PLEASE NOTE:


*

CCNet 126/2001 - 29 November 2001
=================================


"Preliminary shooting star tallies and interviews with the four
groups who predicted this year's Leonid meteor shower reveal that
while strides were made in the young science of meteor forecasting,
nobody got it right in 2001. Nonetheless, experts say meteor forecasting,
if not perfect, is at least coming of age. The other three forecasts were
not entirely off base, and without question the 2001 version of the
annual event was a storm, as expected by all four research groups."
--Rob Britt, Space.com, 27 November 2001


"A new study concluding that astronomers have overstated the risk of
an Earth-asteroid wreck is taking a pounding of its own in an Internet
parody. In the November Astronomical Journal, Princeton astronomer Zeljko
Ivezic used the latest images of the asteroid belt to calculate that the
chance of an asteroid (sic) hitting Earth is 1 in 5000 every century. That
is one-third lower than previous guesses, prompting Ivezic to issue a widely
covered press release saying that earthlings should feel a lot
safer."
--Science, 23 November 2001, vol 294, p. 1649


(1) NEW STUDIES SHARPEN PICTURE OF NEAR-EARTH ASTEROIDS
    Scientific American, 27 November 2001

(2) COMMUNICATING ASTRONOMY
    Terry Mahoney <tjm@ll.iac.es>

(3) LEONID UPDATE
    Rainer Arlt <rarlt@aip.de>

(4) LEONID METEOR SHOWER FORECASTS: 'IT LOOKS LIKE WE WERE ALL WRONG'
    Space.com, 27 November 2001

(5) LISTENING TO LEONIDS
    NASA Science News, 26 November 2001

(6) ESA SCIENTISTS CAPTURE THE LION'S OFFSPRING DOWN UNDER
    Andrew Yee <ayee@nova.astro.utoronto.ca>

(7) THE MAGI AND THE STAR
    Biblical Archaeology Society, 2 December 2001
 
(8) MOON MINING WANT TO INVEST IN THE FINAL FRONTIER?
    Yahoo! News, 24 November 2001

(9) ENVIRO-SCARE OF THE DAY: ANIMALS 'FACING CRISIS SIMILAR TO THAT WHICH
KILLED DINOSAURS'
    The Guardian, 29 November 2001

(10) SCARE ABOUT SPECIES EXTINCTION GREATLY EXAGGERATED
     Julian L. Simon and Aaron Wildavsky

(11) EDGAR ALLAN POE & HISTORY
     Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

(12) BE OF GOOD CHEER
     Andy Smith <astrosafe@yahoo.com>

(13) SCIENTIFIC RESPONSIBILITY AND PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF RISK
     Michael Paine <mpaine@tpgi.com.au>

(14) AND FINALLY: INTERNET ASTEROID CLASH
     Science, 23 November 2001, vol 294, p. 1649


===========
(1) NEW STUDIES SHARPEN PICTURE OF NEAR-EARTH ASTEROIDS

>From Scientific American, 27 November 2001
http://www.sciam.com/news/112601/1.html

A trio of new studies is helping to fill in astronomers' view of how
asteroids near Earth orbit the sun and how they ended up there in the first
place. The picture emerging is one in which asteroids in the belt between
Mars and Jupiter collide, shatter and then clump together into families,
migrate into regions of space where the gravity of Jupiter can jar them
loose from their orbits and finally take up residence close to Earth. "It's
pretty clear that [near-Earth asteroids] come from the main asteroid belt
between Mars and Jupiter," explains Joseph Stuart of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, an author of one of the reports. These new studies,
all published in the current issue of the journal Science, are "refining the
details of how that might happen."

Stuart, who compiled data from the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research
(LINEAR) project, found more than 1,200 kilometer-size rocks orbiting the
sun-more than recent counts have detected. Their orbits are also more highly
angled relative to the plane that Earth sweeps out as it circles the sun
than previous surveys had revealed. It's key for astronomers to know how
many such objects there are and how they revolve around the sun in order to
assess the risk that one might collide with Earth, he notes. While the
greater angle between Earth's orbit and the asteroids' could translate to a
lower collision risk, Stuart says he thinks the odds probably won't deviate
much from earlier estimates. "There are a couple of different factors that
pull in opposite directions and probably balance out," he remarks.

To get at the origins of Earth's rocky neighbors, Patrick Michel of the
Observatoire de la Cōte d'Azur in France and colleagues simulated what would
happen if a large asteroid shattered. The researchers found that such an
object would fragment into a range of smaller pieces but that gravity would
pull the larger chunks back together, leaving one big asteroid surrounded by
a family of smaller rocks. Until now, the authors write, scientists had
assumed that collisions were responsible for asteroid families, but they
didn't have a good grasp of the physics underlying these events.

Still, this violent formation doesn't account for all the properties of
asteroid families, according to William Bottke of the Southwest Research
Institute in Boulder and his co-workers. They point out that some clusters
are nearly split into two separate groups composed of different-sized pieces
and that some members sit on the cusp of resonances-areas where a planet's
gravity periodically tugs the rocks as they orbit. Such orbits can only last
a few million years, which is nothing compared with an asteroid's
billion-year age. The team's calculations indicate that after the initial
collision, the asteroid fragments will enter a slow and steady drift whose
speed depends on each piece's size. The rocks get a gentle push from
sunlight they absorb and then emit back into space. Resonances will capture
some of these family members and eject them from their orbit, causing them
to eventually hit the sun or a planet, or leave the solar system entirely.
Stuart says this result provides good evidence that such drifting, rather
than the collision that generates a cluster, is responsible for moving
asteroids into a resonance.-JR Minkel

Copyright 2001, Scientific American

==============
(2) COMMUNICATING ASTRONOMY

>From Terry Mahoney <tjm@ll.iac.es>

An International Conference to be held at

Museo de la ciencia y el cosmos
La Laguna, Tenerife (Spain)

25 February - 1 March, 2002

The advent of the new technologies and recent drives to increase
"productivity" on the part of the international conglomerates that now own
the majority of publishing houses have led to drastic changes in the way
scientific results are published. The pressures on publishers to cut back on
in-house editorial services have led to more editorial responsibilities
being placed on authors and conference proceedings editors. The new
technologies, apart from offering potentially faster publication have also
raised the possibility of bypassing the academic presses altogether and
setting up electronic journals, with their supposed low costs and greatly
shortened publication queues.

Astronomy is unique in its appeal to the popular imagination but is becoming
ever more complex. This increasing complexity presents new challenges to the
writers, broadcasters, and journalists whose job it is to explain the often
difficult ideas involved in a way that will be grasped by a lay audience,
and who must steer a course between dumbing down on the one hand and what
may be called "dumbing up" to the professional community on the other. Put
in other words, the popularizer's task is to avoid the extremes of
trivialising the science and assuming too much scientific background on the
part of the audience.

This meeting will examine how the scientific "signal" is modified, or even
distorted, as it percolates from original research papers through to the
different genres dedicated to the teaching, popularisation and reporting of
astronomical results. One of the primary objectives of this meeting is to
bring together the research and outreach communities so that specialist
journal editors, popular writers, science broadcasters, publishers,
journalists, etc., can exchange views and explain the techniques and skills
they employ to communicate astronomy at all levels.

The meeting's website is at http://www.iac.es/proyect/commast/

===============
(3) LEONID UPDATE

>From Rainer Arlt <rarlt@aip.de>

-----------------------------------------------------------
            International Meteor Organization
                 Meteor Shower Circular

            2 0 0 1    L E O N I D S (UPDATE)
-----------------------------------------------------------

While utilizing all the incoming data for a global analysis of the Leonid
meteor shower, an update on the activity graph may be of interest. We find
two main peaks of activity: between November 18, 10h30m and 10h40m UT,
a maximum with ZHR~1400 was observed. Lyytinen et al. predicted 10h28m
and achieved best agreement. The second peak is located near November 18,
18h20m UT which is very close to the predicted times of Lyytinen et al.
(18h20m) and McNaught & Asher (18h13m). The Asian peak  is skew with a
longer anscending branch. This may indicate the  presence of activity from
the 9-revolution dust trail.

Compared with the first analysis by Krumov, the picture has essentially
remained the same. Now, higher-resolution Leonid bins are available from the
observers. The following 25 observers were included in the below analysis:

 Rastislav Bagin, Chu-lok Chan, Yeon-jong Choi, George W. Gliba,
 Lew Gramer, Pavol Habuda, Xiaolin Huang, Richard Huziak, Martin
 Krsek, Martin Lehky, Michael Linnolt, Robert Lunsford, Hartwig
 Luthen, Monika Martiniskova, Peter Martinisko, Norman McLeod,
 Huan Meng, Sirko Molau, Peter Mrazik, Andrzej Skoczewski, Roger
 Venable, Miroslav Vetrik, Barbara Wilson, Dan Xia, Zhou Xingming.

The selection is simply caused by the process of entering data into the
Visual Meteor Database; presence or absence of reports is not a measure of
quality. Please do not complain your report is missing here -- hundreds of
reports are actually missing as yet!

For the first time, a profile of the population index was computed. It
covers the Asian peak and shows a significant increase of r during the peak.
The population index was near 2.0 before and after the Asian peak. It may
have been even lower for other periods which have not been covered, given
the large number of bright meteors reported.

--------------------------------------------
Sollong   NINT   ZHR  error   r   Date/Time
(J2000)
--------------------------------------------
233.6803   6    10.7   2.4  2.00
234.8489  16    16.9   1.7  2.00
235.6417  23    33.6   2.4  2.00
235.7577  18    56.0   4.2  2.00
235.7948  17    72.4   5.2  2.00
235.8300  14    92.0   6.6  2.00
235.8681  14    86.3   6.1  2.00
236.0146  10   141.2  10.1  2.00
236.0442   8   198.7  16.8  2.00
236.0648   9   239.7  18.2  2.00
236.0791   4   312.4  23.4  2.00
236.0873   2   417.9  57.4  2.00
236.0936   6   474.7  34.6  2.00
236.1007   5   641.8  47.6  2.00
236.1090   8   664.1  49.0  2.00
236.1136  12   738.2  55.6  2.00
236.1177  13   691.3  48.9  2.00
236.1217   9   968.3  77.8  2.00
236.1249  10  1241.3 103.4  2.00  Nov 18 1021
236.1282  14  1067.0  77.8  2.00  Nov 18 1026
236.1308  11  1429.3 105.9  2.00  Nov 18 1030
236.1326  11  1032.8  87.0  2.00  Nov 18 1032
236.1348  12  1118.3  89.5  2.00  Nov 18 1035
236.1371  12  1309.6  95.0  2.00  Nov 18 1039
236.1389   9  1284.7 112.2  2.00  Nov 18 1041
236.1408  13  1160.3  86.0  2.00  Nov 18 1044
236.1435  15  1144.5  82.4  2.00  Nov 18 1048
236.1461  13  1006.6  76.8  2.00  Nov 18 1052
236.1495  13   829.9  64.6  2.00
236.1619  10   780.6  55.6  2.00
236.1725  16   735.6  56.9  2.00
236.1871   9   473.9  34.2  2.00
236.2458   8   319.7  22.9  2.00
236.3029   7   371.3  27.1  2.00
236.3256   6   397.6  29.5  2.00
236.3499   9   369.5  35.7  2.01
236.3797  36   507.6  27.1  2.02
236.3975  48   741.1  37.1  2.03
236.4073  45   903.8  46.4  2.03
236.4152  32  1239.2  62.8  2.04
236.4205  27  1321.2  71.1  2.04
236.4251  23  1503.8  76.0  2.05
236.4299  26  1280.1  69.2  2.05
236.4345  19  1753.5  88.5  2.08  Nov 18 1743
236.4386  17  1651.6  87.4  2.11  Nov 18 1749
236.4422  14  1848.2 103.2  2.15  Nov 18 1754
236.4457  14  2057.9 110.2  2.17  Nov 18 1759
236.4484  10  2242.5 130.6  2.17  Nov 18 1803
236.4515  18  1861.9  94.2  2.17  Nov 18 1807
236.4541  11  2112.8 125.4  2.17  Nov 18 1811
236.4561   9  2406.9 121.6  2.17  Nov 18 1814
236.4582   7  2196.5 150.5  2.16  Nov 18 1817
236.4600  10  2630.0 140.8  2.15  Nov 18 1820
236.4621  11  2192.9 121.6  2.15  Nov 18 1823
236.4644  12  1906.7 102.4  2.14  Nov 18 1826
236.4668  13  2370.8 120.2  2.15  Nov 18 1829
236.4690   9  2400.5 137.5  2.17  Nov 18 1832
236.4712  11  1958.0 109.6  2.20  Nov 18 1836
236.4739  13  2160.8 112.8  2.21  Nov 18 1839
236.4765  12  1656.7  93.3  2.18  Nov 18 1843
236.4798  16  1416.5  70.8  2.15  Nov 18 1848
236.4846  13  1482.9  77.9  2.10  Nov 18 1855
236.4882  14  1448.3  73.6  2.07  Nov 18 1900
236.4932  21  1051.6  52.6  2.03
236.4978  19  1222.4  63.0  2.01
236.5034  22  1108.2  55.8  1.99
236.5123  22  1087.2  55.6  1.96
236.5207  29   848.3  42.8  1.92
236.5317  31   759.0  38.7  1.90
236.5465  32   635.8  32.7  1.92
236.6595  40   208.6  10.7  1.96
--------------------------------------------

NINT is the number observing periods involved. We used the population index
given in the last column, the zenithal exponent is 1.0. Averaging periods do
not overlap; each period is used only once. Errors are the +-ZHR/sqrt(n)
margins of the Leonid number n.

Rainer Arlt, 2001 November 26.

=============
(4) LEONID METEOR SHOWER FORECASTS: 'IT LOOKS LIKE WE WERE ALL WRONG'

>From Space.com, 27 November 2001
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/astronomy/leonid_results_011127-1.html

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer

Preliminary shooting star tallies and interviews with the four groups who
predicted this year's Leonid meteor shower reveal that while strides were
made in the young science of meteor forecasting, nobody got it right in
2001.
 
"Right now it looks like we all were wrong, in various degrees -- perhaps me
worse than others," said Bill Cooke, a NASA scientist whose forecast for a
peak in Hawaii was most unlike the other three.

Nonetheless, experts say meteor forecasting, if not perfect, is at least
coming of age. The other three forecasts were not entirely off base, and
without question the 2001 version of the annual event was a storm, as
expected by all four research groups.

Scientists classify a meteor storm as one in which the hourly rate of
shooting stars, calculated over a 15- to 20-minute period, exceeds 1,000.
Some forecasts had predicted such a rate for North America and elsewhere,
but there was no agreement on if or where such a storm would take place.

The Leonid meteor shower is created by dust left in space by comet
Tempel-Tuttle, which lays down a separate trail each 33.2 years as it orbits
the Sun. Forecasting the shower involves figuring out which trails Earth
will pass through and how dense they will be.

High-tech counting

At Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, a group of experienced meteor observers, using a
high-tech counting technique, gave this report: "We observed an above 'storm
strength' activity level (> 1000 m/hr ZHR) from about 1000-1130 UTC."

Translation: They saw more than 1,000 meteors per hour just before dawn on
Sunday, Nov. 18.

Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society and six other people used
remote "smart-mice" to feed their Mt. Lemmon observations into a PC operated
by James Richardson, using software developed by Morris Jones to perform
real-time hourly-rate calculations from multiple observers. The work was
part of a NASA-sponsored research effort at the Ames Research Center.

What these avid and experienced observers saw was, of course, similar to
what many amateurs and first-time observers witnessed -- a glorious storm of
shooting stars that won't be repeated for nearly a century.

A group of international observers northeast of Beijing, China, counted a
peak hourly rate of 2,400 shooting stars. Other skywatchers in Asia and
Australia reported rates of nearly 3,000 per hour. In one of the most widely
watched forecasts, however, researchers David Asher and Rob McNaught had
predicted an hourly rate for the region of 8,000.

Other scientists used video cameras and radio receivers to record the event.
Final and official numbers for peak hourly rates, called ZHR, may not come
for weeks or months, after all the observations are sorted out and
cross-checked.

But some general conclusions can be drawn.

"The rates for the Western Hemisphere were higher than expected while those
for the Western Pacific were lower," said Lunsford. "The shower also
produced better activity for a longer period of time than expected. At least
the timing was close enough that most people were able to view the event."

Many observers reported a long peak that began after or lasted past the
predicted times.

Who won?

Lunsford and Rainer Arlt, an astronomer at Astrophysikalisches Institut
Potsdam in Germany, both said that a forecast group led by Finnish scientist
Esko Lyytinen was most accurate at predicting the storm. They had called for
a peak of 2,000 per hour for North America.

In general, all the forecast groups seemed to do better at predicting the
timing of peak activity rather than the number of shooting stars that would
fill the sky during the peak, several scientists said.

"ZHR predictions are still hard to achieve," Arlt said. The difficulty is
not directly the result of bad prediction models, he said, but instead is
due to less than perfect data on past storms. Accounts of previous meteor
showers are often drawn from newspaper articles or amateur tallies.

Arlt said forecasts for 2002, when another meteor storm is expected, will
now need to be scrutinized.

The 2002 shower will be accompanied by a full Moon, which will drown out
most of the fainter meteors. Still, many avid meteor observers will plan
trips to favorable locations in attempts to recapture the magic of 2001.

SPACE.com asked a leader from each forecast group how he thought their work
stacked up against the others this year. Below are the replies, edited for
brevity and clarity.

[ZHR = peak hourly rate; UT=Universal Time; rev.=revolution (7 rev. means 7
orbits ago for comet Tempel-Tuttle, which leaves a new trail of debris every
33.2 years. These revolutions are also discussed as the year in which they
occurred, as in "1699" being a dust trail left in that year.)]
 
David Asher (of Armagh Observatory with Rob McNaught):

I haven't had time to assess this. At present my complete guess is that
Lyytinen et al. may be the 'winners' but that models that followed the 'dust
trail technique' pioneered by Reznikov et al. were all broadly correct, as
Rob McNaught and I (among others) were 100 percent sure they would be, even
though we didn't know which would be the 'winning' model among them.

The shower was further confirmation that meteor storm prediction is
essentially solved, albeit many people should be able to do exciting new
research to try to refine the details.

Esko Lyytinen (with Markku Nissinen, Tom Van Flandern):

According to early data, the rates, especially at the Pacific area, seem to
be a little below the predicted. The times predicted were quite good, at
least enough for choosing the observing location.

What is especially interesting is the timing of the 7 rev. outburst (visible
in Americas). Our last modeling with nongravitational effects put it about
half-an-hour later than the previous simple trail models. This seems to be
about the observed (it may have occurred even a bit later). I think that
this gives quite strong support to our model. Even beforehand I was very
interested to see the timing of this outburst peak.

Peter Jenniskens (of NASA's Ames Research Center):

Our peak rate from FISTA was about ZHR = 1200/hr peaking at 10:40 UT, while
our ground station at Mt. Lemmon had about 1500/hr. They also recorded a
narrow spike up to 2600/hr around 11 UT, the cause of which is not clear
yet. My personal estimate from the ground was around 1500/hr. Peak ZHR from
our ground station in Australia was about 1900/hr at about 18:15 UT (1866
peak). A modeling would be needed to determine the peak rate and time of the
1699 peak.

It is clear that a comparison of the video records is needed to make sure
these numbers are well calibrated. If true, they definitely would support my
prediction that the 1767 dust trail was closer to Earth's orbit and the 1866
dust trail further away than earlier predictions by Asher and McNaught as
well as Lyytinen.

Esko Lyytinen's model did good regarding the peak times, especially where it
concerns more subtle effects from gravitational perturbations on the shape
of the dust trail near Earth's orbit. Observations have surpassed the
sophistication of the model by Asher and McNaught. Brown and Cook are wrong.


Bill Cooke (of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, with Peter Brown):

If we judge the accuracy of the forecasts from the very preliminary numbers
we have now using the criteria of intensity and timing, then I can state the
following:

FIRST PEAK:

Intensity

Asher/McNaught called it to within 20 percent or so
Brown/Cooke also had it right to within 20 percent
Lyytinen/Van Flandern factor of 2 too high
Jenniskens factor of 4 too high.

Timing

Asher/McNaught off by about 30-40 minutes (too early)
Brown/Cooke no peak at this time
Lyytinen /Van Flandern - off by about 30-40 minutes (too early)
Jenniskens - off by about 30-40 minutes (too early)

The 1799 peak predicted by Brown/Cooke apparently did not materialize, but
it has been suggested that the error in the timing of the first peak was due
to influence from 1799 material, which was not a significant influence in
forecasts other than Brown/Cooke.

SECOND PEAK:

Intensity

Asher/McNaught , Lyytinen/Van Flandern 2.5 times too high
Brown/Cooke more than a factor of 3 too low
Jenniskens too high by 33 percent

Timing

Asher/McNaught, Lyytinen/Van Flandern just slightly early
Brown/Cooke about 30 minutes early
Jenniskens about 30 minutes early
[Cook continues:]

This is the way things look now. However, these numbers are very preliminary
and are almost certain to change (The IMO revised their 1999 numbers at
least 3 times, and that was for only one peak).

Another item of interest is that the data we collected on the night of the
17th may show a small peak from 1932 and 1965 trails; this was not predicted
in any forecast.

Copyright 2001, Space.com
 
============
(5) LISTENING TO LEONIDS

>From NASA Science News, 26 November 2001
http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2001/ast26nov_1.htm?list20392

November 26, 2001: All at once there was a eye-squinting flash of light and
a strange crackling noise. Puzzled sky watchers looked at one another ...
and confessed: "Yes, I heard it, too."

Hearing meteors? It could happen -- and indeed it did, plenty of times
during this month's Leonid meteor storm.

"I am sure I could hear several of the meteors," recalled Karen Newcombe, a
Leonid watcher from San Francisco -- one of many who reported meteor sounds
to Science@NASA on Nov. 18th. "Several times when a Leonid with a persistent
debris train flew directly overhead, I heard a faint fizzing noise
[instantly]." There was no delay between the sight and the sound.

"How is that possible when the meteor was so many miles above my head?" she
wondered.

The same question has bedeviled some of history's greatest scientists. For
example, in 1719 astronomer Edmund Halley collected accounts of a
widely-observed fireball over England. Many witnesses, wrote Halley,
"[heard] it hiss as it went along, as if it had been very near at hand." Yet
his own research proved the meteor was at least "60 English miles" high.
Sound takes about five minutes to travel such a distance, while light can do
it in a fraction of a millisecond. Halley could think of no way for sky
watchers to simultaneously hear and see the meteor.

Baffled, he finally dismissed the reports as "pure fantasy" -- a view that
held sway for centuries.

Yet just last weekend scores of people little inclined to fantasy heard the
Leonids. The sounds weren't rumbling sonic booms or the loud crack of a
distant explosion arriving long after the meteor's flash had come and gone.
Rather, these were exotic, delicate noises, heard while the meteor was in
full view. Scientists call them "electrophonic meteor sounds."

Meteor listeners have long been reluctant to report their experiences -- a
result of Halley-esque skepticism. But hearing a meteor doesn't mean you're
crazy. Indeed, modern researchers are increasingly convinced that the
electrophonic sounds are real.

Colin Keay, a physicist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, not
only believes in electrophonic meteors, he's also figured out what causes
them. According to Keay, glowing meteor trails give off not only visible
light, but also very low frequency (VLF) radio signals. Such radio waves,
which oscillate at audio frequencies between a few kHz and 30 kHz, travel to
the ground at the speed of light -- solving the vexing problem of
simultaneity.

Of course, human ears can't directly sense radio signals. If Keay is right,
something on the ground -- a "transducer" -- must be converting radio waves
into sound waves. In laboratory tests, Keay finds that suitable transducers
are surprisingly common. Simple materials like aluminum foil, thin wires,
pine needles -- even dry or frizzy hair -- can intercept and respond to a
VLF field.

Here's how it works: Radio waves induce currents in electrical conductors.
"Strong, low-frequency currents can literally shake ordinary objects,"
explains Dennis Gallagher, a space physicist at the NASA Marshall Space
Flight Center. "When things shake, they launch vibrations into the air,
which is what we hear."

Higher-frequency radio waves, like TV transmissions or FM radio broadcasts,
oscillate much too fast (hundreds of millions of times per second) to
substantially shake conductors. Even if they did, we couldn't hear the
resulting MHz-frequency sound waves, which are far above the frequency range
of a human ear.

But VLF waves can do the job. Keay discovered that even a pair of glasses
could be made to vibrate slightly. Perhaps that explains the experience of
Erich in Troy, New York: "When I was out [viewing the Leonids on Nov.
18th]," he reported, "I had my head back on the ground and heard a sizzling
sound. My head was close to grass and leaves and I wear wire frame glasses
as well. The sound was definitely simultaneous with the observation of a
rather large streak."

But how do meteors generate VLF radio signals?

"It was a knotty problem," recalls Keay. When he began his work on
electrophonic meteors in the 1970's, physicists had no idea how VLF waves
might emerge from a meteor's ionized trail. "Some new mechanism had to be
found."

"[I was inspired by] Fred Hoyle's sunspot theory in which energy is trapped
in twisted magnetic fields," he says. Magnetic fields that suddenly untangle
-- snapping back like stretched rubber bands -- can trigger solar flares:
violent blasts of electromagnetic radiation and energetic particles.

Perhaps, thought Keay, magnetic fields in the glowing trail of a meteor
might do something similar.... only on a much less energetic scale.

Left: Nuclear explosions release VLF radio waves, which are reportedly
"heard" by soldiers in nearby bunkers. This VLF spectrum from such an
explosion peaks at 12 kHz. [more]

When a meteoroid races through Earth's atmosphere, the air around it becomes
a plasma -- that is, a cloud of ionized gas. Plasmas have a curious
property: Lines of magnetic force that permeate them become trapped.
Wherever the plasma goes, the magnetic field follows. If a magnetized plasma
becomes turbulent, the magnetic fields inside it become twisted and tangled
as well.

The plasma tails of certain meteors do become turbulent, says Keay, and they
are permeated by a magnetic field: Earth's. "The plasma is swirling so fast
that the magnetic field can be scrambled up like spaghetti." And therein
lies a source of energy for VLF waves.

Keay continues: Eventually the plasma cools. Electrons return to the atoms
from which they were earlier ripped, and the gas becomes neutral again.
Magnetic fields find themselves suddenly free to straighten out. That abrupt
rebound is what produces the low frequency radiation.

It's a plausible theory, says Gallagher: "It's easy to understand and is
supported by Keay's laboratory work."

Gallagher added, "I think what makes this exciting is that we're talking
about a phenomenon that has been experienced by people for perhaps thousands
of years. Even in modern times folks who reported hearing such sounds were
ridiculed. It was only about 25 years ago that Keay was able to do the
research and legitimize the experiences of all those generations of people."

"It shows there are still wonders in nature yet to be recognized and
understood. We should take this experience with meteors as reason to open
our minds to what may yet be learned."

==========
(6) ESA SCIENTISTS CAPTURE THE LION'S OFFSPRING DOWN UNDER

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

ESA Science News
http://sci2.esa.int/leonids/leonids2001/

Contact:

Dr. Detlef Koschny
ESTEC, Noordwijk, Netherlands
Tel: +31-71-565-4828
Email: detlef.koschny@esa.int

28 November 2001

ESA scientists capture the Lion's offspring Down Under

After an eventful trip to the other side of the world, ESA's intrepid
scientists have returned with a treasure trove of data about the 2001 Leonid
meteor shower.

>From their remote encampment in the Australian outback, the four-man team
from the European Space Research and Technology Centre in the Netherlands
successfully observed many thousands of shooting stars while carrying out
some groundbreaking trials of new scientific experiments.

Team leader Detlef Koschny and colleague Roland Trautner happily recounted
their successful campaign to capture the Lion's offspring.

Question: Were you able to see the Leonids as you had hoped?

Koschny: We were rather nervous because the night of the predicted maximum
was cloudy -- the first cloudy night we had in Australia -- but,
fortunately, the clouds went away and we had three hours of beautiful
Leonids. We saw the first Leonid fireballs through holes in the clouds --
this led to quite spectacular views, since the clouds were black and
basically invisible (an unknown experience to a European observer, where
there are always lights to illuminate the clouds).

Miraculously, it slowly but steadily cleared up and one hour after midnight
we had beautiful skies: the Magellanic Clouds were blazing, Canopus, Sirius
and Achernar brilliant. The show started with about one bright Leonid (-2
magnitude or brighter) per minute. Most of them
had orange-yellow heads and left a blueish-green trail that lasted for a few
seconds. A small number showed persistent trails for half a minute or so.
The highlight was a -2 mag Leonid which flew just above the southern
horizon, parallel to it for about 90 degrees!

Trautner: It was a great show -- amazing! The most spectacular view for me
was in the morning twilight (on 19 November), when the Sun was painting the
sky a cobalt blue, the bright stars and the Milky Way were still visible,
and there were brilliant fireballs coming in. It was the most beautiful
moment of the whole night.

We were very lucky because we had good weather at the end. There had been
cloud and smoke from bush fires earlier in the night. The bush fires last
for weeks -- the farmers just let them burn. We could see them getting
closer until they were burning near the road we would have to use on our
return journey. Fortunately, the fire was already extinguished when we made
our way back to Broome.

Koschny: The weather was a worry to us. There had been thunderstorms around
Perth, and we were told that the weather was also bad around Wolf Crater, so
we decided to camp out at a dry lake nearer Broome. We made the right
decision.

Question: It sounds as if your observations were successful.

Koschny: We captured many meteors and fireballs on video -- probably several
thousand in total, though we won't know the actual numbers until we analyse
our tapes. At one point I saw five meteors within one second. My impression
was that the activity was fairly constant for about three hours. It was
definitely less activity than the 1999 Leonids that we had observed from
Spain. There didn't really seem to be a significant peak, but this may be
because of the observing geometry. We saw a bright fireball every minute at
first, when the radiant (the apparent source of the Leonids) was low above
the horizon. Later, as the radiant rose higher in the sky, we could see a
lot more, fainter meteors.

Our visual observations were reported via satellite phone to Vladimir Krumov
from the International Meteor Organisation, who kindly acted as the
coordinator. We obtained about 200 hours of video data from five intensified
video cameras. Two of the cameras were equipped with objective gratings, so
we were able to successfully record meteor spectra showing both emission and
absorption lines, and we can now start to analyse the chemistry of these
meteors.

We also got some nice recordings from the electric field sensor that was
measuring the electric field of the atmosphere. The signal was converted to
the audio range and recorded on the video tape of our wide angle camera.
Although the camera shows about 200 meteors brighter than +1 mag, so far we
have not found (heard) any obvious correlation between the electric field
and a meteor. We will be analysing the data in detail over the coming weeks
to see if we can find any evidence of this.

Trautner: We suffered from high temperatures -- above 40 C every day. This
increased the electric current consumption of the MI probe electronics and
blew the fuses. Another problem we encountered was the power supply for our
equipment. Fortunately, we were able to recharge our batteries during the
day using a solar panel and by linking up to our car batteries and
generators. The solar array was very useful -- it would have been a disaster
if the car batteries had run dry!

After a number of MI probe test runs, the display on the laptop controlling
the probe died, so that brought my tests to a sudden end. However, I had run
sufficient tests before that to get plenty of useful data. It will be very
valuable for assessing the performance of the new instrument architecture.

Question: You mentioned the threat from bad weather, heat and bush fires.
Were there any other problems that you had to overcome?

Trautner: We were driving around looking for a good site to set up the MI
probe when we had an encounter with a farmer's daughter wielding a rifle!
She did not realise that her father had given us permission to be on the
property and thought we were trespassing. She told us in no uncertain terms
to get off the property. It was only after she rang her father that she
realised her mistake. She wrote us an apology afterwards.

We also had to keep a look out for lizards. Some of them were up to 1.5
metres long and they looked like small crocodiles! They were very shy, but
if we saw any of these animals, we were very respectful! We also saw a lot
of other animals -- kangaroos, bush turkeys, emus, etc. There were plenty of
insects too -- sometimes they were a real plague.

Koschny: All in all, it was a fantastic experience. Especially sitting in
the outback, with nighttime temperatures above 20 deg C, three hours away
from civilisation, seeing the Magellanic Clouds and the Southern Cross, was
something I will never forget.

Links:

* Leonids Down Under pages
  http://sci2.esa.int/leonids/leonids2001/links.htm
* Leonids meteor page
  http://planetary.so.estec.esa.nl/meteors/ and navigate to "Leonids01"

[NOTE: Images supporting this article is available at
http://sci2.esa.int/leonids/leonids2001/]

==============
(7) THE MAGI AND THE STAR

>From Biblical Archaeology Society, 2 December 2001
http://www.bib-arch.org/brd01/magi1.html

The wondrous star that hovered over Bethlehem at Jesus' birth has long
mystified Bible scholars and astronomers alike. Attempts to identify the
star with historical celestial phenomena have been inconclusive at best,
leading many to dismiss the gospel account as a beautiful but imaginative
myth. Still others keep returning to this question, knowing that if we could
only link the star with a specific celestial event, we could also pinpoint
the date of Jesus' birth. For although today we celebrate the birth of Jesus
in 1 C.E., most scholars believe he was actually born sometime between 7 and
4 B.C.E., based on the Gospel of Matthew, which indicates that Jesus was
born late in the reign of King Herod of Judea, who died in 4 B.C.E.*

I believe that Babylonian astronomy may provide the key to identifying the
star and to dating Jesus' birth: That's because the Gospel of Matthew tells
us that the magi-astronomers from the East-believed that the star would lead
them to a new king. Why? What did the magi know?

According to Matthew, after Jesus was born "magi from the East arrived in
Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?
We have observed the rising of his star, and we have come to pay him
homage'" (Matthew 2:2).

Herod was, of course, disturbed by the news. He called his chief priests and
scribes before him and asked them where such a child would be born. They
said Bethlehem (where King David, whose scion would be the messiah, had been
born). Herod then instructed the magi to continue on their journey to
Bethlehem: "Go and search diligently for the child," Herod advised. "When
you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage"
(Matthew 2:8). Once they found the child, Herod advised, they should report
back to him. Secretly, the king planned to destroy the infant.

The magi set out on the road to Bethlehem. "The star that they had seen in
its rising went ahead of them until it stopped above the place where the
child lay. At the sight of the star, they were overjoyed. Entering the
house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and bowed to the ground in
homage to him; then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts: gold,
frankincense and myrrh" (Matthew 2:9-11). Having been warned in a dream of
Herod's malicious intent, the magi returned home "by another road" (Matthew
2:12).

The term Matthew uses, magoi ("magi" in English), refers to Persian
astronomers or scholars, although it is often translated simply as "wise
men." Matthew does not mention the names or the number of these wise men,
but according to later Christian tradition, there were three: Balthassar,
Melchior and Caspar. (For more on the magi in later traditions, see the
following article in this issue.) Balthassar is a Greek corruption of the
Babylonian name Belshazzar (, or more simply, Bel-shar-usur) familiar from
the Book of Daniel; it means "O Lord, protect the king." Melchior, which
means "The king is my light," is an Aramaic name often encountered in
Assyrian and Babylonian texts. Caspar (sometimes spelled Gaspar) is a Roman
corruption of Gondophares (Gadaspar), a Parthian name (the language of the
people who ruled Persia in Matthew's time). The names of the magi suggest
that they came from Babylon, a Parthian royal city and one of the most
important centers of astronomical and astrological knowledge of the day.

>From its beginnings in the early second millennium B.C.E., Babylonian
astronomy was linked with astrology and divination. The royal courts used
astronomy to interpret celestial events, which were understood as portents
sent from the gods to the king. Every day, month, part of the sky and
celestial body or phenomenon had a significance of its own. An eclipse of
the moon, for example, might be interpreted as a sign that the king would
die. By the fifth century B.C.E., personal horoscopes were being used to
predict an individual's future based on the positions of the planets in
various constellations at the time of his or her birth (that is, based on
the astrological significance of both the planets in the night sky at the
time of the birth and the constellations in front of which the planets
appeared).
 
The work of Babylonian astronomers was, of course, limited to what could be
seen by the naked eye, for the telescope would not be invented until the
Renaissance. (But see "The Stars in the Heavens - Many or a Few?" BR, Fall
1987.) In planetary terms, this meant astronomers could observe the
movements of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, but not Uranus,
Neptune and Pluto. Nevertheless, between 220 B.C.E. and 75 C.E., Babylonian
astronomy had advanced so far that all significant phenomena involving these
five visible planets and the moon could be accurately computed in advance.
This is demonstrated in the many Babylonian astronomical almanacs that have
survived from this period. Like modern almanacs, the Babylonian texts were
prepared a year in advance and provide a month-by-month account of what
would be seen in the night sky. The data include lunar and solar eclipses,
solstices and equinoxes, the first and last dates when stars would be
visible in the night sky, planetary positions in relation to the zodiacal
signs, conjunctions (when celestial bodies appear closest to each other in
the sky) and oppositions (when a planet appears on the opposite side of the
Earth from the sun; this usually occurs when the planet is closest to Earth,
as in the diagram in "What the Magi Saw").

Today, we know of several astronomical events that enlivened the night sky
in the last years of the first millennium B.C.E. and the beginning of the
first millennium C.E. Identifying one of these as the Star of Bethlehem
would give us the date of Jesus' birth.

Among the possible candidates is an exceptional light phenomenon-possibly a
nova (a star that suddenly increases in brightness) or a supernova (a giant
stellar explosion)-known from ancient Chinese records to have occurred in
the constellation of Capricorn in 5 B.C.E. However, unlike the Star of
Bethlehem in the Gospel of Matthew, novas do not move but remain stationary
in relation to the fixed stars, so this possibility must be rejected as
unsatisfactory. Chinese and Roman sources also record an appearance of
Halley's comet from August to October in 12 B.C.E.; but this date is too far
from the death of Herod to be considered seriously. No other suitable
observations of comets are known from this period.

Another possibility is a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in 2 B.C.E. During
a conjunction, two planets appear close to each other in the night sky. In 2
B.C.E., Jupiter and Venus came so close together that they appeared to merge
into a single brilliant star, although only for a very short duration-a
maximum of two hours before their setting. Nevertheless, this conjunction
must be dismissed because it occurred after Herod's death.

The only remaining candidate is a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7
B.C.E.(1) Already in 1604 Johannes Kepler associated this event with the
birth of Jesus. However, Jupiter and Saturn did not come close enough to
each other during this conjunction to be seen as a single exceptionally
bright star. Rather, they remained at least one degree apart (about two
diameters of the moon), leading one scholar to conclude: "This fact renders
it impossible to explain the Star of Bethlehem with reference to that
particular conjunction."(2)

It thus seems that from the viewpoint of modern science, the Star of
Bethlehem cannot be satisfactorily explained. We will have better luck,
however, if we turn to ancient science, which sheds light on how the magi
themselves would have understood these celestial phenomena, in particular
the conjunction of 7 B.C.E. For although modern scholars might find it
"impossible" to identify this conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter with the
magi's star, Babylonian astronomers used the term kakkabu, "star," to refer
to a single star or planet as well as a constellation.
 
Further evidence of how ancient astronomers would have understood this
conjunction has been revealed by excavations in Babylon, which have
uncovered four clay tablets bearing astronomical computations for the year 7
B.C.E. (More accurately 7/6 B.C.E., since the Bbylonian lunar year began at
the vernal equinox (March/April). This almanac indicates that, from the
beginning of the year, Jupiter and Saturn were continuously visible in
Pisces for 11 months. In other words, for most of the year the constellation
Pisces served as a backdrop for the planets Jupiter and Saturn as they
traveled slowly through the night sky. The movements, stationary points,
risings and settings of both planets are accurately registered month by
month (see box, pp. 20-21). They came closest together on three nights in
May, October and December. It appears from the almanac that toward the end
of the conjunction, Mars also moved into Pisces; it was visible near Jupiter
and Saturn in mid-February.
 
That the almanac survives in four copies is remarkable, and, indeed, quite
exceptional. The overwhelming majority (85 percent) of the known almanacs
are available in one copy only, and only two other almanacs are available in
four or more copies. (One for 71 B.C.E., in four copies, and one for 69
B.C.E., in five copies.) Unlike modern almanacs, Babylonian almanacs were
not drawn up for the general public but for the private use of a handful of
experts, and they were guarded as great scholarly secrets. That so many
copies exist of this one is all the more surprising when one considers its
date: Cuneiform texts become rare in the latter half of the first century
B.C.E. (the latest known cuneiform tablet dates from 75 C.E. and there are
only four cuneiform tablets altogether from the Christian Era).

The great number of copies has an obvious explanation, however: An 11-month
conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces is an extremely rare event,
occurring only once every 800 years. Because of the slow rotational velocity
of both Jupiter (which has a 12-year orbit around the sun) and Saturn (29.5
years), any conjunction of these planets (the so-called "great conjunction")
will only happen every 20 years. The 11-month conjunction of 7 B.C.E.,
however, was special in that the planets met three times in succession in
the same constellation. It can occur only when both planets are in
opposition to the sun; that is, the sun is on the opposite side of the Earth
from the planets (see "What the Magi Saw"). Since 7 B.C.E. a triple
conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter has been observed only twice, in the years
786 and 1583.

For the ancient Babylonian magi, however, the conjunction was not only
important astronomically, but astrologically and politically.
 
In the Babylonian system, Jupiter, the largest and brightest planet, was
known as the star of Marduk, the supreme god of Babylon. Saturn, the second
largest planet, was the star of the king, the earthly representative of the
god. The Babylonians called Saturn Kaiwanu, "The Steady One." The
constellation Pisces was associated with Ea, the god of wisdom, life and
creation. Pisces was also the last sign in the zodiac-that is, the last
constellation that the sun passed through each year (see "What the Magi
Saw"). The conjunction of the planets in Pisces accordingly portended two
things: the end of the old world order and the birth of a new savior king
chosen by God. No Babylonian interpretation of this particular conjunction
is extant-surely because of the great rarity of the event-but we know that
interpretations of planetary conjunctions were based on an analysis of the
astrological significance of the planets and the accompanying circumstances,
particularly the zodiacal sign in which the conjunction took place. The fact
that Mars, the star of Nergal, the god of war,* joined the conjunction in
its final phase signified that the new king was to come from the West,
specifically, from Syria-Palestine, for Mars was the star of Amurru or the
West (Syria-Palestine) in the Babylonian system. (*With the establishment of
Greek control over the Near East after the conquests of Alexander the Great
(fourth century B.C.E.) the most important Babylonian gods became
syncretized with Greek ones. Thus Ishtar, the goddess of love and beauty,
was equated with Aphrodite; Marduk, the king of gods, was equated with Zeus;
Nergal, the god of war, was equated with Ares; and so on. The Greeks also
adapted from the Babylonians the idea of associating the leading gods of
their pantheon with planets, stars and days of the week. These associations
were later taken over by the Romans, who in their turn equated Greek gods
with their own.)  

The prediction of such a king would have held wide interest in 7 B.C.E.,
when a power vacuum of sorts prevailed in the Near East. The Seleucid empire
created by the successors of Alexander the Great had collapsed in 64 B.C.E.,
and its remnants, which included Judea, had been annexed to Rome as a
province named Syria. The power of Rome had not yet been consolidated in the
area, however. Even after Augustus changed Rome into an autocratic monarchy
in 27 B.C.E., his authority was questioned in the East, for the Roman
emperor, unlike the Seleucid kings and their predecessors, did not derive
his authority from God. For this reason, many people considered Roman rule
illegitimate and hoped that a local Near Eastern king appointed by God would
drive the Romans out of the country and create a better world. These
messianic expectations are recorded by Josephus and reflected in the Dead
Sea Scrolls.

The conjunction of 7 B.C.E. would have been interpreted as a portent of the
birth of precisely this kind of king. The political vistas opened by it
would not have escaped the attention of any Babylonian astrologer.

When the year 7 B.C.E. began, Jupiter was already visible in the night sky.
Saturn appeared soon after, on the third day of the first month, Nisan (at
the beginning of April). The planets met for the first time on May 27,
rising in the east at about 2 o'clock in the morning, the brighter Jupiter
first, and Saturn, considerably dimmer, soon after it.

The second meeting of the planets occurred on the 22nd of Tishri (October
6). Just as Mars was the star of Amurru (the West), Tishri was known as the
month of Amurru. This second meeting may have inspired the magi to head
West. That they chose to visit Herod's court is natural, as he was
unquestionably one of the most powerful kings of Syria-Palestine.

The magi would have seen a brilliant and suggestive sight. Jupiter and
Saturn were in opposition to the sun and shining at their brightest, with
Jupiter (the star of the supreme god) appearing twice as bright as Sirius,
the brightest star. Appearing directly above Saturn (the star of the king),
Jupiter thus seemed to embrace and protect Saturn in its light. The
conjunction was visible through the whole night, setting in the West. For
the magi, the significance resided in the astrological message, not the
appearance: Matthew nowhere stresses the brightness of the star.

The journey of about 750 miles from Babylon to Jerusalem took about three
weeks by donkey or camel. If the magi left for Syria-Palestine in early
Tishri (October), they would have arrived there well before November 7, when
Jupiter reached a stationary point (its second) and for a moment seemed to
come to a stop. This occurs whenever the Earth, traveling at a faster rate
in its smaller, inner orbit, catches up with Jupiter (or any outer planet).
As the Earth overtakes the planet, Jupiter appears from our vantage point to
pause in the sky, then to travel backward (westward) in retrograde motion
until Earth has passed by. The planet then pauses a second time and turns
back in an easterly direction (see "What the Magi Saw"). On November 20,
Saturn reached its (second) stationary point. Both dates-the 7th for Jupiter
and 20th for Saturn-would fit Matthew's description of a star stopping above
Bethlehem.

The third conjunction occurred at the time of the full moon, on the 14th of
Kislev (December 1), about three weeks before the winter solstice, when the
Babylonians held their annual celebration of the victory of their savior
god, Nabū, over the forces of±darkness. The magi may well have associated
the birth of the child they were looking for with this festival, for the
Mesopotamian king was commonly regarded as an incarnation of Nabū.
Interestingly, the Babylonians proclaimed Nabū's victory as "good tidings"
(bussurati) to all the people. Bussurtu, "good tidings," is the same word as
Hebrew/Aramaic besorah, of which the Biblical euangelion (gospel) is a Greek
translation.

In Luke, the angel uses this very term to announce Jesus' birth to the
shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night: "Do not be afraid; for
see-I am bringing you good news [euangelion = bussurtu] of great joy for all
the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is
the Messiah, the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).
 
 
How could a star lead the magi to Jerusalem and Bethlehem? (For another
theory on how a star could lead the magi, see Dale C. Allison, Jr., "What
Was the Star that Guided the Magi?" BR, December 1993). These Babylonian
astronomers would have "followed" a star only based on its astrological
significance. In 7 B.C.E., they read the message of the "star"-that a
messiah-king would be born in Syria-Palestine-and they headed to a leading
political center in the region, King Herod's court. There they were directed
to Bethlehem; as they traveled, both the planet of the king (Saturn) and the
planet of the supreme god (Jupiter) would have paused in the sky, as planets
do when the Earth overtakes them in their orbit. In late December, at the
winter solstice, the magi would have rejoiced with good news, or bussurati:
Their savior king was born-several years before the Christian Era even
began!

(1) The American astronomer Michael Molnar recently presented a theory that
the star of Bethlehem should be identified with two occultations of Jupiter
by the moon in Aries in 6 B.C.E. (Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem: The Legacy
of the Magi [New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press, 1999]). This theory
must be rejected, however, since in Babylonian astrology the occultation of
Jupiter by the moon signified the death of a great king and famine in the
West, that is, exactly the opposite of what a conjunction of Jupiter and
Saturn portended. See Hermann Hunger and Simo Parpola, "Bedeckungen des
Planeten Jupiter durch den Mond," Archiv für Orientforschung, 29/30
(1983/84), pp. 46-49. (Back)

(2) Heikki Tuori, "The Star of Bethlehem and the Computer," Uusi Suomi 8.1
(1976) (in Finnish).
 
Copyright 2001, Biblical Archaeology Society

============
(8) MOON MINING WANT TO INVEST IN THE FINAL FRONTIER?

>From Yahoo! News, 24 November 2001
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011124/sc/minerals_moon_dc_1.html

By Jeremy Smith

LONDON (Reuters) - Space, the last frontier remaining to be truly explored
and exploited by man. Vast mineral riches are believed to lie in its cold
depths, especially on the moon -- an untapped resource just waiting for its
first commercial landing.

Could it ever be possible to replenish the earth's supplies of gemstones and
little-known rare metals such as osmium and rhodium by sending humans, or
even robots, into space to set up mining ventures on the inhospitable
surface of the moon?

An increasing number of private firms see no reason to wait for the world's
governments to take the lead and are racing to launch their own space mining
missions.

``Governments have no reason to go back to the moon. They've been there,
there's no political reason to go back. But there are a lot of private
reasons to go back,'' said Ian Randal Strock, a director of U.S.-based
Artemis Society International (ASI).

ASI is helping sponsor a project to build a commercial manned moon base and
plans its first lunar flight in the next 10 years. According to Strock,
technology is not the problem -- rather, just how to raise the massive
amounts of cash required.

``If we had sufficient money, then it's just a matter of getting the pieces
together, getting a launch and we're there. The big delay in any project to
the moon is funding,'' he said.

``We're looking at $1.5 billion for that first flight,'' he said. ``We have
four companies up and running and making money, and we're looking to send up
a robotic camera in two years.''

The United Nations (news - web sites)' 1979 Moon Treaty, one of several
international outer space agreements, attempted to define the scope of
private space activity. However, it was never ratified by some major powers
such as Russia and the United States.

The treaty stipulated that any wealth obtained from the moon by any
space-faring nation was to be distributed to all the people of the world.
One clause, referring to space resources as the ``common heritage of
mankind,'' has been taken by private firms as legitimizing efforts to mine
on the moon and asteroids.

The handful of private firms competing to be the first to establish
commercial lunar mining are convinced of a lucrative market for whatever
they might eventually ship back to Earth.

To back up their claims, they cite a famous sale of Russian lunar samples
held at a New York Sotheby's auction in 1993, where a pebble of moon rock
weighing less than one carat fetched an astounding $442,000, or $2,200 a
milligram. According to Applied Space Resources (ASR), a moon mission
costing less than $100 million could return a quantity of lunar material
with enough demand in the marketplace to make the return on investment
attractive to financial backers.

A private company based in New York state, ASR aims to send an unmanned
spacecraft to an unexplored region of the moon and return the first lunar
samples to earth in more than 25 years.

``We have been at this for four years now -- we can do this technologically
and we believe that the market exists,'' said Denise Norris, ASR's
president. ``The biggest hurdle is that we need about three to three and a
half years to integrate everything.

``If everything moves on schedule, we would be launching within five
years,'' she said, adding that ASR would soon be looking for $4 million in
financing.

SCARCE METALS

Scientists believe the elements making up most of the earth are also present
on the moon and make up most of its composition. Analysis of lunar rock
samples indicates a wide variety of elements, with oxygen and silicon being
relatively plentiful.

Germanium, molybdenum, tungsten, rhenium and gold rank among the rarer
metals present, in small percentages. Cobalt, nickel, iron, aluminum,
magnesium, manganese, calcium, sodium and titanium also feature.

But of more immediate commercial interest are the six elements known as the
Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) -- iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum,
rhodium and ruthenium.

Among the world's scarcest metals, the PGMs possess unique chemical and
physical qualities that make them vital industrial materials. They are
especially valued for their catalytic functions, conductivity and resistance
to corrosion. ``There are certain minerals and precious metals that we are
going to find where the supply is going to drop off soon,'' said ASR's
Norris. ''I believe that the platinum group metals are going to be a real
problem on earth, with fuel-cell technology.''

Fuel-cells, which are being developed to operate without fossil fuels, use
around 10 times more platinum than internal combustion engines, mainly as a
catalyst. If they were to be in widespread use, platinum demand would
rocket.

Norris added, ``but it'd be extremely foolish to say we're going to make a
ton of money selling platinum group metals here. The resources are there and
there's a lot of stuff up there,'' she said, adding that this was mostly
from asteroid impacts on the moon.

PRACTICAL PROBLEMS

However, the daunting number of practical problems facing a would-be moon
miner may prove insurmountable, scientists say.

The largest obstacle is the lack of water, used in large quantities in most
earth mining operations but only believed to exist as ice at the lunar
poles. Water has been responsible for shaping the earth with its alluvial
strata and mineral deposits.

Notwithstanding a similar lack of oxygen, which does exist on the moon but
is bound up in compounds that are hard to break down, the low-gravity
situation means that robotic mining would probably be more sustainable than
sending humans into space.

``Nobody is going to think of doing (moon) mining with human beings,'' said
Richard Taylor, a council member of the British Interplanetary Society.

``We aren't going to have little men with tin hats holding picks in their
hands,'' he said. ``All this exploitation of asteroid material will be
robotic and remote.''

Finding the actual mineral deposits could also prove tricky.

While the earth concentrates minerals in specific areas by dint of volcanic
eruptions, the moon is volcanically inactive so new ways of locating
minerals would have to be found.

So far, there is little hard evidence about in what form or where minerals
are found on the moon, although scientists have made educated guesses based
upon studies of lunar soil and rock samples.

``What you want is a means of establishing what exists where, and whether
there are local concentrations. That requires very comprehensive mineral
mapping,'' Taylor said.

``The moon has a semi-molten core but we're not going to see crystal
formation or those types of veining that you would see on the earth with
precious metals,'' said ASR's Norris. ``There is no crystallization in the
same way that we see on earth.''

EXORBITANT COSTS

Apart from the serious practical problems involved with any activity on the
lunar surface, the first obstacle for companies looking to mine on the moon
is cost -- and return on investment.

Experts say the cost of transporting items into space is exorbitant, ranging
between $2,000 and $3,000 per pound of weight, meaning that any lunar bases
would really have to be able to procure their necessities from space.

``If there was a layer of gold a foot thick floating over the earth at an
altitude at which we could send up a shuttle to go up and collect, it
wouldn't be worth doing it,'' said Taylor.

``This is for the simple reason that it would cost more per gram to go up
and bring the gold back than the gold would actually fetch,'' he said. ``And
a lot of these metals have high values on earth only because they are
rare.''

The real key to lunar mining, Taylor said, was to reduce the cost of sending
a craft into space so that its operators could afford to have a vehicle
which went up partially empty into space and came back partially empty.

================
(9) ENVIRO-SCARE OF THE DAY: ANIMALS 'FACING CRISIS SIMILAR TO THAT WHICH
KILLED DINOSAURS'

>From The Guardian, 29 November 2001
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,608510,00.html

SCIENTIST WARNS OF SIXTH GREAT EXTINCTION OF WILDLIFE

Tim Radford, science editor

Humankind is presiding over an extinction of plant and animal species that
matches (sic!) the catastrophe of the dinosaurs 65m years ago, a British
scientist warned last night. Lord May - until last year the government's
chief scientist, and now president of the Royal Society - calculated that
the extinction of birds and mammals was probably 100 to 1,000 times faster
than the average through many millions of years of history. Studies of
fossils had pointed to five great extinctions in the past.

"There is little doubt that we are standing on the breaking tip of the sixth
great wave of extinction in the history of life on earth. It is different
from the others in that it is caused not by external events, but by us - by
the fact that we consume somewhere between a quarter and a half of all the
plants grown last year," he told an audience at the Natural History Museum
in London.

Humans have longer and healthier lives, even in the poorest countries. The
difference in average life expectancy at birth between the developed and the
developing world has shrunk in the past 50 years from 26 years to 12 years.

Food production has doubled in the past 35 years, and there is more food per
person than ever before, even if it was unevenly distributed, he said.

"The fact that we have more land under cultivation and do it more
intensively enables us to get closer and closer to realising what has been
the dream of agriculture since its dawn, which is to grow crops that no one
eats but us, not shared with weeds or insect pests. That has implications
all the way down the food chain for biological diversity," he said.

But this question was complicated by ignorance, he said. Humans had named
1.5m creatures so far. There might be 3m other species on the planet, or
100m.

"But you can't say with any certainty to within a factor of 10. So if we
don't know within a factor of 10 how many animals and plants there are
alive, anyone who tells you the number of animals going extinct this year is
an idiot," Lord May said.

But he compared the known rates of extinction of birds and mammals, put
conservatively at one a year over the last century, with the rates of
extinction gleaned from a study of past eras of life.

"If mammals and birds are typical, then the documented extinction rate over
the past century has been running 100 to more like 1,000 times above the
average background rate in the fossil record. And if we look into the coming
century it is going to increase.

"An extinction rate 1,000 times above the background rate puts us in the
ballpark of the acceleration of extinction rates that characterised the big
five mass extinctions in the fossil record, such as the thing that killed
the dinosaurs."

Lord May said he thought it a weak argument that what was being lost was the
raw material for tomorrow's biotechnology. In 20 years, humans would be able
to design their own medicines.

There was a more broad argument that humans depended on services from nature
- the cost of cleaning water and pollinating crops and so on - and these
were worth at least the entire estimated global gross domestic product of
$30 trillion (£21 trillion).

"Again, there is doubt that if we go too far, we will really make a mess of
it. Again, I personally doubt it. I think it possible that we are clever
enough to live in a hugely simplified world."

He added that humans might be required to act today on behalf of a distant
future. "And that is not something for which we or any other species have
any evolutionary experience.

"That's the core of the problem. And there are no easy answers."

Five past extinctions · Some event near end of the Ordovician period, 440m
years ago, wiped out almost all corals and fish, and 25% of all families of
creatures

· Near the end of the Devonian period 370m years ago, many species of fish
and 70% of marine invertebrates perished

· At the end of the Permian period 225m years ago, between 80% and 96% of
all living marine species were extinguished

· The Triassic period ended 210m years ago with another mass extinction of
sea creatures, and some land animals as well

· The Cretaceous period ended 65m years ago with the obliteration of the
dinosaurs. Many physicists suspect the Earth suffered a direct hit from an
asteroid or that a comet could be to blame for the extinction

Copyright 2001, The Guardian

MODERATOR'S NOTE:

================
(10) SCARE ABOUT SPECIES EXTINCTION GREATLY EXAGGERATED

By Julian L. Simon and Aaron Wildavsky
http://www.positivepress.com/pn/essays/stateof2.php3

Species extinction is a key issue for the environmental movement. It is the
subject of magazine stories with titles like "Playing Dice with Megadeath"
with a subhead "The odds are good that we will exterminate half the world's
species within the next century" (Diamond, 1990, p. 55). Species "loss" also
is the focal point of fundraising from the public. And the Congress is asked
again and again for large sums of public money to be used directly and
indirectly for programs to protect species and for "debt for Nature" swaps.

The central assertion is that species are dying off at a rate that is
unprecedently high, and dangerous to humanity. The World Wildlife Fund,
which publicizes this issue widely, frames the proposition as follows:
"Without firing a shot, we may kill one-fifth of all species of life on this
planet in the next 10 years."

The issue came to scientific prominence in 1979 with Myers's The Sinking
Ark, and then was brought to an international public and onto the U. S.
policy agenda by the 1980 Global 2000 Report to the President (referred to
hereafter as "GTR"). These still are the canonical texts.

GTR forecast extraordinary losses of species between 1980 and 2000.
"Extinctions of plant and animal species will increase dramatically.
Hundreds of thousands of species--perhaps as many as 20 percent of all
species on earth--will be irretrievably lost as their habitats vanish,
especially in tropical forests" (U.S., l980, I, p. 3).

In 1984 we reviewed the data on the observed rates of species extinction. We
found that the scientific evidence was wildly at variance with the
by-then-conventional wisdom, and did not provide support for the various
policies suggested to deal with the purported dangers. We also reminded
readers that recent scientific and technical advances - especially seed
banks, and the extraordinary leaps in knowledge of genetic engineering
though it is still in its infancy, and perhaps electronic mass-testing of
new drugs - had rendered much less crucial the maintenance of a particular
species of plant life in its natural habitat than would have been the case
in earlier years. But the bandwagon of the species extinction issue
continues to roll with ever-increasing speed.

Now we revise our presentation of the empirical and theoretical situations
in light of the literature that has appeared in the 1980s. We find that our
earlier conclusions remain sound. And our conclusions may be considered
greatly strengthened by the absence of new countervailing material coming to
light since then, and by a recent "official" review of this subject by
ecologists themselves which accords with our earlier assessment.

These are the key questions: Are species defined with sufficient clarity so
that different people can arrive at satisfactorily similar estimates? What
is the history of species extinction until now? What are the most reasonable
forecasts of future extinction? What will be the results of extinctions
(including resulting new additions) on species diversity? What will be the
economic and non-economic impacts of the expected course of species
diversity?

Society properly is concerned about possible dangers to species. Individual
species, and perhaps all species taken together, constitute a valuable
endowment, and we should guard their survival just as we guard our other
physical and social assets. But we should strive for as clear and unbiased
an understanding as possible in order to make the best possible judgments
about how much time and money to spend in guarding them, in a world in which
this valuable activity must compete with other valuable activities,
including the guarding of valuable aspects of civilization and of human
life.

The importance of the topic is clear from the far-reaching extent of the
policies suggested. Edward O. Wilson and Paul Ehrlich actually ask that
governments act "to reduce the scale of human activities." More
specifically, they want us "to cease 'developing' any more relatively
undisturbed land," because "Every new shopping center built in the
California chaparral, every swamp converted into a rice paddy or shrimp farm
means less biodiversity" (1991, p. 761).

...for data and evidence see
http://www.positivepress.com/pn/essays/stateof2.php3

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

The scare about species extinction has been manufactured in complete
contradiction to the scientific data. The highest proven observed rate of
extinction until now is only one species per year. Yet the "official"
forecast has been 40,000 species dying out per year in this century, a
million in all. It is truth that is becoming extinct, not species.

The argument that because we do not know how many species are being
extinguished, we should therefore take steps to protect them, is logically
indistinguishable from the argument that because we do not know at what rate
the angels dancing on the head of a pin are dying off, we should undertake
vast programs to preserve them. And it smacks of the condemnation to death
of witches in Salem on the basis of "spectral evidence" by "afflicted" young
girls, charges that the accused could not rebut with any conceivable
material evidence.

If something is unknowable at present but knowable in principle, then the
appropriate thing is to find out. This does not necessarily mean finding out
by direct observation only. A solid chain of empirical evidence can lead to
a reasonable conclusion. But there must be some reasonable chain of evidence
and reasoning.

If something is unknowable in principle, at least with contemporary
techniques, then there is no warrant for any public actions whatsoever. To
assert otherwise is to open the door to public actions and expenditures on
behalf of anyone who can generate an exciting and frightening hypothetical
scenario.

Some say the numbers do not matter scientifically. The policy implications
would be the same, they say, even if the numbers were different even by
several orders of magnitude. But if so, why mention any numbers at all? The
answer, quite clearly, is that these numbers do matter in one important way:
they have the power to frighten the public in a fashion that smaller numbers
would not. We can find no scientific justification for such use of numbers.

Some have said: But was not Rachel Carson's Silent Spring an important force
for good even though it exaggerated? Maybe so. But the account is not yet
closed on the indirect and long-run consequences of ill-founded concerns
about environmental dangers. And it seems to us that, without some very
special justification, there is a strong presumption in favor of stating the
facts as best we know them, especially in a scientific context, rather than
in any manipulation of them.

At a time when there appear frequent reports on the extraordinary
possibilities of genetic engineering, (for example, "Animals Altered to
Produce Medicine in Milk...Scientists Say Rare Drugs Could be Manufactured
with Relative Ease" (The Washington Post, August 27, 1991, p. 1)) - it is
beginning to seem ludicrous to justify extraordinary expense for protect an
animal like the grey squirrel - which may not even be genetically distinct -
on the grounds that its gene pool will be valuable for human life in the
future.

Still, the question exists: How should decisions be made, and sound policies
formulated, with respect to the danger of species extinction? We do not
offer a full answer. One cannot simply propose saving all species at any
cost, any more than one can propose a policy of saving all human lives at
any cost.

Then we must also try to get more reliable information about the number of
species that might be lost with various forest changes. This is, of course,
a very tough task, too, one that might exercise the best faculties of a
statistician and designer of experiments. One suggestion: if the population
sizes of selected species could be measured in a series of periods along
with experimental or non-experimental changes in habitats, extrapolation
might teach something about conditions that would cause species to approach
or reach extinction.

Lastly, policy analysis concerning species loss must explicitly evaluate the
total cost of the protection, for example, cessation of foresting in an
area. And such a total cost estimate must include the long-run indirect
costs of reduction in economic growth to a community's health, as well as
the short-run costs of foregone wood or agricultural sales (see Wildavsky,
1988, and Keeney, 1990). To ignore such indirect costs because they are hard
to estimate would be no more reasonable than ignoring the loss of species
that we have not as yet identified.

We summarize the situation as follows: There is now no prima facie case for
any expensive species-safeguarding policy without more extensive analysis
than has been done heretofore. But the question deserves deeper thought, and
more careful and wide ranging analysis, than has been done until now. As
children say, just saying so does not make it so.

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

(11) EDGAR ALLAN POE & HISTORY

>From Hermann Burchard <burchar@mail.math.okstate.edu>

Dear Benny,

thanks for that astounding quote from Edgar Allan Poe's dialog (CCNet Nov
26) which may be as much history as fiction, especially in this passage:

"..popular prejudices and vulgar errors in regard to pestilences and wars
- errors which were wont to prevail upon every appearance of a comet."

Comet fears in the Middle Ages, here recalled by Poe, are familiar from the
appearance of Halley's comet in the Bayeux tapestry, often noted as an
example as well as from other historical accounts. Such fears probably were
a rational response to past experiences of humanity preserved in collective
memory over centuries by the populace, in bards' songs or old wives tales.

Similar feats of ancient oral traditions are famous from the Near East to
India, so why should we not expect for stories of the Justinian plague
accompanied by cometary sightings to have survived, and of wars, too, that
erupted when food supplies became scarce and needed to be guarded [see Mike
Baillie, "From Exodus to Arthur"].

No longer is comet fear just another one of those "superstitions" of
irrational people lightly dismissed as backward medieval peasants. Here is
an occasion to discern the enduring utility of human reason across the ages,
giving us power to deal with a lot of trouble that fate or the
universe may throw at us.

Regards,
Hermann

===========
(12) BE OF GOOD CHEER

>From Andy Smith <astrosafe@yahoo.com>

Hello Benny and CCNet,

Our Special Role

The few hundred of us who participate in this valuable network are the world
forum, at this time, regarding the most important technical challenge in
history. Every major paradigm shift seems to start this way...with a few
enlightened people trying to get the attention of the powers-that-be.

It is truly sobering to realize that we few bear the burden of
responsibility for the future of life, on earth. We have stepped across the
threshold between innocence and awareness. We have tasted the forbidden
fruit...perhaps just in time....and it is the awareness of that
responsibility which drives many of us. There is no doubt that our
generation has been chosen (from at least 40,000) for the supreme test.

We understand the frustrations of our British colleagues and we want to
thank them for what they are doing and urge "patience and fortitude". It
might be good to press, in all countries, for global cooperation. The
Parliament seemed to be receptive to such initiatives.

The Net Forum and Action Center

The CCNet is many good things. It is the global forum for the exchange of
information and ideas and it is a place to formulate and discuss actions we
may wish to take, to promote asteroid/comet emergency prevention and
preparedness and protection from some of the other world-threatening forces
(warming, gamma irradiation, etc.)

It will take a lot of work, within each country, to identify and inform the
proper policy makers and to get them to help us, in the building of a larger
World constituency. We urge each national group, within the Net, to try to
make these contacts. Now that the United Nations is taking an interest in
the NEO problem, it is expecially important to have national advocates, in
the policy making groups. After the advocates have been identified, initial
contacts can be made using the AIAA International Program. We will be happy
to help you with the AIAA contacts.

In the U.S., it is still amazing how many of the key people have almost no
NEO information or awareness and this picture is further complicated by the
political changes that are constantly taking place...and the accompanying
needs  for information. Such major changes are now taking place in NASA and
in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. It is important for us to
work togeather, nationally and internationally, as we try to help the new
leaders and their staffs to get up-to-speed.

Minor Planet Center (MPC) Support

We see this as an extremely important program which the CCNet might be able
to assist. The MPC seems to need fairly limited additional funding, to
upgrade the data processing equipment and to add a few supporting staff
members. Helping to find ways to meet this vital need could be a great way
of starting the needed global program, and we want to do all we can to help.


It seems IAU Commission 20 (C-20)and other related groups could provide the
leadership and identify the funding channels which could be used for
contributions and grants. C-20 is a very large group (about 200 institutions
and individuals). Many of the members are key figures in the asteroid/comet
hunt....and it may be possible for those institutions and volunteers and
contributors (from the other related specialties), to find the funds and, in
some cases, the equipment needed by the MPC.

We hope the C-20 and/or the MPC will tell us what we can do to help with
this important cause. The MPC workload is increasing daily. They are doing a
tremendous amount or work, with their limited resources, and we feel a sense
of urgency about getting them some help.

Super Asteroid/Comet Telescope (SAT)

We understand that the design work, on the Dark Matter Telescope (DMT), is
proceeding well. This 8 meter, 900 mega-pixel wonder...which can reduce the
time required to inventory the dangerous NEO population, from more than a
century to about a decade, may be another opportunity for international
cooperation. This effort is well represented on the Web.

Space and Robotics 2002 Conference

We are planning another asteroid/comet workshop, at this conference, which
is being co-sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers and others,
in late March. One of the areas of emphasis will be the engineering of
disaster-resistant tall buildings. We will look at both tsunami and
impact/fire resistance. In addition, we will survey activities in all of the
areas related to asteroid and comet emergency prevention and preparedness
(ACEPP). There is still time for abstracts and I invite anyone interested to
contact me, soon.  

Spaceguard/Japan Activity

It seems operations are underway, now, at the new facility, in Japan, and we
hope they will soon be at full productivity and can help us get the world
NEO discovery rate above 1,000, next year. Ten years ago we were just
starting to average 10 new ones or so, per year...thanks to SPACEWATCH. This
year LINEAR, NEAT, SPACEWATCH and LONEOS are all doing well and we
appreciate their efforts, greatly. We hope CATALINA (North and South) will
soon be back in the race.

Multi-diciplinary and Multi-national Teamwork is Great

Active participation, by astronomers, geologists, anthropologists,
paleontologists, space and nuclear systems engineers, civil emergency and
safety specialists, agricultural and medical specialists and others, from
many countries, is essential, if we are to prepare to protect
ourselves....and each of these groups has cultural markings and may find it
difficult, sometimes, to be open to outsiders and to be understanding. We
want to compliment the Net members for the efforts they have made, to-date,
to talk and work togeather. We hope that this attitude will encourage others
to participate in this important positive and open dialogue. We also want to
thank Benny for being such a gracious and dedicated host.

Cheers,
Andy Smith

============
(13) SCIENTIFIC RESPONSIBILITY AND PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF RISK

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

Dear Benny,

Australian ABC radio has a topic relevant to CCNet this weekend: OCKHAM'S
RAZOR http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockham/

"Scientific responsibility and public perception of risk, Dr Robert Hunter
Sunday December 2, 8.45am and Monday December 3, 2.15pm The human race has
always been subjected to risk, from the hunter/gatherer societies right through to the
industrial revolution. But we are much happier to shoulder voluntary risk than to have risk
thrust upon us. Dr Robert Hunter from the School of Chemistry at the University of
Sydney looks at what generates our dread response and acknowledges that once
it surfaces it is very difficult to suppress."

Also this week's Nature has an item "Election result leaves Australian
scientists fearful over funding". Unfortunately I no longer have an online
subscription to this journal but the title says it all! For those who don't
know, the Howard government that stopped funding the Australian NEO search
program in 1996 recently got re-elected, partly due to the tense
international situation and a devisive campaign against refugee boat people
entering Australia. Many here are ashamed of the negative stances taken by
the government on numerous international issues, including Spaceguard.

regards
Michael Paine

===============
(14) AND FINALLY: INTERNET ASTEROID CLASH

>From Science, 23 November 2001, vol 294, p. 1649

A new study concluding that astronomers have overstated the risk of an
Earth-asteroid wreck is taking a pounding of its own in an Internet parody.
In the November Astronomical Journal, Princeton astronomer Zeljko Ivezic
used the latest images of the asteroid belt to calculate that the chance of
an asteroid (sic) hitting Earth is 1 in 5000 every century. That is
one-third lower than previous guesses (sic), prompting Ivezic to issue a
widely covered press release saying that earthlings should feel a lot safer.

But other doomsday prognosticators say Ivezic's study is headed for a crash
landing. In an anonymous parody press release entitled "Chance of Being
Eaten by Wild Animals Greatly Downgraded," an acidic critic ridicules
Ivezic's methods. The spoof, posted on 12 November on a scholarly e-mail
list called the Cambridge Conference Network, argues that using the number
of chunks in the asteroid belt to calculate the likelihood of Armageddon is
akin to using
the number of hippos in Africa to estimate the chance of being chewed by a
wild animal in North America. The parody is thinly veiled partisanship for a
second approach to collision prediction used by previous studies: directly
counting (sic) only asteroids that have left the belt and become potential
threats. Ivezic says the posting is "amusing." His colleagues' scrutiny, he
adds, improves the science.

Copyright 2001, AAAS

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*

NEOs: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL UK ASTRONOMY AND SPACE SCIENCE

>From Duncan Steel <D.I.Steel@salford.ac.uk>

Dear Benny,

CCNet readers who live within range of London might like to attend the
discussion meeting on near-Earth objects to be held at the Royal
Astronomical Society on Friday, December 14th. All interested parties will
be welcome. There will be a press release issued a few days before the
meeting, and we will be pleased to answer enquiries from the media.

The programme for the meeting is given below. Further information about the
location, and so on, may be gained from the RAS web site:
http://www.ras.org.uk/meetings.htm

Duncan Steel

=======================================================================

http://www.ras.org.uk/meetings/2001/011214.htm

"NEOs: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL UK ASTRONOMY AND SPACE SCIENCE"

Organisers:
Dr Duncan STEEL (Salford)
D.I.Steel@salford.ac.uk
and
Professor Mark BAILEY (Armagh Observatory)
meb@star.arm.ac.uk

9:30    Registration and Coffee

Morning Session
Chair: Dr Duncan Steel (Salford)
       
10:30   Dr Duncan Steel  (Salford):    
        "Introductory comments and overview"

10:45   Dr Alan Fitzsimmons (QUB):
        "Observing NEOs with UK-supported ground-based telescopes"

11:10   Dr Peter Wheatley  (Leicester):
        "NEOs in the UK Wide-field Automated Survey Programme (WASP)"

11:25   Dr John Zarnecki  (OU):        
        "NEO-related research at the Open University"

11:45   Dr Sarah Dunkin (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory):
        "Inner-Earth NEO searches using BepiColombo"

12:00   Dr Wyn Evans (University of Oxford):
        "GAIA: A census of the Solar System"

12:20   Dr Phil Palmer (Surrey): 
        "Research at Surrey University for a NEO mission: Affordable access
        for science in space"

12:40   Dr Apostolos Christou (Armagh Observatory): 
        "Nearer than the Moon: dynamics and future opportunities for NEO
        missions"

13:00   LUNCH

Afternoon Session
Chair: Professor Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory)
 
14:00   Dr Nigel Holloway (Spaceguard UK):
        "NEO Impacts: Risk perceptions and realities"

14:20   Dr Benny Peiser (Liverpool John Moores):
        "Asteroid Scares: Near-Earth Objects and the media"

14:35   Dr Iain Gilmour (OU):
        "The ESF-Impact programme: current objectives and future directions"

14:55   Dr Colin Hicks (Director, BNSC):
        "Government policy and future plans on NEOs"

15:20   Professor Mark Bailey (Armagh):
        "Concluding remarks"

15:30   TEA
        At Savile Row followed by the A&G (Ordinary) Meeting


10:00   Registration: No charge.  Coffee will be provided in the Lower
Library of the Geological Society

        A simple lunch will be available for purchase in the Lower Library
of the Geological Society

15:30   Tea will be provided in the Scientific Societies Lecture Theatre,
  Savile Row, for those attending the Monthly A&G (Ordinary) Meeting.

        A Drinks Party will be held in the Coffee Room of the Scientific
        Society's Lecture Theatre 18:00 to 19:00, cost just £1.00 per head.

Posters:

(1) The Atlas Programme: A comprehensive campaign to discover, explore and
understand NEOs
Paolo D'Arrigo (Astrium Ltd), Andrew J. Ball (OU), Philip A. Bland
(OU), Mark Cropper (MSSL), Alan Fitzsimmons (QUB), Ian A. Franchi (OU),
Monica M. Grady (OU & NHM), Simon F. Green (OU), Neil McBride (OU), Derek
Pullan (Leicester), Mark Sims (Leicester), Mark F. Smith (Astrium Ltd),
Nigel Wells (QinetiQ), Ian P. Wright (OU) & John C. Zarnecki (OU).
 
(2) NEO Observational capabilities of UK amateur astronomers
Roger Dymock

(3) Optical colours of near earth objects
Catherine Dandy, Alan Fitzsimmons, Simon Collander-Brown (QUB), Mark
Bailey & David Asher (Armagh Observatory)

(4) What Venus and the Moon tell us about the present-day NEO influx to
Earth
David Hughes (Sheffield)

(5) Determining impact directions from planetary craters: A method of
constraining the orbital distributions of minor bodies David Wallis
(OU)

(6) The Anglo-Australian near-earth asteroid survey
Duncan Steel (Salford)

To speak at the Monthly A&G (Ordinary) Meeting, Scientific Societies Lecture

Theatre, Savile Row - 16:00  Please see programme for full details

Hans Haubold (Director, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, Vienna)
"United Nations Initiatives on NEOs"

Marcello Coradini (Coordinator, Solar System Missions, ESA)
"ESA's contribution to the understanding of NEOs and their related
problems"



CCCMENU CCC for 2001

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The content and opinions expressed on this Web page do not necessarily reflect the views of nor are they endorsed by the University of Georgia or the University System of Georgia.