then divide it in half. The question that immediately arises is, "Why would the tomb builders wish to do this?"  Even more intriguingly at Loughcrew, there is a pattern of orientation between many of the smaller satellite tombs - both towards each other and towards the two focal tombs.

CONTACT

Frank T. Prendergast, Department of Geomatics,
Faculty of the Built Environment, Dublin Institute of Technology
Bolton Street, Dublin 1, Ireland.

Tel:  (+353) (1) 402 3674
Fax: (+353) (1) 402 3999
e-mail:  frank.prendergast@dit.ie

IMAGES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

Images and further information about Loughcrew may be found at http://www.knowth.com/loughcrew.htm. Images from the site can be reproduced free of charge providing the "Knowth.com" stamp is retained and an advisory email is sent to Michael Fox (Michael@Knowth.com) when Knowth.com content is reproduced.

=============
(5) ULSTER'S BRONZE-AGE MONUMENTS LINKED BUILDERS WITH THE COSMOS

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

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS NOTICE

EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 A.M. BST WEDNESDAY 9 APRIL 2003

1 April 2003   Ref. PN 03/20 (NAM12)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914    Fax:    +44 (0)1223-572892
E-mail: jmitton@dial.pipex.com  Mobile phone: +44 (0)7770-386133

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672      Fax:    +44 (0)1483-274047
E-mail: PeterRBond@aol.com    Mobile phone: +44 (0)7711-213486

National Astronomy Meeting Press Room (Dublin, Ireland):
Phones: (+353) 1 6777608 and +353 1 6777683    FAX (+353) (1) 677 7566

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

UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting Web site:
http://star.arm.ac.uk/nam2003/

CONTACT DETAILS FOR THIS RELEASE ARE LISTED AT THE END

**************************************************************************
ULSTER'S BRONZE-AGE MONUMENTS LINKED BUILDERS WITH THE COSMOS

A unique and enigmatic group of prehistoric stone monuments in mid-Ulster is helping archaeoastronomers learn more about the meaning and significance of astronomy in prehistoric Ireland and Britain. On Wednesday 9th April at the National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin, Professor Clive Ruggles of the University of Leicester will describe his research on a number of
distinctive and remarkably complex Bronze Age monuments, consisting of interrelated stone circles, rows, and cairns, which are located in an area centred around Counties Tyrone, Fermanagh, Derry and Donegal. He has discovered a number of apparently significant astronomical alignments amongst these mid-Ulster monuments, including some particularly spectacular ones relating to the Moon, and he will talk about how astronomers and archaeologists interpret such alignments.

Clive Ruggles is Professor of Archaeoastronomy and has had an interest in the mid-Ulster monuments ever since 1998, when he took up a one-year Senior Visiting Research Fellowship at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen¹s University, Belfast. Working with local archaeologists on both sides of the border, he set out to survey the monuments looking for evidence of astronomical alignments and other relationships between the monuments and the surrounding landscape. "Archaeologists now believe that such visible links between monuments and the surrounding landscape and sky helped to symbolise the links between living people, their ancestors, and the cosmos as they perceived it", says Professor Ruggles. "The builders were not 'astronomers' in the sense that we would mean it today, but celestial objects and cycles were important to them in keeping their own lives in harmony with their world. By studying astronomical alignments we can learn something of how people comprehended the world in the past."

The discovery of the astronomical alignments did not come as a total surprise: these stone circles and rows, the best-know of which is Beaghmore in County Tyrone, are located in a region mid-way between other groups of broadly contemporary monuments known to have significant associations with the Moon - one in the south-west of Ireland and the other on the Hebridean
Islands and the western mainland of Scotland. Some alignments relate to the Sun on the solstices (mid-summer's day and mid-winter's day) but overall Professor Ruggles' results suggest that the mid-Ulster builders were more interested in the Moon. There is some evidence for two different traditions, very possibly dating from different times. One is associated with the wider tradition extending from Ireland to western Scotland, while the other is highly distinctive of this particular area. But how should they be interpreted?

"Great care is needed", cautions Professor Ruggles. "Just because a monument is aligned in a direction that we would be tempted to interpret as astronomically significant, such as the direction of sunrise or sunset on one of the solstices, this might not have been intentional. Everything has to point somewhere and there might have been many different factors influencing an orientation. Even if we can convince ourselves that an astronomical alignment was intentional, this does not in itself help us to theorise about its possible meaning and significance to the people who built or used the monument. When astronomers and archaeologists weigh up their theories against the available evidence from their different academic backgrounds, they can come to spectacularly different conclusions."

Many archaeoastronomers see repeated trends as the most acceptable evidence for intentional astronomical alignments. In some parts of Ireland and Britain there are distinctive local groups of conspicuous stone monuments that show remarkably consistent trends in design, orientation, and location in the landscape. Some of them - such as the Neolithic recumbent stone circles in Aberdeenshire and the Bronze Age short stone rows of Counties Cork and Kerry - show clear relationships with the Sun or Moon.

Archaeologists generally prefer to base their interpretations on a much wider range of evidence about a particular monument or place. From an archaeological perspective, it is not the mere existence of an intentional alignment that matters but its possible meaning and significance. That means taking into account case studies from a range of human societies, past and present.

"The need to reconcile these two different approaches becomes particularly clear when we are trying to interpret small groups of monuments such as the mid-Ulster ones", says Professor Ruggles.

CONTACT

Professor Clive Ruggles may be contacted at
School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7RH
Phone: 0116-252-3409   Fax: 0116-252-5006
e-mail: rug@le.ac.uk

Note: Prof. Ruggles will be unavailable until 3 April and will be at the NAM in Dublin on 9 and 10 April.

============
(6) LIFE AND DEATH FROM SPACE

>From Peter Bond <PeterRBond@aol.com>

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS NOTICE

EMBARGOED FOR 00.01 A.M. (BST) ON WEDNESDAY 9 APRIL 2003

Date: 4 April 2003                   Ref. PN 03/28 (NAM 20)

Issued by: RAS Press Officers

Peter Bond
Phone: +44 (0)1483-268672 Fax: +44 (0)1483-274047
E-mail: PeterRBond@aol.com Mobile phone: +44 (0)7711-213486

AND

Dr Jacqueline Mitton
Phone: +44 (0)1223-564914 Fax: +44 (0)1223-572892
E-mail: jmitton@dial.pipex.com Mobile phone: +44 (0)7770-386133

NAM PRESS ROOM (8 -11 April only)
Tel: +353 (1) 677-7608  and  7683 Fax: +353 (1) 677 7566

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

UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting Web site:
http://star.arm.ac.uk/nam2003/

CONTACT DETAILS ARE LISTED AT THE END OF THIS RELEASE.

*******************************************************************
LIFE AND DEATH FROM SPACE

Ever since its formation at the birth of the Solar System, some 4570 million years ago, planet Earth has resembled a giant bulls-eye in space, a target for asteroids and comets of all shapes and sizes.

Clearly, this violent history has influenced the planet's surface and atmosphere, as well as the evolution of life. Some impactors bring water and organic compounds, ingredients that may have been the building blocks of life. Other, more massive, bodies may arrive in a blaze of fire and fury, the results of their impacts being death, destruction and extinction.

Meanwhile, with the discovery of planets orbiting other stars, we must also assess their potential as impact targets.

On Wednesday 9 April, five experts in the study of asteroids, comets and impacts will be explaining to the UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin their ideas about the effects on the Earth and other planets of bombardment by extraterrestrial objects. The convenor of the session is Dr. Monica M. Grady (Natural History Museum, London).

The first two speakers consider the beneficial aspect of bombardment. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe (Cardiff University) puts forward the controversial proposition that life itself came from beyond the Earth, in the form of bacteria. He describes experiments that have been carried out to test the hypothesis and discusses his results. In contrast, Dr. Ian Wright (Open University) considers the delivery of organic molecules to the Earth in comet dust, and how they might have acted as the building blocks for life.

The second part of the session includes three speakers who look at the more destructive aspects of bombardment. Dr. Jane Greaves (Royal Observatory Edinburgh) looks beyond our own Solar System to consider evidence that some extra-solar planets might be surrounded by much larger swarms of comets than the Oort Cloud around our own Sun.

Following on from this, Professor Bill Napier (Armagh Observatory) relates the rate of incoming cometary material to periods of geological trauma on Earth, including mass extinctions. Dr. Phil Bland (Imperial College London) considers the impact rate of smaller asteroids, and, in an optimistic vein, concludes that perhaps fewer than had been predicted actually survive intact before striking the Earth's surface.

SESSION PAPERS.

C. Wickramasinge (wickramasinghe@cf.ac.uk):
Panspermia and prospects of testing from recoveries of stratospheric cometary dust
Some form of panspermia is coming to be regarded as a plausible mechanism for the beginnings of life on the Earth.  I shall discuss experiments to test this possibility which have been done using cryosamplers collecting large volumes of air at 41km in the stratosphere.

I. Wright (i.p.wright@open.ac.uk):
Insights into the potential delivery of organic materials to Earth through the study of comets
Comets contain organic materials. Comets impact the Earth. Therefore, comets may deliver organic materials to the Earth. At an appropriate time in the history of the Earth such materials may have become implicated in the processes which ultimately spawned life on the planet. To assess the possibilities of such a mechanism it is desirable to know first hand what comets are actually made of. The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission aims to address this issue. The talk will introduce Rosetta, include a description of a UK experiment (Ptolemy) on board the small craft that will land on a comet, and give an update on the status of the mission (which is currently delayed because of problems with the Ariane 5 launcher programme).

J. Greaves (jsg@roe.ac.uk):
Impacts on Extrasolar Earths
The search for planetary systems like our own is likely to concentrate on Solar-type single stars within a few parsecs. I present new data showing that some of these closest stars have belts of dusty debris much brighter than our own Kuiper Belt. This may trace a much larger population of comets that would affect the development of life on Earth analogues.

15:25. B. Napier (wmn@star.arm.ac.uk):
Multiple Bombardments and Geological Trauma
Long-period comets occupy the borderland between solar system and Galaxy, and their influx to the inner planetary system is sensitive to interstellar perturbers such as passing stars, nebulae, spiral arms and the periodic Galactic tide. Dust and debris from the largest comets injected into the planetary system may significantly reduce insolation on Earth and have prolonged biotic, climatic and other effects. Correlations are thus expected between multiple impacts, geological disturbances and mass extinctions. The statistical status of these correlations is examined.

P. Bland (p.a.bland@imperial.ac.uk):
The impact rate of small asteroids on Earth
Asteroids smaller than 1 km across constitute the most immediate impact hazard to human populations, and yet the rate at which they arrive at Earth's surface is poorly known. Small craters on Earth are rapidly eroded, and many incoming objects are disrupted in the atmosphere. New studies of more than 1000 simulated impacts by small iron and stony bodies, together with the known impact rate at the top of the atmosphere, indicate that even large stony impactors may experience severe atmospheric disruption, resulting in a calculated impact rate for these objects 40 times lower than some earlier estimates.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The 2003 UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting is hosted by the Astronomical Science Group of Ireland (ASGI) with support from (inter alia) the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the Armagh Observatory, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Trinity College Dublin, the Royal Irish Academy and the British Council.

CONTACT:

>From Tuesday 8 April to Wednesday 9 April, Dr. Grady can be contacted via the NAM press office (see above).

Normal contact details:
Dr. Monica M. Grady
Department of Mineralogy
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London
SW7 5BD
UK
Tel: +44 (0)207-942-5709
Fax: +44 (0)207-942-5537
E-mail: mmg@nhm.ac.uk

FURTHER INFORMATION AND IMAGES CAN BE FOUND ON THE WEB AT:

Open University Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute -
http://psri.open.ac.uk/   (links to interplanetary dust and astrobiology)

Cardiff Centre for Astrobiology -
http://www.astrobiology.cf.ac.uk/

Comets and Asteroids -
http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/planets/asteroidpage.html

============
(7) VOYAGE TO THE ASTEROID BELT

>From BBC News Online, 10 April 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2930217.stm

By Helen Briggs

British scientists are planning to send a swarm of miniature spacecraft beyond Mars to study the origin of asteroids that might pose a threat to the Earth.
 
Small, cheap satellites can visit asteroids

Thirty or more microsatellites would be released by a mother spacecraft on arrival at the asteroid belt, where billions of space rocks orbit the Sun.

Like bees from a hive, the satellites, weighing as little as 20 kilograms, would fly past different asteroids.

They would collect images and other data, sending it all back to Earth via the main spacecraft.

The European Space Agency (Esa) has given the go-ahead for a feasibility study of the project, which is being led by the British space company Astrium.

Project scientist Paolo D'Arrigo described the concept as a "step change" in interplanetary exploration.

"The idea is for a swarm of spacecraft to visit 100 asteroids," he told BBC News Online. "Although it sounds far-fetched, it's not very far from the current level of technology that we have."

Smaller, further

Dr Simon Green, of the Space Science Research Group at the Open University in Milton Keynes, said the probes would be the smallest ever interplanetary spacecraft.

"They're going to where the asteroids have originated," he said. "This gives us a chance to get up close to a very large range of these things.

"Each little 'bee' would have a very limited payload in terms of mass but you would have very many of them."

The 'bees' would be powered by solar sails or perhaps small conventional rocket engines.

The mission, known as Apies (Asteroid Population Investigation and Exploration Swarm), is in its early stages, and would not be possible for perhaps a decade.

UK flotilla

Other British-led proposals, such as Simone (Smallsat Intercept Missions to Objects Near Earth), are further down the line and have been selected by Esa for future consideration.

Simone consists of a flotilla of five 120-kg satellites that would be sent to rendezvous with different asteroids.

The British company behind Simone, QinetiQ, based in Farnborough, Hampshire, is lobbying for Europe to take the lead in asteroid defences.

Although Esa is considering several proposals for such missions it has not yet committed major funds.

Nigel Wells of QinetiQ, study manager for Simone, said he hoped Europe would formulate a firm proposal to tackle near-Earth objects.

"We are ready and the scientific community is ready but it's up to the politicians now," he said.

Details of Simone are to be presented at the UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin.

Copyright 2003, BBC

===========
(8) CATCH A GLIMPSE OF ASTEROID VESTA

>From StarrySkies, April 2003
http://starryskies.com/articles/2003/04/vesta.html

For the next week there is a rare treat for the sky observer. With the unaided eye, you will be able to view an asteroid called Vesta. Vesta is the only asteroid that we can ever see with the naked eye. There are countless asteroids in our Solar System, around 50,000 have names or identifying numbers. But of all of them, only Vesta ever becomes close and bright enough for us to spot with the unaided eye. Ironically, the path that Vesta is currently taking through the constellation Virgo is very close to the path it was traveling 196 years ago when it was first discovered.

Vesta was discovered March 29, 1807 by the German physician Heinrich Olbers. Olbers thought he had found a new star but soon realized he had found the an asteroid. Olbers is best know for "Olbers Paradox," the question posing that if the cosmos if full of stars, why is the sky dark at night? But Olbers had other discoveries in addition to Vesta. He had also discovered the asteroid Pallas in 1802, he had three comets to his name as well as a clever way of computing their orbits that is still in use today.

There are tens of thousands of known asteroids, and countless other ones too small to be yet identified. They vary tremendously is type and composition. Best known are the Main Belt Asteroids. These reside in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter and have fairly circular orbits. Originally, it was thought that there had once been a planet in this orbit, and that something had caused it to be destroyed and the asteroids were the remains. We now know that there never was a planet in this orbit.

In addition to the Main Belt asteroids, many others have highly irregular orbits and some cross Earth's orbit. These are called the Apollo Asteroids. These asteroids were probably the source of the bodies which impacted the Earth, Moon and other planets during their early history. There are so far, about 1000 asteroids in the Apollo group.

Vesta is one of the brightest Main Belt asteroids and slightly over 540km in diameter but it is slightly elongated in shape. It is the second largest asteroid discovered to date. It is also quite unusual as asteroids go.

Asteroids are perhaps the oldest remnants of the early Solar System and what we learn from them tells us about our own planet's early history. They are cold, dead, and airless worlds, relatively unchanged since the first few tens of millions of years in the life of the Solar System. These bodies remain unchanged because most have not experienced the extreme temperatures, pressures and chemical alteration and crustal motion suffered by larger bodies such as planets and moons. Such forces virtually destroy records of primordial history. From clues from meteorites, we do know asteroids were heated to some degree, probably in the first few million years. They were heated enough for liquid water to permeate their interiors. Some were heated to metamorphic temperatures and some even show signs of melting but they did not reach the high temperatures the planets did.

Vesta is unique among the asteroids studied so far because it appears to have differentiated into layers like the planets. Differentiation is the separation of material according to density. This seems to imply some internal heat source. The surface layer is composed of pyroxene rich rocks, like achondrite meteorites. Underneath is an olivine mantle. Temperatures must have been unusually high (for asteroids,) to allow melting.

Hubble Space Telescope imaged Vesta in 1996 and revealed a very large, circular crater near the asteroid's south pole that is so deep it exposes the mantle. The basin is about 460 km wide and has a pronounced central peak. The floor is 12km below ground level. Since Vesta displays variations in the light reflected from its surface as it rotates, it is possible that the entire end of the asteroid was broken off revealing underlying layers which accounts for the variations in reflection. Given the size of the impact, it is likely that enough material was ejected to form a "family" of Vesta. We may well have a piece of Vesta here on Earth as a recovered meteorite from Johnstown Colorado.

NASA plans an even closer look at Vesta with a new mission called Dawn, NASA's ninth Discovery mission to be launched in May 2006. After a four year journey, the spacecraft will rendezvous with Vesta on July 30 2010, staying in orbit around the asteroid for almost an year, coming to a minimum distance of 100Km above the asteroid's surface.
  
It is interesting to note that although Vesta is not the largest or closest asteroid (and it is, in fact, dwarfed by Ceres 960km diameter,) it is the only one which can be spotted with the naked eye. The reason for this is that Vesta is so bright. It has a very high surface reflectivity, or albedo. Ceres reflects only about 11 percent of the sunlight striking it, which Vesta reflects a whopping 42 percent! And that is why the unaided eye can see Vesta but not Ceres.

On March 26th Vesta reached opposition to the Sun and was visible throughout the night. Opposition is when a body forms a straight line with the Earth and Sun, Earth being in the middle. For a few weeks after opposition, Vesta may be glimpsed with the unaided eye. Use the sky map to aid spotting the asteroid. Keep in mind that Vesta is not a bright object and you will need dark skies, away from artificial lights, to see it.

For those with binoculars or telescopes, Vesta will be in a favorable position through June and July. During this time, it will be highest in the sky just after dark. For those with larger telescopes, and especially those who enjoy astrophotography, Vesta will offer many great photographic opportunities as it passes by Virgo's many galaxies.

Copyright 2003, Starryskies

==========
(9) NASA NEEDS NEW VISION FOR HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT, ASTEROID PROTECTION, EXPERTS SAY

>From Space.com, 9 April 2003
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/asteroid_iss_030409.html

By Robert Roy Britt
 
A group of 30 scientists has formally urged NASA to use the International Space Station (ISS) as part of an expanded program of human and robotic missions to learn more about asteroids and how to deflect one that might one day threaten Earth.

The suggested effort would lead to human missions to asteroids, a stepping stone for a crewed trip to Mars.

In a letter to NASA, asteroid experts and other researchers inside and outside the space agency suggest it seek to emerge from the Shuttle Columbia tragedy with a fresh vision for integrating human and robotic space exploration. That vision should incorporate the space station in an effort to investigate asteroid compositions and to understand how innovative propulsion systems might be used to visit them or even to nudge an incoming asteroid off course. Learning how to destroy an asteroid might also be a goal. 
 
The letter was signed by two former astronauts and 28 astronomers and scientists at universities and space industry companies, as well as institutions closely tied to or largely funded by NASA.

The space station could be used to test in microgravity conditions machinery that would be used to examine an asteroid, said former astronaut Thomas Jones, who is also a planetary scientist and a consultant for space exploration efforts beyond the space station. Eventually, material brought back from an asteroid might be examined aboard the station, again taking advantage of microgravity.

Robots, then humans

"If you're going to send people to follow up your robots ... then the ISS is an essential stepping stone," Jones, one of the signatories, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroid experts around the world have in recent years prodded their governments to spend more on asteroid search programs, deflection schemes and basic research of comets and asteroids. NASA outspends all other agencies and countries in this undertaking, investing about $3.5 million each year in the search. Basic study of asteroid composition is not accounted for separately but includes robotic missions to asteroids, ground-based observations and theoretical studies.

Almost nothing is spent on investigating how to deflect or properly pulverize a threatening space rock. Before scientists can figure out how to do this, more information is needed about the diversity of relatively nearby objects and the contents of their deep interiors.

The letter suggests that various forms of nuclear propulsion -- stated development goals in the agency's 2004 budget -- could be useful in the effort to travel to space rocks.

"A cogent new goal is needed for human space flight and significant investments and experimentation are required to develop in-flight power and propulsion systems for future solar system exploration," the letter states. "In addition, a new program needs to be started at NASA to create an adequate scientific basis for a future mitigation system and, simultaneously, to learn how to apply future collision mitigation technologies."

Mitigation is a catchall term applied to the possible destruction or deflection of space rocks as well as possible evacuation plans that would be needed in the event an impact were deemed inevitable and imminent.

The letter was dated April 4 and sent to NASA Space Architect Gary Martin at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Martin is seen as an official who has a view of the overall scope of missions and programs needed to tackle the perceived problem.

Among the signatories are Donald Yeomans, an asteroid expert at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Apollo 9 astronaut Russell Schweickart and the University of Maryland's Michael A'Hearn, who leads NASA's Deep Impact Mission to slam into a comet in 2005. The letter was drafted primarily by Michael Belton, president of Belton Space Exploration Initiatives in Tucson, AZ.

The researchers recommend the following new goal for NASA:

Show how humans and robots can work together on small objects in near-Earth interplanetary space to:

1) accomplish new fundamental science on planetary objects;

2) aspire to previously unimaginable technical achievements on objects in interplanetary space; and,

3) protect the Earth from the future possibility of a catastrophic collision with a hazardous object from space.

"Since these activities would allow human spaceflight to cross the threshold into interplanetary space, they could also be thought of as a precursor activity to provide the essential technical and medical experience for that more distant, but even more challenging, goal -- a human exploratory mission to Mars," the letter states.

Post-Columbia concerns

The scientists seek to avoid a divisive debate about the utility of the space station as a science outpost as politicians, the public and NASA officials sort out the role of human spaceflight in the post-Columbia era.

"As space scientists, we believe [the divisiveness] can be avoided by adding a new, exciting, and affordable goal for human spaceflight and the use of the space station," they wrote.

The letter was an outgrowth of a new roadmap for attaining "Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids," which was developed at a workshop of international researchers directed by NASA's Office of Space Science.

Jones, the former astronaut, said the feeling behind the letter is that the effort to learn how to mitigate potentially threatening asteroids "is being underserved and underfunded given the potential seriousness of that problem."

No asteroid is known to be on a collision course with Earth. But experts agree that an impact, which might level a city or even cause widespread regional damage, is inevitable unless thwarted by technological intervention. Such an impact could occur this year or not for thousands of years. Researchers would likely have months or years of warning, but possibly not enough time to mount the research effort being proposed in the letter.

Meanwhile, a NASA-led search program designed to find large asteroids in the vicinity of Earth -- those that could cause global devastation -- has discovered more than half of the estimated 1,100 such rocks larger than 1 kilometer (0.62 miles). Smaller asteroids, of which there could be hundreds of thousands that might pose local or regional dangers, are not yet part of any coordinated search effort.

Copyright 2003, Space.com

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

(10) MORE ON CONTINENTAL HOTSPOT TRACKS

>From Hermann Burchard <burchar@math.okstate.edu>

Dear Benny,

besides the spectacular Yellowstone hotspot track in Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming, the N American continent probably has several more, but at least one that's much younger.  This is the Long Valley - Mono Lake hotspot that began with a gigantic volcanic explosion 730 or 760 Ka ago in E California (explosive degassing of pressure-relieved mantle). Again, we must suspect impact causation.  See map of ashfall over most of Western US area in sites below.

The timing is suspiciously close to the time of the Australasian tektite strewn field date.  Indeed, more and more evidence is being published for the multiple (cometary?) impact scenario, as recently in Dallas Abbott's announcement of the Maine crater.

The Long Valley caldera is designated as "resurgent,"  which is about the same as "supervolcano."  Comparison is made with Yellowstone, another suspected impact hotspot.  While Yellowstone is 14.9 Ma old, and has traveled about an 800 mile distance, the newer (and much smaller) Long Valley caldera seems to have travelled only about 40 miles during its 730 Ka lifetime. The exact relationship of Mono Lake to Long Valley is not too clear from the various descriptions.

The eruptions are at intervals of about 600 a, vs. Yellowstone's 600 Ka period between explosions. The USGS web pages mention increased uplift in the caldera since 1980.  There is increased emmission of CO2 since 1990 resulting in tree kills (roots require oxygenated soil). A certain nervousness on the part of geologists comes through discussion of alert status levels from green to red, and the planning of responses. "It's unlikely to stay as quiet for our benefit as it has been during the last 500 years (paraphrasing)."

http://www.csupomona.edu/~geology/docs/sierra.html
http://lvo.wr.usgs.gov/GeologicMap.html
http://volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/volc_images/north_america/california/long_valley.html

Regards,
  Hermann Burchard

PS.: Australians seem to have a spectacular continental hotspot track in Shark Bay, which has its axis lined up with and its SE terminus adjacent to famed the Woodleigh impact structure.  Unfortunately, its NW end breaks off where Australia's continental shelf descends to the depth of the NE Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain a geological description and or map of the Bay, which looks on maps much reminiscent of the Yellowstone track (Snake River Plane).  -hgbw.

===========
(11) AND FINALLY: SADDAM'S REGIME IS A EUROPEAN IMPORT

>From National Post 10 April 2003 
http://www.nationalpost.com/commentary/story.html?id=%7B0E39D93C-7FF7-43A9-9E5D-A0E7EF4CF6C4%7D

By Bernard Lewis 
 
In the Western world, knowledge of history is poor -- and the awareness of history is frequently poorer. For example, people often argue today as if the kind of political order that prevails in Iraq is part of the immemorial Arab and Islamic tradition. This is totally untrue. The kind of regime represented by Saddam Hussein has no roots in either the Arab or Islamic past. Rather, it is an ideological importation from Europe -- the only one that worked and succeeded (at least in the sense of being able to survive).

In 1940, the French government accepted defeat and signed a separate peace with the Third Reich. The French colonies in Syria and Lebanon remained under Vichy control, and were therefore open to the Nazis to do what they wished. They became major bases for Nazi propaganda and activity in the Middle East. The Nazis extended their operations from Syria and Lebanon, with some success, to Iraq and other places. That was the time when the Baath Party was founded, as a kind of clone of the Nazi and Fascist parties, using very similar methods and adapting a very similar ideology, and operating in the same way -- as part of an apparatus of surveillance that exists under a one-party state, where a party is not a party in the Western democratic sense, but part of the apparatus of a government. That was the origin of the Baath Party.

When the Third Reich collapsed, and after an interval was replaced by the Soviet Union as the patron of all anti-Western forces, the adjustment from the Nazi model to the Communist model was not very difficult and was carried throughout without problems. That is where the present Iraqi type of government comes from. As I said before, it has no roots in the authentic Arabic or Islamic past. It is, instead, part of the most successful and most harmful process of Westernization to have occurred in the Middle East.

When Westernization failed in the Middle East, this failure was followed by a redefinition and return to older, more deep-rooted perceptions of self and other. I mean, of course, religion.

Religion had several advantages. It was more familiar. It was more readily intelligible. It could be understood immediately by Muslims. Nationalist and socialist slogans, by contrast, needed explanation. Religion was less impeded. What I mean is that even the most ruthless of dictatorships cannot totally suppress religiously defined opposition. In the mosques, people can meet and speak. In most fascist-style states, openly meeting and speaking are rigidly controlled and repressed. This is not possible in dealing with Islam. Islamic opposition movements can use a language familiar to all, and, through mosques, can tap into a network of communication and organization.

This gave to religious arguments a very powerful advantage. In fact, dictatorships were even helping them by eliminating competing oppositions. They had another great advantage in competing with democratic movements. Such movements must allow freedom of expression, even to those who are opposed to them. Those who are opposed to them are under no such obligation. Indeed, their very doctrines require them to suppress what they see as impious and immoral ideas -- an unfair advantage in this political competition.

These religious movements have another advantage. They can invoke the very traditional definition of "self" and "enemy" that exists in the Islamic world. It is very old. We see it, for example, in historiography. We can talk of European history as a struggle against, for example, the Moors, or the Tartars. If you look at contemporary historiography for the Middle East's Muslim peoples, their struggle is always defined in religious terms. For their historians, their side is Islam, their ruler is the lord of Islam, and the enemy is defined as infidels. That earlier classification has come back again. Osama bin Laden's habit of defining his enemies as "crusaders" illustrates this. By "crusaders," bin Laden does not mean Americans or Zionists. "Crusaders," of course, were Christian warriors in a holy war for Christendom, fighting to recover the holy places of Christendom, which had been lost to Muslim conquerors in the 7th century. Bin Laden sees it as a struggle between two rival religions.

I say again: To blame the Saddam Hussein-type governments on Islamic and Arabic traditions is totally false. Those traditions led to the development of societies that, while not democratic in the sense of having elected bodies, produced limited governments. That is, governments limited by the holy law, limited in a practical sense by the existence of powerful groups in society, like the rural gentry and the military and religious establishments. These acted as constraints on the power of the government. The idea of absolute rule is totally alien to Islamic practice until, sad to say, modernization made it possible.

What the process of modernization did was to strengthen the sovereign power, and place at the disposal of the sovereign power the whole modern apparatus of control and repression. Modernization also weakened the intermediate powers, which previously limited the powers of the state and had acted as a countervailing force. Modernization meant a shift from old elites living on their estates, to new elites who regarded the state as their estate.

Modernization has not erased the fact that the peoples of the Muslim Middle East have a tradition of limited, responsible government. While not democratic, this tradition shares many features of democratic Western governments. It provides, I believe, a good basis for the development of democratic institutions -- as has happened elsewhere in the world. I remain cautiously optimistic for their future.

Bernard Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He has written numerous books about Islam, including, most recently, The Crisis Of Islam: Holy War And Unholy Terror (March 2003). This essay is adapted from the 8th Annual Barbara Frum Lecture delivered by Prof. Lewis in Toronto which will be broadcast on CBC Radio's IDEAS on April 24.

© Copyright 2003 National Post

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