PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 41/2003 - 24 April 2003
----------------------------------

      "An outbreak of ghost activity that struck Lesotho last year has
      been found to have been the result of a spectacular meteor shower.
      On 21 July, a loud noise in the sky was heard over most of the
      country. Then in the village of Boqate Ha Sofonia, objects began to
      fall on the roofs of houses. Malino Mantsoe, one of the village
      residents, saw a large stone smash into the low-walled cooking area
      in front of her house, before knocking over and cracking a plastic
      container. She blamed a "thokolosi" - a poltergeist - and sprinkled
      holy water around her house and on the stone. No more stones fell."
                --David Ambrose, BBC, 22 April 2003


      "After launch, the spacecraft will move into Tempel I's path. On
      July 3, 2005, the dual spacecraft will separate into a "flyby" and
      an "impactor." On July 4, 2005, the comet will overtake the
      relatively small impactor - vaporizing much of it on contact -
      creating a crater an estimated seven stories deep and as long as a
      football field. The flyby will record the event from a distance and
      transmit the data back to Earth for analysis."
                 --Jeremy Hsieh, Diamondback Online, 22 April 2003


(1) METEORITE SHOWER CAUSED LESOTHO 'POLTERGEIST'
    BBC News Online, 22 April 2003

(2) CHICAGO'S RAIN OF METEORITES
    Sky & Telescope, 21 April 2003

(3) POSSIBLE IMPACT ON MARS IN 1951
    Maximiliano Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

(4) MORE ABOUT POSSIBLE 1951 MARS IMPACT
    Maximiliano Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

(5) OVER BUDGET AND BEHIND SCHEDULE, DEEP IMPACT IS STILL A GO
    Diamondback Online, 22 April 2003

(6) DISASTRONOMER ROYAL: MORE APOCALYPTIC THAN THE POPE
    The Mercury, 22 April 2003

(7) AND FINALLY: SARS FROM THE STARS?
    Alan Boyle's Cosmig Log, 23 April 2003



=================
(1) METEORITE SHOWER CAUSED LESOTHO 'POLTERGEIST'

>From BBC News Online, 22 April 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2911269.stm

By David Ambrose
BBC Focus On Africa magazine 

An outbreak of ghost activity that struck Lesotho last year has been
found to have been the result of a spectacular meteor shower.

On 21 July, a loud noise in the sky was heard over most of the country.

Then in the village of Boqate Ha Sofonia, objects began to fall on the
roofs of houses.

'Malino Mantsoe, one of the village residents, saw a large stone smash
into the low-walled cooking area in front of her house, before knocking
over and cracking a plastic container.

She blamed a "thokolosi" - a poltergeist - and sprinkled holy water
around her house and on the stone. No more stones fell.

'Matukule Khoeletsana, another resident, also had stones bounce on her
roof - and kept them to prove it was no bad dream.

Investigation

Now the cause of the mystery rocks has been found to have been a
meteorite.

A rock weighing perhaps a tonne, which had been circling the sun for
4,600 million years, had finally intercepted another body in the solar
system - the Earth.

It arrived at perhaps 50 to 100 times the speed of sound, and hitting
the atmosphere at this speed, exploded into thousands of pieces which
had fallen to earth over nine different villages.

A team from the National University of Lesotho went to investigate, and
with the help of schoolchildren and local residents collected over 400
different stones ranging from just a few grams to over a kilogram.

There were a number of champion collectors, including a well-known local
youth nicknamed Ramanaka, or "Father of Horns", because of his
head-dress decorated with horns and a portrait of Nelson Mandela.

The Thuathe meteorite, as it has been christened, has ensured that
Lesotho will now have a place in the science of meteoritics.

A full version of this article appears in the new edition of the Focus
on Africa magazine.

Copyright 2003, BBC

===============
(2) CHICAGO'S RAIN OF METEORITES

>From Sky & Telescope, 21 April 2003
http://skyandtelescope.com/news/current/article_936_1.asp

By Peter Brown
 
April 21, 2003 | On the night of March 26th, shortly before midnight,
residents of several Midwestern states witnessed a dazzling - and, to
many, frightening - spectacle in the sky. A brilliant fireball appeared
over central Illinois and moved north, ending its fiery descent through
the atmosphere in at least two bright flashes just south of Chicago.
Powerful sonic booms soon shook the landscape and were detected as far
away as western Canada.

Shortly thereafter, many people in the suburban town of Park Forest
awoke to the sound of rocks clattering down on their neighborhoods. Paul
Sipiera (William Rainey Harper College) and James Schwade (Planetary
Studies Foundation) have been mapping the extent of the meteorite fall.
"At least six houses and three cars in the town of Park Forest and
surrounding area were damaged," Sipiera says. He estimates that the
debris fell in an elliptical-shaped strewnfield approximately 10
kilometers long and several wide.

Residents have found meteorites on roads, on lawns, and in woods. One
3-kilogram chunk crashed through a resident's roof and kitchen floor,
bounced off the basement floor, and landed on a table. A slighly smaller
fragment fell through a roof, hit a window and shredded its venetian
blind, bounced off the windowsill, and finally destroyed a large mirror
- narrowly missing a sleeping teenager.

The original body may have been nearly as big as a car before it broke
apart in the upper atmosphere. Steve Simon, a meteorite specialist at
the University of Chicago, says it was a relatively common type of
ordinary (rocky) chondrite classified as L5. Some of the fragments
consist of ancient impact melt, suggesting that the incoming object may
have originated near the surface of its parent asteroid.

Ultralow-frequency sound measurements made 1,100 km away in Manitoba
indicate that the fireball released the kinetic-energy equivalent of 0.5
to 1 kiloton of TNT, much more than conventional explosives but much
less than most atomic bombs. If the meteoroid arrived with a velocity
typical of objects from the asteroid belt, then it probably weighed 10
to 25 tons and was about 2 meters in diameter. Meteoroids this size hit
Earth about a half dozen times per year but rarely over thickly settled
areas. Park Forest (the event's provisional name) is the largest
meteorite fall in the United States in the last five years and the first
to drop hundreds of fragments over a major urban area.

Analysts have collected several videos recording the bolide's motion. If
additional videos from other viewing angles can be found, it should be
possible to determine an accurate orbit for the wayward object before it
encountered Earth. Therefore, anyone with such videos or other accurate
positional data should contact me. Success would make Park Forest only
the eighth meteorite with an accurate, instrumentally determined orbit.

Peter Brown chairs the meteor physics group at the University of Western
Ontario.

Copyright 2003 Sky Publishing Corp.

===============
(3) POSSIBLE IMPACT ON MARS IN 1951

>From Maximiliano Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

--Abstract Published in Meteoritics and Planetary Sciences
(MAPS) 37(7), supplement, p.A122, 2002.

A SMALL IMPACT EVENT ON MARS IN 1951
M.C.L.Rocca
Mendoza 2779-16A,
Ciudad de Buenos Aires,
Argentina (1428DKU), maxrocca@hotmail.com

Introduction: Any meteoroid impacting into the thin atmosphere of
Mars penetrates deeper than into the denser Earth atmosphere. As a rule,
meteoroids bigger than 1 meter in size hit the martian surface.
Objects with the size of about 0.1 - 1.0 meters explode high in the
martian atmosphere creating intense blast waves and light flashes.
Those superbolide events have a luminous efficiency higher than at the
Earth [1], [2]. As part of a search in old scientific publications one
superbolide-impact event on Mars has come to light. It was reported by
the japanese astronomer Tsuneo Saheki, at Osaka Planetarium. He used a
8-inch reflector, at 400x. The event occurred on December 8, 1951.

"At 21:00 I saw a sharp , bright, glaring spot suddenly appear on
Tithonius Lacus. It was as brillant as a 6 th. magnitude star -
decidedly brighter than the north polar cap - and shone with
scintillation for about five minutes. Fadding rapidly, by 21:05 it
looked like a whitish cloudlet, as large as Tithonius Lacus. At 21:10 it
was barely visible as a very faint and large white spot, and by 21:40
this part of the martian surface had returned to its normal state" [3].

The four drawings he published are very interesting. The first shows a
radiate structure wich may be explained as ballistic ejecta from the
impact site. Careful searches in old journals may offer puzzling new
examples of superbolide and impact events on Mars.

References:
[1] Kosarev I.B. et al. (2000): MAPS 35 , supplement, pp. A91.
[2] Adolfsson L.G., Gustafson B.A.S. and Murray C.D. (1996): Icarus
    119, pp.144 -152.
[3] Saheki T. (1955) Sky & Telescope 14, pp. 144 -146.

==============
(4) MORE ABOUT POSSIBLE 1951 MARS IMPACT

>From Maximiliano Rocca <maxrocca@hotmail.com>

Dear Benny:

I performed some new research analysis concerning that possible small
impact on Mars in 1951.

Below you will find some unpublished information. Hope the readers of
CCNet will enjoy it!

Bye: max

THE  DEC. 8, 1951 FLASH EVENT ON MARS: SUPERBOLIDE/IMPACT OR
A SPECULAR REFLECTION OF SUNLIGHT FROM ICE CRYSTALS?

M.C.L.Rocca
Mendoza 2779-16A,
Ciudad de Buenos Aires,
Argentina (1428DKU), maxrocca@hotmail.com

This work was funded by The Planetary Society, CA, USA.

Introduction: In a previous publication I reviewed  a very unusual
flash event on Mars on Dec. 8th, 1951, 21.00 Hs. U.T.  reported by the
Japanese astronomer T. Saheki[1].

His report: "At 21: 00 UT I saw a sharp , bright, glaring spot suddenly
appear on Tithonius Lacus. It was as brillant as a 6 th. magnitude star
- decidedly brighter than the north polar cap - and shone with
scintillation for about five minutes. Fadding rapidly, by 21:05 it
looked like a whitish cloudlet, as large as Tithonius Lacus. At 21:10 it
was barely visible as a very faint and large white spot, and by 21:40
this part of the martian surface had returned to its normal state" [2].

It could have been a superbolide/small impact event. Recently, it has
been proposed that some stories of sparkling on Mars are from ice
(frost) on ground or from ice crystals in the Martian atmosphere [3].
Those lights could be caused by specular reflections of sunlight of
water-ice crystals specifically at times when the sub-Sun and sub-Earth
points were nearly coincident and near the planet's central meridian.
That was the case of a much smaller and shorter flash event reported
from Edom Promontorium on July 1, 1954, 13.15 Hs. U.T., when  Mars and
Earth were close to conjunction and the Mars-Sun-Earth Angle (MSEA)was
just 2, [2].

Another example: flash from Sithonius Lacus on June 4, 1937- MSEA = 2,
[2]. But, that was not the case on Dec. 8 , 1951, 21.00 Hs. U.T., when
the MSEA was 79. The origin of that flash is a mystery.

References:
[1] Rocca M.C.L. (2002) MAPS 37 ( supplement ), July.
[2] Saheki T. (1955) Sky & Telescope 14 (February), pp. 144 -146.
[3] Dobbins T. and Sheehan W. (2001) Sky and Telescope (May), pp.
    115-123.

==============
(5) OVER BUDGET AND BEHIND SCHEDULE, DEEP IMPACT IS STILL A GO

>From Diamondback Online, 22 April 2003
http://www.inform.umd.edu/News/Diamondback/archives/2003/04/23/news6.html

By Jeremy Hsieh
Senior staff writer

Despite being behind schedule and over budget, astronomy Professor
Michael A'Hearn's six-year project to study the comet Tempel I by
crashing a multimillion-dollar spacecraft into it will proceed with a
launch date one year later than expected.

The project Deep Impact, which is expected to reveal the origins of the
solar system, was originally projected to cost $279 million. NASA feared
the project's budget would exceed the cost cap of $350 million,
prompting a termination review from October to March. NASA ultimately
let the project continue with an additional $14.4 million, said NASA
spokesman Don Savage. However, "NASA challenged us to give back money at
the end," A'Hearn said.

The university's budget woes are also chipping away at the project's
funds. Since last summer, astronomy faculty and researchers pay nearly
$600 a year for each department computer they use, and about 12
computers are involved in the Deep Impact project. The money comes from
the Deep Impact science team budget, which is much smaller than the
construction team's budget.

"It's not pleasant, but it's manageable," A'Hearn said.

An unmanned Boeing Delta II rocket was expected to deliver the mission's
dual spacecraft into space in January 2004. The spacecraft was then to
orbit the Earth for one year before taking a position 80 million miles
from Earth in the path of Tempel I.

But the launch date from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.,
was pushed back one year after Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp. of
Colorado found significant problems with the spacecraft.

The project is "clearly behind schedule" because of a problem with the
spacecraft's computer system, contamination of the propulsion system and
two defects in the platform on the spacecraft where sensitive
instruments will be mounted, A'Hearn said.

"Certainly, the problems we encountered were the kinds of problems we'd
anticipate," A'Hearn said. However, he said he didn't know if the number
of problems was unusual because he has limited mission experience.

In addition, the Deep Impact team will use the extra year for further
ground testing and resolving any problems it uncovers.

Although costlier than space testing, the additional ground testing will
improve the spacecraft's reliability. Both hardware and software
problems can be resolved on the ground, while only the spacecraft's
software can be fixed by the Deep Impact team after launch.

The later launch date does not provide enough time to send the
spacecraft in orbit around the Earth before heading to Tempel I, though
this portion of the mission is not essential, A'Hearn said.

"The only thing we lose that matters as far as I can see is the ability
to test the target algorithms," A'Hearn said. These algorithms are used
to maneuver the spacecraft and cannot be fully tested on the ground.

As it stands now, the rocket delivery of the dual spacecraft into space
must occur during a 21-day window that straddles December 2004 and
January 2005.

After launch, the spacecraft will move into Tempel I's path. On July 3,
2005, the dual spacecraft will separate into a "flyby" and an
"impactor." On July 4, 2005, the comet will overtake the relatively
small impactor - vaporizing much of it on contact - creating a crater an
estimated seven stories deep and as long as a football field. The flyby
will record the event from a distance and transmit the data back to
Earth for analysis.

The cratering process will spew out the contents from the comet's
interior, which is of particular interest for scientists because it may
reveal the solar system's cosmic history.

"The reason for wanting to understand a comet is that the comets in
their interior should preserve a record of the ices that condensed at
the beginning of the solar system and therefore, they tell us what their
temperature and density conditions were when all the planets formed,"
A'Hearn said in May 2002. "The outer layers have been altered by the
comet going around the sun, so we're trying to get down deep enough to
find out how different the interior is."

In August, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of
Technology will test the impactor and flyby separately and as a unit.

Despite setbacks, A'Hearn is still confident of the mission's success.
"I'm still optimistic that we'll get the whole thing done and discover
something fundamentally new about comets," he said.

Copyright 2003, Diamondback Online

==============
(6) DISASTRONOMER ROYAL: MORE APOCALYPTIC THAN THE POPE

>From The Mercury, 22 April 2003
http://www.themercury.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,6319216%255E401,00.html

Britain's Astronomer Royal says mankind and the Earth itself have only
an even chance of surviving the current century, reports James Chapman

22apr03

PROFESSOR Sir Martin Rees has made a chilling assessment of how
technology, terrorism and disasters both man-made and natural threaten
our species.

"I think the odds are no better than 50-50 that our present civilisation
on Earth will survive to the end of this century," he said.

"Our choices and actions could ensure the perpetual future of life - not
just on Earth, but perhaps far beyond it, too.

"Or 21st-century technology could jeopardise life's potential."

Sir Martin, who outlines his fears in a book to be published next month,
highlights the threat of nuclear megaterrorism.

He points out that if the September 11 attacks had involved not
airliners but a nuclear explosion at the World Trade Centre, using only
two grapefruit-sized lumps of enriched plutonium, it would have
devastated Manhattan and killed hundreds of thousands.

Bioterrorism is also a major threat, he says, after a Pentagon-funded
project proved scientists could synthesise polio from DNA.

Thousands of individuals have the knowledge to engineer viruses to cause
deadly plagues.

Here, according to Sir Martin, are the key threats to mankind:

Supervolcanoes: These are vast, collapsed craters called calderas filled
with boiling magma and gas.

A particularly dangerous supervolcano exists under Yellowstone national
park in the US - it is 40,000 years overdue for an eruption which could
kill millions and devastate the global climate.

Nanotechnology: This involves machines on the scale of a billionth of a
metre, or about one eighty-thousandth the width of a hair.

Greenpeace is poised to launch a public campaign against nanotechnology,
just as it did in the mid-90s with GM crops.

Some fear that tiny, self-replicating machines could run out of control,
dissolving all life in a matter of hours into grey goo.

Asteroids: Experts calculate that a person's chances of being killed by
an asteroid are higher than of winning the lottery.

They say all near-Earth objects should be carefully monitored as the
tiniest change in orbit could send one spinning towards us.

A rock that crashed off Mexico 65 million years ago is believed to have
wiped out the dinosaurs.

Scientists: Experiments have already been conducted which could, in
theory, have blown up the world.

One involved smashing atoms into each other at incredible speed in a
laboratory at Long Island, New York. The aim was to duplicate in
miniature the Big Bang - the beginning of time.

But there was a risk that a black hole could form, sucking in everything
around it. The genetic engineering of viruses and bacteria, meanwhile,
could go horribly wrong if infectious new pathogens were accidentally
released.

Climate change: A runaway greenhouse effect which raised temperatures so
high the oceans started evaporating, adding water vapour to the
atmosphere, warming Earth up still more and threatening Man's long-term
survival.

Our Final Century is published by William Heinemann on May 1.

Copyright 2003, The Mercury

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I'm afraid Sir Martin significantly underestimates the
real hazards we face daily. His litany doen't even include the risk of
being run over by a truck or becoming infected by a deadly disease from
space.... BP

==================
(7) AND FINALLY: SARS FROM THE STARS?

>From Alan Boyle's Cosmig Log, 23 April 2003
http://www.msnbc.com/news/750150.asp

SARS from the stars? The Sun, Britain's largest-circulation newspaper,
is better-known for its scandal sheets and scantily clad Page 3 Girls
than for its science coverage - but the tabloid puts forth a novel
theory on the origins of the virus that causes severe acute respiratory
syndrome: It could have come from outer space.

The suggestion is based on the work of the late astronomer Fred Hoyle
and Cardiff University's Chandra Wickramasinghe, who long contended that
microbes were being delivered to Earth from space via comets.

"We should keep a watch on new cases of SARS," Wickramasinghe told The
Sun. "If they are not connected with known cases, then there's a real
possibility that it has come from space."

Sheffield University microbiologist Milton Wainwright is also quoted as
saying some aspects of SARS' spread "appear to fit this general scheme."

Some astrobiologists have speculated that life could have gotten its
start on Earth - and perhaps other worlds as well - thanks to microbes
hitchhiking on comets or meteorites. You can learn much more about the
theory, known as "panspermia," from the Cosmic Ancestry Web site.

"Hoyle and Wickramasinghe proposed that the link between new flus and
China was caused by the jet stream's bump over the Himalayas a long time
ago," Cosmic Ancestry's Brig Klyce wrote in an e-mail to Cosmic Log. "I
think it's quite plausible, and could account for the SARS epidemic as
well. ... I haven't written about it, because the case is mostly
circumstantial. But the circumstances are interesting.

"One idea, which I haven't seen elsewhere, pertains to the link with
pigs and ducks. China is not the only place where people live close to
pigs and ducks - consider India and Latin America. Say the virus
descends first in the plain of China as above, and descends all the way
to the surface. Then surface-feeders like pigs and ducks will ingest it
first.

"Other interesting circumstances - The Spanish Flu first struck soldiers
in outdoor training camps in the Midwest. Later, it struck around the
world almost simultaneously, but took weeks to travel from N.Y. to
Boston, presumably by human contact. And it spread to isolated
individuals who never came into contact with any infected person."

Just in the past year, Wainwright, Wickramasinghe and two other
researchers reported that they were able to culture microbes found in
the upper layers of the atmosphere - and contended that the bugs came
from space rather than from Earth.

Such theories about panspermia and "panfluenza" are still far from the
scientific mainstream, however. For now, it seems more likely that the
virus took a deadly genetic twist and jumped a species barrier (as the
Ebola virus apparently did).

The prevailing view is that the syndrome is caused by a new strain of
coronavirus, the type of virus that causes the common cold. But the
National Post quotes Francis Plummer, scientific director of Canada's
National Microbiology Laboratory, as voicing doubts about that
diagnosis. The microbe identified as the SARS virus has been found in
only 40 percent of Canada's SARS patients, he said, and some who have
tested positive for the virus show no symptoms of the disease.

The researchers behind the coronavirus theory say the discrepancy may be
due to the difficulty in separating true SARS patients from those who
are suffering from other, less serious respiratory ailments.

Plummer has subscribed to an alternative theory on the origins of SARS,
which points to a type of human paramyxovirus related to the bugs that
cause measles and mumps. Another possibility is that the paramyxovirus
makes an existing case of SARS worse.

All this goes to show that there are far more questions than answers
about SARS right now. Rather than looking to the skies, you should look
at the Centers for Disease Control guide to SARS, the scientific
explanation of "How SARS Works" from "How Stuff Works," and our own
interactive on what you need to know.

Copyright 2003, MSNBC

MODERATOR'S NOTE: Despite the highly speculative nature of the suggested
cosmic origin of SARS, it is fair to say that Chandra Wickramasinghe and
the late Fred Hoyle have pondered the theory of "Diseases from Space"
since the 1970s. They have also claimed AIDS and BSE to be of cometary
origin (see http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc120600.html).
It would appear that the Pope was right after all: safe sex won't do against heavenly punishment :-) BP

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