12 April 2007

July - August 2005

Deep Impact Spacecraft Ready for Mission


Jul 1, 5:28 PM (ET)

PASADENA, Calif. - A NASA spacecraft was speedily closing in on its target Friday, a comet scientists hope to smash open this weekend, producing celestial fireworks for the Independence Day weekend.

But the real purpose is to study the comet's primordial core.

Mission scientists said the Deep Impact spacecraft was 1 1/2 million miles away from Tempel 1, a pickle-shaped comet half the size of Manhattan.

"We're closing in very rapidly, but we're still very far away," said Michael A'Hearn, an astronomer at the University of Maryland and principal investigator of the $333 million project.

The cosmic fireworks will not be visible to the naked eye. But skygazers with telescopes can view the collision 83 million miles up from parts of the Western Hemisphere - in the United States, west of a line from Chicago to Atlanta, around 2 a.m. EDT Monday if all goes as planned.

Launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Deep Impact began a six-month, 268-million-mile voyage Jan. 12 toward Tempel 1. If all goes well, it will be the first time that scientists have ever peered into the heart of a comet.

The collision will not significantly alter the comet's path around the sun and scientists say the experiment poses no danger to Earth. [...]

Deep Impact

SOTT Commentary 2 July 2005

It's all over the news and the internet: the US, which loves big explosions and light shows, is celebrating the Fourth of July this year with the rendezvous between spacecraft "Deep Impact" and the comet Tempel 1, at which time Deep will shoot a projectile into the comet's surface in order to, as the PR department puts it, "solve one of the mysteries of the solar system".

Exactly what they will discover or are hoping to discover is a little vague in the popular accounts "Scientists expect the collision to blast a crater in the comet and hurl the pristine subsurface material out from the pit. Comets are considered remnants of the solar system's building blocks and studying them could provide clues to how the sun and planets formed 4 billion years ago." The scientific objectives are spelled out more clearly here on at the mission web site. The idea is that seeing beneath the surface of the comet will give us a look into the deep past of our solar system. For a contraian opinion, see the next article.

Whether the data confirms or contradicts the established views, it is good that we will have new data. Whether the data that is released to the public is accurate or has been massaged by NASA to conform to the results it wants, is, of course, a different question. Our own research has shown us that much data from our study of the heavens disappears into the black hole of, well, who really knows, and is not available, even to specialists in the field.

The Deep Impact mission is the first time that earthlings have attempted to smash into a comet, in this case using a 350-kg (770-lb) copper mass impactor that is expected to create a spectacular football field-sized crater, or a less spectacular crater the size of an SUV, seven stories deep on a comet 6-km (approximately 4 miles) in diameter, or maybe only 2 stories high.

That's what the mainstream astrophysicists expect. So far so good. Most of today's "accepted" astronomy/cosmology is based on the assumption that electrical fields, currents, and plasma discharges are not important in space. Only gravitational and magnetic fields are important.

But is this picture of the universe, how the astrophysicists describe it, and what we learned at school, a correct view? Not according to the proponents of the theory of the Electric Universe, which proposes that the cosmos is highly electrical in nature. They hypothesise that 99% of the universe is made up not of "invisible matter", but rather, of matter in the plasma state. Electrodynamic forces in electric plasmas are much stronger than the gravitational force.

Could this have an effect on "Deep Impact"? According to the EU theory, yes, indeed, and Deep Impact is becoming something of an experiment to test their theory, even if it was not intended that way by the designers.

The representatives of the electric universe propose this scenario:

[...] The electrical model suggests the likelihood of an electrical discharge between the comet nucleus and the copper projectile, particularly if the comet is actively flaring at the time. The projectile will approach too quickly for a slow electrical discharge to occur. So the energetic effects of the encounter should exceed that of a simple physical impact, in the same way that was seen with comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 at Jupiter. Changes to the appearance of the jets may be seen before impact. The signature of an electrical discharge would be a high-energy burst of electrical noise across a wide spectrum, a "flash" from infra-red to ultraviolet and the enhanced emission of x-rays from the vicinity of the projectile. The energy of a mechanical impact is not sufficient to generate x-rays.

If the arc vaporizes the copper projectile before impact the comet will not form the crater expected. On the other hand, any copper metal reaching the surface of the comet will act as a focus for an arc. And copper can sustain a much higher current density than rock or ice. There would then be the likelihood of an intense arc, with possibly a single jet, until the copper is electrically "machined" from the comet's surface. Copper atoms ionized to a surprisingly high degree should be detectable from Earth-based telescopes. Electrical discharges through the body of a poor conductor can be disruptive and are probably responsible for the breakup of comets. It is not necessary for them to be poorly consolidated dust and ice and to simply fall apart. So there is some small chance that astronomers will be surprised to see the comet split apart, if the projectile reaches the surface of the comet and results in an intense arc.

What will be the results? We aren't into prophecy or prediction when we don't have the necessary data. Perhaps Monday we'll have some more.

Welcome to the Electric Universe

The Electric Universe

NASA's Deep Impact mission will only prove what scientists think they already know about the birth of the solar system, says one University of Missouri-Rolla researcher.

Source: University of Missouri-Rolla

The July 4 "comet shot" is expected to yield data dating back 4.5 billion years, when most scientists believe the solar system was formed out of an interstellar cloud of gas and dust. Since the frozen interiors of comets are thought to possess information from that time, it is believed we can learn more about the original cloud of gas and dust by sending a projectile into the core of a passing comet.

Not so, says Dr. Oliver Manuel, professor of nuclear chemistry at UMR.

"Comets travel in and out of the solar system, toward the sun and away from the sun, losing and gaining material," Manuel explains. "But the building blocks that made the outer parts of the solar system are different from the building blocks that made the inner solar system."

For the record, Manuel believes the sun was born in a catastrophic supernova explosion and not in a slowly evolving cloud of space stuff. According to Manuel's model, heavy elements from the interior of the supernova created the rocky planets and the sun; and the lighter elements near the surface of the supernova created the outer, gaseous planets.

Therefore, Manuel says, data from Deep Impact won't be useful.

"The comet data will show a mixture of material from the inner and outer layers of the supernova, but it won't tell us anything about the beginnings of the solar system," Manuel says. "NASA still says the solar system was born in an interstellar cloud and that the sun is a ball of hydrogen with a well-behaved hydrogen fusion reactor in the middle of it. But it's not, and that will color the data from Deep Impact. It will appear to confirm a flawed theory about the birth of the solar system."

Manuel says the sun is the remains of a supernova, and that it has a neutron star at its core. According to a paper he presented last week at a nuclear research facility in Dubna, Russia, neutron emissions represent the greatest power source ever known, triggering hydrogen fusion in the sun, generating an enormous magnetic field, explaining phenomena like solar flares and causing climate change on earth.

Findings published by other researchers last year in Science magazine (May 21, 2004) suggested that, in fact, a nearby supernova probably did contribute material (Iron-60) to an ambiguous cloud that formed the solar system. What Manuel reported 27 years earlier in Science (Jan. 14, 1977) is that the supernova blast created the entire solar system and all of its iron.

"So Deep Impact is NASA's big cosmic fireworks show for the Fourth of July, but they're going to end up using smoke and mirrors to help validate this theory about a big cloud of dust that supposedly made the solar system," Manuel says.

Comment: Unfortunately, we were looking the other way when the solar system was formed and can neither corroborate nor refute Manuel's theory. We offer it as one more bit of evidence that we do not know nearly as much as the official view of science would have us believe....which does not in any way mean that we should retreat into literal interpretations of the Bible for either our science or our history.

But neither should we reject everything that has come down to us from ancient cultures, such as the nearly universal association of comets with death, destruction, and disease, as the author of the following piece attempts to do.

Comets in Ancient Cultures

By Noah Goldman

U. Maryland, College Park Scholars

Comets have inspired dread, fear, and awe in many different cultures and societies around the world and throughout time. They have been branded with such titles as "the Harbinger of Doom" and "the Menace of the Universe." They have been regarded both as omens of disaster and messengers of the gods. Why is it that comets are some of the most feared and venerated objects in the night sky? Why did so many cultures cringe at the sight of a comet?

When people living in ancient cultures looked up, comets were the most remarkable objects in the night sky. Comets were unlike any other object in the night sky. Whereas most celestial bodies travel across the skies at regular, predictable intervals, so regular that constellations could be mapped and predicted, comets' movements have always seemed very erratic and unpredictable. This led people in many cultures to believe that the gods dictated their motions and were sending them as a message. What were the gods trying to say? Some cultures read the message by the images that they saw upon looking at the comet. For example, to some cultures the tail of the comet gave it the appearance of the head of a woman, with long flowing hair behind her. This sorrowful symbol of mourning was understood to mean the gods that had sent the comet to earth were displeased. Others thought that the elongated comet looked like a fiery sword blazing across the night sky, a traditional sign of war and death. Such a message from the gods could only mean that their wrath would soon be unleashed onto the people of the land. Such ideas struck fear into those who saw comets dart across the sky. The likeness of the comet, though, was not the only thing that inspired fear.

Ancient cultural legends also played a hand in inspiring a terrible dread of these celestial nomads. The Roman prophecies, the "Sibylline Oracles," spoke of a "great conflagration from the sky, falling to earth," while the most ancient known mythology, the Babylonian "Epic of Gilgamesh," described fire, brimstone, and flood with the arrival of a comet. Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman, a Jew living in Spain, wrote of God taking two stars from Khima and throwing them at the earth in order to begin the great flood. Yakut legend in ancient Mongolia called comets "the daughter of the devil," and warned of destruction, storm and frost, whenever she approaches the earth. Stories associating comets with such terrible imagery are at the base of so many cultures on Earth, and fuel a dread that followed comet sightings throughout history.

Comets' influence on cultures is not limited simply to tales of myth and legend, though. Comets throughout history have been blamed for some of history's darkest times. In Switzerland, Halley's Comet was blamed for earthquakes, illnesses, red rain, and even the births of two-headed animals. The Romans recorded that a fiery comet marked the assassination of Julius Caesar, and another was blamed for the extreme bloodshed during the battle between Pompey and Caesar. In England, Halley's Comet was blamed for bringing the Black Death. The Incas, in South America, even record a comet having foreshadowed Francisco Pizarro's arrival just days before he brutally conquered them. Comets and disaster became so intertwined that Pope Calixtus III even excommunicated Halley's Comet as an instrument of the devil, and a meteorite, from a comet, became enshrined as one of the most venerated objects in all of Islam. Were it not for a Chinese affinity for meticulous record keeping, a true understanding of comets may never have been reached.

Unlike their Western counterparts, Chinese astronomers kept extensive records on the appearances, paths, and disappearances of hundreds of comets. Extensive comet atlases have been found dating back to the Han Dynasty, which describe comets as "long-tailed pheasant stars" or "broom stars" and associate the different cometary forms with different disasters. Although the Chinese also regarded comets as "vile stars," their extensive records allowed later astronomers to determine the true nature of comets.

Although most human beings no longer cringe at the sight of a comet, they still inspire fear everywhere around the globe, from Hollywood to doomsday cults. The United States even set up the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program specifically to guard us from these "divine" dangers. However, although they were once regarded as omens of disaster, and messengers of the god(s), today a scientific approach has helped allay such concerns. It is science and reason that has led the fight against this fear since the days of the ancients. It is science and reason that has emboldened the human spirit enough to venture out and journey to a comet. It is science and reason that will unlock the secrets that they hold.

Comment: Unfortunately, this article is emblematic of the kind of "reasoned" work that passes for science on comets these days. The fact that almost every ancient culture of which we have historical records associated comets with death and destruction is dismissed by our learned authorities as poor savages misreading the apparently irregular movement of comets (as compared to the stars or planets) as messages from the gods.

Well, there where did the association between comets and plagues arise? What would have been the effect of the cometary and meteor impacts that created the craters we see on the earth's surface? Is nuclear winter such an inviting prospect that we needn't be worried about it? Are the 500,000 craters that form the Carolina Bays something to ignore and relegate to the pre-history of the planet, and, therefore, of no immediate interest or concern?

The arrogant purveyors of our scientific greatness may have to learn the hard way.

Discovery of unusual planet has scientists puzzled

A Japanese-U.S. joint research team has found a planet covered by a thick layer of gas like Jupiter but which has an unusually large core of rocks and ice -- a discovery scientists say could overthrow the established theory of planet formation.

The planet, belonging to the Hercules constellation about 250 light years away from Earth, does not fall into the category of either Jupiter-type, gas-covered planets that have low density, or high-density, Earthlike planets.

The discovery, made by a research team including experts from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and San Francisco State University, was reported in the July 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal, a U.S. science magazine.

The research team used Japan's Subaru telescope in Hawaii to observe the planet when it passed a fixed star. By analyzing the fixed star's light as the planet passed it, the team successfully clarified the density and size of the planet.

The mass of the planet is 1.2 times that of Saturn but its diameter is only 0.86 times that of Saturn, meaning it is dense and covered in a thick layer of gas. The mass of its core, made up of Earthlike rocks and ice, is 70 times that of Earth.

It is one of several planets whose structures have been defined from among about 150 plants outside the solar system.

If the mass of the core of a planet that consists of rocks reaches 10 to 20 times the mass of Earth, its gravity is believed to gather massive amounts of gas, thereby forming a planet covered by a thick layer of gas, just like Jupiter and Saturn, according to Associate Prof. Shigeru Ida, a member of the team. Scientists believe this layer of gas prevents rocks from entering the planet's surface from outside.

The mass of the cores of Jupiter, Saturn and several planets outside the solar system whose structures have been defined is estimated to be about 10 to 20 times that of Earth.

Ida pointed out that the unique structure of the newly observed planet could overthrow the established theory of formation of planets.

"Once a planet is covered by gas, it's technically impossible for rocks to enter its surface from outside. It's a mystery why it was not covered by gas until the mass of its core reached 70 times the mass of Earth. We need to reconsider the theory of planet formation."

Posted to SOTT 6 July

Kaali crater: still having an impact


By Steve Roman

TALLINN - It’s kind of an unwritten rule in Estonia - if you want to see something weird, go to the islands. Chalk it up to geographic isolation or the celebrated beer brewing traditions of some islanders, but it’s on these outlying patches of land that the nation keeps all the assorted bits that don’t fit anywhere else - emu farms, mysterious clusters of stones, allegedly haunted manor houses and villages that appear stuck in time.

One of the most famous of these curiosities is the Kaali meteor crater site on Estonia’s largest island, Saaremaa, 18km from its capital Kuressaare.

Now resembling a small, round lake, the main crater was formed sometime between 7,500 and 4,000 years ago when a 20-80 ton iron meteorite slammed into the Earth, carving out a hole 110m across. Pieces also broke off the meteor as it entered the atmosphere, spraying the land like a shotgun blast and creating eight smaller craters nearby.

By itself this cluster of meteorite craters is already interesting enough to attract thousands of curious visitors each summer, but let’s remember that this is an Estonian island phenomenon, so the X-Files factor gets cranked up a few notches. To the site’s resume we can also add pagan worship, ritual animal sacrifice, appearances in the Finnish national epic, the possible origin of Jaanipaev traditions and connections to a former Estonian president.

With a track record like this, it’s no wonder the site’s popularity as a tourist destination shows no sign of waning. On June 17, a brand new, 9 million kroon (575,000 euro) visitor center was inaugurated in Kaali to help provide for the hoards of visitors who flock here during the high season.

Tuuli Partel, Project Leader of the non-profit organization that runs the center, isn’t surprised that she and other employees in Kaali find themselves working 12 to 16-hour shifts.

“Scientists say that this is the most attractive crater in Eurasia. Here you can see the main crater and little craters all together, and see how the meteorite came down,” she said.

Apart from its museum of meteoritics and limestone, the 700 square-meter wood and dolomite facility features a souvenir shop, a food shop, a 60-person conference hall, a 10-room guesthouse and that most vital of Estonian creature comforts: wireless internet access.

Despite all this public attention, the new high-tech facility and nearly a century of intense scientific scrutiny, there are many secrets that Kaali still isn’t giving up, and it’s those unknowns that make this place truly mysterious.

Weird science

Scientists are fairly sure they know how this story began: a meteor initially weighing some 400 - 10,000 tons sped in from the northeast moving 15 - 45 kilometers per second and entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a 45-degree angle. After turning into a fireball and losing most of its mass, the meteor broke apart about 5 - 10 kilometers from the surface, then hit Saaremaa with a force that has been compared to that of a small atomic blast.

What they still can’t tell us is when this all happened. The evidence, at least for now, points in two different directions.

“We usually give two dates - ‘4,000 years’ and ‘older’,” said Reet Tiirmaa, a geologist with Tallinn Technological University who specializes in meteors.

“The age of the sediments of the lake in the main crater tell us that the [impact] was almost 4,000 years ago. But now we’ve studied the peat of the [nearby] swamp and in one layer we found very small impact spheres from the explosion. This layer was 7,500 years old, which says that the impact was 7,500 years ago,” she said.

Research continues, but the age contradiction shows no sign of being resolved. Scientists from France, Poland and Hungary have brought in more advanced testing equipment, but they’re having the same problems, according to Tiirmaa.

Nor is this the first headache that Kaali has caused for investigators. In 1927, the site’s pioneer researcher, Ivan Reinwald, found evidence that the craters were meteoric in origin, but it took him an entire decade to find the first fragments of the actual meteor to prove it.

While geologists are working on the question of when the meteor hit, archaeologists are trying to interpret the oddities they’ve dug up at the site. Excavations begun in the 1970s have uncovered many interesting things: remains of a 470 meter wall that surrounded the crater during the early iron age (600 BC to AD 100), evidence of a fortified settlement inhabited from the 5th to 7th century BC, a small hoard of silver jewelry from the 3rd to 5th centuries AD, and piles of domestic animal bones, some dating to as late as the 17th century.

The wall, the silver and the bones have led to speculation that centuries after the catastrophic explosion took place, the crater took on the role of a pagan worship site. The practice of sacrificing animals to ensure a good harvest was known to have continued on Saaremaa well into Christian times, despite condemnation from the church.

The local geographical labels add fuel to this pagan worship argument. Lake Kaali, the small lake formed by the crater, is said to have been originally called “Holy Lake” in Estonian, and the nearby forest is still called Puhamets, which means “Sacred Forest.” It’s, therefore, no stretch of logic to assume that Kaali was a place of spiritual significance, whether or not it was connected with ancient tales of a fireball in the sky.

Stuff of legend

It was precisely this kind of connection to ancient tales that interested Lennart Meri. Long before he became president of Estonia (1992 - 2000), the ethnographer found what he considered to be echoes of the Kaali meteorite event in the Baltic region’s oral folk tradition, in particular, the Finnish national epic, Kalevala.

“Rune 47” contains numerous accounts of the child of the sun falling from the sky that could easily double as poetic accounts of a large meteor impact. “Downward quick the red-ball rushes, / Shoots across the arch of heaven, / Hisses through the startled cloudlets, / Flashes through the troubled welkin, / Through nine starry vaults of ether

,” goes one such passage.

In his book “Hobevalge” (Silver White, 1976), Meri not only puts forth the theory that the Kaali impact appears in the Kalevala but also suggests that the Baltic Jaanipaev (Midsummer) bonfire traditions are a reenactment of the event.

Other, more far-fetched theories have cropped up connecting just about every European national epic to the event. Speculation even goes so far as to suggest that the Golden Fleece of the Argonauts was actually in Lake Kaali, pointing out that 3,000 years ago the land on Saaremaa was 10 meters lower, hence it would have been possible to navigate a ship here from the Black Sea.

It’s unlikely that any of these theories will ever be proven one way or the other. Still, it’s amusing to think that as we sit around our bonfires each June grilling shashlyk and drinking beer that we might actually be worshiping an ancient hunk of space rock.

That particular pleasure will have to wait another year. In the meantime, visitors can drop by the Kaali Visitor Center every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Admission to the museum costs 25 kroons (1.60 euros). Visiting the crater itself, and speculating on its impact on ancient Baltic culture, is absolutely free.

Comment: Readers of Laura Knight-Jadczyk's The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive will know that there is evidence of a recurring 3,600 year cycle of meteorite bombardment of our planet. Curious that both dates given for this crater fall within the timescale of the two most recent cycles. We'd put the most recent cycle around the time of the volcano on the island of Thera around 1628 BC... which is about 3,600 years ago.

Seen any bright lights in the sky recently?

Space Debris, Meteor Or What?

From MS Gumelar



Sunday, 26 June 2005 at 17.50 pm was MS Gumelar's lucky day. In Graha Yasa Asri, Indonesia, his daughter called him outside saying something was falling from the sky. He, along with many neighbors, watched a magnificent ball of fire with an immense tail entering the atmosphere. Gumelar went inside, got his camcorder and began recording. He notes that it made absolutely no sound whatsoever, and as far as he could discern, it didn't crash into the earth. He monitored the television for reports, but nothing was said.

He sent the following Windows Media clip to Rense.com for all to see. Notice the enormous size of the object at the very end of the clip, as the burning object passes behind Gumelar's rooftop in the foreground.

Comment: Just a coincidence. Really. What are the chances...? Really?

Posted on SOTT 8 July

Scientists Use Meteors To Investigate Climate Change And Giant Waves At 'Edge Of Space'

University of Bath


A new research radar based in Antarctica is giving scientists the chance to study the highest layer of the earth's atmosphere at the very edge of space.

Using the new radar, scientists will be able to investigate climate change and explore the theory that while the lower atmosphere is warming, the upper atmosphere is cooling by as much as 1 degree centigrade each year.

They will also be able to find out more about the complex waves, tides and other mechanisms that link this region - known as the mesosphere - to the lower regions of the atmosphere.

At heights of around 80-100km (50-62 miles) the mesosphere is notoriously difficult to investigate and is the least-explored part of the earth's atmosphere.

The low air pressure at this altitude means that it is impossible to fly aircraft in the mesosphere and even the huge weather balloons that are used to measure stratospheric ozone cannot climb high enough to reach this altitude.

Satellites begin to burn up when they enter the mesosphere, so the new radar - just installed at the Rothera research base in Antarctica in a joint project between the University of Bath and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) - will help scientists explore the region using remote sensing.

"Fortunately, nature provides us with an excellent answer to the problem of investigating the mesosphere," said Professor Nick Mitchell who heads the project in the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Bath.

"Meteors, or 'shooting stars', burn up in the mesosphere. The meteors drift just like weather balloons so we can use a radar on the Earth and bounce radio waves off the meteors to find how fast they are moving and so measure the winds at the edge of space.

"The fading of the radio echoes from the meteors also lets us measure the temperature of the atmosphere. We can detect thousands of meteors in any one day and with this information study the waves and tides that flow around the planet on a continuous basis.

"The mesosphere has been called the miner's canary for climate change; meaning that it is very sensitive and the changes there may be larger than in any other part of the atmosphere.

"Evidence of these changes comes from sightings of noctilucent clouds, very unusual clouds seen only in polar regions and known to be in the mesosphere. These clouds don't seem to have been observed before 1885 and may mark the onset of a long-term cooling of the upper atmosphere". [...]

Posted SOTT 11 July

'Fires wiped out' ancient mammals

By Helen Briggs

BBC News science reporter

The first humans to arrive in Australia destroyed the pristine landscape, probably by lighting huge fires, the latest research suggests.

The evidence, published in Science magazine, comes from ancient eggshells.

These show birds changed their diets drastically when humans came on the scene, switching from grass to the type of plants that thrive on scrubland.

The study supports others that have blamed humans for mass extinctions across the world 10-50,000 years ago.

Many scientists believe the causes are actually more complex and relate to climate changes during that period, but, according to Dr Marilyn Fogel, of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, US, chemical clues gleaned from the eggshells suggest otherwise.

"Humans are the major suspect," she said. "However, we don't think that over-hunting or new diseases are to blame for the extinctions, because our research sees the ecological transition at the base of the food chain.

"Bands of people set large-scale fires for a variety of reasons including hunting, clearing and signalling other bands.

"Based on the evidence, human-induced change in the vegetation is the best fit to explain what happened at that critical juncture."

Carbon clues

Dr Fogel's team, based in the US and Australia, examined hundreds of fragments of fossilised eggshells found at several sites in Australia's interior dating back over 140,000 years.

They looked at the indigenous emu and the Genyornis, a flightless bird the size of an ostrich that is now extinct.

The type of carbon preserved in eggshells gives a picture of the food the birds ate.

Before 50,000 years ago, emus pecked at nutritious grasses. But after humans arrived, about 45,000 years ago, they switched to a diet of trees and scrubs. Genyornis, however, failed to adapt and died out.

"The opportunistic feeders adapted and the picky eaters went extinct," said Professor Gifford Miller, of the University of Colorado at Boulder, US.

"The most parsimonious explanation is these birds were responding to an unprecedented change in the vegetation over the continent during that time period."

The data sheds light on the contentious issue of what led to the extinction of 85% of Australia's large mammals, birds and reptiles, after about 50,000 years ago, when human settlers arrived by sea from Indonesia.

Climate change theory

Mass extinctions on other continents also coincide with the arrival of modern humans, suggesting the two events are linked.

In North America, for example, the disappearance of the likes of mammoths and ground sloths is coincident with the arrival on the landmass of new stone-spear technologies carried by humans about 12,000 years ago.

In Australia, scientists have debated whether climate changes, human fires or excessive human hunting were the cause of the continent's big extinction.

Dr Fogel's team doubts the climate explanation but there are plenty of others who support the theory - such as Clive Trueman of the University of Portsmouth, UK.

He says some large mammals survived long after the sudden changes in vegetation identified by Dr Fogel's team.

"While there may be a connection between the arrival of humans and changes in vegetation, as demonstrated by carbon isotopes, sudden changes cannot be largely responsible for megafaunal extinctions as the beasts survived for at least 15,000 more years," he told the BBC News website.

"It is likely that extinctions were not caused by any single event, but reflect compounding factors such as natural climate changes associated with the Ice Age fluctuations and, quite possibly, the arrival of humans," Dr Trueman added.

Comment: We tend to agree with those who look to other factors than the arrival of humans for the extinction of these species. The world is subjected to periodic bombardments from the heavens, and cyclic earthquake and volcanic activity that could well be factors. The extinction mentioned above that occurred 12,000 years ago left mass graveyards that contained thousands upon thousands of remains, all blown inexplicably towards the north. Human fires would be incapable of causing that.

Until scientists accept the fact of cyclic catastrophes, they will be missing important data that could help them understand our past. Of course, the admission that such catastrophes occur and reoccur would raise questions as to the future: when will they come again. These are questions that our dear leaders would prefer we not pose.

Posted Sott 13 July

New Comet Findings from Deep Impact

July 12th 2005

The Deep Impact collision with Comet Tempel 1 on July 4th revealed that the main component is too soft to be ice. Scientists once thought ice would be the main component. The comet may have been composed of a fine powder more like talcum powder, not a beach sand. A hot vapor of water and carbon dioxide was also detected by Deep Impacts flyby instruments.

Ground telescopes have had trouble viewing the comet because of thick dust that clouds the view. The amount of dust seems to indicate that the comet was not held together very tightly. This may be because there is not much mass involved, producing less gravity.

Posted SOTT 14 July

Experts eye SA meteor site

14/07/2005 07:44 - (SA)

Craig Bishop

Durban - In just four minutes, the face of the planet changed forever.

A meteorite the size of a mountain hurtled from outer space and struck earth some 2020 million years ago, just south-west of where Johannesburg is today. The whole planet physically shook under the impact.

South Africans have called this area Vredefort and experts at the 29th annual World Heritage Committee meeting that is being held in Durban are expected to award it World Heritage Site status.

This is the oldest meteor site on the planet, but won't be the last, warns Wits University Professor of Mineralogy in the School of Geosciences, Prof Wolf Reimold.

"The impact of large extraterrestrial bodies with earth is an ever-present danger that humanity has only recently begun to recognise," said Reimold, who is the co-author of a new book called Meteorite Impact! The Danger from Space and South Africa's Mega-Impact: The Vredefort Structure.

The book explains how Vredefort is teaching a new generation of scientists around the world about the reality and danger of similar events in the future.

Three giants stand out

The book also reviews more than 200 000 years of human habitation in the area, starting with the early San hunters, whose art survives on the rocks formed during the meteor strike.

The successive settlements of Sotho-Tswana, Afrikaner and British farmers are also discussed, including landmark wars that affected the region over the last three centuries.

The book also provides a guide to more than 20 sites that highlight the heritage of this area.

Of the 175 impact craters found on the planet so far, three giants stand out - Chicxulub in Mexico, which wiped out 75% of life 65-million years ago, Sudbury in Canada, and Vredefort in South Africa. Each of these events catastrophically altered the global environment and was strong enough to drastically change life on our planet.

The Vredefort Impact Structure, with a 300km diameter, is nearly twice the size of the Chicxulub crater.

The outcroppings around the towns of Vredefort and Parys, known as the Vredefort Dome, show the scars of the cataclysmic forces that accompanied the impact event.

The rocks, ripped from the depths of the crust by the impact, also tell a far older story that stretches back to more than 3 500 million years ago, when the first continents formed on the primitive earth, and to the time when fabulous gold deposits accumulated on the margins of the ancient Witwatersrand sea.

There are already 788 world heritage sites in 134 countries in the world.

In South Africa, the sites are Robben Island in the Western Cape, the Cradle of Humankind that houses the fossil hominid sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs in Gauteng and North West, the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park in KwaZulu-Natal, the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park in KwaZulu-Natal, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in Limpopo and the Cape Floral Region of the Western Cape.

Posted SOTT 19 July

Drilling set at Chesapeake Bay meteor site

July 19, 2005

Scientists will drill more than a mile under Chesapeake Bay this fall to study a 35-million-year-old meteorite impact, the Baltimore Sun reported Monday.

The meteorite struck what is now the lower Chesapeake Bay off Virginia with such force it threw debris for thousands of miles and created a Rhode Island-sized crater, the newspaper noted.

"Whatever we find is going to be interesting," Charles Cockell, a professor of geomicrobiology at England's Open University, told the Sun.

Since the impact crater was discovered in 1993, scientists have drilled at least 12 holes, mainly to assess the crater's effect on groundwater supplies.. This fall's deeper drilling is designed to allow a better determination of how fast the meteorite was traveling, its size, effect on surrounding rocks and whether it was an asteroid or comet.

More than 40 researchers from the United States, Austria, South Africa and Japan will take part in the $1.3 million study. The bay crater is the largest in the United States and the sixth largest of 170 known impact craters in the world, the newspaper reported.

New comet mission eyed for Deep Impact spacecraft

Scientists analyzing data; module may rest then target 85P/Boethin

By Todd Neff, Camera Staff Writer

July 19, 2005

The surviving half of NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft will steer itself toward another comet Wednesday, even as scientists swim through data from its crushing encounter with the comet Tempel 1.

The Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.-built spacecraft's flyby module photographed the stunning vaporization of its 820-pound impactor module from a safe distance late July 3. It withstood the sandblast of the comet's tail a few minutes later, and with half its fuel remaining.

Deep Impact's engines will burn a good deal of that fuel Wednesday during a major trajectory change, said Monte Henderson, Deep Impact program manager for the Boulder-based Ball Aerospace. The idea is to put the spacecraft on a near-Earth route and, if NASA decides to pay for an extended mission, the comet 85P/Boethin.

Henderson said a handful of Ball Aerospace engineers would put the spacecraft into a "quiescent cruise" after Wednesday's burn, with its solar panels facing the sun and many of its systems switched off.

Don Yeomans, a NASA scientist on the Deep Impact team, said the Earth flyby would happen in late 2007 or early 2008, with an encounter with the comet Boethin possible in late 2008.

"If the spacecraft remains healthy, it would be a tough one to pass up, I would guess, because it would be an order of magnitude cheaper than anything else," Yeomans said.

With Deep Impact built and launched, only operations costs would be needed, Yeomans said.

Deep Impact's success is just another step in the exploration of comets. Scientists think the celestial wanderers are leftovers from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago, and probably the source of at least some of the water and organic materials key to life on Earth.

Yeomans said the comets explored up close, including Halley, Wild 2, Borrelly and, now, Tempel 1, all appear quite different.

"The question then is, are they all individual or are there some broad characteristics that are similar?" Yeomans said.

A Deep Impact visit to the comet Boethin could help provide answers, Yeomans said.

In the meantime, the Deep Impact science team has made some preliminary conclusions, although much of the data the spacecraft transmitted 80 million miles home remains to be analyzed.

Michael A'Hearn, Deep Impact's lead scientist and a University of Maryland astronomer, said in an e-mail that scientists have been unable to separate the image of the crater from the blaze of ejecta following the 23,000-mph impact.

Given the unexpected brilliance of the impact, it might not be possible.

A'Hearn said scientists have inferred that the newest crater in the 4-mile-diameter comet is probably more than 100 meters in diameter and "at the large end of our range of expectations."

He said most of the solid ejecta came in the form of microscopic particles. Although ice, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons were detected, scientists won't know their relative volumes for weeks, A'Hearn said.

Yeomans said the scientific consensus before Deep Impact was that a comet's charcoal-black surface was a crust several feet thick, which encased an icy core.

"Well, we didn't see any crusted surface," he said. "It looks like very weak snow - dirty, of course."

Comment: Essentially, our scientists know very little about comets.

Posted SOTT 20 July

Fireball Streaks Across Oregon Skies Tuesday - Did you see it?


PORTLAND -- According to the Cascade Meteorite Lab at Portland State University a fireball streaked across the sky at 2:17 p.m.

The fireball was seen in Portland, Medford and most likely most places in between.

A fireball is a meteorite that has entered our atmosphere and is burning up. Most times it burns up totally before hitting the ground but once in a while we get a meteorite that lands on earth.

If you saw the fireball, the lab would like to hear from you. You can call them at (503) 287-6733.

Comment: Yes, readers "once in a while we get a meteorite that lands on earth". Of course, we are reassured that all the really big ones hit millions of years ago. And Saddam had WMD...

Posted SOTT 21 July

Meteor seen in Siskiyou skies Tuesday

Updated: Wednesday, July 20, 2005 3:57 PM PDT

YREKA - At 2:20 Tuesday afternoon, callers began alerting Yreka police and the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department to a "fire ball" that had come from the sky and believed to have landed near the city's corporation yard.

A golfer at the Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford, Ore. was getting ready to make a shot off the second tee, when he reported seeing a flaming object with "blue and red flames coming off of it," fall from the sky. That observer thought that the object had fallen somewhere near Shady Cove, Ore.

Callers also contacted the National Weather Service offices in Medford and Roseburg, Ore. to report the sighting.

Scientists at the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory (CML) at Portland State University have determined that what was seen in the sky Tuesday afternoon was a fireball, also called a "bolide." Scientists say when a solid object enters the earth's atmosphere, it can heat up to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and will begin to glow. That object is called a meteor and if it glows brighter than the planet Venus, it is called a fireball. When there are a sufficient number of eyewitness reports of a fireball, scientists can often determine the location where the meteorite landed and samples can be recovered. Tuesday's fireball has not yet been located.

Posted SOTT 27 July

Wakey Wakey!


An important note to humanity:

Drop the remote for a minute and listen up. Over the past few years, we have gone to significant lenghts to highlight the fact that for most people on the planet, living what has come to be known as 'a normal life' will soon be untenable. Quite apart from the fact that, since Bush came to power, terror attacks, war, death and suffering, the passing of new draconian legislation and a general aura of fear have all descended like a black pall over most of the world, the past few years has been witness to a seriously sharp rise in the number of reported meteorite sightings and impacts.

What might be the cause of such a spike? Well, we could be forgiven for thinking that it is just that; an innocuous spike that will soon settle down. However, if we factor in historical, geological and paleontological evidence which suggests that our planet has in the past undergone regular cyclical catastrophes that have metoerite impacts (among other natural cataclysms) as their defining aspect, AND that we seem to be overdue for another one, the recent spate of space rocks visiting our planet's skies and surface paints a rather different picture.

It seems more than a concidence also that this rise in near earth comets, bollides and meteorites appears to be occuring in concert with a definite increase in the 'heat' in both political and climatological terms.

The conclusion we draw from this is that events on earth may well be mirrored in the cosmos/solar system, or, as it has been said, "Disasters involve cycles in the human experiential cycle [...] The human cycle mirrors cycle of catastrophe. Earth benefits in form of periodic cleansing. Time to start paying attention to the signs. They are escalating. They can even be 'felt' by you and others, if you pay attention." So if we do NOT want a major bombardment of heavenly bodies, we might all think about waking up to the truth of what is really happening on our planet and the deliberate machinations of the power elite who are aware of such events and are doing everything in their power to prevent you and I from figuring it out.

Meteor seen in Siskiyou skies Tuesday

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Siskiyou Daily

YREKA - At 2:20 Tuesday afternoon, callers began alerting Yreka police and the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department to a "fire ball" that had come from the sky and believed to have landed near the city's corporation yard.

A golfer at the Rogue Valley Country Club in Medford, Ore. was getting ready to make a shot off the second tee, when he reported seeing a flaming object with "blue and red flames coming off of it," fall from the sky. That observer thought that the object had fallen somewhere near Shady Cove, Ore.

Callers also contacted the National Weather Service offices in Medford and Roseburg, Ore. to report the sighting.

Fireball Streaks Across Oregon Skies Tuesday



PORTLAND -- According to the Cascade Meteorite Lab at Portland State University, a fireball streaked across the sky at 2:17 p.m.

The fireball was seen in Portland, Medford and most likely most places in between.

A fireball is a meteorite that has entered our atmosphere and is burning up. Most times it burns up totally before hitting the ground but once in a while we get a meteorite that lands on earth.

If you saw the fireball, the lab would like to hear from you. You can call them at (503) 287-6733.

Meteorite hits tractor

Wed, July 27, 2005

Edmonton, Canada

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. -- An unusual rock that fell out of the sky, through a shed and into a tractor earlier this month appears to be a meteorite, says a director with the Geological Survey of Canada. [...]

An afternoon picking strawberries took a bizarre twist for Adeline Kelly on July 17 when a chunk of rock plummeted from the sky, penetrating the tin roof of a shed and piercing the manifold of a tractor on her and her husband's Montney ranch, just north of Fort St. John. The stone bounced several times after landing. Adeline searched for the object and eventually found a small, rough-surfaced black and grey stone with specks of diamond-like material embedded in it. Part of the stone had shattered, but much of it was still intact.

Posted SOTT 29 July

Distant object found orbiting Sun

By Dr David Whitehouse

Science editor, BBC News website

Friday, 29 July 2005

Astronomers have found a large object in the Solar System's outer reaches. It is being hailed as "a great discovery".

Details of the object are still sketchy. It never comes closer to the Sun than Neptune and spends most of its time much further out than Pluto.

It is one of the largest objects ever found in the outer Solar System and is almost certainly made of ice and rock.

It is at least 1,500km (930 miles) across and may be larger than Pluto, which is 2,274km (1,400 miles) across.

The uncertainty in estimates of its size is due to errors in its reflectivity.

It might be a large, dim object, or a smaller, brighter object. Whatever it is, astronomers consider it a major discovery.

In 2004 scientists discovered Sedna, a remote world that is 1,700 km across.

Frantic checking

Two groups of scientists will be claiming the latest discovery.

It was picked up by astronomers of the Institute of Astrophysics in Andalusia as part of a survey of the outer solar system for new objects that they have been carrying out since 2002.

"We found a bright, slow moving object while checking some older images of our survey for Trans-Neptunian Objects," Jose-Luis Ortiz, one of the objects co-discoverers, told the BBC News website.

It was subsequently designated 2003 EL61.

However, American astronomers also appear to have detected it.

The same team that found Sedna have designated it K40506A after it was picked up by the Gemini telescope and one of the twin Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

They are due to present their findings at a conference in Cambridge in September.

Because the object is relatively bright, astronomers are frantically checking other observations that may have picked it up, particularly robotic sky surveys.

Posted SOTT 2 Aug

They Sing the Comet Electric

By David McCandless

02:00 AM Aug. 02, 2005 PT

Dissident scientists advocating a controversial theory of the universe are having a field day in the wake of NASA's Deep Impact comet collision earlier this month.

Scientists promoting the Electric Universe model say their predictions for the comet mission appear to have been more accurate than NASA's.

The Electric Universe theorists, collected at Thunderbolts.info, believe that electricity, when factored properly into astrophysics, plays a greater role in the cosmos than the standard gravitational model, which says electrical forces are insignificant on a cosmic scale.

Proponents of the Electric Universe model say they can explain many of the bizarre phenomena and mysteries in cosmology, from a swath of anomalies seen in the solar system to unusual surface features on Mars and Jupiter's moon, Titan. The theory can also sweep away the need for theoretical "dark matter" and "dark energy."

Comets are a cornerstone of the model, visible proof of the legitimacy of the theory as they traverse eccentric orbits around the sun.

According to the model, comets are not inert balls of ice and rocky dust particles aggregated into a "dirty iceball" as standard comet theory holds. Instead, they are solid, asteroid-like rocks, containing little ice. Negatively charged with electricity, their motion through the positively charged solar wind triggers electrical discharges. These, not vaporized ice, produce the characteristic comet glow and tail.

Prior to the July 4 impact, the Electric Universe group published a detailed chain of events they expected to see when Deep Impact struck comet Tempel 1 with an 820-pound copper projectile.

The prediction said there would be two impact flashes: a small flash as the projectile penetrated the comet's electrified atmosphere, followed by a huge impact flash that would be "unexpectedly energetic."

And that's exactly what appeared to happen on July 4, in an impact that astonished NASA investigators.

"What you see is something really surprising," said mission co-investigator Peter Schultz. "First, there is a small flash, then there's a delay, then there's a big flash and the whole thing breaks loose."

The renegades at Thunderbolts made more predictions, including an expected massive surge in X-ray production, a lack of subsurface water and very high explosion temperatures. However, confirmation or debunking of their predictions awaits detailed data from NASA, which has yet to release the results.

The Thunderbolts ragtag team of rebels comprises writers, researchers, electrical engineers and comparative mythologists, led by Australian physicist Wallace Thornhill.

Meantime, on the Deep Impact website, NASA scientists theorize that the collision's intense flash was likely caused by tons of fine dust thrown up by the impact and lit by the sun.

And the double flashes, some have suggested, were caused by the projectile penetrating two surfaces on the comet: a soft outer layer and a harder deeper nucleus of rock and ice.

Indeed, NASA investigators have conceded that Comet Tempel 1 appears to be something of an anomaly that does not conform to the dirty iceball model. The theory now is that the nuclei of different comets may have different compositions, according to Donald Yeomans, a mission scientist on Deep Impact.

Whatever the outcome, the self-styled "alternate paradigm theorists" are energized by the evidence from Deep Impact, as well as the shifting theories and unexplained data from previous comet observations.

They point to photographs of comets by various probes that have revealed distinctly ice-free rock-like objects, and images of strange bright patches they say are proof of electrical discharges in action.

"Why are comet nuclei coal-black as if they have been burnt?" asked David Talbott, executive editor of Thunderbolts.info. "Why is there a superabundance of extremely fine dust?

"And if comet nuclei are merely melting in the sun's heat, why are they sharply cratered and rocky? They should be smooth like a melting scoop of ice cream."

The Electric Universe model is broadly dismissed as pseudoscience by scientists. Indeed, its Wikipedia entry was recently deleted after users successfully argued that it did not constitute a legitimate theory.

"It's complete cobblers," said Dr. David Hughes, comet expert and professor of astrophysics at Britain's University of Sheffield. "Absolute balderdash."

Crudely put, for astronomical material to be charged electrically, it must be in the form of hot ionized gas, otherwise known as plasma, Hughes said.

"The inside of a comet has a typical temperature of minus 100 Celsius," he said. "Electricity on the surface of a comet? Forget about it. It's not a contender."

Scientists from NASA's Deep Impact investigation team declined to comment on specific observations made by the Thunderbolts group.

Despite the skepticism, Electric Universe theorists are not deterred.

"All the things we see around comets fit the electrical model but don't make much sense in terms of icy snowballs sublimating into space," said Thunderbolts' Thornhill.

Answers to the surprises of Deep Impact and the credibility of the Electric Universe theory will have to wait until NASA releases X-ray readings, spectroscopic analysis and other detailed data during the $333 million mission. These are expected in a few months.

But answers are not guaranteed. So much dust was thrown up by the impact that cameras on board the probe were unable to take pictures of the crater -- a vital piece of evidence for settling the major unanswered question in comet theory: what a comet is actually made of.

Posted SOTT 3 Aug

Hacker forced new planet discovery out of the closet

10th planet found two years ago

By Nick Farrell

Monday 01 August 2005, 07:39

BOFFINS WHO discovered that there was a 10th planet in our solar system, had been sitting on the news for years until a hacker turned over their servers.

Michael Brown, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology, announced the discovery over the weekend. But according to the South African Sunday Telegraph, here, the briefing was hastily arranged after Brown received word that his secure website containing the discovery had been hacked. The unnamed hacker was threatening to release the information.

It transpired that Brown and his friends had been sitting on the information since 2003 when they snapped it with a 122cm telescope at the Palomar Observatory. However they couldn't confirm much about it until it was analysed again last January. So in the time honoured tradition of boffins everywhere they decided to keep the data from the common people until they knew a bit more.

Brown said that data is still being processed and it will take at least six months before astronomers can determine the planet's exact size. The planet seems to be about 1.5 times the size of Pluto, which is usually dubbed a planetoid because it is so small.

The find should further stuff up modern astrologers - they still have not got the hang of Uranus.

Posted Sott 8 Aug

Did a giant meteor kill dinosaurs?


August 08, 2005

A team of scientists and volunteers will descend on Colorado Springs this month to search for evidence of a monster asteroid they believe smashed into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula about 65.5 million years ago.

Many scientists believe the asteroid caused an eruption of ash that blanketed the planet and created an environmental holocaust that wiped out most life on the planet, including dinosaurs.

The ash, with its unique space dust, crystals and soot from global fires, is said to have eventually compressed into a layer of clay that circled the Earth and now lies buried beneath 65 million years of sedimentary rock.

A team from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science says it has found evidence of the clay and its asteroid ash in Colorado Springs and the surrounding region. They hope a three-day dig this month will produce more proof.

“We are studying all the rock underlying the city,” said Kirk Johnson, chief curator of paleontology at the Denver museum.

Scientists believe the asteroid was about six miles in diameter — imagine a space rock the size of the Air Force Academy grounds — moving at 20,000 mph.

When the asteroid hit, scientists believe, the impact was catastrophic, superheating the Earth’s atmosphere and incinerating all large forms of animal life including dinosaurs, large mammals and 50 percent of all insect and plant life.

“It really kind of wrecked the planet,” Johnson said.

The asteroid’s impact left a crater upward of 100 miles wide — about the distance from Denver to Pueblo. Scientists believe they have discovered the crater 200 miles west of Cancun beneath millions of years of sediment on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The impact also caused an eruption of ash and debris that, according to theory, swept across the Earth, eventually choking out sunlight, lowering the global temperature, contributing to acid rain and other dramatic climatic changes.

It’s only a theory; many scientists dismiss it in favor of a theory that volcanic eruptions are to blame for the cataclysmic loss of animal and plant life and disruption of the global climate.

But Johnson believes it was an asteroid, and he’s among a large number of scientists who search the globe for the layer of clay with its unique space dust, quartz crystals fractured by massive force and soot from fires that resulted from the impact.

That’s what Johnson and a team of a dozen or so scientists, students and volunteers will be searching for in Colorado Springs.

The key is finding the layer laced with iridium, an extremely rare metallic chemical element similar to platinum.

Two sources of iridium exist. It is found in the Earth’s core, brought to the surface in eruptions of certain types of volcanoes. And it is found in space rock, like meteors and asteroids, and the cosmic dust that constantly showers Earth’s atmosphere.

The theory is difficult to prove because, generally, the layer of clay is buried deep below the Earth’s surface.

Except in Colorado Springs and other places where the Earth’s crust has been disturbed by uplift and erosion.

Here, the clay can be found at the surface or just below. It’s often unearthed by construction of roads, buildings and homes.

That’s because the uplift that created the Rocky Mountains pushed layers of prehistoric rock to the surface, especially in places such as Garden of the Gods and the Pulpit Rock area of the Austin Bluffs Open Space.

The Springs’ topography gives scientists access to rock as deep as the Pierre Shale formation, which dates to 70 million years ago, and Fox Hills, a layer of ancient beach deposits from a time when Colorado was covered by an ocean.

Then comes the distinctive iridium-laced clay, which is 65.5 million years old and separates the Cretaceous period — the last age of dinosaurs — from the Tertiary/Paleocene, when mammals became the dominant species on Earth.

Above those layers are the Laramie and Dawson formations, which are only about 55 million years old.

In recent years, Johnson’s team discovered the clay in an outcropping east of Kiowa in Elbert County.

“We actually found the layer where the dinosaurs went extinct,” said Beth Ellis, project manager of Johnson’s team. “You could put your finger on it. It was really cool.”

There have been specific discoveries in the Springs, Ellis said.

For example, a student working on private property got “within a few feet” of pinpointing the clay layer at a site near the proposed Jimmy Camp Creek reservoir northeast of the Colorado Springs Airport. The student found rock from the thicker layers above and below the thin clay layer. But more work is needed to unearth the clay, Ellis said.

Previous expeditions to Colorado Springs have led scientists back to the Pulpit Rock area, as well.

“It takes a couple years to get a good understanding of an area,” Ellis said. “Then we go back and look hard. That’s when it gets fun.”

The fun will start Aug. 28 when the team returns, Ellis said. It will visit Pulpit Rock, a road construction site near Garden of the Gods Road and, perhaps, the Jimmy Camp Creek site.

Along the way, scientists expect to unearth other fossils, like they did a few years ago when a prehistoric crocodile skull was found.

“We’ve been doing work in Colorado Springs since 1991,” Johnson said. “We amped that work up in the late 1990s. It’s a really interesting project. We’ve found some pretty interesting, cool fossils there. We’re excited about it.”

Posted SOTT 9 Aug

Meteor impacts may be good for Earth

Science Daily

CALGARY, Alberta, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Meteor impacts are often regarded as killers and the cause of mass extinctions on Earth, but researchers say meteors might have helped early life.

Canadian geologists reported Monday there's a chance the heavy bombardment of Earth by meteors during the planet's youth actually spurred early life on our planet.

A study of the Haughton Impact Crater on Devon Island, in the Canadian Arctic, has revealed some very life-friendly features at ground zero, researchers said. Those include hydrothermal systems, blasted rocks that are easier for microbes to inhabit, plus a protected basin created by the crater itself.

If the theory is correct, the scientists say impact craters could represent some of the best sites to look for signs of past or present life on Mars and other planets.

The study was presented Monday during a presentation on the biological effects of impacts at Earth System Processes 2, a meeting co-convened by the Geological Society of America and Geological Association of Canada in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Posted SOTT 10 Aug

Meteor over Reunion Island


At least several hundred observers admired, Thursday night, a disintegrating meteorite in the sky over Reunion. Then we lost any trace as it appears to have fallen into the Indian Ocean. But who knows that a meteorite was found on Reunion in 1983? And today we are ready to try and uncover the mysteries of the "meteorite of Sanite Rose". [...]

Posted SOTT 11 Aug

First Asteroid Trio Discovered

By Robert Roy Britt

Senior Science Writer

posted: 10 August 2005

An asteroid known to astronomers for more than a century has now been found to harbor two small satellites.

It is the first asteroid trio ever discovered.

And there may be more than three.

The main asteroid, named 87 Sylvia, is one of the largest known to orbit the Sun in the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. It is potato-shaped, about 175 miles (280 kilometers) in diameter and 235 miles (380 kilometers) long. It was discovered in 1866.

The first moon was found four years ago and the second one was announced today.

Asteroid moons common

There are about 60 asteroids known to each have one companion. The first pair was noted in 1993, when the Galileo spacecraft spotted the moonlet Dactyl orbiting asteroid Ida. Some pairs involve a smaller satellite, while in others the two objects are roughly equal in size.

Asteroid 87 Sylvia was named for Rhea Sylvia, the mythical mother of the founders of Rome. Now its moons will be called Romulus and Remus, for the ancient city's founders.

Romulus is some 11.3 miles (18 kilometers) across and orbits the main asteroid every 87.6 hours. Remus, the newfound object, is about 4.4 miles (7 kilometers) wide and orbits Sylvia every 33 hours.

Sylvia completes one rotation about its axis -- a day -- every 5 hours and 11 minutes.

The three-rock setup was likely created in a collision, astronomers said.

"People have been looking for multiple asteroid systems for a long time, because binary asteroid systems in the main belt seem to be common and formation scenarios, such as a collision between two asteroids followed by disruption and re-accretion, suggest that fragments should be orbiting bigger asteroids," said Franck Marchis, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley who led the discovery.

The details are reported in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Nature.

More to find?

There may be smaller moons around Sylvia that still evade detection, Marchis told SPACE.com. Satellites up to 3 miles (5 kilometers) wide could lurk between the two known moons, he said, and an even larger object could exist inside the orbit of Remus and escape detection.

Observations of Sylvia itself support the idea of a collision. The asteroid's low density and known size allowed astronomers to calculate that it must be a rubble pile, rather than a solid rock.

"It could be up to 60 percent empty space," said French researcher Daniel Hestroffer, a co-author of the study from the Observatoire de Paris.

The small satellites are thought to be collision debris that went into orbit rather than getting re-stuck to Sylvia.

Based on what they've seen so far, astronomers estimate that about 6 percent of asteroids have companions, Marchis said, adding that it is too early to guess how many systems might contain multiple rocks.

The discovery was made with a European Southern Observatory telescope in Chile.

Posted SOTT 16 Aug

Did double whammy of volcano and asteroid wipe out dinosaurs?

By Steve Connor, Science Editor

Published: 16 August 2005

Volcanic eruptions may have triggered the demise of the dinosaurs.

Many scientists believed that an asteroid caused the mass extinction 65 million years ago. However, a new study points to a more complex event that began with a series of eruptions which took place in what is now north-western India. The Deccan Traps in Maharashtra state are flows of lava resulting from huge outpourings of molten rock and ash. A mile deep, they cover about 200,000 square miles.

Vulcanologists have long thought the eruption, dated to about 65 million years ago, could have caused the extinction.

However, the Deccan Traps resulted from a series of eruptions that occurred over perhaps a million years. This would have given the global climate plenty of time to adjust. But the study shows a major part of the eruption occurred over a short period.

Scientists from the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris calculated that at least 2,000 ft of lava was deposited in 30,000 years, which could have greatly altered global climate. They have also shown that the Traps were erupting when the asteroid crashed into what is now Mexico. This was a spectacular and almost unprecedented double whammy for Earth.

Mike Widdowson, a vulcanologist, said it seems the end of the dinosaurs may have begun with climate change brought about by the eruptions and ended with the asteroid. "The eruptions pre-conditioned the global environment toward a catastrophic tipping point before the impact occurred. The asteroid was the coup de grĂ¢ce," he said.

Posted SOTT 25 Aug

The dust left behind by meteors is bigger than scientists thought.

Last Update: Thursday, August 25, 2005. 7:00am (AEST)


Australian scientists have discovered that meteors leave behind massive clouds of dust.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, show the grains of dust left behind are up to 100 times larger than originally thought.

Researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division based in Kingston, Tasmania, studied a large meteor that exploded into the atmosphere in September 2004.

Meteors typically break up into blazing trails or shooting stars that disappear.

But scientists now believe these are actually clouds of dust and the grains are bigger than expected.

Researcher Andrew Klekociuk says the findings show the September 2004 meteor had a mass of 1,000 tonnes.

"It's the first time we've been able to measure the properties of dust from a large meteor entering the atmosphere," he said.

"The particles we saw are pretty small by normal standards - about one thousandth of a millimetre - but that's 10 to 100 times larger than people normally expect to see from the disintegration of a large meteoroid."

The grains eventually rain down from the atmosphere over several weeks.

The study sugests that meteor dust may play a hidden role in earth's climate.

Previous research has shown that particles spewed out by volcanoes can play a crucial role in affecting weather.

Their relatively large size helps them to reflect the sun's rays, thus creating a local cooling effect, and also provides a nucleus for attracting atmospheric moisture - meaning they encourage clouds to form.

The larger-than-expected size of the particles left behind by meteors prompts the researchers to suggest they may also affect the weather.

In addition, large particles tend to linger longest in the atmosphere, sometimes taking months to reach the planet's surface.

Meteor dust obscures climate change views

By Deborah Smith, Science Editor

August 25, 2005 - 7:16AM

When a meteor the size of a small house exploded with the force of an atomic bomb high above the remote Antarctic coast last year there was no one to witness the fireball or hear the sonic booms.

The nearest people in Antarctica were 900 kilometres away, too distant to observe what would have appeared like a second sun streaking across the cold afternoon sky.

"Only the penguins would have seen it," said Andrew Klekociuk, of the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart.

But in a stroke of extraordinary good luck, seven hours later, the dust cloud from the explosion passed directly over Davis Station, where Dr Klekociuk's colleague, Joseph Zagari, happened to be working through the night.

His instruments already trained heavenwards, Mr Zagari captured the first scientific measurements ever made of meteor dust in the atmosphere, although at the time he did not know what the mystery cloud was. An analysis of the results, published today in the journal Nature, reveal that the tiny meteor dust particles were about 1000 times bigger than expected.

Dr Klekociuk said the study had important implications for models of climate change. The particles were found to be about a thousandth of a millimetre across, rather than nanometre sized. This was large enough to reflect sunlight and to encourage water droplets to form clouds.

Meteor dust had been assumed to have little impact on climate, but now "requires further investigation", he said.

Although no-one directly saw the fireball on September 3, 2004, the team later found out the meteor was detected by US defence satellites at an altitude of about 75 kilometres. This revealed the precise time and position the meteor exploded.

The sonic booms were also detected as far away as Germany by monitors set up to detect nuclear explosions in breach of the test ban treaty.

If the explosion of the meteor - one of the largest in a decade - was typical, then meteor dust could also be responsible for many of the particles found in ice cores which scientists had assumed were from volcanoes or small meteors because of their size.

Posted on SOTT 30 Aug

Asteroid's path could put Earth in its sights

By Dan Vergano


Mon Aug 29, 6:34 AM ET

Astronomers are debating what to do about Earth's close encounter with an asteroid in 2029 and again in 2036 - passages that might be too close for comfort.

Apophis, a 1,059-foot-wide asteroid, has excited astronomers since it was spotted last year. After observing it for a while, scientists concluded that it has only a 1-in-8,000 chance of ever smacking into Earth. But even that slim chance has them talking and

NASA pondering how to keep track of it - just in case.

"The most likely turn of events is that it will miss us," says Steve Chesley of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., which has monitored the asteroid since December as part of its normal watch over "near-Earth" asteroids. "We are prepared for the worst but certainly don't want to act too hastily." [...]

Posted on SOTT 31 Aug

Clouds blamed for lights scare


29 August 2005

AUSTRALIA - A CLOUDY night could be the reason why bright orange lights were seen over Hobart on Saturday night.

Or a very bright meteor breaking up.

Police, the Tasmanian UFO Investigation Centre and The Mercury received many calls about the strange phenomenon.

Reports included a shower of lights and nine in a zig-zag formation over Glenorchy, which lined up over Hobart.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," said a policeman who did not want to be identified.

Another witness, Jackie Benson, was at Moonah and saw six lights sweep the sky.

"They were going across the sky at different speeds," she said yesterday.

Speculation was rife about the origin of the lights, with one caller saying he saw a spaceship over Glenorchy.

Last night, Southern Cross Observatory director Shevill Mathers said low cloud and reflected light might have been the cause.

The observatory is at Cambridge and Mr Mathers said he had seen an intense glow in the sky over Hobart.

"Bright light sources reflect on the base of low clouds, such as lights from the casino and other sources, and appear as orange lights," he said. "It may be affected by the water vapour level and drop size in the clouds.

"Different drop sizes refract light at different angles, as with rainbows.

"I almost got my camera with a wide-angle lens because it was such a good picture of light pollution.

"That's when light heading skywards prevents us seeing dimmer objects in the sky, because the light heading up is stronger."

Mr Mather said another possibility for Saturday night's light was the position of Venus and Jupiter.

"We've got a couple of bright planets in the sky at the moment, which are low in the west after sunset," he said. "Venus is rising and getting brighter. Above it is Jupiter.

"Seen through the clouds, they can be seen as a diffused glow, which is unusual.

"Another possibility could have been a very bright meteor breaking up, which could also produce the effects described by some observers."

Comment: The meteorite explanation seems to be the most intriguing since one just fell on Zimbabwe...

Meteorite hits Zimbabwe

30/08/2005 11:07 - (SA)

Harare - People in a remote northern Zimbabwe village are living in fear after a meteorite plunged through the atmosphere last week and landed in a field, a state newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"The villagers heard some noise, which resembled that of a helicopter, coming from the eastern direction and the noise was followed by clouds of dust," police spokesperson Michael Munyikwa told the Herald.

The meteorite, measuring 21cm by 13cm and weighing around 4kg, left a 15cm-deep crater when it plunged into a field not far from Chaworeka village, the paper said.

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