PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet SPECIAL - MEDIA INCREASINGLY CONFUSED ABOUT ASTEROID SCARE
----------------------------------------------------------------

7 November 2000



"We're not out of the woods yet, however. While downplaying the risk
of a 2030 impact, Hergenrother's calculations increased the chance
that the object would hit Earth afterwards, according to the
International Astronomical Union."
      -- Associated Press (AP), 6 November 2000


"Less than a day after the alarm was sounded on Friday, scientists
revised their calculations. It was not even certain that the object was an
asteroid. The way it followed an orbit so close to the Earth's suggested
that it might be a discarded rocket booster from the Apollo missions
30 years ago. There was a one in 1,000 possibility of the object
hitting the Earth in 2071, but even this risk was likely to disappear."
         -- Press Association (PA), 6 November 2000



(1) THE ASTEROID SCARE THAT HAS TAKEN ON A LIFE OF ITSELF
    Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

(2) ASTRONOMERS 'CRIED WOLF' OVER ASTEROID COLLISION
    Press Association, 6 November 2000

(3) OOPS! ASTRONOMERS RETRACT WARNING ABOUT EARTH-BOUND ASTEROID
    Kansas City Star, 7 November 2000

(4) ASTEROID SOUNDS A DISTANT ALARM
    The Age, 7 November 2000

(5) ASTEROID ON COLLISION WITH EARTH
    Sky News, 7 November 2000

(6) "INCREASED CHANCE THAT OBJECT WILL HIT LATER"
    Discovery.com News, 6 November 2000

(7) EXPERTS PREDICT ASTEROID COMING IN 2030
    Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 7 November 2000

(8) THE END IS NIGH, PERHAPS
    The Guardian, 6 November 2000

(9) ASTEROID DUE FOR CLOSE ENCOUNTER IN 2030
    The Irish Times, 6 November 2000 (*front page news story*)

(10) ALERT OVER ASTEROID THREAT
     Daily Express, 6 November 2000

(11) STATEMENT BY THE SPACEGUARD CENTAL NODE REGARDING 2000 SG344
    http://spaceguard.ias.rm.cnr.it/SSystem/NEOCS/Successful.html#2000sg344

(12) UK FIREBALL 2000 November 3 ca 1910 UT
     Neil Bone <bafb4@central.susx.ac.uk>

(13) RE: DOD FIREBALL DETECTION
     Hans-M. Maitzen <maitzen@astro.univie.ac.at>

(14) SATURN V STAGES IN HELIOCENTRIC ORBIT
     Luciano Anselmo <luciano.anselmo@cnuce.cnr.it

(15) POSSIBLE IDENTITY OF 2000 SG344
     Bruce Moomaw <moomaw@jps.net

(16) 2000 SG3444
     Jim Benson <Jim@SpaceDev.com>

(17) 2000 SG344: STILL A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT RISK?
     Richard Kowalski <bitnik@bitnik.com>

(18) ASTEROID SCARE(S)
     Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

(19) "INACCURATE MEDIA REPORTING TO BLAME"
     Dave Tholen <tholen@galileo.ifa.hawaii.edu>


===========

(1) THE ASTEROID SCARE THAT HAS TAKEN ON A LIFE OF ITSELF

From Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>

If you woke up this morning hoping that the latest asteroid mishap had gone
away, I should caution you better not to read today's CCNet. This is because
the SG344 scare, instead of dying down, has now developed a new and rather
irrational dynamic. As can be seen from the selected reports from today's
and yesterday's news outlets, an increasingly confused media is desperately
trying to get a grip on the various impact announcements, for both the 2030
*and* the 2071 impact predictions!

While less than a handful of papers have actually retracted their initial
stories (see Seth Borenstein's article in the Knight Ridder Newspapers),
most science journalists have either ignored the various retractions or,
most likely, have seriously misunderstood their main message. A widely
circulated news report by Associated Press, for instance, uses the
"retractions" mainly in order to claim that the world is now facing an
*increased* impact risk. "We're not out of the woods yet, however. While
downplaying the risk of a 2030 impact, Hergenrother's calculations increased
the chance that the object would hit Earth afterwards (sic!), according to
the International Astronomical Union."

The stress on the highly unlikely "2071 impact threat" sadly shows that this
part of the JPL 'retraction' was rather ill-advised and counter-productive.
As a result, the message is confusing many and will most certainly prolong
the current asteroid scare unnecessarily.

Benny J Peiser

==============
(2) ASTRONOMERS 'CRIED WOLF' OVER ASTEROID COLLISION

From the Press Association, 6 November 2000
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_107974.html

Astronomers have been accused of crying wolf over a report that an asteroid
could hit Earth on September 21, 2030.

A leading British expert on the risk of impacts called on the astronomers'
international body to change its guidelines for releasing information on
threatening objects from space.

Dr Benny Peiser, an anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University,
spoke out after reports about a collision in 2030 proved to be unfounded.

Asteroid 2000SG344 was given a 1 in 500 chance of smashing into the Earth
with the destructive power of 100 Hiroshima bombs - very low odds in
astronomical terms.

But less than a day after the alarm was sounded on Friday, scientists
revised their calculations. The new analysis, based on longer observations
and archive data, showed that the object would miss the Earth by about three
million miles.

It was not even certain that the object was an asteroid. The way it followed
an orbit so close to the Earth's suggested that it might be a discarded
rocket booster from the Apollo missions 30 years ago.

There was a one in 1,000 possibility of the object hitting the Earth in
2071, but even this risk was likely to disappear.

Dr Peiser, a member of Spaceguard UK, an organisation set up to raise public
awareness of the threat from "near-Earth objects", said this was the sixth
false asteroid alarm.

He said: "It's like the boy who cried wolf. If we do it too often people
will lose faith in these kind of announcements. That would be the worst
thing, because we do want people to take the risk seriously, and take the
information scientists provide seriously. We have a duty to the public to
provide accurate information. This information was released to the public
prematurely."

Dr Peiser blamed the guidelines of the International Astronomical Union,
which say data about a threatening near-Earth object should be made public
after 72 hours if verified.

Copyright 2000, Press Association

=============
(3) OOPS! ASTRONOMERS RETRACT WARNING ABOUT EARTH-BOUND ASTEROID

From Kansas City Star, 7 November 2000
http://www.kcstar.com/item/pages/home.pat,local/3774e4c0.b06,.html

By Seth Borenstein - Knight Ridder Newspapers
Date: 11/06/00 14:35

WASHINGTON -- About that space object hurling toward Earth for a possible
crash in 2030 . . . never mind.

It seems that the mystery object -- probably an asteroid, possibly an old
Apollo rocket booster -- will miss Earth by 2.5 million miles in 2030,
red-faced astronomers acknowledged today.

After warning last week of a 1-in-500 chance that the object, called 2000
SG344, would smash into our planet, top astronomers found some 18-month-old
pictures that put Earth in the clear -- at least in 2030.

What happened? The estimate that sparked last week's alarm had a large
margin of error in its plotting of the object's trajectory. Then astronomers
at the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Ariz., found old pictures of the
object that permitted a more precise plotting. Voila, Earth was in the
clear.

It was the second such asteroid scare and recantation in recent years. In
January 1998, some astronomers warned that an asteroid might smash into
Earth in 2028. Other astronomers later proved that it would miss. In
response, astronomers set up a system in which top experts would consult for
72 hours before alerting the public.

That's what happened with 2000 SG344, the first alert ever put out by the
International Astronomical Union.

"The process for making announcements and not making announcements is being
revised even as we speak," Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth
Object project, said today. "Next time we will include in the fold those
folks who search in the archives exhaustively, so that we haven't overlooked
any pertinent data."

And by the way, Earth isn't quite ALL clear of 2000 SG344. On Sept. 16,
2071, there's a 1-in-1,000 chance that the office-building-sized object will
hit Earth. Of course, Yeomans added, when astronomers get new information,
"this will change."

Copyright 2000, The Kansas City Star 

===============
(4) ASTEROID SOUNDS A DISTANT ALARM

From The Age, 7 November 2000
http://www.theage.com.au/news/20001107/A31340-2000Nov6.html

By SIMON MANN, EUROPE CORRESPONDENT, LONDON

Astronomers at the weekend backed away from predictions that Asteroid
2000-SG344 could be on a collision course with Earth, arriving on September
21, 2030. But there is enough uncertainty to suggest that impact is still a
chance and the object will continue to be monitored. Were a large asteroid
to hit Earth, the results would be devastating with an explosion greater
than the most powerful nuclear weapon.....

===============
(5) ASTEROID ON COLLISION WITH EARTH

From Sky News, 7 November 2000
http://www.sky.com/news/technology/story4.htm
    
Astronomers have issued their strongest-ever warning that an asteroid could
hit earth, causing a force 100 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb.

The asteroid is on course for a possible collision with earth on September
21, 2030, scientists at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has
predicted.

Experts say there is a 500-1 chance of a collision taking place, replacing
previous predictions that the chance of an asteroid impact is at least tens
of thousands to one.

Devastation

The threat to earth has been named the not very catchy SG344.

Astronomers who believe the object is an asteroid say it could have a
diameter of up to 230 feet, and an asteroid of this size would destroy
everything within the boundary of the M25. It could cause devastation across
hundreds of square miles.

But asteroid sceptics think the object could be a man-made rocket booster
left over from the Apollo era.

Strikes earth

"It could explode with a force 100 times greater than Hiroshima," said Dr
John Mason, former president of the British Astronomical Society. "I'm not
particularly concerned. On every previous occasion it's been proved there
won't be a collision. This is a call to astronomers to say we need to get
more observations to get the orbit more accurately." .....

===========
(6) "INCREASED CHANCE THAT OBJECT WILL HIT LATER"

From Discovery.com News, 6 November 2000
http://www.discover.com/news/briefs/20001106/sp_ap_asteroid.html
 
Scientists Eye Nearby Asteroid

Associated Press
Copyright 2000

Nov. 6, 2000 - After making more measurements on a menacing space rock,
scientists have downgraded the threat it poses to Earth, according to a
statement issued by the International Astronomical Union.

When scientists first spotted the object, which is either a small asteroid
or a piece of space junk, they calculated it had a 1-in-500 chance of
hitting the Earth in 30 years, far greater odds than any similar object ever
discovered.

But further observations made on Nov. 3 by astronomer Carl Hergenrother
ruled out the possibility that the object would hit Earth in 2030.

We're not out of the woods yet, however. While downplaying the risk of a
2030 impact, Hergenrother's calculations increased the chance that the
object would hit Earth afterwards, according to the International
Astronomical Union.

If it is an asteroid and it hits the planet, "it would be equivalent to a
fairly sizable nuclear blast," said Donald Yeomans, manager of the
Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For
now, though, that is "fairly low in terms of concern," he said...

http://www.discover.com/news/briefs/20001106/sp_ap_asteroid.html

===============
EXPERTS PREDICT ASTEROID COMING IN 2030

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 7 November 2000
http://www.abc.net.au/news/science/space/2000/11/item20001106094947_1.htm

Astronomy experts have issued their strongest warning that an asteroid could
be on a collision course with earth. The International Astronomical Union
(IAU) is predicting the object may strike the planet on September 31,
2030......

==============
(7) THE END IS NIGH, PERHAPS

From The Guardian, 6 November 2000
http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,393240,00.html

Steven Morris
Monday November 6, 2000

Typical, isn't it? Scientists have pinpointed the day when Earth is in
danger of being hit by an asteroid the size of an office block. And it has
to be at the weekend.

Put the date in your diary - Saturday, September 21 2030. Forget about the
lie-in, that boozy lunch with friends down the pub - if pubs still exist -
and that shopping trip.

Instead, prepare for the arrival of the unromantically-named 2000 SG344,
which astronomers believe could hit Earth with a force 100 times greater
than that released by the atom bomb which destroyed Hiroshima.

The gloomy announcement was posted on Saturday on the internet by the
International Astronomical Union. The object was spotted some time ago but
the chance that it could hit us was not realised until last week when Nasa
began studying its orbit.

Though it is possible the object is a discarded rocket booster, most experts
believe it is an asteroid with a diameter of 230ft.

If, like many asteroids and meteorites, it is made of stone and iron, SG344
would cost millions of lives, but probably would not end civilisation.

Though the risk is small - about one in 500 - that SG344's orbit and Earth's
will collide, it is nonetheless being seen as a possibility.

In the 10-point Torino scale for grading objects which could hit Earth, the
object gets a rating of only one. But it is the first astronomical object to
get on to the scale, meaning that it merits careful monitoring.

David Morrison, chairman of the Astronomical Union committee at Nasa's Ames
research center, said: "We have never had a prediction at this high level of
probability. In the past we have talked about one in 10,000 or one in a
million."

On average an asteroid strikes our planet every 100 years, the last
resulting in a blast in the forests of central Siberia in 1908.

A glance at the history books shows that September 21 has been a disaster
date in the past - in 1974 more than 8,000 people died in Honduras in floods
caused by hurricanes.

Copyright 2000, The Guardian

============
(8) ASTEROID DUE FOR CLOSE ENCOUNTER IN 2030

From The Irish Times, 6 November 2000 (*front page news story*)
http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/front/2000/1106/fro3.htm

By Paul Cullen

It may not prove the end of the world as we know it, but it could be a
close-run thing. For the first time, scientists are formally predicting that
the Earth could be hit by an asteroid, scheduled to arrive 30 years from
now. September 21st, 2030, is the date pencilled in for the arrival of 2000
SG344, a lump of space debris the size of an office block that could strike
our planet with the force of 100 Hiroshima atom bombs. [...] Previous
asteroid scares have caused widespread alarm but proved to be unfounded, but
this is the first time that a potential collision has been predicted
following a scientific review process.....

============
(9) ALERT OVER ASTEROID THREAT

From the Daily Express, 6 November 2000

An asteroid large enough to destroy London could be on a collision course
with Earth, space experts have warned. The International Astronomical Union
predicts that the asteroid could strike on September 31, 2030. It backed up
a warning given last week by international experts who believe the chance of
a collision is 500-1. Previous predictions have put the odds at tens of
thousands at one. The experts believe the asteroid, named 2000 SG344 by
astronomers, has a diametre of 100 to 230ft. Earlier this year, scientists
said an asteroid that large could destroy everything within the boundary of
the M25.

===============
(10) STATEMENT BY THE SPACEGUARD CENTAL NODE REGARDING 2000 SG344
http://spaceguard.ias.rm.cnr.it/SSystem/NEOCS/Successful.html#2000sg344

2000 SG344

The discovery of 2000 SG344, a very small Aten-type object, was announced by
the Minor Planet Center on October 24. The discovery was made by Dave Tholen
and Robert Whiteley using the 2.2-m reflector of the University of Hawaii on
September 30, 2000.

The following morning, October 25, 2000, when we were starting to update the
NEO follow-up coordination services of the Spaceguard Central Node, we
realized that we could not add this target to any of them because it was
already close to magnitude 24. This is too faint both from the Priority List
and for the Faint NEO List. So, we had two choices: ignore it and let it get
lost or try to attempt something to secure its orbit. Our attention was
immediately captured for two reasons: the object's nominal MOID was of
0.00085 AU and its orbital inclination of only 0.11 deg. Before hearing of
any possible input from the teams mostly involved on NEO impact monitoring,
we wanted to explore in some detail if there was a chance of follow-up
observations in order to secure its orbit for future close encounters.

Since its visibility conditions for the next few months would have required
a telescope in the 3-4 meter class (being at V = 25 and at low solar
elongations), we analyzed the visibility conditions in the recent past and
found, not too surprisingly, that 2000 SG344 had a very close encounter with
the Earth in May 1999. During that apparition it became a 16 magnitude
target for about 10 days, and later it fadied not too rapidly. Surprised
that it was missed somehow by the big survey programs, using the NEO Sky
Coverage service provided by the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, we found
that it should have been observed by LINEAR on May 15, 1999.

On October 25 at 11:24 UT an alert message was sent to a selected list of
people, including the MPC and LINEAR, informing them about the May 15, 1999,
opportunity. Precovery observations followed in a matter of hours from
Gareth Williams at the MPC: it turned out that this object had been reported
on the NEO Confirmation Page at that time, but then lost.

Two days later, on the morning of October 27, we received a message from
Andrea Milani team stating that collision solutions were indeed possible.
For this reason we felt that the task of the SCN was not over and we went
back to the May 1999 encounter and made a more accurate analysis for
possible additional data. We found 7 further possible nights of data, from
May 8 to June 8, 1999, when the big surveys looked at the right place at the
right time: 5 nights from LINEAR, 1 from the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS) and 1
night from LONEOS. On October 27 at 09:38 UT, another message was sent to a
wider list of scientists in order to encourage the retrieval of additional
data.

In response to this message, Tim Spahr and Carl Hergenrother, were
successful in locating the object from images taken on May 17, 1999 in the
course of CSS: this data was provided by the MPC on November 4, 2000. The
orbit of 2000 SG344 was significantly refined.

Whether or not the impact hazard has been removed, this observing campaign
is not over: there are 6 possible additional nights pending. We don't expect
that data from all these nights can be retrieved. But we do hope that data
from May 8, 1999, by LINEAR, when 2000 SG344, was at magnitude 16.0 V, could
be retrieved in order to provide the last significant orbital improvement.

The Spaceguard Central Node, November 6, 2000, Rome, Italy.

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

(11) UK FIREBALL 2000 November 3 ca 1910 UT

From Neil Bone <bafb4@central.susx.ac.uk>

Several reports have been received of a bright fireball, possibly reaching
peak magnitude -10, seen last Friday evening at ca 1910 UT. The meteor has
been described as slow moving, with green and orange colours, and
fragmentation in flight. One experienced observer (James Abbott, Essex)
reports it as a meteor from the southern Taurid radiant, and other reports
are consistent with this view. Its approximate path was northeast to
southwest across the country, and it was seen from locations as far apart as
South Yorkshire, Kent and the Isle of Wight. Further reports will be
welcomed by the BAA Meteor Section; Howard Miles is collating these for the
British Fireball
Survey.

Neil Bone
Director, BAA Meteor Section

=============
(12) RE: DOD FIREBALL DETECTION

From Hans-M. Maitzen <maitzen@astro.univie.ac.at>
 
Dear colleague,

With pleasure I acknowledge the steady flow of your bulletin, congratulating
you on such a time consuming undertaking. I would like to ask you whether your Bulletin will be
archived on CDs? [No, but on Bob Kobres' website, BJP]

Another point is that I want to propose a slight correction concerning CCNet
111/2000 (31 Oct) under contribution no. 3. Peter Brown reporting DOD
Fireball Detection mentions that both day time bolides appeared over Chech
Republic. Looking at the coordinates given there this is true only for the
spectacular lunchtime fireball of May 6, which did indeed impact on the
ground (pieces found in gardens), but not for the second one of May 11, the
(Austrian) dinner time fireball which exploded in the north east vicinity of Vienna with remarkable
acoustic appearance noticed by many thousands of inhabitants of the Austrian
capital and its surroundings.

Despite remarkable efforts no relics were found though the region shows a
similar population density as the region in Chech Republic where the first
bolide came (by pieces) to the ground. Thus, it seems that the Austrian
fireball has found its end in complete destruction.

With best regards,

Hans Michael Maitzen
Institut f. Astronomie Universitaet Wien
c/o Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory
La Serena, Chile
2000 11 06

===========
(13) SATURN V STAGES IN HELIOCENTRIC ORBIT
 
From Luciano Anselmo <luciano.anselmo@cnuce.cnr.it

Dear Benny,

Just to clarify the confusion concerning the Saturn V third stages in
heliocentric orbit, let me summarize the facts.

Ten (10) third stages (S-IVB) of the Saturn V moon rocket reached the escape
velocity, during 9 lunar missions (Apollo 8, 10-17) and one test mission in
earth orbit (Apollo 9). In the latter case, the first test of the Lunar
Module in earth orbit, the S-IVB was sent in heliocentric orbit, during an
engineering test, without passing close to the moon.

Concerning the 9 missions towards the moon, 4 S-IVBs were sent in
heliocentric orbit after a close approach (C/A) with the moon, while the
stages of the last 5 missions (Apollo 13-17) were intentionally impacted on
our natural satellite to produce 2-hour long moonquakes, studied by the
Apollo instruments already in place.      

The following tables summarize the S-IVBs status: 5 in heliocentric orbit
(all launched in 1968-1969) and 5 disintegrated on the moon (all launched in
1970-1972). The first S-IVB stage to impact the moon was the only major
scientific experiment successfully completed during the legendary Apollo 13
mission.


S-IVBs IN HELIOCENTRIC ORBIT

Mission      Lunch Date              Date of Lunar  Lunar Radius (nm)
                                      Close Approach     at C/A

Apollo 8     21/12/1968                 24/12/1968        1620
Apollo 9     03/03/1969                 ----------        ----
Apollo 10    18/05/1969                 21/05/1969        2619
Apollo 11    16/07/1969                 19/07/1969        2763
Apollo 12    14/11/1969                 18/11/1969        4020


S-IVBs IMPACTS ON THE MOON

Mission      Launch Date             Lunar Impact Date

Apollo 13    11/04/1970                 15/04/1970       
Apollo 14    31/01/1971                 04/02/1971      
Apollo 15    26/07/1971                 30/07/1971
Apollo 16    16/04/1972                 19/04/1972
Apollo 17    07/12/1972                 10/12/1972

________________________________________________________________________

Luciano Anselmo                               Phone:    +39-050-315-2952
Spaceflight Dynamics Section                  Fax (G3): +39-050-313-8091
CNUCE Institute                               Fax (G4): +39-050-313-8092
CNR - Area della Ricerca di Pisa             
Via Alfieri 1
Loc. San Cataldo - Ghezzano         E-Mail: Luciano.Anselmo@cnuce.cnr.it
56010 San Giuliano Terme         CNUCE URL:  http://www.cnuce.pi.cnr.it/
Pisa - Italy                  CNR Area URL:   http://www.area.pi.cnr.it/

================
(14) POSSIBLE IDENTITY FOR 2000 SG344

From Bruce Moomaw <moomaw@jps.net

Dr. Peiser:

Regarding the identity of 2000 SG344: I've wondered if it might be the upper
stage from the launch of a Soviet lunar or planetary probe -- some of which
were very large -- and, sure enough, the following message has turned up on
the Minor Planet Mailing List:

Bruce Moomaw

-----
FWDed from the Minor Planet Mailing List (also at egroups):

Date: Sat, 04 Nov 2000 23:19:31 -0500
From: RA Kowalski <bitnik@bitnik.com>
Subject: IS 2000 SG344 from Luna 16 Proton launch vehicle?

I just did what I'm sure many of you have done yourselves; Run the current
MPC elements for 2000 SG344 back in time to see when it made it's last
current approach to earth. Going back from today to January 1, 1959 (before
the Soviets launched the Lunik I probe, the first mission near the moon)
2000 SG344 passes near the earth only one time. Its last close approach was
12 September, 1970 at about 10 hrs UT. (My limited software gives a distance
of 0.011480 AU - 1708224 km, at that time)

That means for it to be a booster the mission it came from must have been
launched around that time.

Searching the NASA History website and linking to the 1970 information, I
came on this page (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/chrono3.html) and
found only one mission which was launched on, you guessed it, September
12th, 1970.

More information about Luna 16, which was a successful lunar sample return
mission launched with a Proton booster, can be found here:
http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/tmp/1970-072A.html

Richard Kowalski
---

Looks like a good candidate to me.  I'll add only that there were five S-4B
stages from Apollo launches that ended up in solar orbit rather than hitting
the Moon: those from Apollo 8 through 12.  (Apollo 9 dropped off the Apollo
itself in Earth orbit for a test flight before the S-4B restarted its engine
to put itself into solar orbit.)

Bruce Moomaw

===============
(15) 2000 SG3444

From Jim Benson <Jim@SpaceDev.com>
 
Benny,

Keep up the good work - you are greatly appreciated!

Jim

===============
(16) 2000 SG344: STILL A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT RISK?

From Richard Kowalski <bitnik@bitnik.com>

Peiser Benny wrote:

You wrote in response to Heidi Hammel's letter:

> 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 (absolute zero, that is) as soon as someone identifies
> the object on an old plate. [Despite my 24 March warning, this is exactly
> what happened with the false alarm over SG344

But the very first segment of the same issue of CCNet was:
 
> (1) IAU RETRACTION OF LATEST ASTEROID SCARE
>     http://www.iau.org/sg344.html

With the pertinent section:
 
> While the new orbital calculations have ruled out the 2030 event, they have
> also increased the likelihood of encounters in years after 2030.

While the threat of an impact in 2030 has been eliminated, the IAU
announcement clearly states that 2000 SG344 is still a potential impactor. I
find it puzzling that you would infer in the same issue of CCNet that the
status of SG344 has plummeted to "absolute zero", which it clearly has not.

Being intimately involved in the previous "announcement" flaps, you and I
both know that this event, with it's original 1 in 500 chance of impact (and
continuing threat), is much more interesting to the general public at large than Milani's request for more
observations of BF19 on MPML (a list targeted to astrometrists and orbital
computors) and it's 1 in 1,000,000 chance of impact that he had originally
calculated when he made that request.

2000 SG344 remains at a 1 on the Torino Scale and there is still speculation
as to whether or not it is man-made or natural. The IAU's announcements
clearly stated both of these facts and follows their own rules for making
such announcements.

To (continue) to trumpet their "stupidity" in this matter smacks more of
personal vendetta than dispassionate science.

Richard Kowalski
Owner - Minor Planet Mailing List

MODERATOR'S NOTE: Richard, I'm afraid I'm going to stick to my criticism
that the IAU nnouncement was unwise and premature. This is not a personal
matter whatsoever, but a real problem which the IAU WGNEO has failed to
address - despite several attempts, not at least by myself. It would appear
that my criticism is now taken seriously at least by some of its members.
Don Yoemans is quoted in today's Kansas City Star as saying that "The
process for making announcements and not making announcements is being
revised even as we speak. Next time we will include in the fold those folks
who search in the archives exhaustively, so that we haven't overlooked any
pertinent data." This is actually part of what I suggested to the IAU WGNEO
back in March in response to the BF19 fiasco. I welcome these developments
and hope that this time something good will come out of these deliberations.
With regards to the rather unfortunate emphasis of 2000 SG344 still being a
real threat, I feel that this is another controversial announcement that
hasn't helped to clarify the situation. Is SG3444 really still a
"significant impact risk" as Torino Scale level 1 would suggest? I'm not
aware that the lastes impact prediction (which has now caused yet another -
the 7th - asteroid scare; see reports in some of today's papers) were
actually reviewed by the IAU, which would suggest that it is no longer a
"significant impact risk." In any case, your stress on the highly unlikely
"2071 impact threat" only shows that this part of the JPL 'retraction'
announcement was ill-advised. As a result, it is confusing many and
prolonging the asteroid scare unnecessarily. BJP.

================
(17) ASTEROID SCARE(S)

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

Dear Benny,

Looking back over the original IAU press release, there are two phrases
buried in the text that, it seems to me, really need to be more prominent:

"The greatest likelihood is that future observations of the object will
yield higher precision orbit computations that will show with certainty that
it will miss the Earth entirely" and
"...the object is one that merits careful monitoring".

Perhaps it would help if these types of announcements started off with a
sentence such as:
 
"The International Astronomical Union has called for additional observations
of a recently discovered Near Earth Asteroid that has a slight possibility
of impacting the Earth in 2030. It is likely that additional observations
will show that the asteroid will miss the Earth entirely but this cannot be
dismissed on the basis of the limited observations made so far."
 
I have previously pointed out the parallel between early (not "premature")
asteroid impact predictions and a pathology test ordered by the family
doctor.
 
regards
Michael Paine

MODERATOR'S NOTE: I guess the real problem is often not so much what kind of
spin one puts on a press release. It's rather that there is simply *no need*
for any press announcement at all as long as more data (both archival and
observational) might easily eleminate the impact probability for good. In
short, I advocate that no *press statement* should be released as long as a
potential impactor is still observable. Instead, the data should be publicly
available (primarily for to the active NEO search community) so that nobody
can be accused of hiding data. Only after no more observations are possible
(i.e. even with larger telescopes, if necessary) and no further archival
data has emerged, a decision could be taken to inform the interested public.
Even in such a case, what I would like to know is i) when the further
observations will be possible (which may still eliminate the potential
threat), and ii) what energy would be necessary to deflect/destroy the
object in a worst case scenario. 

================
(18) "INACCURATE MEDIA REPORTING TO BLAME"

From Dave Tholen <tholen@galileo.ifa.hawaii.edu>

> SEPT 21, 2030: 500/1 IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD: ASTEROID ON COLLISION
COURSE

Here is a clear-cut example of where the irresponsibility really lies.
Nowhere did any astronomer, IAU official, or NASA official indicate that the
world would come to an end. Indeed, statements were made to indicate quite
the opposite. The information disseminated was accurate, but it was not
reported accurately. One can argue whether the announcement was premature,
but either way, inaccurate reporting must accept the blame for blowing the
situation out of proportion.

I must say that I'm not thrilled with the terminology "false alarm". There
was in fact nothing false about Friday's statement regarding 2000 SG344. It
correctly predicted that additional information would likely remove the
threat, and that is exactly what happened. The false alarm came from such
publications as "The Mirror", with headlines about the End of the World, and
not from the IAU.
--Dave

MODERATOR'S NOTE: Dave, I don't think it would be wise to blame the media
for the latest boo-boo that was entirely self-inflicted. If you carefully
check the actual content of the media reports - even those of the
broadsheets with OTT headlines (see, e.g. yesterday's The Guardian or The
Irish Times), you will notice the reports are, in most cases, rather
accurate in their presentation. "It's the tone that makes the music!", as
the German saying goes. Let's not forget that statements to the effect that
it is "likely" that an impact would be equivalent to the explosion of 100
Hiroshima sized atomic bombs, an analogy that was almost universally used in
the reports, *did* convey an alarmist perspective to a rather matter-of-fact
announcement. BJP


----------------------------------------
THE CAMBRIDGE-CONFERENCE NETWORK (CCNet)
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please contact the moderator Benny J Peiser <b.j.peiser@livjm.ac.uk>.
Information circulated on this network is for scholarly and
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DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in the
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necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of
the moderator of this network.


*

CCNet SPECIAL - MORE BAD NEWS, I'M AFRAID
-----------------------------------------

7 November 2000


"[Don] Yeomans said the new observations were released Friday
shortly after he held a news conference. 'We followed the rules to the
letter,' he said. 'I have no regrets. I'd do the same thing again.'"
        -- CNN, 7 November 2000


"Scientists have put a date to Armageddon. It will occur on 21
September 2030, when earth is in danger of being hit by an asteroid.
The newly discovered threat to global civilisation is called 2000 SG344,
and it could strike our planet with a force 100 times greater than that
released by the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, astronomers have
calculated. Their announcement, posted yesterday on the internet by the
International Astronomical Union, is the first formal public prediction of
a potential collision with a piece of cosmic debris and it arises from a
scientific review process designed to eliminate premature
predictions of celestial calamities. [...] The new prediction is unlikely to
be withdrawn, however - for it has been carefully duplicated by
scientists at several research centres."
   -- The Observer, 5 November 2000

http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,393021,00.html


(1) WHEW! ASTEROID COLLISION DELAYED 41 YEARS, TO 2071
    NEW CALCULATIONS SHOW ASTRONOMER WERE WRONG AGAIN ON FIRST PREDICTION
    The Seattle Post Intelligencer, 7 November 2000

(2) SCIENTISTS NOW SAY MYSTERY SPACE OBJECT ISN'T SO DANGEROUS
    November 7, 2000

(3) IT'S A MESS (sorry MISS)
    IN A ABOUT-FACE, ASTRONOMERS ADMIT SPACE OBJECT WON'T HIT THE EARTH IN
2030
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6 November 2000

(4) A PLANET IN PERIL? NOT QUITE
    EARTH'S DATE WITH DOOM WAS OFF. BUT WATCH OUT IN 2071
    From Philadelphia Inqurier, 7 November 2000

(5) RISK TO EARTH FROM OBJECT IN SPACE IS LOWERED
    Washington Post, 7 November 2000

(6) OTHER HARDWARE CANDIDATES
    Roy Tucker <tucker@noao.edu>
================

(1) WHEW! ASTEROID COLLISION DELAYED 41 YEARS, TO 2071
New calculations show astronomers were wrong again on first prediction

From The Seattle Post Intelligencer, 7 November 2000
http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/national/rock07.shtml

By DAVID L. CHANDLER
THE BOSTON GLOBE

===================
(2) SCIENTISTS NOW SAY MYSTERY SPACE OBJECT ISN'T SO DANGEROUS

CNN, November 7, 2000
http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/space/11/07/us.near.earthobject.ap/index.html

Web posted at: 9:16 AM EST (1416 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Scientists who announced last week that a mysterious
space object had a 1-in-500 chance of striking the Earth in 30 years have
retracted their prediction, saying it poses little threat.

The object, which is either a small asteroid or piece of space junk, has
virtually no chance of hitting the planet in 2030. However, scientists at
the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena said there's a 1-in-1,000 chance
it could hit Earth in 2071.

"This object is much more interesting than threatening," said Donald
Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program.

Scientists downgraded the chance of a collision in 2030 after examining
additional observations. The new data "effectively ruled out the chance of
an Earth impact in that year," according to the program's Web site.

Predictions of the path of the object now indicate it will pass no closer
than 2.7 million miles (4.34 million kilometers) to Earth -- about 11 times
the distance from the Earth to the moon.

The object, designated 2000 SG344, is either an asteroid about 200 feet (60
meters) in diameter or a 35-foot (10.5-meter)-long Apollo-era rocket
booster. It was discovered September 29 through a telescope in Hawaii.

Before the new data was revealed, Yeomans had said that if the object was an
asteroid it could create a "fairly sizable nuclear blast" if it struck the
Earth.

The retraction and downgrading was the second embarrassing asteroid
announcement in recent years. Scientists at the Minor Planets Center in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, generated headlines worldwide in 1998 when they
announced that a mile-wide (1.6-kilometer-wide) asteroid had a chance of
hitting Earth in 2028. The prediction was retracted a day later when further
calculations were made by JPL.

That incident led the International Astronomical Union to create new
guidelines for announcing events of such magnitude. New rules call for
announcements to be made after astronomers reach a consensus that a risk to
the planet exists and states that an announcement be made publicly within 72
hours of such findings.

Yeomans said the new observations were released Friday shortly after he held
a news conference.

"We followed the rules to the letter," he said. "I have no regrets. I'd do
the same thing again."

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

===============
(3) IT'S A MESS (sorry MISS)
IN A ABOUT-FACE, ASTRONOMERS ADMIT SPACE OBJECT WON'T HIT THE EARTH IN 2030

From Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6 November 2000
http://www.jsonline.com/news/gen/nov00/astro07110600.asp


=============
(4) A PLANET IN PERIL? NOT QUITE
EARTH'S DATE WITH DOOM WAS OFF. BUT WATCH OUT IN 2071

From Philadelphia Inqurier, 7 November 2000
http://web.philly.com/content/inquirer/2000/11/07/national/NEVERMIND07.htm


=============
(5) RISK TO EARTH FROM OBJECT IN SPACE IS LOWERED

From Washington Post, 7 November 2000
http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28696-2000Nov7.html
 
Los Angeles Times
Tuesday, November 7, 2000; Page A09

PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 6 -- Scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have
downgraded the threat of an object now speeding toward Earth and say there
is no chance it will hit the Earth in 2030, but a 1 in 1,000 chance it could
hit the Earth on Sept. 16, 2071.

Last week, scientists with NASA's Near-Earth Objects Program Office at JPL
and the International Astronomical Union announced there was a 1 in 500
chance that an object could hit the Earth in 2030. But additional
observations have improved predictions of the object's path and suggest it
will pass no closer to the Earth than 2.7 million miles on that date--11
times the distance from the Earth to the moon.

"As we noted, the most likely scenario was that we will find additional
observations that would render this prediction invalid," said Don Yeomans,
manager of the NASA office. "If there are 499 chances it won't hit and one
that it will, new data will almost every time render it invalid."

This is the second (sic) embarrassing collision retraction in recent years.
In 1998, scientists at the Minor Planets Center in Cambridge, Mass., gained
worldwide headlines when they announced that a mile-wide asteroid had a
small chance of hitting the Earth in 2028. The prediction was retracted a
day later when more calculations were made. In that case, the corrections
(sic) came from JPL.

The incident led the International Astronomical Union to create new
guidelines for announcing such potential Earth-dooming events. Astronomers
would only make an announcement after reaching a consensus that there was
some risk to the planet and would announce their findings within 72 hours of
making them.

Yeomans followed those rules, but new (sic) observations made Friday were
not given to JPL until after the announcement.

Yeomans and his crew will continue to study the object called SG344, which
is either a small asteroid about 200 feet in diameter or a spent Apollo-era
rocket booster. A 35-foot piece of hardware like that would burn in the
atmosphere and pose no threat to Earth.

2000 The Washington Post Company

==========
(6) OTHER HARDWARE CANDIDATES

From Roy Tucker <tucker@noao.edu>

Hi Benny,

My compliments on your reporting of the 2000 SG344 events.

I strongly believe that only an Apollo S-IVB would be large enough to
explain 2000 SG344 as space hardware. Allow me to direct you to a
photograph showing some launchers (Atlas, Titan, etc.) that were common
during the Apollo period along with the very bottom portion of a Saturn V.
You can see that the Saturn was immensely larger. The S-IVB alone weighed
over a 100 tons when fully fueled, more than these complete launch vehicles
usually weighed. The image is at http://www.apollosaturn.com/frame-sv.htm.
More information may be found at
http://www.apollosaturn.com/refer-frame.htm and
http://www.apollosaturn.com/frame-sv.htm.

Thank you very much.

Best regards,
  - Roy


----------------------------------------
THE CAMBRIDGE-CONFERENCE NETWORK (CCNet)
----------------------------------------
The CCNet is a scholarly electronic network. To subscribe/unsubscribe,
please contact the moderator Benny J 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. The fully indexed archive of the CCNet, from
February 1997 on, can be found at
http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/cccmenu.html
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 2000

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