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Signs Supplement - Meteors, Asteroids, Comets, and NEOs


February - May 2004

 

Earth At Risk: New Calls For Planetary Defense
By Leonard David
Senior Staff Writer
25/02/2004

GARDEN GROVE, California – It is past time to get serious about planetary defense, experts say. The threat of Earth being on the receiving end of a cosmic calling card in the form of an asteroid or comet is real.

Despite increasing scientific agreement regarding the danger posed by near-Earth objects smashing into our planet, governmental steps to deal with the issue are missing-in-action. At present, only patchwork and under-funded research efforts are underway to robustly detect, track, catalog and plot out strategies to thwart menacing asteroids and comets that place Earth at risk.

First Strike or Asteroid Impact? The Urgent Need to Know the Difference An international confab of experts is taking part in The Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids here this week and sponsored by The Aerospace Corporation and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

The four-days of discussion were kicked off by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Chairman of the House Science Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee

Rohrabacher noted that it took the attacks of Sept. 11 for the country to focus on global terrorism. "I hope that it won’t take that type of catastrophe for us to start paying attention to the threats of near-Earth objects," he said.

The lawmaker said the political reaction to the worries over space rocks has garnered "a very tepid response" to date, noting that money spent so far on the issue has been "a pittance."

President George W. Bush’s new visionary blueprint for NASA – including a human return to the Moon and sending astronauts to Mars – was saluted by Rohrabacher. That plan, he added, can also support planetary defense objectives.

"The Moon could well be a base of operations that we could use as a means to defend this planet in a timely way, and a more effective way, against near Earth objects," Rohrabacher explained.

Taking a "let’s get going," roll-up-your sleeves attitude, Rohrabacher said there is need to start now in readying the technologies necessary to deflect an Earth-threatening object. "What we need to do is build from right here…this moment. The people in this room can save the planet."

Warning time

There is no question that an asteroid has Earth’s name on it, astronomers agree. But where the rock is and when that impact is going to occur is unknown, said David Morrison of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the space agency's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.

NASA now supports -- in collaboration with the United States Air Force -- the Spaceguard Survey and its goal of discovering and tracking 90 percent of the Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) with a diameter greater than about one-half mile (1 kilometer) by 2008. If one of these big bruisers were to strike our planet, it would spark catastrophic global effects that would include severe regional devastation and global climate change.

By charting the whereabouts of these celestial objects, it is anticipated that decades of warning time is likely if one of the large-sized space boulders was found to be on a heading that intersects Earth.

But a uniform message from the experts attending this week’s planetary defense gathering is extending the survey to spot smaller objects, down to some 500 feet (150 meters) in diameter. These asteroids can wreak havoc too, but on a more localized scale.

For instance, if one of these smaller asteroids were to strike along the California coast, millions of people might be killed, Morrison said. A little further to the east, he added, "a nice crater out in the desert" would become a tourist attraction.

In identifying ways to deal with hazardous asteroids, a first order of business is gaining a better understanding of the enemy. That is, are they fluffy stuff, constituting a rubble pile, or are they tough-as-nails slabs of iron? Along with these physical properties, astronomers want to know more about their overall shape, rotation rate, and whether an object might play host to a smaller companion body.

Developing a robust deflection scheme so an asteroid doesn't hit Earth means taking into account these factors and a host of other issues, said Don Yeomans, a leading asteroid and comet scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

Developing a viable mitigation campaign, Yeomans explained, demands three prerequisites: "You need to find them early. You need to find them early. And we need to find them early."

Friendly-fire

Now being discussed is a way to flex, test, and calibrate present day computer and hardware tools to first detect and then keep a trained eye on a potential Earth impactor.

There are currently three Earth-impactors en route. But don’t worry. It’s all friendly fire.

NASA’s Genesis spacecraft is headed this way in September of this year. So too is the Stardust spacecraft in January 2006, as will be a Japanese asteroid sample mission in June 2007. All three are designed to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and touch down on terra firma, each carrying a precious cargo of scooped-up specimens.

"So we do have current impactors coming back," Yeomans said. While still in the preliminary discussion stage, the idea is to use these incoming spacecraft to shake out coordinated observations, sharpen orbit calculation skills, and help fine-tune procedures now in place for detecting and tracking asteroids and comets, he told SPACE.com .

Yeomans said about 40 objects at least 3 feet (1 meter) in size enter the Earth’s atmosphere every year. Some of these incoming objects have been observed by space-based infrared and visible sensors and other ground-based detection devices operated by the U.S. military and other government agencies, he said.

"They have indeed made many of these observations available to scientific investigators," Yeomans said. "It would be nicer to get these things [the data] a little more quickly than 3-4 months down the road,’ he added, with near-simultaneous flow of information about such events seen as ideal.

Largest meteorite fall

Space and ground sensors proved useful last year in studying a major meteor explosion in Earth’s atmosphere. The event also brought home the point of how a natural event can take on the guise of a human made terrorist act.

Dee Pack, Director of The Aerospace Corporation’s Remote Sensing Department, detailed a large-scale meteorite fall that occurred over Park Forest, Illinois on March 27, 2003.

"This is the largest meteorite fall over a densely populated area in modern history," Pack and a team of fellow specialists reported at the meeting. The initial mass of the object is now estimated to be nearly 8 tons.

The explosion took place at nearly midnight local time. Fragments of the airbursting meteorite cut through several roofs. The explosive disintegration of the object lit up the night sky to daylight levels. Sonic booms were heard over a wide area. Numbers of meteorites resulting from the event were recovered, later classified as bits of a stony space rock.

Making it all the more jittery for those folks in the fall zone, the object exploded during Operation Iraqi Freedom, with many witnesses worried this natural event was some kind of massive explosion or nuclear event.

Pack and his colleagues contend: "These large meteors, or superbolides, are of concern to the Department of Defense due to their ability to mimic nuclear events." This type of extraordinary Earth-crossing object serves to train global observers to better recognize and characterize these naturally occurring huge explosive events.

Who do you call?

A clear and present danger for those studying planetary defense is the lack of any chain-of-command to take on the duties of dealing with the prospect of disruptive collisions from asteroids and comets.

This "who do you call?" factor deserves immediate attention, said Michael Belton of Belton Space Exploration Initiatives in Tucson, Arizona.

Belton detailed the findings of a NASA-sponsored 2002 workshop. It brought together over 75 top scientists, engineers and military experts from the United States, Europe, and Japan to review the science behind mitigating hazardous comets and asteroids.

A central finding: There is lack of any assigned responsibility to any national or international governmental organization to prepare for a disruptive collision. There is absence of any authority to act in preparation for some future collision-mitigation attempt, Belton said.

The 2002 workshop did recommend that NASA be assigned the duty to advance work in beefing up the science and ability to respond to an imminent collision with an asteroid or comet nucleus. Furthermore, the now-in progress Spaceguard Survey should be extended to scope out possible impactors down to 655 feet (200 meters) in size.

In addition, Belton said that there is need for the Defense Department to more rapidly communicate surveillance data on natural airbursts. And lastly, there’s need for governmental policy makers to formulate a chain of responsibility for action in the event a threat to the Earth becomes known.

"In other words…there isn’t anybody to call. There is nobody there. And there’s nobody with authority…nobody with any resources," Belton said. "And we need to correct that.


UPDATE: February 25, 2004 Fireball
This bright meteor was widely seen at 6:31 PM MST by residents of Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. Over 550 witness reports were received in the first 24 hours. The fireball was captured on six cameras of the DMNS allsky network, allowing excellent identification of its path. [...]

Two Naked-Eye Comets At Once
Space Daily
Boston - Mar 01, 2004

A naked-eye comet - one visible to the unaided eye without telescope or binoculars - is an enjoyable sight, particularly for the brighter comets. On average, a naked-eye comet graces our skies about once every two years.

However, most remain fairly faint or appear close to the Sun as seen from Earth, such that even experienced observers may require binoculars to spot them. Only rarely do two relatively bright naked-eye comets appear simultaneously. Such an event will take place in April and May of 2004, when sky gazers will feast their eyes upon both Comets.[...]

Scientists are interested in comets for a number of reasons. "Comets are thought to have formed in the outer reaches of the solar system, and may thus contain rock and ices that date back billions of years. Also, comet tails are indicators of the solar wind and have helped us learn about the inner solar system. And not least, comets are known to hit planets from time to time, including Earth, so we need to keep an eye out for potential impactors," said Green. [...]

"Comets do a lot of things that are unpredictable," said Green. [...]

As June opens, both comets will fade as they speed ever farther from both the Sun and the Earth. Yet if current predictions hold, the brief but enjoyable appearances of Comet NEAT and Comet LINEAR will be remembered for years to come


Dinosaur impact theory challenged
By Paul Rincon
BBC News Online science staff
Monday, 1 March, 2004

Scientists have cast doubt on the well-established theory that a single, massive asteroid strike killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

New data suggests the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, supposedly created by the collision, predates the extinction of the dinosaurs by about 300,000 years.

The authors say this impact did not wipe out the creatures, rather two or more collisions could have been responsible .

Instead, they believe a cooling of the global climate shortly followed by a period of greenhouse warming placed enormous stress on the dinosaurs.

This warming could have been kicked off by carbon dioxide released by a massive eruption of lava seen today in the Deccan traps of India. [...]

"When the K-T boundary impact finally came, it hit an already stressed community. To use a cliche, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. Almost anything could have wiped them out at that point," Professor Keller told BBC News Online. [...]


The Asteroid that Almost Hit
 

For a few hours on January 13, 2004, astronomers thought a 30-meter wide asteroid might hit the Earth. The asteroid AL00667 seemed to be on a direct course for the Northern Hemisphere, due to strike in less than two days.

A 30-meter asteroid is larger than a tennis court. An asteroid of this size would have broken up in the atmosphere, creating a one-megaton blast. If it exploded high enough, the asteroid probably wouldn't have caused any damage. The shock wave from the blast would have become a sonic boom by the time it reached the ground. But an explosion lower in the atmosphere could have caused considerable damage.

Astronomers who knew about the asteroid believed an impact was not likely, but they couldn't rule out the possibility, either. So they faced a dilemma - should they warn others about something that could end up passing us by?

President Bush was preparing to make a speech at NASA headquarters the next day. He planned to talk about sending a man back to the moon and then on to Mars, but news of an approaching asteroid may have caused him to make a very different kind of announcement.

The asteroid, which has since been renamed 2004 AS1, actually passed by at about 12 million kilometers away, or 32 times the Earth-moon distance. The asteroid also turned out to be 10 times larger than first thought (about 300 meters wide - or about the height of the Eiffel Tower).

Some recent news reports say that Clark Chapman, an astronomer with the Southwest Research Institute, was moments away from calling President Bush and warning him about the asteroid. Chapman, however, adamantly denies this.

"It is absurd to think that any of us in the loop would have called the White House," states Chapman. "Hell, we wouldn't even have gotten through. All I was thinking about was recommending to Don Yeomans, who is in charge of JPL's [the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's] Near Earth Object Program office, that he inform people at NASA. It would have had to go through several layers of hierarchy before it got to anyone who would have been in a position to go higher than NASA. And Yeomans says that he wouldn't have acted on my advice, preferring to wait for further confirmation of the object."

The difference between the initial estimates and the final result highlights the difficulty of monitoring the skies for small Near Earth Objects (NEOs). For 200 4 AS1, astronomers knew the asteroid could be either big and far away, or small and close by.

"It's rather like noticing something in the sky out of your car window that appears to be moving along with you," explains Alan Harris of the Space Science Institute. "It could be a bird close to your car flying along at close to the same speed, or it could be a plane in the distance that only seems to be pacing your car."

Over the next few weeks after January 13, the asteroid came even closer to Earth, but it still passed many times farther away than the moon. There are many asteroids that routinely pass much closer to the Earth, says Harris, and asteroids the size and distance of 2004 AS1 are "a dime a dozen. " [...]

Although there are no current plans to establish a program to track the numerous small NEOs, Chapman says there have been proposals to do so. Such surveys would be able to track asteroids in the 150 to 500 meter range, and would find even smaller asteroids as well.


Amazing Blue Band Around Jupiter
 

An Amazing Disturbance In Jupiter's Clouds.....

It is a very elongated, bluish streak that runs along the interface of the dark South Equatorial Belt.

The first hint that that something unusual was taking place in the cloudy Jovian atmosphere came from Spanish amateur when he reported that a small, bicolored feature was formingt in the Southern Hemisphere a little over 2 weeks ago. NOW, this disturbance has stretched, what loo ks like, right around the planet

At the moment it's too early to be sure of the nature of this disturbance or its potential evolution. The wide band shown on the photograph could, quite easily measure, 3-4 times the diameter of the Earth

Although Jupiter has, in the past, produced some unusual upper cloud features, nothing like this has ever been seen before


Hubble Image Said to Echo Van Gogh 'Starry Night'
 

Meteor seen in Mat-Su sky
By DOUG O'HARRA
Anchorage Daily News
February 27, 2004

A meteor streaked across the skies over the Susitna River Valley on Tuesday night, producing a bluish fireball seen by people in Homer and Anchorage, according to the National Weather Service.

Two witnesses reported seeing the burn last for six or seven seconds about 10:20 p.m., said meteorologist Dave Vonderheide.

"It was unusually bright," he said.

Based on their reports, Vonderheide estimated that the object entered Earth's atmosphere somewhere over Montana Creek and moved southwest toward Skwentna before fading from sight. [...]

Comment: We missed this report on the day it occurred. There have been so many articles about meteors and the inherent dangers within the first couple of months of 2004, that we had to start a new page for our Signs Supplement.


Did a Comet Trigger The Great Chicago Fire?
By Irene Mona Klotz
Discovery News

March 5, 2004 — Perhaps it was not Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking over a lantern that sparked the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed the downtown area and claimed 300 lives.

New research lends credence to an alternative explanation: The fire, along with less-publicized and even more deadly blazes the same night in upstate Wisconsin and Michigan, was the result of a comet fragment crashing into Earth's atmosphere.

The comet theory has been around — and most often discarded — since at least 1883, but Robert Wood, a retired McDonnell Douglas physicist, said never before has the orbital parameters of the rogue comet been taken into consideration.

The likely suspect, in Wood's eyes, is a fragment from Biela's Comet, which had been circling the sun every six years and nine months before a close encounter with Jupiter caused it to break into two large fragments in 1845. During its next passage, astronomers noted a 1.5-million mile, 15-day gap between the two pieces.

Wood said his analysis of the fragments' positions during subsequent orbits shows that Jupiter's gravity again affected their speed and trajectory, sending the smaller fragment on a path toward Earth that ended in October 1871. He presented his findings at a conference last week titled "Planetary Defense: Protecting Earth from Asteroids," held in Garden Grove, Calif.

Wood cited eyewitness reports of spontaneous ignitions, lack of smoke and "fire balloons" falling from the sky to bolster his theory. If the fire had been caused by comet debris, which is believed to have consisted of small pieces of frozen methane, acetylene or other highly combustible chemicals, it also would explain the cause of the fires blazing north of Chicago, which wiped out 2,000 people and burned 4 million acres of farm and prairie lands.

The deceased included many who showed no signs of being burned, Wood said. "This would be consistent with either the absence of oxygen or the presence of carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide above lethal levels," — a rare — but not unprecedented — situation in large forest fires.

In all, over a 24-hour period, an area of land the size of Connecticut was burned. Wood speculates the main body of the comet crashed into Lake Michigan, with peripheral fragments causing the fires in Chicago, Wisconsin and Michigan.

NASA is among a handful of agencie s and organizations working on cataloging potentially threatening near-Earth asteroids and comets. What would be done about any threatening asteroids, however, remains the domain of science fiction.

"What's important about these findings," Wood said, "is that they show you people can actually get killed from something from out of space."


Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting the Earth from Asteroids
David Morrison
NASA

PLANETARY DEFENSE CONFERENCE PART 1: DEFINING THE THREAT

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif), one of the most influential members of the U.S. Congress in matters affecting space and science, gave the opening keynote address. Comparing the general apathy about the impact hazard with the public feeling about terrorism before 9/11, he expressed the hope that it would not require a similar catastrophe to alert people to the need to take action to protect the planet from impacts. He also compared the impact situation with global warming. He feels that the impact t hreat is better defined, and that real remedies are on the table, as opposed to global warming where it is not at clear what needs to be done or how to accomplish it.

In addition to the current Spaceguard Survey to predict impacts that could cause a global catastrophe, Rohrabacher urged that we also deal with more frequent threats from smaller impacts. He feels that it is unacceptable for us to face the possibility of an impact that could kill millions without taking action to counter this threat. He asserted that the people in this room can save the planet, and that what we are starting is a long-term program that may not come to fruition for several decades.

Congressmen Rohrabacher addressed the issue of gaining public support. He feels that an increased emphasis on the asteroid impact threat is consistent with the President's new space policy initiative. The Moon can provide a base of operations for dealing with asteroids as well as for future human flights to Mars. He stressed that the first imperative is to look up, to search for potential impactors, describing the legislation he recently introduced to authorize $20 million per year for NASA for each of the next two fiscal years to search for sub-km NEAs. [...]

In another keynote, Oliver Morton (London) provided historical context. The current interest in impacts represents a real change. Astronomy is the most predictive scie nce but is disassociated from terrestrial affairs. From the 18th century, astronomers have emphasized this distance.

Special efforts were made to demystify comets and allay public fear of comets. From the mid ninetieth century, geologists adopted a strictly uniformitarian approach in which catastrophic events were not considered. These ideas have persisted until recently, for example in the New York Times editorial (April 7 1985) which said in the context of the proposed KT impact: 'Astronomers should leave to astrologers the task of seeking the cause of earthly events in the stars. Not until well into the second half of 20th century were either astronomers or geologists willing to consider possible role of impacts. Science fiction was slightly ahead (Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, 1966. Blish & Knight: A Torrent of Faces, 1967. Clarke: Rendezvous with Rama, 1973. Niven & Pournelle: Lucifer's Hammer, 1977).

Only after the Alvarez paper on the KT impact (1980) did these ideas start to become respectable. The KT provided a colorful story about breaking a paradigm, catastrophes, dinosaurs and environmental change. Now we are in a new situation, trying to popularize the idea of the hazard of impacts. As public interest grows it naturally focuses not on what is the greatest danger but on what is the most likely event. Also, the post 9/11 world is concerned with what are very small events by astronomical standards. We should accept this and use it. [...]


House Votes to Reward Asteroid Chasers
Associated Press
04 March 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Amateur astronomers could receive awards of $3,000 for discovering and tracking near-Earth asteroids under legislation approved by the House Wednesday.

"Given the vast number of asteroids and comets that inhabits Earth's neighborhood, greater efforts for tracking and monitoring these objects are critical," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., sponsor of the legislation that passed 404-1. [...]


Impact lethality and risks in today's world:  Lessons for interpreting Earth history
Clark R. Chapman
Southwest Research Institute
Submitted 3 December 2000, revised 23 January 2001

There is a modern-day hazard, threatening the existence of civilization, from impacts of comets and asteroids larger than about 1.5 km diameter.  The average annual world fatality rate is similar to that due to significant accidents (for instance, airliner crashes) and natural disasters (e.g. floods), although impact events are much rarer and the deaths per impact event are much greater. (Smaller, more frequent impacts can cause regional catastrophes from tsunamis of unprecedented scale at intervals similar to the duration of recorded human history.)  

As the telescopic Spaceg uard Survey census of Near Earth Asteroids advances, numerical simulations of the dynamical and collisional evolution of asteroids and comets has also become robust, defining unambiguously past rates of Earth impact of larger, more dangerous cosmic bodies.  

What are very tiny risks for impacts during a human lifetime become certainties on geological timescales. Widely reported errors in predictions of possible impacts during the next century have no bearing on the certainty that enormous impacts have happened in the past.  The magnitudes and qualitative features of environmental consequences of impacts of objects of various sizes are increasingly well understood.  

Prime attributes of impacts, not duplicated by any other natural processes, are:  (a) extreme suddenness, providing little opportunity for escape and no chance for adaptation, (b) globally pervasive, and (c) unlimited potential (for K/T-boundary-scale impacts and larger) for overwhelming destruction of the life-sustaining characteristics of the fragile ecosphere, notwithstanding the rather puny evidence for impacts in the geological record.

 A civilization-ending impact would be an environmental and human catastrophe of wholly unprecedented proportions.  K/T-scale impacts, of which there must have been at least several during the Phanerozoic (past 0.5 Gyr), are 1,000 times still more destructive.  No other plausible, known natural (or man-made) processes can approach such catastrophic potential. [...]

Comment: We have been discussing for some time now the dangers from cometary and meteor impacts, all based on scientific, cyclical evidence. Now NASA and the Pentagon have decided to get into the game, even though the information has been around for years, even though there has been a campaign of disinformation telling everyone not to worry. Is this current campaign change for our benefit? We doubt it.

Back in July 2003, Nature published an article saying, "The new estimates reduce the likely frequency of potentially catastrophic impacts of large meteorites at the Earth's surface by about a factor of 50, relative to previous forecasts." Ananova published an article around the same time: Chances of asteroid hitting earth 'get slimmer'. NEO News from July 25, 2003 reported "Once again, the press are reporting that the asteroid impact hazard has decreased. It seems as if every published scientific paper on asteroid science is instantly interpreted as a change in the hazard."

For some reason, the tune has been changed.

 


Hubble sends dramatic image of distant star not unlike Van Gogh's "Starry Night"
Thu Mar 4, 2:25 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Hubble space telescop e captured an image of a distant star that bears resemb lance to the famous Vincent van Gogh painting "Starry Night", NASA and the European Space Agency announced.

The spectacular image taken February 8 showed the star, V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon), surrounded by an expanding halo of light "complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of kilometers of interstellar space", a statement from the agencies said.

"The illumination of interstellar dust comes from the red supergiant star at the middle of the image, which gave off a flashbulb-like pulse of light two years ago," the statement added, describing the image as "nature's own piece of performance art".

The outburst event from V838 Mon, located 20,000 light years away from Earth, is probably the source of the dust haze which it illuminates. [...]


House attacked by giant rocks (Norway)

Jørgen Berge og Carin Pettersson

Two huge stones, more than 20 meters across, came crashing down on either side of a home in Kvam Township Tuesday morning. The rocks stopped only few meters from the house. [...]

The neighbours said that this is not the first time rocks come crashing down the mountain, but the rocks have never been so big before.[...]


Green Fire Ball - Between Stony Plain & Spruce Grove Alberta
HBCC UFO Research

On March 7, 2004 at approximately 10:50 pm, we were heading East on Highway 16 just outside Edmonton between Stony Plain & Spruce Grove Alberta, Canada. In the Northeast sky at approximately 45 degrees we sighted a green fireball traveling south to north traveling downwards towards the earth. [...]


Meteorite crash explored by astronomical society
by Kate Everson
03.09.04

In the early morning hours of June 30,1908, a huge fireball streaked across the Siberian sky and crashed into the Earth.

“The sky split apart and a great fire appeared,” said one eyewitness in Vanavara, Russia. “It became so hot that one couldn’t stand it. There was a deafening explosion and my friend was blown over the ground across a distance of six metres. As the hot wind passed by, the ground and the huts trembled. Sod was shaken loose from our ceilings and glass was splintered out of the window frames.”

What was this cosmic visitor? For years, researchers have gone back to the site and tried to find out. Antonina Vasiliev, ten, walked with her father Nikolai and her brother, 100 kilometres through mosquito infested swamps and bogs to the site.

“I still remember,” she told the Belleville group of the Royal Astron omical Society at its March 5 meeting at Loyalist Pione er building.

Antonina showed slides her father and other scientists have taken investigating the phenomenon. Her father died in 2001 and she is dedicating her talks to his memory. Antonina currently works as a microbiologist at a Canadian organics company in Belleville.

The event in 1908 is called the Tunguska named after a river in Russia. The object left a trail of light 800 kilometres long and at first nobody knew what it was. Some thought it was an explosion of anti-matter. Others suggested a black hole. Some even claimed it to be the work of extra-terrestrials. But most scientists now agree it was a comet or an asteroid.

“It was the biggest event of its kind in recorded history,” Antonina said.

The power of the blast felled trees outward in a radial pattern of over 2,000 square kilometres, fires burned for weeks. The mass of the object has been estimated at about 100,000 tons and the force of the explosion at 40 megatons of TNT, 2,000 times the force of the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima in 1945. By comparison, the explosive force of the Arizona asteroid that struck some 50,000 years ago, has been estimated at 3.5 megatons.

“Had such a cosmic body exploded over Europe instead of the desolate region of Siberia,&# 8221; notes Nikolai Vasiliev in a report, “the nu mber of human victims would have been 500,000 or more, not to mention the ensuing ecological catastrophe.”

Vasiliev stresses why continued investigations of the Tunguska event are important. “Because it will happen again, sometime.”

Antonina adds that with research they can make predictions and be ready. She urged members of the astronomical society to study the event themselves by researching old news reports around the world for any mention of unusual sky events or appearances during the five-day period before and after June 30, 1908. [...]

Comment: A very interesting article that includes a link to one of the better Tunguska sites: The Cosmic Mystery of the Century. Biological mutations and strange geomagnetic disturbances occurred after the blast.

Avoiding A "Crash Course" In Planetary Defense
By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer

GARDEN GROVE, California – There is certainty in the thought that an asteroid or comet loitering in deep space has Earth’s name on it. While a civilization-snuffing impact is a low probability, it is not zero.

But there are other trouble-makers out there too. They are the smaller asteroids, and far more numerous. They too could mess up the day, but in a more localized way.

The technologies and techniques to defend Earth from such malicious cosmic interlopers were tackled at The Planetary Defense Conference: Protecting Earth from Asteroids held here February 23-26, and sponsored by The Aerospace Corporation and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). [...]

Comment: So many seem to be gathering lately and discussing the dangers of impact. How will this be used by the government? Well:

Morrison bracketed part of the NEO hazard problem by asking: Should we d evelop this technology now? Or wait until a specific threat is identified? Furthermore, should the United States, as the world’s only superpower, assume responsibility, or should this be an international effort?

The threat will probably be used for justification of a build up of space based weapons, perhaps after a particularly disastrous hit. Whether these weapons will be actually used for NEO's is another question.


25-metre telescope planned for Chile
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
The California Institute of Technology and Cornell University are in the planning stages for a new 25-metre telescope to be built in Chile. The submillimetre telescope will cost an estimated $60 million and will be nearly two times larger in diameter than the largest submillimetre telescope currently in existence. [...]

NASA Schedules News Briefing About Unusual Solar Object

NASA NEWS
March 12 2004
Donald Savage/Dwayne Brown

The discovery of a mysterious object in our solar system is the topic of a listen-and-log-on news briefing on Monday, March 15, at 1 p.m. EST.

Dr. Michael Brown, associate professor of planetary astronomy, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. will present his discovery of the most distant object ever detected orbiting the sun. He and colleagues made the discovery as part of a NASA-funded research project. [...]


South Africa looks to the sky with new scope
iol.co.za
March 12 2004

Sutherland - Huge white domes make a jarring sight amid the landscape of South Africa's arid Karoo region.

Perched on a wind-swept hilltop, they house telescopes of different shapes and sizes that search the star-filled skies in this remote corner of the Earth for the secrets of the universe.

Those skies will soon be scanne d by a super scope that will probe far deeper into space than any of its neighbours - the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), which will be 12m in diameter.

"This is for deep space observation," said Hitesh Gajjar, an electrical engineer involved in the project, as he pointed with pride at SALT - a massive hexagon filled with 91 smaller mirrored hexagons, of which 18 are in place.

SALT will enable scientists to view stars and galaxies a billion times too faint to be visible to the naked eye. The official website says that is as about as faint as a candle's flame on the moon.

SALT wi ll also probe quasars, which resemble bright stars but are in fact black holes at the center of galaxies and which are some of the most distant objects in the universe.

The light reaching us now left them a long time ago and as a consequence we see them as they were billions of years ago when they were young.

"Very distant quasars give us information about earlier times in the history of the universe. One benefit is that this enables us to study the time evolution of the universe," said South African astronomer Chris Koen.

"We can also try to determine whether the same physical laws applied in the distant past because we see quasars as they were long ago," he said. [...]


Big sunspot 570 has broken in two
spaceweather.com
The disintegrating sunspot has a "beta-gamma-delta" magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class solar flares.
Comment: Do geomagnetic storms have an impact on our health. There has been some research that concludes that there may be.

 


GEOMAGNETIC STORMS AND HUMAN HEALTH
ScienceFrontiers.com

Psychiatric admissions. Since the work of T. Dull and B. Dull in 1935, other studies have reinforced the suspicion that solar activity and the resultant geomagnetic activity are associated with human health problems. Here is the abstract of the latest study found:

"Numbers of first admissions per month for a single psychiatric unit, from 1977 to 1987, were examined for 1829 psychiatric inpatients to assess whether this measure was correlated with 10 parameters of geophysical activity. Four statistically significant values were 0.197 with level of solar radio flux at 2800 MHz in the corresponding month, -0.274 with sudden magnetic disturbances of the ionosphere, -0.216 with the index of geomagnetic activity, and -0.262 with the number of hours of positive ionization of the ionosphere in the corresponding month."

(Raps, Avi, et al; "Geophysical Variables and Behavior: LXIX. Solar Activity and Admission of Psychiatric Inpatients," Perceptual and Motor Skills , 74:449, 1992.)

Comment . The above correlations are significant, but who knows how these parameters operate on the human body?

Cancer recurrence . Another possible health correlation was explored by H. Wendt in a paper presented at the 1992 European meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration, in Munich. In this paper, Wendt claimed a correlation between the incidence of cancer recurrence and geomagnetic storm activity. Hopefully, further details will soon become available. (Anonymous; "SSE News Items," Journal of Scientific Exploration , 6:208, 1992.)

Comment: If true, such data could be known, but all kinds of other factors could be blamed to increase control and fear.

Life on Mars?
By Michael Alicea
Palm Beach Post
Sunday, March 14, 2004

The two Mars Rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, working on opposite sides of the planet, have already achieved their shared goal: to find evidence of liquid water on the barren world. Although they didn't find actual glistening pools of Martian water, they did discover strong evidence that Mars was once a world drenched in water, with rivers and streams flowing into larger basins and perhaps even an ocean or two.

Important questions remain unanswered: Where did the water go? How long was it on the planet? And, because water is one of the key elements needed for life as we know it, was there -- is there -- life on that hunk of rock next door?

Comment: So much talk about Mars in the media these days, it has almost become boring. Fascina tion with all things Martian seems to go in waves. The be low article discusses the Viking experiment results, and highlights how you can't trust media interpretations:

UNEARTHLY LIFE ON MARS
 

From the media standpoint -- and therefore that of most people -- the Viking Martian biological experiments were uncompromisingly negative. However, R. Lewis points out that this is simple not so.

The labelled-release experiments on both landers produced positive results every time a nutrient was added to fresh Martian soil. (The nutrient was tagged with carbon-14, and radioactive carbon dioxide always evolved, suggesting biological metabolism.) Further, the soil samples, when sterilized by heat, gave uniformly negative results.

On earth, such repeatable experiments would be considered strong evidence that life existed in the samples. The reason the Viking experiments were described as "negative&quo t; is that the other two life detection experiments produced negative or equivocal results. The gas chromatograph, for example, detected no organic molecules in the Martian soil; and it is difficult to conceive of life without organic molecules. At first, most scientists preferred to explain the ambiguous life-detection-experiment results in terms of strange extraterrestrial chemistry.

Nevertheless, strange extraterrestrial life would explain the data equally well. Everyone should be aware that the Viking biology team still considers life on Mars as a real possibility. (Lewis, Richard; "Yes. There Is Life on Mars," New Scientist , 80:106, 1978.)


It's another world . . . but is it our 10th planet?
By Louise Milligan and agencies
The Australian
15mar04

SCIENTISTS have found a new world orbiting the solar system – more than 3 billion kilometres further away from the Sun than Pluto and 40 years away from Earth in a space shuttle.

NASA is expected to announce today the discovery of the space object, which some experts believe could be a new planet.

It is provisionally known as Sedna, after the Inuit goddess of the sea.

The discovery of Sedna – 10 billion kilometres from Earth – is a testament to the new generation of high-powered telescopes.

Measurements suggest Sedna's diameter is almost 2000km – the biggest find in the solar system since Pluto was discovered 74 years ago. It is believed to be made of ice and rock, and is slightly smaller than Pluto.

The find will reignite the debate over what constitutes a planet. Some scientists claim even Pluto is too small to count as one. According to astronomer Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, who discovered Sedna, there could be many other new worlds orbiting the Sun and waiting to be discovered.

"Sedna is very big, and much further out than previous discoveries," he said. "I'm pretty sure there are other large bodies up there too."

But physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies, of Sydney's Macquarie University, said it was folly to describe Sedna as a planet. "It's fun, it's exciting, but let's keep it in proportion," Professor Davies said yesterday.

He said scientists had known for "a decade or so the solar system does not come to an abrupt halt" and there were a number of "planetessimals" or little planets, like Sedna. [...]


Biggest Solar Ever Recorded Bigger Than Previously Thought

WASHINGTON -- Physicists in New Zealand have shown that last November's record-breaking solar explosion was much larger than previously estimated, thanks to innovative research using the upper atmosphere as a gigantic x-ray detector.

Their findings have been accepted for 17 March publication in Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union.

On 4 November 2003, the largest solar flare ever recorded exploded from the Sun's surface, sending an intense burst of radiation streaming towards the Earth.

Before the storm peaked, x-rays overload ed the detectors on the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES), forcing scientists to estimate the flare's size. [...]

Comment: Laura discusses the announcement of this huge solar flare in her November 10th column: St. Malachy and The Toil of the Sun.

Sedna proves existence of Oort Cloud

The object is moving within an immense comet-filled region called the Oort Cloud, whose existence until now had been merely a 50-year-old theory, Brown told reporters in a telephone conference from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

The new discovery is the first hard evidence of an Oort Cloud object, Brown said. [...]

The cloud is believed to contain as many as a billion comets, none of which will ever a pproach the inner solar system that includes Earth and its companion planets, Brown said. [...]

Comment: Or so they are saying for now, meanwhile there seems to be a race to build big telescopes. You can read more about the Oort Cloud in Laura's book Ancient Science.

Residents attempting to bring the 'Paragould Meteorite' home

PARAGOULD -- If the efforts of the community are successful, Paragould could once again be home to the phenomenal 800-pound "Paragould Meteorite."

Larry Hancock, a lifelong resident of Paragould, recently became interested in bringing the cosmic artifact back to northeast Arkansas.

The meteorite, which crashed a few miles southwest of Finch at 4:08 a.m. on Feb. 17, 1930, is the third largest meteorite ever discovered.

W.H. Hodges, a farmer, discovered the meteorite in a hole that measured 8-feet deep. [...]

Distant Sedna Raises Possibility of Another Earth-Sized Planet in Our Solar System
By Robert Roy Britt
space.com

Our corner of the galaxy got a little stranger this week with the discovery of Sedna, the most distant object ever spotted in the solar system. Now astronomers are puzzling over how it got there.

The most intriguing idea is that there might be another world as big as Earth, a gravitational bully lurking in some unexplored corner of the solar system. [...]

"Perhaps there's more than one planet out there," Marsden said. "Who knows? But let's suppose it is something of an Earth mass, maybe even a few Earth masses. A close approach could throw this object [Sedna] from something more circular into something more eccentric." [...]


NASA: 100-Foot Asteroid To Make Record Pass By
March 18, 2004

SAN DIEGO -- As far as flying space rocks go, it's as close an encounter as mankind has ever had.

A 100-foot diameter asteroid will pass within 26,500 miles of Earth on Thursday evening, the closest-ever brush on record by a space rock, NASA astronomers said.

The asteroid's close flyby, first spied late Monday, poses no risk, NASA astronomers stressed.

"It's a guaranteed miss," astronomer Paul Chodas, of the near-Earth object office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said Wednesday.

The asteroid, 2004 FH, was expected to make its closest approach at 5:08 p.m. EST, streaking over the southern Atlantic Ocean. It should be visible through binoculars to stargazers across the so uthern hemisphere, as well as throughout Asia and Europe, said astronomer Steve Chesley, also of JPL.

Professional astronomers around the globe scrambled Wednesday to prepare for the flyby, which could provide an unprecedented chance to get a close look at the asteroid, he added. The asteroid will pass within the moon's orbit.

Similarly sized asteroids are believed to come as close to Earth on average once every two years, but have always escape d detection.

"The important thing is not that it's happening, but that we detected it," Chesley said.

Astronomers found the asteroid late Monday during a routine survey carried out with a pair of telescopes in New Mexico funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Follow-up observations on Tuesday allowed them to pinpoint its orbit.

"It immediately became clear it would pass very close by the Earth," Chesley said.

Astronomers have not ruled out that the asteroid and our planet could meet aga in sometime in the future. If the two were to collide, the asteroid likely would disintegrate in the atmosphere, Chesley said.


SpaceWeather.com made the following comments:

There's no danger of a collision, but it is close. For comparison, geosynchronous satellites orbit Earth at an altitude of 35,800 km, only six or sev en thousand km below the asteroid. 2004 FH's point of closest approach with the Earth will be over the South Atlantic Ocean.

A reader also sent the following today:

Saw a huge meteor burn up in the Savannah, GA skies last night. This thing was fully one quarter the size of a mid-heaven full moon and reminded me of the asteroid near collision in the documentary "Five Minutes to Impact".

A listing of Near Earth Objects that have already passed or will pass the BBM can be foundhere.

We find it difficult to believe NASA astronomers when they say that near earth meteorites such as 2004 FH fly by every two years, yet this is the first one that they have detected. It is likely that information is being withheld, but then again, this is nothing strange on the big blue marble. Just about everything of global significance is withheld from the masses.


Day the sun nearly shut down earth
By Chris Millar
Evening Standard

A wave of massive explosions which erupted from the sun's surface was so powerful it came close to shutting down power grids and radio and mobile phone networks across the world.

The solar flare last November was more than twice as big as the previous recorded explosion - and so violent that satellite detectors were unable to record its true scale because they were bl inded by its radiation.

It generated a massive stream of electrically charged particles and gas which rocketed across space at two million miles per hour, with the ability to cause unprecedented disruption to radio transmissions and navigation systems on earth.

Until now the size of the flare and the seismic waves which followed it was unknown, but scientists have discovered it dwarfed the previous biggest flare in August 1989, which plunged six million people in Quebec into an electrical blackout.

A team of scientists at New Zealand's University of Otago have said that it almost wreaked unimaginable destruction.

Their calculations showed the flare's X-ray radiation striking the atmosphere was equivalent to that of 5,000 suns, although they said none of it reached the earth's surface.

The flare was not on a direct course and harmful radiation was absorbed by the magnetosphere, a protective layer around the earth.

The flare came during a spell of extraordinary solar activity, when the sun produced a series of vast explosions.

As gas from the core of the sun was heated to millions of degrees, radiation and billions of tonn es of charged particles were pumped into space.

An accompanying aurora was seen over the skies of southern England. At the time one scientist described the power of the flare as being greater than "every nuclear warhead being detonated at once".


Crazy Comet: 'Wild' Surface Seen Up Close
By Tariq Malik
Space.com

19 March 2004 Astronomers can't yet make heads or tails out of all the crazy things they've seen in close-up pictures of comet Wild-2.

Its surface is littered with odd, well-like depressions, as well as hills, cliffs and active vents that belch gas into space. Some surface features are so large they take up half the size of the entire comet.

Comet's Features Look a Lot Like Some on Earth "Other than the Sun, this is the most active planetary surface in our solar system," said D onald Brownlee, principle investigator of the comet study. [...]


Your guide to a double-feature comet show

What happens should a larger asteroid come calling?
[...] Keeping an eye out for potentially catastrophic ast eroids is money well-spent. The question that must be answered is: "What happens if they detect a really big asteroid coming straight at Earth?" So far there is no answer.

Ignoring Space Threat
BBC

Scientists have claimed that the UK government is not serious in its study of potentially threatening rocks from space. They accuse government officials of not implementing necessary measures and instead using the subject as media opportunites.

Dr Benny Peiser, of Liverpool John Moores University, accused ministers of being "all spin and no delivery". He specifically criticized the government of not implementing recommendations made by a task force in 2000, which was set up explicitly to assess the risk posed by Near Earth Objects (NEOs). [...]


Fireball in night sparks excitement
By NATALI E PONA, STAFF REPORTER
Mon, March 22, 2004

Ambulances and RCMP cruisers were sent scrambling last night in search of a ball of fire that fell from the sky east of Winnipeg. "We were the first ones to see it, my partner and I," said Oakbank RCMP Const. Patrick Therrien. "We were coming out of the detachment area and we couldn't help but see it."

Therrien said he and his partner, Cpl. Mark Bingham, saw a turquoise object split into pieces and rocket toward Earth about 7:30 last night.

"It was kind of scar y, something that bright and that big coming down with a trail like that," Therrien said.

METEORITE OR SPACE JUNK?

They watched it for about 10 seconds.

"It was a brilliant colour, really beautiful."

Once they lost sight of the object behind some trees, Bingham said they called the Winnipeg airport to make sure they hadn't seen a plane crashing.

"Then we headed east to see if we could go find it," Bingham said .

Calls began pouring in to police from the southeastern part of the province. After 30 minutes without finding anything, the hunt was called off.

Both men said they think the object was a meteorite or space junk.

Researcher Chris Rutkowski said it was likely a bolide, a scientific term for fireball.

"Even though it looks like a plane on fire crashing behind the next hill, it's actually ... about 100 to 150 to 200 kilometres away."


Mars rover parked at edge of ancient seashore
By Deborah Zabarenko
Tuesday March 23, 07:04 PM

ASHINGTON (Reuters) - NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is parked by the shore of what used to be a salty martian sea, scientists say.

"We think Opportunit y is now parked on what was once the shoreline of a sal ty sea on Mars," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator for the science payload on Opportunity and its twin Mars exploration Rover, Spirit.

Scientists have long seen signs of liquid water on Mars, and the rovers' mission was to investigate areas believed to have been covered with water long ago. If there was water, theorists believe, there might have been life on the Red Planet, Earth's next-door neighbour.

This is the first time, though, that scientists have concrete evidence -- new data from the rovers' analysis of the Mars rocks themselves -- that water might have flowed on the martian surface.

"This dramatic confirmation of standing water in Mars' history builds on a progression of discoveries about that most Earthlike of alien planets," said Ed Weiler, NASA associate administrator for space science.

"This result gives us impetus to expand our ambitious program of exploring Mars to learn whether microbes have ever lived there and, ultimately, whether we can," Weiler said in a statement. [...]

Opportunity has been roving across the seemingly barren martian surface since January and is now working with rocks that were once covered with a rippling saltwater sea, the scientists said. [...]

Comment: Yet another "dramatic revelation" about Mars. Like some low-budget sci-fi movie, all the fuss seems to be leading up to the predictable finale: news about some basic form of life on Mars.

 


UFO investigat or: Photos show there's life on Mars 
By ANDREW CUSHMAN
Burlington County Times

MEDFORD — With conviction in his tone and a no-doubt-about-it confidence, George Filer is adamant about his beliefs.

"Take it to the bank," he says bluntly, "there is life on Mars."

A Medford resident, Filer is a retired U.S. Air For ce major who writes a weekly intelligence report on UFOs called "Filer’s Files." He has investigated UFO sightings for more than two decades.

"It started when I was in the Air Force when London control asked us to intercept a UFO," Filer said. "We had it on the radar, and they were also tracking a UFO over the center of England.

"We got it on radar … but when we got a couple miles out from it, this object launched into space. We were doing more than 400 miles an hour and it took off more than 100 times faster. Having seen this object, I was convinced there is something out there."

The conviction, Filer said, was reinforced when he saw another UFO rising from a lake near his home on Jackson Road in Medford.

"I have seen UFOs," Filer said without a hint of doubt or sarcasm.

"I saw one in Medford, and I have talked with dozens of people who have seen UFOs in Medford. I talked to a police officer who saw one over the Ford dealer (on Route 70)."

Filer said he has the opportunity to discuss UFOs with astronauts, cosmonauts and airline pilots.

"They have seen them, but won’t say it publi cly," Filer said. "To put it bluntly, our (military) air cruisers see them now, but they don’t talk about UFOs either. I’ve also had airline pilots contact me, but they are not supposed to tell the public they are seeing UFOs."

Filer believes stereotypes, quick dismissals and the refusal to "step out on a limb" are the reasons people don’t acknowledge UFO sightings.

"Most articles have an aren’t-you-crazy spin," he said. "I don’t care if you disagree, but don’t dismiss it. There is a large ridicule factor in regards to UFOs. I don’t know if you’ll report the story straight, but most of the time, there are remarks about people who see UFOs being flakes. [...]

Recently, Filer has taken up the task of studying published photos from Mars.

"We have been looking at the Rover film, and we encourage whoever reads this article to look at the film and concentrate on the rocks," Filer said.

"There are a million rocks, but the strange thing about the rocks is there’s a lot of writing on them and it looks like English.

"The logical thing is to th ink that Martians don’t write in English, but as we’re speaking, I’m looking at pictures from Mars and an X and a P that have been written on rocks.

"I believe what you see with your own eyes is more likely to be true, and I’m looking at it," Filer said.


UPDATE: "Fireball" streaks across the prairie sky
CBC
March 22, 2004

REGINA - There were dozens of calls to police while people as far apart as Eastend, Saskatchewan and Steinbach, Manitoba saw a fireball streaking across the sky Sunday night.

The president of the Royal Astronomical Society in Saskatoon, Richard Huziak, said Monday morning that it was probably a meteor.

RCMP Corporal Brian Jones says about 24 people phoned in within 20 minutes of the event. The fireball was aslo seen in Davidson, Saskatchewan a nd all the way to Hecla Island, Manitoba. Huziak says that any sounds heard along with the phenomenon were probably sonic booms as the space rock entered the atmosphere. He says it is likely that the meteor hit the earth.

Some people reported that a funny smell accompanying the bright red streak. Huziak says that smell comes from the meteor burning off ozone as it goes through the atmosphere. Huziak says these kinds of reports are fairly commonplace, but says this sighting is of particular interest. The Royal Astronomical Society has a camera that captures these kinds of celestial occurrences. It is hoped those records will provide more clues as to what may have been behind the phen omenon.

Comment: Over the past year there have been approximately 12 sightings of meteors entering the earth's atmosphere at different points on the globe. Many of these actually struck the ground, yet barely one of them were reported by the mainstream media. Last week we had NASA's "big announcement" of a meteor that flew by at about 43,000kms above the earth.

Does this seem strange to anyone? The REALITY is that with increasing frequency, "space rocks" are hitting the earth, yet NASA and the "media whores" chose to ignore these facts, and instead announce very publicly that one "came close".

Why is this? And what message is being sent to the public? Could it be that NASA wants to convince us that the reality of the meteorite impact threat is that they rarely, if ever, hit the earth? Close passes, yet, but impacts? No Just ignore those dozen that actually hit the earth this past year, with the recent impact in Spain being the "size of a small house".

 

50 years ago today
A r ed-hot object of mysterious origin that appeared in a blast of light on a Fremonter's front walk about 8:35 p.m. Tuesday had Midland College and University of Nebraska scientists checking Wednesday on the possibility it was a meteorite. Dr. Gilbert Lueninghoener, professor of geology and astronomy at Midland, said the "liquid hot" object must have been about the size of a large orange. It was splattered "like a ripe tomato" on the sidewalk.

Astronomer hunts for remains of Prairie 'fireball'
Thu, 25 Mar 2004

ROSETOWN, SASK. - One man's space odyssey is taking him to yards across west central Saskatchewan in search of a possible meteorite.

People in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were treated to a fireball that lit up the night sky in a light show on the evening of March 21.

In Rosetown, Sask., witnesses described it as a flash like an airplane exploding, a big red streak and roar. Others reported a strange smell , which astronomers said can comes from the meteor burning off ozone as it goes through the atmosphere.

Geologist and astronomy buff Don Hladiuk captured an image of the fireball with a specially designed camera mounted in his backyard in Calgary.

"It's a cloudy night, you can't see any planets or stars, yet we're seeing flashes, almost lightning in the clouds, so that tells us it was a very large event," Hladiuk said.

University of Regina astronomy Prof. Martin Beech is looking for remains of the space rock, which may have been the size of a grapefruit.

&quo t;It's definitely a needle in the haystack search," said Beech. "But if you don't look, I guess you have no chance of finding anything."

Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere before they ever reach the ground to become meteorites.

Beech and other astronomers are so excited about the possibility of finding the rare meteorite because the space rocks can help them learn more about how the solar system and even planets were formed.

"It could tell us about the surface of Mars many millions of years ago potentially," said Beech. "The characteristi cs of the Martian atmosphere then as well."

Where rocks on Earth have been modified by erosion over time, space rocks can offer a clean record.


While you were out doing something else...
 
ASTEROID FLYBY: Another small asteroid flew past Earth this weekend. 2004 FY15, which measures a bout 25 meters (75 feet) across, was only 0.6 lunar distances from our planet on March 27th (20:00 UT). At closest approach, the space rock was about as bright as a 14th magnitude star; now it's receding and fading fast.
Comment: A reader sent us a report that says the asteroid flew by at only 23,786 kilometres, not the 230,400 kilometres (0.6 LD) claimed. We don't know which distance is the accurate one, but we do note that these things are coming with greater and greater frequency.

 


Methane find on Mars may be sign of life
By Steve Connor, Science Editor
The Independent
27 March 2004

A strong signal of life on Mars has been detected by scientists at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and the European Space Agency.

Each group has independently discovered tantalising evidence of methane in the Martian atmosphere. Methane, a waste product of living organisms on Earth, could also be a by-product of alien microbes living under the surface of the Red Planet.

The detection of methane has been the holy grail of scientists studying the Martian atmosphere, as its presence could provide unequivocal proof that there is life beyond Earth.

Neither Nasa nor the European Space Agency (ESA) has publicly announced the findings, but specialists who have seen the data believe the discovery is genuine - although they are unsure what it means in terms of confirming the presence of life. [...]

Comment: Boring Why don't they just get it over and done with? It is so patently obvious that they are building up to a "big revelation" of something they have known for decades.

 


A Martian landscape on Earth
By Frank D. Roylance
Sun Staff
March 29, 2004

Lakes: Acidic bodies of water in a remote part of Australia offer clues to what forms of life could once have thrived on the red planet - if any.

To reach Australia's Kalgoorlie lakes, you fly west from Sydney, across the outback to Perth. From there, you can drive inland for 12 hours, or catch a pla ne. But after landing in the dusty gold-mining town, you'll have to rent a Jeep before the shops close at 5 p.m., and then strike off into the desert on your own.

Kathleen C. Benison and her geology team made the long trip from Central Michigan University in 2001 to study the cluster of highly acidic salt lakes, which she says bear a striking resemblance to waters that once flowed on Mars.

Data from NASA's Mars rover Opportunity have convinced scientists that the planet's Meridiani Planum once flowed with salty, acidic water sufficient to sustain life.

While there's no evid ence yet that Martian life did evolve to swim at Meridi ani Planum, Benison said there's life in Kalgoorlie's equally inhospitable waters: So why not Mars?

"In recent decades we have found all these microbes on Earth that we didn't know could exist," she said. "Maybe there are different types of life on Mars than we understand. The key is being open-minded, trying to think of all the possibilities and ... how to test for them."

Comment: More ramping up of the evidence for the inevitable "disclosure". The soon to be announced "life" on Mars is s tep one in the acclimitisation of the sleeping masses that we are not "alone" after all.

 


Earth on the 'Wimp highway'
By Roland Pease

Mysterio us sub-atomic particles from another galaxy could be ra ining down on planet Earth, according to a collaboration of astronomers.

[...] It was when dark matter expert Katherine Freese, from the University of Michigan, heard astronomer Heidi Jo Newberg, from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, talk about these so-called tidal streams that an explanation for the puzzling seasonal Dama Wimp result started to crystallise.

"Part of this stream of stars is coming past our part of the galaxy, close to the Solar System," explains Heidi Newberg.

Stream direction

And this is what excited Katherine Freese. "Along with the stars being ripped out of the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, there would be a large amount of dark matter and that would provide a Wimp highway that's coming right down on to the Earth," she said.

The argument is that we are stuck in the middle of a fast-moving stream of Wimps, billions passing through every square metre of the Earth (and our bodies) each second at speeds of over a million km/h.

The seasonal variation in detection would then depend on whether the Earth's orbit around the Sun is taking us upstream or downstream in this flow of extragalactic debris.

Writing in the journal Physical Review Letters, the scientists say their theory should be provable, if dark-matter detectors could see a variation in the energy of atom-Wimp collisions from winter to summer.

But confirming that Wimps exist would only be the start of a bigger search - for the identity of what they are actually made from.


Shooting Stars
By Marc Lallanilla
ABCNews.com

U.S. Military Takes First Step Towards Weapons in Space

Mar. 30 — For all of human history, people have looked at the stars with a sense of wonder. More recently, some U.S. military planners have looked skyward and seen something very different — the next battlefield.

While the military's presence in space stretches back decades, now there appears to be a new emphasis. Officials in th e Bush administration and the Department of Defense are actively pursuing an agenda calling for the unprecedented weaponization of space.

The first real step in that direction appears to be coming in the form of a little-noticed weapons program at the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The agency has now earmarked $68 million in 2005 for something called the Near Field Infrared Experiment.

The NFIRE satellite is primarily designed to gather data on exhaust plumes from rockets launched from earth, and defense officials claim it is therefore designed as a defensive, rather than offensive weapons.

But the satellite will al so contain a smaller "kill vehicle," a projectile that takes advantage of the kinetic energy of objects traveling through low-Earth orbit (which move at several times the speed of a bullet) to disable or destroy an oncoming missile or another orbiting satellite.

As one senior government official and defense expert described the program, which has seen cost-related delays and increased congressional scrutiny: "We're crossing the Rubicon into space weaponization." [...]


ESA's Mars Express Sends Back First Mega Strip
Paris - Mar 30, 2004

Paris - Mar 30, 2004 The biggest postcard in the world does not fit into any known terrestrial letterbox. It measures 24 metres by 1.35 metres and shows a 3700-kilometre long, 166-kilometre wide strip of Martian landscape in south-north direction.

This postcard of Mars shows a section of surface covering 380 000 square kilometres, an area bigger than Germany. It contains 2.5 gigabytes of uncompressed data. The picture was taken from an altitude of between 275 and 830 kilometres by the HRSC on board ESA's Mars Express orbiter.

Because of the varying height from which the photograph was, the section of Mars shown has also different dimensions: at the start, the width is 166 kilometres, at the orbiter's closest point to Mars the width is 62 kilometres, and at the end it is 78 kilometres.

The picture starts at 52 degrees South and ends at 12 degrees North, the Gusev crater and the NASA Spirit rover landing site lies at about 14.5 degrees South. The European Mar s Express spacecraft flies at a speed of one to four kilometres per second over the surface of Mars, depending on its altitude.

Comment: And just LOOK at those craters... hmmm... they tell us that Mars used to have a lot of water, and we see now that it also has a lot of impact craters. Wonder if the craters have anything to do with the missing water?

 


Scientists Unsure if Methane at Mars Points to Biology or Geology
By Tariq Malik Staff Writer
29 March 2004

A trio of research teams independently probing the Martian atmosphere for signs of methane have found it, a combined discovery that opens the door for a host of theories as to how the gas got there.

Among the most tantalizing, if not very likely, of scenarios, scientists say, is the possibility that the Mars methane could be the byproduct of some form of microbial life. But a safer bet, they say, centers on the geology of Mars, including anything from volcanic activity to long-ago impacts of methane-carrying comets.

"It's of course very exciting and quite a surprise," said Augustin Chicarro, project scientist for the European Mars Express mission, which detected Mars methane while orbiting the planet. "Mars seems to be a planet that is always surprising us, one week it's an ocean…now this."

The methane findings comes just weeks after NASA's Mars Explorati on Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity found conclusive evidence that water once flowed on the surface of the red planet, providing firm evidence for a location on Mars that could have supported life.


The cosmic timebomb
31 March 2004

The ast eroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was thrown to Earth in a moment of 'planetary madness'. And scientists can now predict when the heavens will go haywire again, says Marcus Chown

There's something badly wrong with the pendulum clock in the corner of the room. Normally, it ticks rhythmically, its bob swinging back and forth with hypnotic regularity. Over time, however, the size of the swing gradually gets larger, the ticks louder and louder. And, very occasionally - in fact, so occasionally that nobody has yet ever observed it - the clock goes stark-staring mad, ticking completely erratically as the pendulum bob swings first to one side, then twice or three times as far to the other side.

Surely, there is no clock that behaves like this? According to a team of geophysicists and mathematicians, there is: the clock in the sky. "For tens of millions of years, the planets circle the Sun with the predictability of clockwork," says Michael Ghil of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). "Then, without the slightest warning, everything goes utterly haywire."

The heavens are generally considered to be a paragon of predictability so this is a radical stuff. But it is only the beginning. Ghi l and his colleagues, Ferenc Varadi and Bruce Runnegar at UCLA, believe the last time the solar system went insane was roughly 65 million years ago. "It seems too much of a coincidence," says Ghil. "We think it may have been connected with the extinction of the dinosaurs."

The kind of planetary madness Ghil and his colleagues are talking about goes by the name of "chaos". Chaos is defined as erratic motion with no sign of any regularity. Loosely speaking, chaotic systems are infinitely sensitive to initial conditions, like a hurricane in the Caribbean that was triggered by the flutter of a butterfly's wings in distant Hawaii.

In the solar system, the most important drivers of chaos are Jupiter and Saturn because they are the most massive of the planets. In their investigation of planetary chaos, it is therefore these two planets that Ghil and his colleagues have focused their attention on. The Jupiter-Saturn system is actually not inherently chaotic. However, it is known to skate close to the edge of chaos. The possibility therefore exists that, occasionally, something might cause it to teeter over the edge into planetary insanity.

Ghil and his colleagues considered the possibility that the "something" might be [causing] fluctuations in the pressure exerted on Saturn by sunlight and the wind of subatomic particles blowing from th e Sun. Over tens of millions of years, their combined buffeting could have a significant effect on Saturn's orbit. The researchers guessed that solar variability might change the planet's "semi-major axis" - a measure of the length of its elliptical path round the Sun - by as much as 0.1 per cent. "We think this is perfectly plausible," says Ghil.

To see what changing Saturn's semi-major axis did to the Jupiter-Saturn system, Ghil and his colleagues used a "digital orrery". This is a purpose-built computer rigged to simulate the motion of the planets under their mutual gravity. The researchers also incorporated a novel feature of the behaviour of Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter orbits the Sun "about" five times for every two times Saturn goes round. If the ratio of the orbital periods was precisely 5:2, the combined effect of the gravity of two massive planets on other bodies in the solar system would be greatest every 10 years - that is, when the two planets are on the same side of the Sun and pulling together. But, because this 5:2 "resonance" is not exact, the planets are in perfect alignment on the same side of the Sun only every 1,000 to 2,000 years. "What this means is that the effect of Jupiter and Saturn on the other bodies in the solar system rises to a crescendo every 1,000-odd years," says Ghil.

Until now, researchers who have used computers to simulate the long-term future of the solar system have assumed that this effect is of no consequence, guessing that over long periods of time its effect "averages out". "We had a hunch, however, that this wasn't true," says Ghil. Using their digital orrery and taking this effect into account, Ghil and his colleagues discovered that as the semi-major axis of Saturn's orbit changes, the Jupiter-Saturn system drifts back and forth between motion which is regular and motion which is totally chaotic. "The system trips over into chaos every few tens of millions of years," says Ghil.

The team's most remarkable discovery, however, is that in a wide range of simulations in which the semi-major axis of Saturn is allowed to vary, a burst of chaos arises around 65 million years before the present. "The timing coincides strikingly with the Cretaceous-Tertiary [geological] boundary which marks the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs," says Ghil.

As yet, says Ghil, it is impossible to tell how long the burst of chaos persisted. Nevertheless, it is possible to investigate the effect it would have had on other bodies in the solar system - specifically, asteroids. The asteroids are thought to be the left-over rubble of a planet which was prevented from congealing out of the "proto-pla netary nebula" by the disruptive effect of Jupiter. Vast numbers of asteroids - ranging in size from pebbles to rocky bodies 1,000 kilometres across - circle the Sun between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.

Ghil and his colleagues simulated the effect on the asteroids of a burst of chaos in the Jupiter-Saturn system. They found a wealth of effects. "The most important are abrupt changes in the semi-major axis of asteroid orbits," he says. "These would lead eventually to complete ejection of bodies from the asteroid belt." Some of these could easily end on a collision course with Earth.

The sequence of events revealed by the simulations is complex. Some asteroids suffer small jumps in the size of their semi-major axis, others large jumps. Some move to smaller orbits, some to longer orbits. "A population of asteroids can drift back and forth through a succession of different orbits," says Ghil.

Crucially, bodies whose elliptical orbits become ever more elongated eventually come under the influence of the gravity of other planets and are tugged free of the asteroid belt. "They get catapulted out of the asteroid belt, some into orbits which cross the Earth's orbit," says Ghil. This is precisely what Ghil and his colleagues think might have happened 65 million years ago. "A burst of chaos in the Jupiter-Saturn system caused a flurry of Earth-crossing asteroids," says Ghil. "Among them was one which struck the Earth off the coast of Central America, providing the killer blow which finished off the dinosaurs."

If Ghil and his colleagues are right, the demise of the dinosaurs cannot be attributed to an entirely random event. As the dinosaurs grazed unawares, the great clock of the solar system went temporarily out of kilter. The dinosaurs may have been victims of an event hardwired into the dynamics of the solar system. "And they may not have been the only victims," says Ghil.

The team's simulations reveal that another burst of planetary chaos occurred about 250 million years ago. This seems to correspond precisely with another major mass extinction at the Permian-Triassic boundary. "As yet, however, we aren't totally confident about this," says Ghil.

The new paradigm which seems to be emerging is of a solar system which evolves quietly for tens of millions of years but which goes through occasional periods of madness. And what has ha ppened in the past will happen again. The simulations s how another burst of chaos is due in the future. "I wouldn't lose sleep over it," says Ghil. "The due date is AD30 million, so there's plenty of time to evacuate the Earth"

Comment: It is stunning that the so called "scientists" in the above article appear to simply refuse to admit that which is right under their noses. Either they have been co-opted by the "powers that be" or they are simply deluding themselves. With the wealth of information, much of it from mainstream sources, that the earth is indeed entering into a "moment of planetary madness", it appears that articles such as the above are designed to ensure that, at all costs, the general public does now become aware of this most important of facts.

Strange and inexplicable blue bands have been seen on Jupiter, over the past 20 years the planet has been "collecting" dozens of extra "moons". The total today stands at about 70 On earth, the ice caps are melting, the seas are dying, intense heat in summer, massive storms in winter, fireballs raining down on us, in the past year alone over a dozen have been observed, many of which impacted the earth, "war without end", major powers gearing up for the "mother of all battles". All t his, yet the "boffins" in the above article, are happy to tell us that we have "30 million years" before anything really happens We say it again, they are either deluding themselves or are part of the cover up.

See Laura Knight Jadczyk's current series "Jupiter, Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and the Return of the Mongols" for the scoop on all of this and lots more.

 


Qld residents spot large fireball in the sky
Thursday, 1 April 2004

Police and aviation authorities have been swamped by calls about a large fireball, believed to be a meteor, seen over Queensland's north and central west.

The object was reported about 7:00pm (AEST).

Mike Barton from Australian Search and Rescue says the crew of a passenger jet also witnessed the sight.

"There has been extensive reports from members of the public throughout North Queensland, all the way from Hinchinbrook Island through to Winton, on what looks like some sort of meteor space re-entry," he said.

"Particularly south-west, down around the Winton area, they think it might have hit the ground because they can feel some vibrations and hear noise.

"A Virgin Airlines flight that was travelling up the coast, which was in the vicinity of Hinchinbrook Island, reported this object going over the top."


Five-billion-year-old rock quarrymen didn't expect
Ian Johnston
Scotsman

THERE was a rumble of thunder and then a bolt from the sky struck the earth with such force onlookers thought Judgment Day itself had come.

Scotland’s first recorded sighting of a meteorite in 1804 stunned workers at the High Possil Quarry in Glasgow.

But after scientists came to investigate the lump of curious black rock unearthed by workmen, it proved to be the final proof that rocks did indeed come from outer space. [...]

Asteroids, the larger version of meteors, are now thought to have caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, and earlier this month mankind had its closest known encounter with an asteroid when a 100ft-wide piece of rock came within 26,500 miles of the Earth.

A newspaper report from the time described how the impact of the Possil meteorite was witnessed by workmen, boys, a man up a tree and a dog. It was heard "to resemble four reports from the firing of cannon, afterwards the sound of a bell, or rather of a gong, with a violently whizzing noise".

The newspaper reported: "The dog, on hearing the noise, ran home, seemingly in a great fright. The [quarry] overseer, during the continuance of the noise, on looking up to the atmosphere, observed in it a misty commotion, which occasioned in him a considerable alarm. He called out to the man on the tree: ‘Come down, I think there is some judgment coming upon us’, and says that the man on the tree had scarcely got upon t he ground, when something struck with great force ... s plashing mud and water for about twenty feet around."


Cosmic fireball strikes Queensland
April 1, 2004 - 8:42AM

Residents of the outback town of Winton saw a flash "like 50,000 floodlights" as a huge fireball crashed to earth somewhere in central Queensland late yesterday.

Authorities are trying to track down the source of a large fireball seen in the sky over the state's north and central west.

Speculation has ranged from space junk to a meteorite.

"We only know it wasn't an aircraft," a spokesman for the Australian Search and Rescue Organisation said.

But in Winton Elsa Nelms and her partner Graeme East had front row seats for the spectacular light show, sitting on their verandah at dusk talking business with a friend.

"Suddenly there was this flash, it's the only way I can describe it - it was so bright it was a white flash and it lit everything up," Ms Nelms said.

"It was like somebody had turned on 50,000 spotlights."

"We all looked up in the sky and there was a white smoke trail coming from the north-east - like a firecracker smoke trail but it was too high to even be an aircraft."

Fireball wows town of Winton
The World Today - Thursday, 1 April , 2004 12:45:16
Reporter: Tanya Nolan

HAMISH ROBERTSON: The small Que ensland town of Winton was last night given a spectacular outdoor display. There was a brilliant light, which some describe as 50,000 spotlights turning on at once, followed by a loud explosion, and while there are many wild theories about what might have caused the event, the most likely explanation is a meteor, but only the size of a tennis ball.

Tanya Nolan reports.

TANYA NOLAN: It was just after 7 o'clock in the evening and many of the 1,000 residents of Winton were settling in for a night in front of the television. That's what May Cameron was doing until something out the window distracted her.

MAY CAMERON: The whole sky just started lighting up. It was almost gradual and first of all I thought it might have been the power line out the front, sort of lighting up how they do when they get a bit much electricity through them, but then it sort of went this weird colour. The whole sky was just lit up.

TANYA NOLAN: Then came the massive blast which Winton Police Sergeant, Wayne Lynn, says shook houses within a 100 kilometre radius of the town.

WAYNE LYNN: One lady in particular, she was sort of quite distressed. She sort of grabbed the children and went outside just to make sure the children were alright and to gather them up and see what had happened, but she just felt the vibration and heard the explosion.

TANYA NOLAN: The small central Queensland town of Winton is best known as the place where Banjo Paterson penned Australia's unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda, and in the home of bush poetry, this latest galactic event has definitely got the locals waxing lyrical.

LOCAL: It just lit up the garden here just like an art light, you know with that really brilliant light. You could honestly read the newspaper.

LOCAL TWO: Just behind the trees there. It lit up all behind the trees. As I was coming down I was just waiting for the bang. The big stream of smoke that was left in the sky there for ages after.

TANYA NOLAN: Now the theories are abounding. Some say it could've been a plane crash, a terrorist attack, or even aliens landing. And May Cameron says with today being April Fools Day, imaginations are running even hotter.

MAY CAMERON: One of the big things at the moment is that this big piece fell in Mistake Creek, which is just out of town and all the fish and everything are out on the bank because it made such a splash. But yeah, everyone's just trying to work out what happened.

TANYA NOLAN: Doctor Michael Drinkwater is a senior lecturer in astrophysics at the U niversity of Queensland and he seems to be the only person who can say exactly what it was.

MICHAEL DRINKWATER: What was seen is what we'd actually call a fireball. A fireball is a meteor which is a lump of rock burning up in the atmosphere, which is remarkable for its being an exceedingly bright and fantastic display of light.

TANYA NOLAN: Locals report that they heard a very loud explosion. What sort of size do you anticipate that this might have been?

MICHAEL DRINKWATER: These are actually remarkably small. They're, I would guess, maybe a tennis ball size or even smaller. They make such a show because they're coming in and hitting the atmosphere at incredible speeds. It must have been a fairly big or relatively big or slow moving one in that it came low enough that people heard the sonic boom as well as just seeing it.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Dr Michael Drinkwater, a senior lecturer in astrophysics at the University of Queensland, and that report from Tanya Nolan.


SOLAR ACTIVITY
6 Apri l 2004
An M1-class explosion near sunspot 588 on April 5th (0600 UT) hurled a coronal mass ejection into space. Although the cloud is not heading directly for Earth, it might deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field on April 7th or 8th, increasing the chances for auroras on those dates. More such explosions from sunspot 588 are possible this week.

Meteor showers coming

[...] Almost all of the major showers in 2004 will be free of moonlight, making even the dimmest meteors stand out.

The excitement gets under way this month.

The Lyrids meteor shower peaks at 10 to 15 meteors per hour around 9 p.m. April 21. Adding to the show will be another 10 to 15 sporadic meteors or so every hour streaking ran domly across the sky.

[...] Showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to come.

To make the most of the show, viewers should be sure they can see the spot the meteors are coming from and the zenith, the spot that marks the top of the sky.

For April's Lyrids, that means pointing your toes toward the northeast.

Here is a list of other best bets for meteor watching in 2004:

  • The Ophiucids, June 20
  • The Perseids, Aug. 11
  • The Orionids, Oct. 18-25
  • The Leonids, Nov. 16
  • The Geminids, Dec. 13

Astronomers Take Search For Earth-Threatening Space Rocks To Southern Skies
by Lori Stiles
Tucson AZ - Apr 07, 2004

The hunt for space rocks on a collision course with Earth has so far been pretty much limited to the Northern Hemisphere. But last week astronomers took the search for Earth-threatening asteroids to southern skies.

[...] Astronomers using a refurbished telescope at the Australian National University's Siding Spring Observatory discovered their first two near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) on March 29.

[...] Neither object poses a direct threat of colliding with Earth.

Had the asteroids not missed, damage from their impacts would have depended on what kind of rock they're made of. The 100-meter object likely would mostly burn up in Earth's atmosphere in an airblast equivalent to 10 megatons of TNT, comparable to the 1908 explosion above the Tunguska River valley in Siberia, McNaught said. The 300-meter rocky asteroid likely would reach Earth's surface, dumping the equivalent of 1,400 megatons of TNT energy into Earth's atmosphere, he added. That's comparable to 200 Tunguskas, or 24 times the largest thermonuclear bomb explosion, a 58 megaton Soviet bomb exploded in 1961.


Search to Find Dangerous Asteroids Nearly Complete
April 8, 2004

WASHINGTON - They are out there, ready to smack into the Earth and wipe out human civilization, but astronomers said yesterday they are well on their way to finding every asteroid that poses a threat.

The next tas k will be to look for smaller objects that might just destroy, say, a city, the experts told the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space.

In an update on the Near Earth Object Observation Program, experts told the Senate subcommittee that they are on schedule to finding everything bigger than 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) in diameter that might approach the planet.

"The survey officially started in 1998 and to date more than 700 objects of an estimated population of about 1,100 have been discovered, so the effort is now believed to be over 70 percent complete and well on the way to meeting its objective by 2008," NASA's Lindley Johnson told the hearing.

There have been a few scares.

Last September, scientists spotted asteroid "2003 QQ47" and first measurements suggested it could hit the Earth on March 21, 2014, with an explosion the size of 20 million Hiroshima atomic bombs. But the forecast was revised: It won't hit, after all. [...]


Dangerous space rocks under watch
Thursday, April 8, 2004 Posted: 12:09 PM EDT (1609 GMT) 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- They are out there, ready to smack into the Earth and wipe out human civilization, but astronomers said on Wednesday they are well on their way to finding every asteroid that poses a threat.

The next task will be to look for smaller objects that might just destroy, say, a city, the experts told the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Science, Technol ogy and Space.

In an update on the Near Earth Object Observation Program, experts told the Senate subcommittee that they are on schedule to finding everything bigger than 1 kilometer in diameter that might approach the planet.

"The survey officially started in 1998 and to date more than 700 objects of an estimated population of about 1,100 have been discovered, so the effort is now believed to be over 70 percent complete and well on the way to meeting its objective by 2008," NASA's Lindley Johnson told the hearing. [...]

If an asteroid was confirmed to be on a catastrophic collision course with Earth, the experts said it would take about 30 years to get ready to do anything about it.

"The Space Shuttle's main engines and the fuel contained in the large external tank could successfully deflect a 1 kilometer object if it were applied about 20 years in advance," of a projected collision, Griffin said.

Using a nuclear bomb might make matters worse because the pieces of the blown-up asteroid would stay in the same orbit and eventually come back together again. [...]

Comment: The reader can visit Nasa's NEO web page and see that there are a whole slew of potential near-miss asteroids. An even bigger list is found here. The list goes out until the year 2100. The following excerpts are rather informative:

"The following table shows 1690 close-Earth approaches by NEOs (Near-Earth Objects) sorted by date. Only those close approaches within 0.1 AU occurring on or after 2004-Apr-02 are included and only if the encounter has a reasonably low uncertainty."
[Click to read on NEO site]

"We also note that Earth close-approach statistics for NEO's can change (often by large amounts) as new data become available to update their orbits.
[Click to read on NEO site]

It seems Nasa is telling us that there are other NEO's that are more unpredictable. So the list they provide consists of those NEO's that they are pretty sure won't hit Earth. Now add the line from the above article about how experts say it would take 30 years to prepare to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Well We feel safe now...


The Ends of the Earth
By Bruce Sterling
Wired.com

5 reasons why the planet is going to hell.

Global dimming: The sunlight reaching Earth's surface is getting feebler. Assuming there's nothing wrong with the sun, some unknown atmospheric factor is steadily darkening the planet. [...]

Unpredictable day length: Eighteenth-century astronomers suspected that Earth's daily rotation on its axis was slowing, and the advent of the quartz clock in the 1930s proved them right. But new evidence indicates the planet's spin has been speeding up since 1999. Nobody knows why. [...]

Interplanetary chaos: We're used to the strange idea that a giant asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. Newer findings suggest that the solar system might be chaotically unstable, and that this instability could have beckoned the monster monolith out of deep space. [...]

Killer supernovas: A rotten supernova may have once fried Earth's atmosphere, destroying ozone, killing sea life, and blasting the planet with cosmic rays. Evidence: In 2002, Jesus Maiz-Apellaniz, an astronomer a t the Space Telescope Science Institute, found that a supernova-spewing cluster of stars was closer to Earth a few million years ago. Core samples dating to that era contain a rare iron isotope, likely debris from a stellar explosion. Massive extinctions of plankton at that time have yet to be explained. [...]

Planetary insolvency: How would insurance companies pay for the devastation if an extinction-level asteroid were to collide with Earth? They wouldn't. They'd go broke. Worse yet, storms, floods, fires, and earthquakes could do the job first. [...]


Effects of 'killer' comets on UA Web site
BLAKE MORLOCK
Tucson Citizen
Monday, April 12, 2004

Should the end zoom into Earth on a comet's tail, Web surfers now can calculate if they have time only to cuss before bursting into flames, or have a couple of minutes to seek shelter from a downpour of hot rock.

A Web site posted by the University of Arizona lunar and planetary sciences department calculates the effects of a killer asteroid or comet, depending on certain variables.

The site went up Wednesday and has been getting thousands of hits per hour, said its creator, Jay Melosh, a UA lunar and planetary science professor.

"I'm frankly a little overwhelmed by the response," Melosh said.

Visitors can plug variables into www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects/ to determine the overall effect.

Should a typical porous-rock asteroid 1 kilometer in diameter land on Phoenix, within 30 seconds Tucson would experience a good jolt 2 1/2 minutes before a storm of ash began covering the ground.

Many scientists believe the long-term effects of such an asteroid strike could lead to the end of civilization as the atmosphere changes and crops fail globally, Melosh said.

Going for the big one, a 20-kilometer iron asteroid augering into Los Angeles would ignite most of the plants in Tucson and badly burn most skin. Three minutes later, the desert would shake violently, and five minutes after that, hot rock would rain from the sky and bury Tucson under 47 feet of granule s.

A similar blast killed the dinosaurs and occurs every 1.3 billion years.

Melosh, an expert in near-Earth objects, got the idea to develop the Web site in the late 1990s, when the media peppered him with questions about hypothetical effects of some asteroids that came close to Earth.

In September, Melosh gained the services of Robert Marcus - a sophomore in physics and computer whiz kid - to put the Web site together.

The threat of an asteroid or comet striking our planet is real, but remote.

There's a 1-in-a-million chance each year of a 1-kilometer-diameter asteroid striking Earth, Melosh said.

Comment: Ah, the wonders of seeing the world in linear terms. Each year is exactly the same, statistically, as the one preceding it. Of course, if we look at things cyclically, then this changes. You have to know where you are in the cycle. Our own research indicates that there are several cycles of cometary interaction with the Big Blue Marble, including a 3600 year cycle that was last here...let's see...about 3600 years ago.

Those readers who have been with us for the last year will have seen the increasing number of fireballs that have been reported. India, Iran, Spain, Australia, the US, Canada, the reports are quite frequent. The explanations given by the "authorities" are quite amusing, too. Remember the young skateboarder who took a picture of the fireball in the UK? The "official explanation" was that he had caught the Concorde Now enjoy the explanation of the following fireball

 


Baxterville Fireball Mystery Solved
April 11, 2004
Lamar County authorities believe they've cleared up the mystery regarding reports of a fireball in the sky over the Baxterville area last night. Lamar County Emergency Management Department officials say someone most likely fired a couple of oil field flares into the air near Gulf Camp Road. Those flares may have started a brush fire that burned a good-sized portion of a wooded area before U.S. Fo restry Service workers could contain it. Some eyewitnesses initially reported that an airplane had crashed, but an extensive search by county officials and the Rescue-7 helicopter turned up nothing. The Lamar County Sheriff's Department is still investigating the case tonight.

Comment: Yeah, right. Just go back to sleep. It wasn't anything to worry about. Just some good ole boys out having fun.

Trouble is, if a bolide explodes in mid-air, there may not be any traces on the ground other than the fires it sets off. The object itself won't survive the explosion, permitting "investigators" to give it any explanation they wish.

 


Hubble Photos Show Newly Found Planetoid
By ALEX DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press Writer
April 15, 2004

BALTIMORE - Pictures of the newly discovered planetoid Sedna show it moonless, spinning alone some 8 billion miles from Earth.

Sedna, though, still might have a moon that was hiding somewhere or too dark to be photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope, said astronomer Mike Brown, its discoverer.

Given the planetoid's slow rotation, the seeming lack of a moon surprises Brown.

"I still am convinced there is one there, and it's just darker than we expected and we ha ven't seen it yet," Brown, of the California Insti tute of Technology, said Wednesday.

At 800 to 1,000 miles in diameter, Sedna is too small to qualify as a planet. It is only about three quarters the size of Pluto, its closest neighbor.

Objects that size should complete one rotation in a matter of hours, but observations so far show it takes 20 to 40 days, possibly due to the drag of a moon, Brown said. [...]


Scientists Analyze Meteor Fragments
April 15, 2004

Researchers from the University of Chicago are analyzing hundreds of meteorite fragments that struck Park Forest, Ill. in the evening of March 26, 2003. Witnesses in several states saw the tremendous fireball when it struck last year, and volunteers eventually collected 30 kg of fragments; some that crashed through the roofs of th eir houses. It's believed that the original meteor weighed 900 kg when it exploded in the sky. The heavier pieces fell nearly straight down, and the lighter pieces were carried downwind a bit to create a huge swath of fragments.

Full Story - The meteorites that punched through roofs in Park Forest, Ill., on the evening of March 26, 2003, came from a larger mass that weighed no less than 1,980 pounds before it hit the atmosphere, according to scientific analyses led by the University of Chicago’s Steven Simon, who himself also happens to live in Park Forest. [...]

In fact, Simon actually saw the flash the meteorite created. He had the drapes clo sed when the rock entered the sky over Illinois, but "the whole sky lit up," he said.

Grossman, who lives in Flossmoor, not far from Park Forest, also experienced the meteorite's arrival firsthand. He was awakened by the sound of the meteorite entering the atmosphere that night. "I heard a detonation,” Grossman said. "It was sharp enough to wake me up." [...]

The Park Forest meteorite also showed signs that it had been highly shocked, probably when it was part of a rock that was broken from a much larger asteroid following a collision. [...]

Witnesses in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri reported seeing the fireball that the meteorite produced as it broke up in the atmosphere, Simon and his colleagues reported. Local residents collected hundreds of meteorite fragments totaling approximately 65 pounds from an area extending from Crete in the south to the southern end of Olympia Fields in the north. Located in Chicago's south suburbs, "this is the most densely populated region to be hit by a meteorite shower in modern times," the authors write.

One meteorite narrowly missed striking a sleeping Park Forest resident after it burst through the ceiling of a bedroom. The meteorite sliced through some window blinds, cratered the windowsill, then bounced across the room and broke a mirror before coming to rest.

The meteorites were recovered from a track that trends southeast to northwest. Satellite data analyzed by Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario indicates that the meteorite traveled from southwest to northeast, however.

"The meteorite broke up in the atmosphere, and the fragments encountered strong westerly winds as they fell,” the authors write. "The smallest pieces were deflected the furthest eastward from the trajectory, and the largest pieces, carrying more momentum, were deflected the least."


Flashback: Astronomy Picture of the Day
NASA 2003 May 6
If you wait long enough, a piece of outer space itself will come right to you. As Colby Navarro worked innocently on the computer, a rock from space crashed through the roof, struck the printer, banged off the wall, and came to rest near the filing cabinet. This occurred around midnight on March 26 in Park Forest, Illinois, USA, near Chicago. The meteorite, measuring about 10 cm across, was one of several that fell near Chicago that day as part of a tremendous fireball. Pictured above is the resulting hole in the ceiling, while the inset image shows the wall dent and the meteorite itself. Although the vast majority of meteors is much smaller and burn up in the Earth's atmosphere, the average homeowner should expect to repair direct meteor damage every hundred million years.

Falling ice lumps destroyed playground
Carin Pettersson
Norwegian news bureau (NTB)

Lumps of ice the size of a clenched fist fell this week from a clear sky over a playground just north of Stockholm, Sweden.

No one can explain where the lumps of ice came from, according to the Swedish paper Aftonbladet. The ice shower occurred between 5:40 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. Tuesday. The large ice lumps came falling out of a perfectly clear sky at a playground at Hammarbyvägen at Upplands-Väsby.

"I walked over to the playground around five in the morning," explained the 70- year-old Bengt Eurs to the paper. "When I came back at seven, the roof of the gazebo was destroyed and there were large lumps of ice on the ground."

"I have a hard time finding an apparent explanation of the phenomena, " said Isagel Cederfamn, a Swedish mythologist.

However, Aftenbladet points out that the playground is on the approach route for Stockholm’s main airport Arlanda.

Between 6:35 a.m. and 7.00 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 planes passed over the area, but both SAS and the airport management at Arlanda claim that it is highly unlikely that the lumps of ice came from any of these planes.


Analysis: 'Bounce' rock's cosmic portent
By Phil Berardelli
United Press International
Published 4/16/2004

[...] A few days ago, on its slow roll across the Martian terrain at its landing site at Meridiani Planum, an iron-oxide-rich area near the planet's equator, Opportunity's controllers noticed an odd-looking, football-shaped rock lying in the red dust. They named the rock "Bounce," because the lander most likely hit it as it bounced along the surface, cushioned by its airbags, before coming to rest inside the little crater called Eagle.

Controllers considered Bounce an odd find because it did not resemble any of the other rocks in the crater's vicinity -- nor did it resemble anything seen before on Mars, they said.

[...] Rather more than that. Bounce's chemical composition exactly match es that of a meteorite that hit the ground in Shergotty , India, on Aug. 25, 1865.

Called the Shergotty meteorite -- and the source name for a class of meteorites called shergottites -- its chemical composition is a "matching fingerprint" to Bounce, said David Grinspoon, professor of planetary science at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The resemblance helps confirm something meteorite specialists and planetary scientists have suspected for more than two decades but until now have been unable to prove: Micro-bubbles of gas trapped in dozens of meteorites found on Earth -- including Shergotty -- match the recipe of Martian atmosphere so closely that they must have originated on Mars.

[...] As a result, NASA scientists are convinced Shergotty, EETA79001 and Bounce -- and maybe a couple dozen other Martian rocks that found their way to Earth -- were ejected from Mars by the impact of a large asteroid or comet.

Comment: The question they are ignoring is how large an asteroid or comet must have hit Mars to throw off pieces of rock with such force that they would fall to earth. Mars has an awful lot of craters, as does the moon. How regularly do these events occur?


Search is on for killer asteroids
16/04/2004

Sydney - Astronomers scanning the universe for giant asteroids that could collide with earth have switched their search to the southern skies where they say they may find the biggest space rocks yet.

They are focussing on rogue asteroids which span more than a kilometre across and would cause massive, continent-wide devastation if they slammed into earth. [...]

'Large collisions might occur'

The asteroids located by the team measured between 100 metres and 300 metres across, were travelling at up to 18 kilometres a second and missed earth by between three and 20 million kilometres.

They pass through earth's orbit e very year or two.

But it's the large NEOs that are worrying the astronomers most.

"Large collisions might occur every few million years or so but there's nothing to say they're not to going to happen in our lifetime," McNaught said.

It is thought by some experts that an asteroid spanning about 10 kilometres wiped out the dinosaurs when it plunged onto Mexico's Yukatan Peninsula 65 million years ago.

"Anything one kilometre or larger, it's not reasonable to expect humankind to survive unchanged," McNaught said. "Civilisation would be affected by such a collisi on."

"The global consequences would be in the form of dust thrown into the atmosphere, blanketing the atmosphere, blocking out the sun, affecting agriculture, acid rain and so on," McNaught said.

Colleague Garradd said the earthquake generated by the impact of a giant asteroid would destroy buildings over a large area and molten rock would set everything in its path alight.


Undetectable Asteroids Could Destroy Cities, Experts Say

National Geographic News

When a massive asteroid, measuring ten kilometers (six miles) across, smashed into Earth off Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula some 65 million years ago, it most likely changed the shape of life on Earth.

The dust from the impact, perhaps exacerbated by other asteroid blasts, blocked the sun, darkening and cooling the Earth. When the dust settled, increasing greenhouse gases sent temperatures soaring. The violent climate change, most scientists believe, is what finished the dinosaurs, along with 70 percent of all plants and animals living at the time.

So, could such an asteroid strike again?

Absolutely. But while the dinosaurs didn't know what was about to hit them, humans probably would. Scientists have already identified more than 700 of the estimated 1,100 "Earth killers"—asteroids bigger than one kilometer (about a thousand yards) across—out there. They concluded that none are on a collision course with the Earth during the next century.

The bad news, however, is there are also about ten million "smaller" aste roids out there. These could not destroy humankind, if they were to hit Earth, but could cause widespread damage, possibly even wiping out an entire city. Because they have not been identified, the smaller asteroids could potentially strike without warning.

"Finding and cataloguing the big [asteroids] is relatively easy and inexpensive," said Brian Marsden, director of the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a clearinghouse for asteroid observations. "But when it comes to … the likelihood that there really would be an impact in the foreseeable future, it is the smaller objects that are of more concern, and to make a serious search for them would cost a fair bit of money."

Comments: There is and always has been a threat to Earth from space, and, as this article expounds, there is little if anything its inhabitants can do to prevent any future impacts.

Our own research of history and cyclic catastrophes has uncovered evidence pointing to regular, periodic showering of the Earth by space debris, with it appears, the primary cause of this regular destruction being a 3600 year cycle of showers originating from a cluster of comets orbiting our Sun. A recent rise in the number of meteorite impacts recorded globally (see Signs Supplement: Meteors, Asteroids, Comets, and NEOs) and the dozens of additional moons acquired by Saturn and Jupiter in the last few years suggest we may be experiencing the first overdue "stragglers" of this comet cluster. To make matters worse, other evidence points to our Sun having a "dark" companion star that periodically "bolsters" this orbiting cluster as it passes through the Oort cloud on its journey back toward our Sun, collecting debris that is then brought back into our solar system, a scenario discussed in detail in Independence Day.

All this would paint a bleak and somewhat inevitable picture for humans were it not for the theorised existence of alternate realities and an open non-linear universe.

Yet all the while the hyperdimensional nature of reality is ignored or denied by scientists and the population alike, humans will remain firmly entrenched in this subjective world we call "life", a world that is quickly disappearing into an abyss. We can as individuals choose continue on this entropic path or alternatively we can choose to educate ourselves and begin the Work of freeing ourselves from our own subjective worlds. When we make this decision to strive for an objective view of the world, one which is based on truth, that is, knowledge and awareness of reality, and we apply the knowledge we gain to our everyday lives we become aligned with objective 'B influences and in potential we can become part of the objective reality in which the future is very much open.

Faced with the destructive turmoil here on the Big Blue Marble, one might ask what can we really do? Is the World Coming to an End? Not necessarily - but the future doesn't look bright


Meteorite Matches Rock on Mars
Summary - (Apr 16, 2004) NASA has reported this week that a rock analyzed by Spirit bears a resemblance to a meteorite found in Antarctica. The meteorite is called EETA79001, and it's known to be from Mars because of gases preserved in glassy material match the chemical composition of the Martian atmosphere.

Asteroid Impact Simulation Would Devastate Wise County

High Knob, Va. --- As the summer skies clear and stargazers take to the outdoors, some may wonder about an asteroid impact on Earth and what dangers may be in the dark skies along with the planets and stars.

Astronomers and space scientists throughout the world are wondering what the implications of an asteroid or comet would have if a massive iron asteriod the size that hit Arizona 49,000 years ago were to impact the Earth again.

Comment: Nothing new in this story, simply more evidence of the gradual acclimatising of the population to the question of asteroids and celestial impact.
Comet detection is serious science
Dr. David James Johnson
Senior investigator
Stellar Research Group
Paulding, Ohio

I have been with the Spaceguard Program in mitigation process and research since 1994 and the Stellar Research Group’s efforts in asteroid and comet detection, verification and tracking. In September 2002, I was one of a few hundred scientists from around the globe who participated in the Workshop on Scientific Requirements for Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids Sponsored by NASA in Arlington, Va.

Very seldom does The Journal Gazette print articles on this subject, and I was pleased to see an article appear on the recent congressional hearings on the subject. Dr. David Morrison and I have argued for a number of years for and against some of the ongoing research. This program is not just about a bunch of scientists needing new toys for our labs, but about survival of the species and life as we know it, because even a small meteor could very well start a nuclear exchange if not for U.S. detection systems on the ground and in orbit, yet one more danger to life on Earth.


Scientists Size-up, Classify Meteorite That Nearly Landed In Their Backyards 
University Of Chicago
2004-04-20

The meteorites that punched through roofs in Park Forest, Ill., on the evening of March 26, 2003, came from a larger mass that weighed no less than 1,980 pounds before it hit the atmosphere, according to scientific analyses led by the University of Chicago's Steven Simon, who himself also happens to live in Park Forest.

Simon, a Senior Research Associate in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, and seven co-authors will publish these and other findings in the April issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. Simon holds a unique distinction among scientists: his home sits in the middle of the strewnfield, the area from which the meteorites were recovered.

"I don't know of any other time when a meteoriticist was in the middle of a strewnfield," said Lawrence Grossman, Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago and one of Simon's co-authors.

In fact, Simon actually saw the flash the meteorite created. He had the drapes closed when the rock entered the sky over Illinois, but "the whole sky lit up," he said.

Grossman, who lives in Flossmoor, not far from Park Forest, also experienced the meteorite's arrival firsthand. He was awakened by the sound of the meteorite entering the atmosphere that night. "I heard a detonation," Grossman said. "It was sharp enough to wake me up."

The team calculated the projectile's size range based on measurements of the galactic cosmic rays that it absorbed. Measurements of a radioactive form of cobalt provided the projectile's minimum size. "If the object is too small the cosmic rays will j ust pass through and not make 60cobalt," Simon explained.

Simon and Grossman classify the meteorite as an L5 chondrite, a type of stony meteorite, one low in iron that was heated for a long period of time inside its parent body, probably an asteroid. "It's a fairly common type of meteorite," Simon said.

The Park Forest meteorite also showed signs that it had been highly shocked, probably when it was part of a rock that was broken from a much larger asteroid following a collision. The evidence for shock includes shocked feldspar. Apollo astronauts recovered shocked specimens of the mineral from the moon, as well, Simon said. Impact shock was common in the early history of the solar system because o f the large quantity of interplanetary debris then in existence.

Witnesses in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri reported seeing the fireball that the meteorite produced as it broke up in the atmosphere, Simon and his colleagues report. Local residents collected hundreds of meteorite fragments totaling approximately 65 pounds from an area extending from Crete in the south to the southern end of Olympia Fields in the north. Located in Chicago's south suburbs, "This is the most densely populated region to be hit by a meteorite shower in modern times," the authors write. [...]


'Weird' meteorite may be from Mars moon
14:02 22 April 04

Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.

A unique meteorite that fell on a Soviet military bas e in Yemen in 1980 may have come from one of the moons of Mars. Several meteorites from the Red Planet have been found on Earth, but this could be the only piece of Martian moon rock.

Andrei Ivanov, who is based at the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry in Moscow, Russia, spent two decades puzzling over the fist-sized Kaidun meteorite before he decided that it must be a chip off Phobos, the larger of the two Martian moons. "I can't find a better candidate," Ivanov told New Scientist.


Excuse us a minute while we turn over. Sleeping all the time on the same side gets uncomfortable. You feel a disturbance, half wake-up, turn over to a more comfortable position, and then, ah back to sleep. This seems to be the case for the editors of the French Science magazine, Pour la Science. Someone shook 'em up a bit and whispered "Asteroids" into their drowsy ears. They wrote the following before going back to sleep:

La grand’peur maîtrisée des astéroïdes The Mastered Fear of Asteroids

Philippe Boulanger - Directeur de la rédaction de Pour la Science.

We have had a narrow escape while we slept.
A world passed all along us.....

The Learned Women, Molière

Molière felt the Gaulic worry that weighed us down (see the articles in this issue on asteroids). He also foresaw a social fact, public sleepiness... It is true, people sleep more and more during scientific presentations.

[...] But let us return to the worlds that threaten us. Applying the soft anthropic principle shows that our world is as it is because we live here. If a meteorite of the size that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs crashed into the earth every million years, there would have been no dinosaurs, because Darwin's laws could not have evolved animals fast enough, and there would not have been any mammals either (us).

Scientific practice and its technical consequences are such that our evolution is no longe r Darwinian and we can foresee the catastrophes that co uld eradicate our existence. The deviation of asteroids is part of that. It isn't difficult, necessitating studies on their make-up that will teach us about the creation of the solar system and that will cost less than the expensive and demagogic projects to send men to Mars.

We can sleep in peace.

There you have it. Sorry to have disturbed you. Pull that cover up under your chin. Mmmm.

For those of you fighting the Sandman, isn't it curious how the mainstream media is starting to cover meteors, asteroids, and comets, and not simply to announce the coming of the Lyrids or Comet NEAT, but to deal with the issue of potential impact. Of course, they discount the danger, throwing flour in our eyes like M Boulanger. But they deal with it. Five or ten years ago, it wasn't even an issue.

The point this editorial doesn't deal with is that many asteroids are not discovered until they are extremely close to Earth. In fact, in March 2002 there was an asteroid that flew close by that wasn't discovered until after it had passed.

Oops. But then again, even if a meteorite were to hit, you can be sure that the mainstream media wouldn't tell you about that either...


Giant meteorite wrecked huge area of Siberian forest in 2002
Friday, 25-Jul-2003
Agence France-Presse

MOSCOW, July 25 (AFP) - A giant meteorite that struck the Irkutsk region of Siberia last September had the force of a nuclear bomb of medium power and devastated a huge area of taiga, Russian scientists reported Friday.

A 10-strong expedition of scientists and doctors was unable to identify and reach the place where the meteorite landed until mid-May. It was finally located in the very remote, wooded semi-mountainous region of Bodaibo, northeast of Irkutsk and Lake Baikal.

"Over an area of 100 square kilometres (60 square miles) trees were smashed in a pattern characteristic of very powerful blast effects," expedition leader Vadim Chernobrov told a news conference.

He said that the meteorite had disintegrated before hitting the ground and had left about 20 craters, up to 20 metres (nearly 70 feet) in diameter, with an explosion " equivalent to the power of an atomic bomb of medium size".

A video made by the expedition and shown to reporters showed shattered and sometimes burnt tree stumps, charred by the high temperatures released by the explosion.

Meteorites are large rocks which tumble through space and then get caught in the Earth's gravity, becoming red-hot with the heat of the atmosphere.

Unlike meteors, which burn up completely as they fall and are occasionally visible in the night sky as shooting stars, meteorites are rocks which are so big they make it all the way to the ground.

The brighest such phenomenon ever recorded during human history also happened over Siberia. In 1908 a meteorite hit the Tunguska region, devastating the forest over an area of some 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles).

Many scientists also believe that in prehistoric times a massive meteorite that hit what is now Central America may have caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs

Common knowledge, right? You mean you haven't heard about this? Well, to be honest neither had we, but about 2 years ago a meteorite hit the earth and completely levelled everything for 60 square miles. Concerned? Why should you be? Our leaders, in their great benevolence and care for humanity will surely do what is needed to protect us. But even if they don't, at least you have the comfort of the knowledge that if you are in the cross hairs, you won't have time to get scared.

If, on the other hand, you happen to be just outside the cross hairs, then you can look forward to the delights of martial law, food shortages and curfews, which mean that you have to be in your cardboard box by 9am. If you try to complain or take any form of action, the IDF trained US troops will be only too happy to show you to the nearest detention center where you can spend what's left of your life in a somnambulistic nightmare.

 


Jupiter's Spots Disappear Amid Major Climate Change

By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
Space.com
21 April 2004

Jupiter is undergoing major climate change and could lose many of its large spots over the next seven years, only to make way for the creation of fresh spots in a decades-long cycle, according to a new explanation of old mysteries.

While the analysis remains to be proven, it is seen by other researchers as interesting and, importantly, testable even with large backyard telescopes.

Philip Marcus, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who came up with the idea is an expert in fluid and atmospheric dynamics. He has never seen Jupiter through a telescope. But his computer modeling, reported in the April 22 issue of the journal Nature, accounts for previously noted disappearances of large white spots, and it makes predictions that can easily be verified or refuted. [...]

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a different beast. It's the largest, at 12,500 miles (20,120 kilometers) wide and was discovered around 1665, having now outlived all other spots. It rumbles around the planet near the equator, in what Marcus calls a "kill zone" of inactivity.

"The Red Spot is very odd, because it's not in a row of vortices," he said. "It's all by itself. So the Red Spot just goes around eating its neighbors no matter what happens." [...]


Scientists discover new material on meteor
Knoxville, TN, Apr. 27 (UPI)

U.S. scientists have found a new lunar mineral in a meteorite from the Moon that crashed to Earth in 2000, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Called hapkeite, after the scientist Bruce Hapke who predicted the existence of the iron and silicon compound on the moon 30 years ago, it likely was made when tiny particles impact the moon at very high speeds, said Mahesh Anand of the University of Tennessee.


New Mineral From the Moon Discovered
By Randolph E. Schmid
Associated Press
27 April 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A chunk of the moon that landed on Earth as a meteorite contains a new mineral, which scientists have named after a researcher who years ago predicted the unusual process that formed the material.

Grains of the material, made of iron and silicon, were found in pieces of a meteorite that was discovered in Oman on the Saudi peninsula, said Lawrence A. Taylor of the University of Tennessee, a member of the research team that reported the find.

The process that led to the material's formation on the moon "is much different than anything we can imagine on Earth," Taylor explained. [...]

The researchers named the new mineral hapkeite after Bruce Hapke of the University of Pittsburgh, who 30 years ago predicted the process that forms this mineral.

"I told them so," said an amused Hapke, who added: "It's quite an honor." [...]

Continue with Signs Meteor Supplement



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