CCNet DIGEST 8 July 1998

    Benny J Peiser <>

    Dave Tholen <tholen@galileo.IfA.Hawaii.Edu>

    Duncan Steel <>

    William Bottke <>

    David Levy <dhlevy@LPL.Arizona.EDU>

    James Perry <>

    Lew Gramer <>


From Benny J Peiser <>

Gillian and Benny Peiser are overjoyed to announce the birth of their
first child
                     R U B Y    H A N N A H

born                       7 July 1998.

Mother and baby (8lb 8oz) are both well; father is a wee-bit tired but
over the moon.*

*That's why the CCNet might not be posted every day during the summer


From Dave Tholen <tholen@galileo.IfA.Hawaii.Edu>


I need to clarify some issues regarding 1998 DK36.

The way Gareth Williams' remarks were worded, it makes it sound like we
measured the trail ends of just two exposures, one of seven minutes
duration on Feb 23, and the other of four minutes duration on Feb 24.
In reality, we took four exposures.  The time interval between the two
on Feb 23 and Feb 24 is about four minutes.  We measured the middle of
the trails on Feb 24, but on Feb 23, the end of the first trail fell in
the gap between two CCDs, and the beginning of the second trail was
still in that same gap, so we had no choice but to use the ends, which
increased the time base to seven minutes.

Yes, the observational arc is very short, and the resulting semimajor
axis and eccentricity are very uncertain. But we caught the object
essentially bang-on aphelion, and the aphelion distance is remarkably
well constrained, as is the topocentric distance at the time of the

To estimate the uncertainty in the aphelion distance, a Monte Carlo
experiment was performed.  Gaussian noise was added to the observations
and perturbed orbit solutions were performed on fifteen additional
synthetic sets of data.  When the one sigma noise level was set to
0.5 arcsec, all fifteen orbits (along with the best-fitting orbit to
the original data) remained inside the Earth's orbit. The aphelion
distance was remarkably well constrained to 0.980 AU. When the one
sigma noise level was doubled to 1.0 arcsec, one of the fifteen orbit
solutions became Earth crossing. I also tried a two-dimensional noise
model, in which 1.0 arcsec of noise was used along the direction of
the trailed images and 0.5 arcsec orthogonal to it, and only one of
the fifteen orbits became Earth-crossing.  Brian Marsden had already
communicated to me the fact that he had found an Earth-crossing orbit
that satisfied the observations to the arcsecond level, but that didn't
surprise me, because I had already found a similar Earth-crossing orbit
during my Monte Carlo experiment.

So, the question really becomes:  what is the appropriate noise model
to use?  Well, the RMS error in the astrometric fit to the reference
stars from the USNO-A1.0 catalog was at most 0.35 arcsec for the four
observations.  I'm not aware of any systematic errors in the USNO
catalog at this point, though we can't rule them out.  Any clock error
would have manifested itself in the observations of 1998 DV9, which
we discovered and observed on the same nights, so I don't have any
reason to expect a systematic error due to the clock.  The human factor
is involved in the measurement of the trail centers on Feb 24, which
is why I tried a two-dimensional noise model, because the greatest
uncertainty lies along the trail.  I'd be thrilled if others would like
to also measure the Feb 24 trails, just to see what sort of standard
deviation we get in the resulting positions, and I'd be willing to
make the frames available for that purpose, if enough people express
an interest in doing so to make it a good statistical test.

The reason I used the word "apparently" in the press release is because
of that one orbit out of fifteen that went Earth-crossing, and that's
for what I consider a pessimistic noise model.  Remember, none of the
orbits became Earth-crossing for the 0.5 arcsec noise model.  Nevertheless,
the point remains:  this object doesn't spend much time beyond the Earth's
orbit, if any at all, and so the chances it would have been discovered by
opposition search efforts is small to zero.  We really can't afford to
assume that there are no objects with aphelion distances equal to the
Earth's heliocentric distance at any longitude.

--Dave Tholen


From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

Regarding the prototypical (is that a word?) interior asteroid 1998
DK36, I expect that many people will be proposing names for the general
class, which has of course been long suspected.  This note is just to
draw people's attention to a couple of things on this front.

The idea that the 'anomalous' precession of the orbit of Mercury
(actually due to GTR) might be due to a planet closer to the Sun than
Mercury was championed by Le Verrier and others in the latter half of
the 19th century. Many people spotted it (the power of suggestion), and
it was given a name (Vulcan) even though it does not exist.  See the
handbooks of William R. Corliss for lists of published announcements of
its discovery.

This name was taken up, for example, by Leake et al. ('The chronology
of Mercury's geological and geophysical evolution: The vulcanoid
hypothesis', Icarus, 71, 350-375, 1987) as an appelation for a
hypothetical group of asteroids which might have existed on
Mercury-crossing orbits early in the history of the solar system,
producing much of its cratering record.

Richard G. Hodgson ('Searching for inferior minor planets', Minor
Planet Bulletin, 8, 4-5, 1981) discussed how to look for asteroids with
orbits entirely within that of the Earth.  He defined the following:

Vulcanian planets: aphelia inside the orbit of Mercury.

Mercurian planets: aphelia between the orbits of Mercury and Venus.

Cytherian planets: aphelia between the orbits of Venus and Mercury.

1998 DK36 would come into the latter class. Hodgson wrote: "The
Cytherian planets are of particular interest to us here on Earth (or
should be of interest) not only because of their suitability for future
space exploration, and their possible useful mineral deposits, but also
because their orbits probably lack long-term stability, and could shift
to present a hazard to the Earth."

Myself, I don't like 'Cytherian' as a class name: it must start with an
'A'.  Here's a possibility: Adrastea.  I have not checked yet to see
whether there is a minor planet with this name already.  It is an 
alternative to Nemesis in classical mythology, and has a twang
suggestive of an object closer than us to our local star. What
is the dative/ablative of star (singular)? 'Ad astra' is 'to the starS'
I think.  Why didn't I pay more attention in Latin O-level?



From William Bottke <>


Benny J Peiser wrote:

> There is another interesting aspect of the work by Asphaug et al. which
> might have significant implications on how impact rate statistics are
> currently calculated. One of the most important variables used in these
> calculations are the known hyper-velocity impact craters on earth. Due
> to the existence of (mostly) individual impact structures, researchers
> see these single craters as evidence for monolithic impactors.
> Obviously, the collision of a rubble pile asteroid with earth would
> result in multiple impacts both in the atmosphere and on the surface of
> the earth depending on the features and composition of such an object.
> Instead of impacting in a particularl locality (and thereby limiting
> the overall environmental knock-on effects), such an object would cause
> multiple impacts of a Super-Tunguska kind, releasing explosive energy
> over a wide area of the globe. 

Your statement is inaccurate. The existence of "individual impact
structures" on the terrestrial planets does not place meaningful
constraints on the nature of the impactor. 

There are only two mechanisms capable of disrupting a rubble pile body
before impact: (1) tidal forces and (2) aerodynamic forces. 

We have extensively tested (1) using sophisticated N-body codes, and
our results show that mass shedding *only* occurs after a rubble pile
has made close approach with the planet (periapse).  Since, on an
impact encounter, periapse is *inside* the planet, tidal forces would
not prohibit the formation of a normal impact crater.

Atmospheric break-up (2), on the other hand, does occur, but it has the
greatest effect on small bodies (i.e., in the case of Earth,
"Tunguska"-sized objects having a diameter of 50 or so).  It is not
difficult to show that the maximum separation between components
entering a terrestrial planet's atmosphere (if it has one) is small. 
We estimate this distance to be 2 km for Venus, 150 m for Earth, and 18
m for Mars, independent of the size or velocity of the incoming
projectile(s).  Separations several times larger are possible for low
angle entries, and atmospheric drag on the trajectories may multiply
separations by a factor a few, but our values give a reasonable
approximation of the degree to which aerodynamic forces can separate the
components of an impacting asteroid or comet. Thus, since asteroids
tend to make craters 10 times their own diameter, the small separation
produced by (2) can be considered negligible.

Finally, numerical hydrocode codes capable of simulating asteroid
impacts shows that, at the moment of contact between a planetary
surface and a projectile, a shock wave is generated exceeding the yield
strength of both the target and projectile (i.e., hundreds of GPa). 
Thus, since even a monolithic impactor is immediately fragmented after
planetary contact, it would produce the same kind of impact structure
as an impacting rubble pile.

If you need references, I would be happy to provide them.


- Bill

Bill Bottke
Center for Radiophysics & Space Research
306 Space Sciences
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-6801

Tel: (607) 255-3934
Fax: (607) 255-9002


From David Levy <dhlevy@LPL.Arizona.EDU>


When people ask us about Armageddon's asteroid the size of Texas, we
say that we think it was a mistake in editing. An asteroid the size of
Lubbock, Texas, was what they might have meant. Then, in final editing,
someone might have figured that no one would know where Lubbock is, so
they just deleted it!

Also, a reminder to watch ABC's programme Armageddon: Target Earth
on Wednesday, July 9,1998 at 9:30 pm. EDT.  It is an
attempt to place the concept of the film in a scientific context.

Thanks for posting this!

David Levy and Peter Jedicke


From James Perry <>

Dear Dr. Peiser,

Criticizing "Armageddon" for Bad Science is like criticizing "Lethal
Weapon" for  unrealistic police procedures, "Braveheart" for historical
inaccuracy, or "Friday the 13th" for its less-than-credible portrayal
of a serial killer. For a fact, I don't think I've ever seen Bruce
Willis in anything that wasn't wildly implausible, and to expect
otherwise only sets you up for a major disappointment. But does he
care? No, he's laughing all the way to the bank!


James Perry


From Lew Gramer <> [as posted on the meteororb-list]

Following are two short articles on the Meteor Showers of Summer. The
first covers observing the Perseids, while the second describes some of
the other worthwhile meteor events this summer.

The Perseids are NOT destined to be at their best this particular year
because  of the moon's light interference, so other showers are very
worth watching. In particular, you are from a more southerly location
in the US. So if you take the time to watch AFTER MIDNIGHT, you should
see nice activity from a shower memorably named "South Delta Aquarids",
around July 28-30!

If you have any other questions, or would like to learn more about
meteor observing in general, don't hesitate to write us again! You can
also always visit our Web site at:

Clear skies in LA, and take care!
Lew Gramer
Medford, MA

"Perseids", from Gary Kronk's Annual Meteor Calendar at:

Activity from this meteor shower is visible from about July 23 until
August 22. At the time of Maximum on August 12/13, the radiant [where
all the meteors appear to trace back to] is located [in the
constellation Perseus, in the northern sky]. The hourly rate typically
reaches 80, although some years have been as low as 4 and as high as
200. The meteors tend to be very fast, quite bright, and about 45%
leave persistent trains...


This is the most famous of all meteor showers. It never fails to
provide an impressive display and, due to its summertime appearance, it
tends to provide the majority of meteors seen by non-astronomy
enthusiasts. The earliest record of its activity appears in the Chinese
annals, where it is said that in 36 AD "more than 100 meteors flew
thither in the morning." Numerous references appear in Chinese,
Japanese and Korean records throughout the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th


Hot Summer Falling Stars (by Lew Gramer)
As most Northerners know, the night skies of Late Summer are frequently
hazy, often offering poor views through telescopes. On the other hand,
with the warm weather and visits to dark-skied vacation spots on our
calendars, these hot months can be an excellent time for meteor
watching - casual or otherwise!

Many people may be unnecessarily discouraged from meteors this Summer,
since the Perseids - that ancient shower of mid-August which never
fails to produce high rates - will be sorely affected by bright
moonlight. But what many fail to realize, even as they stand at their
telescopes on dark Summer nights, is that the Perseids are not the only
Summer shower which puts on a good show!

Among the several "minor" meteor showers active during Summer months,
the "Aquarid/Capricornid complex" is far the most prominent. Throughout
July and August, careful watchers under dark skies after midnight will
see many meteors falling all over the sky, the majority appearing to
trace back to (or "radiate from") the constellations of the Water
Bearer and the Seagoat in the South.

In particular, moonless mornings leading up to July's end - when the
Southern Delta Aquarids reach their peak - will show avid watchers as
many as 40 or more meteors per hour. (This number includes meteors from
other showers too, as well as the non-shower meteors or "sporadics"
visible all year round.)

For dark AM hours in August and September this year, the "Aurigid
complex" and late Perseids will provide many swift meteors. The
Perseids may still be seen throughout August, while the Aurigids peak
in early September.

FOUR THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND when planning a Meteor Watch: 1) Comfort -
it gets mighty COLD lying under the night sky, even in Summer! 2)
Meteors will be seen in all directions and areas of the sky - NOT just
near radiants. 3) Meteor rates go up rapidly after midnight - usually
the later the better! 4) If you have any interest at all, try NOTING
WHAT YOU SEE: not only will you be doing a potential service to meteor
science, but you may actually be the ONLY METEOR OBSERVER IN THE WORLD
gathering data on that particular night...

For information on scientific meteor watching, drop me a line or check out:

Lew Gramer
77 Magoun Ave.
Medford, MA  02155

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