16 April 2007

September - October 2005

Changes in Saturn Rings Baffle Scientists


AP Science Writer

Mon Sep 5, 7:18 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - New observations by the international Cassini spacecraft reveal that Saturn's trademark shimmering rings, which have dazzled astronomers since Galileo's time, have dramatically changed over just the past 25 years.

Among the most surprising findings is that parts of Saturn's innermost ring - the D ring - have grown dimmer since the Voyager spacecraft flew by the planet in 1981, and a piece of the D ring has moved 125 miles inward toward Saturn.

While scientists puzzle over what caused the changes, their observations could reveal something about the age and lifetime of the rings.

Cassini-related discoveries were discussed Monday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's division of planetary sciences in Cambridge, England.

"I don't think Saturn's rings will disappear anytime soon, but this tells us how the rings are evolving and how long they might last, " deputy project scientist Linda Spilker said in a telephone interview from England.

Scientists are interested in Saturn's rings because they are a model of the disk of gas and dust that initially surrounded the sun. Studying them could yield important clues about how the planets formed from that disc 4.5 billion years ago.

The ring observations were made this summer. The $3.3 billion Cassini mission, funded by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, was launched in 1997. Cassini is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Posted on SOTT 8 Sept

Deep Impact space collision reveals comets to be fluffy balls of powder

Ian Sample, science correspondent

The Guardian

Wednesday September 7, 2005

To medieval observers, they were mysterious harbingers of doom, but thanks to an unprecedented act of celestial vandalism, scientists have unveiled some of the innermost secrets of comets.

Out is the long-held view of hardened, dirty snowballs hurtling through space. In is the comet as a fluffy ball of powder, blowing puffs of dust whenever sunlight falls on it.

The insight came yesterday when researchers announced the first detailed results of Deep Impact, an elaborate experiment played out in space on July 4. Under the gaze of cameras on nearby spacecraft and more than 70 ground-based telescopes, the Deep Impact probe fired a metre-long copper bullet on a collision course with a 4-mile-wide block of dust and ice known as Comet 9P/Tempel 1.

The 23,000mph collision produced a huge crater and gave scientists their first ever look inside a speeding comet.

"Prior to our Deep Impact experiment, scientists had a lot of questions and untested ideas about the structure and composition of the nucleus of a comet, but we had almost no real knowledge," said Michael A'Hearn, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland and lead scientist on the Deep Impact project.

Prof A'Hearn's team is still trying to locate the crater the projectile gouged out of the comet, because the cloud of dust produced on impact obscured cameras aboard the Deep Impact probe as it flew past. But measurements of the particles knocked out of the comet during the collision revealed some intriguing details of its make-up.

Most striking is that the comet is not made up of very much at all. "It's mostly empty," said Prof A'Hearn. The fine particles of dust and ice are held together extremely loosely, with pores thought to run throughout. "We have deduced that around 75% to 80% of the nucleus is empty and that tells me there is probably no solid nucleus. That is a significant advance in our understanding," said Prof A'Hearn.

The finding overturns the view held by some scientists that comets were hard balls of solid dust and ice. "The outer several tens of metres of the cometary material is extremely fragile," said Prof A'Hearn whose study is published online by Science Express today.

Images of the comet before impact showed it released bursts of gas and dust into space when sunlight heated up its surface.

When Deep Impact's copper bullet slammed into the comet, it produced a crater estimated to be the size of a football pitch and some tens of metres deep. The impact knocked thousands of tonnes of material into space.

Among the material were a host of organic molecules. Some scientists believe that comets carried these compounds to other planets, releasing them on impact, and seeding them with the building blocks of life. "I'd argue that's more likely now, because we saw this big enhancement of organic material coming out on impact," said Prof A'Hearn.

The researchers were also keen to see if their speeding projectile would divert the comet from its orbit, a strategy that might be used in defence should a comet or asteroid be detected on a collision course with Earth.

"What we have learned is important to designing a diversion technique. Knowing it's highly porous and highly fragile is important and knowing how much material came out, and how fast, tells you how efficiently you can transfer energy to it," said Prof A'Hearn.

Comment: There are two problems with this report. The first is that one cannot immediately assume that all comets have the same composition. Certainly the new data is interesting, but shouldn't the new theory be verified? The second problem is that scientists involved in Deep Impact previously claimed that there was little chance the comet would disrupt the orbit of Tempel 1. Now they say there were quite interested in learning if the impact would disrupt the orbit so that a similar experiment could intentionally alter the orbit of a comet headed for Earth in the future.

Largest Asteroid Might Contain More Fresh Water than Earth

By Bjorn Carey

SPACE.com Staff Writer

posted: 07 September 2005

The largest known asteroid could contain more fresh water than Earth and looks like our planet in other ways, according to a new study that further blurs the line between planets and large space rocks.

Astronomers took 267 images of asteroid Ceres using the Hubble Space Telescope. From these images and subsequent computer simulations, they suggest Ceres may have a rocky inner core and a thin, dusty outer crust.

A team led by Peter Thomas of Cornell University said today that Ceres is nearly spherical, which suggests that gravity controls its shape. Also, the asteroid's non-uniform shape indicates that material is not evenly distributed throughout the inside.

These and other new clues, including Ceres' low density, point to an interior loaded with frozen water, the astronomers said.

The results are detailed in the Sept. 8 issue of the journal Nature.

Big and round

Ceres has long been considered one of the tens of thousands of asteroids that make up the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. At 580 miles (930 km) in diameter – about the size of Texas – it's the largest asteroid in the belt, accounting for about 25 percent of the belt's total mass.

Astronomers had thought Ceres might never have been heated enough to create layers of material.

But computer models now suggest Ceres has a differentiated interior – dense material in the core and lighter stuff near the surface. Possible configurations include a mantle rich in water ice around a rocky core.

If this mantle is composed of at least 25 percent water, Ceres would have more fresh water than Earth, according to a statement released by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Hubble for NASA and the European Space Agency.

"The most likely scenario from the knowledge we have on how other objects form, it probably has a rocky core and a mantle. That mantle is probably some watery, icy mix, with other dirt and constituents. That mantle could be as much as ¼ of the whole object," study coauthor Joel Parker of the Southwest Research Institute told SPACE.com. "Even though it's a small object compared to Earth, there could be a lot of water."

On Earth, fresh water makes up only a thin layer just a few miles deep in some places, less in others. The water layer proposed for Ceres, while smaller in circumference, is many miles thicker.

The total volume of water on Earth is about 1.4 billion cubic kilometers, around 41 million of which is fresh water. If Ceres' mantle accounts for 25 percent of the asteroid's mass, that would translate to an upper limit of 200 million cubic kilometers of water, Parker said.

Since all the nine "regular" planets have differentiated interiors, this new view of Ceres has some astronomers calling Ceres a "mini-planet," adding fuel to an ongoing debate over exactly what qualifies as a planet.

Embryonic world

Other researchers recently announced the discovery of 2003 UB313, a round object in our solar system 1-1/2 times larger than Pluto and about three times further away from the Sun. But even an object of this size – at 2,100 miles in diameter roughly four times the size of Ceres – doesn't receive universal endorsement as being a planet.

One astronomer, Brian Marsden, who runs the Minor Planet Center where data on small bodies is collected, says that if Pluto is considered a planet, then any other round worlds should also be considered planets. Under this definition, which some other astronomers subscribe to, Ceres 2003 UB313 and a handful of other large objects would be named planets. The alternative, Marsden and others say, is to stop calling Pluto a planet.

Another explanation is that Ceres is a sort of 'baby' planet – an underdeveloped version of Earth and other rocky planets. Looked at this way, Ceres appears as other fledgling planets might have looked more than 4 billion years ago.

The leading theory for planet formation holds that small rocks collided, stuck and gradually grew. Depending on location and orbit, a developing world may or may not have encountered enough raw material to become as large as the four traditional rocky planets.

"Ceres is an embryonic planet," said observation team member Lucy McFadden of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland. "Gravitational perturbations from Jupiter billions of years ago prevented Ceres from accreting more material to become a full-fledged planet."

In 2015 scientists will get a close up look at Ceres when the NASA Dawn mission orbits the asteroid. A closer look should provide more clues about the asteroid's composition.

Posted on SOTT 9 Sept

Solar flare affects communications, disruptions possible

Thursday, September 8, 2005 Posted: 1136 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A large solar flare was reported Wednesday and forecasters warned of potential electrical and communications disruptions.

The flare was reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Significant solar eruptions are possible in the coming days and there could be disruptions in spacecraft operations, electric power systems, high frequency communications and low-frequency navigation systems, the agency said.

"This flare, the fourth largest in the last 15 years, erupted just as the ... sunspot cluster was rotating onto the visible disk of the sun," said Larry Combs, solar forecaster at the center.

The flare has affected some high-frequency communications on the sunlit side of Earth, NOAA reported.

Comment: Spaceweather.com reports:

Solar activity is very high. Forecasters predict a 50% chance of powerfulX-class flares during the next 24 hours. Such flares could cause radio blackouts, auroras and radiation storms.

The source of all this activity is sunspot 798. Since it appeared at the sun's eastern limb on Sept. 7th, it has unleashed three major solar flares: an X17-category blast on Sept 7th (1740 UT), an X5 on Sept 8th (2105 UT), and an X1 on Sept. 9th (0300 UT). continued below

Possibly, coronal mass ejections (CMEs) hurled into space by these explosions will strike glancing blows to Earth's magnetic field during the next 48 hours. Sky watchers in Canada, Alaska and other northern places should be alert for auroras.

So far, except for brief radio blackouts, the flares from sunspot 798 have had little effect on Earth. The 'spot is near the sun's eastern limb, so the explosions have not been Earth-directed. This will change: In the days ahead, the sun's rotation will turn sunspot 798 increasingly toward our planet. The last time sunspot 798 was facing Earth, in late August, it sparked strong auroras seen as far south as Utah and Colorado. We might get more such displays next week if sunspot 798 remains active.

Polish customs officers seize haul of meteorites on Russian truck


September 9, 2005

WARSAW - Customs officers in Dorohusk, on Poland's border with Ukraine, have made an unusual seizure, confiscating nearly 530 kilogrammes (1,166 pounds) of meteorites they found hidden on a Russian-registered truck.

"In total, 529.5 kilogrammes of meteorites were confiscated, including three very big ones, weighing 176 kilos, 150 kilos and 80 kilos," Poland's customs service said in a statement.

"They probably came from the same place in Siberia where a meteorite crashed in 1947," the statement said Friday.

According to the truck's payload ledgers, its cargo was quartzite, a tough stone composed almost entirely of quartz grains, derived from sandstone. The truck was bound for the Czech Republic.

Posted on SOTT 12 Sept

High Solar Activity

Space Weather News

12 Sep 2005

AURORA WATCH: A strong geomagnetic storm sparked beautiful auroras on Sept. 11th. "I saw them from my bedroom window--without my contacts," says Chris Schierer...

Elsewhere, in Park City, Utah, "the auroras were so intense, everyone at our star party was jumping and cheering," says Brian Jolley.

September 11th Aurora Gallery

Although the storm is subsiding, it could be re-energized at any time by coronal mass ejections (CMEs) propelled in our direction from active sunspot 798. Sky watchers everywhere should remain alert for auroras tonight.

ACTIVE SUN: Solar activity is high. Earth-orbiting satelites have detected seven X-class solar flares since Sept. 7th, including an X17-class monster-flare. NOAA forecasters say there's a 75% chance of more X-flares during the next 24 hours, possibly causing radio blackouts and radiation storms.

The source of all this activity is giant sunspot 798, shown above flaring brightly on Sept. 9th. The sunspot has grown so large, you can now see it with the unaided eye--but never look directly at the sun. Try these safe solar observing tips.

Posted on SOTT 13 Sept

Comet collision 'Armageddon' unlikely


Date Released: Sunday, September 11, 2005

Source: Australian National University

The chances of the Earth being hit by a comet from beyond Pluto - a la Armageddon - are much lower than previously thought, according to new research by an ANU astronomer.

Using computer simulations and data from an American military telescope, Dr Paul Francis, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Mt Stromlo, has found there are seven times fewer comets in our solar system than previously thought.

'I calculate that small comets, capable of destroying a city, only hit the Earth once every 40 million years or so," Dr Francis said. "Big continent-busting comets, as shown in the movies Armageddon and Deep Impact, are rarer still, only hitting once every 150 million years or so. So I don't loose sleep over it, but you're still more likely to be killed by a comet than to win the jackpot at Lotto."

Previous estimates of the number of comets were based on the work of amateur astronomers, who for hundreds of years have been scanning the skies, looking for new comets.

Previously, it was believed that these amateur astronomers were only spotting three per cent of the comets passing close to the Earth: the rest were thought to be missed because they were in the wrong part of the sky or were too faint.

But Dr Francis found that the amateurs were doing better than anyone had realised - they were actually spotting 20 per cent of comets. There are therefore far fewer undiscovered comets.

"The new data allowed us to count the number of faint and far-away comets that the amateurs had missed. And we found that they were pretty rare," Dr Francis said.

These results apply to comets coming from beyond the orbit of Pluto, which is where most comets live. The Earth is still at risk of being hit by asteroids, and by so-called short-period comets - ones that come past repeatedly, like Halley's comet.

"But asteroids and short-period comets come past again and again, so if we're clever enough we can find them all and predict which, if any, will hit the Earth," said Dr Francis. "If we find one on a collision course with the Earth, we would normally have hundreds of years warning in which to do something about it, like deflecting the asteroid.

"The comets coming from beyond Pluto, so called long-period comets, are nastier, as they are totally unpredictable, and if we see one on a collision course we'd have at best one or two years warning - not long enough to do anything."

Dr Francis' research has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. It was based on computer simulations, published data from the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and on data from amateur astronomers around the world.

Further Information

Background material on Dr Francis' research


Comment: So there's nothing to worry about. Really.

Most distant cosmic blast sighted


Astronomers have witnessed the most distant cosmic explosion on record: a gamma-ray burst that has come from the edge of the visible Universe.

Gamma-ray bursts are intense flares of high-energy radiation that appear without warning from across the cosmos.

They can release as much energy in a few minutes as our Sun will emit in its expected 10-billion-year lifetime.

The blast was observed by the Swift space telescope and by a number of ground-based observatories.

The latest, record gamma-ray burst was detected on 4 September, 2005, and lasted about three minutes. It probably marked the death of a massive star as it collapsed into a black hole.

It has a so-called redshift of 6.29, which translates to a distance of about 13 billion light-years from Earth.

Used by astronomers to measure cosmic distances, redshift refers to the extent to which light is shifted towards the red part of the electromagnetic spectrum during its long journey across the Universe. The greater the distance, the higher the redshift.

Record distance

"This burst smashes the old distance record by 500 million light-years," said Dr Daniel Reichart, of the University of North Carolina, US, who has been leading the measurement of its distance.

Professor Keith Mason, chief executive of the UK's Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PParc), which helped fund Swift, commented: "This is an amazing result that will enable us to find out more about stars from near the beginning of time."

By studying objects at this distance, astronomers are looking into the Universe's early times. The burst comes from an era soon after stars and galaxies first formed, about one billion years after the Big Bang.

Dr Nial Tanvir, of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, who is an investigator on the Swift mission, said the telescope could yet spot more distant bursts hailing from even earlier stages in the Universe's evolution.

"I think you could see them just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. We don't know whether there were any stars at that time, but we should be able to see them at that distance if there were," he told the BBC News website. [...]

Posted on SOTT 14 Sept

Sun has binary partner, may affect the Earth

September 13, 2005

The ground-breaking and richly illustrated new book, Lost Star of Myth and Time, marries modern astronomical theory with ancient star lore to make a compelling case for the profound influence on our planet of a companion star to the sun. Author and theorist, Walter Cruttenden, presents the evidence that this binary orbit relationship may be the cause of a vast cycle causing the Dark and Golden Ages common in the lore of ancient cultures.

Researching archaeological and astronomical data at the unique think tank, the Binary Research Institute, Cruttenden concludes that the movement of the solar system plays a more important role in life than people realize, and he challenges some preconceived notions:

The phenomenon known as the precession of the equinox, fabled as a marker of time by ancient peoples, is not due to a local wobbling of the Earth as modern theory portends, but to the solar system's gentle curve through space.

This movement of the solar system occurs because the Sun has a companion star; both stars orbit a common center of gravity, as is typical of most double star systems. The grand cycle–the time it takes to complete one orbit––is called a "Great Year," a term coined by Plato.

Cruttenden explains the affect on earth with an analogy: "Just as the spinning motion of the earth causes the cycle of day and night, and just as the orbital motion of the earth around the sun causes the cycle of the seasons, so too does the binary motion cause a cycle of rising and falling ages over long periods of time, due to increasing and decreasing electromagnet effects generated by our sun and other nearby stars."

While the findings in Lost Star are controversial, astronomers now agree that most stars are likely part of a binary or multiple star system. Dr. Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at UC Berkeley and research physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is an early proponent of a companion star to our sun; he prefers a 26 million year orbit period. Cruttenden uses 24,000 years and says the change in angular direction can be seen in the precession of the equinox.

Lost Star of Myth and Time expands on the author's award-winning PBS documentary film "The Great Year," narrated by actor James Earl Jones. The book brings intriguing new evidence to the theory of our binary companion star and an age old mystery - the precession of the equinox.

Comment: We're with Muller on the dates, thinking that the 26 million year cycle better fits than the smaller 24,000 year cycle, but it is certainly curious to see a book on the binary star system of our Sun being trumpeted on a physics news site, especially when endorsements come from such figures as Graham Hancock, John Anthony West, and John Major Jenkins.

Of course, the simple fact that our Sun is part of a binary star system is not what is important; it is the effects of this system upon our lives here on earth. Yes, the Dark Twin does have an influence, the most important of which is that it's passage through the Oort cloud every 26 or 27 million years is like a bowling ball knocking over the bowling pins and sending them scattering every which way. Only, it isn't bowling pins; it is countless numbers of space rock that are sent hurtling inward towards the inner solar system, approaching the Earth from every direction.

Of course, if it comes by only once in many millions of years, one might suggest that we aren't in much danger: what are the chances that WE are alive at the dangerous moment?

Funny you should ask.

We think that the Maunder Minimum, a 75 year solar minimum during the second half of the 17th century, was very likely caused by the dampening effects of the presence of the Dark Star at its perihelion. This means, first, that we're it, the lucky folks who happen to be alive at the fateful moment. It also means that the space rock heading our way has been moving in for over 300 years. Might the recent increase in the number of reported moons for Jupiter and Saturn be due to pieces of rock being picked up by the gravitational fields of these planets?

Posted on SOTT 16 Sept

Man in 'meteor' sighting over town

Shropshire Star

Sep 16, 2005

A north Shropshire man has told of his amazement at seeing a "massive glowing object moving through the sky".

Steve Powell, 49, who lives near Prees Green, saw what he believes was a huge meteor last night at around 11.45pm.

He described the object as a big orange ball, about the size of a full moon.

Mr Powell is now wondering if anyone else saw the phenomenon, which he believes was a meteor crashing to earth.

He said: "It looked like a UFO to start with and didn't seem to be moving, but it obviously was and had a bit of a trail."

Solar Minimum Explodes

Solar minimum is looking strangely like Solar Max.



September 15, 2005: Just one week ago, on Sept. 7th, a huge sunspot rounded the sun's eastern limb. As soon as it appeared, it exploded, producing one of the brightest x-ray solar flares of the Space Age. In the days that followed, the growing spot exploded eight more times. Each powerful "X-flare" caused a shortwave radio blackout on Earth and pumped new energy into a radiation storm around our planet. The blasts hurled magnetic clouds toward Earth, and when they hit, on Sept 10th and 11th, ruby-red auroras were seen as far south as Arizona.

So this is solar minimum?

Right: An X-flare photographed on Sept. 9th by Birgit Kremer of Marbella, Spain. [movie]

Actually, solar minimum, the lowest point of the sun's 11-year activity cycle, isn't due until 2006, but forecasters expected 2005, the eve of solar minimum, to be a quiet year on the sun.

It has not been quiet. 2005 began with an X-flare on New Year's Day--a sign of things to come. Since then we've experienced 4 severe geomagnetic storms and 14 more X-flares.

"That's a lot of activity," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Compare 2005 to the most recent Solar Max: "In the year 2000," he recalls, "there were 3 severe geomagnetic storms and 17 X-flares." 2005 registers about the same in both categories. Solar minimum is looking strangely like Solar Max.

Scientists like Hathaway track the 11-year solar cycle by counting sunspots. When sunspot numbers peak, that's Solar Max, and when they ebb, that's solar minimum. This is supposed to work because sunspots are the main sources of solar activity: Sunspot magnetic fields become unstable and explode. The explosion produces a flash of electromagnetic radiation--a solar flare. It can also hurl a billion-ton cloud of magnetized gas into space--a coronal mass ejection or "CME." When the CME reaches Earth, it sparks a geomagnetic storm and we see auroras. CMEs can also propel protons toward Earth, producing a radiation storm dangerous to astronauts and satellites. All these things come from sunspots.

Above: Ruby-colored Northern Lights over Payson, Arizona, on Sept. 11, 2005. Photo credit: Chris Schur. [gallery]

As expected, sunspot numbers have declined since 2000, yet solar activity persists. How can this be?

Hathaway answers: "The sunspots of 2005, while fewer, have done more than their share of exploding." Consider sunspot 798/808, the source of the Sept 7th superflare and eight lesser X-flares. All by itself, this sunspot has made Sept. 2005 the most active month on the sun since March 1991.

Weird? Much about the sun's activity cycle remains unknown, Hathaway points out. "X-ray observations of flares by NOAA's Earth-orbiting satellites began in 1975, and CMEs were discovered only a few years earlier by the 7th Orbiting Solar Observatory. Before the 1970s, our records are spotty."

This means we don't know what is typical. Scientists have monitored only three complete solar cycles using satellite technology. "It's risky to draw conclusions" from such a short span of data, he says.

Above: Sunspot counts and X-flares during the last three solar cycles. Note how solar activity continues even during solar minimum. Credit: David Hathaway, NASA/NSSTC.

Hathaway offers a cautionary tale: Before 2005, the last solar minimum was due in 1996 and the sun, at the time, seemed to be behaving perfectly: From late-1992 until mid-1996, sunspots began to disappear and there were precisely zero X-flares during those long years. It was a time of quiet. Then, in 1996 when sunspot counts finally reached their lowest value - bang! - an X-flare erupted.

"The sun can be very unpredictable," says Hathaway, which is something NASA planners must take into account when they send humans back to the Moon and on to Mars.

Returning to 2005: is this year an aberration--or a normal rush to the bottom of the solar cycle? "We need to observe more solar cycles to answer that question," says Hathaway. "And because each cycle lasts 11 years, observing takes time."

Meanwhile, Hathaway is waiting for 2006 when solar minimum finally arrives. Who knows what the Sun will do then?

Comment: In her article Independence Day, written July 4, 2003, Laura Knight-Jadczyk wrote:

If there is a brown dwarf perturber that slams through the Oort cloud, and if we do have a cluster of comets being smacked into our solar system like a slingshot, then there is NO WAY to have ANY warning whatsoever without the willingness of the government and the scientists who have control of the instruments of observation to share their data with us. And we also have absolutely no way of estimating - or even guessing - when or where a strike could come. One is reminded of: "No one knows the day or the hour..." In short, other than suggesting that we are probably entering a period when the Earth is going to very likely get hit one or more times, there isn't much else to be said. We are probably entering a hundred year period of planetary dodge'em cars.

Based on what the Cassiopaeans have said, supported by our research to this point, it is very likely that we are already experiencing some of the comets from this event: the close passage of the Dark Star over 300 years ago at the time of the Maunder Minimum.

I think that we will witness some amazing astronomical phenomena in the next few years. "Signs in the Sun and Moon." I think that the powerful activity of the Sun during this sunspot maximum has been because these comets are drawing close - thousands or hundreds of thousands of them. There may be more solar activity. Earthquakes will shake the earth. Volcanoes will erupt.

And we have, indeed, seen some amazing solar activity, huge earthquakes, and volcanic activity since July 2003 - and it seems there is still more to come...

Of course, the Powers That Be are certain that their preparations will ensure their survival. They have been implementing mind control programs for millennia, starting with the monotheistic religions which deprive man of his ability and inclination to think which will, in the last instance of realization that he has been duped, deprive him also of hope. In the past 50 years, these programs have increased in complexity and effectiveness. Mankind is enslaved by their own minds.

The Powers That Be have been as busy as ants before a storm constructing underground enclaves in which they plan to "ride it out." They really think that this will protect them - and it may - though not from direct hits by a "big one."

Through Bush and the gang, the Powers That Be have taken charge of the oil which they plan to stockpile so that their survival will be supplied with all the "comforts of home."

The Powers That Be - whether Earthly or hyperdimensional it doesn't matter - have stepped up the activity in the past two years, sending a strong signal that they are desperate and that "Something Wicked This Way Comes."

Japanese Probe Pulls Alongside Asteroid


Associated Press

Thu Sep 15, 8:54 PM ET

TOKYO - Bringing Japan's most complex space mission near its climax, a probe is within 12 miles of an asteroid almost 180 million miles from Earth in an unprecedented rendezvous designed to retrieve rocks from its surface.

The Hayabusa probe, launched in May 2003, will hover around the asteroid for about three months before making its brief landing to recover the samples in early November. The asteroid is located between Earth and Mars.

"The mission is going very smoothly and proceeding as planned," Atsushi Wako, a spokesman for JAXA, Japan's space agency, said Tuesday.

The asteroid, informally named Itokawa, after Hideo Itokawa, the father of rocket science in Japan, is only 2,300 feet long and 1,000 feet wide, and has a gravitational pull one-one-hundred-thousandth of Earth's.

Though it took two years to get there, the asteroid is among the closest neighbors to Earth other than the moon.

The probe's first mission will be to survey the asteroid with cameras and infrared imaging gear. It has already begun sending back images, Wako said.

When Hayabusa moves in for the rendezvous, expected to be over in a matter of seconds, it will pull up close enough to fire a small bullet into the asteroid and collect the ejected fragments in a funnel-like device. It won't be coming back with much - the amount of material planners hope to capture wouldn't even fill a teaspoon.

JAXA officials say Hayabusa would be the world's first two-way trip to an asteroid. A NASA probe collected data for two weeks from the surface of the Manhattan-sized asteroid Eros in 2001, but it did not return with physical samples.

Despite a glitch with one of Hayabusa's three gyroscopes, the mission has been largely mishap-free. Wako said the probe is set to return to Earth and land in the Australian outback in June 2007.

The success of the mission so far is a major coup for JAXA.

Japan was the fourth country to launch a satellite, in 1972, and this spring announced a major project to send its first astronauts into space and set up a base on the moon by 2025.

JAXA already has an unmanned moon survey mission planned. Its SELENE probe - originally scheduled for launch in 2005, but since delayed - is designed to orbit the moon, releasing two small satellites that will measure the moon's magnetic and gravitational field and conduct other tests for clues about the moon's origin.

It had to abandon a mission to Mars two years ago, however, after the probe moved off course. The explosion of a domestically designed H-2A rocket, the centerpiece of the country's space program, in November 2003 also marked a major setback for JAXA's plans. Controllers had to detonate that rocket and its payload of two spy satellites after a booster failed to detach.

The failed launch came just one month after China successfully put its first astronaut into orbit. Beijing has since announced it is aiming for the moon.

Japan returned to space in February with a successful H-2A launch, after 15 months on the ground.

Posted on SOTT 19 Sept

Meteoric encounters of the seventh kind

From Kalyan Ray


September 17, 2005

New Delhi - Two months before Janmashtami, a fireball from the sky fell on the farm of Mubeen in Bhuka village in west Rajasthan.

Being a blind, Mubeen, son of Ramdhan Sindhi, could not see the fireball, caused by a meteorite, but the event on June 25 was witnessed by his family - members who saw a flash of light and cracking sound. The bright tail was seen from Jodhpur, 110 km north-east from Bhuka.

Next day, the meteorite was retrieved from the fields and handed over to police. A further search could not find out any more fragments.

The story could have ended there had it not been for two Jodhpur-based researchers, Dr K L Srivastava and Dr J Swadia from J N V University, who also caught a glimpse of the trail.

They contacted other planetary scientists to find out answers of a puzzling phenomenon - why on earth the meteorites prefer a small area in western Rajasthan as starting from 1991, there were seven observed fall of meteorites in the same zone.

"This looks to me as very significant. Earlier I used to think that it is statistical variation but every new meteorite centred around Jodhpur, makes me think that there is something unusual," Dr Narendra Bhandari, who has just retired from the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad after shaping the scientific goals for India's moon mission and analysed the meteorite events, told Deccan Herald.

The other six meteorites fell in the zone at Didwana (August 12, 1991), Lohawat (October 30, 1994), Devri Khera (October 30, 1994), Piplia Kalan (June 20, 1996), Itawa Bhopji (May 30, 2000) and Bhawad (June 6, 2002).

Since only about 126 falls have been observed all over India in the past two centuries, this frequency of fall - one in every two years - in a small area of Rajasthan is anomalously high. In comparison, only eight falls have been reported from the rest of India during the past 15 years,

A major difference on June 25 last was that the meteorite was an iron meteorite with high iron content, unlike the six previous meteorites which were stony.

Posted on SOTT 21 Sept

'Fireball' lights up night sky

Callers alert Coast Guard



September 21, 2005

If you were in the right place at the right time along the Space Coast on Tuesday night, you would have seen a light show -- possibly a meteor or space junk.

From Fort Pierce to about five miles south of Jacksonville, reports came in to Coast Guard offices starting about 7:30 p.m., said Dan Yates, a Coast Guard petty officer in Port Canaveral.

Yates said one caller who was walking his dog near the Sebastian Inlet described the object as "huge, like a giant fireball."

The caller said he looked toward the Atlantic Ocean and saw the object disappear into the sea.

Bart Lipofsky, a professor of physics and astronomy at Brevard Community College, said it more than likely sailed over the horizon instead of splashing down. He added many witnesses often make the same visual mistake.

Yates said callers to the Coast Guard station thought a boater might have been in trouble. "A lot of people thought it might have been a flare that might have gone up," Yates said of other callers.

Babs Angel, a public affairs spokeswoman for Patrick Air Force Base, said no local military activity was taking place Tuesday night.

The Coast Guard in Brevard received more than 17 calls throughout the evening from residents and two police agencies, Yates said.

The Coast Guard base near Jacksonville also received calls.

"It's kind of new to all of us. We're not used to meteors coming down at the beach," Yates said of that possibility.

Lipofsky was teaching a class Tuesday night and missed out on the show. When told of the range at which the object was seen, he said: "Well, if it's a meteor, that's quite a fireball.

"Another possibility is it could've been space junk coming out of orbit."

Posted on SOTT 26 Sept

Meteor shower scares villagers out of their wits


Monday September 26 2005 10:27 IST

INDIA: The people of Palugulu of Mahadevapur on the banks of the Godavari in Karimnagar district are a petrified lot after they witnessed a meteorite falling close to their village with big flash of light and a bang.

Astonishingly, as many as 10 persons lost consciousness on watching the meteorite falling. According to the eyewitnesses, it fortunately landed in the river. But the villagers, not knowing the exact location of strike, remained awake whole night.

The villages in the radius of about 60 km witnessed the heavenly body falling.

Mahadevapur MRO Kesava Reddy visited the spot and could not spot any tell tale marks there. Then he concluded that the meteorite might have fallen in the river. He allayed their fears by explaining about meteors.

Comment: A reader in Oman writes:

Just thought I would report I saw a huge fireball streaking through the sky and cam tumbling down to ground. It was quite close and was just outside my window, though it is hard to judge the distance. It was pure white bright light with a white streaming tail.

And it was gone in a few seconds.

Posted on SOTT 30 Sept

Meteor 'like a fireball' flies across Florida skies

September 29, 2005

By Akilah Johnson Staff Writer

September 30 2005


That's how fast witnesses said a glowing meteor streaked across Florida skies Thursday before disappearing. From Fort Lauderdale to Cape Canaveral people called the National Weather Service reporting the bright orange orb.

"We think it was a meteor that was falling through the sky and burning up," said Barry Baxter, a weather service meteorologist.

"We don't know if it was over the ocean or land. [People] just said it was over the sky, like a fireball ... with a smoke tail behind it."

That's how Bob Cooper, 48, of Dania Beach, described it, a flaming ball without the smoke tail. He was in the back yard throwing a Frisbee to Bill, his golden retriever, when something caught his attention.

"All of a sudden this thing shot from my right," said Cooper, describing the "thing" about the size of a baseball. "And it was super fast, so you know it was in a hurry."

A 911 caller reported a plane crash about 7 p.m. at the old Harris Ranch on Southeast River Lane, Martin County officials said. But air traffic controllers at Miami International Airport told Martin County authorities it was a meteor.

It was unclear what direction the glowing glob traveled or the size. Baxter said NASA would determine both.

"If it was determined by NASA not to be a piece of re-entering space debris, then it was most likely a sporadic fireball," said Jack Horkheimer, planetarium director at the Miami Museum of Science.

"It has all the determiners of a fireball."

Fireballs are extremely bright meteors about the size of a baseball or basketball that slam into the earth's atmosphere at high speeds, he said.

They are common, but often go unreported because most of the planet is uninhabited; water covers 70 percent.

Comment: Yes, water covers 70% of the planet's surface, that is why we normally never hear about these "sporadic" space rocks, but for some strange reason, there have been lots of these "wonderful phenomena" of late...we wonder why...

"They are nothing to worry about -- a wonderful phenomenon of nature," Horkheimer said.

Comment: So, yet another meteor splashes down. Hasn't "god" or "the universe" or whatever, figured out by now that most human beings just don't give a damn? Why continue to provide these Signs and warnings that the "big one" is coming if 99% of the population, like Mr Horkheimer in the above article, will ignore all evidence right up to the bitter end, and when it comes, they will surely have the gall to act surprised.

Flashback: Meteor, not storm, blamed for Florida big waves

Florida Today

Milt Salamon - September 5 2000

"I'd be willing to bet that if you had the weather maps of the Atlantic Ocean on those days, you'd find no wave-generating storm off Africa," wrote Gene Floersch of Melbourne Beach. He was referring to a suggested cause of the mysterious huge waves we've been writing about.

They suddenly invaded the beach north of Fort Lauderdale on a clear, sunny, wind-free day in early March 1962 and frightened onlookers. One, Mary Swanson, now an Indialantic resident, said she'd moved to Arizona soon after the event and never knew what caused it.

She hoped our readers could tell her. We've been reporting their responses, which mostly blame the waves on far-off storms, as distant as Africa.

"Any storm powerful enough to send waves clear across the Atlantic would have affected the whole Florida coastline . . . and would also have first devastated the Bahama Islands," Gene said.

However, he added, "there was a more recent incident of 'mystery waves' that did hit Daytona Beach on an evening when the sea was flat, swamping beach-parked cars and scaring a lot of tourists at the boardwalk. Officials claimed these waves were generated by a 'sand slide' out on the continental shelf, but there was no geological activity registered by seismic sensors along the east coast.

"Some weeks later a local news channel ran a report about the operators of a shrimp boat off the coast witnessing a huge splash in the distance and then almost being swamped by massive swells.

"I believe the waves in both cases were caused by meteor impacts at sea. I also believe that safety officials play down these incidents, feeding the public any excuse but the truth.

"Why? Because we have no defense or warning systems to deal with meteor impacts. Our government justifies spending billions of tax dollars on missile defense systems, and yet a missile attack is less of a threat than the debris flying around in local space. The reality is that even if an imminent impact were predicted, there is nothing we could do about it."

Posted on SOTT 4 Oct

Green light in sky was likely a meteor

By Tim Wright
Tuesday, October 4, 2005

PENNSYLVANIA - The blazing green light that shot across the region's sky early Monday likely was a meteor, Air Force Space Command officials said.

The streak appeared about 5:45 a.m. and lasted for about 10 seconds, said Carnegie Science Center Buhl Planetarium presenter Jean Philpott. KDKA Radio reported that the object was seen from Indiana to Virginia, triggering several early morning phone calls to the station.

The object likely was "a large piece of space rock" called a bolide meteor -- an especially bright meteor that might leave a smoke trail as it plunges earthward at 40 miles per second, Philpott said. The meteor likely fell from the asteroid belt, a region between Mars and Jupiter where asteroids orbit the sun in the same direction as other planets in the solar system, she said.

"When they fall down into the atmosphere they burn, which was the green color that people saw," Philpott said.

Greenish light can indicate the re-entry of a booster rocket, but that likely was not the case yesterday, said officials at the Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"We don't know what it was at this point," Capt. Joe Macri of the Air Force Space Command said. "It could have been a meteor because there was some activity in the area."

Smaller meteors fall every night, Philpott said.

"We call them shooting stars, which are no larger than a grain of sand," she said. "A large piece is a lot less common. I'd estimate that it occurs once every 10 years or so."

Green fireball across sky likely a meteor, experts say

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

By Pete Zapadka, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A bright green object that blazed from north to south over the region in the predawn hours yesterday likely was a meteor and not the re-entry of space debris, an Air Force Space Command official said.

The sighting of the object caused numerous phone calls to local radio and television stations when it appeared around 5:40 a.m. KDKA Radio reported the object was seen from Indiana to Virginia, but would have been visible for less than 10 seconds before it burned up in the atmosphere.

An object's greenish appearance normally is the signature of a rocket re-entry, which apparently was not the case.

"I talked to our guys at the First Space Control squadron who look at that kind of thing. They did not see anything as far as orbital debris or rocket debris," said Capt. Joe Macri of the Air Force Space Command in Colorado. "It could have been meteor activity, but I can't say for sure."

Astronomer John Radzilowicz, director of visitor experience at the Carnegie Science Center, said he did not see the object. He heard about it from numerous phone calls. "We've been getting calls, not from the public which we usually get, but from the media," he said. He said the object "was big, bright and green ... just a large, bright meteor."

Occasionally, chunks of space rock are caught by Earth's gravity, enter the atmosphere at high speeds, encounter friction with air molecules, then burn up long before they reach the ground.

Posted on SOTT 5 Oct

Supernova Storm Wiped Out Mammoths?

By Jennifer Viegas,

Discovery News

Sept. 28, 2005— A supernova blast 41,000 years ago started a deadly chain of events that led to the extinction of mammoths and other animals in North America, according to two scientists.

If their supernova theory gains acceptance, it could explain why dozens of species on the continent became extinct 13,000 years ago.

Mammoths and mastodons, both relatives of today's elephants, mysteriously died out then, as did giant ground sloths, a large-horned bison, a huge species of armadillo, saber-toothed cats, and many other animals and plants.

Richard Firestone, a nuclear scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who formulated the theory with geologist Allen West, told Discovery News that a key piece of evidence for the supernova is a set of 34,000-year-old mammoth tusks riddled with tiny craters.

The researchers believe that in the sequence of events following the supernova, first, the iron-rich grains emitted from the explosion shot into the tusks. Whatever caused the craters had to have been traveling around 6,214 miles per second, and no other natural phenomenon explains the damage, they said.

They think the supernova exploded 250 light-years away from Earth, which would account for the 7,000-year delay before the tusk grain pelting. It would have taken that long for the supernova materials to have showered to Earth.

Then, 21,000 years after that event, the researchers believe a comet-like formation from the supernova's debris blew over North America and wreaked havoc.

Firestone said they think the formation created superheated hurricanal winds in the atmosphere that rolled across North America at 400 kilometers per hour (about 249 mph).

"The comet (-like event) was followed by a barrage of hot particles. If that didn't kill all of the large animals, then the immediate climate changes must have," said Firestone.

Firestone said smaller animals could have sought shelter more readily, by going into caves or underground.

The findings were presented at last weekend's "World of Elephants" international conference in Hot Springs, S.D.

In addition to the tusk evidence, the scientists said arrowheads from North America's prehistoric Clovis culture, which went extinct around 13,500-13,000 years ago, Icelandic marine sediment, as well as sediment from nine 13,000-year-old sites in North America, contain higher-than-normal amounts of radiation in the form of potassium-40 levels.

Potassium-40 is a radioactive isotope, meaning a molecule that emits radiation.

Magnetic particles also were unearthed at the sites. Analysis of these particles revealed they are rich in titanium, iron, manganese, vanadium, rare-earth elements, thorium and uranium.

These elements all are common in moon rocks and lunar meteorites, so the researchers think the materials provide additional evidence that North America was bombarded 13,000 years ago by material originating from space.

Luann Becker, a University of California at Santa Barbara geologist, told Discovery News she was not surprised by the new supernova theory, since extinction events have been linked to similar comet or asteroid impacts before.

"What is exciting about Dr. Firestone's theory is that it can be easily tested," Becker said, and indicated she hopes future research will yield additional clues from North American and other sediment layers.

Comment: While the existence of radiation and other factors makes the theory "easily tested", as is pointed out above, and while we have no doubt that the earth was bombarded by comets at the time Firestone says, we do have some questions about his hypothesis of first cause in this instance: that it was a supernova that sent in the space rocks. Our hypothesis is one that is less reassuring. Supernovas are rare. Cyclical comet swarms caused by other triggers may not be.

For more on our hypothesis, and just where in the cycle we may be, please see the article Independence Day.

We have quoted Firestone and Topping's work on radiometric dating of the Northeast US, work that strongly suggests a massive bombardment that reset the carbon clocks. You can find out more about this in The Secret History of the World.

[Added April 2007: Richard Firestone, along with Allen West, Simon Warwick-Smith has since written a book on the cosmic catastrophe that hit the Earth 13,000 years ago, The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes: Flood, Fire, and Famine in the History of Civilization. It is a must read for his description of the various stages of the cataclysm: from cometary impact through fireball and bombardment of the continent by the debris thrown up by the initial impact, followed by the rapid melting of the ice pack covering much of North America, all ending in two days of tidal waves criss-crossing the Atlanic. Talk about the fall of Atlantis! Also see our article Forget About Global Warming: We're One Step From Extinction!]

Posted on SOTT 14 Oct

'I saw a fireball!'

A SUDDEN, intense fireball exploded on the A16 in Louth, a motorist has claimed.

Louth Leader

Returning from a long journey, pensioner Michael Nixon was three hundred yards short of the A16 roundabout near Kenwick tip.

The former serviceman, from Walmsgate, near Louth, has no explanation for what happened next.

Mr Nixon, 74, said: "I experienced what I can only describe as a fireball.

"Directly in front of my windscreen, an explosive flash of red light occurred, appearing to be the size of a football but filling my field of vision."

The phenomenon, which the pensioner said lasted a second, was witnessed on Tuesday, September 13.

Mr Nixon said: "The intensity and suddenness caused me to flinch; my eyes hurt. There was no noise, no sign of smoke and my car was unmarked. Was this seen by anyone else?"

He added two years ago he was the victim of another bizarre phenomenon when he was traveling along the same spot

Mr Nixon said: "I had a SAAB car which never missed a beat. It was very reliable, but its engine stopped completely.

"I saw a motorist at the roadside, bonnet raised, peering at his engine. I suppose he had experienced the same engine failure. I wish I would have spoken to him now.

"Are we the possessors of a Kenwick Triangle?"

Posted on SOTT 28 Oct

Mysterious blasts rattle Israelis

Dozens of readers tell Ynet about loud 'explosions' heard overnight. Police: Likely sonic booms created by Air Force planes. Army: It wasn't us

Ynet reporters

10.28.05, 13:25

Late-night mystery: Dozens of readers from across Israel told Ynet about unusually loud "explosions" and tremors throughout the night, but attempts to shed light on the source of the blasts has been met with uncertainty.

At least one possibility has been discounted, with the country's seismological institute saying no earthquake occurred.

Police officials estimated the loud sounds were a result of sonic booms created by IDF fighter jets on their way to attacking Gaza, but the army insisted there was no unusual Air Force activity across the country overnight.

Central Police District Spokesman Yigal Haddad said police received numerous calls overnight from concerned citizens reporting explosions.

"The residents reported explosions heard from Netanya (north of Tel Aviv) to Rishon Lezion (south of Tel Aviv.) Many residents said the explosions came from the direction of the sea," he said. "Police personnel who heard the blasts themselves said they sounded like sonic booms. We still don't know what caused the explosions. We had similar reports during the week."

Meanwhile, police in Haifa also received calls regarding a possible earthquake, but no damages were reported.

The nighttime explosions have apparently become a routine occurrence throughout the Sharon region, north of Tel Aviv. In recent nights there have been other reported about blasts heard in the town of Herzliya, but the source of them is unclear. [...]

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