CCNet 103/2002 - 6 September 2002

"If Ferris makes one point, he makes it again and again: Don't
overlook "the backyard stargazer who searches with a telescope for
previously undiscovered asteroids and comets." These thought adventurers
gazing up at the night sky from backyards all over the world are
"simultaneously engaged in two missions - a study of our origins and a
reconnaissance that just might bear on our survival."
--Jim Bencivenga, The Christian Science Monitor, 5 September

    UPI Science News, 5 September 2002

    Associated Press, 5 September 2002



    BBC News Online, 6 September 2002

    The Christian Science Monitor, 5 September 2002

(7) 9/11
    Sir Arthur C Clarke @sri.lanka

(8) NGST
    Alex Storrs <>

    Michael Martin-Smith <>

     Isobe Syuzo <>


>From UPI Science News, 5 September 2002

By Scott R. Burnell
UPI Science News

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 5 (UPI) -- Celestial objects crossing Earth's orbit
threaten society in ways far more realistic than the doomsday scenarios
Hollywood portrays in films such as "Armageddon," an Air Force general said

The most immediate threat is from smaller objects hitting the atmosphere and
exploding, said Brig. Gen. Pete Worden, vice director of operations at Air
Force Space Command.

Military sensors detect many such explosions annually. About 30 of the
yearly impacts are large enough to equal the blast of at least 1,000 tons of
dynamite, he told the Workshop on Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of
Hazardous Comets and Asteroids.

"(Some of these) release between 3 and 10 kilotons (of energy), roughly
comparable to the Hiroshima bomb," Worden said.

"This is significant because we're seeing a proliferation of nuclear
weapons, and (these blasts) are in the class of those weapons."

One such impact occurred over the Mediterranean Sea this past June, Worden
said, when new nuclear powers India and Pakistan were ready to wage war over
the disputed Kashmir region.

If the 20-kiloton blast had occurred over Southwest Asia, it might have
triggered a nuclear exchange before the U.S. government or other agencies
with sophisticated sensors could have announced the true cause, he said.

The U.S. military wants to work more closely with scientific groups for
rapid dissemination of data on such near-Earth objects, Worden said. The
Department of Defense is developing a NEO information clearinghouse and
warning center as part of the existing missile warning and space object
tracking complex in Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., he said.

Meteor storms, a more energetic form of events such as the annual Leonid and
Perseid meteor showers, also present a real hazard, Worden said. The showers
are caused by a trail of dust and small debris left by comets, and storms
occur when the trail is particularly dense. An extremely strong storm is
capable of damaging satellites, especially the very valuable Global
Positioning System, he said.

Improved space surveillance is the key to spotting and possibly avoiding
such hazards, and military sensors play a role here, he said.

The current generation of digital camera-like sensors could scan the entire
sky in about a week, he said, and systems under development in Canada and
the United States might be able to do the same job in only hours.

If larger objects are detected approaching the planet, it should be possible
to determine their basic composition with radar, said Wlodek Kofman of the
Laboratoire Planetologie in Grenoble, France. Measuring the scattering of a
radar signal from fractures and other discontinuities in a meteor or comet
would help show the difference between a solid object, a "rubble pile" of
smaller pieces or other possibilities, Kofman told the workshop.

Knowing an object's make-up could be vital in picking the proper method for
redirecting it. A small rocket motor that would easily divert a solid body,
for example, might break up a rubble pile into a cloud of objects headed for

As for diverting the "planet killers" Hollywood focuses on, researchers
should focus on rockets and other methods far more conventional than the
screenwriter's choice of a nuclear weapon, Worden said.

The most important thing for researchers to do is work out a command and
control structure for determining issues such as who sounds the alarm and
who would pay for a diversion scheme, he said.

The NEO threat is real enough that researchers have to fight the "giggle
factor" that arises when policy leaders first hear about the issue, he said.
Scientists should arm themselves with as broad a spectrum of information as
possible on realistic threats before trying to educate the public or
lawmakers, he said.

The workshop, sponsored by NASA, the University of Maryland, the National
Optical Astronomy Observatories and several companies, seeks to increase
understanding of NEOs to find effective ways of diverting or disrupting any
objects that could threaten the planet. The group expects to publish a
recommended timeline of research necessary to meet that goal by 2030.

Copyright © 2002 United Press International


>From Associated Press, 5 September 2002

BRIGHT Bright blue flash and loud booms in sky over southern Australia
puzzle space experts

ADELAIDE, Australia - Astronomers on Friday were investigating reports from
southern Australia of a bright blue flash and loud booms. One said it
probably was a comet, while another suggested it was debris from a space

Dozens of people along Fleurieu Peninsula, about 100 kilometers (60 miles)
south of Adelaide, said they say the flash about 6 p.m. (0830 GMT) Thursday.

The witnesses said the light was followed by a smoke trail and two loud
booms that shook the ground.

Astronomer Bryan Boyle said Friday it was probably a meteor breaking up, and
probably came within 30 kilometers (20 miles) of hitting the ground.

But Colin Norris, director of Australian International UFO Research center,
said its color and course suggested it was more likely debris from a space
mission re-entering the atmosphere.

Astronomers were expected to begin a more detailed investigation of the
incident, including a possible search for material that might have hit the

Copyright 2002, AP


>From, 4 September 2002

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

Within a family of more than 200 asteroids cleaved from a larger space rock
in some long-ago catastrophe, siblings are mysteriously grouped into two
categories defined by sharply different rotation orientations, a new study

The finding reveals a puzzling void of knowledge about how asteroids form
and evolve. 
Researchers had expected that each rock in the so-called Koronis family of
asteroids would spin at some randomly determined rate. This action would be
a result of the chaos of their birth, and the axis of each asteroid's
rotation would point in some random direction. The family was originally
created in a collision between two large asteroids, experts generally agree.

MIT researcher Stephen Slivan examined changes in brightness of ten Koronis
asteroids, caused by the objects' non-spherical shape and changes in
sunlight reflection as they rotate. The technique is akin to spinning a
potato under a spotlight: Its sides reflect more light than its ends.
Measuring the time between peaks and dips in brightness provides a rotation
rate and other information.

Slivan found seven of the 10 asteroids clumped into two groups based on
their rotation rates. Three larger asteroids revolved about their axes in
about 14 hours, while four smaller rocks took about 8.5 hours, on average,
to complete a rotation.

More significant and perplexing was that all ten asteroids were fairly
neatly divided into two groups based on the orientation of their spin axes.
Most objects in the solar system rotate about an axis that is not perfectly
aligned with that of the Sun. Earth, for example, is tilted about 23.5

In the sample of Koronis asteroids, Slivan found six whose axes generally
point one way while four point in a distinctly different direction.

"I was looking for a subtle effect," he said of these so-called spin
clusters. "This hits you in the face."

The results, which will be detailed in the Sept. 5 issue of the journal
Nature, generate questions rather than supplying answers.

"The fact that the spin clusters exist at all tells us that even what we
thought we understood about family formation and/or what happens afterwards
is at best very incomplete, because we have no consistent explanation at
present for the observed clustered spin distribution," Slivan told

Of the likely collision that created the family, Slivan said the amount of
energy released was "much, much greater than anything in human experience,
so much so that we don't really understand how the process unfolds."

Like most asteroids, the Koronis family orbits the Sun between Mars and
Jupiter. Astronomers are eager to learn more about the characteristics of
such asteroids so they can consider how best to divert or destroy one that
might someday be found on a collision course with Earth. Further, grasping
the evolutionary history of asteroids would improve understanding of the
solar system's development.

The Koronis family has a history of presenting puzzles, including one
regarding the timing of its creation.

One of its largest family members, Ida, is peppered with craters, a scene
some researchers think indicates the initial birth must have taken place
three billion years ago or more. But Ida has a moon, Dactyl, that other
scientists say must have been created in that initial collision. Yet Dactyl,
they say, can't be more than 100,000 years old.

Slivan speculates that the spin clusters might be the result of subsequent
collisions, which could have generated asteroidal grandchildren with similar
spin rates. Or, he suggests, some effect over time might gradually nudge
asteroids with random spin characteristics toward those observed in the

Only a broader study of asteroids outside the Koronis family will fully
answer these questions.

"For now it's a big puzzle," he said, adding that any solution is "quite a
ways off in the future."

Copyright 2002,


>From <>

Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington             September 5, 2002
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
(Phone: 818/354-6278)

RELEASE: 02-158


Some comets may break apart over and over again in the farthest reaches of
the solar system, challenging a theory that comets break up only
occasionally and not too far from the Sun, says a researcher from NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.

A system of comets called "sungrazers," named for their orbit that closely
brushes the Sun, reveals important clues about how these bodies break up.
Most sungrazing comets are tiny -- the smallest could be less than
10 meters (30 feet) across -- and move in a highway-like formation of comets
that pass near the Sun and disintegrate.

Dr. Zdenek Sekanina, senior research scientist at JPL, reports in the
September 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal that many sungrazer comets
arrive at the Sun in clusters and on parallel paths. He emphasizes that such
tiny fragments would have disintegrated if they had come so close to the Sun
on an earlier trip. Therefore, the parents of these tiny sungrazers must
have broken up after their previous encounter with the Sun and continued to
break up far from the Sun on their journey through the solar system.

Sekanina's sungrazer studies challenge an earlier theory that the only place
these comets break up is very close to the Sun, as the strong pull of its
gravity cracked their loosely piled chunks of dust and ice. The gradual,
continuing fragmentation gives birth to all the sungrazers, the most
outstanding examples of splitting comets.

"Astronomers never before realized that there could be a fairly orderly
pattern in breaking up, so that one comet cascades into large families of
smaller comets, and that this process could be an important part of a
comet's natural life cycle," Sekanina said.

Sungrazers are not the only comets that can break up far from the Sun.
Sekanina points to new observations of comet 57P/du Toit-Neujmin-Delporte,
whose fragmentation has led to the formation of a similar, though less
prominent, highway of tiny comets. All fragments separated from the comet
beyond the orbit of Mars.

Images taken by the European Space Agency's and NASA's Solar  and
Heliospheric Observatory have shown the many tiny sungrazing comets. A movie
showing two of these comets can be found at:

Nearly seven years' worth of images from the solar observatory revealed more
than 400 sungrazers in the Sun's immediate neighborhood. Sekanina estimates
that currently there may be as many as 200,000 sungrazer comets the size of
the ones the observatory detected.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory is a project of international
cooperation between the European Space Agency and NASA. The spacecraft is
part of the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics program, a global effort to study the
interaction of Sun and Earth. The instrument that observed the comets was
developed at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, with collaborators
in the United Kingdom, France and Germany. JPL, a division of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Planetary
Atmospheres program for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington.

More information on comets is available at:


>From BBC News Online, 6 September 2002
By Helen Briggs
BBC News Online science reporter 
A ground-breaking experiment to measure the speed of gravity is being
carried out. Thanks to a useful planetary alignment, physicists hope to test the general
theory of relativity.

One of the assumptions of Einstein's famous theory is that the speed of
gravity is equal to the speed of light.

It seems to be true, based on indirect evidence, but has never been proven.

On Sunday, Jupiter will pass close to the light coming from a quasar, an
object that appears star-like but which is in reality billions of
light-years away.

The planet's gravity should nudge the light coming from the quasar, causing
it to appear to shift a little in the sky.

Astronomers hope to be able to measure this displacement - which depends on
the speed of gravity.

Virgin Islands to Hawaii

They will do this by comparing the quasar's position with that of other
quasars that are far away from Jupiter as seen on the sky.

Observations will be carried out using telescopes located in the Virgin
Islands, Hawaii and Germany.

They include 10 Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescopes run by the
US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Max Planck
Institute's radio telescope in Effelsberg.

Quasars are very bright objects
If all goes well, the technique will be accurate enough to give a useful
estimate for the speed of gravity.

The team, led by Sergei Kopeikin of the University of Missouri-Columbia, US,
will not get another chance for a decade.

"We believe the general theory of relativity is correct and that the speed
of gravity is equal to the speed of light," says Dr Kopeikin.

"Japanese and Nasa scientists also will be looking as well using other
telescopes around the world, so we'll be able to compare our findings."

Curved space

Researcher Ed Fomalont, an astronomer at the NRAO, says there could be some
surprises in store.

"If we find that the speed of gravity is faster than the speed of light then
Einstein's theory of general relativity breaks down," he told BBC News

The idea of testing whether gravity acts at the speed of light is an
intriguing one, says Michael Rowan-Robinson, an astrophysicist at Imperial
College, London, UK.

"Einstein's general theory of relativity is so dominant that we all assume
gravity acts at the speed of light," he says. "But this does need to be

"From Einstein's theory of gravity, that is his general relativity theory,
we believe mass curves space and this can cause light to follow a curved
path," he told BBC News Online.

"The first test of general relativity was to observe the bending effect of
the Sun's mass on distant stars during an eclipse - Sir Arthur Eddington in
1919 showed that the position of stars in the sky moved depending on whether
the Sun was near their line of sight.

"The amount they moved was close to the general relativity prediction,
confirming that Einstein's theory was on the right track."

He says the new experiment will do much the same thing using Jupiter instead
of the Sun and quasars instead of stars.

Many quasars emit strongly at radio wavelengths, so can be tracked very
accurately by radio telescopes.

"This means that by watching what happens to the positions of the quasars on
the sky as the gravitational field of Jupiter moves past their
line-of-sight, the scientists can test other aspects of the general
relativity theory," says Professor Shanks.

Relativity questions

One aspect is to check how soon the gravitational, space-curving, effect of
Jupiter is "felt" by the space around it, through which the quasar light is

This will be done by seeing if the movement of the quasar positions caused
by Jupiter's space curving effect follows the predictions of general

"If they do, then this will be a proof that gravity's space-curving effect
is transmitted at the speed of light," he adds.

"If the quasar positions do not move according to the prediction of general
relativity then it will suggest that gravity's space-curving effect
transmits at some other speed and place a question mark against the whole of
Einstein's theory of general relativity."

Copyright 2002, BBC


>From The Christian Science Monitor, 5 September 2002

How Backyard Stargazers Are Probing Deep Space and Guarding Earth from
Interplanetary Peril
By Timothy Ferris
Simon & Schuster
379 pp., $26

By Jim Bencivenga

Do you think about the stars when the sun is out? If so, you'll find your
head in the heavens when your eyes are in this book.

And because Timothy Ferris writes knowledgeably and beautifully, "Seeing in
the Dark" is also for anyone else who's the least curious about what we see
when we look up at the night sky.

This is nothing new for Ferris. He's been illuminating in numerous books and
articles, most notably, "Coming of Age in the Milky Way," and "The Whole

As always, he brings the cosmic down to earth. This time, he explains the
20th-century revolution in spectroscopic analysis of very distant light from
celestial bodies through the personal experiences of hundreds of
astronomers, mostly amateurs.

Since most people don't know advanced calculus and quantum mechanics, the
minibiographies provide a clear line of sight on the implications of these
new discoveries.

The experience is like gazing at the Perseid meteor shower in summer. At
first, the meteors are quite visible and just seeing them is enough. But
then the imagination asks: Where did they come from? What are they made of?
How did someone know they would arrive at just this time and in just this
place out of the vastness of the cosmos?

Starting from planet Earth and extending out to the limits of the visible
universe, Ferris launches into the night - from light cast by a full moon
inside a drop of water on a Florida beach to photons that travel 14 billion
light-years before imprinting in the midnight darkness of our skulls. He has
us look through the eyes of others to feel at home in our universe with its
more than 100 billion galaxies, each with its billions of stars.

Ferris records the role of amateur astronomers from the ancient Greeks,
through the advent of the telescope in the 16th century, to the present. He
establishes their past and present contributions to the field of astronomy
in an age when images from the $12 billion orbiting Hubble telescope would

He marvels at insights gained from their individual and collective
curiosity. Both together and apart, they represent the innate nature of
human beings to ask why. Through them, he is able to explain, or at least
intelligibly introduce, concepts as varied as the northern lights and black

If Ferris makes one point, he makes it again and again: Don't overlook "the
backyard stargazer who searches with a telescope for previously undiscovered
asteroids and comets."

These thought adventurers gazing up at the night sky from backyards all over
the world are "simultaneously engaged in two missions - a study of our
origins and a reconnaissance that just might bear on our survival."

The stories, interests, and passions of these amateurs set "Seeing in the
Dark," apart from the familiar orbit of astronomy texts. Such interesting
lives create a gravitational pull that captivates anyone with a trace of
scientific curiosity.

The band of characters Ferris fixes on queried the distant lights of the
heavens. Educated or uneducated, rich or poor, whether they built their own
telescope or had one built for them, these stargazers appear in their
element, at the end of a telescope.

Amateurs like David Levy, Lubos Kohoutek, and Thomas Bopp have comets
bearing their names as a reward for their efforts. Most labor in anonymity.
Alan Hale (he put the Hale in the Hale-Bopp comet), and Edward Emerson
Barnard (of Barnard's star fame) are amateurs who crossed over to become
professional astronomers.

Born in Tennessee in 1857 and river-mud-poor Barnard literally dived into
the Mississippi during the Civil War, foraging for food in sunken ships.
Though he was illiterate and fatherless, his curiosity eventually led him
heavenward where he made radical discoveries in the field of dark nebula.

This is not a book one sits down and reads from cover to cover. Best to take
it chapter by chapter, as if savoring constellation by constellation a
star-studded night in the high desert of New Mexico. You don't have to leave
the backyard of your imagination to appreciate the star furnace in the Orion
Nebula, the counterspinning movements in the Virgo cluster, or an asteroid
passing in front of the planet Neptune.

Since Einstein, physics has become cosmology and cosmology has become
physics. The rise of relativity theory and quantum mechanics, accompanied by
a technological revolution in instrumentation, created information out of
not only visible light, but also radio waves and microwaves, infrared and
ultraviolet light, and X-ray and gamma rays. This opened humanity's eyes to
a whole new universe.

When looking into the farthest, darkest, invisible regions of the cosmos,
Ferris helps us do so from our own backyard, with others.

* Jim Bencivenga is the organizer of the Monitor's Web discussion groups.

Copyright 2002,  The Christian Science Monitor


(7) 9/11

>From Sir Arthur C Clarke @sri.lanka

Now that the countdown has started, I'd like to remind everyone that it's
almost 30 years since I chose Sept 11 for the greatest catastrophe in
history, with a comet impact on Italy (the opening of <Rendezvous With
Rama>, 1973)

Moreover, in the same Chapter 1 I proposed the name SPACEGUARD, which has
now been widely accepted.

For once, I hope to be a bad prophet!

                Best Wishes,

                        Arthur Clarke      4 Sept 2002     (7 to go....)

(8) NGST

Alex Storrs <>

It is interesting to read about the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST)
in the CCNet. When I left the Space Telescope Science Institute a couple of
years ago, the people in charge of the project, from Bernie Seery on down,
were adamant that NGST would not observe "moving targets", that is, objects
in the solar system. The only exception would be observations of
Trans-Neptunian Objects at their stationary points. I argued against this
restriction for several years, but in vain: the Powers That Be don't want to
invest the resources necessary to implement the tracking system necessary
for these observations. Unless they have changed their minds in the last
couple of years, NGST is of no interest to anyone on CCNet.

Alex Storrs
Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Geosciences
Towson University
8000 York Road
Towson, MD 21252-0001
Tel. 410-704-3003
FAX 410-704-3511


>From Michael Martin-Smith <>

Dear Benny,

Over the past 5 years or so, the idea that human civilisation could be
catastrophically impacted by incoming Near Earth  Asteroids or Comets has
now been recognised by academia, the media, the public, and, at last,
Governments .

As a result, there is a piecemeal but clear evolution of programmes to
locate and track a growing number of potential impactors, which is likely to
lead to most of the major larger  threats being identified within 10 years.

Aten class NEOs , and new Long Period comets, remain the most evasive,
however, and are unlikely to be found , by solely terrestrial means, with
suffiicient lead times for easy deflection.

I, and others in our Network, have  proposed for some time that the best and
most positive response to this hazard is to utilise the raw materials
represented by comets and NEOs to build a dispersed human space based
civilisation BEFORE any such impact ever takes place.

Be that as it may, it is clear that a good deal of in situ research and
probing of many objects will be required before meaningful deflection
strategies can be applied.  This will require  innovations in space
technology to reduce costs and increase reliability . Some of these
technologies - ion engine propulsion, improved auto navigation, and enhanced
solar power for onboard systems have been developed in the Deep Space 1
mission , while the NEAR mission to asteroid EROS 433 demonstrated the first
landing  abilities - a sine qua non for any real in situ research of
composition  and consistency.

What is needed now, most urgently, for scientists, prospectors and indeed
future would -be colonists, is a major reduction in costs of launch - at
present,  these run to tens of millions of dollars for a small probe , and
more, of course for major , eg crewed missions.

Whether we want scientific study of NEOs in depth , trial of deflection
options, or exploitation with a view to major new space industry, we all
have one need in common - a major reduction in launch costs. A concerted
effort by Governments, industry, and space scientists to develop a low cost
reliable launch system would more than anything else remove the last
remaining barrier to full hearted action against  a threatened Impact

As China's space technologist Wang Xili has clearly  stated - Space is now
the  fourth strategic area for Humankind - after Land, Sea, and Air. Cheap
and reliable Access must be secured if we are to influence its hazards and
opportunities in the human interest

The "giggle factor" of the asteroid/comet threat is now dead - but fear of
exorbitant costs of a solution is very much alive and well! 

Michael Martin-Smith


>From Isobe Syuzo <>

Dear Readers of CCNet:

You may remember that we held an International Workshop on Collaboration and
Coordination among NEO Observeres and Orbital Computers at the Kurashiki
City Art Museum, Japan (October 23-26, 2001. The proceedings of this meeting
have now been published. The proceedings are available online at Please have a look. If you need a
hard copy, you can get it by sending your postal address to Syuzo Isobe:

I hope you will find the preceedings useful.

Best regards,
Syuzo Isobe.

Followings are the preface and recommendations.


The problem of NEOs threatening the Earth is receiving more and
more attention as the media and public become more aware of the
issue. NASA has conducted several workshops on the problem and
several reported close Earth approaches have been announced and
reported in the media. In addition, studies and workshops have
been conducted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the
United Nations Peaceful Usage of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), the
United Kingdom Task Force and the Organization for Economic
Coordination and Development (OECD) Global Science Forum.

The initial attention to the problem of NEOs was generated by
scientists who competed through the peer-review process to
condust original research into the nature and motions of these
objects that represent the Earth's nearest neighbors. To a large
extent, the search for NEOs is still done in this somewhat
competitive environment and a certain amount of competition is
probably healthy. However, to the extent possible, the total NEO
international discovery effort would benefit from a certain
amount of collaboration and coordination. Once a fast moving
object is discovered by a particular observatory, it is often
more efficient for another observatory to provide the follow-up
observations necessary to secure its orbit. For example,
discovery sites cannot always follow-up every new object because
of weather problems, approaching daylight or a rapid motion into
the southern hemisphere.

At the Kurashiki meeting, we concentrated our efforts and
discussion on the effective coordination and collaborative
efforts for future work. An effort was made to allow comments and
suggestions by all the specialists on each of the three separate
Working Groups. We made an effort to allow enough time for each
presentation and the following discussion. Each Working Group
arrived at recommendations that would benefit the entire
international NEO research community.

As co-chair of the meeting, I would like to thank those who
worked so hard to make this meeting a success and in particular
the Japan Space Forum as a co-organizer, the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration, the Kurashiki City, and National Space
Development Agency for their financial support, and the Ministry
of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology, the
Ministry of Environment, the Okayama Prefecture, the Okayama
City, the Bisei Town, the Education Committees of the Okayama
Prefecture, the Okayama City, the Kurashiki City and the Bisei
Town, the National Astronomical Observatory, the Institute of
Space and Aeronautical Science, the National Aerospace
Laboratory, the Astronomical Society of Japan and the Japanese
Society for Planetary Sciences for their support.

Finally, I would like to express my deep thanks to Dr. Donald
Yeomans for his extensive work as co-Chair of the Scientific
Organizing Committee. Without his support, this Workshop could
not have been successful.

                                                      Syuzo Isobe
                      Co-chair of Scientific Organizing Committee


Recommendations from the Kurashiki meeting

The meeting's goal was to provide recommendations to reduce the
risk of NEOs to our planet by discovering them as efficiently as
possible and as early as possible. While the problem of
mitigating an Earth threatening object is of obvious importance,
the search, follow-up and orbital computations must be the first
order of business.

The study of comets and asteroids is important for a number of
reasons including their role in providing the building blocks for
the outer solar system formation process, their contributions to
the Earth's oceans and atmosphere, and their role in modifying
the evolution of life on Earth. However, it is the ongoing threat
that they pose to Earth that concerns us here.
The threat of NEO collisions with Earth is an international
concern and the solution should be international as well. The
international community of scientists studying NEOs will make the
most collective progress if their efforts are coordinated.

This meeting brought together more than 20 international
specialists to discuss and make recommendations for improving the
efficiency with which NEOs are being discovered and followed-up
and to improve the process by which their motions can be
accurately extrapolated into the future. During the meeting,
three Working Groups were established. The Discovery Working
Group was chaired by S. Isobe, the Follow-up Observations Working
Group was chaired by A. Carusi and G. Valsecchi chaired the the
Orbital Computations Working Group. After considering the
discussions within the meeting itself as well as during the
Working Group sessions, each Working Group provided a list of
recommendations that should be seriously considered by the entire
NEO community. The discovery, follow-up and orbit computation
tasks that are currently ongoing for NEOs would become more
efficient if these recommendations were addressed.

                                Syuzo Isobe and Donald K. Yeomans
                               Co-chairs of the Kurashiki meeting


Recommendations from the discovery Working Group

Understanding that

   1. The NEA detection rate has greatly increased recently
   2. Discovery teams have telescope systems of different

and realizing the need to coordinate systematic coverage of the
sky depending on telescope system capability, we note that an
essential first stage to this is a campaign to assess what is
currently being achieved. This can usefully include the

   1. coverage should be measured three dimensionally e.g. sky
      area times limiting magnitude
   2. determining the accuracy of the reduced brightness
   3. determining the level of uniformity over the detection area
      (e.g. how this affects limiting magnitudes, or magnitude
      accuracy, in the centre of the image compared to the edges.
   4. shape of point spread function of stars, including
      comparison between different surveys
   5. comparison of detection algorithms between different
      surveys; to what extent do different surveys' algorithms
      detect same moving objects? (test by exchanging images)

The optional strategy (down to the same limiting visual
magnitude) is maximizing sky coverage at a given magnitude. (As a
useful reference, an all-sky monthly survey to ~20.5 -
21.0 mag. for a decade would achieve the NASA goal of discovering
90% of all NEAs with H<18). Therefore, an agreement seems
desirable that multiple surveys with moderately similar
capabilities should aim for a similar limiting mag.


Recommendations from the Follow-up Working Group

It is widely accepted that:

   1. Discovery of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) is an important
      endeavour owing to the possibility of impacts on Earth,
      sometimes with catastrophic consequences;
   2. Discovered objects need to be followed-up in order to
      refine the computation of their orbits, so as to allow
      their recovery at a future time;
   3. Orbit computation is an essential prerequisite for
      identification of possible impacts in the future, and this
      identification needs to be available several decades before
      the actual impact.

Therefore, recognizing the importance of an effective follow-up
activity, an essentiol first stage to this include the following:

   1. Steps be taken to minimize the length of time between a
      discovery observation and its announcement on the NEO
      Confirmation Page (CP) of the Minor Planet Center;
   2. Unique services to observers, involving possible single-
      point failure, should be mirrored at other sites;
   3. Observatories be encouraged to archive their images and
      publicize their precise observing circumstances;
   4. Details of negative observations should be recorded along
      with those of ``normal'' observations;
   5. Observers following-up NEO-CP objects collaborate more
      closely, for example through the NEO Coordination Page;
   6. Observers make public the schedules of their observing runs
      as soon as they have this information;
   7. Telescopes in the 1-2m size range and larger could be made
      available in a timely manner for astrometry and physical
   8. The MPC makes every effort in order to facilitate the
      follow-up work by, for example, provide astrometry on the
      NEO-CP and publicizing methods and algorithms to allow
      comparison with other similar tools.


Recommendations from orbital computers Working Group

Understanding that
   impact prediction is a complex and critical issue it is desirable

   1. independent techniques be applied to that purpose;
   2. these techniques be intercompared on suitably chosen test

Understanding that
   impact risk evaluation is a critical issue it is desirable that

   1. appropriate metrics be pursued taking into account impact
      probability and energy, as well as time to event, to
      facilitate the communication of the risk to appropriate
      personnel both inside and outside the scientific community.

Recognizing that
  there has recently been significant progress in initial orbit
determination techniques for short arc and/or small number of
observations it is desirable that

   1. methods be investigated for probabilistic classification of
      objects from the moment of discovery;
   2. methods be investigated for the optimization of the follow-
      up strategies from the moment of discovery;
   3. orbit determination methods used by the NEO and orbital
      debris communities be intercompared.


Notes on the list of recommendations from the Follow-up Working Group

   1. Sometimes it happens that newly discovered objects from the
      US surveys need an immediate follow-up, in a matter of
      hours, and the delay in posting the related information
      makes it impossible to re- observe them in the following
      night from Europe and Japan.
   2. The entire Spaceguard System is based on the continuous and
      accurate flux of information originated by the observers
      and the orbit computers. This flux must not be interrupted,
      and therefore essential services in managing the
      information must be duplicated and/or mirrored.
   3. Archival searches are becoming more and more important for
      the possibility to find pre-coveries of newly discovered
      objects. These extended archives would also be a precious
      resource in other astrophysical fields. Images in the
      archives must contain all the information necessary for an
      accurate reduction of data.
   4. Negative observations are an important tool for ruling out
      the possibility of impacts, by eliminating ``virtual
      impactors''. In order to be useful, such observations must
      be treated as any other observation, including all the
      observing circumstances.
   5. Coordination among follow-up observers sometimes requires a
      continuous, real-time connection. The NEO Coordination Page
      maintained at the Ondrejov Observatory may act as a
      ``bulletin board'' for comments, suggestions and planning
      purposes during the observing runs.
   6. A more effective coordination of follow-up activities
      requires the knowledge of the observing schedules of other
      observers, in order to minimize duplication of efforts and
      maximize the number of useful observations.
   7. In many cases the discovered objects become fainter and
      fainter in a very short time. It is therefore desirable
      that ad hoc observational programs be made available at
      facilities able to reach faint magnitudes, in the range 22-
      24. At the same time, physical observations of NEOs, needed
      to characterize the objects, should be more widely
      conducted, and these observations require powerful
   8. The current capabilities of observers and orbit computers,
      in terms of available software and computing power, are
      much better than in the past. The work at the MPC and its
      data policy, therefore, need to be re-adjusted in order to
      allow a more efficient and rapid communication of all the
      essential information on observations and data handling.

CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe, please
contact the moderator Benny J Peiser < >. 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.
The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be found
at DISCLAIMER: The opinions,
beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the articles and texts and in other
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viewpoints of the moderator of this network.



"We haven't seen events of this magnitude in the Earth's geological
record very often in the last million years," said James Garvin, a
Goddard geologist and impact expert who also studies craters on Mars. ...
According to Garvin it would take a 10,000 megaton explosion to make a
crater the size of the Iturralde Structure. Such a large meteor impact could
change climate by reducing temperatures in the same way as large volcanic
--NASA News, 8 October 1998

"If it is an impact feature, it could be as recent as 5 to 10,000
years before the present."
--Compton Tucker, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, 19
October 2000

    Benny Peiser <>

    Andrew Yee <>


    Blue Ice Online


    W. Bruce Masse, Los Alamos National Laboratory


>From Benny Peiser <>

Next week, the second scientific expedition to the Iturralde Crater in the
Bolivian Amazon will attempt to substantiate the origins of this 8km wide
crater. NASA scientists and other researchers will try to confirm their
assumption that the structure, which was identified 15 years ago with
satellite imagery, is indeed an impact crater.

The Iturralde Expedition 2002 is one of the most important impact crater
expeditions to date. If its cosmogenic origin can be corroborated, it would
hold significant implications for mankind's most recent past - as well as a
better understanding of the impact hazard.

What is fascinating about the crater are its geological features. For a
start, the crater is superimposed on alluvial deposits dating to the late
Quaternary (20.000-10.000 BP). Because of its stratigraphic location above
these layers, Compton Tucker, one of the expedition's leaders, has dated it
tentatively to between 10,000 and 5,000 years BP. In short, this looks like
a very fresh crater indeed.

Other features such as an elevated rim, annular trough, and central uplift
are characteristics of complex impact structures.

Clearly, if Iturralde were confirmed as a hypervelocity impact crater, it
would be a sensational discovery since it would represent the scar of the
most devastating impact disaster to have happened perhaps as recent as
5,000-10,000 years ago.

So let us contemplate what kind of object can produce a 8km wide impact
crater. According to rough calculations, a 700m asteroid, colliding with
Earth at 20km/sec, would be able to create a 8km impact crater. Such an
impact would release energy equivalent to ~10.000-15.000 MT, e.g. more than
the detonation of all of the world's nuclear weapons (~10.000 MT). A
collision of an asteroid this size is thought to occur roughly once every
100,000 years.

If, however, the object was a comet, impacting at 70km/sec, it would have
been ~400m in size. A comet this size could also create a 8km impact crater.
Here the energy released would be around 15.000 MT (a collision also thought
to occur once every 100.000 years).

It goes without saying that the implications of such results would be
fascinating. What, then, could the implications be if a young impact crater
were to be verified? First of all, and given the rather fresh appearance of
the crater, there is a good chance that Paleoindians were around when the
structure was formed. There is compelling archaeological evidence that
people migrated from North to South America some 12.000-11,000 years ago. If
the impact occurred after Paleoindians had settled here, it would not be
far-fetched to contemplate that people actually witnessed the disaster in
one way or another.

As Bruce Masse (Los Alamos National Laboratory) pointed out last week at the
London conference on Holocene Catastrophes, there is abundant evidence for
impact-associated "myths from cultural groups in the Gran Chaco region of
South America (Bolivia, Paraguay, northern Argentina) and in Brazil that
relate to a cataclysmic "great fire" of celestial origin. The suite of
environmental information contained in these myths does not conform to the
physical characteristics of a volcanic eruption, and instead suggests that
during the past 12,000 years one or more catastrophic cosmic impacts
occurred in, and severely impacted, the region defined by central Argentina
and the Gran Chaco."

Last but not least, we may even conjecture whether such a colossal impact
disaster with its hemispheric environmental effects may be connected with
the late Quaternary mass extinction in South and North America around 10,000
BP. A number of large mammals became extinct in the Americas at the end of
the late Pleistocene. Among some 35 different kinds of animals that
disappeared from the fossil record were mammoths, mastodons, camels, horses,
and bears. However, current theories about the causes of the Late Quaternary
mass extinction remain largely inconclusive and unconvincing.

But let's not get carried away. Evidently, the Iturralde Expedition 2002
will be an extremely thrilling venture. I wish the team the best of luck!
After all, it may have momentous repercussion about our most recent past,
but also about our perilous cosmic environment.

Stay tuned for more on the expedition and its findings or follow their
progress online at

Benny Peiser


>From Andrew Yee <>

Krishna Ramanujan
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.     September 4, 2002
Phone: 301/286-3026

RELEASE: 02-134


NASA scientists will venture into an isolated part of the Bolivian Amazon to
try and uncover the origin of a 5 mile (8 kilometer) diameter crater there
known as the Iturralde Crater. Traveling to this inhospitable forest
setting, the Iturralde Crater Expedition 2002 will seek to determine if the
unusual circular crater was created by a meteor or comet.

Organized by Dr. Peter Wasilewski of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, Md., the Iturralde Crater Expedition 2002 will be led by Dr. Tim
Killeen of Conservation International, which is based in Bolivia. Killeen will be
assisted by Dr. Compton Tucker of Goddard.

The team intends to collect and analyze rocks and soil, look for glass
particles that develop from meteor impacts and study magnetic properties in
the area to determine if the Iturralde site, discovered in the mid-1980s
with satellite imagery, was indeed created by a meteor.

If a meteorite is responsible for the impression, rocks in the area will
have shock features that do not develop under normal geological
circumstances. The team will also look for glass particles, which develop
from the high temperatures of impact.

The Iturralde Crater Expedition 2002 team will extensively analyze soil in
the impact zone for confirmation of an impact. One unique aspect of the
Iturralde site is the 4-5 km deep surface sediment above the bedrock. Thus
the impact was more of a gigantic "splat" rather than a collision into

The large crater is only 1 meter lower in elevation than the surrounding
area. Water collects within the depression, but not on the rim of the
crater, which is slightly higher than both the surrounding landscape and the interior
of the crater. These subtle differences in drainage are reflected in the forest
and grassland habitats that developed on the landscape. It is
precisely these differences in the vegetation structure that can be observed
from space and which led to the identification of the Iturralde Crater in
the 1970s when Landsat Images first became available for Bolivia.

Impact craters can also be confirmed through the magnetic study of the
impact zone. Dr. Wasilewski's team will conduct ground magnetometer surveys
and will examine the area through an unmanned aerial vehicle plane fitted with a magnetometer,
an instrument for measuring the magnitude and direction of magnetic field. The resulting data
will be analyzed by associating the magnetic readings with geographical
coordinates, to map magnetic properties of the area. The magnetometer data
could provide conclusive evidence as to whether or not the Iturralde feature
is an impact crater.

The Iturralde Crater Expedition 2002 expedition also contains an education
component. Teachers from around the world who are involved with the teacher
professional development program, called Teacher as Scientist, have helped to design
the expedition. One teacher will actually be on-site assisting with data collection.

University students from Bolivia will also be involved in the expedition.
The educational element of the expedition is just as important as the
science results," said Goddard engineer Patrick Coronado. "This is one of
those experiments that stirs the imagination, where science and technology
come head-to-head with nature in an attempt to unlock its secrets."

More information on ICE2002 can be found on:

For more information, please see:


AUGUST 17, 2002

Peter Wasilewski- NASA/GSFC 301-286-8317 phone

Impact craters can be found decorating the surface of solid bodies in the
Solar System. On earth they are found on all the continents, however
tectonics and fluvial and aeolian processes tend to mask the evidence of
impact rendering the discovery and verification of the impact site akin to a
detective story. The effects of impact are now recognized to be important to
the interpretation of the biological and geological history of the Earth,
consequently the circular feature called the Iturralde structure is an
obvious subject of scientific interest. Located in the Bolivian Amazon, the
Iturralde structure shows strong circumstantial evidence for being a crater.
It will fall to ICE 2002 to verify that it is a crater. ICE 2002 will visit
the site and sample the soil for later analysis, evaluate the flora within
and outside the "crater", look for evidence of exotic fragments including a
search for glassy particles and magnetic particles. We will use ground based
and MAGPLANE surveys to look for a magnetic signature associated with the 8
kilometer circular structure.

Bolivia Iturralde Crater Expedition 2002 (ICE2002) is a NASA Goddard Space
Flight Center expedition with the main funding source being the NASA/GSFC
Directors Discretionary Fund (DDF) for Education. Consequently this
expedition from the onset is a science/education event. Thus the teacher
professional development program called Teacher as Scientist (TAS) is an
important element in the design of the expedition. Additional funding comes
from NASA MU-SPIN and code 713 at the NASA/GSFC. The MAGPLANE funding is due
to NASA/GSFC code 935 with additional support from
NASA Wallops. The MAGPLANE magnetometers are due to the magnetometer team
(NASA/GSFC code 695) led by Dr. Mario Acuna.

A memorandum of understanding exists between NASA headquarters and the Museo
Noel Kempff in Santa Cruz Bolivia. The expedition would not be possible
without the supervision and assistance of the men in Bolivia- Dr. Tim
Killeen from Museo Noel Kempff Mercado and Conservation International and
Teddy M. Siles Lazzo from Museo de Historia Natural "Noel Kempff Mercado".

Any web site information and all data from the expedition will be located at


>From Blue Ice Online

In perhaps the remotest and wildest part of the Bolivian lowlands, in an
area hundreds of kilometers from the closest town, NASA scientists have
identified what they believe to be the youngest complex meteorite impact
crater on earth. Based on what is known about the geology of the region,
they believe the meteorite slammed into the Earth sometime between 5,000 and
20,000 years ago, making it the youngest "large" impact crater on Earth. The
crater is approximately 8 km across and is unique in that the target
material was soft sediment
The crater was originally identified in the mid-1980s with satellite
imagery, but a previous attempt to visit the site in 1987 was unsuccessful
due to the remoteness of the locality. However, Campbell et al (1989) were
able to make an excellent circumstantial case for an
impact origin for the Iturralde structure based on the following

o The structure is unique to the area and indeed may be unique to the Amazon
basin which is devoid of geologic expression other than that of surficial
Quaternary sedimentation and fluvial erosive activity

o The structure is superimposed upon the local topography

o The depth to basement is estimated to be 3 kilometers and together with
tens of meters of loose Pleistocene alluvium within which the structure lies
makes it very unlikely that the structure reflects any basement expression.

o The structure is > 500 Kilometers from the nearest known volcanic or karst
terrain within which circular features are sometimes found

o The general form of the structure- elevated rim, annular trough, and
central uplift- is that of a complex impact structure

The above were derived mostly from the interpretation of a Landsat image

In October 1998 the expedition reached the crater impact site after
traveling by jet airliner, small airplane, motor boat, dugout canoe, and
finally by cutting a 15 km long trail through the forest. Field data
gathered during the expedition supports the hypothesis that the circular
feature is a meteorite impact crater. The rings visible on the satellite
image correspond to slight ridges not more than 2 m in elevation, but
sufficiently higher to support upland forest vegetation, while the interior
of the crater is either inundated savanna or flooded forest. However, only
sophisticated methods using seismology and magnetometry can definitively
prove the existence of a meteorite or meteorite fragments buried beneath
hundreds of meters of alluvial deposits.

The Araona currently live in a territorial area between the rivers Manupare
and Manurimi, delimited approximately by the parallels 12º and 13º South
latitude and by the meridians 68º and 67º West longitude The Araona
population in 1999 was 93 persons, with a majority of the male sex The
Araona live in a settlement (Puerto Araona) located in the Department of La
Paz, Province of Iturralde, at the headwaters of the river Manupare.

Their houses are constructed approximately 15 minutes distant from each
other. This makes the settlement quite disperse, with families separated in
the forest. The tradition of constructing housing separated by the jungle,
could have its origin in the character of peacefulness in which the Araona
are accustomed to living. One can observe four types of buildings. The first
is the permanent house, where the family spends most of its time; another is
the occasional construction of shelters for hunting and fishing in places
that offer the possibility of finding meat; another curious house made by
the Araona is the "nahuiletae" a small shelter designated for women. Finally
there is the "babatae" or temple for the Araona gods that is constructed
with great care using special materials such as the jatata leaf. The
territory possesses abundant rivers and curichis that offer the Araona
points of reference for the supply of food.. Given that the habitat is
located in remote forests the Araona have very infrequent contact by land
with the regional population. The only method of linking and contact with
the non-indigenous population is through the river Manupare, to the Madre de
Dios, on which one finally arrives at Riberalta, the largest population
center of the Northern Amazon of Bolivia.

The first reference of the Araona -through contact with the Araona who at
the time lived along the river Madre de Dios - was made by Fransiscan
Missionaries Manuel Mancini and Fidel Codenach in January 1867 Due in part
to the fact that the visit was carried out at the start of the conquest of
the North, the Franciscans did not start a mission in the community, a
decision determined by the difficulties and risks that conditions presented.

At the start of the conquest of Northern Bolivia, rooted in the discovery of
rubber in the jungles of the National Colony Territory, the Araona made up
the most extensive indigenous group in the region. Information offered by
the industrialist Antonio Vaca Déz in "Historia de la Colonización del Río
Orthon" (1888) recognized that this indigenous peoples (Araona) populated
the majority of the Bolivian rivers of the northeast. Chronicles of
travelers of that time agree in showing that the Araona were located in
distinct parts of the region. Some rubber industrialists, -such as Vaca Díez
- initiated friendships offering them gifts of tools and other useful
objects. In return, the Araona gave them news about the existence of the
rivers where rich areas of rubber were located. During the era of rubber
exploitation, the Araona and other indigenous groups were taken from their
villages and forced to work as man power. There they were used as guides for
the teams of rumbeares to find rubber trees, as well as to hunt and fish for
the "white" workers.

The current Araona survivors come from the families that managed to escape
their captors, that held them in conditions of slavery. Since that time,
approximately in the year 1910 until 1964, the Araona lived as nomads,
hiding themselves from the rubber workers in the territory between the
rivers Madre de Dios and Manupare.

Members of the Linguistic Institute of Verano and the New Tribes Mission,
achieved friendly contact with 31 Araona that were found on the river
Amarillo (Jahamanu), afraid of the white people and maintaining a nomadic
lifestyle. In 1964 these institutions grouped themselves around a population
center on the bank of the Manupare, with the intent of evangelization.
The information contained in this piece was obtained from the VAIPO website.
The information was edited and modified considerably for this site.
A Spanish version can be reached from the main page.

W. Bruce Masse
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Physical scientists, policy makers, and the general public are becoming
increasingly aware that the Earth is periodically subject to impacts by
asteroids, comets, and small meteorites. It is now generally accepted that
cosmic impacts played a significant role in climate change and
biological evolution in the distant geological past. However, the current
view by science is that major regional and globally catastrophic impacts
have not occurred during the past 20,000 years, and that such impacts, while
possible, are unlikely to occur during the next several thousand years. Few
archaeologists, anthropologists, and paleoenvironmental specialists have
included consideration of cosmic impacts in their analysis of the physical
record of humankind. Major natural catastrophes (e.g., "universal" floods,
fire, darkness, and cold) are prominently reflected in traditional South
American creation myths, cosmology, religion, and worldview. The present
study examines myths from cultural groups in the Gran Chaco region of South
America (Bolivia, Paraguay, northern Argentina) and in Brazil that relate to
a cataclysmic "great fire" of celestial origin. The suite of environmental
information contained in these myths does not conform to the physical
characteristics of a volcanic eruption, and instead suggests that during the
past 12,000 years one or more catastrophic cosmic impacts occurred in, and
severely impacted, the region defined by central Argentina and the Gran
Chaco. These data are weighed against our present understanding of the
presumed Holocene period Campo del Cielo and Rio Cuarto impacts in northern
Argentina. The combined data imply that our current analytical methods and
theoretical paradigms have limited our ability to recognize and understand
the historic record of cosmic impact. The physical and cultural record of
humankind provides a largely untapped database that can help refine
astrophysical, geological, and environmental models concerning the risk and
effects of cosmic impact and other major natural catastrophes.

CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe, please
contact the moderator Benny J Peiser < >. 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.
The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from February 1997 on, can be found
at DISCLAIMER: The opinions,
beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the articles and texts and in other
CCNet contributions do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and
viewpoints of the moderator of this network.

CCCMENU CCC for 2002

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