CCNet 85/2001 - 10 July 2001

"We seem to have a problem. Heinrich Waenke and other cosmochemists
have come to the conclusion that certain types of meteorites
originated from the surface of Mars, most likely as the result of a
high-velocity impact. But I find it difficult to visualize a scenario
that can impart a velocity of the order of 10 km/sec to a rock coming from
such an impact without the accelerating force exceeding the crushing
strength of the rock. John Michael Williams seems to have demonstrated
that a gentle acceleration of the rock by a gas cloud is physically
impossible. Neither of us has a good mechanism for getting a  rock off the
Martian surface with the required velocity. So -- my question to the
chemists: Could the "Martian" meteorites have come from Deimos? Or
must they originate from the Mars surface, in which case we may need
to find some mechanism for a more sustained and gentle acceleration?"
--Fred Singer, 9 July 2001

"Our generation is the first one in history (well in excess of 4,000
generations) with a full awareness of the asteroid/comet danger and the
capability to find the threatening NEOs and to intercept and deflect
them. That awareness (and capability) places a tremendous
responsibility on our shoulders....and all who share the knowledge, also
share the responsibility."
--Andy Smith, 10 July 2001

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     Andrew Yee <>


From Andrew Yee <>

University of South Florida
Media Contact:
Marsha Strickhouser, (813) 974-4014

Livio Tornabene, (813) 598-4231
June 18, 2001

USF graduate student confirms asteroid site in Panama

TAMPA, Fla. -- In August 1998, Bob Stewart, a retired geologist from the
Republic de Panama, showed up on the doorstep of USF's Department of Geology
bearing a heavy knapsack of rocks. Not just any rocks, but unusual rocks he
recovered near the Panama Canal Zone in the middle of what he believed to be
a possible asteroid impact site. They were not at all consistent with the
local geological setting. They showed indications of shattering, melting and
flow features that were forever frozen in time and marking a catastrophic
event in the Earth's geologic past.

When seven of those rocks fell in to the lap of Jeffrey Ryan, USF's interim
chairman of the geology department, he immediately handed them over to a
young master's student eager to work on anything dealing with planetary
science, Livio L. Tornabene.

Until then, the site had not been seriously investigated as a possible
impact site since it had been first discovered in August 1972. Stewart had
noticed the anomalous circular structure during a survey and mapping project
in the Panama Canal Zone. He collected samples in 1990 and 1995. But until
summer 1998, the samples sat undisturbed in his garage.

Tornabene had Stewart's notes and the seven rocks, but knew that any proof,
if it were indeed an impact site, would probably be microscopic. "At larger
diameters, there's pretty much nothing left of the impacting body," he said.
"The asteroid vaporizes and melts upon impact. You could literally have a
giant gaping hole in the earth, but unless you prove it with certain
microscopic features caused by intense shock (like shocked quartz or diamond
formation), you have nothing."

Tornabene, co-investigator Tom Carey and a local guide set out with maps and
canteens through the rain forest during the heat and humidity of July. "It
was the worst time of year we could possibly go, considering it was summer
and still deep into the rainy season," he said.

The trip was an hour and 40 minutes total out of Panama City, about an hour
to the Gamboa Docks and then west on the Panama Canal about six and a half
miles on a 15-foot dingy. They spent 12 hours a day for two weeks searching
and collecting samples. "This structure in the Panama Canal Zone was eroded
and flooded on the northwest side, a lot more subtle than the one in
Arizona, which is well persevered in the dry desert climate.

It was covered by dense forest, and battered by the tropical environment,
which accelerates erosion. It was very difficult to view a structure and to
find rocks," he said.

He obtained about 30 samples that weighed about 200 pounds. This time he
found more anomalous rocks bearing all different colors -- light blue,
green, white, beige and black.

"Since the proof is usually microscopic, you just have to go to the site,
sample it and look at the structure in great detail," said Tornabene, who
now calls the site the Gatun Structure because it's located near the Gatun

In May, Tornabene found the proof he was looking for in the form of
diaplectic glass, which is a purely impact-generated phenomenon. Tornabene
presented the discovery at the spring meeting of the American Geophysical
Union in Boston.

Tornabene estimates the actual asteroid was roughly 150 meters in diameter
-- larger than one-and-a-half football fields -- and traveled at a minimum
of 25,000 miles per hour -- about the top speed of the space shuttle. This
site is roughly 2.2 to 3 kilometers or two miles in diameter -- more than
twice the size of the one in Arizona most people are familiar with. Only 177
known impact structures like it have been identified to date.

"When you look at the moon, you see millions of craters, especially smaller
ones," Tornabene said. "We've been hit probably 20 times more than the moon.
And yet, we don't see as many at the surface. It's the active, water-covered
surface of Earth that obscures or obliterates these features and makes them
very difficult to find.

"We can learn a lot from the smaller ones," he said. "I've seen some
features in my samples that I haven't seen in literature. It's interesting
to find a structure like this at all in a tropical setting, especially with
the erosion rates as high as they are in the tropics."

The rocks that were hit by the asteroid are 20 million years old, so it's
possible the impact could have occurred 20 million years ago. Tornabene
wants to send some samples for Argon-Argon dating, a radioactive method to
resolve the formation age of the impact structure.

The University of South Florida is a metropolitan research university with
campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota/Manatee and Lakeland. With about
35,500 students, USF offers 70 baccalaureate programs and 130 graduate
programs, including the M.D. Last year, its students and faculty attracted
$171.3 million in research contracts and grants.


From Andrew Yee <>

ESA Science News

05 Jul 2001

What is a comet really like? What is its interior like? Could it be a fluffy
agglomeration of snow and dirt? Or perhaps it is solid all the way through
like an iceberg encrusted with black organic material? Some have even
likened it to a chocolate cake with a dark surface overlying a mixture of
porous and solid material! Identifying the nature of a comet is just one of
the key questions that ESA's Rosetta mission is intended to answer, and the Comet
Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT) instrument
on the Rosetta Orbiter and Lander will play a major role in revealing the
true nature of these cosmic wanderers.

CONSERT has already made its mark by becoming the first of the scientific
experiments that will fly on the Rosetta Orbiter to be delivered to Alenia
Spazio in Turin. The remainder of the comet chaser's state-of-the-art
payload will follow in the coming weeks, paving the way for the start of the
Orbiter's payload integration phase.

Sounding a comet with radar

CONSERT's mass is limited to only 3 kg, but there is nothing lightweight
about its mission to gently probe the interior of a comet -- something that
has never before been attempted.

The experiment, built in France and in Germany, will reveal the internal
structure of Comet Wirtanen's nucleus by using an ingenious radar sounding
technique. As the Rosetta Orbiter swings around the tiny ice world at a
distance of less than 30 km, a transmitter on board the spacecraft sends a
radio 'pulse' towards the comet nucleus at a frequency close to 90 MHz.

The Lander, which is sitting on the far side of the nucleus, behaves rather
like a mirror. It receives the signal after it has travelled through the icy
nucleus and transmits a new 'pulse' back towards the Orbiter. This
re-transmitted signal eventually arrives back at the Orbiter, where it is
compressed and stored for off-line scientific analysis.

Some 3000 of these measurements will be taken during each orbit of Comet
Wirtanen. By studying the time delays as the signals pass through the
nucleus from different directions, the scientists will be able to estimate
the dielectric constant of the materials inside the comet (a measure of its
ability to reflect the radio signals and their velocity). They will then be
able to determine the internal structure (if any) of the nucleus -- the
denser the material is, the slower the pulse passes through it.

So will it work?

The experiment's principal investigator, Professor Wlodek Kofman of the
Laboratoire de Planetologie (CNRS-UJF-OSUG) in Grenoble and also affiliated
with the Service d'Aeronomie (CNRS), France, has been studying this problem
for many years.

"Based on our current understanding of the composition of comets, we believe
that electromagnetic waves of the right frequency will pass right through
the nucleus," said Professor Kofman.

"Obviously, we have to try out the technique on Earth in order to see if it
works before we launch it towards a comet or planet," he said. "In 1993 we
actually went to Antarctica to carry out a radar experiment and we found
that we could successfully deduce the structure inside the ice."

"We were intending to fly a radar on the Russian Mars-98 mission in order to
measure the thickness of the Martian permafrost," he continued,
"Unfortunately, the mission was cancelled, so Rosetta will be our first
opportunity to fly an experiment in space."

"We have recently completed a successful test of the CONSERT Electrical
Qualification Models on the roofs of the University of Bochum," he said.

"The two antennae and mock-ups of the Lander and Orbiter were placed on two
different roofs so that we could characterise the radiation pattern of the
antennae with a minimum of interference from the ground and perform the
end-to-end test of the equipment," he explained.

"The 'Lander' was placed on one roof, about 80 metres away from the
'Orbiter', and we picked up the return signal loud and clear," said Kofman.

"When we are in orbit around Wirtanen, we should be able to detect large
structures or layers within the comet, and even recognise small-scale
irregularities," he added.

One of the great unknowns is the lifetime of the experiment, since its
success depends on the continued operation of the Rosetta Lander.

"The life of the Lander is expected to be quite short -- possibly only a few
days or weeks," explained Professor Kofman. "If the Lander survives for a
long time, we will carry out the experiment many times. Obviously, I would
like it to operate for many orbits!"

The CONSERT instrument was developed by three European institutes: the
Service d'Aéronomie in Paris; the Laboratoire de Planétologie in Grenoble;
and the Max-Planck-Institut für Aeronomie in Lindau. Other contributions
have been made by the European Space Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the
Netherlands and the University of Bochum.

For further information contact:

Professor Wlodek Kofman
Laboratoire de Planétologie de Grenoble, France
Tel: +33 476 514152


* Rosetta home page
* Rosetta instruments


[Image 1: ]
The Rosetta Orbiter swoops over the Lander soon after touchdown on the
nucleus of Comet 46P/Wirtanen. (Photo courtesy Astrium).

[Image 2: ]
The mock-up lander antenna during tests on the roof of the University of

[Image 3: ]
The mock-up orbiter antenna during tests on the roof of the University of

[Image 4: ]
Professor Wlodek Kofman, principal investigator of CONSERT. Laboratoire de
Planétologie de Grenoble, France.

[Image 5: ]
Radar tests at Dumont d'Urville, the French station in Antarctica, showed
that the CONSERT technique works.


From Andrew Yee <>

New Scientist

Claire Bowles, New Scientist Press Office, London
Tel: +44(0)20 7331 2751 or email


Ancient volcanoes

VOLCANOES were more destructive in ancient history. Not because they were
bigger, but because the carbon dioxide they released wiped out life with
greater ease.
Paul Wignall from the University of Leeds was investigating the link between
volcanic eruptions and mass extinctions. Not all volcanic eruptions killed
off large numbers of animals, but all the mass extinctions over the past 300
million years coincided with huge formations of volcanic rock. To his
surprise, the older the massive volcanic eruptions were, the more damage
they seemed to do.
Wignall calculated the "killing efficiency" for these volcanoes by comparing
the proportion of life they killed off with the volume of lava that they
produced. He found that size for size, older eruptions were at least 10
times as effective at wiping out life as their more recent rivals.
The Permian extinction, for example, which happened 250 million years ago,
is marked by floods of volcanic rock in Siberia that cover an area roughly
the size of western Europe. Those volcanoes are thought to have pumped out
about 10 gigatonnes of carbon as carbon dioxide. The global warming that
followed wiped out 80 per cent of all marine genera at the time, and it took
5 million years for the planet to recover.
Yet 60 million years ago in the late Palaeocene there was another huge
amount of volcanic activity and global warming but no mass extinction. Some
animals did disappear but things returned to normal within tens of thousands
of years. "The most recent ones hardly have an effect at all," Wignall says.
He ignored the extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs at the end of the
Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, because many scientists believe it was
primarily caused by the impact of an asteroid.
Wignall thinks that older volcanoes had more killing power because more
recent life forms were better adapted to dealing with increased levels of
CO2. Ocean chemistry may also have played a role. As the supercontinents
broke up and exposed more coastline there may have been more weathering of
silica rocks. This would have encouraged the growth of phytoplankton in the
oceans, increasing the amount of CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere.
Vincent Courtillot, director of the Paris Geophysical Institute in France,
says that Wignall's idea is provocative. But he says it is incredibly hard
to do these sorts of calculations. He points out that the killing power of
volcanic eruptions depends on how long they lasted. And it is impossible to
tell whether the huge blasts lasted for thousands or millions of years.
Courtillot also adds that it is difficult to estimate how much lava
prehistoric volcanoes produced, and that lava volume may not necessarily
correspond to carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide emissions.

Nicola Jones reports from the Earth System Processes meeting in Edinburgh.

New Scientist issue: 7th July 2001


From Andrew Yee <>

ESA News

9 July 2001

Postcard from Mars

When most people go on vacation, they want to forget all about their jobs.
But ESA physicist-engineer Vladimir Pletser, who develops ISS payloads and
organizes zero-gravity parabolic flights for the agency, is taking the
ultimate working holiday. This week, he's off to Mars.
It's not exactly Mars, of course. Manned missions to the Sun's fourth planet
-- currently the brightest object in Europe's evening skies -- will have to
wait a while yet. Instead, Pletser will be heading for the Arctic, where
throughout the summer crews of scientists will spend ten-day stints in a
cramped habitat that closely simulates a Mars lander.

The habitat -- built by the Mars Society with privately raised funds -- is
on Devon Island, situated at latitude 75 degrees North in Canada's Nunavut
Territory. The chilly terrain, snow-free in summer, is about as close an
analogue to the Martian surface as exists on Earth. Obviously, there is no
way to mimic the Martian surface gravity of just 0.38 g or the planet's
thin, unbreathable carbon dioxide atmosphere. But the dry, cold, rocky
desert that is Devon Island meets most other criteria.

The place is big, too: at 66,800 sq km (almost exactly twice the size of
Belgium) it is the world's largest uninhabited island. Devon Island also
contains the Haughton impact crater, a 20-km scar on the landscape gouged
out by a giant meteorite some 23 million years ago, which closely resembles
similar craters on Mars.

During their simulated visit to Mars, the men and women in each six-member
crew will have to live and work together in a space not much bigger than a
camper van. There will be daily EVAs (Extra-Vehicular Activities), for which
the scientists will have to struggle into "spacesuits" and exit their
temporary home through an airlock. To add more Martian realism,
communications with "mission control" will be subject to a 20-minute delay
that matches the lightspeed lag that any real Mars expedition would have to
contend with. As for links to home, the explorers can hope to send an email
every 24 hours or so.

"The first goal is to test the feasibility of a Mars mission with existing
technology," says Pletser. "But we want to do some science, too." He will be
performing an important geophysics experiment himself: an attempt to detect
subsurface water by means of seismic waves. Encumbered in an EVA suit with
limited visibility, he won't find the work easy. But it is exactly the sort
of task that will face future Martian explorers.

Compared with future Mars astronauts, the Devon Island explorers will have
things easy. They will be isolated for ten days, not two years or more, and
emergency help will be a good deal closer than 40 million miles away. But
their experience will be an important addition to the store of knowledge
that will make a Mars mission possible. And the Devon Island teams have to
face a very special threat that will not trouble real Martian explorers:
polar bears. To compensate, though, Pletser and his colleagues will have a
unique support system. As they struggle sweating through their EVAs, an
Inuit hunter will be watching their backs.

Vladimir Pletser hopes to keep a diary of his mission, which begins on 8
July. His diary updates will be available on this web site from 9 July.

Mars Diary

* En route for "Mars"

Related articles

* Europe goes to Mars -- preparations are well under way
* Europe plays a major part in future Mars exploration
* The future of manned spaceflight
* Life on Mars?
* What we know about Mars

Related Links

* The Mars Society
* The Haughton impact crater


[Image 1:]
View from Habitat window. Photo: Marc Boucher/SpaceRef.

[Image 2:]
Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station -- April 2001. Photo: MARS SOCIETY.

[Image 3:]
Vladmir Pletser in Resolute Bay.



Dolores Beasley
Headquarters, Washington, DC                July 5, 2001
(Phone: 202/358-1753)

William Steigerwald
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301/286-5017)



What can a dying Sun tell us about the possibility for life on other worlds?
As a nearby star burns through the last of its fuel and vaporizes its
surroundings, it is yielding new evidence that planetary systems around
other stars can support life.

At a Space Science Update, 1 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 11, in the James E.
Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters, 300 E St. SW, Washington, DC,
scientists will present observations by the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy
Satellite (SWAS) that support the search for life on worlds outside our
solar system.

The panelists will be:
*  Dr. Alan Bunner, Science Director, Structure and Evolution of the
Universe, NASA Headquarters
*  Dr. Gary Melnick, SWAS Principal Investigator, senior astronomer,
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA
*  Dr. David Neufeld, professor of physics and astronomy, Johns Hopkins
University, Baltimore
*  Dr. Alan Boss, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution
of Washington, Washington, DC
*  Dr. Karen Meech, astronomer, Institute for Astronomy, University of
Hawaii, Honolulu

The Update will be carried live on NASA Television. Two-way
question-and-answer capability will be available at participating NASA
centers. NASA TV is broadcast on GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85
degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is
vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz. The event will be webcast live
at: Http://

Additional information on SWAS is available at:


From Andrew Yee <>

Pennsylvania State University

A'ndrea Elyse Messer, (814) 865-9481,
Vicki Fong, (814) 865-9481,

June 29, 2001

University Park, Pa -- While most scientists assume that both sides of a
geologic fault move equal distances during an earthquake, Penn State
researchers have discovered that not all strike slip faults act that way.

"In the past, no one looked at the contrast between the two sides of a
strike slip fault," says Dr. Kevin P. Furlong, professor of geosciences.
"These faults have always been modeled as if both sides were equal by

Furlong; Rocco Malservisi, Ph.D. student in geosciences; and Timothy H.
Dixon of University of Miami, investigated the Eastern California Shear
Zone, a strike slip fault system running parallel to the San Andreas fault
about 150 miles east of San Francisco. The area, on the Nevada/California
border, is the eastern edge of the interface of the Pacific and North
American plate boundaries and is linked to the San Andreas fault. In a
strike slip fault, the ground on each side of the fault moves along the
fault line, but in opposite directions.

The western side of the fault, consisting of the Sierra Nevada Mountains,
and the eastern side of the fault, that of the Basin and Range, have very
different heat flow properties, which the researchers believe is the cause
of the contrast between the two sides.

"The Sierra Nevada to Basin and Range is an abrupt transition, thermally and
mechanically," says Furlong.

The heat flow on the Sierra Nevada side is much lower than on the Basin and
Range side, making the Sierra Nevada side colder as well. These temperature
differences can be dramatic.

At 12 miles beneath the surface, the temperature on the Sierra Nevada side
is 375 degrees Fahrenheit, while the Basin and Range side is 1112 degrees
Fahrenheit. According to the researchers, the colder Sierra Nevada side acts
like a solid block, recovering fairly quickly from an earthquake, while the
warmer, more viscous Basin and Range side deforms more like rubber. When an
earthquake occurs, the Sierra Nevada side only needs to snap back a small
distance, while the Basin and Range side rebounds much more and then
continues to recover for a much longer time. In between earthquakes, the
softer Basin and Range side accumulates strain faster than the more rigid
Sierra Nevada side.

One reason the Eastern California Shear Zone is a good place to study an
unevenly deforming fault is that a very large earthquake of magnitude 8 or
more, occurred in this area in 1872. This Owen's Valley earthquake is far
enough in the past so that the effects of the actual earthquake can be well
accounted for, making the differences in movement on each side of the fault

Furlong, Malservisi and Dixon report in the July 15 issue of the journal
Geophysical Research Letters, on their on-site study of this fault. Using
permanent location markers and Geographic Positioning System equipment, they
were able to record the difference in movement on each side down to about 1
millimeter. They found a difference of a fraction of an inch a year on the
rigid side out of a total movement along the fault of 0.5 inches. Their
findings provide a more accurate method for modeling this earthquake data,
one that allows the computer models to better fit the ground reality in the
Eastern California Shear Zone.

"Before the accuracy of G.P.S. became so good, it was impossible to do this
kind of research," says Furlong. "We could not have seen the difference
Beside the accuracy issue, the researchers had another problem.

"We cannot just go to the literature and check out old data sets because the
assumption was symmetry and, in the past, the data was forced to fit that
assumption," says Furlong.

If the researchers' results hold true, their approach could be applicable in
many places. While local geography can cloud the existence of true contrasts
across sides of a fault because of local areas of hard rocks, gravels or
sands, there are hints of this asymmetry occurring in other places.
Satellite images of a 1997 earthquake in Tibet show that the earthquake
occurred more on one side of the fault than the other. The area is so remote, however,
that it is not currently possible to determine if subsurface differences are
the cause. Near Papua-New Guinea in the Bismark Sea, measurements of islands
using G.P.S. are showing asymmetric patterns as well. Furlong and Malservisi
caution that these are only hints that this phenomenon occurs in other
places and that nothing has been proven.

The National Science Foundation has funded the researchers to continue their
work and obtain additional G.P.S. data for the Eastern California Shear


EDITORS: Mr. Malservisi is at (814) 863-9902 or at by
e-mail; Dr. Furlong is at (814) 863-0567 or at by


From Andrew Yee <>

University of Hawai'i
University Relations
Media & Publications
Honolulu, HI 96822
Telephone: (808) 956-8856
Facsimile: (808) 956-3441

Shawn Nakamoto, (808)-956-9095
University and Community Relations

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2001

UH Researchers Propose New Geological Formation Theory

HONOLULU -- Throughout geologic history, continents have been pulled apart
by tectonic forces forming rifts that eventually become new ocean basins.
Sometimes during this process rock layers near the earth's surface are
pulled apart and rocks from depths of 35 kilometers or more are exposed at
the Earth's surface. These deep "crustal" rocks are usually metamorphic
rocks that have been re-crystallized by heat and pressure. Surface exposure
often forms domes called metamorphic core complexes, which are higher than
surrounding terrain.

How these formations develop has been a much-debated question in geology.
University of Hawai'i researchers Fernando Martinez, Andrew M. Goodliffe,
and Brian Taylor have proposed a new explanation for these formations by
studying the offshore areas of Papua New Guinea. Their findings were
published in the June 21 issue of Nature Journal.

Eastern Papua New Guinea is a present-day example of a continental land-mass
in the early stages of rifting and forming a new ocean basin. Here the
processes that rift continents and form ocean basins can be studied directly
in their active stages. The heat flowing from the Earth's interior can be
used as a measure of the degree of stretching of the upper strong layer of
the Earth. Where there has been a great deal of stretching, this upper layer
is thin and the hotter deeper layers are closer to the surface of the Earth
producing a high flow of heat.

Using sensitive thermal probes, the researchers measured the flow of heat
from the Earth's interior in the deep sea sediment. Thermal measurements
were taken between Papua New Guinea and the D'Entrecasteaux Islands because
these islands are metamorphic core complexes that are rising at the same
time that the floors of the surrounding basins are deepening. The thermal
measurements revealed that the basins do not have elevated heat, but the
islands do.

Examining what is known about the geology of the islands and surroundings,
the Hawaii researchers formulated their new model for the formation of the
islands. They discovered that the basin and islands are in a region that was
once a continuous layer of dense oceanic crust and mantle (the layer of the
Earth between the crust and the core), the type of material that is
generally present for the formation of the floors of major ocean basins.
This dense oceanic layer was thrust over part of Australia 50 to 60 million
years ago. The result was a heavy oceanic layer pressed tightly over a
lighter continental layer. When the current extension began, the upper layer
was split and the lower layer was squeezed up and out through the crack like
toothpaste, which was the formation of the islands.

The flow and thinning of the lower continental layer caused the upper
oceanic layer of the surrounding basins to sink but not stretch. The heat
from the thinning lower layer did not have sufficient time to cross over the
upper layer, except where the hot lower layer was squeezed out at the

This superposition of a denser layer over a lighter one is called a density
inversion, since it goes counter to the general trend observed on Earth of
density increasing with depth. Nevertheless, these density inversions have
occurred repeatedly on Earth as a consequence of collisions of different
terrains due to the ever-moving tectonic plates. In other areas, the fact
that density decreases with increasing temperature may create such a density
inversion in the crust even without collisions and thrusting of heavy layers
over lighter ones.

The processes at work in raising the islands of eastern Papua New Guinea may
provide a general explanation for the formation of many similar core
complexes throughout the world.


From ESA Media Relations <>

Paris, 5 July 2001
Press Release
N° 40-2001

Life in the Universe ? Is anybody out there?

The possibility that there is life elsewhere in the Universe has always
excited the general public. Scientists are equally enthusiastic: physicists,
biologists, chemists, cosmologists and astronomers all over Europe are
researching the age-old question: is there other life in the Universe?

What is our understanding at the beginning of the 21st century?  Is there
any scientific evidence for other forms of life? How can you define life?
What signs are we looking for?  What would the  reaction be if other forms
of life were discovered?

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Space
Agency and the European Southern Observatory, in cooperation with the
European Association for Astronomy Education, have organised a competition
to find out what young people in Europe think.  The European Molecular
Biology Laboratory and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility are also

This "Life in the Universe" project is being mounted in collaboration with
the research directorate of the European Commission for the European Week of
Science and Technology in November this year.  Competitions are already
under way in 23 European countries to find the best
projects from school students aged between 14 and 19. Entries can be in one
of two categories: scientific or artistic.  The projects can therefore be
essays, newspapers, websites, artworks, poetry or even a theatrical or
musical performance. Two winning teams (one in each category) from each
country will be invited to a final event at CERN in Geneva on 8-11 November
to present their projects to an international panel of experts at a special
event devoting three days to enquiring into the possibility of other life
forms existing in our Universe.  This final event will be broadcast all over
the world via the Internet.

The home base of the "Life in the Universe" project is a vibrant website where details of the programme can be found.  It is
still under development but already has a wealth of information and links to
the national websites, where all entries are posted.

Is there other life in the Universe?  We do not know -  but the search is

To find out what is happening for "Life in the Universe" in each country
contact the National Steering Committees:

Mr Christian Gottfried
Theobaldgasse 16/13
A-1060 Wien
Email :

Mrs Veselka Radeva
Astronomical Observatory and Planetarium
PO Box 120
Email :

Ms Anne Værnholt Olesen
Tycho Brahe Planetarium
Gammel Kongevej 10
DK-1610 København V
Email :
Kertu Saks
Tallinn Technology and Science Centre Energy
Põhja Blvd 29,
Tallinn 10415
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Mr Lauri Kervonen
National Board of Education
Hakaniemenkatu 2
00531 Helsinki
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Mr Bernard Pellequer
Geospace Observatoire d'Aniane,
Institut de Botanique,
163 rue Auguste Broussonnet,
34090 Montpellier
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Ms Elisabeth Lahr-Nilles
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie
Auf dem Hügel 69
53121 Bonn
Email : Ou

Mrs Maragarita Metaxa
63, Ethnikis Antistaseos
152 31 Athens
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Mr Kevin Nolan
School of Applied Science,
Institute of Technology, Tallaght
Dublin 24
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Mrs Cristina Palici di Suni
Via Giulia di Barolo 3
Email :
Mr Fernand Wagner
Laboratoire de Physique,
Lycée de Garçons d'Esch,
Boite postale 195,
L-4002 Esch/Alzette.
Email :

Mr Gert Schooten
Holtmate 14
8014 HA
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Ms Barbara Popielawska
Space Research Center, P.A.N.
ul. Bartycka 18a
PL 00-716 Warszawa
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Mrs Felisbela Martins
ASTRO - Apartado 52503 Amial
4202-301 Porto
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Magda Stavinschi
str. Cutitul de Argint 5,
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Slovak Republic
Mr Dalibor Krupa
Slovak Academy of Sciences
Stefanikova 49
SK-814 38 Bratislava
Email  :

Mrs Rosa Maria Ros
Dept. Applied Mathematics IV,
Technical University of Catalonia,
Jordi Girona 1-3, modul C3
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Mediecenter Stockholm,
Box 19612,
S-10432 Stockholm
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Gymnase de Nyon
Route de Divonne 8
Case postale
1260 Nyon 2
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United Kingdom
Mr Alan Pickwick
19 Edale Grove, Sale, Cheshire,
M33 4RG
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From S. Fred Singer <>

Dear Benny

We seem to have a problem. Perhaps a reader may have a suggestion for
solving it.

Heinrich Waenke and other cosmochemists have come to the conclusion that
certain types of meteorites originated from the surface of Mars, most likely
as the result of a high-velocity impact.

But I find it difficult to visualize a scenario that can impart a velocity
of the order of 10 km/sec to a rock coming from such an impact without the
accelerating force exceeding the crushing strength of the rock.

John Michael Williams seems to have demonstrated that a gentle acceleration
of the rock by a gas cloud is physically impossible.

Neither of us has a good mechanism for getting a  rock off the Martian
surface with the required velocity.

So -- my question to the chemists: Could the "Martian " meteorites have come
from Deimos? Or must they originate from the Mars surface, in which case we
may need to find some mechanism for a more sustained and gentle

Best wishes,


S. Fred Singer, President
Science & Environmental Policy Project


From Javier Licandro <>

Dear Dr. Peiser,

In the CCNet 84/2001 delivered on 3 July 2001, in the two texts about the
discovery of TNO 2001 KX76 (points 1 and 2, from the NOAO Press Release
01-10), the idea that short-period comets are originated in the
Edegeworth-Kuiper belt is incorrectly attributed to Fernandez and to Duncan,
Quinn and Tremaine ("... The existence of the Kuiper Belt was postulated by
J. A. Fernandez and by M. Duncan, T. Quinn, and S. Tremaine in the 1980s to
explain the origin of short-period comets.").

Fernandez is the first in provide evidences that short-period comets are
originated on a flat cometary belt in the trans-neptunian region (Fernandez
1980, MNRAS 192, 481). By means of Monte Carlo simulations he studied the
diffusion of comets in such a belt due to mutual close
encounters and concluded that such a cometary belt could maintain the number
of observed short-period comets in a steady state. Eight years later,
Duncan, Quinn, and Tremain made also a very interesting contribution, in
particular in the study of alternative diffusion mechanisms (Quinn et al.
1988, ApJ 328, L69 and later papers), but, as they indicate in their 1988
paper, the original idea is from Fernandez: "... An alternative theory
proposes that SP comets originate in a belt of low-inclination comets just
beyond the orbit of Neptune, between about 35 and 50 AU (e.g. Fernandez
1980; Fernandez and Ip 1983)..."

It is not my objective to minimize Quinn, Duncan and Tremaine excelent
contribution, but the attribution of the original idea only to Julio
Fernandez is, in my opinion, a matter of justice.

Sincerelly yours,

                 Javier Licandro
Centro Galileo Galilei & Telescopio Nazionale Galileo
P.O. Box 565, 38700, S/C de La Palma, Tenerife, Spain


From Andy Smith <>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

Next Monday (16 July) we will observe the 7th anniversary of the start of
our large NEO wake-up call (SL-9/Jupiter) and the exciting and alarming
display of real extra-terrestrial destructive power. We were given this
display, by the way, on the 49th anniversary of what we thought (before
SL-9) was real power..the first demonstration of atomic explosive energy.

The one-week show, we witnessed, in 1994, made everything we thought was
great and powerful look like child's play...and it sent us a message....KALI
is on the way and there is no time to waste.

Our Great Responsibility

Our Generation is the first one in history (well in excess of 4,000
generations) with a full awareness of the asteroid/comet danger and the
capability to find the threatening NEOs and to intercept and deflect them.
That awareness (and capability) places a tremendous responsibility on our
shoulders....and all who share the knowledge, also share the responsibility.

We must overcome our differences and primative instincts enough, now, to
come together, as a global team and to meet this challenge...the greatest
technical challenge in history.   

We always pay tribute to Gene Shoemaker, as a scientist, a person and as a
leader.... and to the dedicated SL-9 team, on the 16th, and we strengthen our dedication to do all
we can to help to bring about the level of preparedness we need. We also
salute our brothers and sisters, in the many countries around the world, who
share this concern and are working to reach that goal. We value highly the
CCNet, as our link to this important global family.

We ask you to join us, on the 16th, in a moment of silent reflection and
renewal and rededication. We will also play Beethoven's First Symphony
(played by the team on the night of the discovery) and review the impact

We Need the Large Telescopes

Because most of the dangerous NEO are smaller than magnitude 21, it is
important to get large telescopes (5 meters plus) to join in the hunt, as soon as possible. We are
contacting some of them and their sponsors and we are getting some
encouraging responses. Some have already been doing productive work and we
are urging them to make reports to the MPC.

The JPL NEO page contains some very interesting news from the Sloan Digital
Sky Survey (SDSS) and we are expressing our appreciation to the staff, the
cooperating institutions, the Sloan family and others, for this interest in
asteroids and for the research activity. We are also asking the global
asteroid astronomy community to expand the scope of their present NEO survey
to include the 98% of the threat population that is smaller than a
kilometer. There have been some very impressive smaller discoveries in the
last two months.

NEAT Team Web Data Enrichment

The NEAT team is providing some great NEO data on their new web pages. See
what you think of the data for the month of JUNE, 2001
( Outstanding! We hope that kind of
detail will be provided by all of the major teams. Also, we commend NEOdys
and the MPC for their continuing high-quality data

First-Generation Interception/Deflection

Zenit and Delta based first-generation NEO protective systems continue to be
the most promising and our effort is aimed at encouraging major reductions
in the emergency response times (from years down to months). We are also
hoping we can get SEA LAUNCH to develop an asteroid emergency contingency
plan. The Deep-Impact Program is an excellent next step toward readiness and
we commend all who are involved.
Natural Hazards Caucus (NHC)

This important new group, in the U.S. Senate, should be urged to include
asteroids and comets on the list of major natural threats. We invite CCNet
members to contact them and their Working Group and to support this

UK Update

We also want to request a CCNet update, from the UK team. Are there any
encouraging developments? Perhaps we can facilitate a contact between the
U.S. NHC and those in the Parliament who share our concerns.

Happy SL-9/Jupiter 7


From John Garner <>

Dr. Peiser,
When I was doing my undergraduate work in Physics I took a basic Geology
class that I enjoyed immensely. I became interested in a meteor strike field
around the area of Charleston South Carolina in the U.S.
Also, in the Atlantic floor off the coast of Bimini are two deep sea holes.
Is it possible that there was an asteroid or comet strike there within the
last 12,000 years or so? We know the South Carolina meteor field is there
but could the deep sea holes in the Atlantic ocean floor be a result of a
meteor or perhaps asteroid that broke into pieces as it experienced
atmospheric frictional heating?
I would suppose that not every celestial object that strikes the Earth
leaves an iridium deposit such as the one discovered by Dr. Alvarez that
occured at the end of the cretacious period, since the Arizona Meterorite
Crater 50,000 years ago apparently left no such deposit.
I realize that at the end of the last ice age was about the time several
species of animals went instinct both in America and Siberia. In fact,
apparently the climate change came so quickly as to facilitate the freezing
of mammoth carcasses before they could significantly decompose in Siberia.
Mammoths in North America went extinct and many hold that they were hunted
to extinction by early North American man, however, the extinction of the
Sabre Toothed Tiger and several other species of less notoriety also went
extinct around that same time enjoy no such explaination.
Could the Carolina Meteorite field and deep see holes in the Atlantic Ocean
possibly have something to do with this?
Thank you for your time, Sir.
John Garner


From Andrew Yee [ ]

[,3605,516748,00.html ]

Thursday, July 5, 2001

On the rocks

Lunar landings can only be fact, not fiction, says Matthew Genge

By Matthew Genge

It was the 1957, Elvis had released Jailhouse Rock, Alec Guiness appeared on
the silver screen in a film about a bridge and the USSR had just shocked the
world by launching the first satellite Sputnik. With its eerie beeping,
Sputnik announced the arrival of the space age and turned the cold war from
a brooding silent conflict into a race to reach the Moon.

The winner would prove not only their technological superiority but also
demonstrate the essential virtue of their basic ideology. However, even with
such high stakes would any nation dare go as far as faking landings on the
Moon? In a recent survey, 25% of Americans said they believed that NASA did
just that and humans had yet to walk upon the surface of our nearest
neighbour in space. But why do so many people believe such an absurd notion
and is there any real evidence to back it up? Surprisingly there is.

Perhaps the most persuasive evidence that the Apollo missions were faked
comes from inconsistencies in the photographs and films taken on the Moon.
Shadows in many of the pictures are cast not in straight parallel lines as
from the Sun but as if they were from a nearby floodlight. NASA would say
that perspective and an uneven land surface have the same effect but then
they would say that wouldn't they?

Then there are the crosses that were etched on the lenses of the Apollo
cameras. These should always be on top of the objects in the pictures.
However, sometimes they're not, suggesting that the images were added later.
Is this evidence that the pictures were faked? Possibly, but it could also
be that the bright objects are over-exposed, such as in flash photography,
and the crosses have been bleached out.

How about the identical hills in photographs taken on supposedly different
parts of the Moon? Surely this is evidence that the same set was used to
fake the images? The spokesperson for NASA would no doubt shrug and say that
one bit of the Moon looks very much like another and perhaps they'd be

The list of Apollo inconsistencies goes on and on and it would perhaps be
unfair to dismiss the observant souls who have noticed them as crackpots. As
with most conspiracy theories, it's just a case of who you want to believe.
So is there any irrefutable evidence that the Apollo missions really took
place, that the most momentous landmark event in human history actually
happened and that we haven't all been taken for one huge PR ride? Luckily
the answer is in the rocks.

The Apollo missions returned 382 kilograms of rock and there is one thing
that is absolutely clear, they are not from Earth. The oldest Apollo rocks,
for example, are 4.44B years old and thus formed some 640M years before the
oldest rocks found on Earth. The great age of the lunar rocks is because the
Moon, unlike our planet, is geologically dead and thus its rocks have not
been disrupted by the churning of its interior and its volcanoes are long
ago extinct.

The Apollo rocks also lay testament to a very fiery birth that boiled away
most of the Moon's lighter elements. This revelation led directly to the
realisation that our Moon formed from the hot debris of a giant impact with
the Earth only 50M years after our planet itself formed. There are no rocks
on Earth that tell such a story.

There would be no way to fake these rocks. Stuffing the right elements into
minerals so they appear to be ancient simply can't be done. It's a case of
the round hole and the square peg. Only if the peg starts off round and
through billions of years of radioactive decay ends up square, by turning
itself into another element, can it make it into the mineral.

Perhaps then the Apollo samples really aren't Earth rocks at all but some
rare meteorite cleverly adopted by NASA? However, the oxygen they contain is
very different from known meteorites (except those from the Moon) and
similar to that of the Earth. Only if the Apollo rocks come from an object
that formed at a similar distance from the Earth as the early Sun could this
be explained. The Moon is, of course, the prime candidate.

Conspiracy theories are unfortunately such attractive notions to the human
psyche that scientific evidence, however elegant, often fails to impress.
There is, however, one final piece of evidence. Although they never put a
cosmonaut on the Moon, the Soviets landed the Luna probes which returned 100
grams of lunar soil. They are identical to the Apollo samples. Case

[Dr Matthew Genge is a meteorite scientist at the Natural History Museum
where an Apollo Moon rock can be seen on exhibition.]

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

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