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CCNet 107/2003 - 18 November 2003
MOON SEEN AS ASTRONOMICAL OUTPOST
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The Moon is the next logical step after the space station. It is important that we
become a multi-planet species ... and that begins at the Moon. Why the Moon? Quite
simply, it's the quickest way to the stars. It's a catalyst. Once we have dominion
of the Earth-Moon system, everything will open up for us. Not just Mars and Jupiter
... but the whole thing.
     --Steve Durst, Space.com, 17 November 2003


A couple of weeks after posting my story on this month's Leonid meteor shower,
both of the leading astronomy magazines in the U.S. issued press releases that
had me scratching my head. Although mainly concerned with the upcoming lunar
eclipse, both releases went on to discuss the Leonids - and then instructed
people to look on the wrong night.
      --Francis Reddy, 16 November 2003



(1) MOON SEEN AS ASTRONOMICAL OUTPOST
    Space.com, 17 November 2003

(2) SUNSPOTS RETURN FOR MORE STORMS
    BBC News Online, 17 November 2003

(3) THE 2003 LEONID METEOR SHOWER
    Space Weather News for Nov. 18, 2003

(4) ASTRONOMY MAGAZINES CONFUSE REPORTERS AND METEOR WATCHERS
    Celestial Delights, 16 November 2003

(5) CHINA IN SPACE: THE US RESPONSE
    The Space Review, 17 November 2003

(6) RUSSIAN RESEARCH CONFIRMS STABLE ATMOSPHERIC TEMPERATURES
    Space Daily, 18 November 2003

(7) AND FINALLY: "NANOTUBE CABLE WILL CONNECT THE EARTH AND THE MOON"
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

==========
(1) MOON SEEN AS ASTRONOMICAL OUTPOST

Space.com, 17 November 2003
http://www.space.com/news/moon_astronomy_031117.html

By Leonard David

The barren Moon could become an astronomer's paradise, an ideal spot for telescopes and other devices to scope out the heavens as never before.

Creating the lunar lookout is one proposal under review during the weeklong fifth gathering of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) being held this week on the Kohala Coast, Hawai'i Island. Astronauts, scientists and engineers, as well as business people and entrepreneurs are sharing ways to convert the bleak Moon into a bustling, off-Earth continent for scientific research, technology testing, producing energy, even as practice ground for future expeditions to Mars.

Representatives from various spacefaring nations, including China, India, and Japan are taking part in the event, seeking to develop global and inter-global partnerships to further a lunar exploration agenda.

Irrational taboo and paranoia about the Moon

"The Moon is the next logical step after the space station," said Steve Durst, ILEWG 5 Co-chair and head of Space Age Publishing Company. "It is important that we become a multi-planet species...and that begins at the Moon." 

Durst said that this week's ILEWG get-together brings to the table interests of the six major spacefaring powers: the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, China and India. "That's the big story of this gathering...the international nature of lunar exploration that's forming," he noted.

"NASA has had an irrational taboo and paranoia about the Moon for a long time," Durst said. "If you just go straight to Mars nothing will change."

The number one goal of the conference, Durst said, is to see people on the Moon within the decade. To kick-start that objective, a strategy to be presented is planting on the lunar surface an initial astronomical capability. That first element would later be serviced and upgraded by "astronomer technicians", as would a build-up of other observational gear. In tending a growing cluster of lunar-based instruments, a human presence on the Moon would evolve, he said.

Considering the Moon as a heavenly counterpart to a mountaintop on Earth suitable for astronomy fits well given the locale of the meeting, Durst added.

The summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii, for instance, hosts the world's largest astronomical observatory, with telescopes operated by astronomers from eleven countries. There are currently thirteen working telescopes near the summit of Mauna Kea. Nine of them are for optical and infrared astronomy, three of them are for submillimeter wavelength astronomy and one is for radio astronomy.

Astronomical complex

Another proposal to be suggested at ILEWG is an astrobiology mission to the south pole of the Moon.

Long-time lunar advocate, Paul Lowman, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is on tap to describe robotic missions to the region of the south pole of the Moon. The primary objective is to emplace there a four telescope, passively-cooled submillimeter interferometric array.

The telescopes would be spread out across the lunar surface. Dubbed the Lunar Submillimeter Probe of the Evolution of Cosmic Structure (LSPECS), "molecular astronomy" would be carried out, Lowman proposes.

More than 120 molecular species in interstellar space have been discovered, specifically in giant molecular clouds. Most of these species are possible pre-biotic material from which life may have arisen on the Earth and perhaps elsewhere. It is for these reasons that the LSPECS mission is termed an "astrobiology" one, Lowman suggests.

Lunar location of the submillimeter telescopes would be just north of Shackleton crater on the earthward side. There, the prevailing low temperature is ideal for submillimeter astronomy. Better yet is setting up the scopes in permanently shaded craters, such as the floor of Shackleton crater. Such an array could be established within 5 to 10 years, Lowman reports.

There's an added bonus in "grounding" such an array on the Moon. Putting LSPECS on the lunar surface would avoid the enormous challenge that formation flying or tethered interferometric arrays face if attempted in free-space.

The array is conceived of as being installed on the Moon robotically.

"However, should humans return to the Moon, the LSPECS could serve as the nucleus of a manned astronomical complex. Astronaut participation has long since been proven invaluable in lunar surface operations, and needs no further justification," Lowman argues.

True space independence

A return to the Moon is a new destination for the American space program.

Paul Spudis, a scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, holds that view.

"NASA has no future plans for human exploration of space beyond completion of the International Space Station (ISS). Yet human space flight makes up the bulk of the agency's budget and is also the source of most of the public support the space program retains. Without a new follow-on goal, human spaceflight will stagnate and the entire civil space program may be in jeopardy," Spudis believes.

In an address to be given at the ILEWG, provided to SPACE.com by Spudis, he feels the claim that only a human Mars mission will draw the necessary public support is faulty.

"The initiation of such a program is unlikely for two reasons: it's too technically challenging for at least another decade and will cost more money than Congress can be reasonably expected to provide," Spudis explains.

"The mission of a lunar return should be to learn how to use off-planet resources. Such a mission is technically challenging, but within relatively easy reach. It gives NASA a task that is directly relevant to future American national and commercial interests in space, thus making it politically palatable," Spudis adds. "A return to the Moon will be the first step towards both true space independence and to the planets beyond," he concludes.

Ice wars

Sure to be hotly debated within the circle of ILEWG lunar experts, Durst said, is the availability on the Moon of water, pocketed within shaded craters, particularly at the lunar south pole.

In the 1990s, observations by both the Pentagon's Clementine spacecraft and NASA's Lunar Prospector suggested that deposits of hydrogen are tucked away in areas of shaded terrain on the Moon. That hydrogen is thought by some scientists to be in the form of water ice. If so, processing that resource into caches of life supporting water, rocket fuel, and breathable air should become feasible.

Those observations, however, have been called to question. In the November 13 issue of the journal Nature, radar astronomer Bruce Campbell of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution, along with several colleagues, doubted the claim of thick deposits, or "slabs" of ice at some depth.

Using the giant Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, radar pings of the lunar poles show no evidence of thick ice at a depth of several feet at the lunar poles, Campbell reported. "There are no places that we have looked at...where you see that kind of signature," he said in a press statement.

Lively debate

Crying foul regarding Campbell's recent report is Stewart Nozette, chief scientist for the Clementine mission, now working at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He contends that while a weak signature, Clementine yielded data that is consistent with small amounts of ice mixed in with lunar regolith - the topside mix of Moon "soil" and rock.

"We never said there were slabs of ice there," Nozette told SPACE.com . This still "lively debate" will not be settled using Earth-based radar, he added.

Rather, a radar-carrying lunar orbiter, Nozette said, could better pinpoint the whereabouts of any water ice at the lunar poles. By finding the most likely places, robot landers could be dispatched to those sites for on-the-spot analysis, he said.

Meanwhile, Durst concedes that finding water on the Moon would make getting a toehold there easier.

"There are those who are pro-ice and those that are de-icers, and others in-between. Whether there's a lot or a little makes it easier, but the goals are still the same," Durst said. "Why the Moon? Quite simply, it's the quickest way to the stars. It's a catalyst. Once we have dominion of the Earth-Moon system, everything will open up for us. Not just Mars and Jupiter...but the whole thing."

Copyright 2003, Space.com

=============
(2) SUNSPOTS RETURN FOR MORE STORMS

BBC News Online, 17 November 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3277329.stm
 
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor 

The giant sunspots that produced the largest explosion ever seen on the surface of our star are set to return.

They are moving back into view of the Earth after being carried to the Sun's far side by its 27-day rotation period.

Astronomers say that even out of direct vision the spots have continued to eject clouds of super-hot material.

The spots will point Earthwards again on 19 November. Although still very active, they are not expected to give out another X28-class solar fare.

Other side

Sunspot groups 486 and 488 produced record-breaking explosions earlier this month even though the Sun is supposed to be entering a period of declining activity - the peak of its 11-year cycle was a few years ago.

As the Sun's rotation took the groups out of view, astronomers were still able to keep an eye on them using a technique called helioseismic holography.

This allows the scientists to "look through" the Sun to see spot activity on the far side.

The holographic maps revealed 486 and 488 to still be active.

While on the far side of the Sun, explosions from their vicinity have been hurling clouds of gas over the Sun's limb in recent days.

Build up

The Sun's rotation will soon carry the pair back to the Earth-facing side of the star.

As they are still active, astronomers believe we are set for more solar storms when they reappear on or about Wednesday.

Indeed, the precursors to the giant sunspot group are just reappearing with the active region 484 just peeking over the Sun's eastern limb.

The spot looks smaller than it did in late October, but it too remains active - hurling a bright mass ejection into space on 13 November.

Copyright 2003, BBC

============
(3) THE 2003 LEONID METEOR SHOWER

Space Weather News for Nov. 18, 2003
http://spaceweather.com

The 2003 Leonid meteor shower began on Nov. 13th with a mild flurry of
meteors over the Pacific Ocean.  It continues on Wednesday morning, Nov.
19th, with a much stronger peak over the Americas and western Europe.

Sky watchers on the Atlantic side of North America are favored; they could
see as many as 80 meteors per hour between 1:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. local
time. Western Europeans and South Americans ought to have a good view,
too, shortly before local sunrise.  (All these times refer to Wednesday
morning, Nov. 19th.)

In western North America and around the Pacific Ocean the display will be
weaker, perhaps 20 to 40 meteors per hour, but that's still a nice shower.
Favored sites include Alaska and Hawaii before dawn on Nov. 19th and Japan
after local midnight on Nov. 20th.

Visit Spaceweather.com for updates and more information.

=============
(4) ASTRONOMY MAGAZINES CONFUSE REPORTERS AND METEOR WATCHERS

Celestial Delights, 16 November 2003
http://celestialdelights.info/ms/leonid_confusion.html

by Francis Reddy
November 16, 2003

A couple of weeks after posting my story on this month's Leonid meteor shower, both of
the leading astronomy magazines in the U.S. issued press releases that had me scratching my
head. Although mainly concerned with the upcoming lunar eclipse, both releases went on to
discuss the Leonids - and then instructed people to look on the wrong night.

Sky & Telescope issued the first release on Oct. 24:

   After five consecutive years of intense, even storm-level displays the shower
   should return to normal activity in 2003. That means no more than 10 to 20 meteors
   per hour under the best of conditions before dawn on Tuesday, November 18th.
   Complicating the picture, a bright last-quarter Moon will be high in the sky.

Astronomy magazine followed on Nov. 5:

   This year, the timing of Earth's passage across the comet's orbit favors observers
   in Europe. They should see the shower's peak before dawn on November 18. . . .
   This year, however, because of the times of the shower's peak and moonrise, a better
   plan is to begin observing at dusk on Monday, November 17, and keep watching until
   the cookies run out.

I asked Bill Cooke, a NASA expert on things meteoroidal, what the magazines knew that we didn't.

"Nothing," he laughed. "They're dead wrong."

Cooke has since had occasion to say as much to puzzled reporters from National Geographic News
and Scientific American.

The magazines are referring to the annual peak of about 13 meteors per hour, which occurs
when Earth passes though the orbital plane of comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Yet it was already clear to meteor experts that the best opportunity for seeing Leonids would
fall a day later, in the wee hours of Nov. 19. Researchers agreed that Earth would encounter
Leonid streams from 1499 and 1533, and in even their most pessimistic scenarios each was
accompanied with much greater numbers of visible meteors than the annual peak.

"It's the difference between going to bed and staying up," said Cooke.

People are interested in seeing meteors whether or not storm-level activity will occur. My
site has served over 48,000 pages to date this month, and just yesterday a reader asked me
about prospects for seeing the Perseid outburst during a vacation cruise to Alaska next year.
While those aren't exactly Google-busting numbers, they do indicate an audience in search of
information.

Sky & Telescope has brought its readers a bit more up to date with this article by Paul Deans
posted on Nov. 1. And while Michael E. Bakich makes passing reference to the forecast in his
article on Astronomy.com, he's still advising observers to look on the wrong night.

Meanwhile, the first of this year's widely separated Leonid peaks has already occurred over
the Pacific and eastern Asia. Despite a glaring moon, the encounter with the 1499 stream appears
to have gone down much as predicted. Observers in the same region will have another opportunity
with the Leonids, under a more favorable lunar phase, on Nov. 19.

Whichever night you choose to look, tank up the Thermos with coffee or hot chocolate, dress a
lot warmer than you think you should, and find a spot with as few glaring lights as possible.
Then just lay back and keep your eyes on the sky.

My stepson, Chris, found the perfect comparison for this activity while watching his first
Perseid meteor shower at age nine.

"It's kind of like fishing," he observed.

==============
(5) CHINA IN SPACE: THE US RESPONSE

The Space Review, 17 November 2003
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/61/1

by Taylor Dinerman

The first Chinese manned orbital flight has not had the galvanizing effect on the US space program that some people expected, but neither has it been received with total indifference. Instead, many Americans, who had little or no interest in space, have now realized, in a nagging and disturbing way, that space is important. The flight of the "taikonaut" has changed the way people in this country think about space, not in any dramatic way, but enough to change their hierarchy of worries.

For most of our fellow citizens, space is a routine part of the background noise of everyday life. The Columbia disaster, for example, was not the giant symbol of national failure that the Challenger explosion represented-in part, because of the aftereffects of the 9/11 attack and, in part, because the risks of spaceflight are understood and accepted by the public. The Chinese flight, on the other hand, represents something the public finds new, and is not very well understood. Space activity is no longer a monopoly of the so-called advanced nations.

Like India, China is simply too big, and too important, to be put into the vague and somewhat outmoded category of "Third World" nation. For almost all of recorded history, China has had at least some access to the best and most advanced science and technology on earth. The use that they have made of this is certainly open to question. Since the 16th century, when China lost its place at the forefront of global technology, many Chinese have assumed that, someday, their nation would recover its role as the center of world civilization. In the 21st century, no nation can aspire to real geopolitical power without, at least some, "spacepower."

China is determined have at least some of all four aspects of spacepower: scientific, commercial, human, and military. Being practical, the Chinese want to make these different aspects of their spacepower reinforce each other. Thus, the Shenzhou capsule has a military reconnaissance capability similar to what the old USSR had on some of their manned spacecraft, and comparable to what the US had wanted to accomplish with the old Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) project. Their cooperation with the European on Galileo and with the Brazilians on the CBERS series of remote sensing satellites has obvious military implications, no matter what the Europeans or Brazilians pretend.

FULL ARTICLE at http://www.thespacereview.com/article/61/1

=========
(6) RUSSIAN RESEARCH CONFIRMS STABLE ATMOSPHERIC TEMPERATURES

Space Daily, 18 November 2003
http://www.spacedaily.com/news/climate-03zj.html
 
St. Petersburg - Nov 18, 2003
A group of researchers guided by Academician Kondratyev has analyzed the archives of temperatures in the Northern Arctic area since 1959 through 2000. Having done this analysis, the researchers stated that constant thermal energy redistribution took place in high latitudes, therefore the state of atmosphere in general had not changed.

The researchers used the data of 116 upper-air stations located in the Northern Arctic area (in latitudes 60-90 North), ship observations, and observation on the "North Pole" floating station through 1991, etc.

The researchers recorded when and at what altitude temperature anomalies occurred. It turned out that within the 40-year period the lower layer of the troposphere (the surface part of atmosphere which in the arctic latitudes extends up to 8-10 kilometers high) has in general got warmer up to a certain height, while the upper layer of the troposphere and stratosphere (the stratosphere covers the interval from 8 through 45-55 kilometers) has become colder.

Proceeding from that, the researchers come to the conclusion that the temperature of the Arctic atmosphere has not changed on the whole.

"Apparently there exist the heat redistribution mechanisms, which create approximate heat content permanency in the Arctic atmosphere along the vertical line," believe the researchers. Thus, if the lower part of atmosphere gets warmer, the upper part immediately reacts to that and gets colder to compensate for the excess of heat below, and consequently, no global changes occur in the atmosphere of the Earth.

This regularity is evident from the data collected by the researchers: negative anomalies prevailed in the troposphere up to 1980, i.e. it was unusually cold, and in recent years the anomalies were primarily positive -- it became unusually warm. In a higher layer, stratosphere, the situation was exactly opposite: approximately up to 1978 anomalies were primarily positive, and became negative later.

A certain boundary between these two air layers of different temperature, or, as the scientists call it -- mean energy level, is located in the medium troposphere. Periodical temperature changes should become apparent there.

Within the period since 1959 through 1979 negative anomalies dominated the height of the mean energy level, then started the period of the same duration -- since 1980 through 2000, when the temperature was extraordinarily high. If such periods do alternate permanently, then the next twenty years will witness anomalous cold in the medium troposphere.

The researchers have noted one more interesting detail: within the last forty years, the rate at which the temperature changes when climbing every 100 meters has increased -- i.e., the Arctic atmosphere has become less steady. That means that ventilating characteristics of the atmosphere have become stronger.

This unsteadiness (along with good ventilating characteristics) grows up only to a certain height in the upper layer of the stratosphere, which contains the largest quantity of ozone. So, in the stratosphere, the ozone concentration should drop, and in the troposphere, conversely, grow up. In this connection, the researchers wonder if these changes are the reason for the ozone content decrease in the atmosphere. The question has no exact answer yet.

=========
(7) AND FINALLY: "NANOTUBE CABLE WILL CONNECT THE EARTH AND THE MOON"

Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

InformNauka (Informscience) Agency
Moscow, Russia

Contact:
A.N. Redkin
or
L.V. Maliarevich
Institute of Problems of Microelectronics Technology and
   Extra Pure Materials
Russian Academy of Sciences
Chernogolovka, Moscow Region
+ 7 (095)962-80-74, + 7 (095)962-80-47
arcadii@iptm-hpm.ac.ru

14.11.2003

THE NANOTUBE CABLE WILL CONNECT THE EARTH AND THE MOON

Researchers from the Institute of Problems of Microelectronics Technology and
Extra Pure Materials (Russian Academy of Sciences) have designed and tested a
new device for production of a new promising material -- nanotubes. The
researchers believe that it is exactly the material a transport cable can be
produced of to connect the Moon and the Earth.

Back at the beginning of the last century, the idea was born to build a
transport cable between the Earth and the Moon to deliver goods from our planet
to the Moon. Until recently, there has been no material enabling to make this
idea a reality. Polymers would not stand cosmic radiation, and the steel cable
would have enormous weight. The most durable material as of today -- Spectra
1000 -- would allow to produce a cable of only 315 kilometers long, as the
longer cable is simply unable to bear its own weight.

Carbonic nanotubes would very well suit the role of a structural material for
such a cable. According to the researchers' estimates, a lightweight cable of
required length can be produced from this material, the cable being 50 times
stronger than the current most durable materials. The problem is that the
researchers have not learned yet to produce high quality nanotubes in large
quantities: that is either too expensive or feasible only in the laboratory
environment. Therefore, this material is still pretty exotic, its price varying
from $60 through $100 per gram.

The scientists from Chernogolovka have designed a device that allows to produce
pretty large amounts of high quality nanotubes. The device is based on a rather
simple scheme: spirit, glycerin or their mixture gets from a specially cooled
chamber into the zone of graphite heater bar, where the temperature reaches
1000-2000 degrees C. That results in ultraspeed heating and substance
combustion. The products precipitate on a special carbonic glass bell covering
the device, or they are removed outside together with vapors and gases, thus
allowing to protect the product from various unnecessary impacts.

Precipitations of such kind normally contain amorphous carbon, soot and various
particles covered by a shell of carbon, as well as carbon fibre and nanotubes.
However, in this particular case the researchers came across a surprise: the
precipitations obtained in the device turned out to contain only nanotubes and
carbon fibre. No other admixtures were found. It means that a laborious
procedure is not required for rectification from unnecessary compoments. The
fibres are 30-150 nanometers thick, and nanotubes are 20-50 nanometers thick,
their length being several micrometers.

The growth of nanotubes can be accelerated with the help of catalysts -- iron,
nickel, cobalt and gold. If the surface where nanotubes are to be precipitated
is covered with a thin film of such catalyst in the form of some pattern, then
nanotubes will precipitate only upon the pattern, the other parts remaining clean.

In principle, such devices may lay the foundation for industrial production of
nanotubes. Maybe, a nanotube cable will soon connect the Moon and the Earth.


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