PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 64/2003 - LINEAR & JPL SWIFTLY TERMINATE FALSE ASTEROID ALARM
                3 September 2003
-------------------------------------------------------------------

 
After sounding the alarm about a kilometer-wide asteroid, astronomers
said Tuesday that further data eliminated the possibility of a
catastrophic collision in 2014. This week's alert followed the
up-and-down course that is typical for observations of near-Earth
objects.   
    --Alan Boyle, MSNBC, 2 September 2003


"EARTH IS DOOMED"
    --Daily Record, 3 September 2003


(1) 2014 ALARM ELIMINATED

(2) ASTEROID STRIKE RULED OUT FOR 2014

(3) AND FINALLY: TODAY'S GLOBAL HEADLINES: "EARTH IS DOOMED"


===============
(1) 2014 ALARM ELIMINATED

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

LINEAR obtained some new observations of the asteroid today, which
extends the data arc from 6.7 days to 9 days. We've just computed a
new orbit solution, and 2003 QQ47 has dropped to Torino 0.  Also, the
number of potential impacts have been reduced from 31 to 18, and the
2014 potential impact has been eliminated.

http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk

Ron Baalke

===========
(2) ASTEROID STRIKE RULED OUT FOR 2014
After alert, further observations eliminate risk of collision

MSNBC, 2 September 2003
http://www.msnbc.com/news/960340.asp?0cv=TB10
 
By Alan Boyle
MSNBC
 
Sept. 2 -  After sounding the alarm about a kilometer-wide asteroid,
astronomers said Tuesday that further data eliminated the possibility of
a catastrophic collision in 2014. This week's alert followed the
up-and-down course that is typical for observations of near-Earth
objects.   

ASTEROID 2003 QQ47 was first observed on Aug. 24, and based on limited
data, experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory estimated as of early
Tuesday that there was a tiny chance - 1 in 909,000 - that the space
rock would smash into Earth on March 21, 2014.

Observations gathered on Monday night, however, allowed astronomers to
plot the asteroid's orbital course more precisely. By Tuesday evening,
the risk for 2014 was eliminated. JPL said there was still a 1-in-2.2
million chance that an impact could occur sometime in the next century,
but that is far below the "background risk" of a catastrophic collision
in any given year.

"We have many asteroids that have residual risks," Paul Chodas, a
research scientist at JPL who specializes in calculating the orbits of
near-Earth objects. "This particular one was of interest because it is
fairly large, 1.3 kilometers [0.8 mile], and the predicted impact was
only 10 years away. Combining those two factors, we raised it to some
level of concern."

The rock was first observed by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research
Program, also known as LINEAR.

At one time, the 2014 encounter was given a rare rating of 1 on the
Torino Scale of asteroid and comet threats. But based on the additional
observations, the Torino rating was reduced to zero by JPL as well as
the NEODyS asteroid-monitoring group in Italy.

"We expect the impact possibilities to go to zero," Chodas said. "That
is the usual scenario."

If a rock as big as 2003 QQ47 ever were to hit Earth, it could have the
effect of millions of Hiroshima-scale atom bombs. Such impacts are
thought to have contributed to mass extinctions, including the demise of
the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Asteroids are chunks of rock left over from the formation of the solar
system 4.5 billion years ago. Most are kept at a safe distance from the
Earth in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But some asteroids
trace an orbit that crosses Earth's own.

In the past several years, programs such as LINEAR have upgraded
scientists' asteroid-detecting capabilities to the point that asteroid
alerts are not all that unusual anymore. Astronomers currently are
tracking more than 600 near-Earth asteroids wider than a kilometer - and
there are likely hundreds more yet to be found. There are thought to be
many more smaller near-Earth objects that could create localized damage
in the event of a collision.

JPL's Chodas emphasized that the process of tracking near-Earth objects
and refining their orbits can take days, weeks or months.

"We never know orbits very accurately," he told MSNBC.com. "This
asteroid has been seen only for nine days, and here we're trying to
predict its position 10 years in the future. So there are many
uncertainties."

Copyright 2003, MSNBC

================
(3) AND FINALLY: TODAY'S HEADLINES: "EARTH IS DOOMED"

"EARTH IS DOOMED"

Daily Record, 3 September 2003
http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/content_objectid=13362495_method=full_siteid=89488_headline=-%2DEARTH%2DIS%2DDOOMED%2D-name_page.html

SCIENTISTS have warned that a newly-discovered asteroid is on collision
course with the Earth.

If it keeps its current path the rock, which is two-thirds of a mile
wide and has been named 2003 QQ47, will land on March 21, 2014.

But the risk of a collision actually happening are just 909,000/1.

Bookmakers William Hill say they are happy to take bets that the 2600
million tonne asteroid will eventually hit the earth, wiping out all
life.


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*

CCNet 65/2003 - 3 September 2003
--------------------------------


Given how swiftly 2003 QQ47 has been downgraded from a Torino 1, some
may question whether the NEO Information Centre should have posted the
information about 2003 QQ47 on the website in the first place. However
we hope by keeping the public and media informed of this kind of issue,
as it is unfolding rather than after the fact, we can promote
understanding of the process of asteroid detection, tracking and risk
assessment.
   --NEOIC, 3 September 2003


As far as astronomers are concerned, the information about "virtual
impactors" should be peer reviewed and then posted on scientific
websites so that those who can confirm the calculations and those
observers who can do something about the object can monitor it for as
long as possible. This would be much more appropriate than issuing a
public false alarm. Whenever an impact prediction is available and the
object is still observable, no public announcements are necessary
because additional data will, in almost all cases, eliminate the initial
impact risk.
   --Benny Peiser, Astronomy Now, October 2000


(1) CRYING WOLF BECOMING OFFICIAL POLICY? NEOIC INTRODUCE NEW PROCEDURES
ON IMPACT RISK ALARMS

(2) "GOODBYE, CRUEL WORLD"

(3) ASTEROID THREAT TO FUTURE OF EARTH

(4) MAKE A NOTE: 21 MARCH 2014 MIGHT JUST BE ASTEROID D-DAY

(5) HO-HUM, YET ANOTHER ASTEROID THREATENS EARTH WITH CATASTROPHE

(6) THE ODDS ON ARMAGEDDON SHORTEN TO 909,000-To-1

(7) ASTEROIDS DO NOT "HAVE RISKS"

(8) AND FINALLY: PAGE 3 GIRL'S HEAVENLY BODY COMMENT

=================
(1) CRYING WOLF BECOMES OFFICIAL POLICY: NEOIC INTRODUCE NEW PROCEDURES
ON IMPACT RISK ALARMS

NEO Information Centre, 3 September 2003
http://www.nearearthobjects.co.uk/news_display.cfm?code=news_intro&itemID=197

The new data have enabled astronomers to refine the orbit of asteroid
2003 QQ47, and so rule out 13 of the 31 potential impacts originally
listed on the JPL Current Impact Risk table. Among those 'virtual
orbits' to be ruled out was the one for 21 March 2014, which gave the
asteroid its Torino 1 rating.

The 18 remaining potential impacts are all rated at zero on the Torino
scale and are therefore classed as 'events with no likely consequences'.
Once again, the only remaining Torino 1 rated asteroid on the JPL
Current Impact Risk table is asteroid 1997 XR2, with 2 potential impacts
in June 2101. However, as with 2003 QQ47, the probability of 1997 XR2
impacting Earth is highly unlikely. Estimates suggest this smaller
asteroid would impart just one thousandth of the energy that 2003 QQ47
was capable of delivering.

Given how swiftly 2003 QQ47 has been downgraded from a Torino 1, some
may question whether the NEO Information Centre should have posted the
information about 2003 QQ47 on the website in the first place. However
we hope by keeping the public and media informed of this kind of issue,
as it is unfolding rather than after the fact, we can promote
understanding of the process of asteroid detection, tracking and risk
assessment.

Kevin Yates, project manager for the NEO Information Centre said,
"Openly sharing this sort of information, in a none sensationalist way,
should help to dispel the popular myth that governments and astronomers
would keep the discovery of a dangerous asteroid secret. I hope the
coverage of this story will give the general public more of a feel for
how the assessment of risk evolves as more observations are made."

The NEO Information Centre would like to thank the media for what, on
the whole, has been responsible coverage of this story. Almost all of
the press and broadcast coverage has included reference to our original
statements that the probability of impact was very low at just 1 in
909,000, and that the Torino rating was likely to drop following further
observations.

© NEO Information Centre


MODERATOR'S NOTE: 2003 QQ47 had already been downgraded from a Torino 1
to a Torino 0 by NEODyS
one day *before* the IAUIC started an unwarrantable media campaign (see
the meticulous
reporting on AC/C, http://www.hohmanntransfer.com/news.htm). It would
appear that all the
lessons learnt from five years of our PR blunders, media gaffes and
errors of judgement have been forgotten. I'm afraid that any attempt to
justify an ill-timed and unnecessary media campaign doesn't bode well
for the NEO community's efforts to avoid false asteroid alarms that only
risk undermining our integrity. Benny Peiser

=============
(2) "GOODBYE, CRUEL WORLD"

The Guardian, 3 September 2003
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1034397,00.html

March 2014 brings small risk of huge disaster

Tim Radford, science editor
Wednesday September 3, 2003
The Guardian

The world can breathe again. Probably. Asteroid 2003 QQ47, a lump of
rock the size of Ben Nevis, could hit Earth at a speed of about 13 miles
a second on March 21 2014, to cause the kind of destruction expected in
thermonuclear war, experts warned yesterday.

But they gave the 2,600m tonne monster a danger rating of just one on
the Torino scale. That means its chances of actually slamming into Earth
are 909,000 to 1 against.

The Torino scale goes up to 10, at which point collision is a certainty.
That the object rates as a danger at all is because earthlings know so
little about their nearer neighbours. At present astronomers have
counted 523 potentially hazardous objects - bits of rubble left over
from the building of the solar system 4.5bn years ago - that may be on
collision course with Earth. Asteroid 2003 QQ47, three-quarters of a
mile in diameter, first spotted on August 24 and observed so far only 51
times, could be another.

"The near-Earth object will be observable from Earth for the next two
months, and astronomers will continue to track it over this period,"
said Alan Fitzsimmons, of Queen's University, Belfast.

Kevin Yates, manager of the UK near-Earth object information centre,
based at the National Space Centre in Leicester, said: "As additional
observations are made, and uncertainties decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is
likely to drop down the Torino scale."

Earth's nearest neighbour, the moon, is pockmarked by aeons of cosmic
collisions. There have been many impacts on Earth during geological
history, but for the most part the dents have been smeared away by wind,
rain and plant growth.

The last epic impact was probably 65m years ago, at the close of the
Cretaceous period, when an asteroid or comet may have wiped out the
dinosaurs and most other life on Earth. But there have been many smaller
impacts, including the equivalent of a powerful atomic bomb over the
Tungus region of Siberia in 1908.

The cosmos, astronomers warn, remains a potentially dangerous place.
Amateur astronomers at a BBC "star party" 10 days ago, to celebrate
national astronomy week, may have identified 20 more potential killers.

The planet is showered by small objects every day - many of them burn up
harmlessly as shooting stars - but larger lumps of rock hit the ground
as meteorites.

The bigger fragments have the potential to wipe out whole cities. One of
them sped harmlessly past Earth on August 16, missing it by about 2.4m
miles. Others have come to within almost the distance of the moon.

Goodbye, cruel world

Astronomers and Earth scientists have proposed a number of potential
endpoints for humanity

· The runaway greenhouse effect. Could Earth end up like Venus, with
ground temperatures at the melting point of lead?

· Snowball Earth, or at least the return of the ice age, with vast
glaciers ploughing as far south as Middlesex. The last ice age ended
only 10,000 years ago

· The swelling of the sun. In about 5bn years, the sun will expand to
red giant stage, incinerating all the rocky inner planets, and any life
on them

· Cosmic collapse: a random quantum fluctuation in space could destroy
mass and trigger a bubble of destruction that would advance at the speed
of light

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

==========
(3) ASTEROID THREAT TO FUTURE OF EARTH

The Scotsman, 3 September 2003
http://www.news.scotsman.com/scitech.cfm?id=969242003

ALASTAIR DALTON SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT

A NEW asteroid threat has been identified by astronomers, in the shape
of a giant rock, three-quarters of a mile wide, that could hit the Earth
with the impact of eight million atomic bombs on 21 March, 2014.

Experts said they would not have a good idea about whether the Earth was
doomed for another week, and would not be certain about its future
prospects for a month.

The orbit calculations of the "near Earth object" (NEO) are currently
based on just 51 observations over a week.

The newly-discovered asteroid, known as 2003 QQ47, has a mass of around
2,600 million tons and was first spotted by astronomers in the United
States ten days ago. It is travelling at around 72,000 miles an hour, or
20 miles a second.

The asteroid has been given a hazard rating of one on the Torino scale,
defining it as "an event meriting careful monitoring".

The Torino scale, named after the city of Turin, where it was devised,
is the cosmic collisions version of the Richter scale, which measures
earthquakes.

The scale ranges from zero, meaning "no likely consequences", and ten,
where the Earth's destruction is certain.

By contrast, a half-mile wide asteroid with a one in 300 chance of
hitting the Earth in 2880 was given a rating of two last year.

The only other asteroid with a Torino rating of more than zero is 1997
XR2, with a rating of one, which could hit the Earth in 2101.

Kevin Yates, the project manager for Britain's NEO information centre in
Leicester, said: "As additional observations are made over the coming
months, and the uncertainties decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is likely to
drop down the Torino scale.

"The NEO information centre will continue to monitor the latest results
of observations and publish regular updates on our website."

Dr John Davies, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh and
a member of the centre's expert panel, compared the asteroid's target
area to a dartboard, with the Earth as the bull's-eye.

He added that all that was known so far was that the asteroid would hit
somewhere on the dartboard. By next week, the target area would be
reduced to the size of a playing card on the board, but it would not be
known for a month if the card was over the bull's-eye.

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons, of Queen's University, Belfast, another member of
the expert panel, said: "The NEO will be observable from Earth for the
next two months and astronomers will continue to track it over this
period."

Dr Fitzsimmons, a reader in observational astrophysics, added: "There is
some uncertainty about where the asteroid is going. In all probability,
within the next month, we will know its future orbit with an accuracy
which will mean we will be able to rule out any impact. Previously this
year we have had several asteroids which have had much higher
probabilities of colliding with the Earth in the next 100 years, and
they have almost all been ruled out."

The asteroid was first observed on 24 August by the Lincoln near Earth
asteroid research programme (LINEAR), based in Socorro, New Mexico.

Asteroids such as 2003 QQ47 are chunks of rock left over from the
formation of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago. Most are kept at a
safe distance from Earth in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars
and Jupiter.

However, the gravitational influence of giant planets such as Jupiter
can nudge the asteroids out of these safe orbits and send them towards
the vicinity of the Earth.

Asteroid 2003 QQ47 is around one tenth of the size of the meteor
believed to have wiped out dinosaurs on Earth 65 million years ago.

However, it would still have the force of 350,000 mega tonnes - or some
right million times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in
1945.

The Royal Observatory of Edinburgh, which is an off-shoot of the NEO
information centre, is hoping to stage a new exhibition about asteroids
in Scotland following the closure of its visitor centre to the general
public on Sunday.

Meanwhile, William Hill, the bookmakers, yesterday published a list of
events which it reckoned had the same 909,000/1 odds of happening before
14 March, 2014, as those of the asteroid hitting the Earth.

It said they included David Beckham becoming England manager and winning
the World Cup - with his son, Brooklyn, scoring the winning goal and his
other son, Romeo, coming on as a substitute.

Others in the list included the temperature hitting 100F in Britain on
Christmas Day, and Tony Blair joining the Conservatives and becoming the
first prime minister of two different parties. 

Copyright 2003, The Scotsman

========
(4) MAKE A NOTE: 21 MARCH 2014 MIGHT JUST BE ASTEROID D-DAY

The Independent, 3 September 2003

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/science_medical/story.jsp?story=439698

By Charles Arthur, Technology Editor

The Earth is imperilled by an asteroid again, which will strike the
planet on 21 March 2014 if our luck turns out to be truly bad,
astronomers say.

Bookies are making hay on the announcement yesterday that "2003 QQ47",
an asteroid 3,900 feet (1.2km) wide and weighing 2,600 million tons, is
calculated to have a one in 909,000 chance of hitting us.

The bookmaker William Hill said it was happy to take bets on a
collision, likely to have a force eight million times more powerful than
the Hiroshima atom bomb, because it would not be around to pay out if
punters were right. The threat from the newly discovered asteroid is
real, but seems to be diminishing as astronomers glean more information
on its orbit. So far, only 51 observations have been made over seven
days.

The giant rock was spotted on 24 August by Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid
Research Program (Linear), in Socorro, New Mexico. That was reported to
the Minor Planet Centre in Massachusetts, a centre for all discoveries
of asteroids and comets. The asteroid has been given a classification,
known as a "Torino hazard rating" of one, defining it as "an event
meriting careful monitoring", where the chance of impact is less than
one in 100, but the consequences could be global.

The scale runs from 0 to 10, 10 being the worst. Asteroids are remnants
from the formation of the solar system six billion years ago. The Earth
has been hit by them through history, most famously 65 million years
ago, the impact believed to have wiped out dinosaurs.

Kevin Yates, project manager for the UK Near Earth Objects Information
Centre, said: "As additional observations are made, and the
uncertainties decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is likely to drop down the
Torino scale."

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University, Belfast, an adviser to the UK
NEO centre, said the growing number of such "Earth-crossing" asteroids
being detected reflected increased efforts to spot them.

"The technology has changed," he said. "We now have very sensitive
cameras that can spot dimmer objects, and computers and software that
can automatically look at images and identify moving objects. In the
past five years we've made a huge leap."

Scientists and governments had not agreed a plan of action if an
asteroid was found to be on an Earth-crossing orbit. "Although Hollywood
films such as Deep Impact and Armageddon raised people's awareness of
the real risk asteroids pose, they also gave it an almost science
fiction factor," he said.

"Maybe if [we find an asteroid] with an impact trajectory, governments
will look at schemes for averting them. The important thing is to get
plenty of warning."

© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd


==============
(5) HO-HUM, YET ANOTHER ASTEROID THREATENS EARTH WITH CATASTROPHE

The Daily Telegraph, 3 September 2003
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/09/03/waster03.xml&sSheet=/portal/2003/09/03/ixportal.html

By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent

An asteroid big enough to wipe out most of Europe is hurtling towards
the Earth, astronomers warned last night.

The giant space rock, scheduled to sweep close to the Earth on March 21
2014, is large and fast enough to devastate a continent should a
collision occur.

However, the chances of an impact are minuscule. Yesterday they were
estimated at one in 909,000 - more likely than winning the National
Lottery jackpot, but less likely than drowning in the bath. The
probability is almost certain to fall to zero over the next few weeks as
a more accurate projection of the orbit of asteroid 2003 QQ47 emerges.

It is the latest in a spate of "doomsday rocks" discovered in near Earth
orbit in recent years. All of its predecessors turned out to be false
alarms.

Researchers in Lincoln, New Mexico, detected the asteroid last week. It
is two thirds of a mile wide and has a mass of about 2.6 billion tons.
Calculations based on 51 observations over the past seven days suggest
that there is a small chance it could smash into the Earth at 21 miles
per second.

The Government funded Near Earth Object Information Centre, which issued
the warning, said a collision could have the effect of 20 million
Hiroshima atomic bombs. If it hit land 2003 QQ47 could devastate several
countries and if it splashed into the sea it could trigger catastrophic
tidal waves.

The asteroid has been given a classification - known as a "Torino hazard
rating" of one - defining it as "an event meriting careful monitoring".
On the Torino scale, zero is for objects with no chance of collision,
while 10 is for certain catastrophic impacts.

Despite the low risk, the information centre, which was set up two years
ago to publicise potential threats from asteroids and comets, said its
warning was sensible and denied seeking publicity.

Kevin Yates, the centre's project manager, said its size, speed and the
closeness of the potential collision justified informing the public.
"There is only a slim chance of collision, but because of these three
factors it is justifiable to let people know about it," he said.

Astronomers expect to find one or two asteroids a year that pose a
similar threat, he added. "As additional observations are made over the
coming months, and the uncertainties decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is
likely to drop down the Torino scale. We will publish regular updates on
our website."

In July 2002, astronomers announced that an asteroid was heading for a
collision with Earth in February 2019. The chances of a collision were
estimated at one in 9,000. But over the following few days, as more
accurate measurements were made, the risk fell to one in 60,000, then to
zero.

In April 2002, another asteroid was discovered with a one in 300 chance
of hitting the Earth in 2880. Once again, the risk vanished over the
following weeks as more observations were made.

Although most asteroids orbit the Sun in a belt between Mars and
Jupiter, they can be nudged into the Earth's neighbourhood by the
gravitational influence of larger planets.

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons, of Queen's University, Belfast, who advises the
information centre, said there was no cause for concern. "In all
probability, within the next month we will know its future orbit with an
accuracy which will mean we will be able to rule out any impact," he
said.

"This year, we have had several asteroids which have had much higher
probabilities of colliding in the next 100 years and they have almost
all been ruled out."

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2003. Terms & Conditions of
reading.

==============
(6) THE ODDS ON ARMAGEDDON SHORTEN TO 909,000-To-1

The Times, 3 September 2003
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-801927,00.html

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent
  
AN ASTEROID large enough to wipe out a continent could collide with the
Earth in 11 years, astronomers said yesterday.

There is no reason, however, to prepare for Armageddon just yet. The
chances of an impact are remote, at just one in 909,000, and the odds of
oblivion will lengthen still further as more details of the object's
orbit become known.

The asteroid, known as 2003 QQ47, was discovered on August 24 by the
Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Programme in Socorro, New Mexico.
Early calculations of its orbit show that it will pass very close to the
Earth on March 21, 2014, and that there is at least a theoretical
possibility of a collision.

Astronomers have given it a value of one on the Torino scale, which
grades the potential risk to the Earth from zero, signifying no danger,
to ten, meaning a catastrophic collision of the sort that wiped out the
dinosaurs. A rating of one judges an impact to be extremely unlikely,
but not impossible.

During the first week in which scientists have known of 2003 QQ47's
existence, however, they have been able to observe it only 51 times.
This has provided far too little data to estimate its orbit with great
accuracy, and astronomers expect to rule out any prospect of a collision
as they watch it more closely.

Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University Belfast, an adviser to the Near
Earth Object Information Centre in Leicester, said: "I would say there
is no cause for concern at all. The near-Earth object will be observable
from Earth for the next two months, and astronomers will continue to
track it over this period.

"In all probability, within the next month we will know its future orbit
with an accuracy which will mean we will be able to rule out any impact.
Previously this year we have had several asteroids, which have had much
higher probabilities of colliding with the Earth in the next 100 years,
and they have almost all been ruled out."

If 2003 QQ47, which is three quarters of a mile across and has an
estimated mass of 2,600 million tonnes, were to strike the Earth, its
effects would be devastating. The rock is a tenth of the size of the one
that landed at Chicxulub in Mexico 65 million years ago, causing the
climatic disaster that is thought to have led to the extinction of the
dinosaurs, but it would still release enough energy to lay waste to a
continent.

It would strike the Earth at a speed of 75,000mph, exploding with a
force equivalent to 350,000 megatonnes of TNT, about eight million times
greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Although this asteroid is very unlikely to hit the Earth, it is certain
that one will do so at some point in the future. Asteroids up to 100m
across strike approximately once every 50 to 1,000 years and can cause
severe local devastation, as is thought to have happened at Tunguska in
Siberia in 1908.

Larger objects, capable of causing regional devastation, strike every
1,000 to 100,000 years, and ones more than a mile across, which can
cause "nuclear winter" effects, hit still less frequently.

Sara Russell, a meteorite researcher at the Natural History Museum in
London, said she was not worried that 2003 QQ47 would be a danger. "The
odds are very, very low," she said. "We have to keep some kind of
perspective."

Kevin Yates, project manager for the Leicester information centre, said:
"As additional observations are made over the coming months, and the
uncertainties decrease, asteroid 2003 QQ47 is likely to drop down the
Torino scale. We will continue to monitor the latest results of
observations and publish regular updates on our website."

Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat MP who campaigns for international
action to protect the world from asteroids, said: "The stakes are so
high that we should not prepare by crossing our fingers and closing our
eyes. How much more does the Government need to see? It is time for us
to wake up and smell the coffee."

William Hill, the bookmaker, said that it would be happy to take bets at
odds of 909,000 to one that the asteroid would hit. A company spokesman
said: "On the principle that if the asteroid does wipe out life on
Earth, we probably won't have to worry about paying out to winning
customers, we will happily take all such bets."

Odds on an even more likely ending

The odds of 909,000 to 1 that 2003 QQ47 will hit Earth will be sobering
news for millions of National Lottery fans, who gamble on odds of 14
million to 1 (Sam Coates writes).

They are more than 15 times more likely to be obliterated by the
asteroid than to win the jackpot.

Acutuarial calculations, which can predict the likelihood of almost
every event in life and death, often make uncomfortable reading for
gamblers.

A recent compilation of actuarial statistics from around the world has
revealed that the chances of being:

* Killed by lightning is 1 in 10 million
* Killed in a road accident is 1 in 8,000
* Killed as a pedestrian in the United States is 50,000 to 1
* Drowned in a bath in the US is 807,000 to 1
* Killed in a bus crash is 13 million to 1
* Fatally injured by a dog bite is 10.5 million to 1
* Injured in a game of tennis, waterskiing or surfboarding is 1 in 500
 
Copyright 2003, The Times

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

Given the very short arcs across the sky subtended by the thousands of
main-belt asteroids that are detected each lunation, possible
Earth-impact trajectories could be drawn through many of them. Yet it
would definitely not be appropriate to send out any sort of announcement
every time we calculate such a remote impact risk as this.

Observations taken during one night - as those that led to the SG344
announcement were - don't produce any sort of certainty in an orbit
prediction. It has also become obvious that the existence of the Torino
Scale, flawed as it is in several aspects, has been quite ineffective in
terms of its main aim of enlightening the public. In fact, we could in
the future have cases of objects reaching Torino level 6 or 7
(presumably with the associated worry to the public), before plummeting
to zero as soon as extra data allow the object's orbit to be calculated
more precisely.

The SG344 asteroid scare, based on a highly vague set of observations
taken during one single night, and its retraction less than 24 hours
later, demonstrates that we have still not learned our lessons from past
mistakes and embarrassments. It is important that these blunders are not
repeated again.
--Benny Peiser, Astronomy Now, October 2000

============= LETTERS ===========

(7) ASTEROIDS DO NOT "HAVE RISKS"

John Michael Williams <jwill@AstraGate.net>

Hi Benny.

I have one point of criticism, with a hope that better use of words
might improve decisions:

> CCNet 64/2003 - LINEAR & JPL SWIFTLY TERMINATE FALSE ASTEROID ALARM
>                 3 September 2003
> -------------------------------------------------------------------
> ... (2) ASTEROID STRIKE RULED OUT FOR 2014
> After alert, further observations eliminate risk of collision
>
> MSNBC, 2 September 2003
> http://www.msnbc.com/news/960340.asp?0cv=TB10
>  
> By Alan Boyle
> MSNBC
>  ...
>
> "We have many asteroids that have residual risks," Paul
 > Chodas, a research scientist at JPL who specializes in calculating
 > the orbits of near-Earth objects. "This particular one was of
 > interest because it is fairly large, ...
 > ...

Actually, the asteroids don't "have risks"; the people observing them
have fears. Or, maybe, the people observing them have assigned orbits to
them.

Saying that an asteroid has a risk is a little like saying a burglar has
a criminal record.  Unless he has just burglarized the courthouse, the
burglar doesn't have the record; the police do.

Just a suggestion to keep objectivity alive and in view of the living .
. ..

--
                          John
                      jwill@AstraGate.net
                      John Michael Williams

==============
(8) AND FINALLY: PAGE 3 GIRL'S HEAVENLY BODY COMMENT

The Sun, 3 September 2003, Page 3!

Heavenly body Nikkala isn't panicked by news that an asteroid could hit
Earth in 2014. She says: "They say the chances of it hitting are lower
than the odds of scooping the Lotto jackpot. But why worry? Let's just
hope it is thrown off course!"

-----------
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please contact the moderator Benny Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>.
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*

APOCALYPSE NOT: "KILLER ASTEROID" WILL PASS US BY

Agence France Presse, 3 September 2003, 13:00 UT

PARIS, Sept 3 (AFP) - The Earth is not quite so doomed, experts said
Wednesday.

Fears that a giant asteroid could wack into the planet on March 21 2014
and plunge it into a nuclear winter are misplaced, they said, explaining
that fresh calculations showed the monster rock would safely pass us by.

The asteroid, known as 2003 QQ47, was first spotted on August 24, and
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), making a preliminary estimate of
its orbit, said there was a tiny chance -- one in only 909,000 -- that
it would collide with Earth.

Around 1.2 kilometers (two-thirds of a mile) across, and hurtling
through space at 120,000 kilometers (75,000 miles) per hour, 2003 QQ47
would unleash energy equivalent to 350,000 megatonnes of TNT, or eight
million times the power of the Hiroshima bomb.

2003 QQ47 was initially graded the lowest step on the Torino scale,
which rates the chances of newly discovered asteroids and comets hitting
the Earth.

This grading means the asteroid is not a significant risk but "merits
special monitoring."

But asteroid experts, in a circular distributed among their community on
Wednesday and received by AFP, have now downgraded that risk and accused
the media [??] of hyping the scare.

NASA specialist Ron Baalke said that the agency's Lincoln Near Asteroid
Research (LINEAR) telescope in New Mexico was tasked on Tuesday to make
further observations of 2003 QQ47.

"We've just computed a new orbit solution, and 2003 QQ47 has dropped to
Torino (zero)," Baalke announced. "(...) The 2014 potential impact has
been eliminated."

The asteroid is around one-tenth of the size of the rock that is
believed to have wiped out dinosaurs on Earth 65 million years ago.

Asteroids such as 2003 QQ47 are chunks of rock left over from the
formation of the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago.

Most are kept at a safe distance from Earth in the asteroid belt between
the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

But the gravitational influence of giant planets such as Jupiter can
nudge asteroids out of these safe orbits and send them plunging into the
Earth's neighbourhood.

Copyright 2003,  Agence France Presse


*

CCNet SPECIAL: ASTEROID DOOMSDAY 'RISK' EVAPORATES AFTER MEDIA FANS
FLAMES
------------------------------------------------------------------------


A spokesman for William Hill bookmakers likened the 1-in-909,000 odds of
doom to the chance that a manned expedition to Mars would arrive and discover the Loch Ness Monster there, or the equally probably scenario that Elvis Presley would reappear and marry Madonna. We now know that the latter two scenarios  are far more likely than the world ending in 2014 due to an impact by asteroid 2003 QQ47.
     --Rob Britt, 3 September 2003


(1) ASTEROID DOOMSDAY 'RISK' EVAPORATES AFTER MEDIA FANS FLAMES

(2) IMPACT SCARES IN MODERN TIMES

(3) AND FINALLY: SOME OF TODAY'S 'RESPONSIBLE COVERAGE'

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

(1) ASTEROID DOOMSDAY 'RISK' EVAPORATES AFTER MEDIA FANS FLAMES

Space.com, 3 September 2003
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/asteroid_norisk_030903.html

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 09:45 am ET
03 September 2003

A newly discovered asteroid that generated doomsday headlines around the
world yesterday morning was, by the end of the day, reduced to innocuous
status as additional observations showed it would not hit Earth.

Meanwhile, a whirlwind of media hype has astronomers and asteroid
analysts arguing among themselves -- again -- about how they should
disseminate information to the public.

By one expert account, it was business as usual in the Near Earth Object
(NEO) community, a loose-knit group of global researchers who find,
catalogue, analyze and frequently spout off about asteroids that might
one day slam into our planet.

Virtual impact

Asteroid 2003 QQ47 was discovered Aug. 24 by the Lincoln Near Earth
Asteroid Research Program (LINEAR).

Based on limited data collected during just a few days in late August,
astronomers at first could not rule out the possibility that the giant
rock would hit Earth. They gave it 1-in-909,000 odds of impact in 2014
and catalogued it as a 1 on the Torino hazard scale, a designation that
merits "careful monitoring."

Its size -- three-quarters of a mile wide (1.2 kilometers) -- explains
some of the attention 2003 QQ47 received. Were a rock that big to hit
Earth, the climatic consequences would be global and it would cause, at
the least, widespread regional devastation.

But only a zero rating is lower on the Torino scale, which goes as high
as 10.

Astronomers agree that a rating of 1 is not cause for public concern.

Most experts do not believe the mainstream press should waste time
reporting on such an object. Several other newfound asteroids receiving
similar designation in recent years have fallen off the list within
days, as more observations allowed for refined orbital projections.

Nonetheless, a press release issued early Tuesday by the British
government's Near Earth Object Information Center fueled widespread
media coverage, including a wire story by Reuters that many asteroid
experts saw as inflammatory.

Headlines were over-the-top, most researchers felt. They included
"Armageddon set for March 21, 2014" and "Earth is Doomed."

By late yesterday, however, more observations allowed astronomers to
conclude there was no chance for impact in 2014.

Old news

The incident was just one in a long series miscues involving
astronomers, their public relations efforts, and a media eager to report
potential doom.

"It would appear that all the lessons learned from five years of our PR
blunders, media gaffes and errors of judgement have been forgotten,"
said Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist and asteroid analyst at
Liverpool John Moores University in the UK.

A handful of similar scares -- about one per year -- have evaporated in
similar fashion as professional astronomers go about their business of
finding and tracking potentially dangerous asteroids.

The NEO information Center, whose press release ignited the latest fiery
press coverage, issued a follow-up statement early this morning.

"The NEO Information Center aims to keep the public and media informed
of these kinds of issues, as they unfold rather than after the fact,"
the statement said. "This approach ensures we can promote understanding
of the process of asteroid detection, tracking and risk assessment."

Kevin Yates, project manager for the center, had said in the original
press release that additional observations would likely eliminate reveal
a reduced risk.

Today, Yates said, "Openly sharing this sort of information, in a
non-sensationalist way, should help to dispel the popular myth that
governments and astronomers would keep the discovery of a dangerous
asteroid secret. I hope the coverage of this story will give the general
public more of a feel for how the assessment of risk evolves over time
as more observations are made."

The NEO Information Center's statement today concluded with a bizarre
note of praise for the media that sounded defensive to others in the NEO
community.

"The NEO Information Center would like to thank the media for what, on
the whole, has been responsible coverage of this story. Almost all of
the press and broadcast coverage has included reference to our original
statements that the probability of impact was very low at just 1-in-909
000, and that the Torino rating was likely to drop following further
observations."

"Undermining our integrity"

Peiser did not share the center's rosy view for how the whole thing
unfolded. He runs an electronic newsletter called CCNet, a forum for
discussing the research and risks associated with NEOs, as well as the
impact of media coverage on the public view of asteroid research and the
credibility of the researchers.

"I'm afraid that any attempt to justify an ill-timed and unnecessary
media campaign doesn't bode well for the NEO community's efforts to
avoid false asteroid alarms that only risk undermining our integrity,"
Peiser wrote in the latest edition of CCNet today.

Peiser leveled this accusation at the center: "Crying wolf becomes
official policy."

The first and most notorious false asteroid alarm dates back to 1998.
Then an astronomer went public with data showing that asteroid 1997 XF11
had a chance of hitting Earth in the year 2028. Once the asteroid was
rendered harmless by more observations, a debate began as to if, when
and how to release preliminary asteroid data to the media and the
public.

Though new agencies, institutions and programs have since been set up to
better manage the situation, little has changes. A similar scare
developed last summer, when British media hyped the potential danger of
2002 NT7. In that situation, astronomers were candid and vocal in their
criticism of the British press.

Like the return of Elvis

One thing has changed of late: There is an increasing sense of sarcasm
in the media with each new asteroid scare. Some reporters and editors
are getting wise to the long odds -- or perhaps tired of having to
report on them -- and doing more than just sensationalizing the data.

One story yesterday made light of the initial chances of 2003 QQ47
hitting Earth.

Sky News, a British publisher, said a bookmaker was taking bets on the
prospect. A spokesman for William Hill bookmakers likened the
1-in-909,000 odds of doom to the chance that a manned expedition to Mars
would arrive and discover the Loch Ness Monster there, or the equally
probably scenario that Elvis Presley would reappear and marry Madonna.

We now know that the latter two scenarios are far more likely than the
world ending in 2014 due to an impact by asteroid 2003 QQ47.

Copyright 2003, Space.com

=========== LETTERS =============

(2) IMPACT SCARES IN MODERN TIMES

Mark R. Kidger <mrk@ll.iac.es>

Benny:

I think that the matter of 2003 QQ47 is a reflection of the blessing and
the curse of modern times, particularly the improvements in astrometry
and calculating power, but also in the Internet as a communicator.

One only has to think of Hermes that was observed for just a 4-day arc
and was then totally lost. Had Hermes made that close pass today there
would have been hundreds of very precise astrometric measures from all
around the world. The numbers would have been crunched by at very least
the MPC and JPL and we would have had a hard orbit solution that would
have allowed recovery. The tremendous computing power available would
have produced an extrapolation of the orbit over several decades.
Undoubtedly this extrapolation would have shown a large number of
virtual impactors that would have led to astronomers moving the Earth
(almost literally in some cases) to observe the object and increase the
arc. With the increased arc the uncertainties would reduce and "voilá!",
suddenly - probably in only a week or so - it would no longer be a
threat, but not before someone had noticed that this was an exceptional
object and passed the word on the Internet.

We sometimes just do not appreciate the significance of the revolution
in observing techniques and computing power. Even in the 1950s and '60s
it was normal that a new short period comet would not have a reasonably
reliable orbit for months after discovery, now we are very often getting
a very exact orbit with a period accurate to 0.1% or better in a week
just because so much data is available to orbit calculators and these in
turn have an extraordinary capability to make highly accurate
calculations with the data.

I must admit that now I pay almost no attention to these impactor scares
because they are often based on very short orbital arcs (in the case of
2003 QQ47 we have all of 9 days now). It is perfectly logical that with
a very short orbital arc extrapolated many years into the future that
all kinds of possible impact solutions should appear. If we remember the
case of 1997 XF11 - sorry to bring it up, but it is a classic case - the
entire problem was because there was an error of about 15 minutes in its
calculated orbital period which, summed over 30 years, led to a rather
large error in its extrapolated position. Now most members of the public
would accept that a 15 minute error in the period of 1997 XF11 was
really extraordinary precision with what was quite scanty data. However,
as more data becomes available, the uncertainties in the orbit reduce to
quite extraordinary levels that the orbital calculators of 30 years ago
would have envied and not quite believed.

The whole business of NEOs and impacts works with numbers that are
beyond the ability of most people to understand. An impact risk of 1 in
100000 raises some excitement among the public, particularly in the
August "silly season" when there is usually a shortage of political news
stories and most newspapers and even tv bulletins have to fill in a lot,
but it is a 99.9999% chance of NOTHING WHATSOEVER happening. People are
willing to bet on such odds, for example in the National or State
lotteries - although I suspect that the reason is that they think only
of the headline winning figure, not the very large probability of
winning nothing whatsoever-, but if you were offered the chance to bet
on a horse in a race at 100000-1 by a bookmaker you would almost
certainly think that he was taking you for an idiot because nobody would
waste money betting on those odds.

The whole business is a reflection that techniques have advanced far
beyond our capability to process the information and communicate it in
an understandable way even to most scientists.

The up side of the easy availability of data on risks and virtual
impactors is that it leads to large numbers of observations being taken
of these objects. The down side is that occasionally you will have a
short-arc object that produces a spectacular solution and that that will
get picked up by the media.

What is obvious is that virtual impactors based on very short arcs are
almost certainly going to disappear as more data arrives, as was this
case. The only time that such objects should get us "excited" is when,
as new data arrives, the impact risk increases rather than decreasing -
which was briefly the case with 1997 XF11. Thus the most important
pieces of information to point out to scientists, journalists and public
alike are:

* How good is the orbit?

If it is an arc of just a few nights or weeks one must ask just how good
the extrapolation over some decades will be (and here the answer depends
on the sampling of the data). When an arc is very short (as was the case
of 2003 QQ47) it must be made clear that the extrapolation is subject to
large errors - in other words, the risk must be talked down as much as
possible until the orbit firms up.

* What is the trend in the risk?

As new data is added to the orbit, does the impact risk increase or
decrease? If it decreases then there really is nothing to worry about.
Only in the very rare cases where it *increases* should the object be
highlighted.

The great importance of risk web pages is that they allow astronomers to
see which are the objects that are of interest, but the emphasis should
be very firmly on asking astronomers to collaborate in eliminating the
very tiny risk that these objects may hit the Earth, rather than
highlight tiny probabilities that a particular object may be a threat
unless we see a case of increasing probability of impact.

Mark Kidger

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

(3) AND FINALLY: SOME OF TODAY'S 'RESPONSIBLE COVERAGE'

EARTH FACES ASTEROID HIT IN 2014
COURIER MAIL (AUSTRALIA) - 3 September 2003

ASTEROID ON CRASH COURSE
HERALD SUN (AUSTRALIA) - 3rd September 2003

COLLISION ONE IN A MILLION
ADVERTISER (AUSTRALIA) - 3rd September 2003

EARTH BRACED FOR IMPACT
GOLD COAST BULLETIN (AUSTRALIA) - 3rd September 2003

ASTEROID IS ON WAY - MAYBE
NEW YORK POST (USA), 3 September 2003

ARMAGEDDON ASTEROID HEADING FOR EARTH.
DAILY STAR (LONDON, UK) - 3 September 2003

THE END OF US ALL
DAILY STAR (LONDON, UK) - 3 September 2003

WE'RE DOOMED. GIANT ASTEROID TO HIT EARTH ON MARCH 21, 2014 (ER,
POSSIBLY)
EXPRESS (LONDON, UK) - 3 September 2003

21/3/2014: END OF LIFE ON EARTH - PERHAPS
NEWCASTLE JOURNAL - 3 September 2003

ASTEROID MAY END LIFE ON EARTH - OR NOT
HAMILTON SPECTATOR - 3 September 2003

FORGET MARS, ASTEROID ATTACKS
Business Day, 3 September

Astronomer avblåser asteroidealarm (Norwegian)
Verdens Gang, 3 September 2003

Asteroid sa v roku 2014 priblízi k Zemi (Slovak)
Pravda, 3 September 2003

ASTEROID SAUST AUF DIE ERDE ZU
Hamburger Abendblatt, 3 September 2003

Asteróide Poderá Atingir a Terra em 2014 (Portuguese)
Público, 3 September 2003

Sin noticias de la Tierra (Spanish)
La Rioja, 3 September 2003

Un nuevo asteroide se acerca a la Tierra
El Periodico, 3 September 2003

Scientists: Huge Asteroid Could Hit Earth in 2014
Voa News, 3 September 2003


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please contact the moderator Benny Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and educational
use only. The attached information may not be copied or reproduced for
any other purposes without prior permission of the copyright holders.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the
articles and texts and in other CCNet contributions do not necessarily
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network.



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