PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet SPECIAL 90/2001 - 20 August 2001: UK GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT ON NEO
CENTRE
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
----


"The government is setting up the innovative research and education
centre to better inform the public about the possible effects of
asteroid impacts. Science minister Lord Sainsbury believes that
reassurances will be given that the chances of disaster are "very remote",
thanks to the new National Asteroid and Comet Information Centre."
        --BBC News Online, 19 August 2001


    "Museums and other public information bodies will be asked today to
submit bids to run the centre. The Government will provide 250,000 to
cover the cost of the centre during its first three years, after
which it will have to be self-financing."
      --David Brown, The Independent, 20 August 2001


"I am delighted by the announcement of the centre. My concern is
that this will be a wonderful shop window but the shop will be empty if
the other recommendations are not carried out. At present there are
more people working in a standard Marks & Spencer store than
detecting asteroids around the world."
        --Jonathan Tate, Spaceguard UK, 20 August 2001


"Dr Peiser said he had reservations about what kind of information
the planned centre would release to the public. It will include an
interactive public exhibition to explain how asteroids and comets are
formed and what might happen if one hit the earth. On its website, the
British National Space Centre (BNSC) which will commission the information
centre, says the successful contractor will have to "accept some
limitations on its freedom to promote views on space policy". In
particular, it specifies information on near-earth objects, saying it
should not be in contradiction with the Government's view."
--Julia Holmes, Daily Post, 20 August 2001


"Scientists argue that detecting asteroids early is not just an
academic exercise. The dinosaurs were powerless to help themselves, but the
development of rockets and nuclear bombs means that humans might be
able to destroy or divert asteroids that are heading for
Earth before they strike."
        --Eben Black, Chief Political Correspondent, The Sunday
Times, 19 August 2001



(1) NEAR EARTH OBJECT (NEO) INFORMATION CENTRE
    British National Space Centre (BNSC)

(2) RESEARCH CENTRE TO HOME IN ON COMETS AND ASTEROIDS
    Press Association, 19 August 2001

(3) "EARTH HAS LITTLE TO FEAR, NEW ASTEROID CENTRE WILL SAY"
    BBC News Online, 19 August 2001

(4) NEW HOPE FOR CITY ASTEROID HUNTERS
    Daily Post, 20 August 2001

(5) BRITAIN'S ASTEROID DEFENCE STATION GOES AHEAD
    The Sunday Times, 19 August 2001

(6) CENTRE TO INFORM PUBLIC ON RISK OF ASTEROID HITS
    The Independent, 20 August 2001

(7) MINISTER PLANS 'ARMAGEDDON' SCIENCE CENTRE
    The Sunday Mail, 19 August 2001

(8) METEOROID RIPS THROUGH COLORADO NIGHT SKY
    Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

(9) DID ASTEROID HELP DINOSAURS RULE EARTH?
    Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

(10) JULY 23 FIREBALL
     BBC News Online, 18 August 2001

(11) INCORRECT QUOTE CREDIT IN CCNet 89/2001
     Robin Canup <robin@boulder.swri.edu>

(12) DOUBTS AND QUESTIONS REGARDING THE IMPACT THEORY OF LUNAR ORIGIN
     Fred Singer <singer@sepp.org>

(13) INTERNATIONAL PLANETARY PROTECTION (PP) WORKSHOP
     Andy Smith <astrosafe@yahoo.com>

(14) TSUNAMI BOOK & COSMOS DVD NOW AVAILABLE
     Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

(15) UNIFORM CATASTROPHISM
     Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

(16) AND FINALLY: THE OLDEST STORY ON THE PLANET
     The Guardian, 18 August 2001


===============
(1) NEAR EARTH OBJECT (NEO) INFORMATION CENTRE

>From the British National Space Centre (BNSC)
http://www.bnsc.gov.uk/index.cfm?nid=11969

The BNSC is pleased to announce the release of a Statement of Work related
to the setting up of a Near Earth Object (NEO) Information Centre. We would
expect bids to cover the range of work described but do not necessarily
expect a single site for all the work envisaged. Some of the detailed
activities related to the www site may need one of the listed (or other)
Universities to provide the service currently undertaken by BNSC and
QinetiQ.  The site www.nearearthobjects.co.uk is written in Cold Fusion and
thus already set up for ease of update.

In the light of the agreed structure of the selected bid the contract placed
by BNSC will contain text to make clear the relationship between the Centre
and BNSC both during the time covered by the contract and afterwards. The
contractor will accept some limitations on its freedom to promote views on
space policy, and particularly on the hazard presented by NEOs, in
particular if these should be in direct contradiction of those of the
Government (sic). 

The effectiveness criteria for the planned work will be based on the final
mix of activities proposed but will involve target figures related to the
different audiences addressed by the program of information transfer. For
any www related aspects of the work we would expect a 50 to 100% increase in
the base access rate from distinct internet addresses and for exhibit
visitors clear evidence of an understanding of the NEO position either from
general surveys and questionnaires that may be used by the institution from
time to time or from the use of related audio visual resources where
follow-up accesses and Q&A can be logged. For the teaching packs the
audience would depend on the share of the funding devoted to the area which
if internet based could be measured by the server statistics for that region
of the site or if larger mixed media packs for non electronic distribution
by the number dispatched and evidence of feedback from participating schools
and colleges (possibly by integrating the pack with an internet based
activity). During implementation and operation the relevant statistics will
be monitored and analysed on a three monthly basis. Access to web server
statistics should be made available to BNSC via password control. 

While the Statement of Work makes a number of suggestions as to how the
centre could operate we are open to bids that achieve the overall goal of
information dissemination to a broad audience with the range of issues that
need to be covered.  Achieving the objectives in a cost-effective manner
will form part of the bid assessment. 

Bids should be returned to BNSC by Monday 1 October 2001

=======================
(2) RESEARCH CENTRE TO HOME IN ON COMETS AND ASTEROIDS

>From the Press Association, 19 August 2001
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_377979.html?menu=news.scienceanddiscovery

The Government is to set up a research and education centre to inform the
public on the true risk of an asteroid strike on Earth.

Scientists believe that the cosmic bodies may have been responsible for
wiping out the dinosaurs.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury believes the centre will be able to reassure
the public that the chances of a real-life disaster are "very remote".

Museums and other public information bodies will this week be asked to
submit bids to run the National Asteroid and Comet Information Centre.

It forms part of the Government's response to recommendations made last year
by its Near Earth Object Task Force.

The Government wants the centre to provide a fully interactive exhibition,
website and information packs providing information on the comparative risk
of asteroid strikes, compared to other hazards, and the potential for damage
if the Earth was hit.

Lord Sainsbury said: "There are currently no known large asteroids or comets
whose orbit puts them on collision course with the Earth, but while the risk
of being hit is very remote, the potential for damage exists.

"I believe it is important that information on asteroids or comets can be
made available to the public and hope that organisations will be able to
respond positively to our call for proposals."

Space objects larger than 50 metres in diameter strike the Earth less than
once every century, with the last known major asteroid impact occurring in
Siberia in 1908, when thousands of square kilometres of forest were
flattened.

Copyright 2001, Ananova

===============
(3) "EARTH HAS LITTLE TO FEAR, NEW ASTEROID CENTRE WILL SAY"

>From the BBC News Online, 19 August 2001
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1498000/1498622.stm

CENTRE TO STUDY ASTEROID THREAT

The Earth has little to fear, new research centre will say

The potential risk of catastrophe from an asteroid striking the Earth will
be explored at a new interactive science centre.

The government is setting up the innovative research and education centre to
better inform the public about the possible effects of asteroid impacts.

Science minister Lord Sainsbury believes that reassurances will be given
that the chances of disaster are "very remote", thanks to the new National
Asteroid and Comet Information Centre.

Comets are balls of ice and dust
 
This week museums and public information bodies will have the chance to say
why they should run the centre.

Scientists believe that the cosmic bodies may have been responsible for
wiping out the dinosaurs.

The initiative is part of the government's response to recommendations made
last year by its Near Earth Object Task Force.

The centre will provide a fully interactive exhibition, website and
information packs on the comparative risk of asteroid strikes, compared to
other hazards, and the potential for damage if the Earth was hit.

Collision course

Lord Sainsbury said: "There are currently no known large asteroids or comets
whose orbit puts them on collision course with the Earth, but while the risk
of being hit is very remote, the potential for damage exists.

"I believe it is important that information on asteroids or comets can be
made available to the public and hope that organisations will be able to
respond positively to our call for proposals."

Space objects larger than 50 metres in diameter strike the Earth less than
once every century.

The last known major asteroid impact happened in Siberia in 1908, when
thousands of square kilometres of forest were flattened.

Copyright 2001, BBC

=============
(4) NEW HOPE FOR CITY ASTEROID HUNTERS

>From Daily Post, 20 August 2001

By Julia Holmes

Liverpool astronomers are hopeful plans for a national information and
research centre on asteroids if the first step towards a 10m telescope to
protect the Earth being built in the city.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury will this week invite museums and
astronomical observatories to submit tenders to build the multi-million
pound centre as part of the Government's response to recommendations made
last year by the Near Earth Object Task Force.

One of the main recommendations of the task force was to build a giant
telescope as part of an early warning system to detect asteroids on a
collision course with earth.

Liverpool John Moores University would be among the front runners to build
such a telescope through its subsidiary, Telescope Technologies Ltd.

Spaceguard UK, the group lobbying the Government to commission JMU to build
the telescope, yesterday welcomed news of the centre.

Spokesman Benny Peiser, who is a researcher at JMU, said although the
university would not be tendering for the centre, it could pave the way for
the telescope project receiving the Government go-ahead.

He said: "JMU is not known to be a centre for asteroid research but
obviously the centre will have strong implications for the future of the
recommended telescope. The centre is mainly to do with research on asteroids
and information, not about observing asteroids.

"I think it is a move in the right direction to start with such a research
centre, but it won't make any sense unless the Government is prepared to
fund a telescope to search for asteroids."

Dr Peiser said he had reservations about what kind of information the
planned centre would release to the public. It will include an interactive
public exhibition to explain how asteroids and comets are formed and what
might happen if one hit the earth.

On its website, the British National Space Centre (BNSC) which will
commission the information centre, says the successful contractor will have
to "accept some limitations on its freedom to promote views on space
policy". In particular, it specifies information on near-earth objects,
saying it should not be in contradiction with the Government's view.

Dr Peiser said the centre appeared to be politically rather than
scientifically motivated and was a threat to academic freedom. Dr Peiser
said: "It is the first time I have read in connection with scientific
research that researchers are told they can not say what they find unless it
conforms with the Government's view.

"We are extremely worried about this kind of censoring of academic or
scientific research. It is clearly a sign that they only want to send out
those messages they deem politically correct and that is a worrying
development."

Lord Sainsbury said yesterday: "There are no known large asteroids or comets
whose orbit puts them on a collision course with the Earth but while the
risk of being hit is very remote, the potential for damage exists.

"I believe it is important that information on asteroids or comets can be
made available to the public and hope that organisations will be able to
respond positively to our call for proposals."

Copyright 2001, Daily Post

===============
(5) BRITAIN'S ASTEROID DEFENCE STATION GOES AHEAD

>From The Sunday Times, 19 August 2001
http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/

Eben Black, Chief Political Correspondent
 
MORE than 65m years after a disaster from space probably wiped out the
dinosaurs, the government is proposing a national research centre to protect
mankind from the same fate.

Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, will launch a competition this week
for the contract to build a centre to research and explain the danger of
human life being snuffed out by a giant asteroid. Museums and astronomical
observatories will be invited to submit tenders to build
and house the new multi-million-pound centre.

Dinosaurs are thought to have been wiped out after a huge asteroid hit
Earth, and scientists are concerned that further asteroid strikes present a
similar risk to humans. Encouraged by the government, which has set up its
own "near-Earth objects task force", they are already
scanning the skies in an attempt to identify killer rocks that might be
heading in our direction.

"There are currently no known large asteroids or comets whose orbit puts
them on a collision course with Earth, but while the risk of being hit is
very remote, the potential for damage exists," said Sainsbury. "It is
important that information on asteroids or comets can be made available to
the public and I hope that organisations will be able to respond positively
to our proposals."

The proposed centre will include an interactive public exhibition to explain
how asteroids and comets are formed and what might happen in the event of
one striking Earth.

Scientists calculate that there are 100m asteroids in space, with 1,413
charted as having the potential to collide with Earth. They say there could
be many more on the way, which have not yet been discovered by astronomers.

As well as the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, it is believed there are
as many as 200 craters around the world which can be put down to "impact
events".

The huge Barringer crater in Arizona is thought to have been created by an
impact 49,000 years ago. There was also an asteroid that struck the Tunguska
forest in Siberia in 1908, destroying 700m acres of trees and incinerating
everything for 100 miles.

The asteroid responsible, an estimated 50 yards wide, was of a type which
scientists expect to hit Earth every 100 years or so - leaving us possibly
just seven years to prepare for a similar event.

The government's interest in asteroids is not new. Its near- Earth objects
task force reported last year that action needed to be taken to improve
Earth's security. Its proposals included fitting all European space probes
with asteroid detectors, building a giant telescope
dedicated to hunting these objects, and fitting existing telescopes with
asteroid detection software.

Scientists argue that detecting asteroids early is not just an academic
exercise. The dinosaurs were powerless to help themselves, but the
development of rockets and nuclear bombs means that humans might be able to
destroy or divert asteroids that are heading for Earth before they
strike.

There have been suggestions that the missile shield proposed by US President
George W Bush to protect against strikes by "rogue" states such as North
Korea and Iraq could be adapted to protect against asteroids and comets.

Sir Patrick Moore, the astronomer and television personality, has given his
personal backing to such a plan. He has described the chances of a dangerous
impact as "not high but significant nonetheless".

Jonathan Tate, director of Spaceguard UK, an organisation that has
campaigned for government action since 1996, welcomed the initiative.

"It is very important that the public and the media are better informed
about the risks of asteroid impacts," he said. "You are 750 times more
likely to die from an asteroid impact than you are of winning the national
lottery jackpot. The public should not be unduly frightened - this is a
problem we can fix. We already know what to do if we come across such an
asteroid; we just need the infrastructure to carry it out."

Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.

==============
(6) CENTRE TO INFORM PUBLIC ON RISK OF ASTEROID HITS

>From The Independent, 20 August 2001
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/science/story.jsp?story=89599

By David Brown
20 August 2001

The risk of an asteroid strike wiping out mankind will be investigated by a
new British research centre, the Government announced today.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the Science minister, believes public concern at
the chances of annihilation have been heightened by recent Hollywood movies
such as Deep Impact and Armageddon.

He hopes the National Asteroid and Comet Information Centre will give
accurate information on the risks of an impact. The centre's aim is to
reassure the public that the chance of a repeat of the Earth being hit by an
asteroid such as the one believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs
is "very remote".

Museums and other public information bodies will be asked today to submit
bids to run the centre. The Government will provide 250,000 to cover the
cost of the centre during its first three years, after which it will have to
be self-financing.

It must provide exhibitions, a website and data on the comparative risk of
asteroid strikes, compared with other hazards, and the potential for damage
if the Earth was hit. Announcement of the proposed centre will be the
Government's first response to recommendations made last year by its Near
Earth Object Task Force. Lord Sainsbury said: "There are currently no known
large asteroids or comets whose orbit puts them on collision course with the
Earth, but while the risk of being hit is very remote, the potential for
damage exists.

"I believe it is important that information on asteroids or comets is made
available to the public and hope that organisations will be able to respond
positively to our call for proposals."

The task force has made 14 recommendations on action needed to improve the
Earth's security. Its proposals included fitting all European space probes
with asteroid detectors, building a giant telescope dedicated to hunting
these objects, and fitting existing telescopes with the latest
asteroid detection software.

Jonathan Tate, director of Spaceguard UK, said if all the recommendations
were implemented Britain would be the undisputed leader in the detection of
near earth objects. "I am delighted by the announcement of the centre. My
concern is that this will be a wonderful shop window but the shop will be
empty if the other recommendations are not carried out. At present there are
more people working in a standard Marks & Spencer store than detecting
asteroids around the world."

However remote, the dangers of asteroids hitting the Earth are real. Many
scientists believe an asteroid strike 65 million years ago was responsible
for a worldwide climate change that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Space objects larger than 50 metres in diameter strike the Earth at least
once or twice every century, with the latest recorded major asteroid impact
occurring in Siberia in 1908, when thousands of square kilometres of forest
were flattened.

Other big asteroids or fragments of comets struck Brazil in 1930 and eastern
Russia in 1947. An unconfirmed asteroid is believed to have landed in the
southern Pacific in 1974.

Scientists believe there are 100 million asteroids in space, with 1,400
objects greater than 1km in diameter having the potential to collide with
Earth.

The Earth is also at risk of being hit by as many as 500,000 objects bigger
than 200 to 500 metres across, the smaller having the capacity to destroy an
area the size of Ireland while the largest could wipe out an entire
continent.

Astronomers admit there are likely to be many more objects on collision
courses that have not yet been discovered.

Copyright 2001, The Independent

===============
(7) MINISTER PLANS 'ARMAGEDDON' SCIENCE CENTRE

>From The Sunday Mail, 19 August 2001
http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/shtml/NEWS/P27S3.shtml

Full story at: http://www.sundaymail.co.uk/shtml/NEWS/P27S3.shtml


==========
(8) METEOROID RIPS THROUGH COLORADO NIGHT SKY

>From Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

>From The Denver Channel, 19 August 2001
http://www.thedenverchannel.com/den/news/stories/news-92429920010818-130845.html

Meteoroid Rips Through Colorado Night Sky
Scientists Unsure If Fireball Hit Earth
Gabriel Elizondo, Staff Writer

DENVER -- Researchers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science worked
overtime Saturday to determine the path of a large fireball that was seen
ripping through the Denver sky late Friday evening.

Frank Sanders, a research associate at the museum, confirmed to 7News that
the fireball was a "brilliant meteoroid."

The 7News newsroom, as well as the Museum of Nature and Science, was flooded
with calls from eyewitnesses who claim that they saw the fireball in the
skies over the area of I-225 and I-25. Sanders said the exact time the
fireball could be seen over Colorado was 10:44 p.m.

According to Sanders, the object was probably a space rock that was
traveling around 25,000 mph.

Once the rock crashed through the earth's atmosphere, according to Sanders,
it became a meteoroid whose surface became extremely hot, thus causing the
brilliant fire-like light show.

Space rocks entering the atmosphere is fairly common, according to Sanders.
However, Sanders told 7News that a space rock entering the atmosphere and
creating a fireball light show only occurs once or twice a year in Colorado
skies.

"The major significance of fireballs is that they sometimes lead to the
discovery of a meteorite on the ground," Sanders told 7News. "We do not yet
know whether this object crashed into earth. If we do find out it crashed
into earth it would be a significant scientific event."

The museum is asking for your help. If you saw the fire show and were in the
area of southwest Colorado, near the Monarch Pass-area, you are asked to
call the museum research scientists at (303) 370-6445.

If you have video of the fireball and would like to share it with 7News,
call the newsroom at 303-832-0162.

For more information about the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, log on
to their web site.

Copyright 2001 by TheDenverChannel.com.

==========
(9) DID ASTEROID HELP DINOSAURS RULE EARTH?

>From Ron Baalke <baalke@jpl.nasa.gov>

http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/08/13/extinction.asteroids.reut/index.html

Did asteroid help dinosaurs rule Earth?
August 13, 2001

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Like homicide detectives searching for a mass
murderer, scientists are trying to find the culprit behind one of the
biggest killings in Earth's history.

A mass extinction 200 million years ago wiped out many of the species on the
planet and helped crown the dinosaurs as the rulers of the world.

Using old-fashioned sleuthing aided by modern techniques, scientists have
found tantalizing evidence suggesting that the impact of an asteroid or
comet was the cause of the calamity at the boundary between the Triassic and
Jurassic periods during the Mesozoic era.

"The Triassic-Jurassic boundary wiped out the competitors to the dinosaurs.
It's only after the boundary that you get a dinosaur-dominated ecosystem,"
said Columbia University paleontologist Paul Olsen, a leading expert on
dinosaurs of this period. "It's really quite a dramatic change."

Full story here:
http://www.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/08/13/extinction.asteroids.reut/index.html

================
(10) JULY 23 FIREBALL

>From David Morrison <david.morrison@arc.nasa.gov>

NEO News (07/03/01) July 23 fireball

Dear Friends and Students of NEOs:

Following are three reports on the daylight bolide seen over the eastern US
on July 23.

David Morrison

===================================================

NORTHEAST FIREBALL PINPOINTED (from Sky & Telescope, August 3)

It now appears that July 23rd's dazzling daylight fireball punched through
the atmosphere over central Pennsylvania and may have scattered meteorites
over the rugged woodlands of Sproul State Forest. Defense Department
satellites tracked the meteoroid's flare for several seconds beginning at
6:19:11 Eastern Daylight Time. The path began over Scranton (75.6 deg. W,
41.5 deg. N) and ended 140 kilometers to the west over the town of
Williamsport (77.3 deg. W, 41.3 deg. N), during which it dropped in altitude
from 82 to 32 km. Despite occurring in daylight, the meteor was bright
enough to be spotted by eyewitnesses from Canada to Virginia.

In its final moments the fireball created a deafening sonic boom that shook
the ground. Meteor expert Peter Brown (Los Alamos National Laboratory), who
is analyzing the satellite records, told Sky & Telescope, "I can almost
guarantee that this object broke up." He says that reconstructing the
object's orbit and flight path are proving difficult because the entry
velocity is uncertain, though it's probably in the "asteroidal" range of 17
to 20 km per second. Brown believes that whatever remains of the incoming
object probably fell in an elongated pattern up to 30 km long.

The meteoroid's size is also still a guess. The satellites' visible and
infrared sensors recorded 1.3 billion joules of luminous energy, which
corresponds to a kinetic-energy wallop equivalent to 3,000 tons of TNT
(one-fifth that of the Hiroshima bomb). Meteoroids in this energy range
strike Earth roughly 10 times each year. If it was stony, as most meteorites
are, such an object would have weighed 30 to 90 tons and been the size of a
car. However, Brown says acoustic and seismic data argue for much less
kinetic energy and, in turn, a much smaller object. "I'd hoped to have had
some meteorites recovered by now," Brown concludes, but the many
uncertainties diminish that possibility. "That's why I'm here in New Mexico
instead of heading for Pennsylvania."

==================================================

NEWS RELEASE
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

Air Force Technical Applications Center   Phone: (321) 494-4404
Public Affairs Office                     Fax: (321) 494-5600

1030 South Hwy A1A
Patrick AFB, Fla. 32925-3002

         News Release 002
         July 27, 2001


DETECTION OF BOLIDE

On July 23, at 22:19:11 UTC, several DOD satellites recorded the bright
flashes of a fireball (bolide) occurrence lasting more than three seconds.
The optical waveform was analyzed, determined to be non-nuclear, and
consistent with past observed bodies.  The location of this event was
reported to be in the eastern US.

IR sensors aboard US  DOD satellites detected the impact of a bolide over
the Eastern US on 23 July 2001 at 22:19:11 UTC. The object was traveling
roughly East to West. The object was first detected at an altitude of
approximately 82km at 41.5 North Latitude, 75.6 West Longitude, and tracked
down to an altitude of approximately 32 km at 41.3 North, 77.3 West. The
impact was simultaneously detected by space based visible wavelength sensors
operated by the US Department of Energy.  The total radiated energy was
approximately 1.27 X 10^12 joules.

=============================================

Meteorites Don't Pop Corn
NASA Science News (July 27, 201)

A fireball that dazzled Americans on July 23rd was a piece of a comet or an
asteroid, scientists say. Contrary to reports, however, it probably didn't
scorch any cornfields.

July 27, 2001: Every few weeks, somewhere on Earth, a fiery light streaks
across the sky casting strange shadows and unleashing sonic booms.

Astronomers call them fireballs or "bolides." They're unusually bright
meteors caused by small asteroids that disintegrate in our planet's
atmosphere. Often they explode high in the air like kilotons of TNT --
blasting tiny meteorites far and wide.

It happens all the time, say experts, but usually no one notices. We live on
a big planet, after all, and very little of Earth's surface is inhabited by
people. Most debris from space falls unseen over oceans or
sparsely-populated land areas -- or during times when sky watchers
simply aren't paying attention.

Last Monday was different, however. On July 23rd hundreds of thousands of
people were looking when, unexpected, a fireball appeared over the US east
coast. It was 6:15 p.m. local time. The Sun hadn't set, but onlookers had no
trouble seeing the fireball in broad daylight. Witnesses from Canada to
Virginia agreed that the colorful fireball was brighter than a Full Moon,
and some saw a smoky trail lingering long after it had passed.

"Contrary to some reports this was not a meteor shower," says Donald
Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object program at the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory. Meteor showers happen when Earth passes through the debris
trails of comets and countless thousands of cosmic dust specks burn up in
Earth's atmosphere. At the heart of Monday's fireball, however, was a
solitary object -- perhaps a small asteroid or a piece of a comet.

Hundreds of eyewitness reports collected by the American Meteor Society
establish that the fireball was moving on an east-west trajectory that
carried it directly over the state of Pennsylvania. "It was traveling
perhaps 15 km/s (34,000 mph) or faster when it exploded in the atmosphere
with the force of about 3 kilotons of TNT," says Bill Cooke, a member of the
Space Environments team at the Marshall Space Flight Center. If this was a
rocky asteroid, then it probably measured between 1 and 2 meters across and
weighed 30 or so metric tons.

"Asteroids that size enter Earth's atmosphere every month or so," says
Yeomans.

"The pressure wave from the airburst shattered some windows in towns west of
Williamsport," Cooke continued. "Breaking glass requires an overpressure of
about 5 millibars (0.5 kPa), which means that those homes were within 100 km
of the explosion."

No one knows if any sizable fragments of the object survived the blast. But
if they did, the meteorites probably landed in the wooded, hilly terrain
west of Williamsport -- perhaps in one of the many state parks of that area.

Says Bob Young of the State Museum of Pennsylvania: "One of our planetarium
staff was told that the little northern Pennsylvania town of Trout Run was
destroyed by the meteor! The witness was about 100 miles away when she heard
the tale from her hairdresser." Other reports credit
the fireball for scorching a cornfield in Lycoming County, PA, and littering
the countryside with burnt rocks.

In fact, says Yeomans, it's unlikely that any substantial meteorites reached
the ground. Atmospheric friction would have reduced most of the fragments to
dust. Even if fragments did survive, he added, they wouldn't burn cornfields
because --despite their fiery appearance in the
sky-- freshly-fallen meteorites are not hot.

Objects from space that enter Earth's atmosphere are -- like space itself --
very cold and they remain so even as they blaze a hot-looking trail toward
the ground. "The outer layers are warmed by atmospheric friction, and little
bits flake away as they descend," explains Yeomans.
This is called ablation and it's a wonderful way to remove heat. (Some
commercial heat shields use ablation to keep spacecraft cool when they
re-enter Earth's atmosphere.)

"Rocky asteroids are poor conductors of heat," Yeomans continued. "Their
central regions remain cool even as the hot outer layers are ablated away."

Asteroids move faster than the speed of sound in Earth's atmosphere. As a
result, the air pressure ahead of a fireball can substantially exceed the
air pressure behind it. "The difference can be so great that it actually
crushes the object," says Cooke. "This is probably what
triggered the airburst over Pennsylvania."

Small fragments from such explosions lose much of their kinetic energy as
they heat the atmosphere via friction. They quickly decelerate and become
sub-sonic. Dusty debris from airbursts (and ablation) can linger in the
atmosphere for weeks or months, carried around the globe by winds. Walnut-to
baseball-sized fragments might hit the ground right away at a
few hundred kilometers per hour.

"Small rocky meteorites found immediately after landing will not be hot to
the touch," says Yeomans. They will not scorch the ground or start fires. On
the other hand, notes Cooke, "if we got hit by something large enough to
leave a crater, the fragments might be very hot indeed." A
stony meteorite larger than 50 meters might be able to punch through the
atmosphere and do such damage -- but that's far larger than the object that
flew over Pennsylvania.

No one knows what kind of space debris caused the July 23rd fireball. It
might have been a small piece of an icy comet, in which case it's unlikely
that anything larger than dust grains survived. It might also have been a
rocky asteroid -- the most likely candidate -- or perhaps a nickel-iron
meteorite. "Iron objects are more likely to survive a descent to Earth,"
says Yeomans, "but they are rare."

It's possible that fragments will never be found, notes Cooke. "We still
don't have a precise trajectory for this object," he explains. "And so much
of the targeted area (in central Pennsylvania) is heavily forested --
searching for debris will be like looking for a needle in a haystack."

Or should that be a needle in a cornfield?

"I suppose it's possible that some ablative fragments fell into that field,"
says Cooke, "but it is strange that only a small area was affected. I doubt
it's a good candidate impact site."

"I wouldn't start looking there either," agrees Yeomans. "That scorched
cornfield story sounds a little too corny for me...."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

NEO News is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near
Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts.  These opinions are the
responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions
of NASA, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization.
To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact dmorrison@arc.nasa.gov.  For
additional information, please see the website: http://impact.arc.nasa.gov.
If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes,
fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.

============================
* LETTERS TO THE MODERATOR *
============================

(11) INCORRECT QUOTE CREDIT IN CCNet 89/2001

>From Robin Canup <robin@boulder.swri.edu>

Hello,

The following quote, listed at the very beginning of your recent CCNet
circulation is *not* mine; this description was written entirely by Robert
Roy Britt of space.com, and so the reference needs to be changed. I would
greatly appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.

Thank you,
Robin Canup

  "A dark, lifeless object less than half as massive as Earth careens
  around a newborn Sun. It is one of many planet-sized bodies hoping
  for a long career. But its orbit is shaky. It's future grim. It is a
  character actor on the grand stage of the solar system, a player  of
  great ultimate consequence but one destined to never see its name in
  lights. This doomed "protoplanet" travels a path that crosses the
  orbits of similar objects and, ultimately, cannot last. Eventually,
  the nameless protoplanet meets up with a fledgling Earth. It is  not a
  head-on collision, but rather a glancing blow. The impact imparts what
  astronomers  call angular momentum into the system. It sets Earth to
  spinning on its axis and creates a  Moon that would go round and round
  the host planet for billions of years."
    --Robin Canup's description of the Moon-forming impact, Space.com,
      16 August 2001

=============
(12) DOUBTS AND QUESTIONS REGARDING THE IMPACT THEORY OF LUNAR ORIGIN

>From Fred Singer <singer@sepp.org>

Dear Benny

Welcome back. We missed you.

Now to comment on Moon making:

I cannot open the animation and haven't seen the Aug 16 issue of Nature. But
here are some general remarks:

Problems with the impact theory of lunar origin: The impact theory was
devised mainly to circumvent what was thought to be a low probability of
lunar capture. (Yet, strangely, capture appears to be the preferred
hypothesis for the origin of the outer moons of Jupiter and some other
planetary satellites.)  But impact has similar problems, which are hardly
ever mentioned, in addition to more fundamental problems with physical laws,
all of which can be overcome only with various ad hoc assumptions.

Some of the following questions might be put to the impact theory:

1.  For what range of impact parameters "a" is there an appreciable chance
of forming the Moon?  If a is close to the Earth radius R, then the impact
is only glancing and the process becomes operationally indistinguishable
from "capture"; if a<<R, then the probability of forming a Moon from Earth
material appears low (as evident from arguments of angular momentum
conservation).

2.  Therefore how many Mars-like bodies must impact in order to have a
reasonable chance to produce the Moon?  And why is impact origin more
probable than capture?  Also: If there are so many bodies available, why
didn't it happen on Venus or Mars?

3.  What restraints are there on the original pre-impact rotation of the
Earth?  E.g., could a retrograde impact produce the Moon?

4.  What happens to the splashed-out material from the impact; how much
escapes and how much returns on ballistic orbits?  Whence comes the angular
momentum for a lunar orbit?  How and where does "captured" material assemble
and what exactly is the initial lunar orbit?

5.  If assembly proceeds to an equatorial orbit, as one might expect, how
does one account for the present lunar orbit without any ad hoc assumptions?
[Goldreich argument]

6.  Just what is the dynamics of assembly from a ring in the presence of
tidal perturbations?  Responding to the most massive agglomeration of
material, the Earth's tidal bulge would drive it outward (and smaller
agglomerations into inward spiraling orbits) and prevent a complete
assembly. Has this feature been taken into account?

7.  If the initial Moon orbit is retrograde, or within the synchronous orbit
limit of the spinning Earth, will not the Moon spiral in and not survive? 

8.  Similarly, if subsequent to the formation of the Moon, the Earth's spin
is changed by another large impact that puts the lunar orbit within the sync
limit or makes it retrograde, what happens then to the probability of lunar
survival?

Just some questions....I am sure they have considered the Roche limit
problem and others that I have not mentioned.

Best                              Fred

PS  For sake of full disclosure: I have been associated with the capture
theory of lunar origin

S. Fred Singer, President
Science & Environmental Policy Project
http://www.sepp.org <http://www.sepp.org/>

=============
(13) INTERNATIONAL PLANETARY PROTECTION (PP) WORKSHOP

>From Andy Smith <astrosafe@yahoo.com>

Hi Benny and CCNet,

It's just great to see our newsletter back on-line and we hope you had fun.

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has made
outstanding contributions to our cause, starting early in the last decade.
They wrote and published two strong and supportive position papers, which
contributed to the establishment of U.S. Congressional hearings and the
series of international technical conferences which NASA and others
organized.

The latest contribution by the AIAA is a series of International Cooperation
Workshops which were held in Spain, in March. One of the workshops addressed
NEO detection and mitigation. It can be found at:
http://www.aiaa.org/information/international.html

The meeting was held in March and we found the report on the Web recently.

The Association is still developing a nice new web site, which will have
about six languages, eventually. I know the english key is activated. You
then need to scroll down to Part V and go to Region VII and finally to the
6th. ISCW report (near the end of the section).

This is a short, strong position report and the list of contributors is
impressive. I think this may be the start of the international program
recommended in the U.K. report, which Jay Tate and many others developed.

The U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs, the Confederation of European
Aerospace Societies and the International Academy of Astronautics helped to
sponsor the Workshop. We are proud of the AIAA and hope they will continue
to provide the leadership, on this important issue, which they are capable
of providing.

We worked with them, to organize Asteroid/Comet Workshops (ACW), at both the
International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2001), last month, and to
prepare for the SPACE 2001 conference, which will be held here in
Albuquerque, later this month (28-30 Aug.).

As you know, NASA, the Air Force, the Congressional Space Committee and a
few other governmental groups, universities, companies and professional
societies have supported the work now ongoing, in the U.S. and we appreciate
the contributions being made by all of these groups. This is the most
important technical challenge in history and there is no time to waste.

Large Telescopes Needed

There is now good information on the Web about the 8 meter (900 megapixel)
Dark Matter Telescope. It has been updated and is easy to find, using the
name.  With this one instrument we could find the 100,000 or so dangerous
NEO in a decade, instead of the projected 300 years or more it will take, at
the present (and very improved) discovery rate.

We are still contacting the large survey telescopes, around the World, and
asking them to help. However, they don't seem to give the future of the
human race a very high priority. We will, of course, keep trying and we are
also doing everything we can to promote the building of a dedicated large
asteroid telescope...the lives we may save could very well be our own.

Dr. Isobe expects to go on-line in October and his equipment should be a
very good start toward getting dedicated larger equipment involved in this
vital effort. As you know, most of the dangerous NEO are much smaller that a
kilometer....mag. 21 and smaller. Large telescopes are the key to finding
them. Three cheers for our Japanese colleagues and the Spaceguard
Foundation. We wish them the best.

Cheers
Andy Smith

=============
(14) TSUNAMI BOOK & COSMOS DVD NOW AVAILABLE

>From Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

Dear Benny,

Welcome back. Nice to hear those in the northerm hemisphere have had a
summer break ;)
(In truth I have just had a delightful holiday in southern Europe but winter
is not too bad on my return to Sydney).

Ted Bryant's new book Tsunami is now available from Cambridge University
Press.
http://uk.cambridge.org/earthsciences/catalogue/052177599X/
or http://www.cup.edu.au/result.asp?isbn=052177599X
Ted got good coverage on a local current affairs program Stateline last
night.

Also Carl Sagan's Cosmos TV series is now available on DVD from Cosmos
Studios:
http://www.carlsagan.com/revamp/cosmosstore/index.html
13 magnificent one hour shows on 7 DVDs (NTSC format, international
edition). They are even better than I remember them. In several episodes
Carl refers to the threat from asteroids and comets. And this was well
before Chicxulub was discovered.

regards
Michael Paine

============
(15) UNIFORM CATASTROPHISM

>From Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

Dear Benny,

let us reconsider the basic uniformitarian premises and we may find them not
pitted AGAINST, but (surprise!) capable of being wed to catastrophism.
Disruptive, cataclysmic processes and events have occurred everywhere and at
all times in our solar system, with catastrophic effects if here on this
Earth (I can't quite convince myself that the S-L-9 impacts on Jove's planet
amounted to
"catastrophe").  Not only that, but these events are seen as the main causes
for the great transitions in the history of life and of man, reducing other
forces to minor status.

There is evident UNIFORMITY in this, both spatially and temporally, although
uniform in a somewhat random fashion. Also, we must allow for evolving
TRENDS, such as the Late Heavy Bombardment. It seems that a pristine,
mathematical law Newton style or anything like it will remain unavailable,
although as a practicality, astronomers in their work of computing
probabilities of asteroid and comet fluxes in near-Earth orbits have
achieved much. The magnitude of these efforts is considerable, if you read
for instance Duncan Steele's book, "Rogue
Asteroids..".

Not surprisingly, with the natural law behind catastrophism though real
being so recondite and even now remaining slightly obscure, humanity has
been slow to catch on to the fact that uniformly, again and again, certain
kinds of des-asters have struck our world with life scrambling back up from
under the rubble with amazing tenacity.  (I am reminded of the rubble pile I
would climb on when as a schoolboy I waited for the tram, scarcely a house
or even a ruin standing within half a mile, glancing down to see if there
were any bones, but these man-made
troubles are puny by comparison.)

It appears then that we can make good claims toward establishing a UNIFORM
CATASTROPHISM. or, if you prefer, more explicitly, a UNIFORMITARIAN
(NEO-)CATASTROPHISM.

This term refers to a greater time frame but is otherwise similar in content
to Duncan Steele's term "Coherent Catastrophism" which he aptly coined for
the giant comet hypothesis of Victor Clube and Bill Napier according to
which apparently since late Pleistocene times pieces of a
comet related to Encke's have caused catastrophies over millennia,
centuries,.. years, lingering on as the Taurid meteor stream, notably during
the Bronze Age and also in late Roman times.  In both cases the genetic
disposition of the universe is seen to force by natural laws repeated
collisions at random intervals of celestial bodies with Earth.

Besides massive collisions, there is dust causing GLOBAL COOLING. Also, more
and more accepted are volcanic after-effects, including hotspots or super
volcanoes. These are part and parcel of the uniform catastrophism layout of
Earth history.  See

   http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/planetearth/

for recent (August 2001) articles on this subject,

   Michael Paine, Cosmic Collision May Have Created Hawaii
   Robert Roy Britt, Super Volcanoes:  Satellites Eye Deadly Hotspots

The hotspot now at Yellowstone has produced desastrous super volcano
eruptions at 600 Ka intervals since a cosmic impact in SE Oregon 20 Ma ago
(Harney Basin?), with the hotspot moving only about 30 miles between
eruptions or about the width of the caldera.  The result is the Snake River
rift valley (a graben 10 km deep according to the USGS) and the vast traps
and other eruptives in the five-state region.  Incipient rifting along N-S
axes has also created the basin-and-range country especially prominent in
Nevada, stretching and doubling the surface area.

A similar scenario of on an even grander scale may be taken to have occurred
(no proof of the contrary seems to exist) at the genesis of Sibiria after an
end-Permian impact in Western Sibiria at 250 Ma, with the track of the
supervolcano eruptions forming the continent of Sibiria upon oceanic crust,
Hawaii today being the simmered down remnant. By closing the Mongol-Okhotsk
Ocean during the Jurassic, Sibiria was sutured to the Chinese craton.
Recently, the subducted ocean bottom slab was tentatively identified under
Lake Baikal by Rob Van der Voo (Ann Arbor) and Wim Spakman, Harmen Bijwaard
(Utrecht) by means of seismic tomography.

Welcome back from vacation.
  Best regards,
    Hermann G.W. Burchard

=====================
(16) AND FINALLY: THE OLDEST STORY ON THE PLANET

>From The Guardian, 18 August 2001
http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,538713,00.html

There's a new theory about the moon's origins - but could scientists be
simply making it up?

Special report: space exploration

John O'Farrell
Saturday August 18, 2001
The Guardian

As news stories go, this item has taken slightly longer to reach the
front pages than most, but the scientific journal Nature has just
published an exclusive that 4bn years ago the Earth was involved in an
enormous interplanetary collision. The story was immediately picked up
by all the papers who each put their own particular spin on it. The
Daily Mail: "Earth in cosmic collision; Blair failed to heed warnings".
The Sun: "Planets collide to create Earth, moon and Helen from Big
Brother". The Maidenhead Advertiser: "Interplanetary crash created solar
system - no one from Maidenhead involved".

The revelation that a proto-planet the size of Mars crashed into the
Earth, tilting the Earth's polar axis and accelerating our orbit, has
caused great excitement in the scientific world and given insurance
companies another excuse to put up their premiums. It turns out that
before the collision, Earth had a day that was only five hours long. So
you'd stay up for two days and two nights and then sleep straight
through for a couple of days - it was like being on holiday in Ibiza.
The collision sent billions of tonnes of molten rock into the atmosphere
- which, typically, the weather forecasters of the time failed to spot.
"A lady rang in to say that molten gravel and flaming rocks will be
raining down for the next million years - don't worry, they won't be;
though do look out for a little light drizzle over East Anglia over the
weekend," said Michael Fish's predecessor, as lumps of molten lava
landed all around him.

Some of the debris from the collision flew up into space and eventually
coalesced to form the satellite we know as the moon, later joined by
other satellites sent into orbit by a powerful force known as Rupert
Murdoch. It was previously believed that the moon was created by a
white-haired man called God on a Tuesday, but as cosmology has become
more advanced, this theory has failed to withstand rigorous scientific
scrutiny. The collision theory is not an entirely new one but now there
are detailed computations which have apparently proved it.

On page 709 of this week's Nature, the scientists explain how they made
their calculations. "We use a beta spine kernel," they say. Oh yeah,
right, a beta spine kernel. Pull the other one. There are then two full
pages of mathematical calculations and equations involving lots of Greek
letters and squiggly symbols which they knew the subeditor would take
one look at and say: "Er yup, that all looks fine!"

Clearly what has happened is that the scientists are making this all up.
They have obviously spent the last two years sending each other silly
emails and playing minesweeper and when their deadline suddenly came
along, they were forced to throw together a scientific theory and some
calculations so they didn't get into trouble.

"Okay, quick, quick; when shall we say this happened?'

"I dunno - 500 million years ago?"

"No no - bigger numbers are more impressive. Say four and half billion."

"Okay and say it was really, really hot - that always sounds good."

"Yeah, and make sure we use the words 'atoms', 'gravity', 'unstable'
and, er, 'beta spine kernel'."

"What's beta spine kernel?"

"Three random words from the dictionary. Don't worry - no one will
question it."

Making things up about space has been a huge industry ever since Richard
Nixon decided that the moon landings were a complete waste of money and
that the same images could be produced far more cheaply in a Hollywood
back lot. The account of what really happened back in 1969 is only just
coming out, but it was not much different to any other film set.

"Okay Neil darling, you step off your ladder and say your line about the
giant leap for mankind... and action!"

"But what's my motivation for going down the ladder? What's the
back-story here?"

"Cut! Oh no, not this again. Neil, love, you're playing an astronaut.
You're landing on the moon. It's a big day for your character."

"Maybe I should drive around the moon in a big car?'"

"No, darling - that's in the sequel: Apollo 12."

"Or lose radio contact and nearly die."

"Apollo 13."

And the guys from Nasa were sulking in the wings saying 'It can't be
that difficult to do this for real. After all, we've put a man on the
moon.'

"No we haven't."

"Well, no, but it's not rocket science."

"Yes it is."

Before science accounted for the creation of the Earth and the moon, it
was explained in the first chapter of the Bible. It didn't sound very
believable but their get-out clause was that you had to have faith. Now
religion has been replaced with science and we just have to take someone
else's word for it instead. The comforting thing is that at least we no
longer live in fear of flaming thunderbolts coming out of the sky if we
question the word of the Almighty. Well, not until they've got the Star
Wars project up and running anyway.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

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