PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 88/2002 - 25 July  2002
-----------------------------


(1) SPACE ROCK 'ON COLLISION COURSE'
    BBC News Online, 24 July 2002

(2) ASTEROID COULD WIPE OUT A CONTINENT IN 2019
    Press Association (London), 24 July 2002

(3) ASTEROID 2002 NT7 MIGHT HIT EARTH
    NEO Information Centre, 24 July 2002

(4) ASTRONOMERS MONITORING ASTEROID THAT COULD ONE DAY POSE THREAT TO
    EARTH
    Associated Press (LOndon), 24 July 202

(5) ASTRONOMERS MONITORING ASTEROID
    Associated Press, 24 July 2002

(6) ASTRONOMERS SAY SLIM CHANCE OF ASTEROID COLLISION WITH EARTH IN 2019
    Associated Press (Pasadena), July 24 2002

(7) EXPERT: ASTEROID MAY HIT EARTH BUT DON'T PANIC
    Reuters (London), 24 July 2002

(8) COULD AN ASTEROID BE DEFLECTED?
    BBC News Online, 24 July 2002

(9) ASTRONOMERS: ASTEROID HIT UNLIKELY
    Associated Press (Pasadena), July 24, 10:17 PM ET

(10) BIG ASTEROID LEAVES SCIENTISTS UNRUFFLED
     Reuters (Washington), July 24, 5:14 PM ET

(11) BRITAIN 'SHOULD PROVIDE ASTEROID LEAD'
     BBC News Online, 24 July 2002

(12) ASTEROID TO HIT MOTHER EARTH? TOO EARLY TO CRY HELP, SAYS RUSSIAN
     EXPERT
     Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

===========
(1) SPACE ROCK 'ON COLLISION COURSE'

>From BBC News Online, 24 July, 2002, 02:29 GMT 03:29 UK
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2147879.stm

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor 
 
An asteroid discovered just weeks ago has become the most threatening
object yet detected in space.

A preliminary orbit suggests that 2002 NT7 is on an impact course with
Earth and could strike the planet on 1 February, 2019 - although the
uncertainties are large.

Astronomers have given the object a rating on the so-called Palermo
technical scale of threat of 0.06, making NT7 the first object to be
given a positive value.

From its brightness, astronomers estimate it is about two kilometres
wide, large enough to cause continent-wide devastation on Earth.

Many observations

Although astronomers say the object definitely merits attention, they
expect more observations to show it is not on an Earth-intersecting
trajectory.

It was first seen on the night of 5 July, picked up by the Linear
Observatory's automated sky survey programme in New Mexico, US.

Since then astronomers worldwide have been paying close attention to it,
amassing almost 200 observations in a few weeks.

Could it be deflected?

Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, told BBC
News Online that "this asteroid has now become the most threatening
object in the short history of asteroid detection".

NT7 circles the Sun every 837 days and travels in a tilted orbit from
about the distance of Mars to just within the Earth's orbit.

Potential devastation

Detailed calculations of NT7's orbit suggest many occasions when its
projected path through space intersects the Earth's orbit.

Researchers estimate that on 1 February, 2019, its impact velocity on
the Earth would be 28 km a second - enough to wipe out a continent and
cause global climate changes.

However, Dr Peiser was keen to point out that future observations could
change the situation.

He said: "This unique event should not diminish the fact that additional
observations in coming weeks will almost certainly - we hope - eliminate
the current threat."

Easily observable

According to astronomers, NT7 will be easily observable for the next 18
months or so, meaning there is no risk of losing the object.

Observations made over that period - and the fact that NT7 is bright
enough that it is bound to show up in old photographs - mean that
scientists will soon have a very precise orbit for the object.

Dr Donald Yeomans, of the US space agency's (Nasa) Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in California, told BBC News Online: "The orbit of this
object is rather highly inclined to the Earth's orbit so it has been
missed because until recently observers were not looking for such
objects in that region of space."

Regarding the possibility of an impact, Dr Yeomans said the
uncertainties were large.

"The error in our knowledge of where NT7 will be on 1 February, 2019, is
large, several tens of millions of kilometres," he said.

Dr Yeomans said the world would have to get used to finding more objects
like NT7 that, on discovery, look threatening, but then become harmless.

"This is because the problem of Near-Earth Objects is now being properly
addressed," he said.

Copyright 2002, BBC

=============
(2) ASTEROID COULD WIPE OUT A CONTINENT IN 2019

>From Press Association (London), 24 July 2002, 06:39 GMT
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_635469.html?menu=news.scienceanddiscovery

Astronomers have found an asteroid that appears to be on a collision
course with Earth.

It has been described as the most threatening object yet detected in
space.

A preliminary orbit suggests that 2002 NT7 could strike the planet on
February 1, 2019.

The BBC reports astronomers have given NT7 a threat rating on the
Palermo technical scale of 0.06, making it the first object to be given
a positive value.

Although they say it merits attention, they expect more observations to
show it is not on an Earth-intersecting trajectory.

The asteroid is estimated to be about two kilometres wide, large enough
to cause continent-wide devastation on Earth.

It was first seen on the night of July 5 by the Linear Observatory's
automated sky survey programme in New Mexico.

Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University, told BBC News
Online: "This asteroid has now become the most threatening object in the
short history of asteroid detection."

But he added: "This unique event should not diminish the fact that
additional observations in coming weeks will almost certainly - we hope
- eliminate the current threat."

Dr Donald Yeomans, from the US space agency's (Nasa) Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in California, said: "The error in our knowledge of where NT7
will be on February 1, 2019, is large, several tens of millions of
kilometres."

Story filed: 06:39 Wednesday 24th July 2002

Copyright 2002, Ananova

============
(3) ASTEROID 2002 NT7 MIGHT HIT EARTH

>From NEO Information Centre, 24 July 2002
http://www.nearearthobjects.co.uk/news_display.cfm?code=news_intro&itemID=77
 
Preliminary observations of the asteroid's orbit suggest that it could
strike or pass close to our planet on 1 February 2019. From its
brightness astronomers believe the asteroid is 2 to 4 kilometres wide, a
size capable of causing continent-wide devastation and causing global
climate change.

The asteroid was first discovered on 9 July by the Linear Observatory's
automated sky survey programme in New Mexico, US. Astronomers will spend
the next few months closely studying Asteroid 2002 NT7, which is bright
enough to be tracked even by small telescopes. They expect more
observations over the next month to show that the asteroid is not on an
Earth-intersecting trajectory.

The orbit of 2002 NT7 is recalculated once a day in 3 different areas
across the globe to give us the most accurate calculations possible.
"Today calculations show a 1 in 60 000 chance that the asteroid will
strike Earth. But, with tomorrow's observations this will change" says
Dr Alan Fitzsimmons astronomer at Queens University Belfast and
scientist for the Near Earth Objects Information Centre at the National
Space Centre.

For example, earlier this year the probability of Asteroid 2002 CU11
hitting Earth was calculated as a 1 in 9 000 chance on one day, and we
now know the probability of this rock hitting us in the next 100 years
is zero.

By studying the Earth's history we can predict large asteroid impacts to
occur once every 100 000 to every 1 000 000 years depending on the size
of the object.

While the vast majority of NEOs discovered do not come close to Earth,
asteroids such as 2002 NT7, highlight the importance of detecting these
objects. The reminder come as UK telescope in La Palma are being tested
to search for NEOs.

Over the next couple of months the NEO Information Centre will keep you
updated on the orbit of 2002 NT7 as it becomes better defined.

© NEO Information Centre

=============
(4) ASTRONOMERS MONITORING ASTEROID THAT COULD ONE DAY POSE THREAT TO EARTH

>From Associated Press (London), 24 July, 5:17 AM ET
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020724/ap_on_sc/britain_asteroid_threat_2

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - Astronomers are carefully monitoring a newly discovered
1.2-mile-wide (2 km) asteroid to see whether it is on a collision course
with Earth.

Initial calculations indicate there is a chance the asteroid - known as
2002 NT7 - will hit the Earth on Feb. 1, 2019. But scientists said
Wednesday that the calculations are preliminary and the risk to the
planet is low.

"The threat is very minimal," Donald Yeomans, of NASA ( news - web
sites)'s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told British
Broadcasting Corp. radio. "An object of this size would be expected to
hit the Earth every few million years, and as we get additional data I
think this threat will go away."

The object was detected on July 9 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid
Research Project in New Mexico. It orbits the sun every 837 days, and
NASA scientists predict its path could intersect with the Earth's orbit.
But they say more observations over the coming months will help them
plot its course more accurately.

NASA's Near Earth Object program gives the asteroid a rating of "0" on
the Torino impact hazard scale - within a range of "events meriting
careful monitoring," but not concern.

However, the discovery has provided more ammunition for those who say
humans should take the risk posed by space objects more seriously.

"There's a good chance this particular object won't hit us, but we know
that a large object will hit us sooner or later," said British lawmaker
Lembit Opik, who has long warned of the danger posed by asteroids.

NASA estimates that asteroids big enough to cause catastrophic
destruction could theoretically hit Earth every million years, or at
longer intervals.

Last month an asteroid the size of a soccer field missed the Earth by
75,000 miles - less than one-third of the distance to the moon in one of
the closest known approaches by objects of its size. Scientists said if
it had hit a populated area, it would have released as much energy as a
large nuclear weapon.

Copyright 2002, AP

==============
(5) ASTRONOMERS MONITORING ASTEROID

>From Associated Press, 24 July, 7:18 AM ET
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020724/ap_on_sc/britain_asteroid_threat_2

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) - Astronomers are carefully monitoring a newly discovered
1.2-mile-wide asteroid to determine whether it is on a collision course
with Earth.

Initial calculations indicate there is a chance the asteroid - known as
2002 NT7 - will hit the Earth on Feb. 1, 2019. But scientists said
Wednesday that the calculations are preliminary and the risk to the
planet is low.

"The threat is very minimal," Donald Yeomans, of NASA ( news - web
sites)'s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told British
Broadcasting Corp. radio. "An object of this size would be expected to
hit the Earth every few million years, and as we get additional data I
think this threat will go away."

The object was detected on July 9 by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid
Research Project in New Mexico. It orbits the sun every 837 days, and
NASA scientists predict its path could intersect Earth's orbit. But they
say more observations over the coming months will help them plot its
course more accurately.

NASA's Near Earth Object program gives the asteroid a rating of "1" on
the Torino impact hazard scale - within a range of "events meriting
careful monitoring," but not concern.

However, the discovery has provided more ammunition for those who say
humans should take the risk posed by space objects more seriously.

"There's a good chance this particular object won't hit us, but we know
that a large object will hit us sooner or later," said British lawmaker
Lembit Opik, who has long warned of the danger posed by asteroids.

NASA estimates that asteroids big enough to cause catastrophic
destruction could theoretically hit Earth every million years, or at
longer intervals.

Last month an asteroid the size of a soccer field missed the Earth by
75,000 miles - less than one-third of the distance to the moon in one of
the closest known approaches by objects of its size. Scientists said if
it had hit a populated area, it would have released as much energy as a
large nuclear weapon.

Copyright 2002, AP

=============
(6) ASTRONOMERS SAY SLIM CHANCE OF ASTEROID COLLISION WITH EARTH IN 2019

>From Associated Press (Pasadena), July 24, 9:17 PM ET
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020725/ap_wo_en_po/us_asteroid_threat_1

By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP Science Writer

PASADENA, California - Astronomers said they are keeping close watch on
a newly discovered 1.2 mile-wide (2 kilometer) asteroid to determine
whether it will collide with Earth in 2019.

There is a slight chance that the asteroid, dubbed 2002 NT7, could smack
the Earth on Feb. 1, 2019, causing a global catastrophe. But astronomers
said the odds were one in 250,000 and further calculation would probably
show it will miss the planet entirely.

"One way or another, this thing is coming off the risk page," said
Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA ( news - web sites)'s near-Earth object
program office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Astronomers with the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project used a
New Mexico telescope to discover the space rock on July 9, when it was
about 84 million miles (135 million kilometers) from Earth. It is in
orbit around the sun.

More than 100 follow-up observations allowed astronomers to calculate
six other potential impact dates - in 2044, 2053, 2060 and 2078.

The asteroid will remain in the sights of astronomers for another year
at least, allowing them to refine their estimates of its trajectory on
its 837-day orbit.

"At that point, if it's still a threat, I'd start to get a little
concerned, but not before then," said Gareth Williams, associate
director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In other cases where potential Earth-crossing asteroids have been
discovered, it has typically taken just days or weeks to determine they
pose no threat. This asteroid, however, is larger than most and has
attracted more interest.

Were the paths of 2002 NT7 and the Earth to cross, the object would
cause widespread devastation. It would enter the atmosphere at nearly
64,000 mph and strike with the explosive energy of 1.2 million megatons
of TNT, according to JPL estimates.

Last month, an asteroid the size of a soccer field missed the Earth by
75,000 miles (120,675 kilometers) in one of the closest known approaches
by an object that size.

Copyright 2002, AP

=============
(7) EXPERT: ASTEROID MAY HIT EARTH BUT DON'T PANIC

>From Reuters (London), July 24, 13.30 GMT
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020724/sc_nm/space_asteroid_dc_1

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - A massive asteroid could hit Earth in just 17 years'
time, destroying life as we know it, a British space expert said
Wednesday.

The asteroid -- the most threatening object ever detected in space -- is
1.2 miles wide and apparently on a direct collision course with Earth.

"Objects of this size only hit the Earth every one or two million
years," said Dr. Benny Peiser, an asteroid expert at Liverpool John
Moore's University in northern England.

"In the worst case scenario, a disaster of this size would be global in
its extent, would create a meltdown of our economic and social life, and
would reduce us to dark age conditions," he told Reuters.

But Peiser and other space experts say they are pretty confident this
nightmare scenario will not come about.

"This thing is the highest threat that has been cataloged, but the scale
in terms of the threat keeps changing," said Peter Bond, spokesman for
the Royal Astronomical Society.

"If it did hit the Earth it would cause a continental-size explosion ...
but it is a fairly remote possibility."

The asteroid -- named 2002 NT7 -- was first detected earlier this month
by the United States Linear sky survey program.

Since then, Peiser said scientists at the U.S. National Aeronautics and
Space Administration's near-Earth objects team and at Pisa University in
Italy have carried out orbit calculations to work out the probability
and potential date of impact to define the risk it poses.

Their calculations show it could hit the earth on February 1, 2019.

"The impact probability is below one in a million, but because the first
impact date is so early -- only 17 years from now -- and the object is
very large, it's been rated on the impact risk Palermo Scale as a
positive," Peiser said. "It is the first object which has ever hit a
positive rating."

Scientists warn, however, that the risk rating has not been reviewed by
the International Astronomical Union, which is the main international
body responsible for announcing such risks.

Peiser said 2002 NT7 would continue to be monitored by space experts
across the world, and that over time, these observations would probably
erase the threat posed by it.

"In all likelihood, in a couple of months additional observations will
eliminate this object from the list of potential impacts," he said. "I
am very confident that additional observations over time will...show
that it is actually not on a collision course with Earth."

But he warned that the world should take this as wake-up call and set
about preparing for the reality of an asteroid hit in the future.

"Sooner or later -- and no one can really tell us which it will be -- we
will find an object that is on a collision course. That is as certain as
"Amen" in church. And eventually we will have to deflect an object from
its collision course," he said.

At the moment, he added, scientists fear it could take at least 30 years
for the world to be able to devise and set up a mission to deal with
such a threat -- a timescale which would be woefully inadequate if the
2019 strike were to happen.

Copyright 2002, Reuters

============
(8) COULD AN ASTEROID BE DEFLECTED?

>From the BBC News Online, 24 July 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2148924.stm
 
By Ivan Noble
BBC News Online science staff 
 
 
It will take weeks or even months before astronomers will be able to
confirm their suspicion that asteroid 2002 NT7 will pass very close to
but not hit the Earth early in 2019.

"As further observations accrue, we'll probably find that what is
currently a possible hit will become a near miss," Professor Mark
Bailey, director of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, told BBC
News Online.

In the very unlikely event that 2002 NT7 did turn out to be on a direct
collision course, astronomers would have plenty of time to make accurate
predictions about the time and location of the impact, and, with luck,
to come up with a plan to deflect it.

"It's not like dealing with space debris, where the object may be
irregularly shaped and tumbling and where even hours before impact you
don't know exactly when and where it's going to come down," said
Professor Bailey.

"With an asteroid impact, it's more like when Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit
Jupiter.

"There we were able to calculate the exact time of impact almost to the
second," he said.

Asteroid rendezvous

In the most unlikely event that it were on collision course, there would
be no more important project than to try to deflect it, he added.

"It orbits roughly every 2.2 years, so there would be several
opportunities to rendezvous with it.

"There'd be opportunity to assess what it's made of, find out whether
it's made of rock and ice, or iron, whether it's a rubble pile or a
solid body.

"It would make sense to put a beacon on it so that you'd then have a
very precise knowledge of its orbit," Professor Bailey said.

No-one has yet seriously tried to come up with a plan to deflect an
incoming asteroid, but given years of warning and an asteroid which
orbits relatively frequently, giving it a small nudge early on might do
the trick.

"Relatively benign deviations imparted years ahead are magnified each
time the asteroid goes around the Sun and would hopefully be enough to
turn a projected impact into a near miss.

Solar option

"One could even imagine landing on it and firing a rocket engine.

"People have talked about some kind of a mass driver, where pieces of
rock would somehow be broken off the asteroid and cast off into space.

"Even a solar sail might be a possibility," Professor Bailey told BBC
News Online.

Such a device might catch the solar wind - a constant stream of
particles emanating from the Sun - and use the small but significant
energy they carry to cause a tiny deflection in the asteroid's path.

Copyright 2002, BBC

=============
(9) ASTRONOMERS: ASTEROID HIT UNLIKELY

>From Associated Press (Pasadena), July 24, 10:17 PM ET
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20020725/ap_on_sc/asteroid_threat_2

By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP Science Writer

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Astronomers said Wednesday that they are keeping
close watch on a newly discovered 1.2 mile-wide asteroid to determine
whether it will collide with Earth in 2019.

There is a slight chance that the asteroid, dubbed 2002 NT7, could smack
the Earth on Feb. 1, 2019, causing a global catastrophe. Astronomers
said the odds were one in 250,000 and further calculation would probably
show it will miss the planet entirely.

It now heads the list of asteroids and comets monitored by NASA ( news -
web sites) but as scientists learn more it isn't expected to stay there.

"One way or another, this thing is coming off the risk page," said
Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's near-Earth object program office at
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Astronomers with the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project used a
New Mexico telescope to discover the space rock on July 9, when it was
about 84 million miles from Earth. It is in orbit around the sun.

More than 100 follow-up observations allowed astronomers to calculate
six other potential impact dates - in 2044, 2053, 2060 and 2078.

The asteroid will remain in the sights of astronomers for another year
at least, allowing them to further refine their estimates of its
trajectory on its 837-day orbit.

"At that point, if it's still a threat, I'd start to get a little
concerned, but not before then," said Gareth Williams, associate
director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass.

In other cases where potential Earth-crossing asteroids have been
discovered, it has typically taken just days or weeks to determine they
pose no threat. This asteroid, however, is larger than most and has
attracted more interest.

Were the paths of 2002 NT7 and the Earth to cross, the object would
cause widespread devastation. It would enter the atmosphere at nearly
64,000 mph and strike with the explosive energy of 1.2 million megatons
of TNT, according to JPL estimates.

Last month, an asteroid the size of a soccer field missed the Earth by
75,000 miles in one of the closest known approaches by an object that
size.

Copyright 2002, AP
==============
(10) BIG ASTEROID LEAVES SCIENTISTS UNRUFFLED

>From Reuters (Washington), July 24, 5:14 PM ET
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020724/ts_nm/space_asteroid_dc_3

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Maybe, just maybe, a large and newly sighted
asteroid could hit the Earth -- but probably not, astronomers said
Wednesday.

They have issued an all-points bulletin on the asteroid that at first
looked like it could be on a collision course with Earth, but it will
take several more weeks of observation to tell for sure.

They are calling on astronomers around the world, amateur and
professional, to take a look at the mile-wide hunk of rock, so its
trajectory can be calculated.

In the meantime, they say the odds of it actually hitting are one in 6
million.

"I wouldn't be sweating it," Tim Spahr, astronomer at the Minor Planets
Center of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, said in a telephone interview. "Go win the lottery
first."

Scientist say a collision with a large asteroid half a mile in diameter
could kill a quarter of the world's population. Statistically, every 100
million years a 6-mile-wide object hits the Earth in an impact like one
that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The new asteroid, called 2002 NT7, was spotted earlier this month. Now
66 million miles away, it orbits the Sun every 2.3 years at a steep
angle to Earth's orbit.

It entered a new system set up by international astronomers over the
past decade to look for asteroids and other objects that have the
potential to hit the Earth.

THIS ONE IS BIG

"This one just popped up because it is a big object," Spahr said. "It is
two kilometers in size so if it hit it would be really bad. We have a
scale called the Palermo scale that takes into account size and possible
impact velocity and comes up with a rating for an object."

2002 NT7 is the first "positive" object on the scale system, meant to
predict how much damage an asteroid would do if it just happened to hit.

"It just means you better go look at it some more," Spahr said. Don
Yeomans of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory pointed out that the Palermo
scale system is only a year old so it is not terribly significant that
this is the first positive.

Because it takes a while to get enough data on any object to determine
the risk, astronomers send out a public plea to get as many telescopes
looking at it as possible. It is hard to pin down such a tiny object in
the vastness of space.

Although plotting a trajectory of an object on Earth is fairly simple,
when something is this far away and this small, things get complicated.

As it passes by planets such as Mars and Jupiter, it will get pulled by
their gravitational fields, for instance.

So when calculating all the different places this asteroid could
possibly end up, one scenario includes a collision with Earth in 2019.

Yeomans doubts this will actually happen and he believes the coming
weeks will provide data to confirm this.

"We still have to redouble our efforts to locate these objects in the
first place. This program has only been in place a decade. Before that
we were blissfully unaware."

Copyright 2002, AP
 
===========
(11) BRITAIN 'SHOULD PROVIDE ASTEROID LEAD'

>From BBC News Online, 24 July 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2149349.stm
 
By Ivan Noble
BBC News Online science staff 
 
Britain should be providing a lead to the world in finding and tracking
objects in space which might hit the Earth, Liberal Democrat MP Lembit
Opik has told BBC News Online.

His comments follow the announcement that a newly-discovered asteroid -
2002 NT7 - could strike the Earth in 2019.

"We lead the world academically in this subject (sic!) and we should be
providing a lead on tracking the asteroid," he said.

He said Britain ought to increase its involvement in international
cooperation on near-Earth objects.

"An effective survey would cost around £80 million over ten years: a
million pounds a year for each G-8 country," said Mr Opik.

"Working out a way to deflect an asteroid would be much more expensive,
but it would be an insurance policy for the planet."

Web presence

The UK has a Near-Earth Object information centre, set up to provide
public information in response to a government task force
recommendation.

Saving the planet 'depends on advance warning'
 
The site says that calculations on Wednesday give the 2002 NT7 asteroid
a 1 in 60,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2019.

But it reminds readers that the asteroid's orbit is being recalculated
daily using observations from three different areas of the world.

Referring to an older incident, the centre recalls: "Earlier this year
the probability of asteroid 2002 CU11 hitting Earth was calculated as a
1 in 9,000 chance on one day.

"We now know the probability of this rock hitting us in the next 100
years is zero."

It says that UK equipment at the La Palma observatory in the Canary
Islands is being tested to track near-Earth objects.

Salvation 'cheap'

Mr Opik wants to see the number of observing telescopes increased.

"It's all about lead time. If we have ten, 20 or 30 years' notice we can
probably save the planet.

"If we have six months' notice we couldn't even evacuate a continent,"
he said.

The British Government enjoys access to some of the leading astronomers
in the world on this subject.

"Why don't we show the world the lead in what is a cheap way to save the
planet?" said Mr Opik.

Copyright 2002, BBC

============
(12) ASTEROID TO HIT MOTHER EARTH? TOO EARLY TO CRY HELP, SAYS RUSSIAN
EXPERT
 
>From Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

[ http://en.rian.ru/rian/index.cfm?prd_id=160&msg_id=2610684 ]
Wednesday, July 24, 2002, 23:41  19:41 GMT

By Eduard Puzyrev

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) -- It is too early to steep the human race
in anguish as an asteroid discovered two weeks ago may allegedly
collide with Earth, expert Alexander Zaitsev said to RIA Novosti
to comment Western-based media outlets' panicky reports.

Asteroid 2002 NT7, which US astronomers discovered, July 9, does
not necessarily offer global danger. "It is ridiculous to make
such far-going conclusions after the object has been observed
for a mere 15 days. Similar sensations spring up all too often --
only to be dispelled by scientific analyses," remarked our
interviewee.

Zaitsev doubts forecasts of the disaster day -- February 1, 2019,
which appears too precise to be true. Supporting his scepticism
are other forecasts by several astronomers in the West. Some
insist on 2035, others on 2055, though all agree on February 1
as Doomsday.

Though the orbits of all 15,000 asteroids discovered for today
have been thoroughly checked, Mr. Zaitsev thinks Europe direly
needs a powerful radiotelescope.

"The USA has two such radars, and it has recently discovered
and explored 188 asteroids. We Europeans are hard put rivalling
American scholars, what with their superior technological basis,"
he confessed.

Only a miserable few asteroids have been discovered by a team he
leads, added Mr. Zaitsev.

An international conference on asteroid, comet and meteorite
research will gather in Berlin, July 27 into August 4. The
researcher will address it with a communication to call for a
huge radiotelescope in Europe.

Alexander Zaitsev, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, chief staff
researcher of the Moscow-based Institute of Radioelectronics
under the Russian Academy of Sciences, is leading Russian expert
on radar studies of heavenly bodies.

© 2002 RIA Novosti

--------------------------------------------------------------------
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The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be
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opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the articles and texts and
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beliefs and viewpoints of the moderator of this network.
 


*

CCNet 89/2002 - 25 July  2002
-----------------------------


(1) THE WORLD ENDS ON FEB 1 2019 (POSSIBLY)
    The Daily Telegraph, 25 July 2002

(2) ASTEROID COULD MEAN END TO LIFE AS WE KNOW IT...BUT IT'S 60,000 TO ONE
    The Guardian, 25 July 2002

(3) MILE-WIDE ASTEROID HEADING TOWARDS EARTH POSES GREATEST THREAT YET,
    SCIENTISTS WARN
    The Independent, 25 July 2002

(4) PAIR OF ASTEROIDS PUT ASTRONOMERS ON ALERT
    The Boston Herald, 25 July 2002

(5) 'USE' NUKE TO NUDGE ASTEROID
    Herald Sun, 25 July 2002

(6) FOR THE RECORD: 1950 DA WAS FIRST +PALERMO SCALE OBJECT
    Jon Giorgini <jdg@tycho.jpl.nasa.gov>

(7) ASTEROID THREAT: ASK DR DAVID WHITEHOUSE
    BBC News Online, 24 July 2002, 15:47 GMT 

(8) IT'S THE SILLY SEASON: THE TIMES CAN SEE FUNNY SIDE OF IMPACTS
    The Times, 25 July 2002

(9) AND FINALLY: A DATE WITH AN ASTEROID 
     The Scotsman, 25 July 2002

(10) UNDER THE BOTTOMLINE: "I'LL PLANET SO I GET LOTS OF SEX" :-)
     The Sun (London), 25 July 2002

==========
(1) THE WORLD ENDS ON FEB 1 2019 (POSSIBLY)

>From The Daily Telegraph, 25 July 2002
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=%2Fnews%2F2002%2F07%2F25%2Fwdoom25.xml

Scientists have detected a giant asteroid heading towards Earth. It
could wipe out humanity, but it could miss us altogether. David
Derbyshire explains

Scientists had good news yesterday for people concerned about how long
their pensions will last. The world could quite possibly end anyway on
Feb 1, 2019.

Astronomers say a huge asteroid is scheduled to crash into the Earth at
11.47am on that day.

If it does it would wipe out an entire continent, plunge the world into
a nuclear winter and take humanity to the brink of extinction.

However, as seasoned asteroid story watchers will have realised, there
is a catch. The odds that the world will end in 17 years' time, were
last night estimated to be one in 75,000 and rising.

That compares with the one in 10,000 chances of a person being killed in
a car crash in any one year, and the one in 100,000 chances of being
murdered. The odds of winning the national lottery jackpot are one in 14
million.

With astronomers taking an increased interest in the threat of
near-Earth objects, doomsday asteroids are cropping up with alarming
regularity.

In February, astronomers discovered another potential threat called 2002
CU11.

Initially, the chances of it hitting the Earth in 2049 were put at a
disturbing one in 9,000. But as more observations were made over the
following weeks, the risk of a collision fell to zero.

The latest armageddon rock is called 2002 NT7 and is likely to suffer
the same fate.

It was first seen on July 9 by Nasa and the US Airforce's Linear
Observatory in New Mexico. Since then, scientists at Nasa and Pisa
University in Italy have carried out orbit calculations every day.

They now believe that it orbits the sun every 837 days, travels in a
tilted orbit between Mars and Earth and is between 0.6 and 2.5 miles
across.

Preliminary calculations suggest that it will come close to the Earth in
2019. If it collides, its impact velocity on the Earth would be 18 miles
a second - enough to wipe out a continent and throw up enough dust to
block out the Sun, bringing devastation to the world's food supply.

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons, of Queen's University Belfast and a scientist with
the National Space Centre, said: "Since it was first discovered it has
only moved across a small fraction of the sky. Although we know roughly
where it is going, its orbit needs to be refined.

"The orbit has been calculated every day, but we need another few weeks
before we can get a precise orbit."

Yesterday morning the probability that it would collide with the Earth
was one in 60,000. But by the end of the day, when a new set of
observations had come in, the odds against a collision had risen to one
in 75,000.

Dr Simon Mitton, an astronomer at Cambridge University, said:
"Astronomers have been making major efforts to find near Earth
asteroids. A pattern is developing with these in that sometimes the
initial observations of a new object appear to indicate that it is on
collision course with the Earth.

"But subsequent observations allow the orbit to be more carefully
refined and we usually then find that the asteroid is not a threat. The
likelihood is that NT7 will turn out to be one that misses the Earth by
quite a large margin.

"However, this does underscore the need to develop vigorous and vigilant
observation programmes in order to discover all objects of this class
which might be a threat."

Objects the size of NT7 only hit the Earth every one or two million
years.

Dr Benny Peiser, an anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University
who has written about the influence of asteroids on human evolution,
said he was confident that the risk of doomsday was low.

"In the worst case scenario, a disaster of this size would be global in
its extent, would create a meltdown of our economic and social life, and
would reduce us to Dark Age conditions," he said.

The dangers of NT7 have yet to be reviewed by the International
Astronomical Union, the main international body responsible for
announcing such risks. Dr Peiser said NT7 would continue to be monitored
by space experts across the world.

"In all likelihood, in a couple of months additional observations will
eliminate this object from the list of potential impacts," Dr Peiser
said.

"I am very confident that additional observations over time will show
that it is actually not on a collision course with Earth."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2002.

===============
(2) ASTEROID COULD MEAN END TO LIFE AS WE KNOW IT...BUT IT'S 60,000
    TO ONE

>From The Guardian, 25 July 2002
Tim Radford Science editor

Astronomers set a new date for the end of civilisation yesterday. They
warned that a direct hit from a newly discovered asteroid called 2002
NT7 on February 1 2019, could cause continent wide destruction and
severely alter the global climate.

The lump of space rock, estimated between two and four kilometres in
diameter, could hit Earth at an estimated speed of 26kms a second and
release the energy of around a million megatons of TNT - enough to
trigger catastrophe.

Experts identified it as by far the most dangerous asteroid yet
discovered. Its orbit is being recalculated once a day in three
different parts of the globe to determine whether it will miss Earth,
and if so by how much.

"Today, calculations show a one in 60,000 chance that the asteroid will
strike the Earth," said Alan Fitzsimmons, of Queen's University,
Belfast, and a scientist at the near earth objects (NEO) information
centre at the National Space Centre in Leicester.

The asteroid was spotted by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, using US air force telescopes at Socorro, New Mexico.

Near-Earth objects, sometimes called minor planets, or asteroids, or
comets, are the jokers in the pack of the solar system.

The moon and other planetary surfaces are pock-marked by a procession of
asteroid and comet collisions over billions of years. The Earth's
injuries have been wiped away by wind, rain and foliage.

Experts are identifying potentially menacing visitors at the rate of one
a day - almost 400 a year.

"If a mile wide object smashed into the Earth, it would cause
earthquakes, fires, a nuclear winter and tidal waves which would
obliterate seven out of every 10 living things on the planet," said
Lembit Opik, Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire, who has campaigned
for government action on the cosmic menace.

"We live in a cosmic 10 pin bowling alley, where the asteroids are the
balls and the Earth one of the pins. An unlucky strike could be curtains
for humans."

Ironically, even before astronomers could put a more accurate value on
the hazard of 2002 NT7, they had another potential lump of cosmic
artillery to think about - 2002 NY40, first spotted 10 days ago, is
likely to whizz past the Earth on August 18.

It will certainly miss by a wide margin, but it should be bright enough
to be seen with binoculars or a backyard telescope. However, there is a
one in 500,000 chance that it will return and hit the Earth on August
18, 2022.

Asteroids of less than 50 metres burn up in the atmosphere. Bigger
objects hit the planet every 250 years - one famously levelled thousands
of square miles of Siberian forest in 1908.

A 10km or larger object hit the Earth around 65 million years ago, and
may have wiped out the dinosaurs.

Experts calculate that a 3km asteroid could gouge a crater 60km across,
and destroy an area the size of Mexico, or India, killing a billion or
more.

"You can't blame people for getting the impression that Earth is in some
cosmic shooting gallery. But the upside of these discoveries is what we
need to focus on," said Alex Barnett of the NEO information centre at
Leicester.

"Because this issue is being taken seriously we are gaining a better
understanding all the time of where these objects are and whether any of
them pose a risk."

Copyright 2002, The Guardian

==============
(3) MILE-WIDE ASTEROID HEADING TOWARDS EARTH POSES GREATEST THREAT YET,
    SCIENTISTS WARN

>From The Independent, 25 July 2002
http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=318132

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor

An asteroid more than a mile wide is heading for earth, posing the
greatest threat yet by an object approaching the planet, scientists have
warned.

The asteroid - called 2002 NT7 - was spotted only three weeks ago, but
could strike on 1 February 2019, the US space agency Nasa said. Itis the
first asteroid to rank positive on Nasa's Palermo scale, which combines
the urgency of the object's threat with its potential effect. All other
known objects have had negative values.

Benny Peiser of John Moores University in Liverpool said the 1.2
mile-wide object had become "the most threatening object" in the short
history of asteroid detection.

Gerrit Verschuur, an astrophysicist and radio astronomer at Rhodes
College in Memphis, Tennessee, said the impact would create a fireball
so intense it would kill anyone who could see it, after which material
thrown into the air would shower half the world with flaming debris. "It
would be as if the sky itself had caught fire," he said.

The heat would set fire to forests and cities, after which dust would
fill the atmosphere, obscuring the sun for a month. That in turn would
kill plants and animals, so that only creatures that lived underground
would have a strong chance of survival.

But there are still large uncertainties about the asteroid's orbit. Dr
Andrew Coates of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in London said:
"Most likely it will not hit us, but it's the highest-risk of any object
that we know of at the moment." But Donald Yeomans of Nasa told the BBC
that the margin of error in the predicted orbit might be "several tens
of millions of kilometres".

Professor David Hughes of Sheffield University's astronomy department
said: "They have too few figures to be able to predict this yet. They've
only seen it for three weeks, when its orbit takes three years. The
errors in the orbit they've calculated are sure to be huge.

"The more important question, though, is what they would do if they find
it is going to hit the earth. Do you blow it up? Deflect it? Finding out
the best way to do that could take a decade."

Spaceguard UK, which aims to raise public awareness of the threat from
asteroids, and other astronomers have called for more funding to study
how "earth-crossing" asteroids might be deflected.

In 1908, a comet estimated to be about 230ft (70 metres) wide hit
Tunguska in Siberia with the force of a 12-megaton atom bomb. Had it
entered the atmosphere four hours earlier, it would have hit London.
Such impacts could occur once every century, astronomers predict.

Preventing an impact would require a rocket to be launched while the
asteroid was still distant, to deflect its path by hitting it or
breaking it up by detonating an atomic weapon. But that would require
years of forward planning and precise knowledge of the object's path.

The asteroid is one of about 450 objects known to pose a threat to the
earth because their elliptical orbits - which can take decades to
complete - intersect the Earth's

Copyright 2002, The Independent

=============
(4) PAIR OF ASTEROIDS PUT ASTRONOMERS ON ALERT

>From The Boston Herald, 25 July 2002
http://www2.bostonherald.com/news/international/aste07252002.htm

by Jules Crittenden


Two massive asteroids spotted for the first time only weeks ago will
make a series of close passes with the potential danger of hitting Earth
during the coming century.

Current orbits for the asteroids known as 2002 NT7 and 2002 NY40 show
them missing Earth. But those projections may change as more
observations are made and better orbits are calculated, astronomers say.

``People will be observing very carefully. Hopefully within a few weeks
we can get to the point where we can dismiss the possibility,'' said
Gareth Williams of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He
added that he is not too worried yet. ``I'm not digging a deep mineshaft
. . . The earth is really a small target.

The two-kilometer-wide NT7, discovered July 7, is projected to pass only
30,000 miles from Earth on Feb. 1, 2019, he said. While impact is
considered unlikely, a conservative margin of error in the present
calculation means the asteroid's path could vary by 90,000 miles, making
Earth a potential target. NT7 is expected to make four other close
passes between 2044 and 2078, in which the exact path remains
undetermined.

Asteroid 2002 NY40, discovered only July 14, has a close pass coming up
next month, when it will pass just outside the moon's orbit. Late on
Aug. 17 and early Aug. 18, it will be visible with binoculars or
telescopes in New England's southern sky, Williams said. Passing about
330,000 miles away, it poses no danger, but the nearly kilometer-wide
object is believed to be the largest asteroid to come this close since
astronomers have been watching.

The precise paths of NY40's 12 projected near-Earth passes between 2022
and 2046 have not been determined, although the probability of an impact
is not now considered high, Williams said.

Both asteroids were spotted by MIT's Lincoln Labs LINEAR team in New
Mexico, part of a NASA-sponsored network of telescopes searching for
asteroids and comets that might hit Earth. This fall, a NASA conference
will consider what should be done if an Earth-targeting object is
spotted, said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near Earth Object program.

Both objects could cause massive explosions - the equivalent of tens of
millions of megatons of TNT - similar to an ancient impact believed to
have killed off the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The blasts would
probably kill millions of people, plants and animals immediately, while
others would be forced to try to survive a so-called nuclear winter
under a thick ash cloud.

Copyright 2002, The Boston Herald

=============
(5) 'USE' NUKE TO NUDGE ASTEROID

>From Herald Sun, 25 July 2002
http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,4773170%255E421,00.html
 
AN asteroid, which could hit the Earth in 17 years, should be blown away
with a nuclear weapon, an Australian astronomer has said.

If left untouched the asteroid could plummet to Earth, causing tidal
waves and mayhem.

The best way to ensure it was diverted was to put a nuclear weapon
beside it and blow it out of orbit, Stromlo Observatory astronomer Vince
Ford said today.

Scientists are still trying to determine whether the asteroid, known by
NASA as 2002 NT7, will hit the Earth in 2019.

NASA says it is still too early to tell whether the remote possibility
will become more likely.

Experts will have a clearer picture soon.

"As new observations come in, the situation will evolve in the next days
and, as usual, either the probability associated with this object will
go up somewhat, or, more probably, it will disappear," NASA said on its
website.

Dr Ford said nudging it with a stockpiled nuclear weapon could help
alleviate the problem for 1,000 years.

"That'd be the way to do it," Dr Ford told the Seven Network.

"Forget sending Brucie Willis up to drill into it and blow it into small
bits, that's unlikely to work.

"No what you do is put a nuke along side the thing and blow it
sideways...(a) use for some of the stockpile."

Dr Ford's solution echoes the plot of the movie Armageddon in which
Bruce Willis starred as an oil driller who landed on an Earth-bound
asteroid the size of Texas to insert nuclear charges to blow it up.

The movie had an 18-day time frame, but there was much more time to deal
with 2002 NT7, Dr Ford said.

"You've got 17 years to think of how to do it but basically what you do
is rendezvous with it, blow something alongside it, kick it off onto a
different track," he said.

2002 NT7 is a chunk of rock four kilometres across.

"Now if that hits remember you've not just got the 20 kilometres per
second movement of the asteroid, you've got the Earth coming the other
way at 30km per second," Dr Ford said.

"You drop a chunk of iron travelling at 50km per second onto anything,
you've got troubles.

"Let's say it hit anywhere in Europe, the whole of Europe would be well,
in deep trouble.

"Worst thing of course is if it hit the ocean.

"If this thing hit the Pacific Ocean anywhere, the whole of the Pacific
rim would go, tidal waves, whatever.

"It might be the only time it's good to live in Canberra, in fact."

Copyright 2002, Herald Sun

=================
(6) FOR THE RECORD: 1950 DA WAS FIRST +PALERMO SCALE OBJECT

>From Jon Giorgini <jdg@tycho.jpl.nasa.gov>

The news item on your web-site (and CCNet headline) identified 2002 NT7
as the first-ever positive Palermo Scale rating. For the record, 1950 DA
was flagged when it produced a +0.17 value as described in the peer-
reviewed 5 April 2002 journal Science (and CCNet at the time). 

That situation remains unchanged and may indefinately, with the
uncertainty region being based on radar observations and optical data
spanning 51 years.

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/1950da/

Regards,
-------
Jon Giorgini                       |  Navigation & Mission Design
Section
Senior Engineer                    |  Solar System Dynamics Group
Jon.Giorgini@jpl.nasa.gov          |  Jet Propulsion Laboratory
------------------------------------------------------------------------

===========
(7) ASTEROID THREAT: ASK DR DAVID WHITEHOUSE

>From BBC News Online, 24 July 2002, 15:47 GMT 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/forum/2148798.stm
 
An asteroid discovered just weeks ago has become the most threatening
object yet detected in space.

A preliminary orbit suggests that 2002 NT7 is on an impact course with
Earth and could strike the planet on 1 February, 2019 - although the
uncertainties are large.

Astronomers have given the object a rating on the so-called Palermo
technical scale of threat of 0.06, making NT7 the first object to be
given a positive value.

Although astronomers say the object definitely merits attention, they
expect more observations to show it is not on an Earth-intersecting
trajectory.

How much of a threat does the asteroid pose to Earth? When will
astronomers know more about the asteroid?

BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse answered a selection
of your questions on the asteroid threat. His answers appear below.

------
Do we currently possess the technical ability to destroy or divert this
rock if, after more precise calculation, it turns out to be pointed
straight at us?
Julian Morrison, Banbury, England

Scientists have many ideas about how they could try to deflect an
asteroid such as exploding a nuclear device to push it to one side, or
putting a long-lasting rocket engine of some sort on one side to give it
a small but constant push. They might even consider blowing it up
completely if they could be sure it would shatter into really small
pieces that would burn up in the Earth's atmosphere. But it would be
fair to say that no one knows if these methods would work in principle.
However, with over a decade to do it, and with the resources that
mankind could muster - if it's survival at stake then the incentive
would be great.

Would the world be completely destroyed if the asteroid hit?
Mathilda Lückner, Mariedal, Sweden

Not this one. 2002 NT7 is only 2 km across which at impact velocity of
28 km per second would devastate a medium-sized country. Something about
20 km in size could devastate a continent whereas anything that measures
200 km across would pack enough energy to completely melt the Earth's
surface rocks.

Assuming that further observations confirm that the object will indeed
strike the Earth on the 1st of February 2019, what can realistically be
done to destroy or deflect the object given the number of years we have
before the impact?
Sasha Sharpley, Albufeira, Portugal

It is very unlikely that 2002 NT7 will strike the Earth. More knowledge
of its orbit is bound to confirm that it will miss us by quite a long
way. But if it didn't we would have to act very quickly. After all the
US managed to put a man on the moon inside a decade, so we can do such
things when inspired to.

Do you know which continent of the earth would be struck?
Trevisen, Johannesburg, South Africa

No, the prediction for the objects trajectory is not that accurate.

I have heard of other asteroids which were not detected years earlier
having 'near misses' with Earth. Apparently, one nearly hit us a month
or two ago. Would you not consider a hit from an 'undetected' asteroid a
greater risk than one that may not strike for years? Why are our sensors
and telescopes not able to detect all incoming objects of a certain
size?
Nancy Beiman, Savannah USA

Asteroid experts say that at long last the problem of surveying the sky
for threatening objects is being tackled but there are regions of the
sky, from where an object could threaten us, that remain under-surveyed.
It is true that given this scrutiny astronomers are finding more objects
that pass close by, and realising that some objects went by unnoticed in
the past. Experts say this is a good thing as it means we are more aware
of what is moving around out there.

When will we receive confirmation of whether this asteroid is on course
to collide with us?
Kalle Eskelinen, Espoo, Finland

This asteroid will be easily visible for the next 18 months or so, so a
precise orbit for it should only be a few weeks away.

What do we know about the composition of this asteroid? Do we know if it
is a solid body, or a looser collection of rocks held together by
gravity? If it is on course to strike the Earth, then I assume knowledge
of its composition will be crucial in devising any counter measures. Can
we investigate it with either ground or space-based radar?
John Franklin, London, UK

You are right, knowledge of the density of the asteroid is crucial. The
space probe that landed on asteroid Eros in 2000 showed that Eros's
density was about the same as that of the Earth's crust whereas asteroid
Mathide which the NEAR space probe passed in 1997 seems to be a loose
rubble pile. It would be easier to blow up a rubble pile.

Assuming a close scrape rather than an impact occurs, how close would it
have to be for us to feel some "peripheral" effects, and what would some
of those effects be?
Rob Billeaud, Duluth, Georgia, USA

A space rock just 2 km in size would only affect us if it struck us or
glanced through the atmosphere. Anything else and it would have no
affect.

Is there proof that an asteroid has made impact with Earth in the past?
Joseph McLaughlin, Belfast Ireland

The evidence that the Earth's geological history has been punctuated in
the past by giant impacts that wiped out a great deal of life and
redirected evolution is overwhelming. Unmistakable chemical traces have
been found at the geological layer of the time when the dinosaurs were
wiped out 67 million years ago.

=============
(8) IT'S THE SILLY SEASON: THE TIMES CAN SEE FUNNY SIDE OF IMPACTS

>From The Times, 25 July 2002
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,542-364787,00.html

Leading article

Lucky strike: An asteroid may be more an opportunity than a disaster
 
The end of the world is nigh. On February 1, 2019, a two-kilometre
expanse of rock will collide with the Earth at a speed of 28 kilometres
a second, releasing 750 million times as much energy as the explosion at
Hiroshima and with a force equivalent to 1.1 million megatonnes of TNT.
It will rip a gulf larger than Britain in the world's surface,
devastating a continent with aftershocks, and generating tsunamis,
colossal infernos and a nuclear winter.

Mankind will be catapulted back to a social and economic dark age. The
ruins of the globe's once great civilisations will be but the poignant
and dilapidating backdrop for a race reduced to subsistence. Humanity
will relinquish those qualities that made it humane: charitableness,
creativity, reality TV. Wolves will once again stalk the plains of
Europe, pizza delivery will be a thing of the past, and cockroaches will
take their rightful place as the dominant species.

If you believe this dire scenario, then you have rocks in your head. The
2002 NT7 asteroid is destined to be a non-hit wonder, not even requiring
scientists to knock it off course with a carefully aimed nuclear
missile. The asteroid will in fact miss the Earth by 32,000 miles, or
four times its diameter at the Equator - in the world of asteroids,
apparently, a very near miss. The likelihood of actual impact is 1 in
500,000. The fact that this eventuality is many times more likely than
an individual winning the lottery jackpot is more of an indictment of
Camelot than an immediate cause for concern.

As The War of the Worlds anthem asserted, "The chances of anything
coming from Mars/ Are a million to one, but still they come" - the
"they" in question being silly seasonal stories about asteroids. For the
summer parliamentary recess has not officially begun until a scandal has
erupted over the Prime Minister's holiday arrangements and Lembit Opik,
MP, has shaken a choppy finger and wailed: "We're all doomed."

The key to managing expectations concerning a forthcoming apocalypse
would be in viewing the prospect as a glass not so much half empty as
half full.

Society's most decadent excesses would be abruptly curtailed, ensuring
the demise of spin-doctors, pop idols, public relations officers and
Channel 4. Farmers would be given the respect they deserve, and the
debate over hunting decided in one fell swoop.

Children would be liberated from the tyranny of book learning and league
tables and revealed as the ravenous, feral little scavengers their
elders know them to be. And politicians would finally be forced to
confront the material fact that they are unable to reinvent the wheel.
 
Copyright 2002 Times Newspapers Ltd.
 
=============
(9) AND FINALLY: A DATE WITH AN ASTEROID 

>From The Scotsman, 25 July 2002
http://news.scotsman.com/leaders.cfm?id=800282002

1 FEBRUARY is not a very exciting date in history, but still a little
sinister. In 1783, France declared war on Britain. In 1840, America got
its first college of dentistry. In 1851, Mary Shelley, the author of
Frankenstein, died aged 53. In 1861, Texas voted to secede from the US,
helping stimulate the Civil War. In 1908, King Carlos I of Portugal was
assassinated. In 1942, Vidkun Quisling became prime minister of Norway.
In 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile to take over Iran.
And in 1991, an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale hit
Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing 1,200 people. There were lighter
moments: on 1 February, 1940, Frank Sinatra sang The Sky Fell Down
during his first ever sound recording, kicking of a great career.

On the other hand, it looks as if the sky might really fall down on 1
February, 2019. For that is the date when newly-discovered asteroid 2002
NTZ is predicted to collide with Earth. From its brightness, astronomers
estimate it is about two kilometres wide, large enough to cause
continent-wide devastation. The last big one to hit, in 1908, let off a
15-megaton bang, but it transpires that one was hollow. This one is full
of iron. Maybe it's time to recall another classic Sinatra song: Where
or When?

Copyright 2002, The Scotsman

=============
(10) UNDER THE BOTTOMLINE: "I'LL PLANET SO I GET LOTS OF SEX" :-)

>From The Sun (London), 25 July 2002

By Andrew Parker

A teenager who could die on his 33rd birthday if the asteroid hits Earth
vowed last night to bed as many girls as he can by then.

Paul Tonks, 16, said he aimed to travel the world between now and
February 1, 2019. The lad, from Birmingham, is due to start his A-levels
in September and has not had a serious girlfriend yet.

But he said: "I've always been a bit careful. Now I'm going to enjoy
myself.

"I'm going to start smoking, drink as much as I can and sleep with as
many girls as will let me.

"I haven't had many girlsfriends but that's going to change." He added:
"It's not fair that the asteroid would have to hit on my birthday.

"I've only had 16. I'm certainly going to make the best of the next 16."

Copyright 2002, The Sun

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