CCNet 137/2002 - 25 November 2002

"The overall threat from all NEOs averages out at about 3000
fatalities per year (give or take a few thousand - due to the
overwhelming influence of the infrequent large events). In my 100,000
year simulation the average annual fatalities from sub-50 metre impactors
works out at about 70. This might reduce to about 10 under the new
estimate of impact frequency for these small impactors prepared by Peter
Brown. So the impact threat has fallen by about 60/3000=2%."
--Michael Paine, 24 November 2002

    National Post, 22 November 2002

    Andrew Yee <>

    Michael Paine <>


    BBC News Online, 22 November 2002

    Andrew Yee <>

    Space Daily, 23 November 2002

    Aftenposten (Norway), 22 November 2002

(see for yourself)


>From National Post, 22 November 2002{ED10A50E-772D-4E6F-B645-0A789C6597CA}
Margaret Munro 
National Post
A leading space scientist is warning that small asteroids from space that
detonate like bombs as they crash into Earth's atmosphere might accidentally
set off a nuclear war.

"They mimic nuclear explosions when they hit the atmosphere," said Professor
Peter Brown, of the University of Western Ontario, who led a report in the
journal Nature yesterday on asteroids that slam almost weekly into Earth's
upper atmosphere and explode as fireballs.

If one of the bigger rocks was to explode over a country such as Iraq or
India when tensions are high, Brown said there is a danger it might be
mistaken for a nuclear detonation and provoke retaliation. "By
misinterpretation it might trigger a nuclear war."

For the study, he and his colleagues were privy to classified information
from U.S. military satellites on explosions caused by 300 space rocks,
measuring between one and 10 metres in diameter, that have crashed into the
upper atmosphere in the last eight and a half years.

The United States is the only country with an ability to distinguish between
explosions from small asteroids and those caused by nuclear weapons. Brown
said he would like to see more effort made to track small asteroids and to
share the information. "You'd get a heads up," he said, "and less potential
for misinterpretation."

Scientists have long worried about kilometres-wide asteroids, like the one
that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Brown
said smaller space rocks are almost as worrisome because they are much more

A rock between 30 and 50 metres across exploded over Siberia in 1908 with
the force of a 10-megatonne bomb. The resulting shock wave flattened trees
in area measuring almost 2,000 square kilometres. If a similar event were to
take place over a densely populated region of the world today, scientists
say the death toll could be in the millions.

To understand the threat posed by space rocks, Brown and his colleagues at
U.S. Space Command, and Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs in the United
States, looked at data collected by the U.S. military satellites that
monitor nuclear explosions and "other objects of military interest on or
above Earth's surface."

The satellites picked up explosions generated when 300 space rocks hit the
upper reaches of the atmosphere from February, 1994, to September, 2002. The
satellite readings on the brightness of the explosions were used to
calculate the size of the rocks, which researchers say measured between one
and 10 metres across.

The biggest explosion occurred over the South Pacific in February, 1994,
releasing between 30 and 70 kilotonnes of energy, more than the bomb dropped
on Hiroshima in 1945.

Copyright  2002 National Post


>From Andrew Yee <>

News and Public Affairs
Los Alamos National Laboratory

James E. Rickman,, (505) 665-9203


Laboratory helps forecast frequency of giant meteors

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Nov. 22, 2002 -- A system operated by the U.S. Department
of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and used to "listen" for
clandestine nuclear tests has played a key role in helping scientists more
accurately determine how often Earth is hammered by giant meteors like the
one that flattened 1,200 square miles of forest in Russia in 1908.

Previously, scientists believed that meteors like the one that ravaged the
Tanguska, Siberia, forest a century ago entered Earth's atmosphere every 200
to 300 years. Now, in a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature, Los
Alamos researcher Doug ReVelle and his colleagues have
collected evidence indicating that such catastrophic meteor strikes occur
less frequently -- about every thousand years.

ReVelle teamed up with researchers from Sandia National Laboratories, the
University of Western Ontario, ET Space Systems and U.S. Space Command and
looked at sound and light signatures from large meteors that had entered the
atmosphere during the last eight years. When such meteors -- ranging in size
from three- to 30 feet in diameter -- enter the atmosphere, they create a
brilliant flash of light. Often they explode in the middle and upper
atmosphere and leave no trace on the ground, but some have the potential to
level cities if they reach the ground or explode just above it.

But because their arrival in the atmosphere is heralded by a brilliant flash
of light and a burst of sound waves below the range of human hearing at long
ranges, the meteors are easily detected by satellites that look for flashes
from incoming missiles or nuclear blasts, or by Los Alamos' infrasonic
arrays -- a set of ears specially tuned to hear ultra-low-frequency rumbles.
Satellite and infrasound systems were set up in part to provide a
first-alert for clandestine nuclear weapons tests, but their ability to
detect meteors is serendipitous.

Until recently, researchers hadn't integrated optical data from satellites
and all-sky cameras with sonic data from infrasonic arrays to more precisely
calculate the size and energy of incoming meteors.

The Nature paper describes the researchers' work in integrating spectral,
photographic and acoustic data from more than a dozen large meteoric events.
The result is a graph that allows researchers, astronomers, military
officials and others to assign a meteor's energy with its spectral
fingerprint -- a feat that could not be accurately accomplished previously
using either acoustic, photographic or spectral data alone. In addition, the
graph allows researchers to assign a frequency for meteors whose destructive
energy resides in the mid-range between pea-sized objects like those from
the recent Leonid meteor shower and civilization-destroying asteroids.

"What is exciting about this paper for me is that without Los Alamos'
infrasound array, this probably would not have been possible," said ReVelle.
"Infrasound provided the key to unraveling the energy of 75 percent of these
events. Also, the comparison between these Nature results and our earlier
influx predictions using infrasound signals alone is very encouraging."

What's more, the ability to accurately distinguish between a meteor and a
missile during tense times could be of comfort to leaders worldwide. Gen.
Simon P. Worden of U.S. Space Command, and a co-author of the paper,
testified before Congress this summer that a meteor could be mistaken for a
missile strike without an accurate identification technology -- something
that satellites and infrasound could provide. As an example, Worden pointed
to a large meteor that streaked over the Middle East in June, at a time when
tensions between India and Pakistan were high. Fortunately, the very large
"shooting star" didn't lead to shooting.

But detection capability is valuable from another point of view as well. A
meteor that's 100 feet in diameter has the energy equivalency of a
one-megaton explosion, roughly seven times greater than that of the weapon
that leveled Hiroshima. According to ReVelle and his colleagues' work, such
a meteor enters Earth's atmosphere about every 100 years. A Tanguska-scale
meteor, with an explosive energy equivalent of 10 megatons could occur every
1,000 years, according to the researchers.

ReVelle's co-authors are Peter Brown, University of Western Ontario; Richard
Spalding, Sandia National Laboratories; Edward Tagliaferri, ET Space
Systems; and Simon "Pete" Worden of U.S. Space Command.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California
for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S.
Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and
Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability
of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats
from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy,
environment, infrastructure, health and national security concerns.


>From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny

That was a weird collection of headlines listed in CCNet 136/2002. Just how
much has the threat of death from asteroids reduced due the new data?

The overall threat from all NEOs averages out at about 3000 fatalities per
year (give or take a few thousand - due to the overwhelming influence of the
infrequent large events). The graph at illustrates the
dominance of the larger events over a 1 million year period.

In my 100,000 year simulation (at the average annual
fatalities from sub-50 metre impactors works out at about 70. This might
reduce to about 10 under the new estimate of impact frequency for these
small impactors prepared by Peter Brown.

So the impact threat has fallen by about 60/3000=2%.

Michael Paine

MODERATOR'S NOTE: Here are some more weired headlines:
  Chicago Sun-Times, 25 November 2002
  Gold Coast Bulletin, 22 November 2002



You have to hand it to David Morrison. Dr. Morrison is director of the NASA
Astrobiology Institute, where one of the things he and colleagues worry
about is asteroids smashing into Earth.

(Their point being that we should prevent that from happening. That's as
good a cause as we know of.)

You've got to sleep better at night knowing there's a group of astronomers,
physicists and engineers who have the asteroid problem in their sights.

Their attention to this frightening possibility allows the rest of us to
immerse ourselves in the pending 9.7 earthquake, the future of Social
Security, global warming and the coming famines in Africa.

It may be some time before the asteroid attack develops into a crisis -- a
huge asteroid strikes Earth every million years or so -- but it's worth
bringing up now: We know it will take a while to convince humanoids that
it's worth spending tax dollars to stop something we can't yet see with the
naked eye.

The good news is that the scientists on this case think we would have at
least 10 years' notice that an asteroid was bearing down on Planet Earth.

So, no problem: Witness how quickly we stepped up to do something about
nuclear waste, our lightning response to the pollution of Puget Sound, the
sacrifices we've made to end global warming. In a decade or two, we can stop
anything bad.

By the time an asteroid announces its intention to crash into us, we'll have
dispensed with all those other worries. Except one: traffic congestion
around the Puget Sound region.

Hello? Dr. Morrison?



>From BBC News Online, 22 November 2002
By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor 
A group of researchers have identified two seismic events that they think
provide the first evidence of a previously undetected form of matter passing
through the Earth.

The so-called strange quark matter is so dense that a piece the size of a
human cell would weigh a tonne.

The two events under study both took place in 1993.

Other scientists are tantalised, saying that while these seismic
disturbances are unlikely to have been caused by strange quark matter, they
do not as yet have alternative explanations.

Out of the fireball

Strange quark matter could have arisen after the Big Bang, according to a
theory by physicist Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in
Princeton, US.

The primordial fireball may have produced dense, heavy particles made of
three types of quarks, which are fundamental particles.

Whereas so-called "up" and "down" quarks form protons and neutrons, the
addition of "strange" quarks might result in a stable form of matter that
could grow far more massive than ordinary atoms.

There is some evidence that strange quark matter does exist in the cosmos.
In April 2002, two different teams of scientists reported that they had
identified collapsed stars that might be composed of the ultra-dense

Chandra observatory finds evidence for quark stars

In 1984, Harvard physicist and Nobel Laureate Sheldon Glashow suggested that
physicists should team up with seismologists to search for traces of the
strange matter that might have passed through the Earth at supersonic speed.

'Unassociated events'

He calculated that strange quark particles would dash through Earth with
dramatic effect: a one-tonne spec would release the energy of a 50-kilotonne
nuclear bomb, spread along its entire path through the Earth.

In 1993, Vidgor Teplitz, Eugene Herrin, David Anderson and Ileana Tibuleac,
all of the Southern Methodist University in the US, began looking for such
Seismic records were searched for anomolies
They searched the world's seismographic records for so-called "unassociated
events". They looked at more than a million records collected by the US
Geological Survey between 1990 to 1993 that were not associated with
traditional seismic disturbances, such as earthquakes.

Previously, Herrin and Teplitz speculated that it would be possible to
search for seismic events that might indicate passage of strange quark
matter (also known as nuclearites) through the Earth because such events
would have a distinct seismic signal - a straight line.

This seismic signature would be caused by the large ratio of the nuclearites
speed to the speed of sound in the Earth. It was estimated that the strange
quark matter might pass through the earth at 400 km per second (250 miles
per second), 40 times the speed of seismic waves.

Data collection halted

The team also determined that the minimum requirement for detection of a
nuclearite would be detection of its signal by seven monitoring stations.

The researchers latest findings single out two seismic events with the
linear pattern they were looking for.

In two cases, the arrival times and forms of seismic waves at nine far-flung
stations pointed to linear bursts of energy. The ruptures ripped through the
planet at hundreds of kilometres per second rather than fracturing only near
the surface, as typical earthquakes do.

One event occurred on 22 October 1993, when, according to the researchers,
something entered the Earth off Antarctica and left it south of India 0.73
of a second later.

The other occurred on 24 November 1993, when an object entered south of
Australia and exited the Earth near Antarctica 0.15 of a second later.

The first event was recorded at seven monitoring stations in India,
Australia, Bolivia and Turkey, and the second event was recorded at nine
monitoring stations in Australia and Bolivia.

"We can't prove that this was strange quark matter, but that is the only
explanation that has been offered so far," Herrin says.

Unfortunately, scientists may not be able to find any more events that
suggest the passage of strange quark matter through the Earth.

In 1993 the US Geological Survey stopped collecting data from "unassociated

Copyright 2002, BBC


>From Andrew Yee <>

Surrey Satellite Technology Limited

Further information & photographs contact:

Audrey Nice
(Publicity Officer)
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited
Surrey Space Centre
University of Surrey
Guildford, Surrey

Tel: +44 1483 689278
Fax: +44 1483 689503

19th November 2002

SSTL readies first DMC satellite for November launch

AlSAT-1, the first satellite in the international Disaster Monitoring
Constellation (DMC) led by SSTL, has arrived today at the Plesetsk
Cosmodrome to be prepared for a 28 November launch.

The 90kg enhanced microsatellite is Algeria's first national satellite and
has been designed and constructed by SSTL at the Surrey Space Centre (UK)
within a collaborative programme with the Algerian Centre National des
Techniques Spatiales (CNTS).

AlSAT-1 is part of a wider international collaboration to launch the first
constellation of Earth observation satellites specifically designed for
disaster monitoring. The AlSAT-1 enhanced microsatellite carries
specially-designed Earth imaging cameras which provide 32-metres
resolution imaging in 3 spectral bands (NIR, red, green) with an extremely
wide imaging swath of 600km on the ground that enables a revisit of the same
area anywhere in the world at least every 4 days with just a single
satellite. AlSAT-1 is the first satellite in the Surrey-led Disaster
Monitoring Constellation (DMC) which will comprises 5 microsatellites in low
Earth orbit by the end of 2003.

A joint British-Algerian team of SSTL & CNTS engineers successfully
completed the manufacture and pre-flight testing of the enhanced
microsatellite during a 15-month programme which included know-how training
for the 11 Algerian engineers and scientists at SSTL in England. A mission
control groundstation has also been installed by SSTL at CNTS in Algeria and
engineers are carrying out final checks there in readiness for the launch.

Earlier this month, AlSAT-1 left SSTL on its journey from the UK, via
Moscow, to the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia where it is now being
readied for launch on a Kosmos 3-M rocket. A joint SSTL & Algerian team has
travelled to Plesetsk to prepare the spacecraft for launch -- scheduled for
0700 GMT on 28th November 2002 into a 686km sun-synchronous orbit. The
launch, which has been arranged by SSTL for CNTS, is being provided by
Rosoboronexport in conjunction with the Russian Space Agency, Polyot and the
Russian Space Forces.

In mid-2003, following the validation of AlSAT-1 in orbit after launch, a
further 4 microsatellites will be launched into the same orbit as AlSAT-1 to
complete the constellation and provide a daily imaging revisit capability
worldwide. SSTL is building these microsatellites in collaboration with
Nigeria, Turkey & the UK.

SSTL is also leading a follow-on DMC-2 constellation, including higher
spatial resolution down to 2.5-metres GSD panchromatic and 5-metres
multispectral, in collaboration with China, Thailand, UK & Vietnam with a
first launch into the same orbit already arranged for mid-2004.

Photo available at:

Notes for editors:

The Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) is a remarkable example of
international collaboration in space. The concept of the DMC, whereby each
satellite in the constellation is built & owned by an individual organisation but launched
into the same orbit and operated co-operatively, was conceived and first presented in
1996 by SSTL at the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Congress held in
Beijing. This novel form of collaboration enables smaller organisations to
achieve the benefits of a constellation of satellites in orbit whilst at the
same time maintaining independent ownership and low cost. The DMC will be
the world's first civilian Earth Observation (EO) constellation to provide a
daily imaging revisit capability of this resolution anywhere on the Earth's

Led by SSTL, seven organisations from Africa, Asia and Europe have formed a
"DMC Consortium" and agreed to contribute microsatellites into the
constellation. The DMC Consortium comprises a partnership between
organisations in Algeria, China, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and
the United Kingdom. The objective of the Consortium is to  derive the
maximum mutual benefit from the constellation through collaboration and
cooperation between the DMC partners. The international partners in the DMC
Consortium have agreed to exchange their DMC satellite resources and data to
achieve a daily Earth observation imaging capability for disaster monitoring
and other dynamic phenomena as well as for national and commercial

Each year natural and man-made disasters around the world cause devastation,
loss of life, widespread human suffering and huge economic losses. Images of
disaster-stricken areas are often made available too late to be of real use
to relief co-ordination agencies on the ground as current Earth observation
satellites offer only infrequent image revisits and the delivery of critical
information may take months due to periodic cloud cover and tasking
conflicts. Due to its daily imaging revisit capability, the DMC will provide
a service that will greatly improve the response time to aid the management
and mitigation of disasters whenever, and wherever, they occur. The
processed images from the DMC satellites will be distributed to relief teams
on the ground by the Reuters AlterNet Foundation -- formed in 1997 to help
the work of relief professionals around the world.

The DMC has been made possible - and affordable -- by the highly capable
microsatellites developed by Surrey that provide high quality multispectral
imaging at a small fraction of the cost of a conventional satellite, thus
making the constellation and this humanitarian service actually practicable.

The DMC partner organisations in the Consortium are:

* Centre National des Techniques Spatiales (Algeria)
* Ministry of Science & Technology (PR China)
* National Space Research & Development Agency (Nigeria)
* Mahanakorn University of Technology, Bangkok (Thailand)
* National Centre for Science & Technology (Vietnam)
* British National Space Centre (UK)
* Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd(UK)

Four microsatellites for the DMC are being constructed at SSTL in the UK.
The first satellite of the constellation, AlSAT-1 for Algeria, has been
completed and is undergoing final preparations at the launch site.
Construction of BILSAT-1 (Turkey); the UK-DMC microsatellite (BNSC-UK)
and NigeriaSat-1 are well underway at SSTL. The fifth microsatellite
(ThaiPaht-2) is being built at the Mahanakorn University of Technology (MUT)
in Bangkok, Thailand by a team previously trained at Surrey and follows
MUT's successful Know-How Transfer and Training (KHTT) programme with SSTL
and the launch of their first microsatellite (Thai-Paht-1) in 1998. The
satellites for Algeria, Turkey and Nigeria are also being built under a KHTT
programme at Surrey.

The follow-on DMC-2 constellation, including higher spatial resolution down
to 2.5-metres GSD panchromatic and 5-metres multispectral, is being prepared
by SSTL in collaboration with China, Thailand, UK & Vietnam -- with a first
launch into the same orbit already arranged for mid-2004. The first
2.5-metre resolution microsatellite is already under construction at SSTL
whilst the Chinese and Vietnamese satellites are in the final stages of
contract negotiation with SSTL.


>From Space Daily, 23 November 2002

Paris (ESA) Nov 22, 2002

A major disaster struck southern Germany on Thursday 7 November, claiming
numerous victims and cutting the town of Ulm off from the rest of the world.
Except all the victims were actually actors and the 'disaster' was really a
pre-scripted event.

In reality, Ulm was the site of a full-scale trial of the new DELTASS
(Disaster Emergency Logistics Telemedicine Advanced Satellites System)
system, developed by a team lead by CNES for the European Space Agency

DELTASS uses both geostationary and low earth orbit communication satellites
enabling 'top-down' management of emergency workers dispersed across a
disaster zone, as well as letting medical experts located hundreds of miles
away carry out on-the-spot diagnoses of casualties.

Such a fail-safe communication system for emergency telemedicine greatly
multiplies the effectiveness of rescue workers within the affected area,
especially as existing communications networks might not have survived.

"A major accident does as much invisible as visible harm," said Francesco
Feliciani, DELTASS Project Manager at the European Space Agency. "Apart from
the damage to terrestrial communications infrastructure done by the likes of
an earthquake or floods, the first thing that becomes unavailable is the
cellular network, which quickly gets overloaded. We saw this in the Toulouse
chemical factory explosion last year."

Using DELTASS, search and rescue workers entering a disaster area to
identify casualties carry PDAs and satellite phones to transmit details of
the victims, opening 'electronic patient forms' that stay with casualties
throughout their treatment process and can be progressively updated.

First aid and ambulance teams are equipped with Portable Telemedicine
Workstations for two-way communication with medical experts at a nearby
Medical Field Hospital.

Patient data such as ECGs and vital signs can be transmitted along with
still images of injuries.

And at the hub of the DELTASS system is this Medical Field Hospital, set up
within the disaster area. It is from here that mobile teams' activities are
co-ordinated, patients are gathered, treated and their data tracked, and
decisions are made about evacuating them elsewhere.

Broadband communication links enhances patient treatment, enabling
videoconferencing with hospital staff in another country as well as
telediagnosis techniques such as ultrasound.

Francesco Feliciani explained: "Most of all DELTASS allows us to 'follow'
each patient from his first contact with the search and rescue team through
the quite complex chain of events that characterises the diagnostic and
therapeutic intervention, distributed over time and space."

During the DELTASS baptism of fire, a Mobile Field Hospital was placed in
Ulm along with three search and rescue teams, a mobile ambulance and a
Portable Telemedicine Workstation.

The trial proved a great success, with several actors playing 'victims',
relayed by ambulance to the Mobile Field Hospital. A live teleconsultation
link was established with a hospital in Berlin, standing in as a second
opinion reference hospital.

The DELTASS project commenced in July 2001. ESA worked on it with a number
of partners including CNES and the French space medicine institute MEDES.

"DELTASS is an integrated solution where several hardware and software
elements are used together" Francesco Feliciani said. "The real challenge
was adapting and combining these elements to create a coherent set-up
enabling emergency telemedicine.

"Now, following this demonstration, we are negotiating with the DELTASS team
to launch a co-funded project to bring it to a real utilisation phase, to be
operated by real users for actual emergency cases. We will hear more about
this system in coming months!"

Copyright 2002, Space Daily


>From Aftenposten (Norway), 22 November 2002

Helene Solberg glanced out her window on a dark wintry afternoon earlier
this week and saw something she won't soon forget. Luckily, her family's
video camera was close at hand.
Helene Solberg shot this video of what she calls a UFO on Tuesday.
Solberg, who lives in a village with the same name in Asker, west of Oslo,
first called her husband while marveling at the comet-like flying object
that soared through the late afternoon sky.

It was just after 2pm, when dusk already starts settling over southern
Norway at this tiime of year, when Solberg noticed the object with a long,
bright tail. She excitedly called her husband Stig Solberg, who reminded her
that their video camera was lying on a table in the living room. Just the
night before, the couple had tried to capture video of the Leonid meteor

Helene Solberg then grabbed the video camera and started shooting. The
entire episode lasted about eight minutes, with three minutes of it captured
on tape, before the unidentified flying object disappeared from view.

"Can I explain what it was? Absolutely not," Stig Solheim told Aftenposten's
Internet edition Thursday night after sharing the video.

He said he determined that the comet-like object came out of the west and
disappeared to the south. He also sent the video to the astrophysics
department at the University of Oslo, where a professor thought the object
might have been a plane.

Solheim disagrees. "It absolutely did not look like a plane," he said. "When
we look out the window in the other direction, we sometimes see planes. But
we have never seen a plane in the direction where my wife was filming."

Copyright 2002, Aftenposten

WRECKERS? (see for yourself),,484-489531,00.html

"One might have thought that astrology was a better analogy for
economics than astronomy. It is, nonetheless, the world of Sir Patrick
Moore and not Mystic Meg that will be raided this week. The Chancellor is
allegedly faced with a "black hole" in his accounts that he will concede
in the Pre-Budget Report on Wednesday. The combination of slower economic
growth, the difficulties of delivering public service reform and the
prospect of a conflict with Iraq will doubtless encourage commentators to
scour the cosmos for more comparative material. This is a Government that,
some insist, is adrift in deep space, pounded by an asteroid
belt's-worth of problems, with Tony Blair's premiership close to supernova
status. Never mind Charles Clarke, it is Arthur C. Clarke who should
be in the Cabinet."
--Tim Hames, The Times, 25 November 2002

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