SETI bioastro: CCNet, 54/2000 - 4 May 2000

From: Larry Klaes (
Date: Thu May 04 2000 - 05:45:02 PDT

From: Benny J Peiser <>
Subject: CCNet, 4 May 2000 (corrected date just for the record)
Date: Thu, 4 May 2000 12:09:07 -0400 (EDT)
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CCNet, 54/2000 - 4 May 2000

     "A much more radical interpretation is that the molecules are
     remains of bacteria smashed by their impact with the Stardust
     collector. This is the view of Sir Fred Hoyle, one of Britain's
     most eminent cosmologists, and his two collaborators, Professor
     Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University and his brother,
     Professor Dayal Wickramasinghe, of the Australian National
     University in Canberra. In a paper being submitted to Astrophysics
     and Space Science, they argue that a bacterial particle smashed
     against the detectors would be largely destroyed except for
     components of cell-wall structure with cross-linked sugars and
     proteins. ‘Such components, which could well have molecular masses
     in excess of several thousand atomic mass units, would accord with
     attributes claimed for interstellar dust from the
     Stardust experiment,’ they conclude."
         -- Nigel Hawkes, The Times

    Astronomy Now, 3 May 2000
    Astronomy Now <>
    The Times, 3 May 2000

    K.U. Thiessenhusen et al., UNIVERSITY OF POTSDAM


    Duncan Steel <>

    Michael Paine <>

    Duncan Steel <>

(9) P/2000 G1 LINEAR
    John Greaves <>

     New York Post, 2 May 2000


>From Astronomy Now, 3 May 2000

Over the past few decades, the rise and fall of the dinosaurs has
captured the imagination of the public and the scientific community
alike. While it is clear that the impact of a large asteroid straddling
the coastline of what is the Yukatan peninsula in Mexico some 65
million years ago, may have wiped out these magnificent reptiles,
the debate still rages as to precisely how they met their demise.

Many scenarios have been suggested, including a kind of nuclear winter
in which enormous quantities of dust were ejected into the
stratosphere, circling the globe and blotting out sunlight for weeks
or months. But not everyone agrees that such a successful biological
lineage as the dinosaurs could have been obliterated in this way.

Now, two American scientists - Charles Cockell of NASA's Ames Research
Centre In California, and Andrew Blaustein of Oregon State University,
have worked out the events that occasioned themselves immediately after
the KT impact.

In a recent paper communicated in Ecology Letters, they explain that
the levels of nitrogen and sulphur oxides produced during the impact
event would have all but destroyed the ozone layer, hereby doubling the
levels of lethal UV radiation incident on the earth's surface. This
deluge of ionising radiation would have put additional stresses on the
biosphere already stretched to the extreme by the impact.

What is even more remarkable though, is that significant sulphate
deposits are only found over 1 percent of the earth's surface,
rendering the KT extinction event particularly lethal for the
dinosaurs, but not for our kind - the small, furry, milk-suckling

Copyright 2000, Astronomy Now


>From Astronomy Now <>

4 May 2000

Fiery volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io are the main source of dust
streams that flow from the Jupiter system into the rest of the solar
system, according to new findings from NASA's Galileo spacecraft
analyzed by an international team of scientists.

The scientists, led by Amara Graps of the Max Planck Institute of
Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, analyzed the frequency of dust
impacts on Galileo's dust detector subsystem. They found peaks that
coincided with the periods of Io's orbit (approximately 42 hours) and
of Jupiter's rotation (approximately 10 hours).

Although dust scientists had suspected Io as the source of the dust
streams, it was difficult to prove. They ruled out several possible
sources, including Jupiter's main ring and Comet Shoemaker-Levy
9, but Jupiter's gossamer ring and Io remained as candidates. The
dust scientists studied several years of Galileo data to show that
the motion of the dust stream particles is strongly influenced by
Jupiter's magnetic field, with a unique signature that could exist
only if Io were the main contributor to the dust streams.

"Now, for the first time we have direct evidence that Io is the
dominant source of the Jovian dust streams," said Graps, lead
author of a paper on the findings that appears in the May 4 issue
of the journal Nature.

The Jovian dust streams are intense bursts of submicron-sized
particles (as small as particles of smoke) that originate in Jupiter's
system and flow out about 290 million kilometers (180 million
miles), or twice the distance between Earth and the Sun. They
were first discovered in 1992 by the dust detector onboard the
Ulysses spacecraft during its Jupiter flyby.


>From The Times, 3 May 2000


AN ENCOUNTER far beyond Mars has given a boost to scientists who
believe that life on Earth may have begun in space.

A spacecraft has found complex carbon-based molecules drifting in the
solar system more than 150 million miles from Earth. They are far
larger than any previously discovered.

The results from the Stardust craft have excited scientists such as Sir
Fred Hoyle, who has long believed that tiny extra-terrestrial life
forms "seeded" the planets. Other experts say that more research is

Five of the big molecules were detected between May and December last
year by Stardust's Cometary and Interstellar Dust Analyser. Part-icles
enter an intake tube at speeds of up to 18 miles per second, and strike
an impact plate, which vaporises them.

"They resemble tar-like materials rather than minerals," said Dr Jochen
Kissel of the Max Planck Institute for Extra-Terrestrial Physics in
Garching, near Munich, who has been helping to analyse the findings.
The size of the particles - up to 2,000 atomic mass units, more than
100 times the size of a water molecule - "surprised us as much as the
seeming absence of any mineral constituents. Only organic molecules can
reach those sizes," Dr Kissel said.

Dr Kissel and Dr Franz Krueger report the analysis in the German
astronomy magazine Sterne und Weltraum. Dr Don Brownlee of the
University of Washington in Seattle, the principal investigator on the
Stardust mission, said that results were intriguing but preliminary.
"There is always the worry that there is some unknown about the
response of the instrument," he said. "But if that is the composition
of interstellar particles, it's very exciting."

Chemically, the molecules have been identified as
polymeric-heterocyclic aromatic compounds. The nearest terrestrial
equivalents are tar or coal. Dr Kissel believes that similar compounds
might have found their way to Earth and formed part of the "primordial
soup" in which life originated.

A much more radical interpretation is that the molecules are remains of
bacteria smashed by their impact with the Stardust collector. This is
the view of Sir Fred Hoyle, one of Britain's most eminent cosmologists,
and his two collaborators, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff
University and his brother, Professor Dayal Wickramasinghe, of the
Australian National University in Canberra.

In a paper being submitted to Astrophysics and Space Science, they
argue that a bacterial particle smashed against the detectors would be
largely destroyed except for components of cell-wall structure with
cross-linked sugars and proteins. "Such components, which could well
have molecular masses in excess of several thousand atomic mass units,
would accord with attributes claimed for interstellar dust from the
Stardust experiment," they conclude.

The molecules also show evidence suggesting that they contain nitrogen
and oxygen, two elements found in living molecules but unlikely to be
incorporated into molecules in space by purely chemical means. "The
results show oxygen and nitrogen at roughly the 10 per cent level,"
said Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe. "That is just about the fraction
we find in the molecules of life."

Copyright 2000, The Times Newspapers Ltd.


K.U. Thiessenhusen*), H. Kruger, F. Spahn, E. Grun: Dust grains around
Jupiter - The observations of the Galileo dust detector. ICARUS, 2000,
Vol.144, No.1, pp.89-98


We analyze the data of the Galileo dust detector system (DDS) with
respect to micrometer-sized dust grains in the inner jovian system. The
analysis of these data requires an in-depth modeling because an exact
determination of the orbits of individual particles directly from the
data is not possible. We find that a ring of prograde particles with
masses between 10(-12) and 10(-11) g is compatible with the data. The
number density in the region around Europa's orbit is at least 4 x
10(-13) cm(-3). The strongest impacts observed, however, are caused by
a smaller population of particles in the same mass range but on
retrograde orbits. These particles are probably captured interplanetary
or interstellar grains (J. E. Colwell et at. 1998, Science 280, 88),
Possible sources for the prograde dust are the Galilean satellites,
especially Europa and Io. (C) 2000 Academic Press.


H. Nubold*) & K.H. Glassmeier: Accretional remanence of magnetized dust
in the solar nebula. ICARUS, 2000, Vol.144, No.1, pp.149-159


Anticipating the results from the Rosetta magnetometer experiment, we
present a theoretical study concerning the possible origin of a
cometary magnetic field. Assuming the existence of a permanently
magnetized iron dust fraction in the primordial solar nebula, we use a
numerical model to investigate the outcome of a dust aggregation
process involving both magnetic and nonmagnetic preplanetary grains.
The growing dust aggregates of low fractal dimension and sizes on the
order of 1 mu m conserve magnetization to a large extent and could thus
serve as building material for larger permanently magnetized celestial
objects. A special focus is put on deriving numerical parameters for
magnetic dust aggregates that can be used in subsequent numerical
studies. On the basis of our results, we outline possible future lines
of study involving the optical and mechanical properties of magnetized
dust, (C) 2000 Academic Press.



>From Duncan Steel <>

Dear Benny,

In three places in Michael Paine's article and attached commentary
(CCNet, 3 May) there is mention of a supposed current NEO *search*
programme in Australia. For example, it was written:

>(Rob) McNaught runs the only professional search program in the
>southern hemisphere

Now, I am loathe to criticize, because both Rob and Michael are doing
fantastic jobs in their own spheres; but I feel that readers should
not be misled into believing that something is happening when in fact
it is not. Thus perhaps an answer - as a single word or numeral - could
be given to this question: HOW MANY EARTH-APPROACHING

I should also note the following. Michael wrote about the NASA goal,
adopted from the original Spaceguard Survey goal, of finding NEAs down
to a 1 km size limit. The goalposts, however, have long since been
moved! This is not *necessarily* the goal recognised by, say, The
Spaceguard Foundation. In fact the Council of Europe resolution of 1996
dropped the target size to 0.5 km. As that means four times less
bright, as a rule of thumb, the telescopic requirements are entirely
different to what Michael addresses in his discussion. Indeed the
target size advocated by others is even smaller. I have recently heard
that the Decadal Review (of astronomical facilities) in the US may be
recommending the building of a very large (8-m aperture) wide-field
search system, to cover the northern sky on a weekly basis. That would
be phenomenal. The stated target size for NEAs is 300 metres. Even that
is not small enough for some people. Not only have the goalposts
been moved, but they are very mobile.

Kind regards,

Duncan Steel


>From Michael Paine <>

Dear Benny,

Duncan Steel has mentioned the moving goalposts of Spaceguard. I
alluded to this in my article with the sentence 'Debate continues over
the risk from these other objects...'. I have realised, however, that
an important comment from Don Yeomans was edited out of my article:

"...the NASA plan is to use ground-based facilities to discover 90% of
the large NEAs (D>1km) within ten years. This search effort will also
capture many of the smaller NEAs and comets of course but as Al [Harris]
noted, to try to discover the majority of small 100-m sized NEAs would
be an extraordinary, and frightfully expensive, effort. The current
plan is to find the big ones first, then as the detection technology
improves, extend the search to smaller and smaller objects."

It is a matter of priorities. The 1km+ search should also quantify the
threat from smaller objects and this should help justify the more
expensive systems needed to detect a significant proportion of them. As
you raised in your AAAS talk, impacts by small NEOs tend to not leave
much evidence at the Earth's surface and are difficult to identify in
historical records. Without such evidence, or a good sampling of the NEO
population, it will probably be difficult to convince politicians to
spend the larger amounts on detection systems for small NEOs. Of course
a sudden impact with local but devastating consequences might change all
of that - based on John Lewis's simulation software, the odds of such an
event over the next decade are roughly 1 in 9 with an average of 120,000
fatalities! (see )

Michael Paine


Duncan Steel <>
Number of NEAs discovered from Siding Spring since the end of
1996 = ZERO. That should not be covered up by writing about an
Australian *search* programme. Either there is no search programme, or
else there is one and it has zero effectiveness. Follow-up is laudable,
essential. But the public should not be conned.

On the topic of the Spaceguard 'goals', it's not just the size limit
which has been shifted. The 'NASA Spaceguard Goal' also drops the
'completeness factor' to incompleteness: 90% discovery level. That
makes a huge difference. If you originally wanted 99% but you drop to
90%, then it leaves ten times more objects undiscovered. Michael
Paine's article may give the impression to some that enhanced
technology between 1992 (original Spaceguard Survey report) and now has
led to 1-m telescopes being able to do what 2.5-m telescopes could do a
decade ago. (And from that it would follow that governments were
correct not to invest in 2.5-m systems back then.) That is false,
indeed contrary to the laws of physics: detectors cannot have quantum
efficiencies of more than unity. The limitation is on how many photons
one collects & detects. The place that the finagling has occurred here
is by dropping the completeness factor from 0.99+ down to 0.9, thus
allowing the NEAs which are difficult targets (say, being at aphelion
at all prospective discovery epochs over the next two decades, hence
faint) to be dismissed. This goalpost shifting was forced by a
political decision to drop the timescale from the Spaceguard Survey
plan of a 20-25 year programme down to 10 years. As I have said
previously, some politicians believe that the laws of economics can
overcome the laws of nature/physics.

There is nothing wrong with shifting the goalposts: but the story must
be consistent with reality, else the public is being deceived.

Duncan Steel

(8) P/2000 G1 LINEAR

>From John Greaves <>

Dear Benny Peiser

re P/2000 G1 LINEAR and possible meteors 'article' on CCNet 3/5/00

i) I originally wrote the note that has been forwarded to CCNet
recently on an informal level: since then it has had the living
daylights forwarded out of it, something I did not even remotely expect
at the time of writing.

ii) It is highly unlikely that any 1994 perihelion passage pre-discovery
images will be found, the object was probably near superior conjunction
at that perihelion passage. The 5.4 year period means that only every
other perihelion passage will be nearish Earth, which I'd forgot. This
leaves 1988/9 for potential perihelion passage prediscovery images,
only, due to orbit probably being different pre 1987 Jovian encounter.

iii) It is only a ten day orbital arc that I have been playing with. I'm
not sure how reliable extrapolating beyond Jovian encounters is,
either. However, note that so far no significant similarities between
previous orbits and IAUC photographic meteor orbits' database have been
found via Drummond's D' criterion.

iv) Indeed, the ascending node seems to have been evolving continuously
up until recently, and perihelion distance oscillating. The best
potential for any showers is between 2003 and 2027, when ascending node
and perihelion are hopefully going to be quite stable.

v) If the orbital evolution does pan out, and no meteor shower occurs, I
hope professional scientists will put as much effort into saying why no
shower did occur as they currently appear to do in connecting every hole
in the ground with the disappearance of major faunal taxa. The recent
thrashing about that occured with people looking for extinction events
in the geologic record that fell within the 100+ million year probable
landfall window of the newly discovered underground astrobleme in
Australia was a tad worrying. I thought it was supposed to be cause and
effect, not effect and cause...



John Greaves


>From New York Post, May 2, 2000

NO wonder Lou Dobbs was exploring the possibility of going back to his
mothership, CNN - his space venture doesn't seem to be working out so
well. Sources say that at the end of the financial quarter this March, had revenues of only $206,830 and an astounding $3,877,844 in
expenses - 28 percent more than expected. This on the heels of an
employee exodus as the company has been generous with stock options but
not so magnanimous with actual paychecks. A rep for the company said,
" is a private company that doesn't release its financial
figures. No comment."

MODERATOR’S NOTE: According to my own figures for the same period,
CCNet had revenues of only $0,00 and an astounding $0,00 in expenses -
just as insiders expected. Yet CCNet subscription numbers (800+) are
steadily increasing. What is more, the only Exodus reported on CCNet
was the catastrophe-ridden one out of Egypt while staff (N=1)
statisfaction remains excellent and persisting.

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