CCNet 85/2002 - 18 July  2002

"Brian G. Marsden (Minor Planet Center) expressed concern that the
projected total of such [1km+] objects - currently near 1,200 - may be
higher than thought. He explains that when the telescopic census nears
completion the discovery rate should start to tail off. Yet astronomers
continue to find about 100 kilometer-size objects per year, with no sign
of letting up."
     --J. Kelly Beatty, Sky & Telescope, 12 July 2002

"I don't know if being the Chairman of the IAU NEO Working Group
currently pays anything, but it certainly will if I am elected. This is
because if the members of the NEO Working Group chose to select me as
their Chairman, my first action is going to be to take them out on
strike.... Today I can promise to the astronomers that if they elect me,
I will eliminate the necessity of their staying up all night in order to
look for these things. Of course, those NEO astronomers wishing to hide
out from their wives and children may also rest assured that I will
certainly still be continuing the nighttime operations of the ground
based telescopes, and those operations will have increased funding as
--Ed Grondine's Election Manifesto, 18 July 2002

    Nature Science Update, 17 July 2002

    Associated Press, 17 July 2002

    Benny Peiser <>

    Peter Brown <>


    Space Daily, 22 August 2001

    Nature Science Update, 5 January 2001

    Sky & Telescope, 12 July 2002

    Daily, 18 July 2002

     Andrew Yee <>

     Matthew Genge <>

     Alastair McBeath <>
     E.P. Grondine <>


>From Nature Science Update, 17 July 2002

Detecting low frequency rumbles could avert nuclear war.
17 July 2002

Free data from a global array of microphones could spot nuclear false
alarms, averting disastrous retaliation, say scientists and defence

The ground-based network will detect the faint, low-frequency rumbles of
meteor explosions high in the atmosphere that can look like nuclear
explosions to other sensors. Its primary purpose is to help police the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that forbids the testing of nuclear

The United States is the only nation with a satellite network and radar
sufficiently sophisticated to tell a nuclear blast from a meteorite
explosion. It sometimes makes these data available, but they can take
months to get hold of.

"This network will warn other nations that [a rumble] is just a meteor
and not a nuclear detonation," says Edward Tagliaferri, president of
aerospace consultants ET Space Systems in Camarillo, California, an
expert in the defence implications of asteroid explosions.

In with a bang

When meteors travelling at 15 to 20 kilometres per second hit the
Earth's atmosphere, they explode because of the increased pressure. A
meteor 5 metres across can detonate with the force of 10,000 tonnes of
TNT - like the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945. Five
or six asteroid explosions of twice this size occur in the atmosphere
each year.

Like atomic explosions, meteor blasts release electromagnetic pulses
that instruments on the ground can detect. "At a distance, an
atmospheric nuclear explosion looks like a large meteor," explains Peter
Brown, a physicist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. That
is cause for concern, in the current political climate.

For example, in November 1990, as the United States prepared to invade
Iraq, the Iraqis threatened to fire Scud missiles at Israel, a nuclear
power. A meteorite blew up high over Micronesia with the force of 5,000
tonnes of TNT. If it had arrived just a few hours later on the same
trajectory, it would have detonated over Tel Aviv. The Israelis might
not have known it was an asteroid, Tagliaferri points out.

A similar event, over India or Pakistan, say, could also have
devastating consequences, a US Senate round-table meeting on asteroids
heard last week. "Neither of those nations has the sophisticated sensors
we do," Air Force Brigadier General Simon Worden of US Space Command
told the hearing. "The resulting panic could have been the spark for
nuclear war," he said.

Ground control

Ground-based groups of microphones, called infrasonic arrays, can
distinguish atomic blasts from exploding asteroids up to a few hundred
kilometres away, say Brown, Tagliaferri and colleagues1.

The arrays pick up the very-low-frequency sounds that penetrate hundreds
of kilometres of the Earth's atmosphere. Multiple arrays pinpoint the
position and size of a blast almost as accurately as the satellites used
by US Space Command, the researchers show.

Right now, there are 12 such arrays. Sixty will be built within the next
5 years as part of the CTBT International Monitoring Network. The rules
of the treaty dictate that their data must be available to all. A global
array should spot meteor explosions from most areas of the world, says

The infrasonic network will also be important for research. Meteorites
smaller than 10 metres across are hard to detect with telescopes, so
scientists have little idea of how often they breach our atmosphere.

An idea of how frequently small asteroids occur is important for
estimating the likelihood of larger ones, such as the one that
devastated thousands of square kilometres of Siberian forest in Tunguska
in 1908. The microphone array, says Matthew Genge of the Natural History
Museum in London, UK, "will help us tell just how many Tunguskas we can
Brown, P. G., Whitaker, R. W., ReVelle, D. O. & Tagliaferri, E.
Multi-station infrasonic observations of two large bolides: signal
interpretation and implications for monitoring of atmospheric
explosions. Geophysical Research Letters (2002).
© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2002

>From Associated Press, 17 July 2002

Moscow denies that a Russian missile was responsible for alarming
Israeli pilot earlier this month

MOSCOW - The Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday denied an Israeli
radio report that it may have been a Russian missile that alarmed an
Israeli pilot flying over Ukraine earlier this month.

An El Al pilot reported seeing a missile fired from the ground over
central Ukraine during a Tel Aviv-Moscow flight on July 4. Israeli
officials said the missile exploded a few miles away from the plane,
which was never in any danger.

An anonymous Israeli security official told Israeli radio on Tuesday
that the distant flash could have been from a missile fired in Russia.

The Russian Defense Ministry insisted that was impossible.

"The Russian air defense's involvement in this incident is absolutely
ruled out, as neither the Black Sea Fleet, nor other Russian forces
held exercises in that region at that time," the Russian Defense
Ministry's spokesman Nikolai Deryabin told Interfax news agency.

No one at the Defense Ministry could be reached to comment.

Ukrainian officials had earlier denied that they were responsible,
saying no missiles had been fired in the area that night. Ukraine
suggested the flash may have been caused by a meteor.

Ukrainian officials were especially sensitive about the incident
because last October, an errant missile fired from a Ukrainian military
base shot down a Russian plane, killing all 78 people on board, most of
them immigrants to Israel.

Copyright 2002, AP


>From Benny Peiser <>

Dear Peter

I noticed Tom Clarke's piece in today's Nature Online ("Microphones
tell asteroids from A-bombs"). I was wondering whether your network can
also tell asteroids/bolides from conventional missile attacks? Given the
current uncertainty about the celestial event over the Ukraine on July
4, it would be extremely helpful if your network were able to solve the
mystery: was it a bolide (as the Ukranians claim), or was it a missile
attack after all? I know that it normally takes some weeks before you
make your data public, and I am not asking for any concrete answer in
any case. What I'd like to know is whether your network is able to solve
such conflicting claims in principle.

I plan to post the AP story tomorrow and was wondering whether you'd be
happy to comment on this question for CCNet.

Best regards,


>From Peter Brown <>

Dear Benny,

Further to the missile-bolide debate involving the Ukrainian event, had
several infrasonic observations been made proximal to the event, it
might well have been possible to sort out its true origin. Microphone
arrays close to an event (within 200-300 km) can usually discriminate
between a point explosion and an extended cylindrical line source blast
(like a bolide). Similarly, the long trajectory of missiles can (in
principle) be detected from the ground infrasonically. As an example,
we have seen the shuttle landing at Edwards AFB infrasonically and were
able to determine that its flight path was 'circling' over Edwards (as
opposed to landing directly). We also see the infrasonic signal of the
shuttle launch from up to 5000km away.

From the change in direction, arrival time and speed of the airwave over
the microphone array such information as flight direction, speed and
altitude can be surmised from intersecting azimuth solutions measured at
more than one array. The problem (as always) is the sparseness of
infrasound stations - there are less than two dozen arrays worldwide and
less than half produce data which are easily accessed. An added
complication for precise computation of trajectories is our imperfect
knowledge of the atmosphere at any one instant.

With such large spacing between stations, it is natural that the events
most often detected are the really big bolides. Events more than 10-20
kT can easily be detected for 10000 km or more. At these ranges, however,
line source blasts (bolides) and point source atmospheric explosions
(nuclear) are difficult to distinguish. We hope to accumulate enough
bolide signals in the coming years to be able to start measuring
empirical characteristics of bolide infrasonic signals to help
distinguish them from other types of atmospheric explosions at long

Peter Brown
Dr. Peter Brown
Assistant Professor
Canada Research Chair in Meteor Science
Meteor Physics Group
Department of Physics and Astronomy
University of Western Ontario
London, Ontario
N6A 3K7


>From, 24 May 2001

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

If anyone tries to secretly test a nuclear weapon, anywhere in the
world, the U.S. Department of Energy will know about it. Same goes for
any large space rocks that try to sneak past our planet's natural
defense system.

The technology that monitors both of these potentially hazardous events
is amazingly simple. A handful of microphones positioned around the
United States listen for a telltale atmospheric pressure wave, a
phenomenon that circles the globe at a frequency too low for the human
ear to detect.

A similar system is now under construction worldwide, designed to help
monitor and enforce compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban
Treaty. A recent study, however, questions whether the technology is up
to the task.

The sensitive but simple detection system, which officials say can
pinpoint the source of a nuclear blast by noting when the pressure wave
arrives at each microphone, also routinely detects giant space rocks
that slam into Earth's atmosphere, vaporizing and producing a similar
pressure wave.

On April 23, researchers monitoring the set-up from the Los Alamos
National Laboratory detected an explosion out over the Pacific Ocean.
After comparing the data with other monitoring stations, they determined
it was not a rogue nation setting off a bomb, but rather an object the
size of a small car burning up as it raced through the atmosphere toward
the planet.

Quite a show

The object plunged into the atmosphere several hundred miles
(kilometers) west of the northern portion of Baja California. It's
possible no one saw it. But that doesn't mean it wasn't there.

The explosion was equivalent to at least 6,000 tons of TNT, according to
Los Alamos scientists Rod Whitaker and Doug ReVelle. Once a space rock
enters our atmosphere, it is called a meteor. And based on the incoming
meteor's energy and speed, the researchers figure it was at least 12
feet (3.6 meters) in diameter.

Whitaker and ReVelle say it would have created a very visible fireball
in the sky, something scientists call a bolide.

"Had anyone seen the April 23 event, they would have seen quite a show,"
ReVelle said. "That meteor was one of the five brightest meteors that
have ever been recorded."

The event, along with a similar one on August 25, 2000, was confirmed by
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) satellites. Whitaker and ReVelle told that DOD satellites are able to spot different characteristics
in a meteor or nuclear explosion. "Nuclear explosions would leave
radioactive debris, which could be picked up by radionuclide air
samplers," they said.

It's raining rocks

ReVelle said that on the average, 10 or more meteors, each wider than
the average person is tall, enter the atmosphere every year. Typically,
they do not make it to the ground. Some do, however, and every hundred
years or so researchers estimate that one large enough to cause local
death and destruction reaches the planet.

So, of course, scientists who study asteroids appreciate the
government's listening efforts.

"We are bombarded daily by smallish debris, but it is the larger chunks
that can easily penetrate our atmospheric shield and cause physical
damage on the Earth's surface," said Benny Peiser, a researcher at
Liverpool John Moores University who studies how natural catastrophes
might affect Earth and its inhabitants.

Peiser said the DOD and other researchers have routinely published
detection data of atmospheric impacts since the end of the Cold War.

"This data is vital for assessing the impact rate and a better
understanding of the overall impact hazard," he said. But he also noted
that the information contributes to international stability by helping
to distinguish space rocks from nuclear tests.

Leftover technology

During the 1960s, before satellites were common, the U.S. Air Force
operated a network of infrasound stations, as they are called, as a
first line of defense and to listen for nuclear-weapon tests.

The Los Alamos listening devices, four around the country, were
installed in 1983. They remain, at least for now, the only infrasonic
network left in full-time operation in the world. Because the system is
simple, officials say it costs very little to maintain.

But it is highly sensitive, able to detect meteors as small as a

The sonic waves created by such a meteor, or a faraway nuclear
explosion, are well below the range of human hearing, but are detectable
as small changes in atmospheric pressure. The system is like a
hypersensitive barometer used by meteorologists to note incoming storm

Cheap insurance

The Los Alamos listening devices would not provide advance warning of an
incoming meteor. The pressure wave takes several minutes to hours to
reach the stations. But the stations do have tremendous potential for
detecting clandestine nuclear weapons tests, the researchers say.

Whitaker said other technologies, including satellites, sometimes miss
events that the ground-based microphones pick up.

"Consequently, infrasound is inexpensive insurance for cost-effective
monitoring, and it is something that's available to the entire
international community," he said.

And, interestingly, nature's meteors help the Feds calibrate their
nonproliferation technology efforts.

"Because those two [meteor] events were detected by our four arrays and
by five other arrays operated by the International Monitoring System, we
are able to use the space platform data to calibrate our instruments,
and analyses, to make them better able to pinpoint the exact location
where these events occurred," Whitaker said. "Every time we hear a
bolide, we learn something about this technology and are better able to
fine-tune it."

Nuke or meteor?

The International Monitoring System is a developing worldwide network of
321 monitoring stations that use various techniques to make sure no one
violates the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), in which
nations agree to ban all nuclear explosions.

Though the U.S. Senate has not ratified the signed treaty, many other
nations have.

As part of the monitoring system, construction has begun on a global
array of 60 infrasound listening devices. And about 100 stations using
other techniques have been built.

But infrasound technology can also detect explosive volcanoes,
meteorological events and even rocket launches and supersonic aircraft.
It is therefore questionable how accurate it is in monitoring nuclear

A pair of Dutch researchers got some surprising results when they set up
a similar device. On a November night in 1999, a flash of light
brightened the skies above northern Germany. In the Netherlands, Läslo
Evers and Hein Haak detected the sonic boom associated with the
explosion, but could not distinguish it from the expected signature of a
nuclear explosion.

In January of this year, the researchers reported their results in the
journal Geophysical Research Letters, suggesting that the devices might
not be capable of distinguishing between a natural attack from space and
a clandestine nuclear test.

Nonetheless, the worldwide monitoring plan moves forward.

Last month, a CTBT commission announced that the first infrasound
station, in Germany, had been certified for use. The system was
constructed deep in the Bavarian forest, which officials say will help
cut down on wind noise that might fool the microphones. And each sensor
is surrounded by a network of baffles to further block the wind.

More methods

Infrasound will not be the only technology used to enforce the treaty.

Some 170 seismic sensors and 11 underwater listening devices will be
used as well, plus 80 devices that can detect radioactive debris.
Information from all these sensors will funnel via satellite into the
International Data Center in Vienna, where automated results are
released two hours after the data rolls in.

A spokesperson at Los Alamos said the lab "has always maintained that
infrasound is only one tool in the entire nonproliferation toolbox and
probably should not be regarded as a standalone nonproliferation
technology," but that it can help make other systems more effective.

The CTBT, adopted in 1996, has been signed by 160 nations, but ratified
by only 76. An additional 33 have not signed on at all.

Arms control advocates had campaigned for the adoption of a test ban
treaty since the early 1950s. The first one was adopted in 1963 -- a
Partial Test Ban Treaty that banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere,
underwater and in space.

Neither China nor France signed that first international test-ban
treaty, and negotiations for stricter treaties have continued ever

Copyright 2002,


>From Space Daily, 22 August 2001

San Diego - August 22, 2001
A unique array of listening devices deployed by researchers at Scripps
Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego,
is one of the first stations in an important new global network that
will detect signals from events as diverse as secret nuclear weapons
tests, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes in early formation.

One of the first significant signals received by the Scripps instruments
resulted from the April 23 explosion of a large meteor crashing into
Earth's atmosphere. The meteor, reportedly 8- to 12-feet across,
exploded with a yield of a several thousand tons of TNT.

The Scripps array consists of eight microbarometers spread across two
kilometers at the Cecil and Ida Green Piñon Flat Observatory, located in
the mountains south of Palm Springs, Calif.

Each device is equipped with a noise reduction system that filters
unwanted energy from atmospheric turbulence and increases sensitivity to
signals at the "infrasonic" scale that fall below the 20 hertz level of
human hearing. The array records signals that are too faint, and vary
too slowly, to be detected by humans.

The array is one of the first in a planned network of 60 that will play
a vital role in efforts to monitor the globe for clandestine nuclear
testing blasts.

The infrasonic network tracks the atmosphere as part of a network that
combines infrasonic signal tracking with seismic stations that pick up
signals from the solid earth, hydroacoustic stations that monitor energy
in the oceans, and a radionuclide network that checks the air for
radioactive particles.

"Infrasound energy tracking was big business in the 50s and 60s, when
there was a lot of nuclear testing in the atmosphere," said Michael
Hedlin, associate researcher at the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Institute
of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at Scripps, and, with Jon Berger, a
lead scientist in the Piñon Flat infrasound array development.

"Interest in infrasound decreased when nuclear testing moved
underground. Now infrasound monitoring has re-emerged in importance due
to the number of countries that may be capable of developing nuclear
weapons. We need to monitor around the globe."

Hedlin says an infrasonic network is capable of providing data not only
from nuclear blasts, but from a variety of natural phenomena that may
become useful in scientific research.

This was the case on April 23, when the large meteor crashed into the
atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles west of Baja

"If this rock had come into the atmosphere at a slightly different time,
it might have exploded not over the Pacific, but over a large
metropolitan area," said Hedlin.

"With this global listening network we can develop much better
statistics on large meteors and get a better idea of how often these
massive objects enter the atmosphere."

Large explosions send part of their acoustic energy into the audible
range, but those signals dissipate rapidly. They also emit large amounts
of energy into the infrasonic range in signals that decay slowly across
vast distances.

Thus the April 23 explosion was prominently featured 1,800 kilometers
away on the Piñon Flat instruments. The signals were also recorded
approximately 11,000 kilometers away by an infrasound array in Germany.

In addition to meteors, infrasonic energy is generated by chemical
explosions, supersonic aircraft, tornadoes, landslides, earthquakes, and

"Our colleagues in Japan have learned that minor volcanic eruptions of
magma or gas might be missed seismically but produce strong acoustic
signals," said Hedlin.

"Seismic and infrasound data taken together give a much fuller account
of activity inside the volcano that might be indicative of an impending,
significant eruption."

A new infrasonic array is set to be deployed in Cape Verde, a location
off the coast of Africa known as a nursery for brewing hurricanes. As
the hurricanes develop and emit infrasonic signals, Hedlin believes such
data might contribute to early detection.

"There is a lot going on in the atmosphere that we need to know more
about. The infrasound network will offer us an unprecedented opportunity
to better understand these phenomena on a global scale.

"We anticipate that this global network of listening posts that monitors
Earth's fluid exterior shell where we live will some day become as
indispensable as the global seismic network that monitors the Earth's
solid interior for seismic activity."

Although the Scripps group provided the closest observations of the
meteor, the event was analyzed by a consortium of universities and
laboratories. The explosion was first noticed by a group at Los Alamos
National Laboratory. Early characterization of the event was done by the
Los Alamos group, the Center for Monitoring Research, the University of
Hawaii, and the University of Alaska.

The consortium is led by Henry Bass at the University of Mississippi.
Construction of the array was supported by the Defense Threat Reduction
Agency (DTRA), the Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS) of the UN
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Office in Vienna, and the US Army Space
and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) University Research Initiative (URI).


>From Nature Science Update, 5 January 2001

Exploding meteors could be mistaken for clandestine nuclear tests.

5 January 2001

Exploding meteors bombarding the Earth from space could be mistaken for
nuclear bomb tests, say seismologists of the Royal Netherlands
Meteorological Institute. This could present problems for monitoring the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), which aims to halt the
testing of all nuclear weapons.

Läslo Evers and Hein Haak detected a sonic boom from a meteor explosion
with an instrument similar to those currently under construction for
verification of the CTBT.

The explosion released energy equivalent to 1.5 kilotons of TNT, the
researchers calculate. This is as big a bang as was made by several of
the US nuclear tests of the early 1960s, and at the lower end of the
estimated size of the Pakistani tests of 1998.

The future of the CTBT has been under a cloud since the US Senate
decided not to ratify it in 1999. But many other nations have already
done so, and plans are afoot for global detection systems that will
alert the international community to secret nuclear weapons tests.

Underground tests send out shock waves that seismic monitoring stations
designed for earthquake detection can pick up. And atmospheric tests
create a kind of low-frequency ('infrasound') sonic boom which highly
sensitive air-pressure meters (microbarometers) can register. A
worldwide network of 60 infrasound detectors is being built for this

Situated near the village of Deelen in the Netherlands, the instrument
Evers and Haak used is not designated for CTBT verification -- it is
primarily a meteorological device. But in November 1999, it registered a
most unusual event.

At around four o'clock in the morning of the 8th November, a few early
risers in Germany and the Netherlands saw a flash in the dark sky above
northern Germany. A meteor -- a small chunk of space rock plunging
through the atmosphere -- had exploded at a height of about 20

The event was similar to a better-documented one that occurred in the
middle of the afternoon over New Zealand the previous July. On that
occasion, observers reported "a bright light, exactly like a flare",
variously described as blue, red, orange or yellow. It was followed by a
loud boom, and left behind a puff of brown smoke.

About one meteor detonates in the atmosphere every week. Most go unseen
by human eyes, as they break apart very high in the sky. Only rarely
does one strike or explode close to the planet's surface, such as the
object that levelled trees over hundreds of square kilometres in
Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908.

That event aside, the height of these explosions usually hides their
tremendous ferocity. The explosion of November 1999 showed up on the
Deelen microbarometer as an infrasound blip slightly greater than the
background noise generated by ocean waves, which create a constant
barrage of small atmospheric booms called microbaroms.

Reported in the journal Geophysical Research Letters1, Evers and Haak's
research highlights how crucial it will be for an infrasound network to
be able to distinguish between meteor explosions and genuine nuclear
Evers, L. G. & Haak, H. W. Listening to sounds from an exploding meteor
and oceanic waves. Geophysical Research Letters 28, 41 - 44 (2001).
© Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd 2001

>From Sky & Telescope, 12 July 2002

By J. Kelly Beatty

July 12, 2002 | In the race to find all the interplanetary bodies that
threaten Earth, astronomers have tallied more than 600 asteroids with
estimated diameters of at least 1 kilometer. However, as several
participants noted during a "space roundtable" held July 10th in
Washington, D.C., governments should be doing more to find these and
other near-Earth objects (NEOs). Titled "The Asteroid Threat:
Identification and Mitigation Strategies," the roundtable was organized
by ProSpace and the Space Frontier Foundation.

Colleen N. Hartman, NASA's director of solar-system exploration, noted
that the space agency funds ground-based searches at roughly $4 million
annually toward its goal of finding 90 percent of large near-Earth
asteroids by 2008. But Brian G. Marsden (Minor Planet Center) expressed
concern that the projected total of such objects - currently near 1,200
- may be higher than thought. He explains that when the telescopic
census nears completion the discovery rate should start to tail off. Yet
astronomers continue to find about 100 kilometer-size objects per year,
with no sign of letting up.

Several participants noted the danger posed by smaller asteroids, such
as the close-call object 2002 MN, and argued that it may be time to
expand detection efforts to include bodies less than 1 km across. Gen.
Simon P. Worden (U.S. Space Command) cautioned that strikes by
skyscraper-size objects like 2002 MN could trigger tsunamis capable of
killing millions. "I don't think we're being alarmist at all," commented
Rick Tumlinson, president of the Space Frontier Foundation. "We're just
trying to lay out the facts."

While the existing telescopic surveys would be ill equipped to
systematically hunt for smaller objects, more aggressive search
strategies have been proposed. Wide-field telescopes like the
Large-aperture Synoptic Survey Telescope and Panoramic Optical Imager
could record the sky nightly to 24th magnitude, faint enough to sweep up
300-meter asteroids in Earth's vicinity. Worden suggested that variants
of orbiting defense satellites could be pressed into service, and
Hartman volunteered that NASA has started looking into expanding its
search strategy to smaller diameters.

However, the issue then becomes what do to with all these observations.
Currently the staff of the Minor Planet Center, under Marsden's
direction, is nearly overwhelmed with the glut of findings from existing
surveys. Worden suggests that an NEO warning center, with a staff of
five to 10, could easily be added to the existing U.S. Space Command,
though he cautions that the Defense Department will not take on a major
NEO role unless assigned to do so by the National Security Council. In
the long term, Worden personally advocates that the military coordinate
all cataloging and response activities, leaving NASA to focus on
deducing the makeup of asteroids and comets.

"We're at the point of needing to move away from an ad hoc response,"
says aerospace engineer Warren Greczyn. He notes that the American
Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics recommends the formation of a
top-level interagency group to advise the government on
planetary-defense issues. Tumlinson adds that such oversight might well
be integrated into proposals for a U.S. Department of Homeland Defense.
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Space
and Aeronautics, likes the idea of utilizing military-derived technology
to hunt down threatening NEOs. "The potential danger from global
warming," he submits, "is nothing compared to the potential danger from
near-Earth objects."

Copyright 2002, Sky & Telescope


Space Daily, 18 July 2002

Israel Space Agency aims high despite low budget
JERUSALEM (AFP) Jul 18, 2002
Crimped by a shoestring budget, a costly war and an economic crisis,
Israel's small but spunky space program is about to take a giant leap
forward by sending its first astronaut aloft.

The Israel Space Agency (ISA) will be in the limelight when Colonel Ilan
Ramon takes off with the next NASA shuttle mission, probably in
September. But ISA has been quietly working for years on
state-of-the-art space technology.

"We try to do a lot of things without much money. Sometimes I'm
surprised" how much is achieved, said the ISA's director general Aby
Har-Even, who runs Israel's civilian space program.

Annual budgets of around 50 million dollars have been cut further as the
Israeli government puts priority on waging its war against Palestinian
militants and tackling a growing economic crisis, he said.

Israel launched its first satellite 14 years ago and the ISA said it
makes the most of limited funds by building on Israeli strengths in
niche technologies.

It claims success in developing hardware such as small satellites and
satellite-based equipment like remote sensing, global positioning
systems (GPS), and propulsion engines.

The space program benefits from cooperation with national space agencies
in the United States, France, Germany, the Ukraine and Russia, as well
as from the Israeli space industry of some 20 firms it ultimately seeks
to promote.

It also works with various experts at Tel Aviv and other universities,
but its proposals to undertake projects with Egypt, with which Israel
has a peace treaty, are being ignored amid regional tension.

The ISA hopes some of its projects like space cameras and electric
boosters designed to change satellite orbits will sell commercially,
Har-Even said by telephone from his offices at the Ministry of Science,
Culture and Sport in Tel Aviv.

When Col. Ramon travels on the Space Shuttle Columbia, he will work with
a camera to help analyze dust storms over the Middle East and their
links to global warming, Har-Even said.

"If the result is good, (the camera) might be put on the space station,"
where it would be able to measure dust particles over a longer period of
time than that of the 16-day shuttle mission, he said.

NASA suspended a planned launch last Friday of Columbia because of small
cracks found in metal fuel liners. It expressed confidence last week it
would be able to resume flights in September.

Though the camera Ramon will take with him on the space shuttle is for
scientific purposes, the ISA is helping to develop another camera
dedicated for commercial satellites, Har-Even said.

Among other projects ISA is working on with its various partners:

-- GPS applications for the study of the movement of tectonic plates in
a region vulnerable to earthquakes

-- Miniaturizing satellites which will allow more payload for rockets
sending them into space

-- Studies on how satellites weather space conditions linked to
radiation, vacuum, magnetic "storms," and dramatically shifting

-- Telescopes to join a network run by NASA and Britain to use
telescopes to track new asteroids that may threaten the earth

-- Remote sensing for agriculture, forestry and fishing

Israel entered the space age in 1988 by launching its first OFEQ
satellite from a Shavit launcher, but it is keeping its ambitions

"We're not trying to do everything. We will not build a space shuttle or
a space station," nor will the ISA send a man to the moon or a probe to
Mars, Har-Even said.

All rights reserved. © 2002 Agence France-Presse


>From Andrew Yee <>

Office of Public Relations
University of Missouri-Rolla
Rolla, Missouri

Contact: Andrew Careaga
Phone: 573-341-4328

July 17, 2002


For years, scientists have assumed that the sun is an enormous
mass of hydrogen. But in a poster presentation to be delivered
July 21-26 at the Meteoritical Society's annual meeting in Los
Angeles, Dr. Oliver Manuel says iron, not hydrogen, is the sun's
most abundant element.

Manuel, a professor of nuclear chemistry at the University of
Missouri-Rolla, claims that hydrogen fusion creates some of the
sun's heat, as hydrogen -- the lightest of all elements -- moves
to the sun's surface. But most of the heat comes from the core
of an exploded supernova that continues to generate energy within
the iron-rich interior of the sun, Manuel says.

"We think that the solar system came from a single star, and the
sun formed on a collapsed supernova core," Manuel says. "The inner
planets are made mostly of matter produced in the inner part of
that star, and the outer planets of material form the outer layers
of that star."

Manuel will present his the evidence for his assertion in his
poster presentation, "Why the Model of a Hydrogen-filled Sun is
Obsolete." His presentation will be Monday, July 21, at the
Meteoritical Society's 65th annual meeting on the University of
California-Los Angeles campus. Co-authors with Manuel are Cynthia
Bolon, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at UMR, and Aditya Katragada,
a UMR graduate student in chemistry.

Manuel says the solar system was born catastrophically out of a
supernova -- a theory that goes against the widely-held belief
among astrophysicists that the sun and planets were formed 4.5
billion years ago in a relatively ambiguous cloud of interstellar

Iron and the heavy element known as xenon are at the center of
Manuel's efforts to change the way people think about the solar
system's origins.

Manuel believes a supernova rocked our area of the Milky Way
galaxy some five billion years ago, giving birth to all the
heavenly bodies that populate the solar system. Analyses of
meteorites reveal that all primordial helium is accompanied by
"strange xenon," he says, adding that both helium and strange
xenon came from the outer layer of the supernova that created
the solar system. Helium and strange xenon are also seen together
in Jupiter.

Manuel has spent the better part of his 40-year scientific career
trying to convince others of his hypothesis. Back in 1975, Manuel
and another UMR researcher, Dr. Dwarka Das Sabu, first proposed
that the solar system formed from the debris of a spinning star
that exploded as a supernova. They based their claim on studies
of meteorites and moon samples which showed traces of strange

Data from NASA's Galileo probe of Jupiter's helium-rich atmosphere
in 1996 reveals traces of strange xenon gases -- solid evidence
against the conventional model of the solar system's creation,
Manuel says.

Manuel first began to develop the iron-rich sun theory in 1972.
That year, Manual and his colleagues reported in the British
journal Nature that the xenon found in primitive meteorites was
a mixture of strange and normal xenon (Nature 240, 99-101).

The strange xenon is enriched in isotopes that are made when a
supernova explodes, the researchers reported, and could not be
produced within meteorites.

Three years later, Manuel and Sabu found that all of the
primordial helium in meteorites is trapped in the same sites
that trapped strange xenon. Based on these findings, they
concluded that the solar system formed directly from the debris
of a single supernova, and the sun formed on the supernova's
collapsed core. Giant planets like Jupiter grew from material
in the outer part of the supernova, while Earth and the inner
planets formed out of material from the supernova's interior.

This is why the outer planets consist mostly of hydrogen, helium
and other light elements, and the inner planets are made of
heavier elements like iron, sulfur and silicon, Manuel says.

Strange xenon came from the helium-rich outer layers of the
supernova, while normal xenon came from its interior. There was
no helium in the interior because nuclear fusion reactions there
changed the helium into the heavier elements, Manuel says.

In January, Manuel presented similar findings at the American
Astronomical Society's meeting in Washington, D.C. His paper,
"The Origin of the Solar System with an Iron-rich Sun," and
other information about Manuel's research are available on the
Internet at



>From Matthew Genge <>

Dear Benny,

Could the terminal detonation of asteroids and comets trigger a regional
nuclear war - probably when two sides of a potential conflict are on the
brink of it anyway. Is it likely that a detonation could trigger a
nuclear, not really, as far as we know the kind of events that could be
mistaken for a nuclear first strike are infrequent.

Thanks to the efforts of the U.S. military we now have a much better
idea of the flux of weak meteoroids in the size range 1 to 10 m.
Satellites have observed five or six 20 kiloton detonations due to 10 m
objects and thirty 1 kiloton detonations due to 1 m objects per year. All
these events, however, occur at high altitude and have no effects on the
ground. In fact eye witness accounts of such events are very rare and
usually consist of descriptions of a bright flash in the sky with no
accompanying noise. My opinion, therefore, is that detonations at high
altitude that cause no damage on the ground are very unlikely to be
misinterpreted as a nuclear attack even if they were detected by
satellite observations.

It is the low altitude detonations, such as the Tunguska event, that are
likely to make a nation act first and think later. As we know these
occur every 100 to 300 years and are thus rare events. We could even
estimate the probability that this could have caused a nuclear exchange
in the most recent crisis if we take the area of India and Pakistan as
roughly 1% of the worlds surface area, the duration of the crisis as 2
months, and an upper limit of the impact frequency as 100 years. The
probability is thus around 1 in 60,000. This in itself is probably high
enough to merit concern and should be the figure by which the level of
response to the problem is measured. Alerting politicians and senior
military figures in nations with nuclear capability to the potential
problem would seem like the first logical step.

It is good to see that the scientific and political community are giving
thought to the next target for NEO detection beyond the 1 km and above.
Despite the disagreements over the details there does seem to be the
concensus that we should attempt to catalogue the smaller objects that
pose a lesser hazard. The size limit for the next target, however, will
I expect be less easy to choose than before.

The idea of an "NEO Warning Center" to coordinate efforts in detection,
mitigation and response is also a step forward. Whatever form this
takes, however, perhaps it should incorporate as key partners the
existing organisations such as the MPC, NeoDys and the NEO Program, that
already in part perform this role.

One very important reason for ensuring that academic organisations have
a key role in any "NEO Warning Center" is public concerns over
accessibility to information. The most common question asked to the NEO
Information Centre by members of the public and the media is "Would we
be told if there was an asteroid on a collision course with Earth". At
present it is easy to convince people by pointing to the MPC, NeoDys and
the NEO Program, and explaining that, even if we wanted to, we couldn't
keep it a secret. An early warning center coordinated by a military
organisation, however, would have a distinct image problem since the
military is seen as being secretive and nationally orientated as a
matter of necessity. NEO hazards are also an international issue in which
we would like to see more nations formally taking an active role which
perhaps would be even less likely if a warning center was soley a
military venture.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed above are those of the author and not
necessarily those of the UK Government, NEO Information Centre or the
Natural History Museum.

Matthew Genge
The Natural History Museum &
The NEO Information Centre.
Dr Matthew J. Genge
Researcher (Meteoritics)
Department of Mineralogy, The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.
Tel: Int + 020 7 942 5581
Fax: Int.+ 020 7 942 5537
Staff internet page

>From Alastair McBeath <>
Dear Benny,
In CCNet 64/2002 (30 May), Mike Baillie mentioned the obscure and
difficult poem "Cad Goddeu" ("Battle" or "Army of the Trees") in
relation to his ideas about comets being the cause of a climatic
downturn (or perhaps downturns) around 536-45 AD, interpreted as the
reason for several years of unusually narrow tree growth-rings within
this period. Although "Cad Goddeu" features in the "Llyfr Taliesin"
("Book of Taliesin"; compiled c.1275), it is not one of the dozen or so
poems and part-poems from this work attributed to the probably
historical, 6th century, Taliesin, based on style, content and
linguistic characteristics. The remaining 50-odd poems in the "Book",
including "Cad Goddeu" and the "Armes Prydain" ("Prophecy of Britain"),
are similarly dated to between the 9th and 13th centuries. The "Armes
Prydain" contains much valuable, if politically biased, information from
c.930 AD, for instance. "Cad Goddeu" is not so readily datable. Elements
may be reasonably early, by comparison to themes in other Welsh
literature, but there is regrettably no evidence to tie it to the 6th
century, nor the historical Taliesin from that period. Given that much
of its narrative concerns an army of trees and plants as warriors,
magically mobilised by the enchanter Gwydion calling on the Christian
God, and employing apocalyptic Judaeo-Christian imagery and themes, it
appears as a timeless legendary tale, rather than a historical one. Many
of the works in the "Llyfr Taliesin" have been commonly associated with,
or attributed to, the ahistorical legendary Taliesin, a figure I
commented on in my CCNet message of 15 July (83/2002).
Mike suggested the references to shapechanging in "Cad Goddeu" indicate
the narrator must be a god, but this is not necessarily so.
Shapechanging is a common trait in many Celtic myths and tales, as well
as those from elsewhere, and while some Celtic deities certainly can
shapechange at will, so can many mortals (including heroes, magicians,
and the legendary Taliesin figure), and some folkloric creatures. This
power can also be magically employed on or against other people. The
lists of shapes, sizes and forms possible are many and varied, and
include vegetable and inanimate types, such as seeds, agricultural
implements, paths and even light. It would be unwise to assume any
significance can be attached to one or other specific shapechanging line
from this poem, or others, which happens to fall in with one's personal
beliefs, without explaining why only that one minor aspect is relevant
and not all the others.
Unfortunately, Mike does not mention the source of his "Cad Goddeu"
quotes, but the lines identically expressed are in the 19th century D.
W. Nash translation given by Robert Graves in his "White Goddess"
(Graves, 1961: 30-6), for example. A more reliable modern translation,
even so still somewhat tentative due to the difficulties of the
language, is given by Patrick Ford (Ford, 1977: 183-7). Ford's
translations of the main quoted sections in Mike Baillie's message (here
repeated after Ford's versions in parentheses for comparison) are: "I
was stars' beam" (instead of "I have been a shining star"); "Jet is
black, mountains are rounded, trees are sharp;/ Great seas are swifter
since I heard the scream./" (for "There shall be a black darkness, there
shall be a shaking of the mountain, There shall be a purifying furnace,
There shall first be a great wave"); "I was a star with a shaft" ("I
have been an evil star formerly"). The modern versions thus act to
weaken Mike's arguments; the poem's narrator now claims to have been
starlight, not a star, and one apparently apocalyptic passage has been
removed - although there are others in the poem, in-keeping with its
medieval Christian elements. "A star with a shaft" seems cometary
certainly, but the full line runs: "I was a star with a shaft; I was
this hunting-shaft", so the "shaft" is a spear, which in the context of
the poem as a whole seems more likely a reference to the
Judaeo-Christian apocalyptic war in heaven, where the angels/stars who
follow Satan take up arms, are eventually defeated by Michael and the
remaining angels/stars, and cast out of heaven (as in the biblical
"Revelation" 12 from the 1st century AD, for instance). Parts of this
myth also feature in variants well-known from early medieval texts
originating in the British Isles dated to between the 6th and 12th
centuries. A comet is not ruled-out by this however. Perhaps the poet
was ambiguously suggesting both a comet and a spear-armed star, or that
a comet might be a stellar spear-warrior. Such imagery is not improbable
during the increased cometary flux observed in the 8th to 11th centuries
AD, which would link with a 9th century origin for at least some of the
earlier parts of "Cad Goddeu".
Comets specifically called "evil stars" are quite difficult to find in
ancient or early medieval European literature. As a term, "evil star" is
found much more commonly in astrology and, later, alchemy. Astrological
references to, particularly, the planets Mars and Saturn as evil stars
occur back to ancient Mesopotamia. (Saturn shows a more generally
positive character in classical Mesopotamian astrology, but by the
Persian and Seleucid periods, it was considered usually malefic,
something which passed into Hellenistic astrology and down to modern
times.) Mercury and Venus are assigned both positive and negative
aspects on occasion, Mercury is more typically ambivalent or evil in
fortune, while Venus's morning or evening apparitions seem to have been
accorded either as male and malefic or female and benefic at times, but
without a clear single pattern beyond this. Jupiter was apparently
always thought positive in nature. For further information, see
(Koch-Westenholz, 1995; especially Chapters 5 and 8). (Reiner, 1995)
provides useful notes too. See particularly her Chapter VI for how
ancient Mesopotamian sorcerors and sorceresses endeavoured to use the
evil and good powers believed resident in individual stars, asterisms or
constellations for their own ends. Again, this passed down into later
magical theory in Europe. In this regard, (Allen, 1963) provides some
interesting summaries about the astrological "evil star" nature of, for
example, the constellation Scorpius (pp. 363-4) and the star Algol (Beta
Persei; pp. 332-3), though as usual, some caution must be exercised when
employing this source. Medieval astrological and alchemical texts do
confirm the beliefs he comments on certainly.
So, no need to invoke an active 6th century volcano in Wales, as Mike
seems concerned might occur, but also no reason to suppose the legendary
Taliesin and his many fantastic exploits could possibly relate to any
historical events around the same time, of whatever nature.
Allen, R. H., 1963, "Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning", Dover
Publications, New York, NY. (Corrected reprint of the 1899 text
"Star-Names and Their Meanings".)
Ford, P. K., 1977, "The Mabinogi and other Medieval Welsh Tales",
University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
Graves, R., 1961, "The White Goddess: A historical grammar of poetic
myth", Faber & Faber, London.
Koch-Westenholz, U., 1995, "Mesopotamian Astrology: An Introduction to
Babylonian and Assyrian Celestial Divination", Museum Tusculanum Press,
Reiner, E., 1995, "Astral Magic in Babylonia", Transactions of the
American Philosophical Society, 85:4, Philadelphia, PA.
Alastair McBeath


>From E.P. Grondine <>

Hello Benny -

I read with great interest your comment on Morrison's latest NEO news.
I was delighted to learn that Morrison has been belittling the small NEO
hazard for some 20 years now - and here I had thought that he had only
taken up this position after NASA's Ames Research Center lost the NEO
contract to NASA's JPL.

I also welcomed your call for Morrison to wake up and smell the coffee,
but quite frankly I don't think he is going to do it. The result is
that perforce I must reluctantly offer to the astronomers of the IAU NEO
Working Group my services as their Chairman.

Now it is true that I am not an astronomer, and astronomy holds little
interest for me. This lack of personal interest is undoubtedly a
reflection upon the fact that I am so blind that I can barely walk, and
then only when sober. I suppose a further discincentive for my entering
the field of NEO astronomy is that I am also entirely too vain to
tolerate the humilation that quite neccesarily entails upon having to
beg for both observing time and funding from the astrophysicists and
cosmologists who control the national astronomy budgets.

But in the final analysis, this complete lack of qualifications is
really a minor quibble, after all. I can take up my candidacy with
courage in my heart, knowing that I am but following in the footsteps of
an ancient (well, 200 years), long, and proud American tradition: that
of electing a dog as mayor, when the current mayor proves to be a rather
total embarassment. At least as Chairman of the IAU NEO Working Group I
won't tell people that they don't need to worry about the NEO hazard.
Indeed, the Charimanship of the IAU NEO Working Group will provide me
with an excellent platform for telling people exactly that, and thus for
further cementing my position as one of the 22cd Century's better

Now I don't know if being the Chairman of the IAU NEO Working Group
currently pays anything, but it certinaly will if I am elected. This is
because if the members of the NEO Working Group chose to select me as
their Chairman, my first action is going to be to take them out on
strike. I will simply wait for the next NEO to show up on the MPC
mailing list as a potential impactor, and then suspend all operations. I
will then send out daily briefings to the media explaining the reasons
for this, as well as a running cumulative total of exactly how many of
these potential impactors are being missed and lost each day. My gut
feeling is that after a couple of weeks of this, it is likely that the
governments will improve the NEO Working Group's members' pay and
working conditions considerably.

One significant aspect of my program is going to be to eliminate the
need for the NEO astronomers of the Working Group to keep night hours -
I intend to seek the use of space based assets. Thus today I can promise
to the astronomers that if they elect me, I will eliminate the necessity
of their staying up all night in order to look for these things. Of
course, those NEO astronomers wishing to hide out from their wives and
children may also rest assured that I will certainly still be continuing
the nighttime operations of the ground based telescopes, and those
operations will have increased funding as well...

Well, there you have it: more pay, better hours, and better working
conditions. Sadly, to me it looks like I'm a shoe-in.

At the outset of this announcement, I clearly expressed my extreme
reluctance to take up the heavy burdens of public office. As a matter of
fact, about the only reason that I now offer my candidacy as Chairman of
the IAU NEO Working Group is that recent improvements in
telecommunications technology have come along to enable a great
reduction in those burdens of office. These improvements have now
enabled the placement of offices anywhere, and in keeping with this, and
in recognition of the international character of the NEO effort, my plan
is to equip the Chairman of the NEO Working Group with a laptop computer
and radio modem so that he may annually relocate the Office of the
Chariman to several different nations: Malibu (near to JPL), Maui (not
too far from the Keck scopes), the Isles of Capri (near to the Italian
computational centre), North Beach (close to the future Australian NEO
observatory), the Riviera, the Odessa shore...

As always,
Yours in Science,

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