SETI CCNet DIGEST, 16 July 1999

Larry Klaes (
Tue, 20 Jul 1999 10:49:47 -0400

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>Subject: CCNet DIGEST, 16 July 1999
>Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 13:30:43 -0400 (EDT)
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>CCNet DIGEST, 16 July 1999
> ScienceNOW, 14 July 1999
> Luigi Foschini <>
> NASA Science News <>
> SPACEDAILY, 14 July 1999
> Andrew Yee <>
> J.R. Cronin and S. Pizzarello, ARIZONA STATE UNIV
>>From ScienceNOW, 14 July 1999
>Amateurs Prove Doomsday Asteroid Is Harmless
>If the world comes to an end in 2044, it won't be because of asteroid
>1999 AN10, a kilometer-wide rock that caused a media sensation earlier
>this year (ScienceNOW, 20 April 1999). Professional astronomers have
>debated the chances of the asteroid hitting Earth since its discovery
>in January, but thanks to some diligent searching by two German
>amateurs, the world can rest assured. The "doomsday asteroid" is
>Initial calculations by Andrea Milani of the University of Pisa and his
>colleagues hinted at a small but nonzero possibility that the rock
>would slam into Earth--with apocalyptic consequences--in 2039,
>following a close encounter on 7 August 2027. In May, further
>observations by Australian amateur astronomer Frank Zoltowski seemed to
>worsen the odds; based on his photos, astronomers at NASA's Jet
>Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, predicted a 1 in
>500,000 chance of an impact in 2044.
>>From their home in Berlin, amateur astronomers Arno Gnädig and Andreas
>Doppler recently searched through the Digital Sky Survey, a set of
>photographic plates obtained at Palomar Observatory in California in
>the 1950s, which have been digitized and made publicly accessible
>through the Internet. Last Sunday, they discovered the asteroid's trail
>on a plate taken on 26 January 1955, says Gnädig. On Monday, after
>carefully checking their results, they reported their discovery to the
>Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where astronomers
>Brian Marsden and Gareth Williams used it to calculate a new orbit. The
>revised path makes it clear that the close encounter in August 2027
>will never happen, and 1999 AN10 won't pose a threat for many decades
>to come, says Marsden. "We were a little bit surprised," he adds.
>Gnädig points out he and Doppler wouldn't have been able to find the
>trail if Marsden and Williams hadn't calculated a revised orbit based
>on Czech and Australian observations only weeks ago. "We were just
>lucky," says Gnädig. Indeed, Donald Yeomans and his colleagues at JPL
>recently carried out an automated search of the Palomar plates, and
>came up with nothing. "Either our search constraints were too tight, or
>the image was too faint," says Yeomans.
>The discovery goes to show, says Marsden, that "there are many great
>amateurs out there doing wonderful work for us." David Morrison of
>NASA's Ames Research Center agrees. "[This field] has always been a
>partnership between professionals and amateurs," he says.
>[Caption:] Telling trail. The faint streak of light in this
>contrast-enhanced Digital Sky Survey image was caused by asteroid 1999
>AN10 on 26 January 1955.
>Copyright 1999, AAAS
>Movies have been devoted to it, scientists make a fuss about it and, in
>the shape of Lembik Opik MP, it has a vocal parliamentary lobby. But
>the possible extermination of Homo sapiens by asteroid impact is a test
>of society's ability to cope with complex facts and choices.
>Mr Opik's claim that the asteroid danger equals that of Chernobyl may
>be true in a trivial sense. It would kill far more people than
>Chernobyl, but is far less likely to happen, so any individual is at
>about as much risk from each other. But this tells us nothing about the
>effort we should devote to countering the space menace.
>Our awareness of the asteroid threat has grown in recent years as
>knowledge of our corner of space has increased. And a detailed search
>for possible impactors is a useful wheeze for getting more cash into
>solar system studies. But beyond this, judgments get more tricky.
>If nuclear weapons are the only way of diverting an imcoming asteroid,
>is it worth keeping them in existence for the purpose, or would it be
>safer on balance to disarm and risk the impact? What about the industry
>needed to support high-technology arms-makers whose business plans have
>never recovered from the end of the cold war, or are there potential
>new technologies, such as ion thrusters for pushing asteroids gently
>aside, that might make benign space policing feasible?
>One thing that nobody doubts - last week's report from the National
>Audit Office makes the point yet again - is the weapon's industry's
>ability to turn a plan into a hard-to-cancel project where budgets are
>merely the framework for later over-runs. A global space defense
>would be even more difficult to manage than previous projects and needs
>much greater thought before it becomes commonly accepted as a
>Copyright 1999, Times Higher Education Supplement
>MODERATOR'S NOTE: Should you find that this leader's call for "deep
>thinking" is rather shallow, you might consider writing to the editor
>of THES at:
>>From Luigi Foschini <>
>The expedition has left Bologna on July 14, 1999 at 9 o'clock
>(local time) to reach the Forli' airport by bus. The Iljuschin
>Il-20 was loaded and land off at 12:00 (local time). Destination:
>Moscow. Please find attached a photo of the departure from Forli'
>airport. More photos are available at the web site:
>In Moscow, the expedition has overcome the main difficulty of the
>journey: the Russian Customs. All the equipement and the
>instruments were unloaded and inspected. The check takes about 4
>hours and half. The Russian Customs sequestrates three
>walkie-talkie only. Prof. Longo tried to explain that, in Italy,
>even children use walkie-talkie and they are not dangerous. But he
>does not succeeded in getting back the three walkie-talkie.
>Apart from this little problem, the expedition goes on. They
>reached Krasnoyarsk on July 15 and they loaded the helicopter
>Mi-26, that will be used to reach the Ceko lake. We have also
>carried out a communication test by satellite telephone: it is all
>right. They will leave Krasnoyarsk on July 16, at 10:00 local
>More informations are available at the Tunguska Home Page, that
>will be continuously updated also during the expedition, with
>reports from the field:
>For the Tunguska99 Press Office:
>Luigi Foschini (
>>From NATURE NEWS SERVICE, 15 July 1999
>The end of the world is nigh! (again)
>The world has, it seems, survived Nostradamus's predicted apocalypse on
>the 4th of July this year; but the Universe is still a dangerous place
>to live. When some stars get old, they explode as supernovae -- and an
>exploding star is not something you want to be close to. A supernova in
>our galactic backyard might wipe out most of the life on Earth. Has
>this ever happened in the past? Scientists from Germany believe they
>have now developed a method for spotting the fingerprints of nearby
>supernovae -- in the depths of the sea.
>Stars at least four times as massive as the Sun die spectacularly. When
>all of their fuel is exhausted, they start to collapse inwards, and the
>inward-rushing material becomes so hot that it bounces back outwards in
>an explosion that, for a few glorious days, burns as brightly as an
>entire galaxy. Part of the star's mass is scattered out into space,
>while a dense core of matter remains behind and collapses to
>unspeakable densities, forming a neutron star or a black hole.
>Supernovae are going off all the time throughout the Universe, some
>close enough that astronomers can study these epic firecrackers in
>detail. In 1987, a supernova in one of our neighbouring galaxies, the
>Large Magellanic Cloud, provided the brightest cosmic outburst for
>hundreds of years. Through powerful telescopes, this supernova is still
>visible today as an expanding bubble of hot gas.
>But no supernova has been seen in our own galaxy, the Milky Way, since
>1604, when the astronomer Johannes Kepler noticed a "new star" in the
>night sky. There are older historical records of similar events,
>particularly from the astute astronomers of ancient China. Other
>supernovae have surely exploded in the Milky Way since the seventeenth
>century, but none has, it seems, been bright enough for astronomers to
>see without today's instruments. Last year the characteristic afterglow
>was discovered of a supernova that occurred around 680 years ago in
>disconcerting proximity: perhaps just seven thousand trillion
>kilometres away, which is just at the end of the street in cosmic
>terms. This would make it the closest known supernova to Earth, and it
>is something of a mystery that the keen-eyed astronomers of the time
>did not notice it.
>But something still closer to home would be hard to overlook. In 1987,
>astrophysicist Mal Ruderman pointed out that a nearby supernova (say,
>just a thousand trillion kilometres away) would shower the Earth with
>high-energy radiation -- X-rays and gamma rays -- that would severely
>deplete the ozone layer and expose the planet to the harsh ultraviolet
>rays of the Sun. This could prove fatal for much of life on Earth.
>Although the outburst would itself be just a bright light in the sky,
>the world would be fried by its invisible influence.
>Some scientists have speculated that events like this might have indeed
>decimated life on Earth in the far distant past, playing a part in the
>mass extinctions recorded in the geological record. But a survey of
>supernovae in other galaxies gives some reassurance: a supernova this
>close is likely to happen only a few times within every hundred million
>years. We'd have to be very unlucky to catch a blast within the
>timescale of current human civilization.
>It is clearly worth knowing, however, just how much the terrestrial
>environment has been influenced by nearby supernovae over the course of
>time. Now Gunter Korschinek of the Technical University of Munich,
>Germany, and colleagues have demonstrated a way to go on archaeological
>supernova hunts. They suggest in the 5 July issue of Physical Review
>Letters that we look in rocks for substances that supernovae create.
>For supernovae aren't just orgies of cosmic destruction; they are, in
>fact, amongst the most creative events in the Universe since the Big
>Bang itself. In the fury of an exploding star, atoms in the star's
>atmosphere experience conditions hot and dense enough to enable them to
>fuse together. Nuclear fusion processes in the course of a star's life
>create elements such as silicon and iron from the hydrogen and helium
>that the star begins life with. But only a supernova can induce the
>fusion processes needed to make the heaviest of elements, such as lead
>and gold. These elements then get scattered across the cosmos in the
>Amongst the products of supernovae is a very rare form of iron, called
>iron-60. The atoms of iron-60 differ from those of most natural iron by
>having more subatomic particles called neutrons in their nuclei.
>Iron-60 does not last for ever; it decays radioactively such that half
>of any initial amount has decayed within one and a half million years.
>But any iron-60 produced in recent, nearby supernovae should last long
>enough to find its way to Earth in dust borne on the expanding shock
>wave of the explosion, and there be incorporated into rocks.
>Korschinek and colleagues looked for iron-60 in an iron-rich rock
>called a ferromanganese crust, which is formed in deep-sea
>environments. The crusts grow very slowly by accumulation of metals
>dissolved in sea water, and so they should concentrate up any iron-60
>in the seas: a few millimetres thickness of the rock contains around a
>million years' worth of accumulated material. The researchers extracted
>the rock from over a kilometre down in the South Pacific Ocean, and
>searched for iron-60 in three layers, the oldest of which was 6-13
>million years old. They had to allow for the fact that there is a
>pervasive 'background' of iron-60: it is also produced, for example, in
>tiny amounts by cosmic rays striking krypton atoms in the atmopshere.
>They found that the crust contained at least ten times more iron-60
>than the background level. In other words, something must have injected
>the iron-60 into the atmosphere over the period during which the crust
>was formed. The amount in the middle layer of the crust, which is about
>3.7-6 million years old, was particularly high, and the researchers
>conclude that it must have come from a supernova as close as a thousand
>trillion kilometres exploding during this time -- a Day of Judgment now
>long forgotten.
>© Macmillan Magazines Ltd 1999 - NATURE NEWS SERVICE
>>From NASA Science News <>
>NASA Space Science News for July 15, 1999
>Galaxies in Collision: Astronomers have used the Hubble Space
>Telescope to photograph 81 objects that are pairs of colliding galaxies
>or the remnants of recent collisions. The new images bolster a
>prediction of some cosmological models that big galaxies form by means
>of collisions between smaller ones. Some of the new images are quite
>striking. They show distorted galaxy shapes and streamers of stars
>streching from one galaxy to another.
>>From SPACEDAILY, 14 July 1999
>By Dr. David James Johnson
>South Whitley - July 12, 1999 - The recent success of the NASA
>sponsored USAF LINEAR Project in the detection of NEO's is a highly
>welcome addition to the SpaceGuard effort.
>However, I caution, that a mere one or two telescopes is not sufficient
>enough to conduct a total sky survey, unless such systems are placed in
>all hemispheres, effectively covering the whole sky. Overall, there has
>been a lot of debate lately on the subject of asteroid detection, but
>action has been at a minimal.
>NASA has had to pull the plug on a comet mission, which would have
>yielded a wealth of data on the structure of a comet. In the UK, the
>debates in Parliament ended disappointingly, but a call for an
>International Cooperative on Spaceguard was sounded, thus possibly
>opening the door for a United Nations Spaceguard?
>Logically, this UN Spaceguard idea may be the correct avenue to be taken.
>As the issues brought up by Spaceguard are or should be of concern to
>the entire world, thus logically it should rest with the UN.
>However, the UN track record is not very impressive, as politics,
>national ideologies and funding concerns continuously slow the process
>of achieving whatever goal the UN is pursuing.
>If the UN takes up the Spaceguard lead, we can all anticipate many
>lessons in diplomacy, as well as fund raising, as the UN teeters on
>I for one have always believed that if Spaceguard is to succeed, it
>needs to truly be an international cooperative. As it can only achieve
>the proposed goals of cataloguing 90% of all NEO's , over the next
>decade, if there exists funding to conduct a total sky survey, and
>allowances for continued monitoring of these objects.
>Issues of funding for such a system are reasonable, at approximately a
>half a penny (US) per person, per year in the world, could fund a
>network of picket observatories capable of detection, verification and
>tracking of these objects, and controlled by the IAU - MPC and the UN,
>this would be ideal.
>However, maybe another movie, such "Spaceguard, the movie" should be
>sought after, as, "Armageddon" alone netted $201 Million, which is
>much more than the entire worldwide 10 year Spaceguard budget!
>Yet National interest will raise its head and hinder such a
>cooperative, and continuously cause discontent amongst those of us
>involved. The soundness of this idea, needs to be debated.
>I have asked the U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright about this
>issue. Response is pending, and should be interesting, as she has
>possibly never seriously condidered the implications of Earth crossing
>asteroids and need for Spaceguard.
>Most politicians are more concerned with staying in office, than making
>a contribution to future generations.
>The primary question here is where does Spaceguard belong?
>Should the UN be involved?
>Should the United States take a unilateral position and assume a
>leadership position in regards to the Spaceguard effort?
>And how much money is needed to establish a global observation system
>and maintain it for essentially ever more.
>I would suggest that representatives from a range of scientific
>disciplines should also be involved in this, as ultimately, when that
>rock with our name on it arrives, other disciplines will be needed to
>rebuild our world. Logically speaking that is,...
>Given the probabilities and odds of an object hitting the Earth as
>portrayed in Armageddon or Deep Impact, most people figure we have
>plenty of time.
>This is where a lot of people get stuck, David Morrison commented
>recently to this fact, that people just do not understand
>probabilities, and this is where a firmly based educational program
>could really do some good, such if people can understand the problem,
>then they can make an informed decision.
>This is also where the UN could provide its best assistance as well,
>The time that we waste now on this issue may hinder future generations
>in the defense of the Earth. I believe that what we do or do not do
>now, directly effects the future.
>So if our inaction continues, then our children or their children' s
>chances for survival from such an event are reduced significantly.
>Weather or not the UN is the correct venue or it rests elsewhere, the
>need for a fully implemented Spaceguard program needs to be funded
>without further delay.
>Regardless of the agendas of the powers at be, a call has already been
>ushered for a UN Office for Spaceguard. Realistically this may not be a
>bad idea, however, what it may achieve is what bothers me, can it do
>anything to promulgate Spaceguard, and insure that the much needed
>funding is acquired?
>The need for world wide participation in this effort is obvious, and
>all nations should be allowed to partake in this project regardless of
>ideology or status in the world.
>Copyright 1999, SpaceDaily
>>From Andrew Yee <>
>University of Hawai'i
>University Relations
>Media & Publications
>Honolulu, HI 96822
>Telephone (808) 956-8856
>Facsimile (808) 956-3441
>Cheryl Ernst
>University of Hawai'i
>Luann Becker
>UH Manoa, c/o Scripps Institution of Oceanography
>For other Work by Luann Becker, see
>Louis Allamandola
>NASA Ames Research Center Space Science Division
>Theodore Bunch
>NASA Ames Research Center Space Science Division
>For Immediate Release: July 14, 1999
>University of Hawai'i Researcher Finds a New Form of Pure Carbon in a
>Mexican Meteorite
>A University of Hawai'i researcher and her colleagues from the NASA
>Space Science Division have confirmed that a new form of carbon
>previously made in the laboratory also exists in nature. The finding
>indicates that the pure carbon molecules known as fullerenes could have
>been a factor in the early history of Earth and might even have played
>a role in the origin of life.
>University of Hawai'i at Manoa organic geochemist Luann Becker and NASA
>colleagues Theodore E. Bunch and Louis J. Allamandola discovered the
>presence of fullerene carbon molecules in the 4.6-billion-year-old Allende
>meteorite, which has been of interest to scientists since it landed in
>Mexico three decades ago.
>The scientists' report will appear in the July 15 issue of the British
>journal Nature. Becker shared their findings with fellow scientists
>during the triennial meeting of the International Society on the
>Origins of Life this week in San Diego, Calif.
>"It's not every day that you discover a new carbon molecule in nature;
>that's what makes this interesting," Becker says. "If it played a role
>in how the earth evolved, that would be important."
>Fullerenes are soccer-ball shaped molecules (hence their name, which
>honors geodesic-dome designer Buckminster Fuller) of 60 or more carbon
>atoms. Their discovery in 1985 as only the third form of pure carbon
>(along with diamonds and graphite) earned U.S. scientists Robert F.
>Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley and British researcher Harold Kroto the
>1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The trio accidentally synthesized these
>three-dimensional forms of carbon molecules in the laboratory while
>trying to simulate the high-temperature, high-pressure conditions in
>which stars form.
>Scientists hypothesized that fullerenes also exist naturally in the
>universe. Becker, who earlier discovered the presence of fullerenes in
>deposits at the site of the Sudbury impact crater in Ontario, Canada,
>and her colleagues were able to document naturally occurring fullerenes
>by exploiting a unique property characteristic of organic molecules.
>Unlike their pure-carbon cousins, which maintain a solid state,
>fullerenes can be extracted in an organic solvent.
>Becker crushed a piece of the Allende meteorite, demineralized the
>sample with acids, and used the organic solvent to extract fullerenes
>from the residue. The scientists found not only the C60 and C70
>molecules believed to be most prevalent, but also significant
>quantities of C100 to C400 molecules. This is the first discovery of
>higher fullerenes in a natural sample.
>Because the multiple atoms in the molecule form a hollow, closed cage
>that can trap gasses inside, they may have delivered from their stellar
>birthplace both the carbon that is an essential element to life and the
>volatiles that contributed to the planetary atmospheres needed for the
>origin of life. At the very least, the molecules and their contents
>will tell scientists more about the early solar nebula or presolar dust
>existing when meteorites like Allende were formed.
>The research is supported by a grant from the NASA Cosmochemistry Program.
>J.R. Cronin*) and S. Pizzarello: Amino acid enantiomer excesses in
>meteorites: Origin and significance. ADVANCES IN SPACE RESEARCH, 1999,
>Vol.23, No.2, pp.293-299
>The presence of small L-excesses in both of the two enantiomeric pairs
>of 2-amino-2,3-dimethylpentanoic acid, in 2-amino-2-methylbutanoic acid
>(Isovaline), and in 2-amino-2-methylpentanoic acid from the Murchison
>meteorite has also been observed in these amino acids as extracted from
>the Murray meteorite. As in Murchison, the alpha-hydrogen analogues of
>the latter amino acids, 2-amino butanoic acid and 2-amino pentanoic
>acid, were found to be racemates. In addition, L-excesses were observed
>in 2-amino-2,3-dimethylbutanoic acid and 2-amino-2-methylhexanoic acid
>from both the Murchison and Murray meteorites. The L-excesses observed
>in the amino acids from Murray were smaller than those found in their
>Murchison analogues. The substantial excess of L-alanine reported by
>others was not observed in fractionated (reverse-phase chromatography)
>extracts of either Murchison or Murray. Several amino acids were
>identified in the Murchison extract that can interfere with
>determination of the alanine enantiomer ratio on Chirasil-L-Val unless
>removed by a prior fractionation step. The role of ultraviolet
>circularly polarized light in generating meteorite enantiomeric
>excesses and the possible significance of such excesses to the origin
>of terrestrial homochirality are discussed. (C) 1999 COSPAR. Published
>by Elsevier Science Ltd.
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