PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet, 90/2000 -  19 September 2000
-----------------------------------


     "Liverpool is aiming to spearhead the international
     drive to create an early warning system for asteroids
     threatening the Earth. A task force of experts is
     calling on the Government to build a new super
     telescope to watch the skies for asteroids and comets.
     The three-man team set up by Science Minister Lord
     Sainsbury wants a three metre survey telescope
     designed to spot much smaller objects than those
     detected by existing instruments. And Telescope
     Technologies Limited, a private company owned by
     Liverpool John Moores University, has been identified
     as one of the leading bodies capable of developing a
     suitable system. The project to set up a monitoring
     system would be worth 10m a year and experts and
     politicians are calling for the work to be done on
     Merseyside."
         -- Mike Hill, Daily Post, 19 September 2000


(1) CITY'S BID TO SAVE PLANET:
    JMU COULD BUILD 15m TELESCOPE TO SPOT COMETS
    Daily Post, 19 September 2000

(2) 'KILLER' ASTEROID THREAT TO EARTH
     The Daily Telegraph, 19 September 2000

(3) ASTEROIDS COULD SHUT DOWN EARTH PLC
    The Times, 19 September 2000

(4) BRITISH ASTEROID REPORT IS A BLOW TO AUSTRALIAN ASTRONOMY
    Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

(5) BRITISH ASTEROID REPORT TAKES THE SHINE OFF
    THE SYDNEY OLYMPICS
    Space.com, 18 September 2000

(6) MORE REACTIONS ON THE TASK FORCE REPORT
    Christian Gritzner <christian.gritzner@mailbox.tu-dresden.de>

(7) AND FINALLY: THE AGED CLOWN, OR WHEN THE GIGGLE IS
    GOING OUT OF THE GIGGLE FACTOR
    The Times, 19, September 2000


============
(1) CITY'S BID TO SAVE PLANET:
    JMU COULD BUILD 15m TELESCOPE TO SPOT COMETS

From Daily Post, 19 September 2000

By Mike Hill
                                   
LIVERPOOL is aiming to spearhead the international drive to
create an early warning system for asteroids threatening
the Earth.

A task force of experts is calling on the Government to
build a new super telescope to watch the skies for
asteroids and comets. The three-man team set up by Science
Minister Lord Sainsbury wants a three metre survey
telescope designed to spot much smaller objects than those
detected by existing instruments. And Telescope
Technologies Limited, a private company owned by Liverpool
John Moores University, has been identified as one of the
leading bodies capable of developing a suitable system. The
project to set up a monitoring system would be worth 10m a
year and experts and politicians are calling for the work
to be done on Merseyside.

The telescope alone would cost 15m to build and would be
financed in partnership with other nations. Earlier this
year, the Government announced it would make 25m available
for science-based projects in the North West.

The pledge came after the Daresbury research laboratory, in
Cheshire, failed in its bid to land the crucial
Government-backed synchrotron project. Ministers instead
decided to site the 550m atomic X-Ray machine in
Oxfordshire.

Riverside MP Louise Ellman believes that, if the Government
decides to press ahead with the telescope, Liverpool should
lead the way. She said: "This is an important new
development in which Liverpool is particularly well placed,
and I hope this does go ahead and Liverpool is chosen to
take it forward. We have already lost out because of the
Daresbury decision. A working group is currently looking at
alternatives and this is one of the ideas that should be
under consideration."

The task force report, published yesterday, also
recommended that a British Centre for Near Earth Objects
should be set up to promote and co-ordinate work on the
threat of comets and asteroids. It says the Government
could not afford to ignore the risk of earth being struck
by an asteroid or comet. [...]

Telescope Technologies Limited is currently developing
three one-metre telescopes for other institutions. The
Liverpool JMU project has the technology to make what would
be the biggest telescope of its kind at three metres. It
would be situated in the Southern Hemisphere and would be
capable of detecting objects down to a few hundred metres
across.

JMU researcher Dr Benny Peiser is a member of Spaceguard UK
and a moderator for 1,000 academics (sic) in the field
across the world. He said: "We need to be able to scan the
skies so we can realise what the threat is out there. If
in the future there was an emergency, we would have to
consider options such as nudging it so it will change its
course and not collide with the earth.

"We have been lobbying the Government for four or five
years to look into the potential threat due to asteroids
and comets. One of the recommendations is that a
three-metre telescope should be built, and Liverpool is
best placed to do that."

Liverpool JMU Chancellor Cherie Booth [i.e. Britain's First
Lady, BJP] will be touring the Telescope Technologies
Limited's Wirral base today to see the work being carried
out developing new instruments.

Copyright, 2000 Daily Post

=============
(2) 'KILLER' ASTEROID THREAT TO EARTH

From The Daily Telegraph, 19 September 2000
http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=003485650148391&rtmo=pINQSSNe&atmo=rrrrrrvs&pg=/et/00/9/19/nast19.html

By David Derbyshire

PLANS to save the world from a catastrophic asteroid
collision were unveiled yesterday by British scientists.

Experts urged the Government to create an early warning
system to stop the sort of disaster that wiped out dinosaurs
65 million years ago. The Near Earth Objects task force
also called for more research into ways of deflecting
life-threatening objects away from the Earth.

"Armageddon asteroids" capable of causing mass extinction
are rare, arriving once every few million years. But
asteroids and comets large enough to wipe out a city hit
the Earth every couple of hundred years.

In 1908, a meteor exploded above Lake Tunguska in Siberia,
destroying 770 square miles of forest. If the same 
explosion happened above St Paul's Cathedral, it would
destroy London. So far, astronomers have identified 258
potentially hazardous objects in the Solar System but say
there are many hundreds more.

Yesterday's report was prepared by Dr Harry Atkinson, past
chairman of the European Space Agency's Council, Sir
Crispin Tickell, Britain's former ambassador to the UN, and
Prof David Williams, a past president of the Royal
Astronomical Society.

Nasa is seeking out every object larger than one kilometre
but wants Britain to take a lead in the search for smaller
objects. Dr Atkinson said: "The risk is very small. A
one-kilometre asteroid arrives on average every 100,000
years. But if that was the risk of an accident in a nuclear
power station, we would spend a lot of money to reduce the
risk."

Britain was urged to seek partners to build a 15 million
three-metre telescope in the Southern Hemisphere capable of
observing objects a few hundred yards across. It would be
the first in the world devoted to seeking out near-Earth
objects.

FULL STORY at
http://www.telegraph.co.uk:80/et?ac=003485650148391&rtmo=pINQSSNe&atmo=rrrrrrvs&pg=/et/00/9/19/nast19.html

=============
(3) ASTEROIDS COULD SHUT DOWN EARTH PLC
                                   
From The Times, 19 September 2000
http://the-times.co.uk

BY MARK HENDERSON SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT

URGENT international action is needed to reduce the risk of
a large asteroid striking Earth, a government panel of
experts said yesterday.

The danger of a catastrophic impact is so great that any
private company incurring comparable risks would fail
British safety standards, the Near Earth Objects Task
Force said.

A collision with even a medium-sized asteroid would put
hundreds of thousands of lives at risk from the initial
energy blast, tidal waves and a "nuclear winter" effect,
the task force found. At worst, the impact could destroy
human life on earth: a similar event 65 million years ago
is believed to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

International co-operation to track potentially hazardous
asteroids and comets, and research into ways of deflecting
them from Earth, is the only answer to the threat, the
report concluded. Britain should take the lead in the
construction of a powerful new telescope as a key
component of a "spaceguard" early warning system, it
advised.

FULL STORY at: http://the-times.co.uk

===============
(4) BRITISH ASTEROID REPORT IS A BLOW TO AUSTRALIAN ASTRONOMY

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

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE PLANETARY SOCIETY
AUSTRALIAN VOLUNTEERS
19 September 200

British asteroid report is a blow to Australian astronomy

A British report on the threat of asteroids hitting the
Earth ignores any potential contribution from astronomers
in Australia. This is not due to a lack of expertise in
Australia but a reflection of the lack of Australian
Government support for the proposed global Spaceguard
system.

The Howard Government withdrew funding for "Spaceguard
Australia" in 1996. Since 1996 there has been no
professional asteroid search in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is raised as a major concern in the British report but
the report stops short of recommending that a major
new telescope be built in Australia.

In the longer term Australian Government indifference could
jeopardise joint British-Australian astronomy programs such
as the Anglo-Australian Observatory because Britain must
look seriously at joining the European Southern Observatory
in Chile to pursue its Spaceguard plans.

These developments are covered in more detail at Space.com:
http://www.space.com/opinionscolumns/opinions/asteroid_opinion_000918.html

CONTACT DETAILS
Michael Paine
NSW Coordinator
The Planetary Society Australia Volunteers
Phone 02 94514870  Fax 02 99753966 email mpaine@tpgi.com.au

Additional information:
The British report can be downloaded from
http://www.nearearthobjects.co.uk

A Space.com article 'Brits Should Help in Hunt for Killer Asteroids' by
Michael Paine is at
http://space.com/scienceastronomy/solarsystem/asteroid_report_000918.html

The main conclusions of the report are:
* Impacts by asteroids and comets present a real and significant risk to
  humans and other life on Earth
* Means now exist to avoid or reduce the fatalities caused by such
  impacts but only if the threatening objects are detected
  well in advance of the collision.
* Search programs should give priority to "Near Earth
  Asteroids" (NEAs) down to 300 m diameter rather than the
  1 kilometer goal adopted by NASA.
* Earth-based telescope systems can carry out most of the
  necessary detection and follow-up work but they will need
  to be larger than those of current NEA detection systems.
* Britain should contribute to a major new telescope
  facility in the Southern Hemisphere to make up for the
  lack of a professional search effort in southern skies.

Some reactions from scientists are at
http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc091800.html

More information about the asteroid threat is available from The
Planetary Society Australian Volunteers website:
http://www1.tpgi.com.au/users/tps-seti/spacegd.html
THIS WEBSITE IS LISTED AS A USEFUL REFERENCE IN THE BRITISH REPORT.

===============
(5) BRITISH ASTEROID REPORT TAKES THE SHINE OFF THE SYDNEY OLYMPICS

From Space.com, 18 September 2000
http://www.space.com/opinionscolumns/opinions/asteroid_opinion_000918.html

By Michael Paine

As an Australian I was very proud of the Opening Ceremony
of the Sydney Olympics. As a taxpayer I was not too
concerned about more than $1billion being spent on the
Games. However, my pride in Australia was dampened today
when I read the British NEO Task Force Report on the threat
of asteroids hitting the Earth. It ignores any potential
contribution from Australia!

The U.S. and Japanese governments are funding several
asteroid search programs (about $3 million and $1 million
per year respectively). If the recommendations of the
report by British scientists are implemented then Britain
will also be spending several million dollars per year.
Only one national government has cancelled a successful
asteroid search program. You guessed it - Australia.

The current Australian Prime Minister (he is the person you
might notice standing next to every successful Australian
Olympic competitor) withdrew funding for "Spaceguard
Australia" in 1996. From its unique location in the Southern
Hemisphere this low cost program was responsible for 30%
of Near Earth Asteroid discoveries.

Since 1996 there has been no professional asteroid search in
the Southern Hemisphere and this is raised as a concern in
the latest British report.

I am informed that, due partly to recent dismal performance
(in astronomy- not the Olympics), Australia currently rates a
poor third to Chile and South Africa for locating the
all-important Southern Hemisphere Spaceguard Telescope.
Adding to the woes for Australian astronomers, the British
Task Force report could tip the balance and push Britain into
joining the European Southern Observatory (based in Chile).
They would then have little choice but to pull out of the
long-standing Anglo-Australian Observatory.

Physicist and author of popular books on cosmology and the
origin of life, Paul Davies, shares my sentiments about the
Australian Government. Davies now lives in South Australia
and over the past few years he has been pointing out the
asteroid impact hazard to Australian politicians. He told
Space.com "Britain's enlightened attitude to the impact
threat stands in stark contrast to the policy in this country.
Australia scrapped its inexpensive and highly successful
asteroid research project just as the rest of the world was
waking up to the importance of tracking the dangerous
asteroids."

"There is an urgent need to reinstate an observational
program in the Southern Hemisphere. I sincerely hope that
the Australian government will for once remove its blinkers
and cooperate with other nations to help protect the planet
from the worst ecological threat we face."

Copyright 2000, Space.com

==============
(6) MORE REACTIONS ON THE TASK FORCE REPORT

From Christian Gritzner <christian.gritzner@mailbox.tu-dresden.de>

Hi Benny,

here are some more reactions on the Task Force Report:

http://www.flatoday.com/space/explore/stories/2000b/091900b.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_930000/930564.stm
http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=2634

There are also some articles in German:

http://de.news.yahoo.com/000918/87/12jr0.html
http://de.news.yahoo.com/000918/7/12kit.html
http://195.170.124.152/archiv/2000/09/18/ak-ws-na-13777.html

Best wishes,
Christian

==============
(7) AND FINALLY: THE AGED CLOWN, OR WHEN THE GIGGLE IS
    GOING OUT OF THE GIGGLE FACTOR

From The Times, 19, September 2000
http://www.the-times.co.uk

ASTRONOMICAL TALENT RESCUES A PARTY LOST IN SPACE

By Matthew Parris

IT'S POLITICS, Jim, but not as we know it. Yesterday,
Lembit Opik rescued his planet from giant asteroids. And
the Montgomeryshire MP did something much tougher: he
rescued the Liberal Democrat conference from itself.
These days, politicians need to show they matter. Mr
Opik proved this, big-time. The pale prophet showed us
how, by voting Lib Dem, we could save the world from
colossal lumps of rock ripping into us from Outer Space
and killing everyone. In an epoch when politics has grown
small, Mr Opik has found the big picture.

All weekend the newspaper placards had plugged Big
Brother, fuel frenzy, Olympic dope-tests. In dejected
groups Liberal Democrat delegates struggled through the
Monday morning rain to the Bournemouth Conference
Centre. One more gold for Britain in Sydney and they
knew their annual get-together would be wiped from the
news.

What could rocket their little gathering into the headlines?

Mr Opik's intervention was as bold as it was bizarre. At
the eleventh hour yesterday morning, in a small room, he
called an emergency press conference to break the news
that the Earth is very likely to be smashed to smithereens,
possibly quite soon. They are like buses, he said. "You
wait for one for a long time, then four come along at
once." He told us how, with Liberal Democrat guidance,
our ghastly fate can be avoided for 4 billion. A penny on
income tax to save the planet? It could be an
election-winning pledge.

Prophets are too often without honour in their own party.
"People have tended to snigger," Mr Opik said
sorrowfully, "when I say that the end of the world could
be nigh from Outer Space." But the paragliding,
anagram-cracking Northern Ireland spokesman -
mercifully recovered from a serious paragliding accident
(some believe he fell off Paddy Ashdown's ego) - knows
his subject. "I have an astronomical background myself,"
he told eight astonished journalists.

One of them asked how he answered those who thought
he was talking tosh. "When an asteroid actually does
come hurtling at us," he replied, "I'll send them an e-mail
saying 'I told you so'." It did not seem to occur to Mr
Opik that at such a moment other anxieties might be
distracting them from their laptops.

I am ashamed to report that among press colleagues were
cynics and doubters. "Why don't you concentrate on
earthling things like the excise duties on fuel?" asked one.
Mr Opik snorted. Trivial! There was certain to be a major
asteroid hit, perhaps soon, possibly on London.

"An asteroid," he explained, "would incinerate everything
and kill everyone within the M25." He had estimated the
cost at 20 trillion. Three or four billion pounds to avert
this began to sound like a snippet: "Peanuts," smiled Mr
Opik. But how, we asked?

"Use rockets as tugs," he said triumphantly. "Or explode a
nuclear device by the asteroid to give it a tiny nudge."

Asked if he lost sleep worrying about annihilation, Mr
Opik said he was sleeping better now his dire calculations
had been proved cogent. If we are indeed sent spinning
into oblivion, there will be one very happy Liberal
Democrat among us. The MP, whose grandfather was an
asteroid scientist, and whose warnings do appear to have
been lent weight by a government report published
yesterday, insisted that we are 750 times more likely to be
hit by an asteroid than win the lottery. One journalist
protested that he had seen a lottery-winner but never seen
anyone hit by an asteroid. Well obviously, Mr Opik said.
If they'd been hit by an asteroid they would have been
completely squashed; nobody would be able to see them
any more.

Apart from saving the world from annihilation, Liberal
Democracy from irrelevance, and Monday from tedium,
Mr Opik may have solved the riddle of Lord Lucan.

Copyright 2000, Times Newspapers Ltd.

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