Created: 28 February 2005
Two meteors were last night reported in the south west skies by members of the public, police said today.
An object described as a white hot meteor with a yellow edge was seen in the sky, and is thought to have landed in the sea south west of St Ives.
A second was reported travelling south west from Torrington, north Devon.
There have been no reports of any damage or injury as a result of these objects, said the police.
|Mass extinction comes every 62 million years, UC physicists discover|
|David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor|
Created: Thursday, March 10, 2005
With surprising and mysterious regularity, life on Earth has flourished and vanished in cycles of mass extinction every 62 million years, say two UC Berkeley scientists who discovered the pattern after a painstaking computer study of fossil records going back for more than 500 million years.
Their findings are certain to generate a renewed burst of speculation among scientists who study the history and evolution of life. Each period of abundant life and each mass extinction has itself covered at least a few million years -- and the trend of biodiversity has been rising steadily ever since the last mass extinction, when dinosaurs and millions of other life forms went extinct about 65 million years ago.
Comment: Hmm. 65 million years less 62 million years. 5 minus 2 leaves 3, 6 minus 6 leaves 0, uh, that leaves 3 million years. We're not rocket scientists or anything, but it looks to us like we're 3 million years overdue for another mass extinction. Even allowing for the extinction period itself of "a few million years"... Does someone want to check our math?
Of course, on time scales of millions of years, that could still leave us tens of thousands of years, or even hundreds of thousands of years, before we need to build a tunnel and live underground with our stockpiles of lentils and rice. Then again, all the rich and powerful already have access to government bunkers...think they know something we don't?
The graph above is curious in that it ignores that last 50 million years and sets the beginning and ends of the cycles at the peaks rather than the troughs, that is, the point of catastrophe. The end of the last cycle was, according to the graph, about 88 million years ago. Except that the dinosaurs died, according to mainstream science, 65 million years ago. Does it look to you like someone is trying to fudge the numbers? And does the data end 48 million years ago, the impression given by the graph?
The Berkeley researchers are physicists, not biologists or geologists or paleontologists, but they have analyzed the most exhaustive compendium of fossil records that exists -- data that cover the first and last known appearances of no fewer than 36,380 separate marine genera, including millions of species that once thrived in the world's seas, later virtually disappeared, and in many cases returned.
Richard Muller and his graduate student, Robert Rohde, are publishing a report on their exhaustive study in the journal Nature today, and in interviews this week, the two men said they have been working on the surprising evidence for about four years.
"We've tried everything we can think of to find an explanation for these weird cycles of biodiversity and extinction," Muller said, "and so far, we've failed."
But the cycles are so clear that the evidence "simply jumps out of the data," said James Kirchner, a professor of earth and planetary sciences on the Berkeley campus who was not involved in the research but who has written a commentary on the report that is also appearing in Nature today.
"Their discovery is exciting, it's unexpected and it's unexplained," Kirchner said. And it is certain, he added, to send other scientists in many disciplines seeking explanations for the strange cycles. "Everyone and his brother will be proposing an explanation -- and eventually, at least one or two will turn out to be right while all the others will be wrong."
Comment: Wow! Such insight!
Muller and Rohde conceded that they have puzzled through every conceivable phenomenon in nature in search of an explanation: "We've had to think about solar system dynamics, about the causes of comet showers, about how the galaxy works, and how volcanoes work, but nothing explains what we've discovered," Muller said.
The evidence of strange extinction cycles that first drew Rohde's attention emerged from an elaborate computer database he developed from the largest compendium of fossil data ever created. It was a 560-page list of marine organisms developed 14 years ago by the late J. John Sepkoski Jr., a famed paleobiologist at the University of Chicago who died at the age of 50 nearly five years ago.
Sepkoski himself had suggested that marine life appeared to have its ups and downs in cycles every 26 million years, but to Rohde and Muller, the longer cycle is strikingly more evident, although they have also seen the suggestion of even longer cycles that seem to recur every 140 million years.
Sepkoski's fossil record of marine life extends back for 540 million years to the time of the great "Cambrian Explosion," when almost all the ancestral forms of multicellular life emerged, and Muller and Rohde built on it for their computer version.
Muller has long been known as an unconventional and imaginative physicist on the Berkeley campus and at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. It was he, for example, who suggested more than 20 years ago that an undiscovered faraway dwarf star -- which he named "Nemesis" -- was orbiting the sun and might have steered a huge asteroid into the collision with Earth that drove the dinosaurs to extinction.
"I've given up on Nemesis," Muller said this week, "but then I thought there might be two stars somewhere out there, but I've given them both up now."
He and Rohde have considered many other possible causes for the 62- million-year cycles, they said.
Perhaps, they suggested, there's an unknown "Planet X" somewhere far out beyond the solar system that's disturbing the comets in the distant region called the Oort Cloud -- where they exist by the millions -- to the point that they shower the Earth and cause extinctions in regular cycles. Daniel Whitmire and John Matese of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette proposed that idea as a cause of major comet showers in 1985, but no one except UFO believers has ever discovered a sign of it.
Or perhaps there's some kind of "natural timetable" deep inside the Earth that triggers cycles of massive volcanism, Rohde has thought. There's even a bit of evidence: A huge slab of volcanic basalt known as the Deccan Traps in India has been dated to 65 million years ago -- just when the dinosaurs died, he noted. And the similar basaltic Siberian Traps were formed by volcanism about 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, when the greatest of all mass extinctions drove more than 70 percent of all the world's marine life to death, Rohde said.
The two scientists proposed more far-out ideas in their report in Nature, but only to indicate the possibilities they considered.
Muller's favorite explanation, he said informally, is that the solar system passes through an exceptionally massive arm of our own spiral Milky Way galaxy every 62 million years, and that that increase in galactic gravity might set off a hugely destructive comet shower that would drive cycles of mass extinction on Earth.
Rohde, however, prefers periodic surges of volcanism on Earth as the least implausible explanation for the cycles, he said -- although it's only a tentative one, he conceded.
Said Muller: "We're getting frustrated and we need help. All I can say is that we're confident the cycles exist, and I cannot come up with any possible explanation that won't turn out to be fascinating. There's something going on in the fossil record, and we just don't know what it is."
Comment: The answer is staring Muller in the face but he doesn't recognise it: his abandoned "Nemesis" hypothesis. The article doesn't mention why Muller abandoned his work on the dark star. Was he diverted into other areas?
Along with the Nemesis hypothesis, one must factor in the problems with radiometric dating. As Laura Knight-Jadczyk discusses in her book The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive, it is possible to "reset" the isotopes used in such dating:
Firestone and Topping open the door to a re-evaluation of the accuracy of radiometric dating. When scientists agree that the extinction of the dinosaurs occurred 65 million years ago, they may well be incorrect. If those dates are wrong, the numbers of the entire cycle of 62 million year cycles may also be wrong. If we can't trust the dates from radiometric dating, where do we get another measure which could suffice?
Muller discusses the Nemesis theory, the idea of a companion star that returns at regular cycles. Laura's research into the dark star twin of our sun has found evidence that the cycle of visits by our companion is 27 million years. As Laura writes in Secret History:
Here we see there may be two cycles, the 27 million year return of the dark star and a 3600 cycle of the material cast out from the Oort cloud by the dark twin that settles into a regular orbit bringing it regularly into the earth's path. We propose a hypothesis where the dark star is the cause of the periodic extinctions with a period of 27 million years with a subcycle of comet impacts on the earth that, while not causing the mass extinctions of the primary cycle, are large enough to cause the downfall of local civilisations on various parts of the planet. There also appear to be other subcycles, such as the one that caused the dark ages after the cometary impact of circa 540 AD. These subcycles may be remnants of 3600 year cycles from earlier main cycles.
The article mentions the work of J. John Sepkoski Jr who discovered a 26 million year cycle for marine life. Without knowing more about his work and what methods he used to come to his dating, we note in passing that it is very close to the 27 million year dark star cycle.
Evidence we have gathered suggests that the most recent of the 3600 year cycles occurred about 1628 BC at the time of the eruption of the volcano Thera on the island of Santorini in the Mediterranean. In other words, at 3635 years ago, we are due for a return in the near future.
We also consider that the Maunder Minimum, a 75 year period of little or no solar activity from 1645 until 1710, may be the period when the sun's dark twin was here on its last approach. The quieting of the sun would have been due to the gravitational effect of the twin. If this is the case, then the next cycle of comets from the Oort cloud has been heading our way for over 300 years. The discoveries in the last ten years of numerous "new" moons of both Saturn and Jupiter is suggestive. Perhaps bodies traveling our way from the Oort cloud have been trapped by the gravity two giant planets and brought into orbit as they passed by. Mainstream news and science reports offer this as a possibility. They do not, however, reflect upon the origin of the rocks captured as new moons.
A reading of our Meteor supplement illustrates the increasing number of fireballs being reported from the four corners of the globe, another suggestive bit of data gleaned from newspapers the world over, not that the mainstream media does the correlating of the evidence that would tie the many sightings together. The reports of fireball sightings remains local, only rarely making it to the national or international news.
For more on these ideas, see Laura Knight-Jadczyk's article Independence Day as well as her book The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive.
If a cloud of comets is heading our way, marking the next 27 million year cycle, or even if we are "only" facing the lesser subcycle that ended the Bronze Age, we think the danger facing the world is far greater than that proposed by the proponents of "peak oil". In fact, we think it is highly probable that people in positions of power, that is, those behind the scenes who are pulling the strings of the public figures on the world stage, are aware of this imminent threat, and that this threat is the real reason behind the locking down of the planet spearheaded by the Bush Reich.
Of course, such a possibility is never mentioned. It is occulted, hidden from view while our attention is focused daily on battles in Iraq and Palestine, and on the "rising tide of democracy" in the Middle East, the possibility of the end of the era of oil and other such prattle. Those who believe the Michael Jackson case is the window dressing may be at least one level of subterfuge and manipulation behind. A bombardment of the earth by comets or meteors, and a subsequent nuclear winter of several years and a great dying, would mean that safety might need to be sought underground. We, in fact, see that the leaders of every country have underground bunkers, built, we were told, as protection against nuclear war. While they may well serve for protection in wartime, they could also do double duty were the earth to be hit by a 20 kilometre wide comet.
We admit, however, that we do not have all of the proof necessary for an open and shut Ruppertian case in the courts. For that, we will just have to wait and see.
|The End of an Era?|
Created: March 13, 2005
A reader posted the following entry to the Signs Forum just a few days ago:
The question is, did "something big" actually happen on March 11, 2005? Perhaps a better question would be: What constitutes a "big" event? After more than three and a half years of the war on terror - including the 9-11 attacks and the train bombing in Madrid on March 11, 2004 - one is generally inclined to expect "big events" to come in the form of more "terrorist attacks" or fascist moves by those nations and groups most determined to strengthen their grip on the hearts and minds of the masses.
There is another possibility which requires a basic understanding of modern physics and specifically time loops, i.e. the idea that time is cyclic rather than linear. While the details of the time loops discussed in certain physics circles today are beyond the scope of this article, a basic understanding of the concept itself will suffice. In short, time loops are the idea that history repeats itself in a more organized fashion than is generally conceived of when our history teachers tell us that if we don't study history, we are doomed to repeat it. While we generally agree with this statement, we believe it is highly probable that cyclical events involve more than mere repitition of human error and ignorance. To illustrate exactly what we mean, and to bring the present discussion back to the topic of 42-month cycles, consider the following excerpt from The Beast and His Empire written by Laura Knight-Jadczyk not long after 9-11:
Is it possible that on March 11, 2005, we entered into a second 42-month period that will be marked by increasing chaos and the eventual downfall of "The Beast"? Before discounting such ideas as looney prognostications or the rantings of some eschatology-obsessed fundamentalist Christian preacher, consider what has happened in the first 42 months since the attacks of 9-11.
On 9-11, the world watched in horror as the US was attacked by "terrorists". In a few short hours, people everywhere were rudely awakened to the alleged threat of Arab terrorists determined to destroy western culture because they "hate our freedoms". In the immediate aftermath of the WTC and Pentagon attacks, the world stood alongside the US and expressed their most heartfelt condolences for the horror experienced by so many Americans on that fateful day. The attack on Afghanistan quickly followed. It seemed like the world was willing to stand by and believe the intelligence that US agencies claimed to possess. Other nations were willing to take the US at its word, despite the high probability that their intelligence agencies and perhaps even government officials were at least partially aware that something was definitely fishy about the alleged terrorists and their attacks on the US.
The next step in the war on terror was the invasion of Iraq, when the good will expressed towards the US after 9-11 was quickly squandered by the Bush administration. Originally informed that Saddam had WMD's and that he was prepared to use against the US, many Americans supported the proposed invasion to overthrow the Iraqi tyrant. Unfortunately, the world was not convinced by the Bush administration's arguments this time, although some nations did agree to go along on the Bush regime's latest adventure.
All the "evidence" of Iraq's WMD's was later shown to be either wrong or entirely manufactured. US troops never found any weapons in Iraq. Eventually, the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib was exposed, and the entire world was shocked that the supposed beacon of freedom and democracy in the world had resorted to some of the most despicable means in persecuting those expected of participation in the war on terror. While fascist legislation was passed at home, US forces abroad became even more bold in detaining suspects without charge and without a fair trial. Even several US citizens were detained - and remain imprisoned to this day - without charge.
Despite all that has occurred, few nations or governments have stood up and spoken out against the breaking of international law and plainly fascist undertakings of the Bush administration and their pawns. Numerous alternative news sources, including Signs of the Times, have presented vast quantities of evidence raising numerous key questions about the 9-11 attacks that cast serious doubt on the official explanation of that day's events.
Getting back the Revelations passage:
The world's inaction and misplaced praise of Bush's spreading of "freedom and democracy" could certainly be interpreted as worshipping the beast, i.e. the US imperialist, materialist empire. The US government has also uttered countless "great things and blasphemies". The lies and deceptions uttered by the US president and his pals are now too numerous to count.
At present, Iran and Syria are in the crosshairs of the Neocon/Zionist alliance. As the US economy teeters on the brink of disaster, the US rhetoric against China has escalated. Even US ally Japan has hinted that it may begin to sell off its dollars if circumstances don't improve soon.
On March 11, 2005, Rumsfeld and other top Bush administration officials were cleared of any wrongdoing in the torture scandal that should have rocked the foundations of the so-called war on terror. Strangely enough, we also learned that day that the capture of the man alleged to be Saddam Hussein was actually a made-for-TV movie that was obviously designed to play on the emotions of the average American.
At the same time, a QFG member wrote to us with the following report:
In the handful of days since March 11, 2005, there have been a few reports that tend to indicate that something has "shifted", and that we are indeed in a new 42-month cycle. Americans and world governments appear to have sat up a bit and started to take notice of exactly what the US has been doing and continues to do in their imperialist crusade. For example, today we found the following article:
Note especially the quotation from Andy Alexander indicating that there was little change in public thinking on secrecy after the 9-11 attacks. The Bush administration and their lackeys seemed to have the public pretty well convinced that secrecy was necessary in the war on terror. Now a mainstream media organization published this article indicating that the majority of Americans probably never thought more secrecy was necessary or desirable.
Even the UN may be finally finding its voice:
We are reminded of the recent admission that rendition has been used by the CIA since the beginning of the war on terror. Rumsfeld has also indicated that he would like to see the majority of prisoners currently at Guantanamo Bay sent overseas to be detained. Clearly, this latest move means that there will be no change in the Bush administration's policy of detaining without charge and torturing prisoners in the battle against "terrorists". It is noteworthy, however, that the process of rendition is no longer a secret or a "conspiracy theory", and that the power and influence of the Neocons has taken a small, if mostly symbolic, blow because of the legal challenges to the torture and detainment of suspected terrorists.
Still, it would be foolish to believe that Bush and his criminal gang cannot still succeed in their efforts. Patriot Acts I and II are still the law, and the push for the control or eradication of certain groups around the globe will not magically cease. One must also consider the effects that the apparent impending economic collapse will have, as well as the influence of the forty percent of fundamentalist Christian Americans who still believe Bush will bring on Armageddon and the rapture. Finally, we must consider less "controllable" events such as the cyclic catastrophes that seem to regularly strike the globe:
For a much lengthier list of recent fireball and meteor sightings, see our Signs Meteor Supplement.
In recent times, the planet has also been struck by numerous large earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, a massive tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands, and strange weather that caused hurricanes, tornados, floods, droughts, and even heat-related deaths. As this activity continues to escalate, along with conflicts both within and outside the bounds of the war on terror, it seems highly likely that Laura Knight-Jadczyk's hypothesis of a second 42-month cycle of global destruction after 42 months of "global domination" by "The Beast" will turn out to be horrifically accurate. While the geographic area of "The Beast" may be hit harder than others due to natural catastrophes accompanied by economic hardship and potential intranational strife resulting from those who are apparently beginning to resist Bush and his gang, there is no place for any of us to hide from meteor impacts, earthquakes, volcanoes, global warming, the resulting ice age, and so on.
We should note that since the future is open, nothing is carved in stone. Today Americans and others may resist the blanket of lies and confusion draped over them by Bush and crew, while tomorrow may bring blind obedience. Nevertheless, it seems there are certain cyclic patterns in the history of humankind which are a result of our mostly unconscious choices and actions as well those of the people who came before us. The present is based on the past, and the future is based on the present. In the end, there is nothing any of us can really change except ourselves. If we can learn to see reality as objectively as possible, our unconscious choices may become conscious actions. While we still may not be able to predict exactly what the future holds, we can develop the ability to see the general path on which humankind is traveling. In doing so, we may learn to see choices that were not previously visible to us - and who knows what effects the flapping of even one tiny pair of butterfly wings may have.
Fireball sighted over Pacific Northwest
Green streak likely caused by meteor, scientists say
The Associated Press
Updated: March 13, 2005
PORTLAND, Ore. - A fireball streaked through the night sky across the western half of the Pacific Northwest on Saturday, startling people all the way from southern Oregon to the Seattle area. [...]
"It appears to have come down over the ocean," said Dick Pugh, with the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory in Portland.
He said the object flew over the Pacific Coast, streaking along from south to north.
Melinda Hutson, another expert at the lab, said meteors large enough to turn into fireballs are uncommon.
To get a fireball, it has to be "a big piece of rock or metal ó most are pieces of asteroids. Once every once in a while a piece of the moon or Mars breaks off," she said. [...]
Comment: Well, that's the best explanation for large meteorites that we've ever heard. They just break off of the moon and Mars and go hurtling out into space. Perhaps it was smaller pieces flying up from Mars' surface that took out the Mars probes that have failed. We wonder if NASA has investigated this possibility.
Two other possible explanations are:
a) the Earth is flat, Mars and Moon are hanging over the earth, and once in a while pieces from them fall down on Earth
b) people on the Mars and Moon are throwing stones at the Earth.
Then again, you could combine both hypotheses, and it would explain why it is so easy for them to throw stones and hit us. And, not forgetting the reports of fish and frogs falling from the sky, we may have also found an explanation for such Fortean phenomena. After all, there isn't any water on the moon, and the water on Mars is frozen, so they would have to do something with all of those fish and frogs flopping around in the dust. Why not throw them down on us? After all, our planet has lots of water.
Perhaps the good scientist meant to say large pieces of rock were thrown into space by an impact of a large meteorite on the surfaces of the moon or Mars. Anyone who looks out at the moon on a clear night can see evidence for such events in the past. This explanation, however, amounts to saying that large meteorites are caused by large meteorites, a tautology that does nothing to get to the origins of the matter. It also doesn't explain why the moon and Mars, both smaller than the earth, would get hit while we don't... unless they are deflected out in space by the fish and frogs. Could that be the fabled help from our space brothers? A deflection shield of fish and frogs to protect the planet from meteor and cometary impacts while leaving their own homes in danger?
Bad news - we are way past our 'extinct by' date
Robin McKie, science editor
Created: Sunday March 13, 2005
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice, wrote Robert Frost. But whatever is to be our fate, it is now overdue.
After analysing the eradication of millions of ancient species, scientists have found that a mass extinction is due any moment now.
Their research has shown that every 62 million years - plus or minus 3m years - creatures are wiped from the planet's surface in massive numbers.
And given that the last great extinction occurred 65m years ago, when dinosaurs and thousands of other creatures abruptly disappeared, the study suggests humanity faces a fairly pressing danger. Even worse, scientists have no idea about its source.
'There is no doubting the existence of this cycle of mass extinctions every 62m years. It is very, very clear from analysis of fossil records,' said Professor James Kirchner, of the University of California, Berkeley. 'Unfortunately, we are all completely baffled about the cause.'
The report, published in the current issue of Nature, was carried out by Professor Richard Muller and Robert Rohde also from the Berkeley campus. They studied the disappearances of thousands of different marine species (whose fossils are better preserved than terrestrial species) over the past 500m years.
Their results were completely unexpected. It was known that mass extinctions have occurred in the past. During the Permian extinction, 250m years ago, more than 70 per cent of all species were wiped out, for example. But most research suggested that these were linked to asteroid collisions and other random events.
But Muller and Rohde found that, far from being unpredictable, mass extinctions occur every 62m years, a pattern that is 'striking and compelling', according to Kirchner.
But what is responsible? Here, researchers ran into problems. They considered the passage of the solar system through gas clouds that permeate the galaxy. These clouds could trigger climatic mayhem. However, there is no known mechanism to explain why the passage might occur only every 62m years.
Alternatively, the Sun may possess an undiscovered companion star. It could approach the Sun every 62m years, dislodging comets from the outer solar system and propelling them towards Earth. Such a companion star has never been observed, however, and in any case such a lengthy orbit would be unstable, Muller says.
Or perhaps some internal geophysical cycle triggers massive volcanic activity every 62m years, Muller and Rohde wondered. Plumes from these would surround the planet and lead to a devastating drop in temperature that would freeze most creatures to death.
Unfortunately, scientists know of no such geological cycle.
'We have tried everything we can think of to find an explanation for these weird cycles of biodiversity and extinction,' Muller said. 'So far we have failed. And, yes, we are due one soon, but I would not panic yet.'
Comment: We discussed this report yesterday. We come back to it today because the article from the Guardian does mention that we are past our extinction date, a point overlooked in the other article. It does, however, attempt to recuperate the bad news by ending on the optimistic note that although "we are due one soon", there is no need to panic "yet".
"Go back to asleep. There is no need to worry. What? That meteor in Washington state yesterday? Freak happening. Put it out of your mind."
Source of mystery booms likely to remain unknown
By Paul Garber
'Quiet' N.C. has no seismic-detection network
The mysterious booms that rocked much of downtown Saturday night may remain forever a mystery.
About 8:20 p.m., 911 dispatchers started getting a wave of calls reporting the booms, said Shawn Cline, the hazardous-materials coordinator for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Office of Emergency Management. The calls covered an area of downtown between Glade and Cherry streets, from Brookstown Avenue to the south and West 24th Street to the north, he said.
Cline said that he spent most of yesterday looking at whether a small earthquake or sonic boom might have caused the noise, but by the end of the day he didn't have a solid answer.
There may not be enough earthquake-measuring equipment in the area to determine whether a small earthquake occurred, said Tyler Clark, the chief geologist for the N.C. Geological Survey.
"This is likely to go down in the history books as a mystery," Clark said.
Saturday's booms were about the 10th such report he has had from the Winston-Salem area in the past five years, Clark said.
"These are not anything new," he said. "They've happened to our state for a long time."
A meteor, an outage, a quake, all in a night
Created:Monday, March 14, 2005
Washington residents who looked up at the sky Saturday night saw a great ball of fire ignite the sky. When they went back inside their homes, some of them found only darkness -- and no power.
Seattle utilities officials said it was just a coincidence.
"The power outages that affected the Queen Anne and Magnolia areas had nothing to do with any other phenomena," Sharon Bennett, spokeswoman for Seattle City Light, said yesterday.
Also unrelated to the fireball was the small earthquake that struck the Olympia area Saturday night, experts said.
Scientists said observers saw a fireball -- a large meteor -- streak through the sky across the western half of the Pacific Northwest shortly before 8 p.m. Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration's regional office in Renton and local television stations reported calls from people from southern Oregon to Seattle.
The object zoomed over the Pacific Ocean, traveling from south to north, and likely disintegrated before any fragments fell into the Pacific.
Adding to the post-meteor buzz was another coincidence that lit up phone lines across the Northwest: A coal plant in Montana tripped off a power line at about the same time, causing lights in Seattle to flicker.
As for the larger outage, Bennett said a cable from a Broad Street substation failed, causing electricity to go out on street lights, the Ballard Bridge and in Queen Anne, Magnolia, Westlake and 15th Avenue West. The outage lasted from about 8:10 to 9:30 p.m. and affected 3,000 customers.
Meanwhile, a 3.3-magnitude quake occurred about 15 miles north of Olympia before 8 p.m. Saturday, seismologists said. Some Olympia residents suspected a connection to the fireball.
Asteroid 'to hit us on March 16, 2880'
By Lisa Murray and Richard Macey
Created: March 16, 2005
The world will be bracing itself for a collision with a kilometre-wide asteroid exactly 875 years from today.
There is a 1-in-300 chance of a direct hit, better odds than having the same birthday as your best friend. And it is expected to come closer to Earth than any other object of its size. If it does hit, it will obliterate a land mass the size of Britain or Japan and kill about 60 million people.
Bill McGuire, an expert in natural catastrophes, uses the asteroid example to get people's attention. But as the head of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at the University College London, he is more concerned about events that could take place within 70 years. Professor McGuire told a reinsurance conference in Sydney yesterday that there was a 35 per cent chance of an earthquake of similar size and impact of the great Tokyo earthquake that struck in 1923.
That earthquake cost today's equivalent of $US50 billion and killed or injured more than 150,000 people. If it occurred today, the damages bill would be more than $US3 trillion.
Professor McGuire is also concerned about the 35 to 70 per cent chance that another devastating tsunami will hit somewhere in the globe in the next 70 years.
Professor McGuire is a member of the Natural Hazard Working Group set up by the British Government in January after the Asian tsunami, which left just under 300,000 people dead or missing. The group is looking to form a multi-government panel to assess global threats and plan a response to them. "The Indian Ocean countries knew they had a tsunami threat, but because it only happens every 100 to 200 years they decided not to spend money on it. That was a ridiculous decision."
In terms of the asteroid that was expected to hit Earth on March 16, 2880, he said scientists would have devised a way to divert it by then.
But Professor McGuire is not alone in recognising the threat. Astronomers Gordon Garradd and Rob McNaught at Siding Springs Observatory, near Coonabarabran, have discovered "near-Earth asteroids" at the rate of about one a week.
In December Mr Garradd spotted a 320-metre wide asteroid, which had one in 6250 chance of hitting the Earth by 2055, putting it at the top of the asteroid risk for this century. If it struck Earth, the asteroid would create a blast equal to an 8.7-megatonne nuclear bomb.
Mr Garradd suspects the biggest threat may come from much smaller asteroids.
A meteorite or asteroid 50-metres wide fell over Siberia in 1908, flattening 2000 square kilometres of forest. "I am sure 50-metre objects pass closer than the moon many times a year. Most pass by unseen," Mr Garradd said.
Comment: If one was to take this news story at face value, it would appear that the human inhabitants of earth have nothing much to worry about. According to this "expert in natural catastrophes", even if this 1 in 300 chance massive asteroid were to hit the earth in approximately 900 years, scientists like himself "would have devised a way to divert it by then." Thank God for science!
Of course, his offhand mention that other scientists are discovering near earth asteroids at the rate of one per week seems to indicate that the few in the astronomical community who are actually looking for these space rocks don't really have a clue as to what may be headed our way in the very near future.
Add to this the mountain of geographical, historical and archeological evidence which strongly suggests that the earth regularly undergoes periodic bombardments of celestial debris resulting in massive extinction and climactic upheaval, and the situation becomes much more urgent. According to some researchers, we are long overdue for another cycle of cometary showers, and it may not just occur over the next 70 years, but quite possibly within the next decade.
Add to the pot the dramatic increase in asteroid and meteorite sightings over the last few years, and you have a literal recipe for disaster.
UK's 'comet' crater investigated
Created:Saturday March 19 2005
Scientists have discovered more about what is thought to be the UK's only crater caused by an asteroid or comet.
The crater - known as the Silverpit - is located hundreds of metres under the floor of the North Sea, about 80 miles off the coast of Yorkshire.
Scientists Simon Stewart and Phil Allen have made a 3D map of the crater.
It shows rings sweeping out from a 1.8m hole. Phil said he was "99% certain" that the crater was caused by an impact, but other scientists disagree.
Location of Silverpit
"If you saw that on Mars or any of the other planetary bodies, you wouldn't question it," said Phil.
It's been suggested that the crater was caused by a 7m-tonne, 120-mile wide object about 60 to 65m years ago.
The scientists say the rings of the crater are a good match with those of impact craters on Jupiter's icy moons.
Late last year, solar physicists declared that solar minimum is coming. It certainly is. Monthly-averaged sunspot numbers have reached their lowest levels since 1997:
If this trend holds, solar minimum should arrive in 2006 followed by a rapid ascent back to solar maximum in 2010. It is widely believed that sunspots vanish and solar flares stop--completely--during solar minimum. Not so. Occasional big sunspots will unleash flares and spark auroras in 2006, just not so often as in recent years.
Stargazers attempt to identify UFO
Created: Saturday, April 2, 2005
The Perth Observatory is attempting to figure out if an unidentified object seen in the skies of Western Australian and the Northern Territory earlier tonight, was space junk or a large meteorite.
Astronomer Peter Birch says the unidentified object was tracked from the south coast of Western Australia, to north of Alice Springs.
He says from the reports he has received it was most likely a satellite re-entering the atmosphere.
"That of a large burning object in the sky, flaring getting bright, then getting dim, then getting bright again, with a tail out behind it, which is a fairly common meteor type description, but the thing that is a bit different from a meteor description is that it's been seen over such a large area and for such a long time," he said.
Alice Springs police say they received more than 20 reports of the unidentified object tracking across central Australian skies.
Police say most of the calls came from Alice Springs, but some extended 320 kilometres to the south-west at Yulara and 170 kilometres north at Ti Tree.
Alice Springs resident Fiona Higgins witnessed the rare event.
"I saw what I thought was fireworks and I thought, that's strange because I didn't hear any bang like you would with fireworks and it was going horizontal not vertical and it was the most phenomenal thing with all the pretty colours," she said.
Comment: So whose satellite was it? Not all meteors are tiny, fast-moving "shooting stars". For more recent reports of fireballs and meteorites, see our Signs supplement on the subject.
|Science's Doomsday Team vs. the Asteroids|
|By Guy Gugliotta|
Washington Post Staff Writer
Created: Saturday, April 9, 2005; Page A01
Astronomer David Tholen spotted it last year in the early evening of June 19, using the University of Arizona's Bok telescope. It was a new "near-Earth object," a fugitive asteroid wandering through space to pass close to Earth.
Tholen's team took three pictures that night and three the next night, but storm clouds and the moon blocked further observations. They reported their fixes to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., and moved on.
Six months later, Tholen's object was spotted again in Australia as asteroid "2004 MN4." In the space of five days straddling Christmas, startled astronomers refined their calculations as the probability of the 1,000-foot- wide stone missile hitting Earth rose from one chance in 170 to one in 38.
They had never measured anything as potentially dangerous to Earth. Impact would come on Friday the 13th in April 2029.
The holidays and the tsunami in South Asia pushed 2004 MN4 out of the news, and in the meantime additional observations showed that the asteroid would miss, but only by 15,000 to 25,000 miles -- about one-tenth the distance to the moon. Asteroid 2004 MN4 was no false alarm. Instead, it has provided the world with the best evidence yet that a catastrophic encounter with a rogue visitor from space is not only possible but probably inevitable.
It also demonstrated the tenacity of the small band of professionals and amateurs who track potential impact asteroids, and highlighted the shortcomings of an international system that pays scant attention to their work.
"I used to say the total number of people interested in this was no more than one shift at a McDonald's restaurant," said David Morrison, an astronomer at NASA's Ames Research Center and a student of near-Earth objects for nearly three decades. "Now it's maybe two shifts." Awareness of the apocalyptic potential of near-Earth objects has been slow to develop. It took years for Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez and his son Walter to win acceptance for their 1980 research showing that a near-Earth object impact quite likely caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
"The human brain wouldn't grasp reality until it had somewhat more direct evidence," said Colorado-based planetary scientist Clark R. Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute, another longtime expert on near-Earth objects. "Alvarez provided that."
The vast majority of near-Earth objects are asteroids -- huge rocks or chunks of iron that travel around the sun in eccentric orbits that cross Earth's path periodically. The rest are comets -- ancient piles of dust, stones and ice that come in from the edges of the solar system.
"The good news is that comets represent 1 percent of the danger," said Donald K. Yeomans, who manages NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The bad news is that should we find one, there's not a lot we can do about it. . . . We detect them only nine months from impact."
Comment: It is highly unlikely that the Powers that Be would notify the masses of an impending impact, especially considering the maximum sustainable population figures discussed in the Adventures Series written in the Spring of 2002 by Laura Knight-Jadczyk. In Adventures Chapter 30 she writes:
Getting back to the article...
Asteroids, by contrast, generally offer decades or even centuries of warning -- unless they are too small to detect, in which case there is no warning at all. But today's technology enables astronomers to get a fix on any asteroid capable of causing a global "extinction event" -- six miles in diameter or bigger.
Asteroid 2004 MN4 is a "regional" hazard -- big enough to flatten Texas or a couple of European countries with an impact equivalent to 10,000 megatons of dynamite -- more than all the nuclear weapons in the world. Even though it will be a near miss in 2029, that will not be the last word.
"You don't know what the gravitational effect of the Earth will be," said Brian G. Marsden, who oversees the hunt for near-Earth objects as director of the Minor Planet Center at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
"In 2029, the [close encounter with] Earth will increase the size of the orbit, and the object could get into a resonance with the Earth," he added. "You could get orbit matchups every five years or nine years, or something in between." In fact, 2004 MN4 could come close again in 2034, 2035, 2036, 2037, 2038 or later.
So, what can be done? The first thought, dramatically depicted in the 1998 movies "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," is to nuke the intruder into small pieces so it will burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Many scientists say, however, that this is unacceptably sloppy -- instead of obliterating the target, the bomb could break the asteroid into large radioactive chunks capable of transforming huge stretches of Earth into wasteland.
Or the explosion could deflect but not destroy the asteroid, putting it on a future collision course. A nuclear strategy would also forever require a stockpile of doomsday weapons.
"The cure's worse than the disease," said former Apollo astronaut Russell L. "Rusty" Schweickart. He is a board member of the B612 Foundation, a group of experts promoting a space mission by 2015 to send a "tugboat" spacecraft to a near-Earth object, dock with it and gently alter its speed enough to change its orbit -- to show that it can be done. (B612 is the name of the asteroid home of "The Little Prince," in the Antoine de Saint-Exupery story.) "You want to delay or speed up the asteroid a little," said Berlin- based Alan Harris, chairman of the European Space Agency's Near-Earth Object Mission Advisory Panel. "What kind of surface do you have: Is it rocky? Dusty? Rubbly? How much force can I apply? I don't want to break it up -- unless I really break it up."
B612 has a design but little money, while ESA has spent only a nominal amount to study the feasibility of a reconnaissance mission to an asteroid. NASA, at $4 million a year, is currently the big spender for near-Earth object research.
With this, NASA maintains a database at JPL to plot and record orbits for all known near-Earth objects, and contributes money to the Minor Planet Center and to sky surveys underway at telescopes in Arizona, California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Australia.
The money was authorized after a push from Congress led by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a conservative, and former House Science Committee chairman George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calif.), known as one of Congress's most liberal members before his death in 1999. "I have a vision of something terrible happening, and I feel compelled to see that it doesn't happen," Rohrabacher said.
NASA's task -- which Congress imposed in 1998 -- is to find 90 percent of the estimated 1,100 near-Earth objects that are one kilometer (0.6 miles) or greater in diameter by 2008. As of mid-March, JPL's database included 762 of these.
On March 1, Rohrabacher introduced the George E. Brown Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act, mandating $40 million for a two-year start-up to survey every object 100 meters (328 feet) across or larger, of which there may be 300,000. To date, Marsden has registered 3,265 near-Earth objects of all sizes.
Comment: Gee, that leaves an estimated 296,735 near-Earth objects that we don't know much about, most of which could probably devastate at least a small city...
Tholen, of the University of Hawaii, is a frequent contributor in the search for threatening objects. He specializes in "Atens," a subspecies that orbit mostly between the Earth and the sun and are difficult to see in the glare of the sun. To spot Atens, astronomers must work at dawn or dusk.
Tholen's team, on a field trip to the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, had booked an hour on the evenings of June 19, 20, 23 and 24, 2004. They found a new Aten on the first evening and saw it again on the second evening. It was about 106 million miles away.
The team recorded the sightings and sent them electronically to Marsden, who published the object's position, which he named 2004 MN4 in accordance with a complicated coding system based on the date of discovery.
Tholen waited for another opportunity, but rain clouds cloaked the sky. When the storm passed, the moon was squatting right where the team wanted to look. For the next six months, nobody looked for it.
Then, on Dec. 18, astronomer Gordon Garradd, working at the Siding Springs telescope in Coonabarabran, Australia, 240 miles northwest of Sydney, spotted what he thought was a new near-Earth object, "brightly lit and traveling fast," he recalled. He took four images in his first set, then followed up with two more sets.
Marsden's team put Garradd's data on the center's Web page, a signal for astronomers to get more fixes. On Dec. 20, JPL produced its solution. Chance of impact was one in 2,500 -- nothing to get excited about. "Usually the probability goes down with more observations," Marsden said.
Not this time. On Dec. 23, the risk rose to one in 270, and rose steadily over Christmas and beyond. "We'd never had anything this big come this close, and we'd never predicted anything like it," Marsden said. "It was quite fantastic." The asteroid was 9 million miles away -- about as close as it would get this trip.
By Dec. 26, the impact probability had risen to one chance in 38. What the plotters needed was a "precovery," an overlooked observation from before Tholen's initial June fixes to yield a more precise orbital solution.
In Tucson, astronomers at the Spacewatch Project, at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, started searching their archive. Spacewatch has been surveying the solar system for 20 years, and precovery is a specialty.
"We store [our images] on DVDs," Spacewatch leader Robert S. McMillan said. "If there's something that wasn't automatically sorted by our software, we can usually find it -- if we were looking in the right place at the right time."
They were. On Dec. 27, Spacewatch astronomers Jeffrey Larsen and Anne Descour found 2004 MN4 in a series of images taken March 15, more than three months before Tholen's sighting. They passed the word to JPL, which issued a news bulletin: "An Earth impact on 13 April 2029 can now be ruled out."
Since then, astronomers have continued to observe 2004 MN4 whenever possible, but most of the time it is obscured.
"It would be awfully nice to have information so we don't get surprised," said Schweickart, who advocates flying a small interceptor mission to plant a transponder on 2004 MN4 that would constantly radio its location, tagging it like a grizzly bear. "Our favorite little asteroid might provide enough reality here to provoke people. Maybe we should get serious."
Comment: Indeed. If there is one major characteristic of the search for near-Earth objects (NEO's), it is that the more that "experts" look into the problem, the less they seem to actually understand. There are a huge number of untracked NEO's flying around the BBM. If one tracked NEO can surprise and defy scientists' predictions, what about the other few hundred thousand?
One of the reasons we created our Signs Meteor, Fireball, and NEO Supplement was to demonstrate that there have been numerous reports of near-Earth objects streaking down upon the Earth in recent days. The reports that comprise the supplement are readily available to the masses - and therefore the scientists who are supposed to be tracking NEO's, as well. Given the research into maximum sustainable population (see above), it would appear that those in power have a plan to deal with potential impending cataclysmic changes, and it does not involve notifying any of us in advance.
Strange wind gust hits home
By Jannise Johnson , Staff Writer
Created: Friday, April 08, 2005
Ronald Webb said he thought the world was ending for a few seconds Friday afternoon.
But the weather phenomenon that caused the racket above the home he shares with his wife on East Alvarado Street caused some damage.
Webb's family was working inside the garage at 1:30 p.m. when a "mini tornado' struck an outdoor shelter, he said.
"It sounded like a combination of a train, a sonic boom and a clap of thunder,' Webb said. "It was just crazy. It shook the whole house.'
Webb said the winds hoisted his cabana shelter made of thick wood planks and steel coverings from one corner of his back yard over his home before letting it crash to the street. The shelter was covering a boat, he said.
The shelter was torn to pieces, some of which ended up across the street in a neighbor's front yard. The majority of the debris ended up on Webb's lawn.
No one was injured. But one of Webb's vehicles was damaged and the incident left a few holes in his roof, he said.
Firefighters arrived, but did not stay long, said John Mancha, inspector with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
While Webb said the Fire Department referred to the event as a "mini tornado, ' a spokesman for the National Weather Service disputed that.
"If there are no clouds in the sky, it really can't be classified as a tornado,' said Philip Gonsalves, forecaster for the National Weather Service. There were some gusty winds throughout the area Friday, which may have caused some funnel-type activity, he said. But Gonsalves said he could only speculate what caused the damage.
Webb retained his sense of humor about the situation.
"It's so much fun,' Webb said, looking out over the debris on his front lawn. "I wondered what I was going to do this weekend. Now I know.'
Comment: Morris K. Jessup wrote:
With planes, there is perhaps some added element other than metal fatigue which involves striking some apparently solid object while in the air, or being rent by unimaginable forces just before falling.
Planes seem to hit something which crushes them or tears them apart, which is nevertheless invisible, and which strikes with such suddenness that the pilots do not have time to make an outcry via their ever-live radios.
Then, too, there are cases of dead or frightened birds, and the cases of people being struck by unseen forces, as with seventeen marching soldiers in eighteenth-century France who were simultaneously struck down by an invisible agency.
After analyzing these things, one speculates as to new types of obstacles as well as new forces. Take the mysterious Maunder object, which moved deliberately across the sky above southern England in November 1882. Rand Capron, an authority on auras, said it was auroral, while other equally competent scientists said it was a physical or material object. Then there are the many modern sightings of things which seem to manifest intelligent action, and to possess all normal physical characteristics except mass or weight. We recollect that radar sees things which are not visible to the eye.
From such analysis we come by easy stages to conceive of a force, ray, or focal point, in some force-field either; unknown to us, or at least not understood, which produces rigidity in a localized or sharply delimited volume of air, or possibly in space itself. We are thinking of something like crystals of ice freezing within a body of water. The element remains the same but its physical attributes change suddenly and drastically.
Another example might be the passage of a limited but powerful magnetic field through a scattering of iron filings or iron powder. Before the approach of the magnetic flux, the powder lies loose, flexible, and penetrable. Yet, when the flux enters it, invisibly and imperceptibly to the senses of man, this docile powder become rigid, tenacious, coherent, and at least semisolid. Do the space dwellers have a force which produces this temporary rigidity In the air, or even possibly in the gravitation field itself? Or do they create "local" concentrations of the gravitational field as we are able to do with the magnetic field?
Suppose that some intelligent entity was directing a concentration of potential which could make small volumes of rarefied air rigid, could set up a sort of island in the gravitational or magnetic field, moving the island about as the spot of a searchlight is moved on thin clouds. Such a thing would be invisible, would have many of the physical attributes of a solid body, but very small mass. For example, its movement through the air would be wavelike, and would not involve translation of the medium any more than the spot of the searchlight would require movement of the cloud which enabled the beam to attain visibility. In moving, this island would simply "freeze" on the advancing edge and "thaw" on the trailing edge. In this way it could have almost infinite velocity, and also acceleration, just as the spot of the searchlight. In this manner it would appear to be free of mass, and actually it would be free of mass, because only the force beam would move, not the air. Yet in resisting the impingement of a bird, a plane, or perhaps a meteor, it would have mass, and a very destructive mass at that. A pilot flying a plane into such a body would have no warning. Yet if such a thing were a few hundred yards in diameter, its mass in resisting the plane would be thousands of pounds, perhaps tons. The analogy to a ship hitting an iceberg would be very close.
If such a force island were formed in the upper atmosphere, it might be very possible for it to have many of the physical characteristics of a solid body, and yet in matters of illumination it could behave exactly as any other auroral phenomena. In this connection we must remember that auroral phenomena are magnetic and may be caused by streams of electrons from the sun which are, in effect, precisely the type of force beam upon which we are speculating.
It seems obvious that a single beam could not have the effect which we have suggested, else the freeze would take effect along the entire length of the beam. However, it is possible that the three-dimensional volume enclosed within the intersection of two beams might create such a congealed island.
Speculating further on this weird possibility, remember that oxygen is a magnetic substance. It is not, perhaps, paramagnetic like iron, manganese and nickel, but nevertheless sufficiently magnetic that it can be separated from the other constituents of air by means of a magnetic field.
If such a congealment were possible, consider the result of crossing the two beams at the exact aerial position of a flying plane and congealing the air around and in the plane. Could you, in this way, hold a plane in suspension, or even carry it away? Could you, by a similar concentration of beams, freeze two aviators on the sands of the Arabian Desert, and carry them away? Could you freeze a man and instantly lift him out of sight, or cause him to be invisible within the block or frozen air or oxygen? Could you freeze the crew of a ship, and remove them from the vessel? Could you catch or kill birds, quickly and over a vast area, with such a thing, and dump them on a city in Louisiana? All these peculiar things happened, but we don't know how, or why.
Before we leave this tantalizing topic, give thought to the nature of an aurora borealis. As early as the time of Maunder's object, it was recognized that auroras are magnetic phenomena, or at least associated with the earth's magnetic field. It has been further ascertained that they are related to sunspots, and that they are probably due to the interaction of electronic streams from the sun or from sunspots. Is not an aurora, then, something very much akin to the congealed islands which we have just postulated? Is it not a delimited volume of rarefied air caught within the tripping reaction of an electron stream passing through a magnetic field? Was Maunder's object, then, in a sense both material and nonmaterial; both massive and nonmassive? Is it the encounter with the "pockets" which makes meteors explode? Do they make blips on a radar screen?
Have we a clue here, or are we dangerously close to science fiction?
|What a way to go |
Super-volcano, robotic rebellion or terrorism? Kate Ravilious asks 10 scientists to name the biggest danger to Earth and assesses the chances of it happening
|Created: Thursday April 14, 2005|
|How will it all end? Some say we are likely to go with a bang, others predict a slow lingering end, while the optimists suggest we will overcome our difficulties by evolving into a different species. |
According to Sir Martin Rees, author of Our Final Century, astronomer royal and professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, humans only have a 50-50 chance of making it through the 21st century without serious setback. "Some natural threats, such as earthquakes and meteorite impacts, remain the same throughout time, while others are aggravated by our modern-interconnected world. But now we also need to consider threats that are human induced."
So what are the greatest threats to humans and can we do anything about them? Below, 10 scientists talk about their greatest fears and explain how society could be affected. Afterwards we estimate each threat in two ways: first, the chance of it occurring in our lifetime (the next 70 years); and, second, the danger that it would pose to the human race if it did happen (10 = making humans extinct, to one = barely having an impact on our lives).
1: Climate Change
Nick Brooks is a senior research associate at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia:
"By the end of this century it is likely that greenhouse gases will have doubled and the average global tempera�ture will have risen by at least 2C. This is hotter than anything the Earth has experienced in the last one and a half million years. In the worst case scenario it could completely alter the climate in many regions of the world. This could lead to global food insecurity and the widespread collapse of existing social systems, causing mass migration and conflict over resources as some parts of the world become much less habitable. I don't think that climate change will sound the death knell for humans, but it certainly has the potential to devastate."
Chance of temperatures rising more than 2C (the level considered to be dangerous by the European Union) in the next 70 years: High
Danger score: 6
2: Telomere erosion
Reinhard Stindl, a medical doctor at the University of Vienna, says every species contains an "evolutionary clock", ticking through the generations and counting down towards an inevitable extinction date:
"On the end of every animal's chromosomes are protective caps called telomeres. Without them our chromosomes would become unstable. Each time a cell divides it never quite copies its telomere completely and throughout our lifetime the telomeres become shorter and shorter as the cells multiply. Eventually, when they become critically short, we start to see age-related diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer's, heart attacks and strokes.
"However, it is not just through our lifetime that telomeres get shorter. My theory is that there is a tiny loss of telomere length from one generation to the next, mirroring the process of ageing in individuals. Over thousands of generations the telomere gets eroded down to its critical level. Once at the critical level we would expect to see outbreaks of age-related diseases occurring earlier in life and finally a population crash. Telomere erosion could explain the disappearance of a seemingly successful species, such as Neanderthal man, with no need for external factors such as climate change."
Chances of a human population crash due to telomere erosion during the next 70 years: Low
Danger score: 8
3: Viral Pandemic
Professor Maria Zambon is a virologist and head of the Health Protection Agency's Influenza Laboratory:
"Within the last century we have had four major flu epidemics, along with HIV and Sars. Major pandemics sweep the world every century, and it is inevitable that at least one will occur in the future. At the moment the most serious concern is H5 avian influenza in chickens in south-east Asia. If this virus learns to transmit from human to human then it could sweep rapidly around the world. The 1918 influenza outbreak caused 20m deaths in just one year: more than all the people killed in the first world war. A similar outbreak now could have a perhaps more devastating impact.
"It is not in the interests of a virus to kill all of its hosts, so a virus is unlikely to wipe out the human race, but it could cause a serious setback for a number of years. We can never be completely prepared for what nature will do: nature is the ultimate bioterrorist."
Chance of a viral pandemic in the next 70 years: Very high
Danger score: 3
Professor Paul Wilkinson is chairman of the advisory board for the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews:
"Today's society is more vulnerable to terrorism because it is easier for a malevolent group to get hold of the necessary materials, technology and expertise to make weapons of mass destruction. The most likely cause of large scale, mass-casualty terrorism right now is from a chemical or biological weapon. The large-scale release of something like anthrax, the smallpox virus, or the plague, would have a huge effect, and modern communications would quickly make it become a trans-national problem.
"In an open society, where we value freedoms of movement, we can't guarantee stopping an attack, and there is a very high probability that a major attack will occur somewhere in the world, within our lifetimes."
Chances of a major terrorist attack in the next 70 years: Very high
Danger score: 2
5: Nuclear war
Air Marshal Lord Garden is Liberal Democrat defence spokesman and author of Can Deterrence Last?:
"In theory, a nuclear war could destroy the human civilisation but in practice I think the time of that danger has probably passed. There are three potential nuclear flashpoints today: the Middle East, India-Pakistan and North Korea. Of these, North Korea is the most worrying, with a hair-trigger, conventional army that might start a war by accident. But I like to believe the barriers against using a nuclear weapon remain high because of the way we have developed an international system to restrain nuclear use.
"The probability of nuclear war on a global scale is low, even if there remains the possibility of nuclear use by a rogue state or fanatical extremists."
Chance of a global nuclear war in the next 70 years: Low
Danger score: 8
6: Meteorite impact
Donald Yeomans is manager of Nasa's Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California:
"Over very long timescales, the risk of you dying as a result of a near-Earth object impact is roughly equivalent to the risk of dying in an aeroplane accident. To cause a serious setback to our civilisation, the impactor would have to be around 1.5km wide or larger. We expect an event of this type every million years on average. The dangers associated with such a large impactor include an enormous amount of dust in the atmosphere, which would substantially shut down sunlight for weeks, thus affecting plant life and crops that sustain life. There would be global firestorms as a result of re-entering hot ejecta and severe acid rain. All of these effects are relatively short-term, so the most adaptable species (cockroaches and humans, for example) would be likely to survive."
Chance of the Earth being hit by a large asteroid in the next 70 years: Medium
Danger score: 5
7: Robots taking over
Hans Moravec is a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in Pittsburgh:
"Robot controllers double in complexity (processing power) every year or two. They are now barely at the lower range of vertebrate complexity, but should catch up with us within a half-century. By 2050 I predict that there will be robots with humanlike mental power, with the ability to abstract and generalise.
"These intelligent machines will grow from us, learn our skills, share our goals and values, and can be viewed as children of our minds. Not only will these robots look after us in the home, but they will also carry out complex tasks that currently require human input, such as diagnosing illness and recommending a therapy or cure. They will be our heirs and will offer us the best chance we'll ever get for immortality by uploading ourselves into advanced robots."
Chance of super-intelligent robots in the next 70 years: High
Danger score: 8
8: Cosmic ray blast from exploding star
Nir Shaviv is a senior lecturer in physics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel:
"Once every few decades a massive star from our galaxy, the Milky Way, runs out of fuel and explodes, in what is known as a supernova. Cosmic rays (high-energy particles like gamma rays) spew out in all directions and if the Earth happens to be in the way, they can trigger an ice age. If the Earth already has a cold climate then an extra burst of cosmic rays could make things really icy and perhaps cause a number of species to become extinct. The Earth is at greatest risk when it passes through a spiral arm of the Milky Way, where most of the supernova occur. This happens approximately every 150m years. Paleoclimate indicators show that there has been a corresponding cold period on Earth, with more ice at the poles and many ice ages during these times.
"We are nearly out of the Sagittarius-Carina arm of the Milky Way now and Earth should have a warmer climate in a few million years. But, in around 60m years we will enter the Perseus arm and ice-house conditions are likely to dominate again."
Chance of encountering a supernova in the next 70 years: Low
Danger score: 4
Professor Bill McGuire is director of the Benfield Hazard Research Centre at University College London and a member of Tony Blair's Natural Hazards working group:
"Approximately every 50,000 years the Earth experiences a super-volcano. More than 1,000 sq km of land can be obliterated by pyroclastic ash flows, the surrounding continent is coated in ash and sulphur gases are injected into the atmosphere, making a thin veil of sulphuric acid all around the globe and reflecting back sunlight for years to come. Daytime becomes no brighter than a moonlit night.
"The global damage from a super-volcano depends on where it is and how long the gas stays in the atmosphere. Taupo in New Zealand was the most recent super-volcano, around 26,500 years ago. However, the most damaging super-volcano in human history was Toba, on Sumatra, Indonesia, 74,000 years ago. Because it was fairly close to the equator it injected gas quickly into both hemispheres. Ice core data shows that temperatures were dramatically reduced for five to six years afterwards, with freezing conditions right down to the tropics.
"A super-volcano is 12 times more likely than a large meteorite impact. There is a 0.15% probability that one will happen in your lifetime. Places to watch now are those that have erupted in the past, such as Yellowstone in the US and Toba. But, even more worryingly, a super-volcano could also burst out from somewhere that has never erupted before, such as under the Amazon rainforest."
Chance of a super-volcano in the next 70 years: Very high
Danger score: 7
10: Earth swallowed by a black hole
Richard Wilson is Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics at Harvard University in the US:
"Around seven years ago, when the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider was being built at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, there was a worry that a state of dense matter could be formed that had never been created before. At the time this was the largest particle accelerator to have been built, making gold ions crash head on with immense force. The risk was that this might form a stage that was sufficiently dense to be like a black hole, gathering matter from the outside. Would the Brookhaven labs (and perhaps the entire Earth) end up being swallowed by a black hole created by the new accelerator?
"Using the information we already know from black holes in outer space, we did some calculations to find out if the Brookhaven particle accelerator was capable of forming such a black hole. We are now pretty certain this state of matter won't form at Brookhaven and that the Earth won't be swallowed when these particles collide."
Chance of Earth being gobbled up by a black hole in the next 70 years: Exceedingly lowDanger score: 10
'Huge ball of fire' over Spain
Created: 13 April 2005
A meteorite that residents described as a "huge ball of fire" was spotted on Wednesday over the eastern Spanish regions of Catalonia and Valencia, according to astronomers in the region.
"We received scores of calls from witnesses, who at first thought it was an asteroid flashing past. But judging from its size, it was a meteorite," said a spokesperson for a Catalonia-based astronomers' association.
Motorists spotted the glowing sphere from the motorway linking Spain with southern France and reported seeing it break up into fragments.
The meteorite glowed a greenish hue as it sped through the atmosphere on a northeast-southeast trajectory.
"That leads us to think it fell into the sea," the spokesperson said.
The observatory at Valencia University said it estimates the celestial body was travelling at around 10 000kph when it entered the atmosphere.
|Revised Asteroid Scale Aids Understanding Of Impact Risk|
|Boston MA (SPX) Apr 13, 2005|
Astronomers led by an MIT professor have revised the scale used to assess the threat of asteroids and comets colliding with Earth to better communicate those risks with the public.
The overall goal is to provide easy-to-understand information to assuage concerns about a potential doomsday collision with our planet.
The Torino scale, a risk-assessment system similar to the Richter scale used for earthquakes, was adopted by a working group of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1999 at a meeting in Torino, Italy.
On the scale, zero means virtually no chance of collision, while 10 means certain global catastrophe.
"The idea was to create a simple system conveying clear, consistent information about near-Earth objects [NEOs]," or asteroids and comets that appear to be heading toward the planet, said Richard Binzel, a professor in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and the creator of the scale.
Some critics, however, said that the original Torino scale was actually scaring people, "the opposite of what was intended," said Binzel. Hence the revisions.
"For a newly discovered NEO, the revised scale still ranks the impact hazard from 0 to 10, and the calculations that determine the hazard level are still exactly the same," Binzel said.
The difference is that the wording for each category now better describes the attention or response merited for each.
For example, in the original scale NEOs of level 2-4 were described as "meriting concern." The revised scale describes objects with those rankings as "meriting attention by astronomers" -not necessarily the public.
Equally important in the revisions, says Binzel, "is the emphasis on how continued tracking of an object is almost always likely to reduce the hazard level to 0, once sufficient data are obtained."
The general process of classifying NEO hazards is roughly analogous to hurricane forecasting. Predictions of a storm's path are updated as more and more tracking data are collected.
According to Dr. Donald K. Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object Program Office, "The revisions in the Torino Scale should go a long way toward assuring the public that while we cannot always immediately rule out Earth impacts for recently discovered near-Earth objects, additional observations will almost certainly allow us to do so."
The highest Torino level ever given an asteroid was a 4 last December, with a 2 percent chance of hitting Earth in 2029.
And after extended tracking of the asteroid's orbit, it was reclassified to level 0, effectively no chance of collision, "the outcome correctly emphasized by level 4 as being most likely," Binzel said.
"It is just a matter of the scale becoming more well known and understood. Just as there is little or no reason for public concern over a magnitude 3 earthquake, there is little cause for public attention for NEO close encounters having low values on the Torino scale."
He notes that an object must reach level 8 on the scale before there is a certainty of an impact capable of causing even localized destruction.
The Torino scale was developed because astronomers are spotting more and more NEOs through projects like the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research project at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory.
"There's no increase in the number of asteroids out there or how frequently they encounter our planet. What's changed is our awareness of them," Binzel notes.
As a result, astronomers debated whether they should keep potential NEO collisions secret or "be completely open with what we know when we know it," Binzel said. The IAU working group, of which Binzel is secretary, resoundingly decided on the latter.
The revised wording of the scale was published last fall in a chapter of "Mitigation of Hazardous Comets and Asteroids" (Cambridge University Press). The revisions were undertaken through consultation with astronomers worldwide for nearly a year before being published.
Binzel concludes that "the chance of something hitting the Earth and having a major impact is very unlikely. But although unlikely, it is still not impossible. The only way to be certain of no asteroid impacts in the forecast is to keep looking."
Mystery of asteroid orbit baffles experts
Created: April 18th 2005
SCIENTISTS are warning they cannot predict where a giant asteroid will go after it passes close to the Earth.
The huge ball of rock, labelled 2005 MN4, will pass within 25,000 miles of our planet on Friday, 13 April, 2029. The asteroid is large enough to flatten the state of Texas or part of Western Europe.
After the near-miss, the Earth's gravity may deflect the asteroid into a new orbit.
Dr Benny Peiser, an anthropologist and asteroid hazard expert from Liverpool's John Moore's University, said: "In all likelihood it will produce an orbit that will not intercept the Earth, but we don't know, and that's the problem."
Comment: Given the recent "hail" of bolides and meteorites the earth has been experiencing, we suspect that by 2029, those left alive on the planet will find themselves scavenging through the detritus that was once our "highly evolved" society and seeking shelter from the perpetual cold wind.
Asteroid Belt Discovered Around Our Sun's "Twin"
for National Geographic News
Created: April 21, 2005
NASA's orbiting Spitzer Space Telescope has found evidence of a massive asteroid belt around a "twin" of our own sun.
Kim Weaver, a Spitzer Space Telescope scientist, said the finding marks "the first time that scientists have found evidence for a massive asteroid belt around a mature, sunlike star."
"This region around the star is the sort of place where rocky planets [like Earth] may form," Weaver said yesterday at a press conference from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The star, dubbed HD69830, is some 41 light-years away—which, in space terms, is practically our own backyard. Part of the constellation Puppis, the star is a tad too faint to see with the unaided eye.
The discovery may help reveal how other Earth-like planets could be formed and whether our own solar system is common or unique in space. [...]
MINETTO MAN'S SKYGAZING PASSION IS 'LUNAR-CY'
By DEBRA LUPIEN ROBILLARD, Features Editor
MINETTO - Amateur astonomer Joseph Bush said he can, and does, spend hours at a time with his eye to the lens watching the Moon.
"I've been fascinated with the Moon since I was a kid," said Bush. He remembers his first telescope was from the Montgomery Ward catalog - a far cry from the remote-controlled, 1,900mm Meade 125 scope he uses now.
"I can pick up a marble sitting on the Moon with this thing," he added, nodding at his telescope.
Which is why at 4 o'clock in the morning on clear nights, while most of us are asleep in our beds, Bush can be found out on his back deck or front yard staring into space.
Bush said although he has no formal training in astronomy, he has been researching and reading everything he can, particularly about the Moon.
"People say the Moon is dead, but it's still alive," he said. "I've got (photos with) eruptions coming off of the Moon."
Bush takes pictures with a 35mm camera attached to the telescope, using 110 speed black-and-white film to eliminate what he calls "noise," or spots, on the photos you would normally get with color film. He pointed out as there is no atmosphere on the Moon, he cannot say the short-lived eruptions are volcanic, but suggests it is high-pressure steam being released.
Bush claims he is the only man who has caught an eruption on the Moon on film. He keeps up a e-mail correspondence with Dr. James B, Garvin, lead scientist for Mars Exploration with NASA.
"When I sent him my photos, they actually turned the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to check it out," he said.
According to an e-mail received from Garvin by Bush, this is indeed unusual as the HST is used primarily for space observations much further away than the Moon, which is "only" about 384,403 kilometers (238,857 miles) from Earth, a figure that changes as it orbits Earth.
Because of how busy the HST is for what Garvin describes as "critical astrophysical observations, finding time to make lunar observations with it is difficult.
"This is why it is important for people such as yourselves and other Earth-based telescopic observers to continue to look at the Moon," writes Garvin.
Although he prefers the manual method, his state-of-the-art telescope is equipped with a remote control which can pinpoint about 40,000 different celestial bodies. All you need to do, explained Bush, is set the telescope up so it is facing dead north, select the body you want to view and press "go to" on the remote.
"I once actually caught a meteor as it slammed into the Moon," said Bush. "I saw a blue flash and then I could see dirt flying all over when it hit."
Bush said it is common to see meteorites, pieces of a meteor, hitting the Moon's surface, however, but it was a rare occurrence to catch a meteor strike.
"The Moon is our sister planet," he said. "It keeps us in orbit, governs our seas and it takes a lot of (meteorite) hits for us."
He said by Lake Ontario and in particular, Fair Haven, are great places to set up because they are so clear. Bush has a photo of what is called a star burst, which is when a star explodes.
"It's so far away, it probably actually exploded millions of years ago, and we are just seeing it now," he said.
Because he watches the Moon so often and for hours at a time, Bush has seen things he said he cannot identify, which he calls, of course, UFOs (unidentified flying objects).
"Everything I've taken (photos) so far as the UFOs have come from the southwest (sky)," he said. "I've picked up some small unidentified objects between 700-900 miles out."
When it comes to UFOs, he said his colleagues at NASA, such as Garvin, of course will neither confirm nor deny these sightings as UFOs. But, this does not deter Bush, who understands NASA's stance on the matters of UFOs. He continues to send NASA all of his sightings, under the enthusiastic encouragement of Garvin who writes, "Both Dr. (Anne) Kinney, our leading astronomer and director at NASA headquarters, and myself are very impressed with your work and interest and look forward to continued interactions."
Bush resides in Minetto with his wife, Betty.
Earth's gravity may lure deadly asteroid
By Nigel Hawkes
Created: 18.April, 2005
A HUGE asteroid which is on a course to miss the Earth by a whisker in 2029 could go round its orbit again and score a direct hit a few years later.
Astronomers have calculated that the 1,000ft-wide asteroid called 2004 MN4 will pass by the Earth at a distance of between 15,000 and 25,000 miles - about a tenth of the distance between the Earth and the Moon and close enough to be seen with the naked eye.
Although they are sure that it will miss us, they are worried about the disturbance that such a close pass will give to the asteroid's orbit. It might put 2004 MN4 on course for a collision in 2034 or a year or two later: the unpredictability of its behaviour means that the danger might not become apparent until it is too late. [...]
Impact risk scale revised
Created: April 19, 2005
Astronomers tone down the Torino Earth-impact scale.
After 5 years of frequently controversial warnings about possible-but- unlikely asteroid encounters, astronomers have modified the Torino impact hazard scale. They hope the revised scale will let them inform the public about near-Earth objects (NEOs) without causing needless alarm.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronomers created the Torino scale in 1999 to alert the public to the risk of asteroids or comets striking Earth. The scale ranked Earth-approaching objects from zero, virtually no risk of impact or damage, to ten, a certain "global climatic catastrophe." [...]
The new scale suggests that public attention is merited only if there is more than one chance in 100 of a regionally damaging impact within a decade.
Previously, a NEO rating of 2 on the Torino scale would have been described as "meriting concern." Now, however, it will carry the comment, "While meriting attention by astronomers, there is no cause for public attention … or concern."
Many astronomers support the change. "This is a step toward making the public aware of this very low probability but high risk phenomenon," says Yeomans.[...]
Robert Adler is a freelance science writer living in Santa Rosa, California. He is the author of Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation (Wiley & Sons, 2002).
'Fireball' In The Sky Thrills And Scares People Across Region
Day Staff Writers
As daylight was fading over the marsh behind Rick and Kim Swan's house in Old Saybrook Sunday night, a group of about 22 parents and children were setting up in the Swans' back yard and on the deck to check out the full moon, Jupiter and Saturn.
The “moon and star party” was part of a lesson on the solar system for the home-schoolers, who were both making and setting up telescopes. At about 7:45 p.m., the sky had not yet darkened enough for their observation — but they got a startling, and impressive, bonus.
A ball of flame rocketed across the twilight sky, racing east to west before vanishing somewhere over Long Island Sound.
“It was huge,” Kim Swan said. “It was really large, and it was white and yellow with green around the edges. It was really beautiful.”
People from throughout the region, and as far away as Maine, began calling police and fire departments Sunday night with reports of a multicolored object traveling from east to west at high speed. The Coast Guard put out an alert to look for an airplane that had possibly crashed near the Thimble Islands in Branford while police and firefighters were dispatched to reports that airplanes had crashed at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme and South Windham.
The Old Saybrook amateur astronomers, as space aficionados like to say, were not alone.
People called local fire and police stations to report a plane and flashes of green or orange flames in the sky, said John Mincey, a petty officer with the U.S. Coast Guard's Long Island Sound office.
What everyone saw at about the same time, however, was neither a UFO, a plane in the throes of crashing, or an errant satellite.
What they saw were meteors, possibly from the Lyrid meteor shower, which was scheduled to be visible to the naked eye between April 20 and April 25.
It took about an hour for local emergency officials, town leaders, air tower operators at the region's airports, and state and federal emergency crews to figure that out. Although callers never reported a plane being down, emergency officials could not immediately rule out that possibility, said John Harland, a U.S. Coast Guard duty officer at the Long Island Sound office.
Eventually, at the Federal Aviation Administration's New England division, experts checked with Tweed and Groton-New London airports and metropolitan airports along the seaboard, and determined that no aircraft was unaccounted for , said Holly Baker, an FAA spokeswoman. [...]
At the Long Island Sound office, Mincey and Harland likewise heard no reports of distress from callers. Within the hour, one of the Coast Guard's own vessels confirmed what emergency workers were only too happy to hear: the debris lighting up the night sky belonged to the tails of meteors.
Mystic Seaport Planetarium supervisor Donald Treworgy said the eyewitness reports indicate that what people saw was a meteor.
“A fireball is the term that people often use to describe an exceptionally bright meteor,” he said. “It could be a piece of space junk but the military keeps close tabs on those types of things.”
He said the color of the meteor depends on what it is made of and said they sometimes leave a trail.
“I didn't see it. I wish I had,” he said.
Sarah Porter of Stonington described a white ball with a red tail and said it did not appear to be a plane to her. People described the meteor has having a whole spectrum of different colors.
“It was so close it looked like it was going to hit Stonington Point,” she said.
Louise Brown of Stonington said it was not traveling level like an airplane but shooting down toward the Earth's surface.
Treworgy said that meteors often look like they are much closer than they really are.
Jana Noyes Dakota of Mystic said she was on Long Hill Road in Groton when she saw it.
She said the blue green irridescent object was traveling very fast and then suddenly stopped and disappeared from the sky. She said it made no sound.
“It was pretty cool,” she said.
Swan said her daughter, Kelsey, heard a hissing sound just before the meteor shot past
“It looked a lot closer than any others that I've seen,” said Sally Faulkner of Old Saybrook, who was at the Swans' house. “There was a definite, fiery streaming path. You could really see that it was a flaming thing, and that made it seem much closer.”
Kim Swan said the group knew the fireball was not an airplane or a missile because of its shape and its velocity. But for several seconds after the meteor disappeared, she said, they waited to hear it land. They didn't hear anything.
“My first thought was, ‘Was that a meteor?' ” Swan said. “Then I was waiting for a boom because it was big. ... I'm still wondering where it touched down. I'm still thinking in the Sound, if no one on Long Island has said they have a hole or a big fire.”
“There was a big gasp and a big, ‘Did you see that?' everybody in a chorus,” Faulkner said. “Here we were to look at the night sky and we never thought we'd have such a spectacular sight. Those are the things you read about but don't often get to see.”
Comment: If you missed it last night, there is a pretty good chance you'll have a chance to see one in the not too distant future. Check out ourmeteor supplement for many other reports of fireballs raining down upon us from the skies over the last three years. It is up to ten pages and counting.
Our research indicates that fireballs like this are not flukes. Our planet is entering a periodic return of pennies from Heaven that will cascade down upon us with possibly devastating results.
Fireball lights up the sky
By DEAN PRITCHARD, STAFF REPORTER
Created: Wed, April 27, 2005
A huge meteor exploded over the Manitoba sky early Saturday evening, rattling windows and leaving a fire trail visible from Minnedosa to Arborg. "People that actually saw the fireball described it as a flaming baseball that had an orange trail of flames and smoke behind it that went shooting across the sky and exploded," said Scott Young, astronomer for The Manitoba Museum Planetarium.
Young said the planetarium started receiving a flood of phone calls after the meteor blazed through the atmosphere about 7 p.m.
Young estimated the meteor was the size of "a large suitcase" before it exploded upon entering the Earth's atmosphere.
"It was big enough that it gave off so much energy it could be seen in broad daylight, which is the rare part of it. The explosion tells us that it was a fairly big object that basically exploded in the upper atmosphere so that any pieces from it could be scattered over a wide area."
Young wants to hear from anyone who saw the meteor fall to Earth. The more reports the planetarium receives, the better the odds of narrowing down where exactly the meteor fragments landed.
"We have to find a way to narrow down the search area because right now we have a 100 kilometres by 50 kilometres to scan and if you are looking for a rock the size of your fist in the middle of April, good luck," he said.
Only seven meteorites have ever been recovered in Manitoba.
Anyone who saw the meteor can call the [planetarium at 956-2830 or e-mail a report to email@example.com.
Meteor sighting thrills astronomers
Last Updated Apr 26 2005
WINNIPEG - Local stargazing experts have been fielding dozens of calls from people who spotted a massive meteor in the daytime sky over western Manitoba on Saturday.
Scott Young of the Manitoba Museum's planetarium says calls are coming in "fast and furious" from people who saw or heard the meteor, which passed over Riding Mountain before exploding high over the St. Ambroise area, north of Portage la Prairie.
"About half the people only heard it because of the sonic boom - the explosion - and people were thinking maybe it's a plane crash or something like that. They ran outside and would see this cloud of smoke that was expanding in the upper atmosphere that was visible for tens of minutes," says Young.
"The people who saw it described it as a flaming baseball or a Roman candle with all sorts of flames and trailing smoke arching across the sky and then detonating in a final explosion. Sounds like a spectacular sight."
Young says this type of thing doesn't happen very often.
"We've been trying to find other references to meteors that were bright enough to be seen in the daytime, and there's a handful throughout all recorded history in the Prairies at all. There was one in Manitoba maybe 20 years ago," he says.
"It's a very rare kind of thing. Most of the meteors that we see at night are just little grains of sand, and a really bright one might be the size of a marble. But this was probably the size of a suitcase."
Young hopes more people will contact him to say where they were and what direction they were looking when they saw the space rock hurtling through the sky, so he can pinpoint the exact details of the meteor's path.
"What we need to do is get a bunch of reports, put them all together and that will help us narrow down the search area for looking for pieces," he says. "Almost certainly this event would have produced at least one sizeable chunk of meteorite which would have made it to the ground, and we'd like to find it."
Comment: A huge meteorite sighting over Manitoba on Saturday, and another over Long Island two days later. What was once a rare, once-in-a-lifetime event, is now becoming so commonplace it almost seems as if the sky is falling all around us. Like a strong summer shower that begins with the occasional raindrop felt here and there, these rocks now falling from the sky could well be signalling the beginning of a deluge of space debris headed our way.
Marco residents get big 'boom,' rude awakening
By BILLY BRUCE,
Created: April 26, 2005
(Florida) - It wasn't a tsunami rolling ashore, or an earthquake, or a terrorist attack or a bank robbery.
But it might have been a sonic boom that gave some Marco Island residents a rude awakening Monday, giving a shaky start to an otherwise weather-perfect day.
Larry Laporte of Detroit was asleep at his brother's home on Magnolia Court off Bald Eagle Drive when he heard a loud explosion, similar to what Floridians hear when a space shuttle approaches the state for a landing.
Only problem is, there was no shuttle scheduled for a Monday landing.
The big boom rattled windows and shook foundations at homes and businesses, witnesses reported.
"You could see things move . . . garage doors," Laporte said. "We were quite surprised. We didn't know whether we should go ahead and get in the boat to wait for the tsunami."
Laporte called the Marco Island Police Department, where employees also experienced the noisy interruption.
Michele Nichols and Rhonda Cox, who carry out police duties in the department's reception area at San Marco Road and Heathwood Drive, fielded as many as 12 calls from alarmed residents, Police Chief Roger Reinke said.
Reinke at first suspected that an automobile accident had occurred just outside his shop on busy San Marco.
"The noise did prompt me to check the intersections near the station to determine if there had been a crash," Reinke said. "One of the popular theories is that it was a sonic boom caused by a military aircraft training over the Gulf of Mexico. We have not been able to verify that."
It might have been an Air Force jet training on a practice route from Homestead Air Force Base, the chief acknowledged, but didn't pass up a chance for jest.
"It's the big bang theory," Reinke joked. "The universe is expanding. Or maybe the cauldron under Yellowstone Park finally exploded."
ALASKAN SKY FLASH INVESTIGATED
Created: Apr 24.05
As 37-year-old John Kempen traveled the Parks Highway to Nenana at about 2 a.m. Saturday, he watched the sky, hoping to point out the northern lights to his girlfriend.
But instead of spotting a blur of emerald green, Kempen saw a bright flash of bluish white with sparks for a tail and fiery "chunks breaking off."
The comet-like object, maybe the size of a basketball, slid across the sky from the southwest to the northeast.
Kempen figured the object was a meteor.
According to Neal Brown, director of the space grant program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, Kempen probably saw a piece of space junk.
An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 pieces of useless debris orbit the Earth, Brown said, and more is continually added. Among the objects are rocket motors, and bolts and flanges, which are adapters between rocket motors. Also orbiting the earth are old satellites and out-of-commission spacecraft.
"From about 100 to 5,000 miles away from the Earth, it's a virtual junkyard," Brown said. "I think there's an astronaut's glove still out there."
Gravity pulls the junk back to Earth.
"It's coming in all the time," Brown said.
The main reason Kempen's sighting sounds more like junk than a meteor is that it exhibited color, Brown said.
"Meteors don't have any blue or green or any colors," he said. "Most of the meteors are just rocks."
Secondly, the sighting was in the wrong part of the sky to be a Lyrid meteor, which would likely travel from northeast to southwest.
"It's the exact opposite of what they described," Brown said. "It still could have been a meteor, but I really don't think so."