03 March 2008

March 2008

Comment: Not necessarily. See New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection.

Comment: In other words, impacts from cometary and asteroidal debris may be much greater than previously thought.

Comment: They may be the first humans to witness and survive the formation of an impact crater.

Michael Gmirkin


Sat, 01 Mar 2008 17:39 EST

It appears that predictions made by Wal Thornhill and the Electric
Comet model are being quickly confirmed, whether mainstream astronomers
like it or not. In the end, it seems nature will be the arbiter of
which model is the most accurate and predictive.

The Electric Comet
[1.8Mb PDF] is a poster presentation from the Electrical and
Electronics Engineers 33rd International Conference on Plasma Sciences
(ICOPS), presented in early June 2006.

However, predictions go back considerably further, to include They Sing the Comet Electric, published by Wired News in 2005; Deep Impact Predictions earlier in 2005; Comets Impact Cosmology, published by Thornhill in 2004; and an even earlier reference from Thornhill, Comet Borrelly rocks core scientific beliefs dates to 2001.

In fact, predictions of electrical interactions at comets date back to comments from Harold Spencer Jones in his textbook General Astronomy (pp. 273-274) and such visionary works as Kristian Birkeland's theory of comets way back in 1913, among others'.

In the initial news releases upon receipt of the Stardust mission's
payload, scientists intimated that the materials received from Stardust
appeared to contradict the "dirty snowball" model of comets
insofar as the materials retrieved appeared to have been "born in fire"
rather than in the cold outer reaches (or the imagined Oort Cloud). The
materials returned appeared to be crystalline in nature and in
configurations that are only produced in regions of intense heat and high pressure.

News releases over recent weeks have now gone on to intimate that
not only do the materials collected appear to have been born in fire,
but "the Stardust material resembles chondritic meteorites from the
asteroid belt" more so than the expectations of a "dirty snowball" or
"snowy dirtball" model of comets.

Returning to the Electric Comet poster presentation, Wal Thornhill
et al laid out the differences in approach, assumptions and
expectations of the standard model of "dirty snowballs" and of the
"Electric Comet" model.


* Comets are composed of undifferentiated "protoplanetary debris" --
dust and ices left over from the formation of the solar system billions
of years ago.

* Radiant heat from the Sun sublimates the ices. The vapor expands
around the nucleus to form the coma and is swept back by the solar wind
to form the tail.

* Over repeated passages around the Sun, solar heat vaporizes surface ice and leaves a "rind" of dust.

* Where heat penetrates the surface of a blackened, shallow crust,
pockets of gas form. Where the pressure breaks through the surface,
energetic jets form.


* Comets are debris produced during violent electrical interactions
of planets and moons in an earlier phase of solar system history.
Comets are similar to asteroids, and their composition varies. Most
comets should be homogeneous -- their interiors will have the same
composition as their surfaces. They are simply "asteroids on eccentric

* Comets follow their elongated paths within a weak electrical field
centered on the Sun. In approaching the Sun, a charge imbalance
develops between the nucleus and the higher voltage and charge density
near the Sun. Growing electrical stresses initiate discharges and the
formation of a glowing plasma sheath, appearing as the coma and tail.

* The observed jets of comets are electric arc discharges to the
nucleus, producing "electrical discharge machining" (EDM) of the
surface. The excavated material is accelerated into space along the
jets' observed filamentary arcs.

* Intermittent and wandering arcs erode the surface and burn it
black, leaving the distinctive scarring patterns of electric discharges.

* The jets' explode from cometary nuclei at supersonic speeds and
retain their coherent structure for hundreds of thousands of miles. The
collimation of such jets is a well-documented attribute of plasma

* The tails of comets reveal well-defined filaments extending up to
tens of millions of miles without dissipating in the vacuum of space.
This "violation" of neutral gas behavior in a vacuum is to be expected
of a plasma discharge within the ambient electric field of the Sun.

* It is the electric force that holds the spherical cometary coma in
place as the comet races around the Sun. The diameter of the visible
coma will often reach millions of miles. And the visible coma is
surrounded by an even larger and more "improbable" spherical envelope
of fluorescing hydrogen visible in ultraviolet light.

* The primary distinction between comet and asteroid surfaces is
that electrical arcing and "electrostatic cleaning" of the comet
nucleus will leave little or no dust or debris on the surface during
the active phase, even if a shallow layer of dust may be attracted back
to the nucleus electrostatically as the comet becomes dormant in its
retreat to more remote regions.

In contrast to the "dirty snowball" model touted by many astronomers
and/or astrophysicists as the pinnacle of their predictive ability,
Thornhill et al have predicted that comets should in fact
turn out to be consistent with the composition of asteroids, insofar as
they are rocky bodies traveling in the sun's plasmapshere.

It is this assertion that comets and asteroids have common genesis
and will display common features and composition that is yet another experimentum crucis for the Electric Comet model. An experimentum crucis is defined by Wikipedia as:

[...] an experiment capable of decisively determining whether or not
a particular hypothesis or theory is correct. In particular, such an
experiment must typically be able to produce a predictable result that
no established hypothesis or theory is capable of producing.

The production of such an experiment is considered necessary for a
particular hypothesis or theory to be considered an established part of
the body of scientific knowledge. It is not unusual in the history of
science for theories to be developed fully before producing a critical
experiment. A given theory which is in accordance with known experiment
but which has not yet produced a critical experiment is typically
considered worthy of exploration in order to discover such an
experimental test.

Under the definition of a critical experiment (experimentum crucis),
a prediction must be distinct from the predictions of other theories
such that a clear test can be performed in order to distinguish which
prediction is correct, and which prediction is incorrect.

To put it simply, the standard model expected comets to be the cold
remnants of an "accretion disk," or water and/or volatiles cemented
together in or beyond the cold outer reaches of the solar system (in
later revisions, the water and volatiles, not having been observed on
the surface, were posited to exist below the surface, invisible and
hidden out of the reach of our observational power).

The Electric Comet model, on the other hand, expects comets to
display relatively homogeneous composition similar to that of
meteorites. In fact, the Electric Comet model appears to say that they
have common origin in catastrophic electrical discharges that literally
electrically machined the surfaces of planets in our solar system in a
relatively recent geological epoch, leaving identifiable electrical
scars on those parent bodies and often on the comet / asteroid surfaces
as well.

Data and samples retrieved from cometary bodies have not borne out
the standard model scientists' claim unambiguously. They have claimed
that OH radicals are evidence of water on the comet nucleus which have
been reconfigured through UV interactions (photolysis). However, the
Electric Comet model provides an alternative vantage point, as
discussed in the Electric Comet poster presentation:

When astronomers view the comas of comets spectroscopically, what
they actually see is the hydroxyl radical (OH), which they assume to be
a residue of water (H2O) broken down by the ultraviolet light of the
Sun (photolysis). This assumption is not only unwarranted, it requires
a speed of "processing" by solar radiation beyond anything that can be
demonstrated experimentally.

The mysteries find direct answers electrically - in the transaction
between a negatively charged comet nucleus and the Sun. In the electric
model, negative oxygen ions are accelerated away from the comet in
energetic jets, then combine preferentially with protons from the solar
wind to form the observed OH radical and the neutral hydrogen gathered
around the coma in vast concentric bubbles. These abundances simply
confirm the energetic charge exchange between the nucleus and the Sun.

The electric model thus resolves two problems for the standard theory:

1. Cometologists have never verified that the assumed photolysis is
feasible on the super-efficient scale their "explanation" requires.

2. Neutral hydrogen is far too plentiful in the coma to be the
"leftover" of the hypothesized conversion of water into OH. But if the
negatively charged nucleus provides the electrons in a charge exchange
with the solar wind, the dilemma is resolved and the vast hydrogen
envelope is a predictable effect.

While the standard model scientists' assertion of "proof of water"
appears all well and good on the surface, they have not provided lab
tests that verify their assertion that the mechanism they propose works
"as proposed" on the scale involved.

On the other hand, initial lab tests of the materials returned by
Stardust appear to bear out somewhat unambiguously the assertions of
electrical theorists relating to the Electric Comet subset of the
Electric Universe model.

Specifically, releases by physorg.com and Wired News
appear to directly confirm the assertion by electrical theorists that
the comets would, on final analysis be consistent with the composition
of asteroids rather than the imagined "dirty snowball" of prior theory.

The physorg.com article comments:

When the Stardust mission returned to Earth with samples from the
comet Wild 2 in 2006, scientists knew the material would provide new
clues about the formation of our solar system, but they didn't know
exactly how.

New research by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and collaborators reveals that, in
addition to containing material that formed very close to the young
sun, the dust from Wild 2 also is missing ingredients that would be
expected in comet dust.
Surprisingly, the Wild 2 comet sample better resembles a meteorite from the asteroid belt rather than an ancient, unaltered comet.

Comets are expected to contain large amounts of the most primitive material in the solar system, a treasure trove of stardust from other stars and other ancient materials. But in the case of Wild 2, that simply is not the case.

By comparing the Stardust samples to cometary interplanetary dust
particles (CP IDPs), the team found that two silicate materials
normally found in cometary IDPs, together with other primitive
materials including presolar stardust grains from other stars, have not
been found in the abundances that might be expected in a Kuiper Belt
comet like Wild 2. [...] the Stardust material resembles chondritic meteorites from the asteroid belt. [Emphasis added]

This appears to be yet another notch in the belt of physicist Wal
Thornhill and other contributing Electric Universe proponents. We look
forward to further tests on the samples and further confirmation of
these theories from independent lines of inquiry.

One might also note the existence of "Centaurs" (planetoids), several of which (Chiron, 60558 Echeclus, and 166P/NEAT 2001 T4) are already known to display both features of asteroids and comets.
These may be a missing link between the two designations, and bear
merit for further investigation into their specific properties
(composition, conductivity, resistivity of surface materials, etc.).

It indeed appears that nature will be the final arbiter of who is
right and who is wrong. Here's to more confirmed predictions and to
many great scientific discoveries yet to come. I look forward to
further exploring the wild new plasma frontiers in future entries.

Space Daily/Agence France-Presse

Fri, 15 Oct 2004 16:36 EDT

A comet or asteroid smashed into modern-day Germany some 2,200
years ago, unleashing energy equivalent to thousands of atomic bombs,
scientists reported on Friday.

Bavaria crater
©Chiemgau Impact Research Team
largest crater in the Chiemgau field in Bavaria is water-filled
Tuttensee, located near the village of Marwang. At the water surface,
Tόttensee measures 1,200 feet across. but the original crater may have
been twice as large.

The 1.1-kilometre (0.7-mile) diameter rock wacked into southeastern Bavaria, leaving an
"exceptional field" of meteorites and impact craters that stretch from
the town of Altoetting to an area around Lake Chiemsee,
the scientists said in an article in the latest issue of US magazine Astronomy.

Colliding with the Earth's atmosphere at more than 43,000 kmsmiles
per hour, the space rock probably broke up at an altitude of 70
kmsmiles), they believe.

The biggest chunk smashed into the ground with a force equivalent to 106 million tonnes of TNT, or 8,500 Hiroshima bombs.

"The forest beneath the blast would have ignited suddenly, burning
until the impact's blast wave shut down the conflagration," the
investigators said.

"Dust may have been blown into the stratosphere, where it would have
been transported around the globe easily... The region must have been
devastated for decades."

The biggest crater is now a circular lake called Tuettensee,
measuring 370 metres (1,200 feet) across. Scores of smaller craters and
other meteorite impacts can be spotted in an elliptical field,
inflicted by other debris.

The study was carried out by the Chiemgau Impact Research Team,
whose five members included a mineralogist, a geologist and an

It was sparked by a find in 2000 by amateur archaeologists who were
digging in the area around Lake Chiemsee and found pieces of metal
containing minerals not previously seen in the region.

Aerial infrared photography established that the distinctive holes
in the local countryside had the characteristic round form and "clear
uplifted rim" of an impact crater, the Astronomy report said.

Minerals ejected around the crater were found by geological analysis
to be gupeiite and xifengite, iron-silicon alloys that were also found
in meteorites recovered in China and Antarctica.

Additional evidence comes from local discoveries of Celtic artefacts, which appear to have been scorched on one side.

That helped to establish an approximate date for the impact of between 480 and 30 BC.

The figure may be fine-tuned to around 200 BC, thanks to tree-ring
evidence from preserved Irish oaks, which show a slowing in growth
around 207 BC.

This may have been caused by a veil of dust kicked up the impact, which filtered out sunlight.

In addition, Roman authors at about the same time wrote
about showers of stones falling from the skies and terrifying the

The object is more likely to have been a comet than an asteroid,
given the length of the ellipse and scattered debris, the report says.

Comets, which race in long orbits around the solar system, are
believed to be loose assemblies of rubble held together with an ice
rich in methane, ammonia and water.

Asteroids are believed to be denser, more structured rocks. They
mainly orbit in a band between Jupiter and Mars, but they can be
deflected off course and put on the same trajectory as Earth, an event
that is extremely rare but has the potential for a catastrophe.

The long reign of the dinosaurs was put to an end by climate change
some 65 million years ago, inflicted by a massive space rock impact in
what is now modern-day Mexico.

In 1908, a comet or asteroid exploided over Tunguska, Siberia, flattening the forest for hundreds of square kilometres around.

Duncan Steel

The Guardian

Thu, 06 Feb 2003 17:16 EST

A metallic asteroid may have coincided with the fall of Rome

In the early fifth century, rampaging Goths swept through Italy.
Inviolate for 1,100 years, Rome was sacked by the hordes in 410 AD. St
Augustine's apologia, the City of God, set the tone for Christians for
the next 16 centuries.

But the Rome of that era came close to suffering a far worse
calamity. A small metallic asteroid descended from the sky, making a
hypervelocity impact in an Apennine valley just 60 miles east of the
city. This bus-sized lump of cosmic detritus vaporised as it hit the
ground. In doing so, it released energy equivalent to around 200
kilotonnes of TNT: around 15 times the power of the atomic bomb that
levelled Hiroshima in 1945.

Pescara is on the Adriatic coast, located across the Italian
peninsula from Rome. Housed there is the International Research School
of Planetary Sciences, where staff and students study topics ranging
from planetary geology to astrobiology. In 1999, a young impact
cratering specialist from Sweden, Jens Ormö, arrived to take up a
three-year position funded by the European Union.

Ormö, it happens, is keen on hill walking, and just inland from
Pescara are some of the most spectacular mountains in the Apennines. He
decided that some hiking in the area of the Sirente Massif was in
order, and so he consulted a local guidebook. As he thumbed its pages,
Ormö came across a photograph of something that amazed him. What he
saw, labelled as a natural lake, was surely an impact crater.

An expedition to the site of the putative impact, on the Sirente
plain, was hastily organised. Colleagues confirmed Ormö's initial
suspicion. Here was an impact crater about 140 metres wide, previously
unrecognised despite lying only a short distance from a busy road, and
visible from miles away. It has appeared on maps for centuries, and in
guidebooks for decades - but no one had recognised its significance.

Natural lakes are common in the area. But this one has a raised rim,
now about two metres high, but originally rather thicker. This was
produced by the asteroid throwing material out from the impact zone, as
it crashed at a speed of around 20km per second, producing a huge
explosion. Later filled with rainwater, the crater is now only a few
metres deep, and occasionally dries up during hot summers. But it was
more than 30 metres to the bottom when first formed. Centuries of
weathering has eroded its bank and gradually filled it in.

Relatively modest craters like this are unusual, because small
asteroids can only reach the ground intact if they are metallic, and
thus strong enough to withstand the physical shock of slamming into the
atmosphere at such speeds. The best guess at present is that the
asteroid was about 10 metres across, and had a composition similar to
nickel-iron meteorites. If it had been stony in composition, as most
asteroids are, it would have shattered in flight and released all of
its energy in a phenomenal explosion. This is what happened when a
50-metre rock blew up over Siberia in 1908, leaving no crater.The
expectation of a metallic impactor is backed up by the identification
of rust grains in the surrounding soil.

Confirmation of the impact origin comes from 17 smaller craters,
typically 10 metres wide, scattered around the Sirente plain. These are
due to fragments of the asteroid that separated in flight through the
atmosphere. A magnetic survey shows that most are associated with
anomalously high fields, indicating sub-surface metallic lumps.

Crater fields like this are not unusual. In central Australia, 120km
south of Alice Springs, the Henbury craters were formed in a similar
way. What is peculiar about the Sirente crater is where it occurred,
and its youth. Dozens of ancient craters are known in northern Europe,
geological stability allowing their long-term preservation. Two
examples are the Ries and Steinheim basins in Germany. Many others are
known in Scandinavia. But these are all huge, and millions of years
old. There is a small, recently formed crater in Estonia, but the
Sirente crater is of far greater interest: it was excavated around the
time of the fall of the Roman Empire, and close to Rome itself.

The crater has been dated through radiocarbon analysis of a drill
core cut down through the bank. The uppermost material, having been
thrown out of the cavity, contains organic matter older than the
impact. At the original ground level the radiocarbon ages minimise, and
then deeper down the material is older again.

The data indicate that the crater was formed in about 412 AD, with
an uncertainty of 40 years in either direction. Additional sampling may
allow this spread to be reduced, but it is clear that the event
occurred close to the fall of Rome: some time between 370 AD and 450
AD, when the city was again under attack, this time by the Vandals.

No matter what the trajectory of the asteroid entry, it would have
been a phenomenal sight from Rome, and scarier still for those closer
to ground zero. The fireball produced would have only lasted 10 seconds
or so, but would have been brighter than the sun, and so visible even
in daytime. The smoke trail left in the atmosphere would have been
visible for some hours.

Another remarkable aspect of the event is that the main crater sits
squarely in the middle of the Sirente plain, which is only about a mile
long, and half that wide, being surrounded by mountainous terrain. It
could be that this is just luck. Alternatively, the array of craters
now identified might represent only a tiny fraction of the havoc
wreaked, with many other impacts on the mountainsides having long since
eroded or been hidden by tree growth.

Even considering simply the energy involved in forming the known
crater, it is sobering to ponder what might have happened should the
impact zone have been on the flat coastal plains nearer Rome, rather
than in the mountains. Scaling from nuclear bomb tests indicates that a
200 kilotonne surface explosion would devastate an area of 100 square

A frequently used aphorism says that Rome was not built in a day.
That's true. But it did come awfully close to being destroyed in

Jonathan Amos


Fri, 08 Sep 2000 17:23 EDT

Could a comet hitting the Earth 1,500 years ago have triggered a global disaster in which millions of people lost their lives?

It is an old claim that historians say has little evidence in
written records to support it, but now a tree ring expert has said the
idea must be re-examined.

Mike Baillie, professor of palaeoecology at Queen's University in
Belfast, UK, said it was very clear from the narrowness of growth rings
in bog oaks and archaeological timbers that a great catastrophe struck
the Earth in AD 540.

"The trees are unequivocal that something quite terrible happened,"
he told the British Association's Festival of Science. "Not only in
Northern Ireland and Britain, but right across northern Siberia, North
and South America - it is a global event of some kind."

Dark Ages

Professor Baillie favours the idea that cometary fragments smashed
into the atmosphere throwing up dust and gas that blocked out the Sun.
This, in turn, led to crop failures, famine and even plague among the
weakened peoples of the world.

Professor Baillie said astronomers from Armagh Observatory in
Northern Ireland had published research 10 years ago in which they said
the Earth would have been at risk from cometary bombardment between the
years AD 400 and AD 600.

"This event is in AD 540, so it fits very nicely into the window," he said.

"We know from the tree rings to the year exactly when this event
happened. And some archaeologists and historians are beginning to come
round to the opinion that this was the date when the Dark Ages began in
Northern Europe. It wasn't just when the Romans left."

Oral tradition

However, there are many more historians who believe that if such a
major event had occurred there would be much clearer references to the
disaster in written texts. But Professor Baillie urged them to go back
and look again - "to read between the lines".

He said mythical stories certainly seemed to point to a comet
striking the Earth at about the right time. He said King Arthur died in
this period and some stories talk about long arms in the sky delivering
mighty blows.

"Mythology tells you and history doesn't and that raises
some very interesting questions because the implication is that you
could suppress the written word but you couldn't suppress the oral

Professor Baillie said chemical analysis would be carried out on the
tree rings to investigate the comet idea further. He hopes also to get
access to ice cores to see if they record any interesting data that
might support the comet theory.

The Morien Institute

Thu, 06 Mar 2008 16:59 EST

Wales flag
The flag of Wales

The mystery of the origins of the red dragon symbol, now on the flag
of Wales, has perplexed many historians, writers and romanticists, and
the archaeological community generally has refrained from commenting on
this most unusual emblem, claiming it does not concern them. In the
ancient Welsh language it is known as 'Draig Goch' - 'red dragon', and in "Y Geiriadur Cymraeg Prifysgol Cymru",
the "University of Wales Welsh Dictionary", (Cardiff, University of
Wales Press, 1967, p. 1082) there are translations for the various uses
of the Welsh word 'draig'. Amongst them are common uses of the
word, which is today taken just to mean a 'dragon', but in times past
it has also been used to refer to 'Mellt Distaw' - (sheet lightning), and also 'Mellt Didaranau' - (lightning unaccompanied by thunder).

But the most interesting common usage of the word in earlier times, according to this authoritative dictionary, is 'Maen Mellt' the word used to refer to a 'meteorite'. And this makes sense, as the Welsh word 'maen' translates as 'stone', while the Welsh word 'mellt'
translates as 'lightning' - so literally a 'lightning-stone'. That the
ancient language of the Welsh druids has words still in use today which
have in the past been used to describe both a dragon and also a
meteorite, is something that greatly helps us to follow the destructive
'trail of the dragon' as it was described in early Welsh 'riddle-poems'.

This is especially true of the "Hanes Taliesin", a
riddle-poem that is so full of astronomical terms it is obvious that
they were deliberately used by the composer - but to what end? Could
they have been used to encode a druidic astro-mythology that was
accessible only to 'initiates'?

In the mid 6th. century A.D. the ancient Cymric empire of the native
Britons, that at one time had stretched from Cornwall in the south to
Strathclyde in the north, was rapidly diminishing. And it was at this
time that the bard who called himself Taliesin (radiant brow) first
read his riddle-poem, "Hanes Taliesin" ("The History of
Taliesin"), to King Maelgwn Gwynedd, who, like the bard, had been a
student of St Illtud at the ancient druid college, later called
Llanilltud Fawr, in Morganwg. Was King Maelgwn Gwynedd the only one in
his 6th century Conwy Eisteddfod who was meant to understand the
riddle-poem?. Or was it also a gathering of initiates from all over the

Of comparatively recent origin on the Welsh national flag, the
association of the dragon with the country of Wales dates much further
back - to the start of the European 'Dark Age'; the times of King
Arthur and the enigmatic Merlyn, neither of whom have ever been proven
to be definitively mythical nor historical characters.

The exact nature and sequence of events in the mid-6th. century A.D.
that gave rise to the period we refer to as the European 'Dark Age' is
still a matter for speculation amongst historians and archaeologists.
Over the past 20 years or so, certain paleo-climatologists have begun
comparing notes with archaeologists and astronomers, and interestingly,
in the absence of written records, many have begun to look a little
more closely at mythology in their efforts to corroborate the findings
of their researches. While much of this recent bout of
inter-disciplinary brainstorming has focussed on the 6th.C. AD start of
the European Dark Age, earlier dates are also of great interest to
those embroiled in this veritable 'paradigm shift'.

Archaeologist and Dendrochronologist, Mike Baillie, of Queens
University, Belfast, has compiled a '7,500-year tree-ring chronology'
of Irish bog oaks, which offers an accurate picture of the weather on a
year-by-year basis throughout those millennia. His 1999 book, Exodus to Arthur: Catastrophic Encounters with Comets,
traces the history of cometary dust-trail activity from those epochs by
the indicators evident in 'narrowest tree-ring events'. And this has
been looked at in much greater detail over the past six years,
culminating in his September 2005 book, The Celtic Gods: Comets in Irish Mythology, co-authored with QUB colleague, Patrick McCafferty.

tree rings
An example of tree-rings

Each year a tree puts on another ring, and the better the weather
preferred by the tree, the wider the ring for that year. One of the
most striking features of this most accurate of dating methods
is its ability to detect past climatic downturns evident in the narrow
tree-rings that bunch together over several consecutive years -
indicating poor annual growth and an environmental downturn.

Beginning in the year A.D. 536, and continuing through until A.D.
545, the dendrochronology record reveals a dramatic 'narrowest-rings
event' that is corroborated by some of the findings of the Greenland
Ice Sheet Projects. There, a significant absense of any tell-tale
volcanic 'acid spike' in the ice-cores record suggests an altogether
different cause - dustloading of the stratosphere by minute particles
of dust and other cometary debris.

Climatologists and astronomers concur that this event bears all the hallmarks of a 'cosmic winter'
scenario - when dust in the stratosphere blots out the Sun, lowering
the global temperature, hindering plant growth and in so doing
undermining agricultural societies.

This has happened a number of times as a result of volcanic eruptions, but it can also result from 'dust-loading'
of the stratosphere caused when the Earth's orbital path encounters the
trails of cometary debris that literally boils off the ice-and-rubble
comets as they approach the Sun on their journeys through our solar
system. Indeed, recently, on September 3rd, 2004, a small asteroid
which disintegrated in the stratosphere above Antarctica deposited
sufficient micron-sized dust particles to cause 'local cooling, and
much speculation as to the possible effects on the ozone layer.

Much of the make-up of comets is sub-micron dust along with frozen
water, methane and other gasses, as well as various organic molecules,
pebbles, stones, and boulders of metal and rocks measuring from a few
feet wide to bolides many miles in diameter. The dust in small
quantities burns up harmlessly as it enters the Earth's atmosphere
giving rise to what we term 'shooting stars', with larger grains often
providing the most spectacular multiple 'fireball' displays. Much
denser cometary debris trails can over-load the upper atmosphere with
'dust veils', both locally and globally, causing 'cosmic winters'
similar to those caused by volcanic activity, and nuclear war scenarios.

The larger rocks and boulders can bombard the Earth causing impact craters
that throw their ejected debris up into the atmosphere with much the
same effect. While air-bursting meteorites can cause huge fireballs and
intense blast waves that can devastate thousands of square miles around
the area of detonation, as happened in the Tunguska region of Siberia
on the 30th of June 1908.

In recent years certain astronomers have increasingly come to
appreciate that encoded in the folklore and mythologies of many
cultures are the accurate observations of ancient skywatchers. Almost
all tell of times when death and mass destruction came from the skies,
events that are often portrayed as 'celestial battles' between what
they variously depicted as 'the Gods'. And curiously the imagery in
these 'myths' have many common features, even between the mythologies
of cultures widely spaced in time and location.

For example, in Appendix 1 of Basil Clarke's 1973 translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini
("Life of Merlyn"), he comments on the Lailoken tales, and the
particular story of the encounter with St Kentigern. It is believed
that Lailoken and Merlyn were really the same character - Lailoken in
the Scottish tradition, and Merlyn in the Welsh. Having rushed out of
the woods a naked and hairy madman, Lailoken/Merlyn is asked by St
Kentigern what has driven him to "...wander alone in this lonely place
and keep company with the beasts of the woods" [1].

He replies to St. Kentigern that he felt great guilt, because he
believed he had been the cause of the many deaths resulting from the
battle of Arfderydd, saying:

"In that fight the sky began to split above me, and I heard a tremendous din, a voice from the sky saying to me, 'Lailochen,
Lailochen, because you alone are responsible for the blood of all these
dead men, you alone will bear the punishment for the misdeeds of all.
For you will be given over to the angels of Satan, and until the day of
your death you will have communion with the creatures of the wood.
But when I directed my gaze towards the voice I heard, I saw a
brightness too great for human senses to endure. I saw, too, numberless
martial battalions in the heaven like flashing lightning, holding in
their hands fiery lances and glittering spears which they shook most
fiercely at me." [2]

In Welsh Merlyn is called Myrddyn, and the Welsh town of Carmarthen
is called in Welsh, CaerFyrddyn, meaning 'the fortress of Merlyn'. Some
fifteen miles or so northeast of Carmarthen is an oddly-named place
called Llwyn Wormwood
- odd because in Welsh there is a word for wormwood, 'wermod', and
because this is in one of the least anglicised areas of rural Wales.

Another place called Llwyn Wormwood is situated just over 10 miles
to the southeast, not far from the Welsh market town of Llandovery.
Could these places shed any new light on the Merlyn 'vision' referred
to in the Basil Clarke 1973 translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Vita
Merlini" ("Life of Merlyn")? And more importantly, was the character
known as Merlyn a witness to the mid-6th century event evident in the tree-ring record?

Since the spectacular events of July 16 1994, when the newly
discovered comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which had split into more than
twenty pieces as it passed Jupiter in 1993, had returned to bombard
Jupiter's surface over the following few days, astronomers have
speculated nervously at the probable fate of our own civilisation had
those impacts happened with planet Earth instead ...

Barringers Meteor Crater
©David Roddy, USGS
Barringer's Meteor Crater

The number of known impact craters on Earth is growing all the time
as satellite imaging technology advances, and the growing list of
impact sites dated from the current inter-glacial period in which we
live (the Holocene) leaves even the most ardent of catastrophist
sceptics in no doubt that it has happened many times before - and it most certainly will again ...

Over the past decade or more, astronomers have taken ever more
seriously the very real threat from Earth-crossing asteroids and from
cometary debris trails. In January 2000 the British government
commissioned a report into the threat from Near Earth Objects (NEOs), the report
was published in August 2000. The setting up of the commission of
enquiry was the result of continuous lobbying by a growing
inter-disciplinary body of concerned astronomers, climatologists,
archaeologists, anthropologists and geologists.

Certain of them have moved towards looking for the recollections of ancient bombardment events in
the mythologies and oral traditions of the world's many past cultures.
These endeavours have brought to the surface many similar tales to that
of the 'Vision of Merlyn' described above, and in many geographically widespread cultures of the archaic world.

In particular, the collection of ancient Chinese astronomical observations contained in the wooden chronicle known as the "Bamboo Annals"
have been shown to contain many details of comets, fireballs, and
especially planetary conjunctions, the accuracy of which can now be
verified by the ability to re-create the ancient skies presented by
recent advances in computer technology. Some modern astronomers find
this ancient archive invaluable, and have been using it to correlate
the 'observations' made by the skywatchers of contemporary cultures in
other parts of the world.

Likewise, the Sumerian cuneiform tablets have been shown to have
accurately recorded these most terrifying of 'temporary celestial
events', while classical writings such as the "Epic of Gilgamesh", and
numerous passages from the "Old Testament", continue to be decoded in
similar astronomical fashion. In the "Book of Revelations" (Ch8 vs.
10-11), there is mention of star named 'Wormwood', which makes the
waters bitter, creating a wasteland similar to the 'wastelands' of
Arthurian legend. Many now believe that this was a reference to a
future encounter with a comet, whose past catastrophic encounters, and
'periodic return', may have been well known to John of Patmos, the
author of the "Book of Revelations".

The ancient Chinese depicted comets as 'fiery dragons' flying across
the sky. Increasingly, anthropologists, archaeologists and now also
astronomers, are speculating that the 'plumed serpent' of the Aztecs
and the Mayans, and the many tales of 'winged serpents' in the
traditions of numerous other ancient peoples, may also be referring to
comets or large asteroids that in the past had disintegrated in the
upper atmosphere producing enormous 'fireballs', reminiscent of the
spectacularly terrifying and destructive multiple bombardments of past
epochs. As the 'smoke trails' left by these fireballs begin to break
up, distorted by air currents in the atmosphere, they take on the eerie
appearance of a snake - a veritable 'serpent in the sky'.

Victor Clube and Bill Napier, for the frontispiece plate of their ground-breaking book, The Cosmic Serpent,
about the past and present threat to our planet from bombardments of
cometary debris, used a nineteenth-century French caricature of a comet
tearing the Earth apart. Along with it were the words:

Dis (evil) aster (star)

Despite their being two of the world's leading astro-physicists, in
Chapter 8 of the book they laid out the reasons for their comprehensive
study of world mythologies, where they found numerous examples of 'cometary imagery' in the ancient myths of many peoples:

"The earliest recorded myths are those of combat, between a god or
hero and a dragon. The dragon was a familiar figure in Greece, Egypt,
Mesopotamia, Babylon, India, China, North America and elsewhere.
Usually, he has the form of a winged serpent. He is a gigantic monster;
he spouts fire and smoke; bellows and hisses; he throws rocks, and is
the creator or terrible destruction; and his home is in the sky." [3]

The description of the end of Atlantis given by Plato in the "Timaeus" and "Critias"
dialogues bears striking resemblance to what many scientists are now
agreed would be the inevitable result of an oceanic impact by a
disintegrating comet or large asteroid. The resultant 'tsunami',
or tidal waves, would easily reach 2000 ft. high as they approached
land, wiping out any and all coastal settlements. The deluge
traditions, of which there are literally hundreds worldwide, appear in
this light to be variations on Plato's account, and could even be
actual observation-based tales, eye-witness accounts of the same, or
similar, events.

Another good example of this is the 'myth' about the winged horse,
Pegasus, who is said to have been conceived when his mother, the once
beautiful Medusa, was overwhelmed in a tidal wave caused by the passion
of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea and storms. Exactly which
'celestial event' this may eventually be shown to refer to is a matter
for conjecture, but possibly the most famous legend about Pegasus might
give a lead.

Bellerophon was ancient Corinth's most famous hero, and he was set
the task of slaying the Chimera - a monster variously described as
having 'the body of a goat, the tail of a dragon, and the head of a lion, which belched out sulphur, smoke and flames'
. In order to help Bellerophon to overcome the Chimera, the goddess
Athena gave him a golden bridle with which to tame Pegasus, which he
then rode across the skies to southern Turkey where the Chimera had her
cave, not far from the modern border with northern Syria.

The constellation of Pegasus can be found in the northern sky above
Pisces, in the direction of Andromeda, and there is evidence that the
bright blue-white star, Markab, which marks the horse's shoulder, was
important to ancient skywatchers, as was the red giant star, Scheat,
which marks the horse's leg. Whether the legend of Pegasus, Bellerophon
and the Chimera is simply an invented folk tale as some would believe,
or a descriptive observation of cometary activity in that part of the
ancient heavens, we will probably not know until astronomers produce a
plausible model, retro-calculated for those times.

Another possible example of a temporary celestial event encoded in
mythology, and one often quoted in this context, is the story of the
constellation Eridanus - known to the Babylonians as the 'river of the night'.
This is one of the longest constellations in the sky, starting at the
feet of Orion, which can be seen in both hemispheres, and winding down
almost to the celestial South Pole. Only the stars Acamar and Zaurak
can easily be seen from northern latitudes, while Achernar, the ninth
brightest star in the heavens, can only be seen in the Southern
Hemisphere. It is a blue giant star known as 'the end of the river',
and is invisible even in the Mediterranean area.

It was commonplace in many ancient cultures to regard all celestial
phenomena as having their earthly counterparts, and vice versa. So the
Babylonians had their terrestrial River Eridanus, and in their
mythology, as with others in the Mediterranean area, Phaethon, the
foolish son of the Sun god, Helios, pleaded with his father to allow
him to drive his blazing chariot across the sky for one day:

"With the inexperienced hands of Phaethon on the reins, the Sun's
bright horses bolted through the heavens, scorching the Earth and
drying up the rivers. North Africa was turned into the Sahara, and to
save the universe, which would have been destroyed by flames, Zeus
struck Phaethon with a thunderbolt, and he plunged headlong, like a
shooting star, into the waters of the Eridanus far below, his auburn
hair aflame." [4]

There are many similar legends, oral traditions, and later written
mythologies describing temporary celestial events in this manner. And,
it is simply because these were 'temporary' celestial events that they
were regarded as important enough to be worth recording, and passing on
to future generations, orally at first, then later in writing which was
inevitably 'encoded' from our modern perspective.

There is ample archaeological evidence that ancient peoples worldwide were preoccupied with events in the skies,
and almost all the various megalithic structures that have survived the
past several millennia, on all continents, show remarkable degrees of
astronomical observation to have been considered in their siting and
construction. Combined with the ancient traditions of 'death and
destruction coming from the skies', many of which appear
contemporaneous with the periods of the building of many of these
structures, one possible motivation of the megalith builders could well
have been to predict the imminent return of these periodic meteor storms and accompanying fireball events. The most likely of all motives being simply that of 'fear'.

The sheer terror at past bombardments,
and the very real fear of future bombardments, would certainly have
preoccupied those societies that had experienced the destructiveness of
such catastrophic encounters. Given that astronomers and climatologists
now concur such meteoritic bombardments and 'dust veils' can cause
abrupt climate changes, cataclysmic earthquakes and tsunami, bringing
famine, pestilence and plague that can destroy whole civilisations, it
is little wonder that there are ample indications in the
dendrochronology records of numerous past events.

Yet there is sparse archaeological evidence available at present. Or
more likely the evidence exists but is not recognised as such by
archaeologists. This is due in no small part to the resistance within
the archaeological community to attempts at the revision of current
models of prehistory that is called for in the light of this new
inter-disciplinary approach to understanding the past in the context of
a 'catastrophically dynamic solar system history'. Regrettably, there
are still many in the archaeological community who continue to resist
the very idea that ancient peoples were competent skywatchers.
Critics often point to obscure computer models purporting to show that,
at some date or another, one celestial body or another will be seen to
rise or set at 'any' orientation in an easterly or westerly direction.

Sadly this misses the point altogether. Oral traditions, rituals and
mythologies of many ancient cultures often focus on 'specific marker
stars' and constellations, whose rising heralded the imminent
solsticial and equinoctial sunrises. The same is true of other stars
and constellations that were of great significance to those particular
cultures. But, much more importantly, when the major bombardments had
ceased to be a regular occurrence, certain 'marker stars' and star
groups, for example The Pleiades, may well have signalled the rising of
the 'radiants' of the greatly-feared daytime Taurid meteor storms, especially if they were the last feint stars to be seen just before sunrise.

But it is not only in mythology that we find hints of major
traumatic periods in the history of human civilisation. The chroniclers
of old recorded troubled times at the very same epochs that the
tree-rings tell their story of environmental downturns which had
dramatic effects on human populations. The dendrochronology records
show narrowest-ring events at 3195 BC, 2345 BC, 1628 BC, 1159 BC,
207 BC, and at AD 536-545 - the start of the 'European Dark Age'. In
fact, many researchers in a variety of the historical sciences now
believe that the widespread and simulataneous collapse of Bronze Age societies around the world
came about as a result of our planet's encounters with cometary debris
streams, and the decoding of astronomical observations in the
mythologies of classical times is playing a major role.

Gildas, who was writing at approximately 540 AD, says that the island of Britain was on fire from sea to sea " ... until it had burned almost the whole surface of the island and was licking the western ocean with its fierce red tongue."[5] . While in "The Life of St. Teilo" contained in the Llandaf Charters, of St. Teilo, who had recently been made Bishop of Llandaf Cathedral in Morganwg, South Wales, it says:

" ... however he could not long remain, on account of the pestilence which nearly destroyed the whole nation. It was called the Yellow Pestilence,
because it occasioned all persons who were seized by it to be yellow
and without blood, and it appeared to men a column of a watery cloud,
having one end trailing along the ground, and the other above,
proceeding in the air, and passing through the whole country like a
shower going through the bottom of valleys. Whatever living creatures
it touched with its pestiferous blast, either immediately died, or
sickened for death ... and so greatly did the aforesaid destruction
rage throughout the nation, that it caused the country to be nearly
deserted". [6]

St. Teilo is recorded as having left South Wales for Brittany to
escape the Yellow Pestilence, and that it lasted for some 11 years. It
was at this time that the Saxons returned, reportedly unopposed, into
the eastern areas of the 'Arthurian wastelands', begging the question,
could the 'vision' of Myrddin (Merlyn) have been of a fiery comet -
later depicted as a red dragon? Owen Morien Morgan's History of Wales
gives the dates for the birth of St. Kentigern as AD 514, with his
death at AD 601. So it is quite plausible that 'Merlyn's vision' could
well refer to a 'temporary celestial event' that was the cause of the
climatic downturn evident in the 'narrowest tree-ring' chronologies for
AD 536 to 545.

The French archaeologist, Marie-Agnes Courty, presented a paper at the Society for Inter-Disciplinary Studies' July 1997 conference at Cambridge University,
in which she first detailed the findings of excavations at a site in
northern Syria, at Tell Leilan. This was the first time ever that an
archaeological excavation had been initiated where the main purpose was
to examine the stratigraphical record of the area with a view to
searching for evidence of 'scorched earth' due to a suspected episode
of extra-terrestrial 'fireball bombardment'.

She and her team found much evidence of microscopic glass spherules
typical of melted sand and rock which is caused by the intense heat
resulting from an asteroid impact or air-burst. She recommended further
excavations there and at other sites. It would make sense that
attention should be focussed on sites once occupied at dates where the
tree-ring chronologies show evidence of abrupt climate changes - as at
Tell Leilan in northern Syria, where the 'burn event' has now been
dated by Courty as immediately prior to 2345 BC, a 'narrowest
tree-ring' date.

Another increasingly important criteria that should be considered
when defining ideal sites for conducting such excavations are that
these could well benefit from being undertaken in areas where ancient
traditions tell of 'celestial battles between the gods', and/or are in
the areas where events such as the 'Merlyn vision' may have occurred.
The problem, though, is one of adequately localising these myths, and
identifying appropriate sites of ancient settlement at specific dates
indicated in the dendrochronology records to excavate.

One such site is St. Peter's Church on Mynydd Y Gaer (Fortress
Mountain), in Morganwg, South Wales. An excavation at the church in
1990 directed by Dr Eric Talbot, who for 22 years was head of Glasgow
University's Archeology Dept., uncovered evidence that human bones had
been found " ... melted onto the stones ... " [7]. St.
Peter's Church is just 11½ miles from Llandaf Cathedral, but is
situated atop one of the many mountains in South Wales, and they would
have taken the brunt of any cometary fireball bombardment, with the
valleys below possibly being devastated by heavy drifting clouds of
sulphurous gases (fire and brimstone?).

The resultant crop failures would have brought famine, mass
migrations of the survivors, and outbreaks of diseases which could
easily have reached plague proportions given that combination of
circumstances. Certainly these events are remembered in the traditions
and folklore of the area.

Though little recognised now, this area of South Wales had been an
important administrative centre for quite some time before the Romans
came, and continued to be so up until the 'event' that gave rise to the
'Yellow Pestilence' in the mid-6th century AD. It marked the seat of
the Kings of Morganwg (called by the Romans, Siluria) - an area that at
one time stretched from the river Severn in the east, to Caerfyrddyn in
the southwest.

But Morganwg was just one kingdom in a vast Cymric (Welsh) empire in
early Britain that at one time had reached as far as Strathclyde, where
the Lailoken version of the 'Merlyn Vision' had its location. This
'empire' had been jointly administered from Wroxeter, now on the
Welsh/English border, as well as from sites in Morganwg to the south.
So important had Wroxeter been prior to the Roman invasion, that after
capturing it they built Watling Street directly to it.

Following the circa AD 540 'event', Wroxeter fell into disuse, as
did the sites in Morganwg. None of them ever recovered, and it would
seem that if it was a bombardment of fireballs with cometary
dust-loading the upper atmosphere that caused the death and destruction
at the start of the European 'Dark Age', then it covered a vast area of
the island of Britain. And, as this 'climatic downturn' is recorded in
the Irish and in the German bog-oak dendrochronologies, it is becoming
apparent that the area affected covered a wide swathe of northwestern
Europe as well - and probably even much further afield.

Astrophysicist, Victor Clube - whose books Cosmic Serpent and Cosmic Winter
(co-authored with Bill Napier, now at Armagh Observatory) initiated the
recent refocussing of astronomers on comets, asteroids, and especially dust-veils
of cometary debris - has recently put forward a new model for a dynamic
history of the solar system over the past 20,000 to 30,000 years. At
some stage early on in this period they believe a giant comet entered
the solar system, and after destabilising due to a sun-grazing orbit,
was involved in a close encounter with the planet Mercury around 5,000
years ago. This ended its sun-grazing status, and it broke up producing
the batch of meteoroid streams, or trails, known as the Taurid Complex. The orbital path of the Earth encounters this complex twice annually in June (daytime Taurids) and again in early November.

The postulated bombardments and dust-veils at around 3195 BC,
another narrowest tree-ring date, would have wreaked havoc on both the
local and global climate, and any and all cultures affected would have
taken many decades, maybe even centuries, to recover. The sheer terror
that 'multiple-Tunguska-class fireballs' would have instilled into the
peoples of those times would have understandably motivated them towards
building some form of observatories to help predict future meteor
showers/storms as a matter of perceived urgency.

Stage I of the building of Stonehenge - the bank and ditch 'henge'
itself - began within about 150 years of this. The gap in the henge to
the north-east, as viewed from the centre, would have marked the
direction from where the comet Encke would have appeared to rise around
the Midsummer Solstice at that time. This theme was explored by the
noted astronomer, Duncan Steel, at the July 1997 IIS Cambridge
Conference. In the abstract of his paper entitled, "Before The Stones: Stonehenge I As A Cometary Catastrophe Predictor?", Dr Steel wrote:

"Astronomical hypotheses for the purpose(s) of megalithic monuments
have mostly been implicitly based upon an assumption that the designers
witnessed the same phenomena as those we observe in the sky today. This
assumption is not well-based for phenomena having time-constants of
order centuries or millennia, such as the populations of comets and
meteoroids in the inner solar system and the ephemeral meteor showers
and storms which they produce on the Earth. IRAS observations have
indicated that Comet Encke has a trail (not tail) of debris some tens
of millions of kilometres long, presumably produced since its latest
period of activity began about 200 years ago.

One may further presume that the Taurid meteor showers we observe in
this epoch are the result of the dispersal of trails produced in
previous activity cycles which must stretch back to about 20,000 yr
ago. When the comet, accompanied by such a trail, has a node close to 1
AU, one expects intense meteor storms to occur, perhaps accompanied by
multiple Tunguska-type events if the disintegrating comet spawns
massive lumps of debris.

Determination of the epochs of such events from backwards
integrations is impossible due to (i) Chaotic orbital evolution; and
(ii) Non-gravitational forces, but pairs of intersections (one at the
ascending node, the other descending) are to be expected a few
centuries apart and separated by 2500-3000 years. It is suggested here
that one such pair occurred in 3600-3500 and 3200-3100 BC, provoking
the construction of the Great Cursus and Stonehenge I.

From Stonehenge I, apparently the first construction at the famous
site, as the comet neared the Earth it would have appeared to rise in
the evening with a huge bright stripe crossing much of the sky,
originating in the north-east. Passage through the trail would then
result in celestial fireworks (and maybe worse); afterwards the comet
and trail would have passed in the direction of the Sun, partially
blocking sunlight for a few days.

In order for terrestrial intersection to have occurred in that epoch
(late fourth millennium BC) the mean orbital period of the comet over
the past 5,000 years would need to have been slightly less than at
present, and might then be expected to have produced a 19 year
periodicity in meteor storm events (six cometary periods).

It is suggested that Stonehenge I was built by the Windmill Hill
people to allow the prediction of such events, from which they hid in
the shelters we now call long- and round-barrows, and that the later
developments at Stonehenge (phases II and II) by the Beaker people were
a result of a misinterpretation of the original purpose of the site in
terms of lunar and solar observations, a misinterpretation which was
re-discovered by Newham, Hawkins and Hoyle in the 1960's."

Meteor showers and storms are named after the constellations they
appear to emanate from, hence the Taurid meteors appear to emanate from
a 'radiant' within the constellation of Taurus. According to the
Clube/Napier model, the Earth's last major Taurid Complex encounter was
between the two centuries A.D. 400 to 600.

If a comet, later depicted by various cultures around the globe as a
'fiery dragon', did indeed enter the solar system at some stage during
the past 30,000 years, it may well have broken up into several smaller
comets, each leaving trails of debris comprising both sub-micron dust
and bolides many miles in diameter. Given that some 71% of the surface
of our planet is covered with shallow seas and deeper oceans, the
likelihood of oceanic impacts is much greater than that on dry land,
and episodes of bombardment arising from this scenario are the likely
origin of the many 'deluge' traditions that survive around the world.
And, if this were the case, it would seem logical that from impact
craters and 'burnt earth' deposits in stratigraphic layers, the "trail
of the dragon" can be successfully followed through many millennia.

Encouragingly, these trails can be followed not just by the study of
these physical evidences alone, but also by a thorough re-investigation
of astronomically-encoded,
myths, legends and oral traditions of many past cultures. Further
analysis of the enigmatic astronomically-orientated megalithic
structures left by the survivors of those cultures that past celestial bombardments
have left devastated, could also provide useful data about the areas of
the sky to which those survivors paid particular attention. Predicting
the periodic returns of the comets and cometary debris trails
responsible for the bombardments would have become the top prority -
after immediate food and shelter needs, for any and all survivors ...


1. Clarke, B., ed. 1973, Life of Merlin, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, Appendix1, p. 227.

2. Clarke, B., ed. 1973, Life of Merlin, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, Appendix1, p. 227.

3. Clube, S. V. M. & Napier, W. M., 1982, The Cosmic Serpent, Universe Books, New York, p. 192.

4. Tennant, C., 1995, The Lost Zodiac, Chatto & Windus, London, p. 23.

5. Winterbottom, M., ed., 1978, Gildas: The Ruin of Britain and other works, Phillimore & Co Ltd., London, p. 27.

6. Llandaf Charters, Life of St. Teilo, p. 75.

7. Gilbert, A., Wilson, A., & Blackett, B., 1998, The Holy Kingdom, Transworld Publishers Ltd., London, p. 281

Richard Stone


Fri, 07 Mar 2008 14:01 EST

Over the next several years, new telescopes will spot thousands
of near-Earth asteroids and comets. If one is headed our way, will
world leaders be ready to respond?

NEO Figure
with asteroids. In 2000, there were more than 86,000 known asteroids.
By 2007, there were nearly 380,000, including main-belt objects that
don't approach Earth (green); objects that approach but do not cross
Earth's orbit (yellow); and objects that cross Earth's orbit (red).

Observatory, Zhao Haibin sits at a computer and loads the night sky
over Jiangsu Province. A faint white dot streaks across a backdrop of
pulsating stars. "That's a satellite," Zhao says. Elsewhere on the
screen, a larger white dot lumbers from east to west. It's a main-belt
asteroid, circling the sun between Mars and Jupiter.

On a ridge in this quiet, dark corner of southeastern China, about
100 kilometers northwest of Nanjing, XuYi's new 1-meter telescope
espies a few dozen asteroids on a good night. Most are known to
science. But since China's first telescope dedicated to asteroid
detection saw first light early last year, Zhao's team has discovered
more than 300 asteroids, including a near-Earth object (NEO), the class
of asteroids and comets that could smash into our planet, if fate would
have it.

China's asteroid hunters are the latest participants in a
painstaking global effort to catalog NEOs. Close encounters with
asteroids in recent years--and comet Shoemaker-Levy's spectacular death
plunge into Jupiter in 1994--have spurred efforts to find the riskiest
NEOs before they blindside us. Tracking potentially hazardous
objects--NEOs passing within 0.05 astronomical units, or 7.5 million
kilometers, of Earth's orbit--is essential for any attempt to deflect
an incoming rock.

The first test of our planet's defenses could be Apophis, an
asteroid the size of a sports arena that made the world sweat for a few
days in December 2004, when calculations suggested as great as a 1 in
37 chance of an impact in 2029. Although further data ruled out that
day of reckoning, another could be looming. In April 2029, Apophis will
pass a mere 36,350 kilometers from Earth, inside the orbits of
geostationary satellites. If it enters a keyhole--a corridor of space
barely wider than the asteroid itself where gravitational forces would
give it a tug--it will end up on a trajectory that would assure a
collision 7 years later: on 13 April 2036, Easter Sunday. The odds of
Apophis threading the needle are currently 1 in 45,000--but dozens of
factors influence asteroid orbits. Researchers will get a better look
during Apophis's next appearance in our neighborhood in 2012.

By then, a powerful new telescope for detecting asteroids and
comets--the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System
(Pan-STARRS), expected to be up and running by summer--should have
unmasked thousands more NEOs. An even grander project, the 8.4-meter
Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), is expected to be operational
in 2014.

The anticipated bumper crop of NEOs confronts society with urgent
questions. In the next several years, with increasing rapidity,
Pan-STARRS and its ilk will discover potentially dangerous NEOs.
Currently, 168 NEOs have a chance of striking Earth in the next
century, although the odds are minuscule. By 2018, the risky rock
roster could swell more than 100-fold. Additional observations will
allow astronomers to refine orbits, and in most cases, rule out a
threat. For that reason, astronomers are debating when the public
should be alerted to hazards, to minimize false alarms.

Eventually, an asteroid with our name on it will come into focus,
forcing an unprecedented decision: whether to risk an interdiction
effort. "The very concept of being able to slightly alter the workings
of the cosmos to enhance the survival of life on Earth is staggeringly
bold," says Russell Schweickart, chair of the B612 Foundation, a
Sonoma, California, nonprofit that lobbies for NEO deflection
strategies. We have the means to deflect an asteroid--indeed, "it's
really the only natural hazard that we can possibly prevent," says NEO
specialist David Morrison, an astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research
Center in Mountain View, California.

There is one "fatal missing element," says Schweickart, who in 1969
piloted the lunar module for the Apollo 9 mission: "There is no agency
in the world charged with protecting the Earth against NEO impacts." He
and others hope to change that.

Wake-up calls

Like any natural disaster, impacts occur periodically; gargantuan
impacts are so rare that their frequency is hard to fathom. Every 100
million years or so, an asteroid or a comet a few kilometers or more in
width--a titan like the rock thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65
million years ago--smacks Earth. "This is not just getting hit and
killed," says Edward Lu, a former astronaut who now works for Google.
"You're on the other side of the Earth and the atmosphere turns 500°
hotter. Lights out."

Reassuringly, no doomsday asteroid identified thus far is on track
to intersect Earth's orbit in the next century. Less reassuring, an
unobserved, long-period comet from the Oort cloud could swoop in with
little warning. Although the odds of this happening in anyone's
lifetime are on the order of winning the Powerball lottery, a
megaimpact's annualized fatality rate is likely to rival those of
earthquakes or tsunamis, says Clark Chapman, an astronomer at the
Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Near-Earth asteroids tens to hundreds of meters in diameter are far
more numerous-- there may be as many as 3 million in the solar
system--and they cross Earth's path more frequently. The iconic Meteor
Crater in northern Arizona was gouged by a 50-meter-wide hunk of iron
and nickel 50,000 years ago. In 1908, a fireball scorched and flattened
trees over 2100 square kilometers of taiga in Siberia's Tunguska
region--the devastating footprint, many experts say, of a modest
asteroid that exploded in midair.

Recent supercomputer modeling has downsized the Tunguska rock. An
asteroid just a few dozen meters wide, fragmenting explosively with a
yield of 3 to 5 megatons--a fraction of earlier estimates--could have
done the trick, Mark Boslough and David Crawford of Sandia National
Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, report in an article in press
in the International Journal of Impact Engineering. If
this is correct, the expected frequency of Tunguska-sized impacts
changes from once every couple of millennia to once every couple of
centuries. "Smaller objects may do more damage than we used to think,"
says Chapman.

Today the impact threat may seem obvious, but for decades it was
largely ignored. Aerodynamicist Anatoly Zaitsev, director general of
the Planetary Defense Center in Moscow, sounded the alarm in a landmark
report delivered to Soviet leaders in 1986. "They just laughed," he
says. Then on 22 March 1989, an asteroid several hundred meters across
whizzed by Earth at about twice the distance to the moon; astronomers
didn't spot Asclepius until it had already passed.

Asclepius was a shot across the bow, prompting the U.S. Congress to
query NASA about whether the agency had a plan for the next killer
asteroid. A parade of committees followed, after which Congress in 1998
ordered NASA to tally and track at least 90% of NEOs that are more than
1 kilometer wide. NASA launched the Spaceguard Survey, named after a
survey in Arthur C. Clarke's 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama. To date,
Spaceguard and other efforts have identified more than 700 of an
estimated 1000 or so NEOs in this category. Then in 2005, Congress
called on NASA to expand the search by 2020 to cover 90% of NEOs at
least 140 meters in diameter--the approximate minimum size to damage an
area at least as large as a state or seaboard. NASA expects Spaceguard
II to spot 21,000 potentially hazardous NEOs and forecasts a 1-in-100
chance that such a rock will hit Earth in the next 50 years.

The uncertainties are huge. Main-belt asteroids can knock into each
other, turning a benign rock into a malignant projectile. And with only
a fraction of NEOs having been identified so far, what we don't know
can hurt us. Astronomer Brian Marsden, director emeritus of the
International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, the
clearinghouse for asteroid and comet orbits, figuratively sums up the
situation: "The ones to worry about are those that were discovered
yesterday and have a very high probability of hitting us the day after
tomorrow. Those, plus the ones we've never even seen yet!"

Drawing a bead

Night has fallen on an early December evening near Tieshan Temple,
which, according to local lore, was the home of China's first monk. The
sky above the national forest is pitch-black but overcast. On nights
like this, asteroid hunters know how to kill time. In a chilly,
cigarette smoke-filled lounge down the hall from XuYi's control room,
Zhao and his colleagues play cards and sip from tall, clear plastic
bottles packed with green tea leaves, hoping that the weather forecast
is wrong and the skies will clear.

Zhao has worked at Purple Mountain Observatory, which operates XuYi,
since graduating from Nanjing University in 1996. He has a comet named
after him, but his biggest thrill came last spring, when he found an

On most nights, the telescope is pointed away from the sun, toward
main-belt asteroids outside Earth's orbit. More elusive objects between
Earth and the sun can be discerned in the right conditions. With a
clear sky and a new moon, just after nightfall or before sunrise, Zhao
aims the telescope at a 60° angle to the sun, where faint NEOs, like a
crescent or gibbous moon, reflect sunlight in phases. During the
telescope's first year, his team got fewer than a dozen opportunities
to gaze sunward. One was 7 May, when they scored their NEO.

Tonight, just after midnight, the clouds have dispersed enough for
viewing. Zhao's team swings into action, pointing the telescope at a
2-degree-square patch of sky. As dawn breaks, they will e-mail the data
to Purple Mountain's Nanjing headquarters for analysis.

Zhao's team is working fast to stake NEO claims before Pan-STARRS,
the first Spaceguard II facility, starts gobbling up the heavens. The
telescope on Mount Haleakala on Maui Island, Hawaii, has a
charge-coupled device camera with 1.4 billion pixels--the highest
resolution in the world--that acquires images every 30 seconds.

Pan-STARRS, which saw first light last August, will usher in a new paradigm in observational astronomy (Science,
12 May 2006, p. 840). "It's a set of surveys that will be analyzed in a
wealth of different ways," says Kenneth Chambers, an astronomer with
the Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at the University of Hawaii, Manoa,
who is leading a consortium of 300 scientists whose institutions have
paid for first crack at Pan-STARRS gold. Some will map the Milky Way or
look for distant quasars. Others will hunt for asteroids. "The
astronomical community is not ready for the fire hose of data that's
going to hit them," Chambers says.

Once Pan-STARRS begins taking data in earnest this summer, NEO finds
should come thick and fast. According to IfA astronomer Robert Jedicke,
who led development of the software that will cull NEOs from the data
deluge, Pan- STARRS will be 10 times more effective at spotting NEOs
than all current surveys combined. "Are there many more objects like
Apophis out there? This is something that Pan-STARRS will answer," says
IfA Director Rolf-Peter Kudritzki.

Magnificent feats of detection are also expected from LSST, which
will have 24 times greater survey power than Pan-STARRS. Like its
Hawaiian rival, the $389 million project has broad science objectives,
including studying dark energy and dark matter and mapping the Milky
Way. Unlike Pan-STARRS, LSST data will be available immediately to any
researcher. Construction is expected to begin in 2011 at Cerro Pachón,

When completed, LSST will cover the entire available sky every 4
nights with a 3.2-billion-pixel camera. Project scientists have teamed
up with Google, Microsoft, and others to develop algorithms for
processing the masses of data. After 10 years of operation, LSST should
have plotted rough orbits for 82% of potentially hazardous NEOs larger
than 140 meters, with only the risk assessments requiring human input,
says LSST Director J. Anthony Tyson, a physicist at the University of
California, Davis.

Funding is not assured. Tyson has lined up $45 million so far from
private sources, including two gifts announced in January that will
help pay for the mirror: $20 million from Charles Simonyi, chief
executive of Intentional Software, and $10 million from Microsoft's
Bill Gates. The tycoons, says Tyson, "are excited about the LSST acting
as a peripheral device for the Internet and thus bringing the universe
to everyone's computer." Much of LSST's construction funds are expected
from the U.S. National Science Foundation, which will hold a Major
Research Equipment and Facilities Construction review on the project
this autumn.

Gauging risks

In the early 1990s, as astronomers intensified their search for
NEOs, IfA's David Tholen upbraided colleagues for turning a blind eye
to asteroids lurking inside Earth's orbit. He was concerned that an
inner-orbit NEO at its farthest point from the sun could hit our
planet. "For years, I wanted to do something about that," says Tholen.
But he lacked the means. "Other folks had great cameras. I was
envious." In 1997, he finally got time on a decent telescope. Aiming it
low on the horizon just after nightfall or before dawn, his group over
3 years discovered four asteroids in this blind spot--including a
whopper that is 5 kilometers wide.

Riding high, Tholen won a grant for a more intensive search
campaign. But his team struggled with technical glitches, and by their
final year of funding in 2004, he says, "we hadn't found a single
asteroid." He redoubled his efforts, booking time at observatories
around the world. In June 2004, he was juggling nights on two
telescopes. Then in the early evening of the 18th, at Kitt Peak
National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, Tholen, Roy Tucker, and
Fabrizio Bernardi hit pay dirt: They got a first glimpse of Apophis.

"Apophis demonstrated that we know very little about the region of
space near Earth," says Boris Shustov, director of the Institute of
Astronomy in Moscow. Anxiety will mount when Apophis chugs back into
range in 2012. Ironically, the best instrument for refining the
asteroid's orbit--the world's most powerful planetary radar at Arecibo
Observatory in Puerto Rico--may be switched off in 2011, the victim of
budget cuts. Even without Arecibo, optical measurements almost
certainly will reduce or rule out the impact risk. For that reason,
NASA has no plans to send a probe to Apophis, and the European Space
Agency has shelved a mission (see sidebar, p. 1329).

A chilling reassessment of Apophis could change the political landscape fast.

Suppose that observations forecast a 1-in-1000 impact risk in 2036.
"That risk is really low, but if it hits, it's really bad," says Lu.
"How much is it worth to us to have peace of mind?"

The "threshold of pain," as Lu calls it, may depend on who would be
affected--and what resources they have. Based on current calculations,
the line where Apophis might hit--the so-called risk corridor--runs
from Kazakhstan through Siberia, over the northern Pacific, and across
Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, and the south Atlantic. Who would
mount and pay for a deflection mission? All countries along the
corridor? Just Russia, vulnerable to a direct hit, or the United
States, vulnerable to a towering tsunami? The United Nations? What if a
mission failed, deflecting Apophis to another point on the risk
corridor, converting an "act of God" into an act of humankind? Who
would be liable?

As experts grapple with these questions, some are trying to rouse
political leaders. With outside advice, the Association of Space
Explorers, an organization of astronauts and cosmonauts based in
Houston, Texas, is drafting an NEO Deflection Decision Protocol to
present to the U.N.'s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in
2009. "Apophis should unite our efforts to deal with the threat," says
Shustov, who is leading an effort to develop Russia's first national
R&D program on NEO hazards.

Shustov's nightmare is that leaders will drag their feet until the
threat of a direct hit becomes real. But an asteroid need not impact to
cause chaos. Each year, military satellites detect several
1-kiloton explosions of asteroids in the upper atmosphere, and every
several years, a much larger explosion of 10 kilotons or more, says
Sandia's Boslough. "They are quite frightening to people on the ground."

A bus-size meteoroid would explode in the stratosphere with the energy
of a small atomic bomb, producing a blinding flash much brighter than
the sun, says Chapman. "Military commanders in a region of tension
might regard it as the hostile act of an enemy and retaliate," he says.
A 25-kiloton airburst occurred over the Mediterranean Sea on 6 June
2002. Imagine, Chapman says, "if that had happened instead in the
vicinity of Kashmir, where tensions between India and Pakistan were

While this scenario may argue for giving NEO sightings wide
publicity, some experts think that detailed predictions--particularly
risk corridors--should be withheld from the public. They want to avoid
a "Chicken Little" phenomenon of repeatedly sounding alarms that are
later downgraded or called off. NASA has not released Apophis's risk
corridor in 2036.
(The B612 Foundation provided the diagram
above.) "We do not generally release these kinds of diagrams when they
relate to future and ongoing risk assessments," says Steven Chesley, an
NEO specialist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,

Others believe in full disclosure. "People don't like secrecy. It
breeds distrust," says Chapman. "When the facts are finally revealed,
people wonder whether to believe them and wonder about what else might
be still under wraps." NEO impact forecasts, he says, should be treated
like hurricane forecasts, allowing people to respond.

Like the first hurricane of the season, the first test of our
planetary defenses may be an asteroid whose name starts with the letter

Richard A. Kerr


Fri, 07 Mar 2008 11:21 EST

A devastating cosmic collision 13,000
years ago continues to play well in the media, but specialists are
challenging the grounds for thinking it happened

Victims of a hit? Published evidence that an impact triggered the mammoths' disappearance is falling far short of proof.

It looked impressive as slide after data-laden slide flashed on the
screen last spring. Nearly a dozen debris markers, found at 26 sites
from the U.S. West Coast to Belgium, testified to a huge impact
followed by a continent-spanning wildfire. The catastrophe had taken
place a geologic instant ago--closely coinciding with the disappearance
of North America's mammoths and the continent's earliest human culture (Science, 1 June 2007, p. 1264). Then came the 26-author paper last October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS),
not to mention the hourlong National Geographic Channel documentary
running on cable since last October, with more coverage on the way from
the History Channel and PBS's prestigious program NOVA.

Although cosmically blasted mammoths may make good copy, many impact
specialists have lately swung from leeriness to thorough disbelief.
"The whole thing is contrived," says geochemist and impact specialist
Christian Koeberl of the University of Vienna, Austria. "Their data
don't agree with anything we know about impacts. It just doesn't make
any sense. Occam's razor has been put safely in a drawer somewhere."

One problem is that no one has "any of the classic evidence of an
impact," says impact specialist David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary
Institute in Houston, Texas. Spurred by the 1980s debate over what
killed off the dinosaurs, "the community learned a lot about what the
threshold of evidence is" for confirming an impact, he explains. But
taking all the evidence offered by the group proposing the
mammoth-killer impact, "you end up with [markers] that are not
diagnostic of impact," says impact specialist Bevan French of the
National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Proponents,
meanwhile, are defending some of their published claims and giving
ground on others but promising ultimate vindication.

This published NMR peak is too wide and in the wrong place to be diamond, say researchers.

Diamonds not forever

Everyone agrees on one point at least. "Obviously, something really
interesting happened 13,000 years ago," as Kring puts it. It was 12,900
years ago, to be precise, that a world staggering out of the last Ice
Age suddenly plunged back into a millennium of near-glacial climate
before emerging into the current warmth. It was also about
then--emphasis on the uncertainties summed up by "about"--that the
mammoths and other great beasts disappeared from North America. And the
Paleo-Indian Clovis culture vanished from the archaeological record
around then, too.

The PNAS authors have a cosmic explanation for the coincidence of
climate shift, extinctions, and cultural oblivion: A body or clump of
bodies from outer space ravaged North America. By exploding over or
actually hitting the great ice sheet in the north, their reasoning
goes, the impactors could have shifted climate into the chill of the
so-called Younger Dryas (YD) period. And the blast or blasts, as well
as the resulting continent-wide wildfire, would have sufficed to wipe
out or at least seriously weaken man and beast.

Headed by nuclear chemist Richard Firestone of Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory in California and retired geophysical consultant
Allen West of Dewey, Arizona, the 26 PNAS co-authors present what they
argue is debris from the impact: metallic bits, an abundance of the
exotic element iridium, nanodiamonds, and molecular "buckyballs" filled
with extraterrestrial helium. And the wildfire would have left
charcoal, soot, carbon spherules, and glasslike carbon. Along with the
impact debris, these components appear in a thin layer of
sediments--the YD boundary layer--that was laid down near the beginning
of the cold snap and the end of the mammoths.

That sort of litany impressed the largely nonexpert crowd at last
May's Joint Assembly of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in
Acapulco, Mexico, but the few experts there were nonplussed. Now, in
the wake of the detailed PNAS paper, the experts are able to take a
more critical look. For starters, they are pointing out that the
carbon-rich debris says nothing about the cause of the fires. Fire
happened back then, notes geologist Nicholas Pinter of Southern
Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, especially once humans
arrived. Critics are equally quick to set aside the helium-filled
buckyballs or fullerenes reported in the PNAS paper by geochemist Luann
Becker of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Throughout a half-dozen years of effort, no one else has replicated the
isolation of fullerenes with helium (Science, 14 May 2004, p. 941).

Then there are the nanodiamonds. Zillions of diamond bits a few
nanometers in size sound exotic enough. Many meteorites are filthy with
them, so the impactor could have brought them in. Nanodiamonds have in
fact been reported in the debris of the dinosaur-killing impact 65
million years ago.

At the AGU meeting, paleoceanographer and PNAS third author James
Kennett of UCSB reported that UCSB colleagues had "conclusively" shown
the presence of nanodiamonds in sediments from the YD boundary layer.
They used transmission electron microscopy (TEM), the gold standard for
nanodiamond identification. However, no TEM results appeared in the
PNAS paper. Instead, a sample of glassy carbon recovered from the YD
boundary had been sent to a commercial laboratory for analysis using
carbon-13 nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). The NMR analysis showed
that the "sample contains nanodiamonds, which are inferred to be
impact-related material," the paper states.

Experts asked to comment on the findings disagree. "Their NMR data
do not provide evidence for nanodiamonds," says geochemist George Cody
of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Geophysical Laboratory in
Washington, D.C., who in 2002 was the first to use NMR to identify
nanodiamonds in meteorites. "I would never have claimed that [their NMR
spectrum] had anything to do with nanodiamonds."

Under the proper analytical conditions, says Cody, nanodiamonds
produce a narrow NMR peak centered at a chemical shift of 34 parts per
million. The PNAS spectrum is broad and centered at 38 parts per
million, too broad and too far afield to be nanodiamonds, he says. In
any case, the analytical conditions used were wrong for detecting
nanodiamonds, Cody adds; no peak would have appeared even if they were

Mundane metals?

Another claimed marker of the YD impact--the element iridium--is
coming under attack as well. An iridium "spike" was the first clue to
identifying the impact that caused the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) mass
extinction 65 million years ago. The metallic element is scarce in
Earth's crust but relatively abundant in meteorites, so like
nanodiamonds, any excess might have arrived via asteroid or comet.

Firestone and colleagues reported elevated iridium of a few parts
per billion (ppb)--comparable to K-T sediments--in some sediment
samples from the YD boundary but not in sediments above or below. They
found tens to more than 100 ppb of iridium in microscopic
particles--both rough grains and once-melted spherules--magnetically
separated from some of those sediments. And they cite an earlier report
in Nature of "large increases" in iridium "during the Younger Dryas as
recorded in the GRIP (Greenland) ice core." The iridium came from
beyond Earth in an impactor, the group concluded.

Other researchers aren't sure where the iridium came from, if it's
there at all. As to the ice core record, "I was surprised to see such
an interpretation of our results in Nature," says Paolo Gabrielli,
first author of the Nature paper and now at Ohio State University in
Columbus. "My paper does not report any large increase of iridium in
the Younger Dryas. So it has nothing to do with an extraterrestrial
impact." Firestone disagrees: "I interpret his results differently than
he does."

Diamond Peak?
©R. FIRESTONE ET AL., PNAS 104, 41 (2007)
This published NMR peak is too wide and in the wrong place to be diamond, say researchers.

Impact specialist Philippe Claeys of the Free University of Brussels
in Belgium can't find any iridium at all in the four sediment samples
of the YD boundary West sent him for analysis. The PNAS group
eventually reported that two of the samples contained elevated iridium
easily detectable by Claeys's method; the magnetic fraction of the
third sample had extreme iridium concentrations. But Claeys reported to
West that he could detect no iridium higher than 0.5 ppb in any of the
samples. West blames the "nugget effect," in which a few microscopic
sediment particles highly enriched in iridium account for most of the
iridium in an analyzed sample; samples that happen to have few nuggets
look barren. Claeys, however, says he intentionally used large enough
samples to avoid the nugget effect.

Archaeologist Vance Haynes, professor emeritus at the University of
Arizona, Tucson, is finding likely looking magnetic spherules in the
darnedest places. He has spent 30 years studying Clovis sites, many of
which the Firestone group sampled. As a check on his own ongoing
independent analysis of YD samples, he collected a modern sample. "I
got 300 grams of dust off the roof [of my house], and it's full of
magnetic microspherules," he says. Whether they are the melted,
iridium-rich micrometeorites that continually drift down from the upper
atmosphere or the product of high-temperature industrial processes such
as coal burning, he doesn't yet know. Either way, they could be
trouble. The cosmic dandruff of microspherules could have salted
sediments forming 12,900 years ago with iridium, while the humanmade
variety might have settled on modern outcrops before sampling.

Comment: But what Firestone, et al., discovered was that the microspherules uncovered in the Clovis sites were not exposed in modern outcrops, so this argument is bogus.

Chemical analyses of the magnetic particles do not point to impact,
Koeberl says. The elemental analyses make little geochemical sense, he
says. In particular, the magnetic particles are far too rich in
titanium to be extraterrestrial. He rejects the suggestion in the PNAS
paper that such odd geochemistry points to "a new and unknown type of
impactor." Meteoriticist Theodore Bunch of Northern Arizona University
in Flagstaff, the fifth PNAS author, agrees that the magnetic fraction
has problems. What its chemistry means, "I don't know," he says,
speaking for himself. In any case, "it detracts from the main thing."

The main thing now is nanodiamonds, according to Bunch and other
PNAS authors. The initial UCSB detection of nanodiamonds came too late
for their paper, says Firestone. Now West is using TEM and has found
three different types of nanodiamonds in the YD layer but failed to
find any above or below it. "Some people just can't stand the idea of
something falling out of the sky," he says, but "they can't explain all
of these [impact] markers, and diamond is the hardest to explain away."

West and colleagues expect to publish on nanodiamonds, but their
critics are still waiting to be impressed. Pinter and Scott Ishman, his
micropaleontologist colleague at SIU, wrote in a detailed critique in
the January issue of GSA Today that such "spectacular stories to
explain unspectacular evidence consume the finite commodity of
scientific credibility." The problem, Pinter says, is that "there's a
wide fringe beyond the impact community" where the criteria for impact
identification laid out in the literature are not rigorously followed.
Whether another try at nanodiamonds will meet the standard is anybody's

Comment: The
American uniformatarianist school of climate change is clearly on the
defense. What's missing from this critique is the complete lack of
attention to obvious secondary impact craters dating to 12,900 years
BP: the Carolina Bays.

As for Gabrielli's comment, one can judge the data from his paper for oneself (click image to enlarge):

Depositional Fluxes

Clearly, there is a spike around 12,900 years (first peak from the
left in the shaded area. The graph is log-linear). Note also the
increased depositional flux throughout the ice age and recall
astronomer Victor Clube's talk:

You first take the modern sky accessible to science, especially
during the Space Age, and you look at its' darker debris with a view to
relating its behavior to the more accessible human history which we
can, in principle, really understand. And by this approach you discover
from the dynamics of the material in space which I'm talking about that
a huge comet must have settled in a Taurid orbit some 20,000 years ago,
whose dense meteor stream for 10,000 years almost certainly produced
the last Ice Age.

Andrew MacDonald

Gold Coast News

Fri, 07 Mar 2008 15:39 EST

What glows orange, scours the skyline and leaves a black plume of smoke?

Annette Van Zetten is not exactly sure what she saw shooting across
the Tweed skyline on Wednesday evening, but it certainly grabbed her
attention as well as the police and rescue authorities.

The Kingscliff woman was home entertaining friends about 5.30pm when
she saw a bright orange object, seemingly not far from her Pacific
Street home.

Fearing a plane was in trouble, Mrs Van Zetten's friend, Greg
Swaney, called police, who immediately began searching the area with
the aid of a crew from the RACQ CareFlight helicopter.

Mrs Van Zetten said she was sitting on her back deck when she spotted the unidentified flying object.

"It just sort of looked like an orange glow," she said. "The shape of it was like a flying saucer.

"It didn't look like a plane. It was definitely going down and then
we saw black smoke so that's when we thought perhaps a plane was on

Ms Van Zetten said it was hard to judge exactly how large or how far away the object was.

"We don't know how big it was. We thought maybe it was about 10km (away), maybe around Cabarita. It was hard to tell."

As airfields and airports in the region began accounting for their
aircraft on Wednesday night, police received reports of further
sightings of the orange glow.

With no reports of missing aircraft, the helicopter search was called off after about half an hour.

Police from Kingscliff, Tweed Heads, Murwillumbah and Byron Bay
continued looking for any sign of the object before the search was
called off.

Sergeant Rob Taylor of Tweed Heads police said it was likely an
object had streaked across the sky on Wednesday. "There is some
credibility given that a few people have reported seeing something," he
said. He said police were fairly confident the object was not a plane
but that it may have been a meteor.

"We've got no craters or anything like that," he said.

Byron Bay police conducted an early morning search of bushland near the beach yesterday morning, with no results.

Sydney Observatory astronomy educator Mel Hulbert said although
there was no record of major meteor activity on Wednesday night, the
light in the sky over Kingscliff was likely to have been caused by a
type of meteor known as a bolide.

"There are a couple of meteor showers that are running at the moment, but neither of them peaked yesterday," she said.

"Probably what we've seen is a bolide. A bolide is just a larger
piece of debris. Meteors are generally not that big. Most of the ones
we see are about dust grain-sized.

"Usually most of the meteors that we see burn up completely. Having
said that, we estimate that we get a rock fall to Earth once every two

Samantha Bates

The East Oregonian

Wed, 05 Mar 2008 17:20 EST

Dick Pugh enthralled about 50 people Tuesday night with his
presentation on the fireball that lit up the sky on the morning of Feb.

Adults and children crowded into the children's section of the
Pendleton Public Library to hear Pugh, a scientist with the Cascadia
Meteorite Laboratory. He provided the latest facts on the meteor and
gave suggestions about how to find pieces of the space rock.

Pugh will hold another presentation at 7 tonight at the Hermiston Public Library, 235 E. Gladys Ave.

Pugh began by showing a few photos of the fireball that came down
over southeast Washington and northeast Oregon about 5:30 a.m. on Feb.
19. Pugh said it probably weighed between one and two tons, came down
to earth at 13 miles per second and exploded two or three times -
between 15 and 25 miles above the ground. He said people saw the
fireball in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and northern
California and British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.

"It was a very bright object," he said. "It's the brightest fireball we've had since 1987."

The breakup of the meteorite caused sonic booms from Arlington to Lewiston and from Walla Walla to Baker, he said.

"The explosion was equal to 50 tons of TNT," Pugh said. "So it was a
pretty good bang. And you're in the Pendleton area where some folks
were literally bounced out of bed by it."

Some of the meteor pictures came from Providence Hospital in
Portland, 250 miles from where the fireball actually broke up. He also
showed a video from the National Guard Armory in Boise. He played the
video on a projector to the "oohs" "aahs" and chuckles of the crowd.

"Coming in ... bang! ... bang!" he said, narrating the video.

"We had people out. I think poor old Helix took it the hardest," he
continued. "We had people who were sound asleep and the blinds were
pulled. And all of a sudden the inside of the rooms got so bright you
couldn't even tell where the walls were. You sit up and start to get up
and wonder, 'What the heck was that?' - and the sonic boom almost
knocks you out of bed."

Pugh said the February fireball probably produced a strewn field,
where large pieces of the meteorite land at one end and little pieces
at the other. The strewn field is usually about 10 miles long and 5
miles wide.

"What I'm hoping for is somebody got one through the barn roof," he
said. "If you're anywhere up on the west side of the Blues, this thing
blew up 20 to 25 miles up. There could be pieces on both sides of the
Blue Mountains. If Tollgate is ground zero ... you could have rocks all
the way from Weston to Elgin. Look for holes in the roof."

Pugh also went over other fireballs and meteors hitting the Earth
over the last century. He told stories about Oregon's four meteorites,
including the most famous, the Willamette Meteorite. He also covered
the different types of meteorites - iron, stony and stony irons - and
how to identify them.

The fireball that streaked over Eastern Oregon sparked interest in
the audience and they had many questions for Pugh after he finished his

One child asked how much a meteorite would be worth. Pugh said a
small, fist-sized piece would be worth several thousand dollars.

"But where there's one, there's more," Pugh said. "If that thing
weighed between one and two tons coming in, there's probably a ton of
this stuff laying out there, somewhere. It could be anywhere from the
Umatilla Reservation clear across the top - I suppose as far east as

He also had a homework assignment for those in the audience.

As the weather dries out, he said people should take a magnet, put
it in a plastic baggy and drag it over the dripline of their barn
roofs. Because meteorites are magnetic, they will stick to the magnet.

Michael Rollins

The Oregonian

Wed, 05 Mar 2008 17:09 EST

The LaGrande Observer has a story where Dick Pugh, PSU prof and celestial expert extraordinaire, suggests where the bits ended up.

Pugh, who is with Portland State University's Cascadia Meteorite
Laboratory, believes the meteorite hit somewhere between Tollgate and
Elgin. He said its fragments could be as far east as the mouth of
Lookingglass Creek and as far south as Summerville.

©Dick Mason/Observer

The meteorite's fragments hit with such velocity they could have easily punched golf ball-sized holes in roofs.

The meteorite's pieces could be as large as a basketball or as small
as BBs. They will have a fusion coating created by their explosive
entry into the atmosphere. Just below the thin fusion coating the
rock's color will likely be significantly different, Pugh said.

The fusion coating will range in color from brownish black to greenish black.

"(The small fragments) will look like black olives,'' Pugh said.

Clara Eisinger

The Ithacan Online

Thu, 06 Mar 2008 15:25 EST

Scientists at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Telescope, run by Cornell
University, found a rare asteroid last month with two moons only seven
million miles from Earth - a breakthrough for a facility in the midst
of serious budget woes.

Michael Nolan, research associate and head of radar astronomy at
Arecibo, said the facility was the first in the world to find
extrasolar planets and to develop a three dimensional map of how
galaxies are distributed in the universe. Still, NASA
completely cut off funding to the facility in 2004, and the National
Science Foundation has refused to step up its funding in the meantime.

Nolan said Arecibo's budget is now $12.5 million per year, but it will be cut 10 percent in 2009, and 40 percent by 2011.

"There's no way we can operate with that amount of money unless we can find someone else to give us some," he said.

Donald Campbell, astronomy professor at Cornell University, said
funding cuts might cause the shut-down of Arecibo's planetary radar
program, which discovered the triple asteroid.

"The only really identifiable program that you could shut down and
save money, short of shutting the whole telescope down, is probably the
planetary radar program, because it makes use of large amounts of power
and big transmitters and generators," Campbell said.

Nolan said the bill would help Arecibo remain operational.

He said a shut down of the telescope would hurt Cornell's research
abilities because the telescope is a major source of information for
the astronomical community. He also said he would not be able to use
the information the telescope provides in his classes anymore.

"It would make me a less interesting lecturer ... ," he said. "I
talk to the class about some of the things we do and show pictures of
the asteroid."

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Cal., a member of the House Committee on
Science and Technology, has co-sponsored a bill in a bi-partisan effort
to appeal to NASA and the NSF to keep Arecibo running. He is sponsoring
the bill with Luis Fortuna, resident commissioner of Puerto Rico, a
nonvoting member of the House of Representatives.

Tara Setmayer, communications director for Rohrabacher, said the
bill will ask for the NSF to fully fund Arecibo, allowing scientists to
continue their work in radio astronomy and solar system research. It
does not specify exactly how much funding should be set aside.

The bill also calls for cooperation between NASA and the NSF.

Daniel Lamb, congressional representative for Rep. Maurice Hinchey
D-N.Y., said Hinchey is one of the 20 members of Congress who have
co-sponsored the bill, which has been in the House Subcommittee on
Space and Aeronautics since October.

Nolan said Arecibo receives some of the lowest funding compared to
other observatories in the U.S. The National Optical Astronomy
Observatories in Arizona got more than $38 million last year, and the
National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico received more than
$44 million last year.

Nolan said the Arecibo telescope gathers data rather than taking pictures of the asteroid. He
said scientists bounce radio waves off the asteroid and then use the
data they obtain to find out the rock's mass, density, orbit and other

"You send out a narrow pulse and first it bounces off the front of
the asteroid," he said. "And then a few microseconds later it bounces
off a piece farther away, and so we can sort of patch that back
together and make these images."

Cornell research associate Ellen Howell said as the asteroid spins,
astronomers make a two-dimensional image of it on their computers.

Howell said Arecibo's capabilities are unique, because it can react
quickly to new discoveries by approving urgent proposals for additional

"Sometimes in as little as three or four hours, we can change the
schedule, get all the right people assembled and get the telescope
going," Howell said.

Howell said she and her colleagues had been planning to look
at the near-Earth asteroid, known as 2001 SN263, for a while. She and
other astronomers thought it was simply a large rock and did not
realize it has two moons.

"We didn't know there was anything special about it until we got the first images," she said.

Nolan said the main rock in the asteroid's system is 2.7 km in
diameter, or about 1.5 miles. Howell said the largest moon is half that
size, and the smaller moon is 1000 m in diameter.

Howell said the triple asteroid is the closest one to Earth
astronomers have ever found, though they have seen binary asteroids,
with only one moon, close to Earth before.

The discovery raises many questions for Howell and her
fellow astronomers, such as whether this triple system is stable and
whether it formed as a three-part asteroid or picked up the third rock

Setmayer said Rohrabacher believes maintaining
Arecibo is vital to national security, since its use of radar makes it
uniquely suited for finding potentially dangerous near-Earth objects.

"It doesn't look for things, it tracks them, and it tracks them with
a level of precision that no other telescope can do," Setmayer said.

Howell said the triple asteroid poses no threat to Earth, but
studying it might give scientists a chance to learn more about the
potential hazards of asteroids.

"Studying the asteroid may also help astronomers learn more about
the earth's origins," Nolan said. "The reason we care about this is,
these are the things that made the planets," he said. "To understand
how the Earth formed, it helps to know what it's made of."

Alexander Bagrov

RIA Novosti

Thu, 06 Mar 2008 15:34 EST

Almost a century ago, on June 17 (30), 1908, a massive explosion
occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, in what is now Russia's
Krasnoyarsk Territory, Central Siberia.

The residents of the Vanavara trading post, 65 kilometers (40 miles)
south of the blast site, later claimed that the ground trembled
violently when attacked by a huge ball of fire, followed by a terrible
storm that destroyed everything in its wake.


The explosion was most likely caused by the airburst of a large
meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5-10 kilometers (3-6
miles) from the Earth's surface. Studies have yielded varying estimates
for the object's size, with most experts agreeing that it measured
several dozen meters in diameter.

Estimates of the energy of the blast range from 5 megatons to as
high as 30 megatons of TNT, with 10-15 megatons being the most likely
yield. The blast, about 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima
bomb, felled an estimated 80 million trees over 2,150 square
kilkometers (830 square miles). The earthquake caused by the blast
measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. The region has never completely recovered.

The Tunguska blast was the largest meteoroid impact in the Earth's
recent history, and demonstrated the awesome destructive power of
near-space objects. An explosion of the scale of the one in Tunguska
could destroy large metropolitan areas. It is this possibility that has
helped to spark discussion of asteroid deflection strategies.

Due to the rotation of Earth, if the collision had occurred
4 hours 47 minutes later, it would have completely destroyed the
Imperial Russian capital, St. Petersburg. A little later still, and the
Tunguska meteorite would have wreaked chaos and destruction in densely
populated Europe.
Although scientists have advanced over 80
theories explaining the Tunguska event, none of them offers any
conclusive evidence. Moreover, it is now impossible to verify them.

When I became an astronomer 30 years ago, I believed that the
mystery of the Tunguska meteorite would never be solved. However,
astronomers have since then obtained additional information about the
origin of celestial bodies, and can offer more convincing explanations
for the Tunguska blast.

I am going to tell an upcoming international conference in Moscow to
mark the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska event that it was most
likely caused by a comet fragment consisting of the Solar System's
primary matter.

There are two kinds of comets in our Solar System. "Primary" comets
consist of micron-sized inter-stellar dust and gas, whereas "secondary"
comets feature meteorite substance. A disintegrating "secondary" comet
forms the meteor showers that are frequently observed from the Earth.
Some of their fragments do not burn up during reentry and can be
recovered. On February 12, 1947, a large meteorite disintegrated
spilled fragments over a 1.3-sq. km. area in the Sikhote-Alin range,
some 440 km from Vladivostok in the Russian Far East. Subsequent
expeditions recovered many iron fragments there.

The Astronomy Institute's experts and I believe that if the Tunguska
meteorite were a "secondary" comet, then it would have contained
several metric tons of meteor substance, and some of it could have been

It would be therefore logical to assume that the Tunguska meteorite
was a huge gas-and-dust snowball, whose tiny fragments vaporized after
hitting the terrestrial atmosphere. The remaining comet-nucleus also
vaporized instantly, causing the loud and powerful air burst that was
registered by many observatories all over the world.

When a "primary" comet blows up, surviving comet-nucleus particles,
including tiny hard-to-melt dust, are dispersed in the Earth's
atmosphere, subsequently becoming embedded in tree bark. Unfortunately,
scientists in 1908 lacked modern methods for detecting space-bolide

The Tunguska meteorite was a milestone in terrestrial history,
highlighting the dangers posed by killer asteroids. The other two known
large meteorites that fell in the sparsely populated Sikhote-Alin range
on February 12, 1947 and on August 13, 1930 in the Brazilian Amazonas
region (approximately latitude 5° S. and longitude 71.5° W.), near the
Peruvian frontier, caused no substantial damage.

Such narrow escapes are either a coincidence, or God's Providence.
At the same time, we know very little about meteorites falling into the
world's oceans.

With the onset of the Space Age, humankind realized that the Earth
was under constant threat from celestial bodies. Asteroid-and-comet
studies have soared in popularity as people have become aware that
these space objects have the capability to wipe out human civilization.
Even now, numerous near-Earth satellites designed to detect
ballistic-missile launches or unauthorized nuclear tests annually
register 10-15 airbursts equivalent to a megaton of TNT. Most
scientists believe that these explosions are the result of mini-comets
burning up in the atmosphere.

Although we still lack the technology to deflect approaching
asteroids and comets, we can watch the skies and evacuate the
population of threatened areas in case of an impending strike.

Hollywood films notwithstanding, it would be unforgivably dangerous
to use weapons to destroy an incoming asteroid. The resulting fragments
could cause at least as much damage as the original object. Probably
the best solution would be to land a small rocket on the asteroid's
surface, exerting just enough force to gently change its trajectory.
This would be far less spectacular, but could save thousands of lives,
as well as humankind's material and spiritual heritage.

Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Alexander Bagrov, is a
leading research associate of the Astronomy Institute of the Russian
Academy of Sciences.

Alan MacRobert

Sky and Telescope

Thu, 06 Mar 2008 17:17 EST

I love celestial coincidences. There are just so many of them.

Why do some of the closest bright stars to the solar system lie in
front of the bright stars of the winter Milky Way? This foreground and
background have nothing to do with each other, but they combine to make
our winter evening sky especially starry-bright.

Why, from Earth's viewpoint, do planets shine just about as bright as the brightest stars?

Why are the apparent sizes of the Moon and Sun so nearly alike?
They're just right to give us the most spectacular-looking (if rather
rare) total solar eclipses.

©S&T: Dennis di Cicco & Sean Walker
the evening of March 5th, big dim Comet Holmes was passing big dim NGC
1499, the California Nebula in Perseus. For this image Dennis di Cicco
took 30-minute exposures through blue and green filters and a 50-minute
exposure through a red filter, using a 5-inch Tele Vue NP127is
refractor and an Apogee U16M CCD camera. Click image for larger view.
(Look carefully at the large view and you'll see the faint nucleus of
the comet as a tiny red-green-blue streak; it moved between the three
exposures.) The field is roughly 3° tall, with north up.

You might think there was some sort of astronomical trickery going
on, if you didn't know the real reason. Our brains are hard-wired to
overinterpret. That is, we err on the side of seeing patterns and
meanings where none exist, rather than the other way around. For good
evolutionary reasons. It was a lot safer in the jungle to mistake a
pattern of shadows for a tiger than to mistake a tiger for a pattern of
shadows. For millions of years, those who erred on the side of
over-interpreting tended to live longer, and have a chance to reproduce
and become your ancestors, so you carry their brain structures. And
therefore even today, your child sees a heap of laundry in the night
and screams that he sees a crouching monster.

And on a happier note, we interpret the random scatterings of stars
in the sky as fairytale people and animals, objects and heroes, each
with a made-up story.

For the next several days there's a very photogenic coincidence in
the sky that's no illusion. Comet Holmes is passing the big, dim
California Nebula in Perseus. (Ever wonder why we map-reading creatures
see a California in space?)

Last night S&T's Dennis di Cicco took the picture above. Both
objects are much too dim to show their colors to the eye, even in a
rich-field telescope. In fact, they're so dim that they may be
invisible to the eye altogether. But the color contrast is real, as the
camera shows.

The comet glows mostly by yellow-white sunlight reflected from dust.
The red light of the nebula comes from hydrogen atoms excited by
ultraviolet light from the hot, bluish star Xi Persei at the bottom of
the picture.

The comet is moving so slowly across the sky (from right to left in
the image) that it will remain near the California Nebula through about
next Wednesday, March 12th. (See chart.) Astrophotographers take note.


Sat, 08 Mar 2008 18:39 EST

Astronomers from The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, have captured rare video of a meteor falling to Earth.

The Physics and Astronomy Department at Western has a network of
all-sky cameras in Southern Ontario that scan the sky monitoring for
meteors. Associate Professor Peter Brown, who specializes in the study
of meteors and meteorites, says that Wednesday evening (March 5) at
10:59 p.m. EST these cameras captured video of a large fireball and the
department has also received a number of calls and emails from people
who actually saw the light.


Brown along with Wayne Edwards, a post doctorate student, hope to
enlist the help of local residents in recovering one or more possible
meteorites that may have crashed in the Parry Sound area of Ontario,

"Most meteoroids burn up by the time they hit an altitude of 60 or
70 kilometres from Earth," says Edwards. "We tracked this one to an
altitude of about 24 kilometres so we are pretty sure there are at
least one, and possibly many meteorites, that made it to the ground."

Edwards says the lab can narrow the ground location where the
meteorite would have fallen, to about 12 square kilometres and have
created a map that may assist in locating the meteorite. The rock, or
rocks, would probably weigh a kilogram or slightly more.

"We would love to find a recovered meteorite on this one, because we
have the video and we have the data and by putting that together with
the meteorite, there is a lot to be learned."

Video of meteor falling can be seen at: Link

Adapted from materials provided by University of Western Ontario.

Today's Zaman

Sat, 08 Mar 2008 16:07 EST

A small meteorite that recently landed in a village in Muğla's
Fethiye district will be analyzed by the Mining Exploration Institute
(MTA), stated an official from the region.

Fethiye Deputy District Governor Halil İbrahim Çomaktekin reported
that the meteorite fell in the Türbe neighborhood of Yaka Village after
a making a thunderous noise. "The muhtar [head] of the village called
and informed us, saying that the meteorite was black. He is going to
bring it to the city center for analysis. We'll have it analyzed by the
MTA," Çomaktekin added.

A resident of Yaka said he heard a loud roaring noise at around
11:20 a.m. on the day the meteorite fell, sounding as if "a plane had

"We were amazed to find such a small stone after that
thunderous sound. It was black and about 40 centimeters in diameter,
weighing three kilograms at most," another said, adding that the
meteorite opened a small crater in the ground and created a cloud of

Residents of some neighboring villages rushed over immediately after
hearing the sound, and eventually the black meteorite was found in
Hacıekiz's field.

The Canadian Press

Sun, 09 Mar 2008 16:56 EDT

Astronomers at the University of Western Ontario are asking
residents near the Central Ontario town of Parry Sound to help find
meteorites that may have recently fallen in the area.

The astronomers have captured rare video of a meteor streaking through the Earth's atmosphere.

They are hoping people in the area can help recover one or more possible meteorites that may have hit the ground.

Associate professor Peter Brown, who specializes in the study of
meteors and meteorites, says cameras captured video of a large fireball
on Wednesday at 10:59 p.m.

He also says the department has received a number of calls and e-mails from people who saw the bright light in the sky.

Prof. Brown and postdoctoral student Wayne Edwards are now trying to
find people who are willing to help search for the fallen meteorites.

"Most meteoroids burn up by the time they hit an altitude of 60 or 70 kilometres from Earth," Dr. Edwards said.

"We tracked this one to an altitude of about 24 kilometres, so we
are pretty sure there [is] at least one, and possibly many meteorites,
that made it to the ground."

Dr. Edwards said his lab has narrowed the location where the
meteorite would have fallen to about 12 square kilometres, and it has
created a map to help in the search.

The rock, or rocks, would probably weigh a kilogram or slightly more.

"We would love to find a recovered meteorite on this one, because we
have the video and we have the data, and by putting that together with
the meteorite, there is a lot to be learned," Dr. Edwards said.

Associated Press

Sun, 09 Mar 2008 17:24 EDT

Meteorite scientist Dick Pugh says Chicken Little may have had a point: The sky really is falling. Well, part of it, anyway.

At a recent talk here he urged people to look to their rooftops for
pieces of the fireball that came thundering down on northeast Oregon at
5:31 a.m. on Feb. 19.

Pugh, with Portland State University's Cascadia Meteorite
Laboratory, says he thinks it hit between Tollgate and Elgin but that
its fragments could be widely spread.

He said the fragments could have easily punched holes in roofs and could have been as large as a basketball or as small as a BB.

They will have a fusion coating, ranging from brownish black to
greenish black. The small fragments "will look like black olives," he

The meteor - it becomes a meteorite if it strikes the ground -
entered the atmosphere weighing one or two tons, moving south and
dropping at a 62-degree angle, based on reports of more than 70 who saw
or heard it, Pugh said.

Some recorded images of its five-second appearance.

Images also were caught by two cameras in Canada's meteorite surveillance system and by others in Portland and Boise, Idaho.

Its greatest performance was over Helix, north of Pendleton, where
its light was blinding and its sonic booms deafening, he said.

"It blew people out of bed in Helix," Pugh said.

It generated three sonic booms, one reason why Pugh and other
scientists say they don't think it burned up completely while entering
the Earth's atmosphere.

Pugh said that means it likely was a stony meteorite, by far the
most common kind. Iron meteorites do not break up in the earth's

He said some people reported smelling sulfur. A Meacham resident
reported a metallic taste in the mouth after the meteorite flew by.

He said two professional dealers have been scouring the
Elgin-Tollgate area, flying over it looking for the black dust that
would have been created by the explosion, and for holes in the snow.

The searchers also have spent hours on snowmobiles.

More casual searchers, he said, can check not only roofs but to take
a golf club, attach magnets to it, move it over rocks and save the ones
that stick to the club.

Anything that sticks could be a meteorite fragment.

If it is found it would be a first for Eastern Oregon. Four have
been found in Western Oregon, he said, but none on the eastern side
because fewer people live there.

Such searches are difficult because many meteorites resemble the area's abundant basalt rock.

Pugh will attend a meteorite conference in a few months and expects everyone to ask the same question: "Where is it?"

He isn't looking for fires, he says, because meteorites don't start them.

The interiors are frigid since they just came from space, where the
temperature is 200 degrees below zero. Some meteorites found seconds
after landing have frost on them, Pugh said.

"You have a better chance of getting frostbite from a meteorite than of getting burned," he said.

Sandra Bahbah

Sunday Times

Mon, 10 Mar 2008 17:03 EDT

The mystery behind the lights which appeared over WA skies early
this morning has been solved. The Perth Observatory says the lights
were caused by a meteorite building up in the atmosphere.

Coloured lights could be seen in the sky from Bunbury to Geraldton around 5.30am.

Residents contacted the Observatory and the WA Water Police, looking for answers.

They described the colours of the lights as green, white and yellow.

Perth Observatory technical officer and astro-photographer Richard
Tonello said the green flashes were a tell-tale sign of a meteorite.

"The same thing happened in November 2005 from Augusta to Lake Grace," he said.

The lights were about 100km above the surface of Earth.

United Press International

Tue, 11 Mar 2008 12:37 EDT

Canadian astronomers at the University of Western Ontario are
hunting for pieces of a meteorite they videotaped falling to Earth.

Associate Professor Peter Brown said the university's network of
all-sky cameras shot video of the large fireball at 10:59 p.m. last

Brown and post doctoral student Wayne Edwards are asking for the
help of local residents in recovering meteorites that might have
crashed in the Parry Sound area.

Most meteoroids burn up by the time they hit an altitude of (36-42
miles) from Earth, said Edwards. We tracked this one to an altitude of
about (14 miles) so we are pretty sure there are at least one, and
possibly many meteorites, that made it to the ground.

Edwards said the area where meteorites would have fallen has been calculated at about 5 square miles.

We would love to find a recovered meteorite on this one, because we
have the video and we have the data and by putting that together with
the meteorite, there is a lot to be learned, he said.

National Geographic

Wed, 12 Mar 2008 12:27 EDT

A meteorite that smacked into the Peruvian highlands last September may have punched holes into long-held theories about how such meteorites, called chondrites, interact with Earth's atmosphere.

Chondrites are stony chunks of asteroid, likely common in space, that contain materials similar to those found in Earth's crust.

©Reuters/STR New
meteor slammed into the southern Peruvian town of Carangas on September
16, 2007, leaving a 50-foot-deep (15-meter-deep) crater, seen here two
days after the impact.

New investigations of the crash site reveal that the meteor stayed
as one piece during its journey through Earth's atmosphere, challenging
previous views that such objects break apart and scatter before hitting
the ground, experts say.

Scientists have thought that the objects break up into flattened
clusters of particles that spread out like a pancake as they plunge
into Earth's atmosphere, said Peter Schultz, a geology professor from
Brown University who studies meteorite impacts.

This would cause the pieces to burn up in the atmosphere or slow
down and drop to the ground like rocks dropped from an airplane.

The fragments would make holes in the ground like pits - but not craters, according to Schultz.

Yet "the [Peruvian] meteorite kept on going at a speed about 40 to
50 times faster than it should have been going," defying the theory,
Schultz said.

In fact it came down intact as a giant fireball at about 15,000
miles (about 24,000 kilometers) an hour, creating a 50-foot-deep
(15-meter-deep) crater.

This unusual occurrence had some scientists wondering if the
Peruvian crater might have been caused by something different, or even
faked, Schultz said. "At the time, rumors were flying."

So he traveled to Peru to look at the crater, which is located in the village of Carangas, near the Bolivian border.

The Real Thing

The most likely alternative was that the impact was simply the
largest of a widely strewn field of meteor fragments, and the
scientists found only only one crater.

The fabricated-meteorite-crater theory was then ruled out when
Schultz's team found "shock" features and intricate mixing of the
meteoritic dust in the surrounding rock, indicating that something had
indeed crashed into it.

The question is how the meteor-which Schultz estimates to have been
roughly the equivalent of a three- to six-foot-long (one- to
two-meter-long) boulder-managed to stick together and retain its speed,
rather than dispersing into a shotgun blast of small fragments.

In research presented today at the Lunar and Planetary Science
Conference in League City, Texas, Schultz and colleagues suggested that
the fragments might have been trapped and smoothed into an aerodynamic
shape by the shock wave created by their movement through the

He compares it to the way sediments in a streambed can be shaped by flowing water.

"Rather than flying apart," he told National Geographic News, "[perhaps] it shaped into a needle and pierced the atmosphere."

Owen B. Toon, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado
at Boulder who was not involved in the study, finds it "quite

"We know from impacts such as Tunguska [a Russian crater from a 1908
impact] that fairly large objects [half a football field in diameter]
can blow up in the atmosphere and leave no crater or obvious debris
field on the ground," he said by email.

"The behavior is related to the strength of the material, since iron
objects of this size leave a large crater behind. Hopefully Peter
[Schultz] will learn more about the crater and impactor in this article
so that we can understand better how it reached the surface."

Protection Needed

Regardless of what happened, Schultz wants to see the crater protected for future research.

Humans rarely see a meteorite landing, he said-for instance, "Meteor Crater [in Arizona] is 50,000 years old."

(See a photo of Meteor Crater.)

Furthermore, the Peruvian meteor's surprising arrival raises the
question of how many more meteors may have crashed into Earth in a
similar fashion.

Science Daily

Wed, 12 Mar 2008 12:34 EDT

It made news around the world: On Sept. 15, 2007, an object
hurtled through the sky and crashed into the Peruvian countryside.
Scientists dispatched to the site near the village of Carancas found a
gaping hole in the ground.

Peter Schultz, professor of geological sciences at Brown University
and an expert in extraterrestrial impacts, went to Peru to learn more.
Brown graduate student Robert "Scott" Harris collaborated on the
research, joined by Jose Ishitsuka, a Peruvian astrophysicist, and
Gonzalo Tancredi, an astronomer from Uruguay.

What Schultz and his team found is surprising. The object that
slammed into a dry riverbed in Peru was a meteorite, and it left a
49-foot-wide crater. Soil ejected from the point of impact was found
nearly four football fields away. When Schultz's team analyzed the soil
where the fireball hit, he found "planar deformation features," or
fractured lines in sand grains found in the ground. Along with
evidence of debris strewn over a wide area, the shattered sand grains
told Schultz that the meteorite had maintained a high rate of speed as
it shot through the atmosphere. Scientists think it was traveling at
roughly 15,000 miles per hour at the moment of impact.

"Normally with a small object like this, the atmosphere slows it
down, and it becomes the equivalent of a bowling ball dropping into the
ground," Schultz said. "It would make a hole in the ground, like a pit,
but not a crater. But this meteorite kept on going at a speed about 40
to 50 times faster than it should have been going."

Scientists have determined the Carancas fireball was a stony
meteorite - a fragile type long thought to be ripped into pieces as it
enters the Earth's atmosphere and then leaves little more than a
whisper of its journey.

Yet the stony meteorite that struck Peru survived its passage mostly intact before impact. "This
just isn't what we expected," Schultz said. "It was to the point that
many thought this was fake. It was completely inconsistent with our
understanding how stony meteorites act."

Schultz said that typically fragments from meteorites shoot off in
all directions as the object speeds to Earth. But he believes that
fragments from the Carancas meteorite may have stayed within the
fast-moving fireball until impact. How that happened, Schultz thinks,
is due to the meteorite's high speed. At that velocity, the fragments
could not escape past the "shock-wave" barrier accompanying the
meteorite and instead "reconstituted themselves into another shape," he

That new shape may have made the meteorite more aerodynamic -
imagine a football passing through air versus a cinderblock - meaning
it encountered less friction as it sped toward Earth, hitting the
surface as one large chunk.

"It became very streamlined and so it penetrated the Earth's atmosphere more efficiently," Schultz said.

Schultz's theory could upend the conventional wisdom that
all small, stony meteorites disintegrate before striking Earth. If
correct, it could change the thinking about the size and type of
extraterrestrial objects that have bombarded the Earth for eons and
could strike our planet next.

"You just wonder how many other lakes and ponds were created by a
stony meteorite, but we just don't know about them because when these
things hit the surface they just completely pulverize and then they
weather," said Schultz, director of the Northeast Planetary Data Center
and the NASA/Rhode Island University Space Grant Consortium.

Schultz's research could have implications for Mars, where craters
have been discovered in recent missions. "They could have come from
anything," he said. "It would be interesting to study these small
craters and see what produced them. Perhaps they also will defy our

These findings will be present at the 39th annual Lunar and
Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas on March 11, 2008.

CBC News

Tue, 11 Mar 2008 10:40 EDT

Astronomers from the University of Western Ontario are searching for a meteorite that landed in central Ontario last week.

The "large fireball" was captured falling last Wednesday at 10:59
p.m. ET by sky-monitoring cameras at the London, Ont.-based university.
Astronomers narrowed the impact site down to about 12 square kilometres
centred on Parry Sound, which is around 220 kilometres north of Toronto.

©University of Western Ontario
astronomy department at the University of Western Ontario captured this
rare footage of a meteor streaking to Earth last week over Parry Sound,

Associate professor Peter Brown and post-doctoral student Wayne
Edwards put out a call to residents of the region for signs of the
meteorite or meteorites. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere by the
time they get to within 60 or 70 kilometres of the Earth, but this one
was tracked until 24 kilometres.

"We are pretty sure there are at least one, and possibly many
meteorites, that made it to the ground," Edwards said on the
university's website.

The astronomers said the rocks would probably weigh a kilogram or
slightly more, but acknowledged the chances of finding a large chunk
were not good given that the meteorite seems to have fallen into a lake
in the area.

The university said it would like to find any of the meteorites for research purposes.

"We would love to find a recovered meteorite on this one, because we
have the video and we have the data, and by putting that together with
the meteorite, there is a lot to be learned," Edwards said.

The researchers have created a map to help people find the space
rocks. The map, along with the video footage of the meteorite falling,
are posted on the university's website.

Larry O'Hanlon

Discovery News

Tue, 11 Mar 2008 07:44 EDT

One of the longest-running mysteries in the U.S. National Parks has
been solved: The crater-like Upheaval Dome in Utah's Canyonlands
National Park was caused by a meteor impact, say German researchers.

Utah crater
decades geologists have debated whether Upheaval Dome in Utah's
Canyonlands National Park, pictured here, was created by a volcanic
outburst, an eruption of salt or a meteor impact. The crucial clue was
the discovery there of "shocked quartz," which can be created only by
the intense pressures of a violent meteor impact, say researchers.

For decades geologists have debated whether the picturesque "Sphinx
of Geology," viewed by millions of park visitors, was created by a
volcanic outburst, an eruption of salt or a meteor impact. Then
a crucial clue was discovered: "shocked quartz," which can be created
only by the intense pressures of a violent meteor impact.

"This is great news because finally, after so many years of
searching, the final clue that Upheaval Dome is an impact structure has
been discovered," said impact crater researcher Christian Koeberl of
the University of Vienna in Austria. "Their data are convincing."

The discovery was made by German researchers Elmar Buchner and
Thomas Kenkmann, who published their findings in the March issue of the
journal Geology. Surprisingly, the shocked grains of quartz
were located not at the center of the crater, but off to one side,
suggesting that the meteor struck the Earth at an angle.

"Discovery of shock metamorphic features...is a requirement to
'nail' the impact origin of a feature, and they have done it," Koeberl
told Discovery News.

In the 1930s, Upheaval Dome was interpreted as a volcanic feature by
one geologist. Thirty years later, in the 1960s, another geologist
proposed that it was the result of ancient sea salts buried under the
rock. The salt, less dense than rock, rises up in the ground -- like a
drop of oil rising up through water -- and buoys up the rock into a

The meteor impact idea wasn't officially taken up by any researchers until the 1980s, and remained inconclusive until now.

"The very controversial debate about Upheaval Dome's origin has
lasted nearly a century, over the course of which extremely different
hypotheses (gradualism versus catastrophism) have been proposed,"
report Buchner and Kenkmann.

The debate has, in fact, reflected a historical divide of ideas in geology over those decades.

On one hand there were the "gradualists" who adhered to the idea
that just about everything we see on the planet today is the result of
gradual processes still at work -- glaciers moving, rains falling,
rivers flowing, etc. Gradualism was considered heretical when it was
proposed by James Hutton in the late 18th century because it implies
the Earth was tremendously older than some Biblical scholars had

These Biblical scholars cited such catastrophes as Noah's flood to
explain such geological oddities as marine fossils atop mountains. These
early "catastrophists" tended to ignore evidence that went against
their Biblical interpretation of the geological record. In other words,
they weren't very scientific.

As a result, geologists are trained to tread very carefully wherever
extraordinary events are being called on to explain geological
features. The trouble is, of course, there are some things like
Upheaval Dome, which are, as we now know, genuine creations of
extraordinary -- albeit non-Biblical -- catastrophic events.

Clara Moskowitz


Wed, 12 Mar 2008 12:35 EDT

In September 2007 a fireball flew in from space and hurtled though
Earth's atmosphere, smashing into the ground in Peru while awestruck
witnesses watched. It was the first time people have witnessed space
debris forming an impact crater live.

©Peter Schultz

But the witnesses' reports and
the geological aftermath stunned scientists. This meteorite seemed to
have flown in much faster than scientists thought possible for an
object of this kind, and it apparently survived entering Earth's
atmosphere intact, rather than splintering into bits as experts thought
it should have.

"Many people thought this was a fake," said Peter Schultz, a Brown
University planetary geologist who traveled to Peru to analyze the
crater. "It just didn't make sense with what we understand of
collisions with this type of fragile rock. Coming through the
atmosphere they get stressed so highly that they typically break apart.
But this one didn't do that."

Let's go look

A few months after the impact, Schultz went to investigate the
crater along with Peruvian scientists and government officials. He
presented his findings today at the 39th annual Lunar and Planetary
Science Conference in League City, Texas.

Schultz found fractured lines in sand grains and compressed mixtures
of earth and meteorite around the 49-foot-wide crater near the village
of Carancas. These, along with widespread debris from the meteorite's
crash landing, told him it landed at high speed, likely around 15,000
miles per hour at the moment of impact.

The meteorite was a common type, a chunk of silicate rock called a
stony meteorite. Usually a projectile such as this would be slowed down
by the drag of Earth's atmosphere. By the time it landed, it would be
traveling at the normal terminal speed of any object falling from the
sky, and would probably dint a hole in the ground, but not a crater.

"Essentially Carancas threw us this high-speed curveball," Schultz
told SPACE.com. "The mystery is why it didn't slow down and how did it
make it all the way to the Earth intact to form a crater? These are
questions we have to resolve."

New thinking

Scientists have several hypotheses about what might have happened.
Perhaps as the meteorite hurtled through the atmosphere it melted and
morphed, becoming more of an aerodynamic needle-shape that could resist
stress and survive in one piece. Plus, this shape would help it hold on
to its speed, since the surface area exposed to atmospheric drag forces
would be reduced.

"But the mystery is, why wouldn't all objects reshape?" Schultz
said. "Maybe it requires special circumstances, like the angle of

The unique event could change scientists' thinking about how
meteorites act, and how other craters on Earth were formed, especially
ones similar to the Carancas site, where water has since collected in
the hole.

"What does this mean for other small water-filled ponds?" Schultz
asked. "You just wonder how many of these have powdered remains of a
stony meteorite at the bottom, something that would be difficult to
find after time."

Anne Minard

National Geographic

Wed, 12 Mar 2008 11:41 EDT

A pair of mysterious meteorites discovered in Antarctica is baffling
scientists who are struggling to determine the origin of the space

The meteorites, dubbed GRA 06128 and GRA 06129, were found in the Graves Nunataks region of Antarctica in 2006 (see an interactive map of Antarctica).

GRA 06129 meteorite
meteorite dubbed GRA 06129 is one of two space objects that has
scientists stymied. Experts initially thought the meteorites shared
their origins with the moon or perhaps Venus, but those theories have
now been discounted.

The rocks were oddly rusty and salty and smelled like rotten eggs, its discoverers said.

Initially, a team at the University of New Mexico (UNM) caused a
stir when its analysis hinted that the pair may hail from Venus or the

But other teams then hurried to get pieces of the space rocks for analyses of their own - and for the most part, they disagree.

GRA 06128 looks like rocks retrieved from the lunar highlands by the
Apollo 16 astronauts in 1972, but it contains much more sodium,
research has shown.

The rock is also much older than the Venusian surface, according to the newer analysis, thereby eliminating that possibility.

The identity of the meteorites' source remains exciting and
mysterious, said Allan Treiman, a scientist with the Lunar and
Planetary Institute in Houston who led one of the recent investigations
of the rocks.

"From what has been reported so far, it's pretty clear that the
meteorite is not from the Earth, or the moon, or Venus, or any of the
common sources of meteorites," he said. "It's much harder to know where
it is from."

Both teams - along with three others - are presenting findings about
the meteorites at the 39th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in
Houston this week.

Not of This World?

GRA 06128 and its mate are slab-shaped, gray rocks containing bits of black glass.

The researchers analyzed chemical signatures called isotopes and
initially determined that the meteorites came from Earth or the moon, a
position they've since retooled.

"Although initial oxygen isotopic compositions are consistent with
an origin in the Earth-Moon system, numerous observations appear to
eliminate both bodies," Shearer and his team write in an abstract
presented at this week's meeting.

Doug Rumble from the Carnegie Institution and his colleagues will
also present an analysis of GRA 06128 and 06129 at the conference.

He said the New Mexico researchers initially studied a "tiny crumb
that fell off the outside" of GRA 06129, but they didn't wash the outer
layer to remove any Earthly weathering agents that might alter the

"The UNM analytical results reflect only imperfectly the actual
extraterrestrial composition of the meteorite, because UNM also
analyzed rust that formed as the meteorite lay exposed to Earth's
atmosphere," he said.

Rumble's own analysis puts the meteorites "right in the range of
values expected for rare meteorites called brachinites," he said.

Brachinites are believed to be the remnants of planets that once orbited between Mars and Jupiter (see an interactive map of the solar system).

"So now we are all meeting in Houston to hang our heads a little and
admit to one another that maybe we were a little too hasty," Rumble
said, "and got too excited over an unwashed meteorite."

Unsettled Debate David Kring, a visiting scientist at Houston's
Lunar and Planetary Institute and a co-author on Treiman's paper, said
there's still work to be done to nail down the exact nature of the
meteorite pair.

The chemical and mineral compositions of the rocks are similar to
brachinites and another type of meteorite called chondrites, he said.

Chondrites, leftovers from the formation of asteroids, are the most
common meteorites. But the pair doesn't match either category exactly,
Kring said.

The rocks are partially melted, which is not characteristic of chondrites.

And they contain high levels of the mineral feldspar, which is not
typically associated with the short-lived planets between Mars and

"Thus there are two mysteries," Kring said. "What is the parent
planet for the rock, and what type of geologic activity on that planet
produced the unusual mineral assemblage?"

There is no shortage of new ideas to account for the disparity.

"My preferred working hypothesis is that [the meteorites] actually
represent a piece of crust from an asteroidal body - the surface of
another planet, if you like," offered James Day, a geologist at the
University of Maryland.

Day has joined the other researchers at this week's meeting to puzzle over the rocks.

Treiman added that it would take a very large asteroid or a dwarf planet to cause the melting seen in the meteorites.

Whether or not its home is discovered, GRA 06128 is a "pretty
puzzle, and will help us understand how asteroids form and how they
evolve to become planets," he said.

Laura Stradiotto

The Sudbury Star

Wed, 12 Mar 2008 18:54 EDT

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire were seen falling from the sky Monday.

The sightings have puzzled astronomers and local experts who've failed to come up with an explanation.

Some witnesses described the unidentified flying objects as being bright blue, green, red or yellow.

While most sightings were reported around 1:30 p.m. near Sudbury,
Hagar, Highway 69 North and North Bay, Wayne Lachance spotted something
in the sky earlier in the morning.

Lachance was driving home to Massey after a night shift at Vale Inco Ltd. when something caught his eye around 7:30 a.m.

"I thought it was a real bright star," he said. "It was getting brighter and coming down with sparks."

Lachance arrived home and looked outside his bedroom window to see "spirals of smoke" falling.

Science North fielded about a dozen calls from residents who saw the fiery objects around 1:30 p.m.

Howie Mende, a staff scientist with a background in physics who
works at the science centre, said the bright balls of fire could
possibly be aircraft, a meteor, meteorite or satellite debris.

The amateur astronomer didn't see anything in the sky Monday, but spoke to many residents who did.

"Everybody who saw it thought it was near them," Mende said.

"It could be that it was different objects or it could be the same
object and your perception of the space between you and the object gets
distorted because it's such a rare event."

One person thought the object burned up before it reached the Earth, while other witnesses said it hit the ground.

"One person even thought a piece hit near her home, literally a few houses away," said Mende.

If the object was a falling meteorite, Mende said it's not unusual for it to happen during daylight.

"In our solar system, we're basically just another sphere," he said.
"There's a whole bunch of other activity happening out there."

After speaking to witnesses, Mende believes the objects were anywhere from the size of a marble to a basketball.

"Can we even detect something that small with any accuracy?" If it's
any bigger than that, there's a better chance of it hitting the Earth
and us hearing or feeling an impact."

Last week, researchers at the University of Western Ontario reported
that a blazing meteor captured on video may have fallen to Earth along
the shore of Georgian Bay.

On March 5 at 10:59 p.m., the university's Physics and Astronomy
Department's network of all-sky cameras - stationed across southern
Ontario - picked up images of a large fireball streaking across the

Canwest News Service

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 10:36 EDT

A large fireball that flashed through the sky over central B.C.
early today was caused by a Russian rocket that fell from space, the
third time pieces of Russian space junk have fallen in the province,
police said.

Const. Gary Godwin of the Prince George RCMP said dozens of
witnesses called about 1 a.m. saying they had seen a huge orange-red
"meteor" in an area over Prince George.

"We had numerous reports of bright flashes across the sky going from east to west," said Godwin.

The RCMP dispatched vehicles to the scene in case of a plane crash
or the chance of recovering a meteorite, but nothing was found.

Godwin said the file had been turned over to the RCMP's E Division in Vancouver for further investigation.

"It might have been pieces from a Russian rocket that had
disconnected and fell back into Earth's atmosphere," he said. Godwin
said it was the third time Russian space junk had been spotted falling
over B.C., but he could not say when the other two incidents had

The North American Aerospace Defence Command, or NORAD, said today a
Russian SL6 rocket fell from space and crossed over an area from
Kamloops to Dawson Creek, a distance of about 800 kilometres.

The Department of National Defence said the incident was being dealt
with by Canada's Public Safety Department, which was preparing a

250 News

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 10:44 EDT

Prince George, British Columbia - The search is on for a fiery object spotted over Prince George.

Callers tell Opinion 250 that just before 1:00 this morning, a large
object with a fiery tail crossed over the city in a northwest
direction. One caller says truckers were on their radios saying they
thought it was a plane of some sort.

"It was more orange than red, streaking across the sky, I only saw
it for a few seconds, and it was heading towards Huble homestead."

Our caller says if it was a meteor, or space junk "It's a pretty big one, 'cause this was a large object"

At the time of this posting, there had been no reports of missing
planes. A spokesman from the Air and Marine Emergency Centre,
Department of National Defence, says there are no missing planes,
although they have received numerous reports from the north of fiery
sightings . A spokesman says he can only speculate that it was a large
meteor in the sky over Prince George.

There have been reports of the fireball called in from Kamloops through to Dawson Creek.

Carnegie Institution

Thu, 13 Mar 2008 16:05 EDT

The organic soup that spawned life on Earth may have gotten generous
helpings from outer space, according to a new study. Scientists at the
Carnegie Institution have discovered concentrations of amino acids in
two meteorites that are more than ten times higher than levels
previously measured in other similar meteorites. This result suggests
that the early solar system was far richer in the organic building
blocks of life than scientists had thought, and that fallout from space
may have spiked Earth's primordial broth.

The study, by Marilyn Fogel of Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory and
Conel Alexander of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism with Zita
Martins of Imperial College London and two colleagues, will be
published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

Amino acids are organic molecules that form the backbone of
proteins, which in turn build many of the structures and drive many of
the chemical reactions inside living cells. The production of proteins
is believed to constitute one of the first steps in the emergence of
life. Scientists have determined that amino acids could also have
formed in some environments on the early Earth, but the presence of
these compounds in certain meteorites has led many researchers to look
to space as a source.

The meteorites used for the study were collected in Antarctica in
1992 and 1995 and held in the meteorite collection at the NASA Johnson
Space Center in Houston, Texas. Antarctica is the world's richest
hunting ground for meteorites, which are naturally concentrated in
so-called blue ice regions and held in cold storage by the ice.

For the amino acid study, the researchers took small samples from
three meteorites of a rare type called CR chondrites, thought to
contain the oldest and the most primitive organic materials found in
meteorites. CR chondrites date from the time of the solar system's
formation. During an early phase of their history the meteorites were
part of a larger "parent body," such as an asteroid, which later was
shattered by impacts.

The analysis revealed that while one sample showed a relatively low
abundance of amino acids, the other two meteorites had the highest ever
seen in primitive meteorites - 180 and 249 ppm (parts per million).
Other primitive meteorites that have been studied generally have amino
acid concentrations of 15 ppm or less. Because organic molecules from
extra-terrestrial sources have ratios of carbon isotopes different from
those of Earthly biological sources, the researchers were able to rule
out contamination as a factor in their result.

"The amino acids probably formed within the parent body before it
broke up," says Alexander. "For instance. ammonia and other chemical
precursors from the solar nebula, or even the interstellar medium,
could have combined in the presence of water to make the amino acids.
Then, after the break up, some of the fragments could have showered
down onto the Earth and the other terrestrial planets. These same
precursors are likely to have been present in other primitive bodies,
such as comets, that were also raining material onto the early Earth."

David Shiga


Thu, 13 Mar 2008 19:01 EDT

Two rocks found together in Antarctica are chunks of a dwarf planet
that was smashed apart early in the solar system's history, detailed
studies suggest. Other remnants of the proto-world may still be
floating around in the asteroid belt, and might be identifiable by the
spectrum of the sunlight they reflect.

In the solar system's first few tens of millions of years,
collisions between rocky objects and the decay of radioactive isotopes
melted the interiors of large objects. Magma oceans - perhaps hundreds
of kilometres deep - lapped over the Moon, the Earth, and other large
bodies, allowing dense material to settle towards their centres in a
process called differentiation.

The two meteorite pieces, called GRA 06128 and GRA 06129 after the
Graves Nunataks area of Antarctica where they were found together in
2006, show evidence of such differentiation - which suggests they came
from a massive body.

That's because the two objects are made mostly of a mineral called feldspar, which constitutes about 75 to 90% of their volume.

Feldspar is even more abundant in some lunar rocks. That is thought
to be the result of crystals of feldspar solidifying from the early
magma ocean on the Moon. Because feldspar is a relatively lightweight
mineral, it would have floated to the top of the magma ocean, allowing
it to form a highly concentrated layer of the mineral.

The amount of feldspar in the two meteorite fragments suggests they
are remnants of a very large body that differentiated in a similar way,
according to Allan Treiman of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in
Houston, Texas, US, who led a study of one of the fragments.

'Strange new world'

Other studies of the meteorite, including one led by Richard Ash of
the University of Maryland in College Park, another headed by Chip
Shearer of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and a third
helmed by Ryan Zeigler of Washington University in St Louis, Missouri,
all in the US, agree that the parent body must have been massive enough
to have separated into layers.

The feldspar concentrations suggest that body was probably smaller
than the 3500-kilometre-wide Moon but larger than Vesta, the third
largest asteroid in the solar system at 578 kilometres across, says

That's because meteorites believed to be from Vesta contain
solidified lava, but not large concentrations of feldspar. That
suggests that Vesta was massive enough to melt, but not so massive that
it differentiated to form a distinct layer of the mineral.

"This is a piece of a dwarf-planet size body that apparently no
longer exists," Treiman told New Scientist. "We have here a sample of a
strange new world, a sample we've never seen before."

Ancient era

Zeigler, however, says the newly studied meteorites share
similarities with a class of meteorites called brachinites, whose
parent body appears to have been large enough to partially melt. "I
think we can make a case that [the new discovery] is from the
brachinite parent body [but] I don't think we can say it definitively
yet," he says.

The meteorites' composition has led scientists to rule out the
possibility that they are chips off of the Moon, Mars or Venus. And the
ratio of iron to manganese does not match that of Earth, ruling out the
possibility that it is an old chunk blasted off our planet's surface
that later returned.

By measuring the radioactive decay of elements in the meteorite,
scientists led by Richard Ash have shown that the rock must have formed
around 4.5 billion years ago, when Earth and the other planets were

Studying these fragments of a now-vanished object from that era
provides a rare window into the early solar system, Treiman says. At
that time, a lot of dwarf-planet size objects were flying around the
solar system. Some would have been flung out of the solar system
through gravitational interactions with other objects, while others
collided to help build the planets present in the solar system today.

Remnant fragments

"We're looking maybe at a part of solar system history when dwarf
planets were all over the place and forming the terrestrial planets,"
Treiman says.

But exactly what happened to the parent object of GRA 06128 and GRA
06129 is not known. If it was destroyed in a collision, there may be
fragments of it still out there floating around the solar system as
asteroids. Treiman says such fragments might be identified by their
light spectra.

Some aspects of the meteorite, such as the high abundance of sodium
in some of its minerals, hint that the parent body may have contained a
lot of water, according to another study of the meteorite by Tomoko
Arai of the National Institute for Polar Research in Tokyo, Japan.

The research from the five teams was presented on Wednesday at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, US.


Sat, 15 Mar 2008 09:06 EDT

Meteorite impacts are often associated with huge disasters, mass
extinction and why the dinosaurs disappeared from the face of the Earth
some 65 million years ago. However, the opposite may also occur - that
new and more varied animal life arises following such a catastrophe, is
shown by new research conducted by the Natural History Museum of
Denmark, University of Copenhagen.

Alpha-Monocerotid meteor
Alpha-Monocerotid meteor outburst in 1995. Meteors are actually pieces
of rock that have broken off a comet and continue to orbit the Sun.

Together with colleagues from Lund University in Sweden, two
palaeontologists, Svend Stouge and Dave Harper, have discovered that
the Earth in the so-called Ordovician period 490-440 million years ago
was struck by more than 100 meteorites at one time, and that in the
wake of this event, new and more varied life evolved in the oceans,
which at that time were home to virtually all life on Earth.

"You could say that biological evolution experienced a serious boost
within a relatively short period of time. And, as is the case with, for
example, volcanic eruptions or large forest fires, the impacts
initially had a devastating effect on all life, but from the ashes
arose a much richer fauna than had existed previously. And another
interesting aspect is that this situation occurred 40 million years
after the so-called Cambrian explosion. It was during this explosion
that the first complex multicellular creatures appeared, even though
scientists are still discussing whether this evolution was a rapid
explosion or whether it took place over a longer period of time," says
Dave Harper from the University of Copenhagen.

The conclusions of the two scientists are, among other things, based
on computer analyses, chemical samples from meteorites, fossils and
examination of different craters in Sweden, for example the large
Lockne crater near Østersund in northern Sweden, which has a diameter
of 7.5 km.

"So far, our research has shown that it was a regional phenomenon
around Baltica, the Baltic Sea of that time. The area underwent an
extraordinary change during a short period of time in terms of the
evolution of new species, primarily shellfish, e.g. the so-called
brachiopods, which resemble today's mussels, but which already at that
time were quite different. We will now be studying whether this was a
global phenomenon. It will be really exciting for the entire history of
evolution, especially as it does seem that there is some truth in it
and in the impact theory. We have now found meteorites in southern
China with the same chemical composition as those we have studied in
Sweden. Consequently, we are going to be studying craters and
meteorites in China and in the USA to establish whether it was a global
phenomenon," says Svend Stouge from the Natural History Museum of

The findings of the two scientists have been published in the British journal Nature Geoscience.

Journal reference: Nature Geoscience 1, 49 - 53 (2008) Published
online: 16 December 2007. doi:10.1038/ngeo.2007.37

Adapted from materials provided by University of Copenhagen.

Tenille Bonoguore

Globe and Mail

Sat, 15 Mar 2008 07:28 EDT

Hopes of tracking down the elusive bounty
that fell from Ontario's sky recently are fading faster than a meteor
trail in full sunlight.

Two meteorites appear to have fallen to Earth in a week. The first -
thought to have weighed 50 to 100 kilograms before it hit the
atmosphere, and possibly hailing from beyond Jupiter - is believed to
have landed in the waters of Georgian Bay 10 days ago, about 9
kilometres from the shore of Pointe au Baril.

Just as the excitement of that fall was dying down, the University
of Western Ontario began receiving calls from people in several
Northern Ontario towns who saw a fiery flash in the early-afternoon sky
last Monday.

"People saw a ball of fire in the sky, heard large explosions," said
Wayne Edwards, a postdoctoral astronomy student. But he said more work
must be done to be certain the sightings were of a meteor. "Very
long-distance meteors produce a low frequency sound. From this one, we
have a very weak reading that might be pointing to Northern Ontario.
It's very hedgy at this point."

For meteorite collectors like Mike Tettenborn, the falls are tantalizing near-misses.

"Meteorites are very elusive, and very hard to find. They're rarer
than diamonds," Mr. Tettenborn said from his Owen Sound home. "It's
disappointing [the Georgian Bay fall] is so far off shore. If it'd
landed inland, I'd have gone right away and started knocking on doors,
asking if farmers had seen anything. At a moment's notice I'd go, but I
haven't heard anything."

The UWO physics and astronomy department's network of all-sky
cameras - which give blanket coverage of Southern Ontario - picked up
the meteor over Georgian Bay as it streaked over Parry Sound at 10:59
p.m. EST on March 5.

As news of the fall was made public, UWO's phones were abuzz with
volunteer meteorite hunters offering to help find whatever blazed its
way to Earth.

But they were warned that finding anything - the meteorite or its
debris - is going to be difficult: Mr. Edwards said the water was
likely not frozen at the impact site, and last weekend's
snowfallprobably covered any trace of the fragments that may have hit

Still, the team asked locals in the area to be on the lookout for
any unusual objects. But in Pointe au Baril, the possibility of finding
an ancient astronomical rarity barely raised a pulse.

"My daughter read about it, but other than that we didn't even know
it had happened," said resident Richard Kaster. "It's not exactly big
news here."

Meteorite seekers, though, are keeping a careful eye on
developments. Should someone notice unusual debris or rocks on their
Pointe au Baril property, the rare-stone hunters will be out in full
force, Mr. Tettenborn said.

There are more than 1,000 meteorite collectors worldwide who
communicate online, trading tales and stones in a lucrative global
market that sees the space debris commanding higher prices than gold
and diamonds. A few hundred people are "very active" like himself, Mr.
Tettenborn said, and about a dozen big-time meteorite hunters fly
around the globe tracking down the ancient rocks for a living.

"For meteorite seekers it's very exciting [to hear of a fall].
During snow time it's fantastic. If you see dark little stones on the
ground, great! The problem is, I don't think there's been ice that far
out," he said.

"I'd fly anywhere in the States or Canada if there was a good
chance. I'd definitely go a day's drive. But the chances here are

The Georgian Bay event is a bittersweet example of meteorite hunting
in Southern Ontario: While there are plenty of people in the region to
spot meteorites, there's also plenty of water for it to land in. And so
far, the water has been winning, Mr. Edwards said.

"On the whole, the Earth is gathering material all the time. Whether
that's in our area is random chance," Mr. Edwards said. "There's large
bodies of water around us, so there's a 50 per cent chance it will land
in water. So far, we've had more hit water than hit land."

Rachel Punch

Sudbury Star

Mon, 17 Mar 2008 10:02 EDT

Another fiery object was seen falling in the sky near Sudbury during the weekend.

Susan Stone and her 13-year-old daughter, Taylor, spotted what they think was a fireball at about 1:30 a.m. on Sunday.

"My first thought was it was a meteorite or a plane going down. The colours were just amazing," Susan said.

"I'm quite sure, actually, that it was a fireball because there was a trail and it was very vivid."

Last week, Science North fielded about a dozen calls from residents
who saw fiery objects in the sky at about 1:30 p.m. on March 10.

Susan and Taylor were driving to Sudbury after a hockey tournament
in Sault Ste. Marie early Sunday when they saw a flaming ball.

Susan, who lives in Ottawa, and Taylor, who lives in Sudbury, had just passed Webbwood when they saw the ball of light.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Susan, adding it was off to
the left of the road, which would put it northeast of Webbwood.

"There was kind of like a tail hanging behind it. It was all
different colours. It was really bright and vibrant," said Taylor, a
student at R.L. Beattie.

Taylor saw colours such as navy blue, violet, lime green, red,
yellow, orange and aqua blue. The tail was more colourful than the body
itself, she said.

"It lasted for about five or 10 seconds. It wasn't just going straight across, it was going downwards," Taylor said.

They called Science North on Sunday to ask where they should report
the sighting. They were told to fill out an online form for the
Canadian Fireball Network, which they did.

The sightings on March 10 were reported near Sudbury, Massey, Hagar, Highway 69 North and North Bay.

Witnesses described objects as bright blue, green, red or yellow.

Ontario Provincial Police also received several reports of fiery
objects falling from the sky on the afternoon of March 10. Reports came
in from Kapuskasing to Parry Sound. Some even reported seeing the
objects hit the ground.

According to the American Meteor Society, a fireball is another term
for a bright meteor. They are brighter than magnitude -3, which is
about the same magnitude of Venus in the morning or evening sky.

The society says several thousand meteors of fireball magnitude occur in the Earth's atmosphere each day.

The vast majority, however, occur over oceans and uninhabited regions and many are masked by daylight.

The brighter fireballs are also not as common, the society says.

June: Wear a hard hat this month - Look out, look out, there are meteorites about

Philip Bagnall

New Scientist

Sat, 05 Jun 1993 17:48 EDT

You probably didn't realise it, but June is quite a dangerous month.
Statistically, more meteorites fall in June than at any other time of
the year - and 30 June is a particularly hazardous day. Since records
began, 116 meteorites have plunged to Earth in June - their high season
- compared with only 57 in March - their low season. At least 17 people
are said to have been killed by meteorite impact.

Meteorites are pieces of rock - usually stone, sometimes metal and,
occasionally, a mixture of both - which find their way to Earth from
the asteroid belt, Mars, the Moon and, possibly, a few comets. They
typically weigh a couple of kilograms (though this can vary
tremendously) and strike the Earth with velocities usually in the range
of 100 to 250 metres per second. The Middlesbrough meteorite, for
example, which landed on 14 March 1881, had a terminal velocity of 126
metres per second and weighed about 1.6 kilograms. Fortunately, it did
little damage but had anyone been unfortunate enough to get in its way
they would not have lived to tell the tale.

The first recorded fatalities occurred in 616 BC when stony
meteorites were said to have crashed into chariots killing 10 men. Two
monks have been struck by meteorites: one in Cremona in 1511 and the
other in Milan in 1650. In 1674 meteorites killed two Swedish sailors
aboard ship. There are also reports of a wedding guest being killed in
one of the Balkan states, and a child in Japan. Few such reports are
well documented, and they may well be little more than stories.

Undoubtedly, people have had narrow escapes. On 14 July 1847 a
17-kilogram meteorite fell into a bedroom in which three children were
asleep in Braunau, in what is now Austria. Although they were covered
in debris, none was seriously hurt. Not so lucky was Mrs Hewlett Hodges
of Sylacauga, Alabama, who was hit by a malevolent meteorite on 30
November 1954 causing severe hip and abdominal injuries.

There are also accounts of animal deaths. A colt in New Concord,
Ohio, perished when about 30 meteorites fell on 1 May 1860, several
cows were killed when a shower of stones hit Macau in Brazil on 11
November 1836, and on 28 June 1911, 40 stones fell at Nakhla in Egypt
killing a dog. The Nakhla meteorite is only one of a handful of
specimens that originated on Mars. To this day the Nakhla dog remains
the only authenticated case of an Earthling being killed by a Martian.

Fatalities aside, meteorites - even small ones - can cause
considerable damage to anything they hit. Returning to Milan, there is
the case of a red-hot meteorite landing in the castle on 23 June 1525,
setting fire to the munitions. Perhaps not surprisingly, nothing
remains of the meteorite.

About half of all meteorites break up in the atmosphere thus
increasing the chances of someone, or something, being hit. But anyone
who thinks that meteorite falls are more or less evenly distributed
over the Earth's surface will find that the inhabitants of the small
town of Wethersfield, Connecticut, probably disagree with them.

In 1987 Roy Clarke, a well-known meteoriticist, presented a paper to
the 50th meeting of the Meteoritical Society on his team's
investigations of the fall of some 39 meteorites in the US between 1932
and 1982. The team was prompted to look at the damaging meteorites
after two falls in the small town of Wethersfield. On 8 April 1971, a
350-gram meteorite passed through the roof of a house and landed in the
living room. Eleven years later, on 8 November 1982, a second meteorite
of 2.7 kilograms struck another house only 2.7 kilometres from the
first. On both occasions the fire service was called and, if local
reports are true, each time the same fireman found the meteorite.

In case you are thinking that these two meteorites might have been
related in some way, they apparently had quite different histories. The
meteoriticists could tell that from the extent to which the meteorites
were shocked. Isotope analyses showed that while the first fall had
separated from its parent body about 3 million years ago, the second
object became detached about 50 million years ago.

Since Clarke's report, one of the most celebrated meteorites is the
Peekskill meteorite, named after the suburb of New York in which it
fell last October. The 10-kilogram stone plunged straight through the
boot of a Chevy Malibu, turning the driveway underneath into a crater.
Fortunately, the owner of the car, 18-year-old high school student
Michelle Knapp, was not in the vehicle at the time. Unperturbed by her
near miss, and in the true spirit of American free enterprise, she sold
the $100 second-hand car, and the meteorite, to consortium led by
Marlin Cilz of the Montana Meteorite Laboratory. Cilz will not say how
much he paid for the meteorite, just that the price was very high. As
for Knapp, she now has a decent runaround.

Quite clearly, as towns and cities expand, and as the world's
population increases, the chances of a meteorite striking a person or
some kind of artefact are going to increase.

All these cases involve quite small meteorites. Occasionally,
however, an asteroid-sized body does strike our planet. The most famous
incident in living memory happened in Siberia on 30 June 1908, when a
brilliant fireball, said to be as bright as the Sun, swept across the
skies of Russia and exploded 8 kilometres above Tunguska. The shock
wave flattened 2200 square kilometres of dense forest and travelled
around the world several times. The portable huts of the Tungus nomads
were blown over, about 1000 reindeer were killed in the resulting
stampede, and at the Vanovara factory, 60 kilometres from the
explosion, doors were lifted from their hinges, windows shattered and
pictures fell from walls. Experts still disagree whether the object was
a comet or an asteroid (see New Scientist, Science, 16 January) but one
thing is for certain, if such an object ever explodes over a densely
populated city such as London, Edinburgh or Birmingham it will be a
disaster of immense proportions.

Tunguska-size impacts are, fortunately, rare but are probably more
common than experts would have believed just a few years ago. We now
have a better understanding of the sort of objects, and how many there
are, that linger in space near the Earth's orbit. So, although the
object that struck Tunguska was large and destructive, there are
numerous other bodies out there that are bigger and, potentially, more

I can well remember sitting in a geology lecture ten years ago,
shortly after Walter and Luis Alvarez had announced that the dinosaurs
had been wiped out by a massive asteroidal impact. As with all 'new'
theories, very few of those present had read the Alvarez's paper or, if
they had, they failed to understand that massive impacts could bring
about a so-called 'nuclear winter'. The jokes started to fly and one
student asked the lecturer how some creatures managed to survive.

'Perhaps they dodged out of the way,' he suggested. 'Or maybe they wore hard hats.'

So don't be a dinosaur, wear a hard hat this June.

Philip Bagnall is president of the Society of Meteoritophiles
and a hard hat-carrying member of the International Tunguska Expedition.

United Press International

Mon, 17 Mar 2008 15:01 EDT

Fort Worth, Texas -- Two Texas college
students discovered an asteroid while examining images of space on a
computer, a report said.

Tarrant County College students Ryan Gallagher and Robbyn Kindle,
40, were recommended by their former physics professor, Raymond Benge,
to be part of an international program to examine images of space for
asteroids, the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported.

"It was confirmed last week. It is official. For undergraduate students to find an asteroid is very rare. There are a lot of astronomers who've never found one," Benge said of the students' March 9 discovery.

The International Astronomical Union assigned the asteroid a tentative identification of 2008 EB61, Benge said.

Gallagher and Kindle both have finished undergraduate studies but
decided to enroll in a science class to increase their odds of being
accepted into graduate medical programs, the Star-Telegram reported.

Comment: It appears that it is not so rare for students to dscover asteroids:

More students find asteroids

US: High School Students Discover Asteroid

Polish students discover two asteroids

Undergraduates Discover More than 1,300 Asteroids

Michelle Ridley


Tue, 18 Mar 2008 15:13 EDT

hickman crater
©2008 Digital Globe
Hickman Crater

Next time you're virtually roaming Google Earth, make sure you take a close look at any unusual landforms.

Geologist Arthur Hickman did just that, and is now the proud parent
of the Hickman Crater, a meteorite crater in the Hamersley Ranges.

Dr Hickman, from the Geological Survey of Western Australia, was
using Google Earth to look for iron ore when he noticed an unusually
circular structure.

He sent a Google Earth picture of the structure to his colleague Dr
Andrew Glickson at the Australian National University, who later
visited the area and confirmed that Dr Hickman had found a particularly
well preserved meteorite crater.

"Our best estimate at the moment is that the crater is 10,000 to 100,000 years old," said Dr Hickman.

The crater is 270m across (around the size of the MCG) and is just 35km north of Newman, but hadn't been previously discovered.

The area was even mapped by the Geological Survey of WA about 20 years ago, but the crater went unnoticed.

So could anyone be using Google Earth and find their own meteorite crater?

"Sure," says Dr Hickman, "Large meteorites hit every few thousand
years, so when you consider that the landscape is millions of years
old, there's a lot of potential for meteorite craters out there."

On a satellite image, meteorite craters are distinguishable from
other landforms because they are almost perfectly circular and have a
raised rim.

Dr Hickman said that about 30 per cent of Western Australia is shown in very high image quality on Google Earth.

The research done by Dr Glickson and his team suggest that the
amount of energy released when the meteorite hit was the equivalent of
200,000 to 300,000 tonnes of TNT.

The next stage of the geologists' research is to try and find
fragments of the meteorite, a process that is being hindered by the
amount of black iron-rich rock in the vicinity of the crater.

Lee Gomes

Wall Street Journal

Wed, 19 Mar 2008 15:35 EDT

Ex-astronaut Rusty Schweickart wants to save
the world from an incoming asteroid -- the multimegaton variety blamed
for killing the dinosaurs -- and he thinks that the only sure-fire way
to keep them away is by using, of all things, diplomacy.

Mr. Schweickart was on the Apollo 9 mission that circled the earth
testing the lunar lander, and had a successful post-NASA career in
business. Now 72, he is spending his retirement trying to alert the
world to the problem of Near Earth Objects, or NEOs.

Most of the time, he conducts the campaign sitting at a laptop
computer in the study of his home in the Sonoma County wine country of
Northern California. The Web connects him to a global network of other
ex-astronauts, astronomers, government scientists, space buffs and
more. Many of them are members of the B612 Foundation, which Mr.
Schweickart helped to found to research the problem.

Asteroids have been studied for centuries. But there are still so
many gaps in our understanding of them that Mr. Schweickart says he has
had to pioneer a lot of asteroidology himself. He tells me, "You are
looking at the world's expert in deflecting asteroids, and that is just

The basics of the problem are familiar to Discovery Channel
viewers. Now and then, one of the millions of chunks in the Asteroid
Belt gets knocked into a different orbit, one that might one day lead
to a collision with Earth.

The best place online to follow all this is at neo.jpl.nasa.gov,
where Mr. Schweickart himself checks in several times a day. It's a
kind of Facebook for asteroids, each one having its own home page,
along with a cool Java applet showing its orbits.

When it comes to actually dealing with an asteroid, the
Hollywood option, of nuking it to smithereens, is the least useful,
says Mr. Schweickart, largely because you can't control the debris.

Serious students of the topic prefer the idea of crashing a
spacecraft into the asteroid, thus nudging it into a new orbit. In
fact, merely orbiting a spacecraft nearby might do the same trick, on
account of the craft's gravitational pull.

Because asteroids have these sorts of easily imagined happy endings,
it's a more pleasant apocalypse to contemplate than, say, global
warming, for which there is no such easy solution.

Deadly asteroids also have something else going for them: They can
be dealt with for a relatively small amount of money. Spending $100
million or $200 million a year for a decade will put in place all the
telescopes necessary to have a complete census of all of the NEOs that
threaten Earth. (Current efforts, of which there are several, tell us
about only a fraction of them.) Such a tracking program would likely
give us a warning time of decades ahead of any possible collision.

The hard part of asteroids, says Mr. Schweickart, and the part he is
spending nearly all of his time on right now, involves finding a way to
reach a global agreement on how the planet would respond should an
asteroid head our way.

This is where the astronaut starts to think like a diplomat. Indeed,
several of the messages in his inbox last week involved a meeting he's
hoping to have in the fall with the secretary-general of the United

Mr. Schweickart knows what you're probably thinking at this point:
That eliminating an asteroid is a job for Bruce Willis, not for a bunch
of diplomats. Hence, a short lesson from Mr. Schweickart, him with an
MIT degree, in orbital mechanics.

When an object like an asteroid is known to be heading toward Earth,
its exact splashdown point can't be calculated with any certainty.
Instead, scientists know only that it will fall someplace on a thin
line along the Earth's surface. These are the sorts of trajectories
that make news when wayward satellites drop back to terra firma.

Now suppose the impact line for an asteroid begins over Country A,
extends through Country B and ends at Country C. To nudge the asteroid
so that it misses Earth completely, you first have to push it in one
direction or another -- in effect, toward either A or C. That means
that residents of either A or C will bear a slightly greater risk if
the rescue effort doesn't push the asteroid quite hard enough.

Naturally, the citizens of A and C, and their political leaders,
will be screaming for the asteroid to be pushed in the other country's
direction and out of their backyard.

Mr. Schweickart says the only fair way to proceed is to have a
decision-making formula drawn up well in advance, thus unaffected by
the political heat of an actual crisis.

Another reason to involve the U.N., says Mr. Schweickart, is to
overcome global suspicion that a unilateral American antiasteroid
effort would be a ruse to militarize space. Mr. Schweickart says he
also is concerned about the issue. Many in Washington, he says, seem
almost exclusively interested in the nuclear option.

Mr. Schweickart has been working on NEOs since 2001, and says he
will spend another year on the project before turning the reins over to
someone else. In the meantime, he's talking to everyone he can.

"Let's face it," he says, "being an ex-astronaut opens a lot of doors for you."


Because asteroids have these sorts of easily imagined happy endings,
it's a more pleasant apocalypse to contemplate than, say, global
warming, for which there is no such easy solution.

Deadly asteroids also have something else going for them: They can
be dealt with for a relatively small amount of money. [...]Such a
tracking program would likely give us a warning time of decades ahead
of any possible collision.

While the above paragraphs attempt to make the issue of asteroid
collision sound like an easy to deal with situation, consider this
scenario, from The Cosmic Winter, by Victor Clube and Bill Napier, as is presented in the SOTT editorial The Hope.

Phil Plait

Bad Astronomy

Wed, 19 Mar 2008 16:53 EDT

Go outside, look up at night, wait long enough, and zip! You'll see a tiny bit of rock burn up in our atmosphere: a meteor.

But other objects get hit too, including the Moon. It happens more
rarely; the Moon presents a smaller cross-section to get hit, and its
gravity is lower so it cannot draw in material as well as Earth. But
hit it does get, and if you watch long enough you'll see one.

George Varros
©George Varros

Amateur astronomer George Varros did just that on March 13, and
better yet, he had a video camera hooked up to his telescope! He
captured an impact, and has an animation on his site of it; the image above is a still from it.

These are notoriously hard to get on video, and even then they are
harder to confirm; it might be something else like a flaw in the
camera. But in this case, other cameras caught it,
so this has been confirmed; it was the equivalent of about 100
kilograms of TNT exploding on the lunar surface. Assuming an impact
speed of 30 km/sec (that's a complete guess, but about the speed of an
orbiting object near the Earth's distance from the Sun) the object
itself would have massed about a ton kilogram. If it were a rocky
sphere it would have been about a meter across 10 centimeters across,
roughly the size of a baseball. Not something you want hitting your

Comment: How about hitting the planet? Coming soon no doubt. Read Victor Clube's response to a letter from a SOTT editor.

Varros has a page listing other impacts
he's caught as well. Very cool, and very useful! Eventually, when we go
back to the Moon, the number and size of impacts on the surface will
determine how we build structures on - or below - the lunar surface.

Comment: The image below represents the impacts
that were caught on film. How many more were not seen? How many more
have impacted on the dark side of the moon?

Lunar impacts 2005-2008

Comment: For the past five years, SOTT has been following the news for evidence of fireballs and meteors. Read the SOTT blog for up to date news on the droplets that are beginning to turn to rain.

For more information on the prospect of planetary impact read Laura Knight-Jadczyk's original article, "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and her new series of Comet articles.

University of Maryland

Thu, 20 Mar 2008 17:33 EDT

Using visible and infrared data collected from telescopes on
Hawaii's Mauna Kea, a team of scientists, led by the University of
Maryland's Jessica Sunshine, have identified three asteroids that
appear to be among our Solar System's oldest objects.

Evidence indicates that these ancient asteroids are relatively
unchanged since they formed some 4.55 billion years ago and are older
than the oldest meteorites ever found on Earth, say Maryland's Sunshine
and colleagues from the City University of New York, the Smithsonian
Institution, and the University of Hawaii. Their findings will be
published in this week's edition of Science Express.

"We have identified asteroids that are not represented in our
meteorite collection and which date from the earliest periods of the
Solar System," said Sunshine, a senior research scientist in the
University of Maryland's department of astronomy. "These asteroids are
prime candidates for future space missions that could collect and
return samples to Earth providing a more detailed understanding of the
Solar System's first few millions of years."

In the Beginning

At the beginning of the Solar System, there was just a disk-shaped
cloud of hot gas, the solar nebula. When gasses on the edge of the
early nebula began to cool, the first materials to condense into solid
particles were rich in the elements calcium and aluminum. As the gasses
cooled further, other materials also began to condense. Eventually the
different types of solid particles clumped together to form the common
building blocks of comets, asteroids, and planets. Astronomers have
thought that at least some of the Solar System's oldest asteroids
should be more enriched in calcium and aluminum, but, until the current
study, none had been identified.

Meteorites found on Earth do contain small amounts of these earliest
condensing materials. As seen in meteorites, these bright white ancient
materials, the so-called calcium, aluminum-rich inclusions, or CAIs,
can be as large as a centimeter in diameter. Scientists, in fact, long
have used the age of CAIs to define the age of the Solar System.

"The fall of the Allende meteorite in 1969 initiated a revolution in
the study of the early Solar System," said Tim McCoy, curator of the
national meteorite collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of
Natural History. "It was at that time scientists first recognized that
the remarkable white inclusions -- later called calcium, aluminum-rich
inclusions-- which were found in this meteorite, matched many of the
properties expected of early Solar System condensates.

"I find it amazing that it took us nearly 40 years to collect
spectra of these [CAI-rich] objects and that those spectra would now
initiate another revolution, pointing us to the asteroids that record
this earliest stage in the history of our Solar System," said McCoy.

Sunshine and McCoy, with colleagues Harold Connolly, Jr, City
University of New York; Bobby Bus, Institute for Astronomy, University
of Hawaii, Hilo; and Lauren La Croix, Smithsonian Institution, used the
SpeX instrument at the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility in Hawaii to
look at the surface of asteroids for evidence of the presence of such
early bits of high-temperature rock. In particular, they looked for
spectral "fingerprints" indicative of the presence of CAIs. Because
different minerals have different reflective properties, the spectrum,
or color of light reflected from a surface, reveals information about
its composition enabling telescopic compositional analysis.

In their paper, Sunshine and colleagues quantitatively compare the
spectral signatures of asteroid surfaces and CAIs in meteorites from
the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History collection.
"Several CAI-rich asteroids have been identified that contain 2-3 times
more CAI material than any known meteorite," Sunshine said. "Thus it
appears ancient asteroids have indeed survived, and we know where they

Magic Valley

Fri, 21 Mar 2008 17:29 EDT

You'd have a tough time convincing residents of Twin Falls County's
West End that the recent late-night mystery noises aren't coming from
the Air Force ... The eastern edge of the Idaho Training Range is only
40 miles from Castleford and Buhl, and a supersonic jet travels 40
miles in 3 minutes ...

So West Enders are accustomed to things that go bump - and go bump loudly - in the night ...

"Usually we hear the explosions when the air is humid and cold, thus
transmitting sound easier," said Filer farmer Bill Bitzenburg ... "Many
times in the summer you see flashes then hear nothing, because of the
warm thin air" ...

In March 1997, a sonic boom was blamed for damaging the
Castleford High School gym - $150,000 worth of damage ... The Air Force
denied it was responsible and refused to pay compensation ...

But the incident transformed many Castleforders into amateur sonic
boom experts, packing stopwatches so they could keep track of sonic
bombs and correlate them with reported training sorties out of Mountain
Home Air Force Base ...

They had good reasons: From 1995 until 2002, for example, Mountain
Home was the home of B-1B bombers, which roar overhead at up to 115
decibels ...

Your lawnmower, by contrast, chugs along at less than 100 decibels ...

Emily Dennis


Fri, 21 Mar 2008 17:20 EDT

A sonic boom caused by an American F-15 fighter jet carrying out a
supersonic run was behind a mysterious "tremor" felt across Norfolk on
Thursday and not an earthquake, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Norfolk police received a flurry of calls shortly after
midday from worried residents reporting a possible earth tremor - and
the strange event was the talk of the force's Wymondham headquarters
where members of staff also felt the earth move.

But experts quickly moved to reassure local people that the tremor
was not an earthquake and was most likely to be a sonic boom, which is
caused by an object moving faster than sound, usually an aircraft.

Glenn Ford, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, said:
"It certainly wasn't an earthquake. From the observations I have been
given, they are very consistent with sonic booms we have received from
the area historically over the last 20 years. I cannot say for definite
that this was the cause, but looking at the evidence that would be the
most likely source of the activity.

"We have scrutinised all the data from the nearest stations. For an
earthquake to be felt so widely, as this has, it would have to be
pretty large. Even if one of these stations had failed, we would have
seen evidence from others across central England.

"We have contacted the RAF but at this time unfortunately they have
not been able to corroborate that there has been a sonic boom. This
could come from an aircraft or even a falling satellite or meteorite."

A Norfolk police spokesman said: "We received a number of calls from
people reporting a possible earth tremor in the Wymondham area. We felt
the tremor ourselves in the office. A member of the public suggested it
was caused by an aircraft breaking the sound barrier." The spokesman
said there were not thought to be any reports of any serious damage.

Nicky Germaine, 22, was at home in Wicklewood when she felt the
tremor at about 12.20pm. "It rattled my house and it opened my porch
door," she said. "I just thought that a lorry had gone past but then I
turned on the radio and heard other people reporting similar stories.
It was a bit weird. I thought it was an earth tremor."

Rosalind Ross, 60, was standing outside her home in Spooner Row when
she felt the strange tremor. "I was standing outside the back door and
the ground really shook under my feet. It was so loud. There was a roar
like a fleet of beet lorries going past.

"It bothered me a little bit because I was standing on my own and the ground shook really violently up through my feet."

John Rix, proprietor of Poppa Johns barbers in Wymondham, said:
"Three of us were cutting when we heard the front window shaking. I
have been here 14 years and that window has never moved before. I said
it must be another earthquake but someone else said it was a sonic

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman confirmed that the sonic boom
was caused by an American F-15 fighter jet carrying out a supersonic
run. "The aircraft from RAF Lakenheath was flying above 10,000ft at the
time of the run," the spokesman said.

An RAF Lakenheath spokeswoman confirmed there had been an aircraft
in the area when the incident was reported, but said she was unable to
confirm what it was.

Mystery source, likely sonic boom, shook Southeast Missouri last week

Donna Farley

Daily American Republic

Mon, 10 Mar 2008 12:34 EDT

A possible sonic boom heard last week by residents across
southeastern Missouri and eastern Arkansas could help researchers
better understand earthquake hazard.

At 2:48 p.m. last Wednesday people for more than 200 miles, from
Forrest City, Ark., to Cape Girardeau, felt what they thought was an

Scientists at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information
(CERI) at the University of Memphis in Tennessee know it was not.

Though scientists were reluctant to say what caused the boom, it
most probably resulted from an Air Force jet flying over the area.
Whatever the reason, it created sound waves that helped the earthquake

The disturbance was first recorded on a seismic station in Pemiscot
Bayou, in the lower part of the Bootheel. It then traveled southeast at
about 1,115 feet per second to a station in Lennox, Tenn., and was
eventually recorded on all of the CERI's 100 seismic stations in the
New Madrid Fault Zone.

"(It moved) with the speed of sound in air," explained Dr. Steph
Horton, seismology research scientist. "The sound interacted with the
ground and we could see it each time it reached a station. The speed of
sound moving through the ground is much higher."

Sound's interaction with the ground is something CERI professor Dr.
Charles Langston began studying in 2004, according to his Web site.
Langston was not available for comment.

Langston's project explores, in part, the potential for acoustic
shock waves to be used to map soil structure, according to Horton.

The type of soil beneath a location can play a significant role in determining how well an area can withstand an earthquake.

The New Madrid zone has as many as 200 minor quakes a year and has
in the last 200 years suffered damaging earthquakes. These have been
felt in an area up to 20 times greater than California earthquakes
because seismic waves die out much more slowly here than on the West

Scientists believe this is because the thick layers of soft soil,
often found in flood plains, may amplify motion as it nears the
surface. Structures built on or near bedrock tend to experience lower
levels of earthquake ground shaking.

Because soil structure can vary greatly from one location to the
next, seismologists say detailed mapping of an are's soil must be done
to know the true seismic hazard of an area. This is not something
included in current National Seismic Hazard Maps.

Soil mapping is a time-consuming process, which uses imaging
techniques and requires a high concentration of borehole measurements
to be taken from the area being mapped. The years-long project is
currently taking place in St. Louis and Memphis.

It may be possible to use sound wave pressure increases and
decreases to understand how quickly seismic waves will travel through
near-surface soils, Horton said.

It appears last week's sonic boom started north of Poplar Bluff,
Mo., which is on the outside of CERI's seismic instrument network,
according to seismologists.

Magic Valley

Fri, 21 Mar 2008 17:29 EDT

You'd have a tough time convincing residents of Twin Falls County's
West End that the recent late-night mystery noises aren't coming from
the Air Force ... The eastern edge of the Idaho Training Range is only
40 miles from Castleford and Buhl, and a supersonic jet travels 40
miles in 3 minutes ...

So West Enders are accustomed to things that go bump - and go bump loudly - in the night ...

"Usually we hear the explosions when the air is humid and cold, thus
transmitting sound easier," said Filer farmer Bill Bitzenburg ... "Many
times in the summer you see flashes then hear nothing, because of the
warm thin air" ...

In March 1997, a sonic boom was blamed for damaging the
Castleford High School gym - $150,000 worth of damage ... The Air Force
denied it was responsible and refused to pay compensation ...

But the incident transformed many Castleforders into amateur sonic
boom experts, packing stopwatches so they could keep track of sonic
bombs and correlate them with reported training sorties out of Mountain
Home Air Force Base ...

They had good reasons: From 1995 until 2002, for example, Mountain
Home was the home of B-1B bombers, which roar overhead at up to 115
decibels ...

Your lawnmower, by contrast, chugs along at less than 100 decibels ...

Kaycee Murray


Fri, 21 Mar 2008 17:33 EDT

Residents across the Magic Valley have been
calling and e-mailing NewsChannel 7 this week - saying it feels like
the earth is rumbling and shaking.

Seismologists say those tremors - didn't show up on their equipment.

So what could be causing the shaking?

Dispatchers in Jerome say Tuesday night dozens of calls came in from
across the Magic Valley - callers were not sure what was shaking there

"It was various from people thinking there was someone on top of
their house, to someone breaking in, to generally just the house
shaking," dispatcher Jon Frisbey, Dispatcher said.

Taylor Hunsaker felt the shaking at his home in Kimberly around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"I was actually almost asleep and it got me out of bed," he said.
"It sounded like a rumbling and thought it was getting closer and the
house was shaking. I didn't know what the heck was going on"

Hunsaker says the rumble has been the talk of the town. He says many
people wonder if it was an aftershock from the earthquake in Wells last

But the US Geological Survey says nothing showed up on seismographs.

A BSU Science professor has his own theory.

"I call them mud quakes," BSU seismologist Jim Zollweg said. "I
believe this to be from water withdrawal from the sediments on the

Zollweg says a sudden shift of sediments underground can feel like
an earthquake but the movement is not picked up by seismographs.

"Since its not occurring in the rock like a real natural earthquake
the seismic waves don't get generated in the rock and stations as close
as 20 miles away don't pick up the disturbance at all," he said.

Right now, it is just a hypothesis but Zollweg plans to look into it
even more - because he says this is not a new phenomenon for the Magic

"Over the years I've had probably on the average of two to three calls a year about this kind of event," he said.

No damage was reported as a result of the rumbles.

Comment: Another sonic boom from an overhead meteorite explosion perhaps?

Sky and Telescope

Sun, 23 Mar 2008 14:14 EDT

Although it has been more than a decade since Comet Hale-Bopp
blazed in the night sky, it's still sputtering as it continues to head
into cold, trans-Neptunian space.

In a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, a trio of Hungarian and Australian astronomers describe capturing the most distant cometary activity ever seen.

©Dennis di Cicco
Hale-Bopp amid its glory on March 17, 1997. The comet still shines in
the outer solar system, but at a mere 20th magnitude.

The team imaged Hale-Bopp over three nights last October, when the
comet was nearly 26 astronomical units (2.4 billion miles) from the
Sun. At 20th magnitude, it wasn't much to look at, just a smudge about
a dozen pixels across as captured using the 2.3-meter Australian
National University telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory. But the
images were enough for the researchers to conclude that the nucleus is
still releasing carbon monoxide gas into a coma more than 100,000 miles

Arthur C. Clarke

The New York Times

Sun, 23 Mar 2008 02:13 EDT

Every week, the Opinion section presents an essay from The
Times's archive by a columnist or contributor that we hope sheds light
on current news or provides a window on the past.

This week's offering comes from Arthur C. Clarke, the science
fiction novelist, who died on Wednesday. In 1994, he urged Op-Ed
readers to look to the skies--or risk going the way of the dinosaurs.

Sunday, August 14, 1994

Op-Ed: Killer Comets Are Out There. Now What?


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - At 0946 G.M.T. on the morning of 11 September,
in the exceptionally beautiful summer of the year 2077, most of the
inhabitants of Europe saw a dazzling fireball, appear in the eastern
sky. . . . Moving at 50 kilometers a second, a thousand tons of rock
and metal impacted on the plains of northern Italy, destroying in a few
flaming moments the labor of centuries. The cities of Padua und Verona
were wiped from the face of the Earth; and the last glories of Venice
sank forever beneath the sea as the waters of the Adriatic came
thundering landward after the hammer blow from space. . . .

After the initial shock, mankind reacted with a determination and a
unity that no earlier age could have shown. Such a disaster, it was
realized, might not occur again for a thousand years -- but it might
occur tomorrow. . . . So began Project Spaceguard.

-- "Rendezvous with Rama," 1973

Soon after the last fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 crashed
into Jupiter last month, the monsoon skies above my home in Colombo
cleared momentarily and I hurried to set up my 14-inch Celestron
telescope. I didn't really expect to see anything, so I could hardly
believe my eyes when I clearly observed a line of dark bruises spread
out across the planet's southern hemisphere.

Some imaginative souls suggested that the comet might have a
catastrophic impact on Jupiter, but its effect will be largely
cosmetic. And it will certainly have no effect on Earth, despite the
inevitable alarmist warnings by religious fanatics. But the spectacular
collision between the newly discovered comet with the solar system's
largest planet has brought sudden new attention to a genuine threat:
the chance that a rogue comet or asteroid could strike Earth, with
possibly devastating consequences.

As a result, the fictional "Project Spaceguard" I described in my
1973 novel has now begun in reality -- if Congress approves an
amendment to the 1994 NASA authorization bill requesting the space
agency to identify and catalogue within 10 years "the orbital
characteristics of all comets and asteroids greater than one kilometer
in diameter in orbit around the Sun that cross the orbit of the Earth."

Though this amendment was prompted by the Shoemaker-Levy comet, it
is really the result of an "International Near-Earth-Object Detection
Workshop" organized by NASA in 1992. With a nod to "Rendezvous with
Rama," the official report of this workshop was entitled the Spaceguard

I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would have thought of these
developments, in view of his famous remark on hearing of a meteorite
landing in New England: "I'd rather believe that two Yankee professors
lied than that stones fell from the sky." Certainly no one could have
imagined how quickly and how dramatically a cosmic event so apparently
removed from everyday affairs would become prime-time news.

In view of the number of collisions that have taken place in this
century alone -- most notably, a comet or asteroid that exploded in
1908 in Siberia with the force of 20 hydrogen bombs -- there is a very
good case for a global survey of the possible danger, particularly as
the shared cost among nations would be negligible compared to most
national defense budgets. (Incidentally, historians might also be
advised to undertake some surveying. Just as the numerous meteor-impact
craters on Earth were never found until we started looking for them, so
there may have been disasters in history that have been misinterpreted.
Sodom and Gomorrah have a good claim to be meteorite casualties; how
many others are there?)

Many people would probably prefer not to know of impending cosmic
doom, if nothing could be done to avert it. Yet given sufficient
warning time -- which we hope Spaceguard would provide -- we should be
able to develop the technology necessary to ward off, or even destroy,
such intruders from outer space.

There are at least three ways in which oncoming asteroids, or their
cometary cousins, might be deflected. The first is the brute force
approach: nuke the beast. A sufficiently large bomb -- probably in the
gigaton class, or the equivalent of about a billion tons of high
explosive -- could split an intruder into many fragments. This would
not necessarily be a Good Thing, because some of the pieces might still
be heading straight toward us. The atmosphere, however, would burn up
most of the smaller fragments, and at least instead of massive
devastation in one area there might be minimal damage spread over
numerous sites.

Needless to say, such a pre-emptive strike is advocated by
enthusiastic and currently underemployed bomb designers. Perhaps a
better solution is one I adopted in another novel, "The Hammer of God,"
in which a potential killer asteroid is detected a year before it will
collide with Earth, giving astronauts barely enough time to make a
rendezvous and deflect it into a harmless orbit by mounting rocket
thrusters on its surface.

Given enough warning time -- at least several years -- this could be
done with very modest amounts of power. An initial deflection of only a
few centimeters, at the beginning of a multimillion-kilometer journey,
could insure that the asteroid steered well clear of us.

Although the orbit of a solid body like an asteroid can be
calculated centuries in advance (once the object has been discovered!)
the rocket-thruster solution might not work so well with comets. These
flying icebergs warm up as they approach the sun and begin to vent gas.
The resulting "jet propulsion" makes their future position uncertain,
so if we ever have to deflect an oncoming comet, we would have to allow
a very significant safety margin.

An even more elegant solution has been proposed by scientists at
NASA and elsewhere: "solar sailing." The plan would be to attach a huge
lightweight mirror of metal foil to the comet or asteroid, capturing
the minute but continuous pressure exerted by sunlight. Unfortunately,
the acceleration produced by this feeble pressure would be so minimal
that years, even decades, of warning time might be required.

All these solutions would require a vast investment in new
technology. But people who say "Why waste money on space?" should
remember the dinosaurs, whose extinction it is now widely believed was
caused -- or at least accelerated -- by the impact of a giant meteorite
around 65 million years ago.

And NASA's increased commitment to identifying threatening bodies in
space could have another benefit: it could give new inspiration to
America's flagging space program, and restore some of the lost magic of
the Age of Apollo.

Gulf Times

Mon, 24 Mar 2008 08:05 EDT

A crater, believed to have been created by the impact of a falling meteor, found near Dukhan.

Qatar crater
©Google Earth

Sheikh Salman bin Jabor al-Thani, head of the astronomical
department at Qatar Scientific Club, said yesterday the club believed
that the meteor had hit Qatar in the 1940s. The club started a search for evidence three years ago because of stories of a "falling star" told by people of that era.
The club took the help of Google Earth in the search. They succeeded in
locating five craters, which were just visible on the surface.

Antti Arjava


Sun, 24 Dec 2006 10:33 EST

In 1983 Richard Stothers and Michael Rampino of NASA published a
list of all ancient volcanic eruptions known from Mediterranean
historical sources. Their list included a persistent dust veil or dry
fog which darkened the sky for about a year in AD 536--37, bringing
about cold, drought and food shortage in the Mediterranean area or, as
it has since been claimed, all over the northern hemisphere. Especially
following two popular books devoted to the dust veil by David Keys and
Mike Baillie, it has been acclaimed as the worst climatic disaster in
recorded history. In the most wide-ranging scenarios, the year 536 is
seen as a watershed moment between the ancient and modern worlds,
bringing about economic decline, population movements, political
unrest, and ultimately the collapse of civilizations.

In a lengthy article written in 2004 and just to be published in the Byzantinist journal Dumbarton Oaks Papers' 2005 issue*,
I have gone through all the available physical and written evidence for
the 536 event. The inevitable conclusion from the ancient literary
sources is that the historical impact of the cloud must have been
extremely limited. On the other hand, some assumptions about the
cloud's physical nature that have hitherto been taken for granted
should be re-examined. In the following, I give a brief summary of my

Physical evidence for the 536 event is derived from two main
sources: tree rings and acid layers in Greenland ice. The tree rings
show 536 and the following ten years as a period of very slow growth
for Scandinavian pines, North European oaks and several North American
species. However, the contours of a sudden catastrophe cannot be
directly read from the tree ring evidence. In many series, the drop in
536 is followed by a recovery in 537--38 and then again by an even more
serious plunge. In most cases, the worst years are around 540, and in
Siberia 543. In southern Chile, the trough is in 540, while in
Argentina there was dramatic growth reduction only after 540, with a
minimum in 548. In Tasmania, the tree growth declined between 546 and

Thus, although the year 536 was certainly a very bad growing season
in many parts of the world, it is situated in a decade-long downturn in
the climate of the Northern Hemisphere and is separated from the really
worst seasons by 3--7 years. Moreover, and perhaps even more seriously,
in the Scandinavian pines as in the oaks and North American trees, it
is possible to see a long-term growth decline during the early part of
the sixth century which is matched by an equally slow rise in the
average growth during the second half of the century. This would place
the years around 540 as the lowest point in a slow climatic cycle.
While it does not disprove a climatic anomaly in 536, all this
nevertheless suggests that the link between the dark cloud and tree
growth is not as straightforward as might be wished. The
dendrochronological maxim "trees do not lie" may be true, but neither
do they seem to provide unequivocal answers to the questions which
historians would like to pose to them.

Historical eruptions are usually attested as acid layers in
Greenland ice. In the previously published studies, all the relevant
sections of the Greenland ice cores for the mid-sixth century have been
either missing, flawed or poorly dated. Recently, Danish scholars have
reported that a major eruption can be dated to the early spring of 528.
It is unclear whether it might be possible to redate the whole sequence
of ice layers by a few years, matching the new attested eruption with
the 536 event. Any conclusions therefore must remain tentative, but so
far we have to admit that no acid layer sufficient for a major volcanic
eruption has been confirmed around 536. That is why the cloud has been
attributed to the impact of a comet. This hypothesis is not confirmed
by any direct evidence either.

Archaeological evidence does not help us assess the consequences of
possible crop failures around 536. Recent archaeological work serves to
stress the need for a regional approach: economic and demographic
developments may differ in neighboring regions. The whole western part
of the Roman empire was in clear decline already in the fifth century.
The Persian devastations in northern Syria, combined with recurrent
earthquakes and epidemics, would probably suffice to explain any
sixth-century economic decline in the Byzantine Near East.

The results of my inquiry into the written sources are relatively
straightforward: although the cloud occasioned confusion and crop
failure at the time it was seen, its effects did not last long after it
had dissipated. Compared with almost all other contemporary
civilizations around the world, the circumstances in the Mediterranean
area are extremely well documented. The literary sources which record
the darkness of 536/7 all seem to consider it a temporary misfortune.
Among the innumerable earthquakes, droughts, plagues, swarms of
locusts, and slaughters which are listed by the historians of this
time, the dark cloud was not counted as a particular catastrophe.
Shortage of food was a recurrent phenomenon in the ancient world, and
people were used to it, however intense the short-term suffering might

For example, two Italian sources, Cassiodorus and the Liber
Pontificalis, attest continuing problems with the harvest in 537, which
is not surprising if the fog persisted until the summer. Immediate
effects of the event are not reported after that. The historian
Procopius for his part does not mention the crop failures of 536/7. He
says that outside besieged Rome the Goths were also starving, but he
rather seems to give the credit for it to a successful Byzantine naval
blockade. In contrast, the historian describes at great length a
terrible famine in Italy in 539. However, he is quite explicit that it
was due to the fields being left uncultivated because of the war. A
little later he returns to the subject of food shortage among the
Goths, again insinuating that the lack of supplies was a logistic
problem. He does not give a hint that climatic conditions might have
been blamed for continual bad harvests.

Though these sources leave no doubt that a mysterious fog was seen
in an area which extended at least from Italy to Asia Minor and caused
bad harvests there for one or two years, they all seem to treat it as a
temporary bad omen, not as the beginning of a long period of
unfavorable climatic conditions. Of course, the writers might not have
noted a slight drop in average temperatures, and might perhaps not have
cared to record a change in prevailing winds or precipitation. However,
if the direct consequences of such underlying factors for agriculture
had been grave enough to undermine the economic well-being of the
empire, we would expect somewhat more attention being paid to them by
contemporary writers.

Thus, the combined force of the available evidence irresistibly
shows that, whatever happened around 536, its historical implications
remained very limited, at least in the Mediterranean area. On the other
hand, the sources report interesting, though sometimes conflicting,
details of the fog. Although the haze has been called a dry fog or dust
veil ever since 1984, a passage from the eyewitness antiquarian writer
John Lydus which has hitherto been neglected rather suggests that the
fog was damp. This is not decisive because it can reasonably be claimed
that Lydus may not have been able to observe its actual composition.
However, he also asserts that the fog was seen only in Europe, and it
is more difficult to discredit this report out of hand. It would be in
clear contrast to the common scholarly assumption that the cloud was a
global or at least a hemispherical phenomenon. Remarkably, all the
other literary sources mention the fog only for an area around Italy
and Asia Minor.

Cold and drought are attested in other parts of the world but not
the persistent fog. Chinese sources record that the star Canopus was
not seen at the spring and fall equinoxes in 536. Although this might
be taken to refer to reduced atmospheric transparency (as many scholars
have assumed), it seems a rather understated way to describe a darkness
which continued for a year. It is especially odd if it was the factor
which caused summer frosts, drought and widespread famine, duly
recorded in Chinese historical works between 535 (sic) and 538. At
least two possibilities emerge: either the Chinese did not mention the
fog because opaque skies are not unusual in northern China due to the
frequent desert storms there, or the fog was tropospheric and localized
in the Mediterranean area. While zonal winds would have spread a
stratospheric fog over the northern latitudes within a few weeks or
months, a tropospheric fog (volcanic or not) might very well have
attenuated before reaching China. The problem remains that no
tropospheric fog of such duration has been observed in historical times.

However, if we accept the possibility that the fog may have been
seen in northern China though it was not clearly recorded, it might
also be possible to explain Lydus' account in a different way. All
those areas for which the fog is securely attested (Italy,
Constantinople) lie above 35 degrees of northern latitude, perhaps even
above 40 degrees, depending on how we interpret Procopius' report. The
same is true of northern Mesopotamia (ca. 37° N). In contrast, those
areas further east which Lydus claims did not witness the fog (Persia,
India) all lie below 40 or even 35 degrees northern latitude, and this
also applies to most of China. Thus, we might actually have a cloud
which could be seen only at latitudes north of the Mediterranean and in
the very north of China. Such a rather abrupt and globally uniform
cutoff latitude falling between 30 and 40 degrees has been observed for
stratospheric aerosol veils stemming from large eruptions of northern
volcanoes, notably Lakagigar (Iceland, 1783), Ksudach (Kamchatka, 1907)
and Katmai (Alaska, 1912). For example, the dust cloud from Katmai was
seen and measured at Bassour, Algeria (36° N), at Simla, India (31° N)
and at two US observatories (34-36° N), but not at Helwan, Egypt (30°

If we interpret Lydus' text in this manner, disregarding his report
of the moist fog and assuming that the missing or misdated acid layers
in the ice cores can be explained somehow, it would add a new dimension
to the volcano hypothesis. It would actually support the suggestion
made by Richard Stothers that the mystery cloud derived from a far
northern volcano, and not from a tropical one like Rabaul (New Guinea),
Krakatau (Indonesia) or El Chichón (Mexico), which have been earlier
suspects. The observed decline of tree growth in South America in the
540s might seem to be at odds with this. However, it has not yet been
established whether a high-latitude eruption could have global climatic
effects. The issue is currently debated.

We cannot check the scientific accuracy of Lydus' reports. They may
mislead us, but at the very least they invite us to re-examine the
scientific evidence for the event. It remains true that the Greenland
ice cores have so far produced little proof of volcanic activity around
536, and that the tree rings are surprisingly ambiguous about climatic
variation in different parts of the world between 535--552. Two main
alternatives emerge. The dark cloud may have originated from a northern
volcano, being visible only at latitudes north of the Mediterranean, or
the fog may have been locally more restricted, perhaps damp,
originating from a totally unknown source. As a tropospheric fog of
such duration would be quite exceptional, the first alternative perhaps
seems at present more likely. Further ice cores may prove or disprove
it in the future. However, for those who are as of yet not convinced by
the volcano hypothesis, the second alternative might appear worth
serious consideration.

* Antti Arjava: The Mystery Cloud of 536 CE in the
Mediterranean Sources, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 59 (2005), forthcoming in
Dec. 2006.

Lester Haines

The Register

Wed, 26 Mar 2008 14:22 EDT

It's lucky for the good burghers of Ullapool
in Scotland that they weren't around 1.2 billion years ago, because it
was around then that the biggest meteorite ever to hit the British
Isles would have made a bit of a dent in local house prices.

That's according to the combined forces of the University of
Oxford and the University of Aberdeen, who say that "unusual rock
formations" previously thought to have volcanic origins are actually
the debris ejected from a meteorite strike which threw material over an
area 50km across.

The volcanic theory has always had geologists scratching their
heads, since there are "no volcanic vents or other volcanic sediments
nearby". The researchers moved in for the kill by taking rock samples
in 2006, and have now published their revelations in the journal Geology.

Ken Amor of Oxford Uni's Department of Earth Sciences, explained:
"Chemical testing of the rocks found the characteristic signature of
meteoritic material, which has high levels of the key element iridium,
normally only found in low concentrations in surface rocks on Earth. We
found more evidence when we examined the rocks under a microscope;
tell-tale microscopic parallel fractures that also imply a meteorite

Professor John Parnell, head of Geology & Petroleum Geology at
the University of Aberdeen, chipped in with: "These rocks are superbly
displayed on the west coast of Scotland, and visited by numerous
student parties each year. We're very lucky to have them available for
study, as they can tell us much about how planetary surfaces, including
Mars, become modified by large meteorite strikes. Building up the
evidence has been painstaking, but has resulted in proof of the largest
meteorite strike known in the British Isles."

Amor added: "If there had been human observers in Scotland 1.2
billion years ago they would have seen quite a show. The massive impact
would have melted rocks and thrown up an enormous cloud of vapour that
scattered material over a large part of the region around Ullapool. The
crater was rapidly buried by sandstone which helped to preserve the

The researchers hope that the evidence they've gathered will help
them to "understand the ancient impacts that shaped the surface of
other planets, such as Mars", Amor concluded.

Stephen Battersby

New Scientist

Thu, 27 Mar 2008 15:14 EDT

Saturn's curious moon Enceladus appears to have the same chemical
makeup as a comet, according to the latest results from the Cassini
probe. That's a big surprise, as Enceladus should have formed in very
different conditions from those of comets.

On 12 March, Cassini flew through the huge plume of steam and other gases that spews from fissures at the moon's south pole. A glitch prevented the spacecraft's dust analyser from studying the makeup of the plume, but another instrument, called the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS), did sample its chemistry.

As well as water vapour, the INMS detected carbon dioxide, methane
and a range of more complex organic chemicals such as propane.

Heat radiates from the entire length of 150-kilometre-long fractures on the south pole of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus

"The organics are clearly there in abundance beyond what we
expected," says INMS lead scientist Hunter Waite of the Southwest
Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, US. "And the composition is
very like the composition of a comet."

"This is very exciting," says Cassini scientist Julie Castillo of
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US. "It
indicates that Enceladus and comets were made of the same initial
materials, and/or affected by similar internal processes," she told New Scientist.

That is rather puzzling because comets are thought to have formed
far from the Sun, out in the region of Uranus and Neptune, says INMS
co-investigator Roger Yelle of the University of Arizona in Tucson, US.
Enceladus, on the other hand, is thought to have grown within the
"Saturnian subnebula" - the cloud of gas that coalesced into Saturn and
its major moons.

"The temperature and pressure should have been very different, so you should get different gases," Yelle told New Scientist.

Liquid water

Enceladus is almost certainly not a captured giant comet, but
cometary stuff might have been incorporated into the moon. Ices from
the outer solar system might have infiltrated the Saturnian subnebula,
suggests William McKinnon of Washington University in St Louis,
Missouri, US.

Or comets might have hit Enceladus during a period of upheaval in the solar system around 4 billion years ago called the late heavy bombardment.

During the flyby, Cassini's infrared camera mapped the heat emissions of the south pole
more clearly than before, showing that a great quantity of heat is
coming out along the four fractures called "tiger stripes".
Temperatures along these stripes are higher than their surroundings by
up to 90 °Celsius.

Life's ingredients

"The closer we look, the higher the temperatures," says John Spencer
of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, US, who works
on the infrared detector. "It is entirely possible that there is liquid
water below the surface of these fractures."

Altogether, the results are quietly encouraging for the possibility of life on this cold moon.

"We see on Enceladus the three basic requirements for the origin of
life," says Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder,
principal investigator of another Cassini instrument, the Ultraviolet
Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS). "There is water - although it may not be
liquid - plus organics and heat."

Cassini will revisit Saturn's comet impersonator in August and October, when it might fly even closer to the moon.

Alan Brook

Bridlington Free Press

Thu, 27 Mar 2008 14:41 EDT

Did the earth move for you last Wednesday night?

It did for quite a few Bridlington residents who contacted the Free Press to find out if we had another earthquake.

In fact, local phone lines were red hot as friends and neighbours
rang each other to see if they had also heard and felt a loud thud or

Dave Garrity was at home in Wentworth Road at 8pm when he heard a
noise like someone jumping up and down on the top of his bay window.

"I went out to have a look and found practically the whole street had come outside to see what was going on."

Friends living in Brookland Road rang to say they had also heard and
felt the noise and his mother-in-law who lives in Greame Road also
called to say she wondered if there had been another minor earthquake.

Across town Patrick Tibble was watching TV at his home at the top of Bempton Lane.

"I thought my six-year-old daughter Ruby had fallen out of bed or something. I went upstairs to find her fast asleep," he said.

He also rang friends and others rang him about the same experience at various addresses across Bridlington.

The sonic boom theory from some high speed military aircraft was a favourite explanation.

The police and Humberside Fire and Rescue Service received a few
calls from people about the mystery noise, and coastguards confirmed
there had been a military air exercise going on over or near the coast
last Wednesday evening

"A sound barrier boom is the most likely explanation," said a spokesman for the fire and rescue service.

Rob Tripp

The Whig Standard

Thu, 27 Mar 2008 16:01 EDT

An ancient remnant from the formation of the solar system may have lit up the sky over Kingston this week.

The Whig-Standard and a renowned local astronomer received reports of a glowing object falling to earth Monday evening.

The skywatchers reported seeing what appeared to be a glowing object
in the northwest sky that was plunging toward the ground around 10 p.m.

Jonathan Craig was driving westbound on Highway 401, passing through
Kingston on his way home to Toronto, when he and his girlfriend spotted
a bright object in the sky to their right, north of the highway.

"I said, 'What is that?' and before I could say it looks
like a plane, it went straight down," Craig said yesterday. "It looked
like it spiralled down."

Craig said he has seen many meteors.

"I have seen tons of shooting stars and this was weird," he said.

Astronomer and author Terence Dickinson, who lives in Yarker, said
he had a call from a man who reported a similar observation at the same
time Monday night.

Dickinson believes the sightings are of a larger version of what most people call a shooting star or falling star.

"There are always random bolide meteors that look like something flaming, falling from the sky," Dickinson said.

A bolide meteor is a fragment of material that might be as large as a golf ball plunging through Earth's atmosphere.

"This stuff is ancient," he said. "It's from the formation of the solar system.

"Certainly it could be mistaken for something crashing."

In most cases, these large shooting stars burn up as they pass
through the atmosphere and nothing is left to strike the ground,
Dickinson said. As the particle enters the atmosphere, air friction
causes it to glow and give off a trail of gas and debris.

Dickinson said often the streaking object disappears behind a tree
line, adding to the perception it is a plane crashing to the ground.
"It looked like it went out of view [behind the trees]," Craig said. In
rare cases, the object is large enough that a portion survives the
fall. A piece that comes to Earth is described as a meteorite. Finding
a remnant would be valuable.

"It's a little chunk of primordial material," Dickinson said.

Three weeks ago, the physics and astronomy department at the
University of Western Ontario in London captured video footage of a
similar sighting.

The department says the footage shows a meteor crashing to Earth
near Parry Sound. No one has yet been able to find remnants of the

Laura Knight-Jadczyk


Thu, 27 Mar 2008 04:29 EDT

Astronomy books and papers far too numerous to cite offer the assurance that "no one has ever been killed by a meteorite." (John S. Lewis, University of Arizona)

©Julian Baum

Over the past few years, while sott.net has been tracking the
increasing flux of fireballs and meteorites entering the earth's
atmosphere, we have been, by turns, amused and horrified at the
ignorant reactions and declarations that issue from academia and the
media regarding these incursions. A few years ago, we read that "this
is a 'once in a hundred years' event!" Not long after it was a "once in
a lifetime" event. Still later, after a lot more incidents it became a
"once in a decade" event. More recently, it has been admitted in some
quarters that meteorites hit the ground (as opposed to safely burning
up in the atmosphere) several times a year! And of course, we have
discovered the fact that the governments of our planet are well aware
that there are atmospheric explosions from such bodies numerous times a
year. We have also learned in this series that the frequent reports of
unusual booms and shaking of the ground is often due to such overhead
explosions. Yet the media steadfastly refuses to honestly address this
issue, though we have noted a plethora of recent articles presenting
opposing academic arguments designed to put the populace back to sleep,
to reassure them that there is nothing to worry about, that such things
only happen every 100,000 years or so, and certainly, the Space Watch
Program is going to find all the possible impactors and take care of

Recent articles we have covered on SOTT.net include:

Top Scientists Want Research Free From Politics

Leading U.S. scientists called on Congress Thursday to make sure the
next president does not do what they say the George W. Bush
Administration has done: censor, suppress and falsify important
environmental and health research. [...]

Among the more than 15,000 government scientists signing onto the
statement are Harold Varmus, preesident of Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Cancer Centre and former director of the National Institutes of Health
(NIH); and Anthony Robbins, professor of medicine at Tufts University
and former director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety
and Health.

"Although surely the worst, the Bush Administration is not the
first, nor will it be the last administration to mistreat and misuse
science and scientists," Robbins said. The White House itself has been
directly involved in the suppression and falsification of science,
Robbins stressed.

But interference from the White House is just part of the problem,
said Francesca Grifo, a former government researcher and now a director
at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Industry lobbyists are all over
government agencies, trying to influence research that will impact
their corporations, she said. "These special interest groups are being
given access at the highest level."

"Government scientists have had their findings subjected to
censorship and misrepresentation," said Kurt Gottfried, professor of
physics at Cornell University and a member of the Union of Concerned
Scientists. "The public and Congress have often been deprived of
accurate and candid scientific information."

"The pursuit of science in an open society has had a long and
fruitful tradition in America," Gottfried said. "Unfortunately, this
tradition has been violated in recent years by the government itself."

Another: Government's funding framework breeds scientific conformity

Here is a list of beliefs in the biomedical and climate sciences
that must not be questioned if you're applying for a government grant:

- That global warming is caused by humans;

- That AIDS is caused by a virus;

- That radiation, cigarette smoke and other toxins are dangerous in proportion to their strength, no matter how small the dose;

- That heart disease is caused by saturated fats;

- That cancer is caused by mutations.

This is part of a list offered by a University of Washington
professor of surgery, Donald W. Miller, who is a heart surgeon at the
VA Medical Center in Seattle. Miller believes that all the above ideas
may be false, and ought to be tested. [...]

But much of science runs on government money. Some people find the
stink of bias only in private money, and see government as free of it,
but they are mistaken. Government likes certain beliefs. To get its
money, you have to get the approval of the scientists it selects, and
you are less likely to get it if they think your idea wrong.

What that means, Miller says, is that "If you say low doses of
radiation aren't bad for you, or that global warming is due to
variations in the sun, you can't get funded."

He says this happened to University of California scientist Peter
Dues-berg, who challenged the viral theory of AIDS, and to Harvard's
Willie Soon, who challenged the pollution theory of global warming, and
to others. In a paper published in 2007 in the Journal of Information Ethics, Miller argued that conformity is built into the system of government grants. [...]

In 2005, in the scientific journal Cellular and Molecular Biology,
Pollack made an argument similar to Miller's. American science, he
wrote, has become "a culture of believers" whose rule is, "just keep it
safe and get your funding."

For science, the result has not been good. [...]

Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science, argued famously that
science progresses in revolutionary bursts, in which the "dominant
paradigm" is overturned. But what if the supporters of the dominant
paradigm are the people vetting your application?

We most certainly can see that the issue of meteorite, cometary and
asteroid impacts on our planet, and their true potential danger to each
and every one of us, must be added to this list of unfunded research.

This is a very bad and dangerous state of affairs. As Victor Clube wrote in his letter to SOTT.net:

First, I should say your references to the (cosmically complacent)
paleoclimate community and to my otherwise unread narrative report to
the USAF european office strike a very considerable chord with me.
After all neither Ms Victoria Cox nor your good self can be aware how
very much Bill and I had reason to appreciate the timely injection of
USAF funds at a time when the line of research we championed appeared to be successfully closed down by the UK scientific establishment. Thus we
were both in turn obliged to relinquish our career posts at the Royal
Observatory, Edinburgh on account of this line of research
- which gave rise to our reincarnation at a more tolerant haven namely my alma mater (Oxford).

Also, whilst I broadly accept your commentary regarding the role of
"national elites" in the face of near-Earth threats, I am quite certain
the elites in practice currently know VERY "much LESS than they let on"
and that the situation for humanity is dire. Any comfort you may draw
from the opposite opinion seems to me to be entirely misplaced. Thus
although the globally modest efforts to assess the NEO threat with
telescopes by a few semi-enlightened national administrations (eg USA)
or by a few private enterprises (eg Gates) are certainly to be
commended, I look upon this aspect of the NEO threat as basically
intermittent and therefore more or less symbolic so far as generally
more urgent and still largely undetected low mass NEO flux (which is
demonstrably climatological in its effect) is concerned. This
particular threat (evidently responsible for our planet's evolving
glacial/interglacial condition during the past 3 million years) is of
course _fundamentally_ ignored by the current Body Scientific and hence
by most of humanity as well.

And so, it seems, we here at SOTT.net, and the brave souls with the
good of humanity at heart, are on their own, opposed by the governments
that are supposed to be in place to look after the interests of their

Of course, the question arises: what led to this general and overall
blindness on the part of the people we look to for interpretation and
explanation of our reality? How can the people who write textbooks,
teach in schools, even at the highest level, be so ignorant? The
consequences of this ignorance are, after all, detrimental to everyone
for many reasons, not the least of which is simple survival in a rather
hostile environment.

The events that have been covered so far in this series have led us
to understand that there have been many times when it is highly
probable that the earth - or parts thereof - was bombarded with
meteorites or exploding aerial cometary fragments. These events
occurred, and were probably related to, periods of great stress on the
environment and humanity as a whole. Climate changes brought floods,
droughts, extreme temperatures, crop failures and famine. These
pressures may have caused lowered disease resistance for given
populations, and it is also conjectured that extra-terrestrial
bombardments may have carried disease pathogens. Impacts or crustal
disturbances in distant places could have placed stresses on the
geological structures so that outgassings from fissures, the ocean, or
lakes may have poisoned large numbers of people, not to mention the
record of tsunamis that is now called into question. Do we know, for
example, that the Christmas tsunami causing earthquake near Malaysia
was not impact induced? No, we don't. And we can't trust either our
governments or the news media - or even most of academia who owe their
livelihoods to the government - to tell us the truth.

Why do they lie to us?

Well, the main reason is rather simple: it's all about control. All
of these things, taken together, place intolerable stresses on the
human social organism and, as is typical for human beings, this brings
on a crisis of faith.

When the world shows itself to be a hostile environment, when the
environment suggests that there is no god and humanity is cast adrift
in an uncaring cosmos, most people cannot tolerate this; they
desperately need to restore their belief in something "out there" that
is going to save them, which means that someone has to be blamed for
the disasters: a scapegoat. Because, of course, if you can find someone
or something to blame for calamity, you can continue in your illusion
that "God is in his heaven and - but for the evil acts of the chosen
scapegoat - all would be right with the world." Otherwise, the tension
and anxiety of having no control (even vicarious, via prayer or ritual)
over the hostile environment, would be unbearable. I'm sure that you
notice that this also relieves the individual of any responsibility as
well, so this approach works in all kinds of situations.

We are going to examine this problem in some depth further on, but
for now, I would like the reader to become acquainted with the facts.
The following is The List, by no means exhaustive, of all the incidents
I have been able to uncover of meteorite, asteroid, or cometary impacts
that have caused death and destruction, property damage, or were near
misses. Major parts of The List are extracted from the work of John S.
Lewis, Professor of Planetary Sciences at the Lunar and Planetary
Laboratory, Codirector of the NASA/University of Arizona Space
Engineering Research Center, and Commissioner of the Arizona State
Space Commission, in specific, his books entitled Rain of Iron and Ice and Comet and Asteroid Impact Hazards on a Populated Earth. In this latter volume, he writes:

The most intensively studied impact phenomenon, impact cratering, is
of limited importance, due to the rarity and large mean time between
events for crater-forming impacts. Almost all events causing property
damage and lethality are due to bodies less than 100 meters in
diameter, almost all of which, except for the very largest and
strongest, are fated to explode in the atmosphere. ... [W]e are forced
to conclude that the complex behavior of smaller bodies is closely
relevant to the threat actually experienced by contemporary

Based on the data he collected, Lewis noted that:

[O]n the century time scale, firestorm ignition and direct blast
damage by rare, strong, deeply penetrating bodies are the most common
thrats to human life, with average fatality rates of about 250 people
per year. ... On a 1000-year scale, the most severe single event, which
is usually a 10 to 100 megaton Tunguska-type airburst, accounts for
most of the total fatalities. On longer time scales, regional
impact-triggered tsunamis become the most dangerous events. ...The
exact impactor threshold size for global effects remains poorly
determined. [...]

Perhaps most interesting is the implication that the large majority
of lethal events (not of the number of fatalities) are caused by bodies
that are so small, so faint, and so numerous that the cost of the
effort required to find, track, predict, and intercept them exceeds the
cost of the damage incurred by ignoring them. [Lewis, 1999]

Unfortunately, Prof. Lewis did not have to hand the information presented by Mike Baillie in his book New Light on the Black Death, nor did he consider the global events of 12000 years ago revealed by the work of maverick scientists, Firestone, West and Warwick-Smith.
If he had added the estimated numbers of fatalities from those events
into his calculations, it might not have decided that the small, faint,
and numerous bodies were so easily ignored. Regarding impacts from
history, Lewis writes in Comet and Asteroid Impact Hazards on a Populated Earth:

Many ancient sources from many cultures treat comets as literal,
physical harbingers of doom. Such phenomena as the burning of cities
and the overthrow of buildings and walls by aerial events are mentioned
many times in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Chinese records, but there is
no evidence of physical understanding of the nature of the bombarding
objects or their effects until quite recently. [...]

There is indeed a language problem in understanding the ancient
reports, but it is largely a matter of the lack of an appropriate
technical vocabulary in the older writings. [...] In certain
locations and periods, especially in medieval Europe, all unusual
heavenly events were interpreted as signs sent by God. Therefore, the
surviving accounts are strongly biased toward explaining the moral
purpose of these events, not their physical nature.
fundamental information as exact date and time, exact location, place
of appearance of the phenomenon in the sky, its duration and physical
extent, luminosity, precise nature of the damage done, and the like
were generally regarded as unimportant, and therefore rarely recorded
for posterity. [...] Even in 20th century newspapers, bolide explosions
may be described (and indexed) as "mysterious explosions," aerial
blasts, aerolites, aeroliths, bolides, earthquakes, fireballs,
meteorites, meteors, shocks, thunder, and so on. [...]

Reports of meteorite falls, often with consequent damage, extend back to the fall of a "thunderstone" in Crete in 1478 BC,
described by Malchus in the Chronicle of Paros. The earliest Biblical
source is the account of a lethal fall of stones in ... Joshua 10:11.

Other ancient reports in the West are found in the writings of
Pausanius, Plutarch, Livy, Pindar, Valerius Maximus, Caesar, and many
others. The report of a great fall of black dust at Constantinople in 472 BC, perhaps the result of a high-altitude airburst, is documented by Procopius, Ammianus Marcellinus, Theophanes, and others.

Colonel S. P. Worden has called to my attention the following passage in The History of the Franks, written by Bishop Gregory of Tours:

"580 AD in Louraine, one morning before the dawning
of the day, a great light was seen crossing the heavens, falling toward
the east. A sound like that of a tree crashing down was heard over all
the countryside, but it could surely not have been any tree, since it
was heard more than fifty miles away... the city of Bordeaux was badly
shaken by an earthquake ... a supernatural fire burned down villages
about Bordeaux. It took hold so rapidly that houses and even
threshing-floors with all their grain were burned to ashes. Since there
was absolutely no other visible cause of the fire, it must have
happened by divine will. The city of Orleans also burned with so great
a fire that even the rich lost almost everything."

Astronomers who have sought documentary evidence of ancient
astronomical phenomena (eclipses, comets, fireballs, etc.) have found
that East Asian records are far superior to European records for many
centuries. Kevin Yau has searched Chinese records and found many
reports of deaths and injuries (Yau et al., 1994). The Chinese records
of lethal impact events include the death of 10 victims from a
meteorite fall in 616 AD, an "iron rain" in the O-chia district in the 14th century that killed people and animals, several soldiers injured by the fall of a "large star" in Ho-t'ao in 1369, and many others. The most startling is a report of an event in early 1490
in Ch'ing-yang, Shansi, in which many people were killed when stones
"fell like rain." Of the three known surviving reports of this event,
one says that "over 10,000 people" were killed, and one says that
"several tens of thousands" were killed.

On 14 September 1511, a meteorite fall in Cremona, Lombardy, Italy, reportedly killed a monk, several birds, and a sheep. In the 17th century
we find reports of a monk in Milano, Italy, who was struck by a
meteorite that severed his femoral artery, causing him to bleed to
death, and of two sailors killed on shipboard by a meteorite fall in
the Indian Ocean.

In addition to these shipboard fatalities, there have been several
striking accounts of near disasters involving impacts very close to
ships. Near midnight of 24 February 1885, at a latitude of 37 degrees N and a longitude of 170 degrees 15 minutes E in the North Pacific, the crew of the barque Innerwich,
en route from Japan to Vancouver, saw the sky turn fiery red: "A large
mass of fire appeared over the vessel, completely blinding the
spectators; and, as it fell into the sea some 50 yards to leeward, it
caused a hissing sound, which was heard above the blast, and made the
vessel quiver from stem to stem. Hardly had this disappeared, when a
lowering mass of white foam was seen rapidly approaching the vessel.
The noise from the advancing volume of water is described as deafening.
The barque was struck flat aback; but, before there was time to touch a
brace, the sails had filled again, and the roaring white sea had passed

A strikingly similar event occurred only 2 years later on the
opposite side of the world. Captain C.D. Swart of the Dutch barque J.P.A. reported in the American Journal of Meteorology 4 (1887) that, when sailing at 37 degrees 39 minutes N and 57degrees W, at about 5 pm on 19 March 1887,
during a severe storm in which it was "as dark as night above," two
brilliant fireballs appeared as in a sea of fire. One bolide "fell into
the water very close alongside the vessel with a roar, and caused the
sea to make tremendous breakers which swept over the vessel. A
suffocating atmosphere and perspiration ran down every person's face on
board and caused everyone to gasp for fresh air. Immediately after
this, solid lumps of ice fell on deck, and everything on deck and in
the rigging became iced, notwithstanding that the thermometer
registered 19 degrees C.

On 20 August 1907, the steamship Cambrian
arrived in Boston from England with an equally extraordinary tale to
tell. When the ship was several hundred miles south of Cape Race,
Newfoundland, steaming along under a clear sky, a brilliant fireball
appeared near the northeastern horizon and "rushed across the sky like
a rocket. The next moment it passed over the topmast of the liner with
a tremendous roar and plowed up the sea about fifty yards from the
boat. The upheaval of the water was terrific, but the ship was not
damaged." The report of this event was carried in the New York Times.

Next, according to the Times, on 13 September 1930, a fireball plunged into the sea near Eureka, California, barely missing the tug Humboldt, which was towing the Norwegian motorship Childar
out to sea. It requires little imagination to appreciate that such an
event, if it were to strike a ship, should easily cause fatalities, or
even the loss of the vessel with all hands. [Lewis, 1999]

Now, that just gives you a taste of what is to come. So, without further ado, here is:

THE LIST: Damages, Disasters, Injuries, Deaths, and Very Close Calls

10,000 - 11,000 B.C. - The earliest disaster we
know of from our historical or mythic records is, of course, the
legendary Deluge of Atlantis. The description of the end of Atlantis
given by Plato in the "Timaeus" and "Critias" dialogues bears striking
resemblance to what many scientists are now agreed would be the
inevitable result of an oceanic impact by a disintegrating comet or
large asteroid. The resultant 'tsunami', or tidal waves, would easily
reach 2000 ft. high as they approached land, wiping out any and all
coastal settlements. The deluge traditions, of which there are
literally hundreds worldwide, appear in this light to be variations on
Plato's account, and could even be actual observation-based tales,
eye-witness accounts of the same, or similar, events. This is very
likely the event discussed by Firestone, West and Warwick-Smith in The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes: How a Stone-Age Comet Changed the Course of World Culture. As I have discussed in my book, The Secret History of the World,
the North and South American continents in the Western Hemisphere fit
all the descriptions of "Atlantis," and it is very likely that the
event that led to the extinction of about 30 species of large mammals
about 12,000 years ago was the source of the legends of Atlantis and
probably the legends of a global deluge: Noah's Flood.

Back in the 1940s Dr. Frank C. Hibben, Prof. of Archeology at the
University of New Mexico led an expedition to Alaska to look for human
remains. He didn't find human remains; he found miles and miles of icy
muck just packed with mammoths, mastodons, and several kinds of bison,
horses, wolves, bears and lions. Just north of Fairbanks, Alaska, the
members of the expedition watched in horror as bulldozers pushed the
half-melted muck into sluice boxes for the extraction of gold. Animal
tusks and bones rolled up in front of the blades "like shavings before
a giant plane". The carcasses were found in all attitudes of death,
most of them "pulled apart by some unexplainable prehistoric
catastrophic disturbance."[Hibben, Frank, The Lost Americans (New York:
Thomas & Crowell Co. 1946)]

The killing fields stretched for literally hundreds of miles in
every direction.[ibid.] There were trees and animals, layers of peat
and moss, twisted and tangled and mangled together as though some
Cosmic mixmaster sucked them all in circa 12000 years ago, and then
froze them instantly into a solid mass. [Sanderson, Ivan T., "Riddle of
the Frozen Giants", Saturday Evening Post, No. 39, January 16, 1960.]

Just north of Siberia entire islands are formed of the bones of
Pleistocene animals swept northward from the continent into the
freezing Arctic Ocean. One estimate suggests that some ten million
animals may be buried along the rivers of northern Siberia. Thousands
upon thousands of tusks created a massive ivory trade for the master
carvers of China, all from the frozen mammoths and mastodons of
Siberia. The famous Beresovka mammoth first drew attention to the
preserving properties of being quick-frozen when buttercups were found
in its mouth.

What kind of terrible event overtook these millions of creatures in
a single day? Well, the evidence suggests an enormous tsunami raging
across the land, tumbling animals and vegetation together, to be
finally quick-frozen for the next 12000 years. But the extinction was
not limited to the Arctic, even if the freezing at colder locations
preserved the evidence of Nature's rage.

Paleontologist George G. Simpson considers the extinction of the
Pleistocene horse in North America to be one of the most mysterious
episodes in zoological history, confessing, "no one knows the answer."
He is also honest enough to admit that there is the larger problem of
the extinction of many other species in America at the same time.
[Simpson, George G., Horses, New York: Oxford University Press) 1961]
The horse, giant tortoises living in the Caribbean, the giant sloth,
the saber-toothed tiger, the glyptodont and toxodon. These were all
tropical animals. These creatures didn't die because of the "gradual
onset" of an ice age, "unless one is willing to postulate freezing
temperatures across the equator, such an explanation clearly begs the
question." [Martin, P. S. & Guilday, J. E., "Bestiary for
Pleistocene Biologists", Pleistocene Extinction, Yale University, 1967]

Massive piles of mastodon and saber-toothed tiger bones were
discovered in Florida. [Valentine, quoted by Berlitz, Charles, The
Mystery of Atlantis (New York, 1969)] Mastodons, toxodons, giant sloths
and other animals were found in Venezuela quick-frozen in mountain
glaciers. Woolly rhinoceros, giant armadillos, giant beavers, giant
jaguars, ground sloths, antelopes and scores of other entire species
were all totally wiped out at the same time, at the end of the
Pleistocene, approximately 12000 years ago.

This event was global. The mammoths of Siberia became extinct at the
same time as the giant rhinoceros of Europe; the mastodons of Alaska,
the bison of Siberia, the Asian elephants and the American camels. It
is obvious that the cause of these extinctions must be common to both
hemispheres, and that it was not gradual. A "uniformitarian glaciation"
would not have caused extinctions because the various animals would
have simply migrated to better pasture. What is seen is a surprising
event of uncontrolled violence. [Leonard, R. Cedric, Appendix A in "A
Geological Study of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge", Special Paper No. 1 (
Bethany: Cowen Publishing 1979)] In other words, 12000 years ago,
something terrible happened - so terrible that life on earth was nearly
wiped out in a single day.

Harold P. Lippman admits that the magnitude of fossils and tusks
encased in the Siberian permafrost present an "insuperable difficulty"
to the theory of uniformitarianism, since no gradual process can result
in the preservation of tens of thousands of tusks and whole
individuals, "even if they died in winter." [Lippman, Harold E.,
"Frozen Mammoths", Physical Geology, (New York 1969)] Especially when
many of these individuals have undigested grasses and leaves in their
belly. Pleistocene geologist William R. Farrand of the Lamont-Doherty
Geological Observatory, who is opposed to catastrophism in any form,
states: "Sudden death is indicated by the robust condition of the
animals and their full stomachs ... the animals were robust and healthy
when they died." [Farrand, William R., "Frozen Mammoths and Modern
Geology", Science, Vol.133, No. 3455, March 17, 1961] Unfortunately, in
spite of this admission, this poor guy seems to have been incapable of
facing the reality of worldwide catastrophe represented by the millions
of bones deposited all over this planet right at the end of the
Pleistocene. Hibben sums up the situation in a single statement: "The
Pleistocene period ended in death. This was no ordinary extinction of a
vague geological period, which fizzled to an uncertain end. This death
was catastrophic and all inclusive." [Hibben, op. cit.] [Quoted from The Secret History of The World]

Firestone, West and Warwick-Smith write:

"Until recently, the astronomical mainstream was highly critical of
Clube and Napier's giant comet hypothesis. However, the crash of comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter in 1994 has led to a change in attitudes.
The comet, watched by the world's observatories, was seen split into 20
pieces and slammed into different parts of the planet over a period of
several days. A similar impact on Earth, it hardly needs saying, would
have been devastating."

The Carolina Bays date to this time. The Carolina bays are
mysterious land features often filled with bay trees and other wetland
vegetation. Because of their oval shape and consistent orientation,
they are considered by some authorities to be the result of a vast
meteor shower that occurred approximately 12,000 years ago. What is
most astonishing is the number of them. There are over 500,000 of these
shallow basins dotting the coastal plain from Georgia to Delaware. That
is a frightening figure.

Let me repeat: there are over 500,000 of these shallow basins.

Carolina Bays

Unlike virtually any other bodies of water or changes in elevation,
these topographical features follow a reliable and unmistakable
pattern. Carolina Bays are circular, typically stretched, elliptical
depressions in the ground, oriented along their long axis from the
Northwest to the Southeast. [T]hey are further characterized by an
elevated rim of fine sand surrounding the perimeter. [...]

Robert Kobres, an independent researcher in Athens, Georgia, has
studied Carolina Bays for nearly 20 years in conjunction with his
larger interest in impact threats from space. His recent,
self-published, investigations have profound consequences for Carolina
Bay study and demand research by academia as serious, relevant and
previously unexamined new information. The essence of Kobres' theory is
that the search for "debris," and the comparison of Bays with
"traditional" impact craters, falsely and naively assumes that circular
craters with extraterrestrial material in them are the only terrestrial
evidence of past encounters with objects entering earth's atmosphere.

Kobres goes a logical step further by assuming that forces
associated with incoming bodies, principally intense heat, should also
leave visible signatures on the earth. And, finally, that physics does
not demand that a "collision" of the bodies need necessarily occur to
produce enormous change on earth. To verify that such encounters are
possible outside of the physics lab, we need look no further than the
so-called "Tunguska event."

At the epicenter of the explosion lay not a large crater with a
"rock" in it, as might be expected, but nothing more than a number of
"neat oval bogs." The Tunguska literature generally mentions the bogs
only in passing, since the researchers examining the site failed to
locate any evidence of a meteorite and went on to examine other aspects
of the explosion.

Now, how many human deaths ought we to assign to this event? As
Firestone, et al discuss, it was global in effect and the evidence of a
sharply reduced population of not only animals, but humans, is there in
the geological record. But what was the total human population? What
kind of numbers can we plug into Lewis' calculations? Frankly, we don't
know. Undoubtedly, millions of human beings perished at that time along
with the extinction of many animal species. One thing that seems
certain is that if these numbers were included in Lewis' assessment, it
would make a significant change in the "average number of deaths by
extraterrestrial bodies" per year. Though, of course, this was a very
big event, and those don't happen every year, or even every century.
They happen on a scale of thousands of years and there hasn't been one
like that for 12000 years.

3195 B.C. - Eco-disaster as shown in tree rings.

The postulated bombardments and dust-veils at around 3195 BC,
another narrowest tree-ring date, would have wreaked havoc on both the
local and global climate, and any and all cultures affected would have
taken many decades, maybe even centuries, to recover. The sheer terror
that 'multiple-Tunguska-class fireballs' would have instilled into the
peoples of those times would have understandably motivated them towards
building some form of observatories to help predict future meteor
showers/storms as a matter of perceived urgency.

Again, we have no numbers of human fatalities to plug into the calculations.

2345 B.C. - Eco-disaster focused in the Levant as shown in tree-rings.

The French archaeologist, Marie-Agnes Courty, presented a paper at
the Society for Inter-Disciplinary Studies' July 1997 conference at
Cambridge University, in which she first detailed the findings of
excavations at a site in northern Syria, at Tell Leilan. This was the
first time ever that an archaeological excavation had been initiated
where the main purpose was to examine the stratigraphical record of the
area with a view to searching for evidence of 'scorched earth' due to a
suspected episode of extra-terrestrial 'fireball bombardment'.

She and her team found much evidence of microscopic glass spherules
typical of melted sand and rock which is caused by the intense heat
resulting from an asteroid impact or air-burst. She recommended further
excavations there and at other sites. It would make sense that
attention should be focussed on sites once occupied at dates where the
tree-ring chronologies show evidence of abrupt climate changes - as at
Tell Leilan in northern Syria, where the 'burn event' has now been
dated by Courty as immediately prior to 2345 BC, a 'narrowest
tree-ring' date.

Another with no human fatality numbers included in the calculations.

Scientists have found the first evidence that a devastating meteor
impact in the Middle East might have triggered the mysterious collapse
of civilisations more than 4,000 years ago.

Studies of satellite images of southern Iraq have revealed a
two-mile- wide circular depression which scientists say bears all the
hallmarks of an impact crater. If confirmed, it would point to the
Middle East being struck by a meteor with the violence equivalent to
hundreds of nuclear bombs. Today's crater lies on what would have been
shallow sea 4,000 years ago, and any impact would have caused
devastating fires and flooding. The catastrophic effect of these could
explain the mystery of why so many early cultures went into sudden
decline around 2300 BC. - The crater's faint outline was found by Dr
Sharad Master, a geologist at the University of Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, on satellite images of the Al 'Amarah region, about 10
miles north-west of the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates and home
of the Marsh Arabs. (Robert Matthews Science Correspondent, The
Telegraph - London 11-4-1)

1628 B.C. - "The Exodus" - Biblical
scholars have been debating the date of the so-called Exodus for
hundreds of years. The most recent researches have indicated that there
was no exodus as depicted in the Bible, it was all made up by
post-exilic priests - to create a "history" justifying their elite
status and privileges. More than that, based on historical knowledge of
how things were done in those times, they probably were not even
related to any of the people "carried away to Babylon" in the first
place. And so, it seems logical to speculate that the background
information contained in the Exodus story - and other related stories
in the Bible, such as the collapse of Jericho and the destruction of
Sodom and Gomorrah - were legendary stories of events that occurred
around the time of the eruption of Thera which has been fairly securely
fixed around 1600 B.C. plus or minus 50 years. Mike Baillie reports
that whatever happened at this period of history that includes this
monstrous eruption, it was global in effect as is shown in the
tree-ring chronologies. In other words, more was going on than just a
volcanic eruption. Again, no numbers of fatalities to plug into the
calculations though there are many ancient reports of plague and mass
death and Egyptian records report many strange sky, weather, and plague

1159 B.C. - Collapse of Shang and Mycenean cultures. Collapse of the Bronze Age in the Mediterranean region. Wikipedia tells us:

The Bronze Age collapse is the name given by those historians who
see the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age, as
violent, sudden and culturally disruptive, expressed by the collapse of
palace economies of the Aegean and Anatolia, replaced after a hiatus by
the isolated village cultures of the Dark Age period of history of the
Ancient Middle East.

Mike Baillie points out that a series of impacts/overhead
explosions, would more adequately explain the longstanding problem of
the end of the Bronze Age in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 12th
century BC. At that time, many - uncountable - major sites were
destroyed and totally burned and it has all been blamed on those
supernatural "Sea Peoples." If that was the case, if it was invasion
and conquest, there ought to at least be some evidence for that, like
dead warriors or signs of warfare... but for the most part, that is not
the case. There were almost no bodies found, and no precious objects
except those that were hidden away as though someone expected to return
for them, or didn't have time to retrieve them. The people who fled
(extra-terrestrial events often have precursor activities and warnings
because a comet can often be observed approaching for some time) were
probably also killed in the act of fleeing and the result was total
abandonment and total destruction of the cities in question.

John Lewis did not include this in his calculations.

207 B.C. - Scientists Say Comet Smashed Into Southern Germany In 200 BC

A comet or asteroid smashed into modern-day Germany some 2,200 years
ago, unleashing energy equivalent to thousands of atomic bombs,
scientists reported on Friday.

The 1.1-kilometre (0.7-mile) diameter rock wacked into southeastern
Bavaria, leaving an "exceptional field" of meteorites and impact
craters that stretch from the town of Altoetting to an area around Lake
Chiemsee, the scientists said in an article in the latest issue of US
magazine Astronomy.

Colliding with the Earth's atmosphere at more than 43,000 kms per
hour, the space rock probably broke up at an altitude of 70 kms), they

The biggest chunk smashed into the ground with a force equivalent to 106 million tonnes of TNT, or 8,500 Hiroshima bombs.

"The forest beneath the blast would have ignited suddenly, burning
until the impact's blast wave shut down the conflagration," the
investigators said.

"Dust may have been blown into the stratosphere, where it would have
been transported around the globe easily... The region must have been
devastated for decades."

The biggest crater is now a circular lake called Tuettensee,
measuring 370 metres (1,200 feet) across. Scores of smaller craters and
other meteorite impacts can be spotted in an elliptical field,
inflicted by other debris.

The study was carried out by the Chiemgau Impact Research Team,
whose five members included a mineralogist, a geologist and an
astronomer. [...]

Additional evidence comes from local discoveries of Celtic artefacts, which appear to have been scorched on one side.

That helped to establish an approximate date for the impact of between 480 and 30 BC.

The figure may be fine-tuned to around 200 BC, thanks to tree-ring
evidence from preserved Irish oaks, which show a slowing in growth
around 207 BC.

This may have been caused by a veil of dust kicked up the impact, which filtered out sunlight.

In addition, Roman authors at about the same time wrote about
showers of stones falling from the skies and terrifying the populace.

The object is more likely to have been a comet than an asteroid,
given the length of the ellipse and scattered debris, the report says.

44 B.C. - Pliny states that there were
"Portentous and protracted eclipses of the sun occur, such as the one
after the murder of Caesar the dictator...." Yet there were no solar
eclipses visible from anywhere in the Roman Empire from Feb. of 48 B.C.
through Dec. of 41 B.C., inclusive. There was a spectacular daylight
comet in 44 B.C., perhaps the most famous comet in antiquity. A dust
veil occluded the sky over Italy in the spring of 44, and has often
been attributed to an (unconfirmed) eruption of Mt Etna. There are
sulfate deposits in the Greenland ice cores for this year and there is
tree ring evidence from North America, where dendrochronology points to
a climatic change in the late 40's B.C. What hit and where it hit, has
yet to be determined, and whether or not there was death and
destruction somewhere on the globe, is unknown.

John S. Lewis does not include this event in his calculations.

60 - 70 AD - The destruction of Jerusalem.

The story Josephus tells of the sixties is one of famine, social
unrest, institutional deterioration, bitter internal conflicts, class
warfare, banditry, insurrections, intrigues, betrayals, bloodshed, and
the scattering of Judeans throughout Palestine. ... There were wars,
rumors of wars for the better part of ten years and Josephus reports portents, including a brilliant daylight in the middle of the night! (Burton Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins, 1988, 2006)

We recognize that brilliant daylight at night from the Tunguska event.

Josephus gives several portents of the evil to befall Jerusalem and
the temple. He described a star resembling a sword, a comet, a light
shining in the temple, a cow giving birth to a lamb at the moment it
was to be sacrificed in the Jerusalem Temple, armies fighting in the sky,
and a voice from the Holy of Holies declaring, "We are departing"
(Josephus, Jewish Wars, 6). (Obviously, the voice was apocryphal.)

Some of these portents are mentioned by other contemporary
historians, Tacitus for example. However, Tacitus, in book five of his
Histories, castigated the superstitious Jews for not recognizing and
offering expiations for the portents to avert the disasters. He put the
destruction of Jerusalem down to the stupidity or willful ignorance of
the Jews themselves in not offering the appropriate sacrifices.

Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city
[Jerusalem], and a comet, that continued a whole year... (Josephus,
Jewish Wars 6.3)

In short, it very well may be that the eschatological writings in
the New Testament, the very formation of the Myth of Jesus, was based
on cometary events of the time, including a memory of the "Star in the
East." The destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem may very well have
been an "act of God," as reported by Mark in his Gospel.

312 - Italy - A team of geologists
believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and
dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said
to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity. The small,
circular Cratere del Sirente in central Italy is clearly an impact
crater, said the geologists because its shape fits and it is also
surrounded by numerous smaller, secondary craters, gouged out by
ejected debris, as expected from impact models.

Radiocarbon dating puts the crater's formation at about the right
time to have been witnessed by Constantine and there are magnetic
anomalies detected around the secondary craters - possibly due to
magnetic fragments from the meteorite. It would have struck the Earth
with the force of a small nuclear bomb, perhaps a kiloton in yield. It
would have looked like a nuclear blast, with a mushroom cloud and

476 A.D. - I-hsi and Chin-ling, China - "Thundering chariots" "like granite" fell to ground; vegetation was scorched.

526 - Great Antioch earthquake

...those caught in the earth beneath the buildings were incinerated
and sparks of fire appeared out of the air and burned everyone they
struck like lightning. The surface of the earth boiled and foundations
of buildings were struck by thunderbolts thrown up by the earthquakes
and were burned to ashes by fire... it was a tremendous and incredible
marvel with fire belching out rain, rain falling from tremendous
furnaces, flames dissolving into showers ... as a result Antioch became
desolate ... in this terror up to 250,000 people perished. (John
Malalas quoted by Jeffreys, E., Jeffreys, M. and Scott, R. 1986, The
Chronicle of John Malalas, Byzantina Australiensia, Australian Assoc.
Byzantine Studies 4, Melbourne.)

536 - 545 - reduced sunlight, mists or "dry fogs, crop failures, famines in China and the Mediterranean, and plagues."

The Praetorian Prefect Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator wrote a letter documenting the conditions.

All of us are observing, as it were, a blue coloured sun; we marvel
at bodies which cast no mid-day shadow, and at that strength of
intensest heat reaching extreme and dull tepidity ... So we have had a
winter without storms, spring without mildness, summer without heat ...
The seasons have changed by failing to change; and what used to be
achieved by mingled rains cannot be gained from dryness only.

Procopius of Caesarea, a Byzantine, wrote:

And it came about during this year that a most dread portent took
place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the
moon, during the whole year, and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in
eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear nor such as it is
accustomed to shed.

John of Ephesus, cleric and a historian, wrote:

The sun was dark and its darkness lasted for eighteen months; each
day it shone for about four hours; and still this light was only a
feeble shadow ... the fruits did not ripen and the wine tasted like
sour grapes.

In the wake of this inexplicable darkness, crops failed and famine
struck. And then, pestilence. But here we mean "pestilence" as Jacme
d'Agramaont, a doctor writing in 1348 described it in reference to the
"Black Death".

He discussed it in terms of an "epidemic or pestilence and
mortalities of people" which threatened Lerida from "some parts and
regions neighbouring to us" ... Agramont said nothing concerning the
term epidemia, but he extensively developed what he meant by pestilencia.
He gave this latter term a very peculiar etymology, in accordance with
a from of knowledge established by Isidore of Seville (570=636) in his
Etymologiae, which came to be widely accepted throughout Europe during
the Middle Ages. He split the term pestilencia up into three syllables,
each having a particular meaning: pes = tempesta: 'storm, tempest'; te
= 'temps, time', lencia = clardat: 'brightness, light'; hence, he
concluded, the pestilencia was 'the time of tempest caused by light
from the stars.' [Jon Arrizabalaga, see Part One]

During the time of Justinian, this "pestilence" ravaged Europe,
reducing the population of the Roman empire by a third, killing
four-fifths of the citizens of Constantinople, reaching as far East as
China and as far Northwest as Great Britain. John of Ephesus documented
the progress of this "pestilence" in AD 541-542 in Constantinople, where city officials gave up trying to count the dead after two hundred thirty thousand:

The city stank with corpses as there were neither litters nor
diggers, and corpses were heaped up in the streets ... It might happen
that [a person] went out to market to buy necessities and while he was
standing and talking or counting his change, suddenly the end would
overcome the buyer here and the seller there, the merchandise remaining
in the middle with the payment for it, without there being either buyer
or seller to pick it up.

Although scholars place the historical King Arthur in the fifth
century, the date of his death is given as AD 539. According to
Baillie, the imagery from the Arthurian legend is in accordance with
the appearance of a comet and subsequent famine and plague: the "Waste
Land" of legend. Ireland's St. Patrick stories feature a wasteland as
well. And although St. Patrick is credited with ridding Ireland of
snakes, we might consider that there never were snakes in Ireland, and
that snakes and dragons are images associated with comets.

Until this point in time, the Britons had held control of post-Roman
Britain, keeping the Anglo-Saxons isolated and suppressed. After the
Romans were gone, the Britons maintained the status quo, living in
towns, with elected officials, and carrying on trade with the empire.
After AD 536, the year reported as the "death of Arthur", the Britons,
the ancient Cymric empire that at one time had stretched from Cornwall
in the south to Strathclyde in the north, all but disappeared, and were
replaced by Anglo-Saxons. There is much debate among scholars as to
whether the Anglo-Saxons killed all of the Britons, or assimilated
them. Here we must consider that they were victims of possibly many
overhead cometary explosions which wiped out most of the population of
Europe, plunging it into the Dark Ages which were, apparently, really
DARK, atmospherically speaking.

Flag of Wales

The mystery of the origins of the red dragon symbol, now on the flag
of Wales, has perplexed many historians, writers and romanticists, and
the archæological community generally has refrained from commenting on
this most unusual emblem, claiming it does not concern them. In the
ancient Welsh language it is known as 'Draig Goch' - 'red dragon', and
in "Y Geiriadur Cymraeg Prifysgol Cymru", the "University of Wales
Welsh Dictionary", (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1967, p. 1082)
there are translations for the various uses of the Welsh word 'draig'.
Amongst them are common uses of the word, which is today taken just to
mean a 'dragon', but in times past it has also been used to refer to
'Mellt Distaw' - (sheet lightning), and also 'Mellt Didaranau' -
(lightning unaccompanied by thunder).

But the most interesting common usage of the word in earlier times,
according to this authoritative dictionary, is 'Maen Mellt' the word
used to refer to a 'meteorite'. And this makes sense, as the Welsh word
'maen' translates as 'stone', while the Welsh word 'mellt' translates
as 'lightning' - so literally a 'lightning-stone'. That the ancient
language of the Welsh druids has words still in use today which have in
the past been used to describe both a dragon and also a meteorite, is
something that greatly helps us to follow the destructive 'trail of the
dragon' as it was described in early Welsh 'riddle-poems'. [...]

The exact nature and sequence of events in the mid-6th. century A.D.
that gave rise to the period we refer to as the European 'Dark Age' is
still a matter for speculation amongst historians and archæologists.
Over the past 20 years or so, certain paleo-climatologists have begun
comparing notes with archæologists and astronomers, and interestingly,
in the absence of written records, many have begun to look a little
more closely at mythology in their efforts to corroborate the findings
of their researches. While much of this recent bout of
inter-disciplinary brainstorming has focussed on the 6th.C. AD start of
the European Dark Age, earlier dates are also of great interest to
those embroiled in this veritable 'paradigm shift'.[...]

In recent years certain astronomers have increasingly come to
appreciate that encoded in the folklore and mythologies of many
cultures are the accurate observations of ancient skywatchers. Almost
all tell of times when death and mass destruction came from the skies,
events that are often portrayed as 'celestial battles' between what
they variously depicted as 'the Gods'. And curiously the imagery in
these 'myths' have many common features, even between the mythologies
of cultures widely spaced in time and location.[The European 'Dark Age' And Welsh Oral Tradition]

Out on the Asian steppes, whatever happened in AD 536 caused
political upheaval. The horse-based economy of the warlike Avars
foundered, and their vassals, the cattle-herding Turks, overthrew them.
Drivenfrom the steppes, the Avars joined forces with the Slavs in
Hungary on the borders of the Roman empire.

Gildas, who was writing at approximately 540 AD, says that the
island of Britain was on fire from sea to sea " ... until it had burned
almost the whole surface of the island and was licking the western
ocean with its fierce red tongue."[5] . While in "The Life of St.
Teilo" contained in the Llandaf Charters, of St. Teilo, who had
recently been made Bishop of Llandaf Cathedral in Morganwg, South
Wales, it says:

" ... however he could not long remain, on account of the pestilence
which nearly destroyed the whole nation. It was called the Yellow
Pestilence, because it occasioned all persons who were seized by it to
be yellow and without blood, and it appeared to men a column of a
watery cloud, having one end trailing along the ground, and the other
above, proceeding in the air, and passing through the whole country
like a shower going through the bottom of valleys. Whatever living
creatures it touched with its pestiferous blast, either immediately
died, or sickened for death ... and so greatly did the aforesaid
destruction rage throughout the nation, that it caused the country to
be nearly deserted".

St. Teilo is recorded as having left South Wales for Brittany to
escape the Yellow Pestilence, and that it lasted for some 11 years.

In 540, in Yemen, the Great Dam of Marib, dating
from around the seventh century B.C., one of the engineering wonders of
the ancient world and a central part of the south Arabian civilization,
broke and began to collapse. By 550 AD, the dam was a
complete loss and thousands of people migrated to another oasis on the
Arabian peninsula, Medina. The Arab tribes, traumatized by the
environmental disasters around them, began to think of conquest for the
sake of survival. In 610 AD, a new leader unified them: Muhammad.

Although a great many historical changes happened in the seventh
century, such as the Roman war with Persia, the rise of Islam,
rebellion and civil war in the Roman empire, and the advance of the
Slavs driven by the Avars, it can be said that the seeds of these
changes, the destruction of the old that made way for the new, can be
traced to the environmental catastrophe of 536 AD.

John Lewis does not include any estimates of the death and
destruction occurring at that time in his "average number of annual
deaths by comets."

580 - France - Great fireball and blast; Orleans and nearby towns burned.

588 - June 25 - China - "Red-colored object" fell with "noise like thunder" into furnace; exploded; burned several houses

616 - Jan. 14 - China - Ten deaths reported in China from meteorite shower; seige towers destroyed

679 - Coldingham, England - Monastery destroyed by "fire from heaven" as reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

764 - Nara, Japan - Meteorite strikes house.

810 - Upper Saxony - Charlemagne's horse startled by meteor; throws him to the ground.

1064 - Chang-chou, China - Daytime fireball, meteorite fall; fences burned.

1178 - 18 June on the Julian calendar,
25 June, Gregorian - In this year, on the Sunday before the Feast of
St. John the Baptist, after sunset when the moon had first become
visible a marvelous phenomenon was witnessed by some five or more men
who were sitting there facing the moon. Now there was a bright new
moon, and as usual in that phase its horns were tileted toward the
east; and suddenly the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of
the divisin a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable
distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the moon
which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety, and, to put it in the
words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes,
the moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its
proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the
flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to
normal. Then after these transformations the moon from horn to horn,
that is along its whole lengthe, took on a blackish appearance. The
present writer was given this report by men who saw it with their own
eyes, and are prepared to stake ther honour on an oath that they have
made no addition or falsification in the above narrative. (Gervase of

1321- 1368 - O-chia district, China - Iron rain kills people, animals, damages house.

1347 - 1348 - Black Death kills about
half the population of Western Europe. The effects of this event were,
apparently, somewhat global though the number of deaths worldwide is
unknown. John S. Lewis does not include the millions of fatalities of
the Black Death in his calculations.

1348 - 25 Jan. - Earthquake in
CArinthia, 16 cities destroyed, fire fell from heaven; over 40,000
dead. John Lewis does not include this event in his calculations.

1369 - Ho-t'ao, China - "Large star" fell, starts fire, soldiers injured.

1490 - 3 Feb. - Ch'ing-yang, Shansi, China - Stones fell like rain; more than 10,000 killed.

1492 - Ensisheim, Alsace - 280-pound
meteorite landed; in the same year Columbus reported "a marvelous
branch of fire" that fell into the sea as he crossed the Atlantic.

1511 - 14 Sept. - Cremona, Lombardy, Italy - Monk killed with several birds, a sheep.

1516 - May - Nantan, China - "During
summertime in May of Jiajing 11th year, stars fell from the northwest
direction, five to six fold long, waving like snakes and dragons. They
were as bright as lightning and disappeared in seconds". Many of them
were recovered by local farmers in 1958 when China needed steel for the
"Great Leap Forward" advocated by Mao Zedong. They have coarse
octahedral structure and contain 92.35% iron & 6.96% nickel,
belonging to IIICD classification of Wasson et al (1980)'s. Most Nantan
meteorites weight 150 to 1500 kg. Due to the humid condition, smaller
pieces buried in soils of lower valleys have been extensively weathered
and oxidized into limonite.

1620 - Punjab, India - Hot iron fell, burned grass; made into dagger knife, two sabres.

1639 - China - Large stone fell in market; tens killed; tens of houses destroyed.

1648 - Ship near Malacca - Two sailors reported killed on board ship en route from Japan to Sicily.

1654 - Milano, Italy - Monk reported killed by meteorite.

1661 - 9 August - China - Meteorite smashes through roof; no injuries.

1670 - 7 Nov. - China - Meteorite fall, breaks roof beam of house

1761 - Chamblan, France - House struck and burned by meteorite.

1790 - 24 July - Barbotan and Agen, Gascony, France - Meteorite crushes cottage, kills farmer and some cattle.

1794 - 16 June - Siena, Italy - Child's hat hit; child uninjured

1798 - 19 Dec. - Benares, India - Building struck by meteorite

1801 - 30 Oct. - Suffolk, England -
"Dwelling-house of Mr. Woodrosse, miller, near Horringer-mill, Suffolk,
was set on fire by a meteor, and entirely consumed, together with a
stable adjoining."

1803- 4 July - E. Norton, England -
White Bull public house struck, chimney knocked down, grass burned,
flight of object nearly horizontal.

1803 - 13 Dec - Massing, Czech. - Building struck by meteorite.

1810 - July - Shahabad, India - Great stone fell five villages burned; several killed.

1823 - 10 Nov. - Waseda, Japan - Meteorite strikes house.

1825 - 16 Jan. - Oriang, India - Man reported killed, woman injured by meteorite fall.

1827 - 27 Feb. - Mhow, India - Man struck on arm, tree broken by meteorite.

1835 - 13 Nov. - Belley, Dept. de l'Ain, France - Fireball sets fire to barn.

1836 - 11 Dec. Macao, Brazil - Several homes damaged, several oxen killed by meteorite.

1841 - Chiloe Archipel, Chile - Fire caused by meteorite fall.

1845 - 6 May - Ch'ang-shou, Szechwan, China - Stone meteorite damages more than 100 tombs.

1847 - 14 July - Braunau, Bohemia - A 37-lb iron smashes through roof of house.

1850 - 17 Oct. - Szu-mao, China - Meteorite falls through roof of house.

1858 - 9 Dec. Ausson, France - Building hit by meteorite.

1860 - 1 May - New Concord, Ohio - Colt struck and killed by meteorite.

1868 - 8 Aug. - Pillistfer, Estonia - Building struck.

1869 - 1 Jan - Hessle, Sweden - Man missed by few meters.

1870 - 23 Jan. - Nedagolla, India -
Man stunned by meteorite. (Don't know if this means the man was
"amazed" or if he was hit and physically knocked senseless.)

1871 - 8 Oct. - Great Chicago Fire. See Comet Biela and Mrs. O'Leary's Cow (Another item that John Lewis has not entered into his calculations.)

1872 - Banbury, England - Fireball fells trees, wall

1874 - 30 June - Chin-kuei Shan, Ming-tung Li, China - Thunderstorm; huge stone fell, crushed cottage, killed child.

1876 - 16 Feb - Judesegeri, India - Water tank struck by meteorite.

1877 - 3 Jan. - Warrenton, Missouri - Man missed by few meters.

1877 - 21 Jan. - De Cewsville, Ontario - Man missed by few meters.

1879 - 14 Jan. - Newtown, Indiana - Leonidas Grover reported killed in bed by meteorite. (possible hoax in Paducah Daily News).

1879 - 31 Jan. - Dun-le-Poelier, France - Farmer reported killed by meteorite.

1879 - 12 Nov. - Huan-hsiang, China - Rain of stones; many houses damaged; sulfur smell.

1881 - 19 Nov. Grosliebenthal, Russia - Man reported injured by meteorite.

1887 - 19 March - Barque J.P.A., N. Atlantic - Fireball "fell into water very close alongside".

1893 - 22 Nov. - Zabrodii, Russia - Building struck by meteorite.

1897 - 11 Mar - New Martinsville, West Virginia - A man was reportedly struck, a horse killed, and walls pierced.

1906 - 4 Nov. - Diep River, S. Africa - Building struck

1907 - 5 Sept - Hsin-p'ai Wei, Weng-Li - Stone fell; whole family crushed to death

1907 - 7 Dec. - Bellefontaine, Ohio - Meteorite starts fire, destroys house.

1908 - 30 June - Tunguska valley, Siberia - Two reportedly killed, many injured by Tunguska blast.

1909 - 29 May - Shepard, Texas - Meteor drops through house.

1910 - 27 April - Mexico - Giant meteor bursts, falls in mountains, starts forest fire.

1911 - 16 June - Kilbourn, Wisconsin - Meteorite struck barn

1911 - 28 June - Nakhla, Egypt - Dog struck and killed by meteorite

1912 - 19 July - Holbrook, Arizona - Building struck; 14,000 stones fell; man missed by a few meters

1914 - 9 Jan. - W. France - Meteor explosions break windows

1914 - 22 Nov - Batavia, New York - Meteorites damage farm

1916 - 18 Jan. - Baxter, Missouri - Building struck

1917 - 3 Dec - Strathmore, Scotland - Building struck

1918 - 30 June - Richardton, N. Dakota - Building struck

1921 - 15 July - Berkshire Hills, Mass. - Meteor starts fire in Berkshires

1921 - 21 Dec. - Beirut, Syria - Building hit

1922 - 2 Feb. - Baldwyn, Mississippi - Man missed by 3 meters

1922 - 24 April - Barnegat, New Jersey
- Rocked buildings, shattered windows, clouds of noxious gas - overhead
explosion of comet fragment.

1922 - 30 May - Nagai, Japan - Person missed by several meters

1924 - 6 July - Johnstown, Colorado - Man missed being hit by 1 meter

1927 - 28 April - Aba, Japan - Girl struck and injured by "dubious" (?) meteorite

1929 - 8 Dec. Zvezvan, Yugoslavia - Meteor hits bridal party, kills 1

1930 - 13 Aug. - Brazil - The "Rio
Curaca event." Brazlilian "Tunguska event"; fire and "depopulation" -
"An ear-piercing "whistling" sound, which might be understood as being
a manifestation of the electrophonic phenomena which have been
discussed in WGN over the past few years; the sun appearing to be
"blood-red" before the explosion. The event occurred at about 8h local
time, so that the bolide probably came from the sunward side of the
earth. If the object were spawning dust and meteoroids-- that is, it
was cometary in nature--then, since low-inclination, eccentric orbits
produce radiants close to the sun, it might be that the solar
coloration (which, in this explanation, would have been witnessed
elsewhere) was due to such dust in the line of sight to the sun. In
short, the earth was within the tail of the small comet. There was a
fall of fine ash prior to the explosion, which covered the surrounding
vegetation with a blanket of white.

1931 - 10 July - Malinta, Ohio -
Blast, crater, smell of sulfur, windows broken in farmhouse; four
telephone poles snapped, wires down; overhead cometary fragment

1931 - 8 Sept. - Hagerstown, Maryland - Meteor crashes through roof in Hagerstown

1932 - 4 Aug. - Sao Christovao, Brazil - Fall destroys warehouse roof

1932 - 10 Aug - Archie, Missouri - Homestead struck, person missed by less than 1 meter

1933 - 24 Feb. - Stratford, Texas - Bright fireball, 4-lb metallic mass falls, grass burned

1933 - 8 Aug. - Sioux Co., Nebraska - Man missed by a few meters.

1934 - 16 Feb. - Texas - Pilot swerves to avoid crash with fireball

1934 - 18 Feb - Seville, Spain - House struck, burned.

1934 - 28 Sept. - California - Pilot escapes fireball shower (one assumes this means he performed evasive maneuvers)

1935 - 11 Aug. - Briggsdale, Colorado - Man narrowly missed by meteorite

1935 - 11 Dec. - 21h local time -
British Guyana - Lat: 2 deg 10min North, Long: 59 deg 10 min West,
close to Marudi Mountain. A report from Serge A. Korff of the Bartol
Research Foundation, Franklin Institute (Delaware, USA) suggested that
the region of devastation might be greater than that involved in the
Tunguska event itself. Eye-witness accounts were n accord with a large
meteoroid/small asteroid entry, with a body passing overhead
accompanied by a terrific roar (presumably electrophonic effects),
later concussions, and the sky being lit up like daylight. A local
aircraft operator, Art Williams, reported seeing an area of forest more
than twenty miles (32 kilometers) in extent which had been destroyed,
and he later stated that the shattered jungle was elongated rather than
circular, as occurred at Tunguska and would be expected from the air
blast caused by an object entering away from the vertical (the most
likely entry angle for all cosmic projectiles is 45 degrees).

1936 - 14 Mar. - Red Bank, New Jersey - Meteorite through shed roof

1936 - 2 Apr. -Yurtuk, USSR - Building struck

1936 - 19 Oct. - Newfoundland - Fisherman's boat set on fire by meteorite

1938 - 31 Mar. - Kasamatsu, Japan - Meteorite pierces roof of ship

1938 - 16 Jun. - Pantar, Phillipines - Several buildings struck

1938 - 24 Jun. - Chicora, Pennsylvania - A cow struck and injured

1938 - 29 Sep. - Benld, Illinois - Garage and car struck by 4-lb stone

1941 - 10 Jul. -Black Moshannon Park, Pennsylvania - Person missed by 1 m

1942 - 6 Apr. -Pollen, Norway - Person missed by 1 m

1940s - Qatar - A crater, believed to
have been created by the impact of a falling meteor, found near Dukhan.
Sheikh Salman bin Jabor al-Thani, head of the astronomical department
at Qatar Scientific Club, said yesterday the club believed that the
meteor had hit Qatar in the 1940s. The club started a search for
evidence three years ago because of stories of a "falling star" told by
people of that era. The club took the help of Google Earth in the
search. They succeeded in locating five craters, which were just
visible on the surface.

1946 - 16 May -Santa Ana, Nuevo Leon - Meteorite destroys many houses, injures 28

1946 - 30 Nov. -Colford, Gloucestershire, UK - Telephones knocked out, boy knocked off bicycle

1947 - 12 Feb. -Sikhote Alin,
Vladivostok - An iron meteorite that broke up only about 5 miles above
the earth rained iron. It produced over 100 craters with the largest
being around 85 feet in diameter. The strewnfield covered an area of
about 1 mile by a half mile. There were no fires or similar destruction
like that found at Tunguska. Shredded trees and broken branches mostly.
A total of 23 tons of meteorites were recovered and it's been estimated
it's total mass was around 70 tons when it broke up.

1949 - 21 Sep. - Beddgelert, Wales - Building struck

1949 - 20 Nov. -Kochi, Japan - Hot meteoritic stone enters house through window

1950 - 23 May. - Madhipura, India - Building struck

1950 - 20 Sept. -Murray, Kentucky - Several buildings struck

1950 - 10 Dec. - St. Louis, Missouri - Car struck

1953 - 03 Mar. -Pecklesheim, FRG - Person missed by several meters

1954 - 07 Jan. -Dieppe, France - Meteorite-building explosion, smashed windows

1954 - 28 Nov. -Sylacauga, Alabama - Mrs. Annie Hodges struck by 4-kg meteorite that crashed through roof, destroyed radio

1955 - 17 Jan. -Kirkland, Washington - Two irons break through amateur astronomer's observatory dome; one sets a fire.

1955 - one of the few documented case of a person being hit by a meteorite occurred. (Source - need more details)

1956 - 29 Feb. -Centerville, S. Dakota - Building hit

1959 - 13 Oct. -Hamlet, Indiana - Building hit

1961 - 23 Feb. -Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia - Loading dock struck

1961 - 6 Sept. -Bells, Texas - Meteorite strikes rook of house

1962 - 26 Apr. -Kiel, FRG - Building hit

1963 - Massachusetts - meteorite fell (need more details on this one.)

1965 - 24 Dec. - Barwell, England - Two buildings struck and a car struck

1967 - 11 Jul. -Denver, Colorado - Building struck

1968 - 12 Apr. -Schenectady, New York - House hit

1969 - 25 Apr. -Bovedy, N. Ireland - Building hit

1969 - 7 Aug. -Andreevka, USSR - Building hit

1969 - 16 Sept. -Suchy Dul, Czechoslovakia - Building hit

1969 - 28 Sept. -Murchison, Australia - Building hit

1971 - 8 Apr. -Wethersfield, Connecticut - House struck by meteorite

1971 - 2 Aug. -Havero, Finland - Building hit

1973 - 15 Mar. -San Juan Capistrano, California - Building hit

1973 - 27 Oct. -Canon City, Colorado - Building hit

1974 - 18 Aug. -Naragh, Iran - Building hit

1977 - 31 Jan. -Louisville, Kentucky - Three buildings and a car struck

1979 - 7 Jun. -Cilimus, Indonesia - Meteorite fell in garden

1981 - 13 Jun. -Salem, Oregon - Building hit

1982 - 8 Nov. -Wethersfield, Connecticut - Pierced roof of house

1984 - 15 Jun. - Nantong, PRC - Man missed by 7 m

1984 - 30 Jun. -Aomori, Japan - Building struck

1984 - 22 Aug. -Tomiya, Japan - Two buildings hit

1984 - 30 Sept. - Binnigup, Australia - Two sunbathers missed by 5 m

1984 - 5 Dec. -Cuneo, Italy - Strong explosion, building flash; windows broken; daytime fireball "bright as Sun"

1984 - 10 Dec. -Claxton, Georgia - Mailbox destroyed by meteorite

1985 - 6 Jan. -La Criolla, Argentina - Farmhouse roof pierced, door smashed; 9.5-kg stone misses woman by 2 m

1985 - 26 June - Hartford, Conn. - a
1,500-pound slab of ice, six feet long and eight inches thick flattened
a picket fence. The ground shook with the impact. A 13-year-old boy and
his friend were standing 10 feet away.

1986 - 29 Jul. -Kokubunji, Japan - Several buildings hit

1988 - 1 Mar. -Trebbin, GDR - Greenhouse struck by meteorite

1988 - 18 May -Torino, Italy - Building struck

1989 - 12 Jun. -Opotiki, New Zealand - Building hit

1989 - 15 Aug. -Sixiangkou, PRC - Building hit

1990 - 7 Apr. -Enschede, Netherlands - House hit by believed fragment of Midas

1990 - 2 Jul. -Masvingo, Zimbabwe - Person missed by 5 m

1991 - Tahara, Japan - Meteorite struck deck of car-transport ship; made crater

1991 - 31 Aug. -Noblesville, Indiana - Meteorite fall missed two boys by 3.5 m

1992 - 14 Aug. -Mbale, Uganda - Forty-eight stones fall; roofs damaged, boy struck on head

1992 - 9 Oct. -Peerskill, New York - Car trunk, floor pierced by meteorite

1994 - 16 July - Fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy begin impacting Jupiter.

1994 - 20 Oct. -Coleman, Michigan - Meteorite penetrated roof of house (1997)

1995 - Neagari, Japan - Meteorite penetrated car trunk

1996 - 26 Nov. - Honduras - According
to the Associated Press: "A meteorite slammed into a sparsely populated
area of Honduras last month, terrifying residents and leaving a
165-foot-wide crater, scientists confirmed Sunday. Near San Luis, in
the western province of Santa Barbara.

1997 - 11 Apr. -Chambrey, France - Meteorite penetrated roof of car; set fire

1998 - 13 Jun. -Portales, New Mexico - Meteorite penetrated barn roof

1998 - 12 Jul. -Kitchener, Ontario - Meteorite falls 1 m from golfer

2000 - January - Canada - a 150-tonne
meteoroid lit the skies over Whitehorse, and exploded over a lake about
100 kilometres south of the city. The Tagish Lake meteor produced a
treasure of information about a rare kind of meteorite.

2000 - January - Iberian peninsula -
ice chunks weighing up to 6.6 pounds rained on Spain for 10 days
causing extensive damage to cars and an industrial storage facility. At
first, scientists thought the phenomenon was unique to Spain. During
the past three years, however, they've accumulated strong evidence that
megacryometeors are falling all around the globe. More than 50 falls
have been confirmed, and researchers believe that's a small fraction of
the actual number, since others may hit unoccupied areas or melt before
discovery. Most megacrymeteor falls occur in January, February and
March. Megacryometeors show the telltale onionskin layering seen in
hailstones. They also contain dust particles and air pockets found in
hail. But they are formed in cloudless skies, a notion that defies
research on hail formation.

2001 - 25 July to 23 Sept. - Kerala,
India - red rain sporadically fell; staining clothes with an appearance
similar to that of blood. Yellow, green, and black rain was also
reported. The rains were the result of the atmospheric disintegration
of a comet, according to a study conducted at the School of Pure and
Applied Physics of the MG University by Dr Godfrey Louis and his
student Santosh Kumar. The red rain cells were devoid of DNA which
suggests their extra-terrestrial origin. The findings published in the
international journal 'Astrophysics and Space Science' state that the
cometery fragment contained dense collection of red cells.

2002 - 6 June - asteroid/comet
explosion over the Mediterranean. Estimated at five to 10 meters in
diameter, it released a burst of energy comparable to the nuclear bomb
dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

2002 - 24 Sept. - near Bodaibo,
Irkutsk, Siberia - 1:50 amEye-witness accounts of the event reported a
large luminous object falling to Earth near Bodiabo in Siberia. Hunters
in the region have also reported the existence of a crater surrounded
by burnt forest suggesting that an impact event had occurred. The event
was detected by near-by geophones as a moderate-earthquake.

2004 - 3 Sept. - a small asteroid
exploded in the stratosphere above Antarctica depositing sufficient
micron-sized dust particles to cause 'local cooling, and much
speculation as to the possible effects on the ozone layer.

2006 - 1 Feb. - Canada - In Calgary on
February 1st, 20 people reported seeing a fireball, an exceptionally
bright meteor, streak across the sky just before 7 a.m., lasting for
several seconds before breaking up into fragments. It was estimated
that remnants of the meteorite landed about 400 km south of Calgary
somewhere in Montana about two minutes after it appeared as a ball of

2006 - 1 Feb. - Bangladesh - A
'meteor' from outer space fell with a big bang on a field in Singpara
village of sadar upazila yesterday afternoon creating panic and
curiosity among people. No one was reported hurt. On information
Superintendent of Police Khandker Golam Farooq rushed to the spot and
asked his companions and villagers to dig the earth near the house of
one Fazlur Rahman from where smoke was still emitting. To their
amazement they found a lead-like black material three feet below the
earth. Hot and weighing 2.5kg, the triangular material looked like a
mortar shell, witnesses said. The meteor was kept in custody of the
Thakurgaon Police Station.

2006 - 17, 20 Feb. - Scotland - The
hunt is on for the crash sites of two meteors near Stirling Castle.
Scientists have been spurred into action by reports of spectacular
"balls of fire" falling in the area. If discovered, they would be the
first meteorites confirmed to have hit north of the Border for almost
100 years. The incidents, reported by several witnesses, were on the
evenings of Friday, February 17 and the following Monday, February 20.
"Although meteorite falls are rare everywhere, Scotland seems to have
escaped remarkably lightly. There have only been four meteorites
recovered from Scotland, compared with more than 18 from England and
Wales. Statistically, we are overdue another one."

2006 - 12 April - Australia - A Perth
astronomer says a spectacular light show in the sky 12/3 was a meteor.
Sightings were made as far south as Albany and inland through the Wheat
Belt. It lit up the countryside for hundreds of kilometres around the
south-west of Western Australia." Witnesses say the the sky lit up
about 9:00pm AEDT, and the light was followed by a thundering sound
that shook buildings.

2006 - 4 May - TEXAS - Astronomers
said a large meteor shower crossed straight over El Paso just before
9:45 p.m. Thursday the 4th of May. One meteor was so large that it cast
an orange glow against the mountain. "The animals were going wild, the
horses were bucking and dogs were barking and howling and then, all of
a sudden right above my house, there was a big bright light and then
just 'Bang!' And it lit up the five acres that are around us, and then
I covered my eyes like this because it was bright and when it got past
I saw there was a tail and it just went 'Shhhh' toward the Hueco

2006 - 2 June - Minnesota, Wisconsin,
North Dakota and Canada - a fireball was spotted estimated to be some
20 miles above the Earth's surface. A sonic boom was heard in the Lake
of the Woods area of Minnesota, so there may be some pieces of the
meteor that survived the fall.

2006 - 7 June - Norway - A large
meteorite struck in northern Norway this week, landing with an impact
an astronomer compared to the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima. The
meteorite appeared as a ball of fire just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, June
7th, visible across several hundred miles in the sunlit summer sky
above the Arctic Circle. 'I saw a brilliant flash of light in the sky,
and this became a light with a tail of smoke. I heard the bang seven
minutes later. It sounded like when you set off a solid charge of
dynamite a kilometer (0.62 miles) away.' The meteor struck a
mountainside in Reisadalen. The country's leading astronomer said he
expects the meteor to prove to be the largest to hit Norway in modern
times, even bigger than the 198-pound Alta meteorite of 1904. 'If the
meteorite was as large as it seems to have been, we can compare it to
the Hiroshima bomb. Of course the meteorite is not radioactive, but in
explosive force we may be able to compare it to the bomb.'

2006 - 25 June - Pennsylvania -
Residents of the Tuscarawas Valley who heard a deafening boom about
12:40 a.m. Monday the 19th and stepped outside likely saw what one
person described as "a marvelous fireball with red streaks in the sky."
It probably was a meteor falling through the atmosphere. Numerous
callers reported a large red fireball. Several said their homes shook.
New Philadelphia police said they received reports from several callers
who witnessed the fireball or heard the boom. One woman described it as
"a blue light that lit up the sky and went down." Police in Dover said
multiple callers reported they heard a loud bang and something rattled
their windows. Air Traffic Command in Washington, D.C. confirmed that
Cleveland's control center was checking into a meteor shower that
occurred within its air space.

2006 - 10 July - South Africa - An ice
ball that landed in Douglasdale, South Africa, might be one of the
first 'megacryometeors' recorded in Africa. The ice ball, which landed
on the pavement in suburban Douglasdale last week, was about the size
of a microwave oven. The impact of the ice ball's fall created a small
crater on the pavement, which was covered with pieces of broken ice.
Despite sharing many chemical characteristics with hail, ice balls are
formed under clear-sky conditions. Ice balls have been recorded since
the 19th century. They have the potential to damage people, buildings
and cars, but no injuries were reported as a result of this one.

2006 - 14 July - Norway - At 10:20am a
bus driver from Ås, south of Oslo, was sitting in the outhouse at his
holiday cabin near Rygge on the 14th of July when he heard an enormous
blast. Right after that, some particles from a meteor that exploded
over the Oslo area rained down just outside. He said he didn't think
too much about the surprising blast at first, dismissing it as probably
coming from an exercise at a nearby military air station at Rygge. But
he said the blast and the rumbling it caused was terrible. He was just
hooking the door when he heard a new noise, a whistling sort of sound,
followed by a new bang on some aluminum plates lying near the outhouse.
Sure enough, it was particles from a meteor that exploded somewhere
over the Oslo Fjord area on Friday morning. Astronomers confirm
Martinsen's remarkable discovery of meteorite particles on his
property. "This is Norway's 14th meteorite, but we've never heard about
a meteorite landing so close to a person before." -- A family from
Moss, south of Oslo, came home from their summer holidays to find a
meteorite in their garden. It's another remnant of the meteor that
exploded over the Oslo Fjord area on the 14th of JUly. Astronomers in
Norway are calling the discovery of meteorites around southeast Norway
"incredible," and urge local residents to keep looking for more. "Two
branches on our plum tree were broken. I lifted them up and there lay
this stone." It had made a hole measuring about seven centimeters in
his lawn.

2006 - 12 Sept. - New Zealand - A
small piece of rock that has been found in a paddock in New Zealand may
be a piece of the meteorite that streaked across the sky there Tuesday
the 12th, panicking residents who flooded emergency hotlines. A farmer
found a 10cm by 5cm piece of "almost weightless" rock in his field
today near the town of Dunsandel, south of Christchurch. It has been
sent to New Zealand's National Radiation Laboratory for analysis. The
meteorite tore across the sky over the northern half of the South
Island in the afternoon, leaving a bright, burning trial behind it and
causing a sonic boom that rattled houses and shook the ground. It then
apparently erupted into a fireball, sending forth a thick puff of
smoke. People were sent running from the homes and offices when they
heard the boom, fearing buildings could collapse. The sonic boom was
registered on earthquake-detecting equipment. The boom meant the
meteorite was probably travelling "very low". It was probably about the
size of a basketball as it shredded through the sky and became a
"terminal fireball" at a speed of about 40,000kph. "If this had
happened at night, it would have lit up the whole countryside."

2006 - 10 Oct. - A fire that destroyed
a cottage near Bonn and injured a 77-year-old man was probably caused
by a meteor and witnesses saw an arc of blazing light in the sky,
German police said on Friday. Burkhard Rick, a spokesman for the police
in Siegburg east of Bonn, said the fire gutted the cottage and badly
burnt the man's hands and face in the incident on October 10.

2007 - January - Tampa, Florida - a
200-pound chunk of ice streaked through the clear Florida sky and
landed in the back seat of a really nice red Ford Mustang. The car was

2007 - 4 Jan - Authorities were trying
to identify a mysterious metallic object that crashed through the roof
of a house in eastern New Jersey.

Nobody was injured when the golf-ball sized object, weighing
nearly as much as a can of soup, struck the home and embedded itself in
a wall Tuesday night. ... Approximately 20 to 50 rock-like objects fall
every day over the entire planet, said Carlton Pryor, a professor of
astronomy at Rutgers University. "It's not all that uncommon to have
rocks rain down from heaven," said Pryor, who had not seen the object
that struck the Monmouth County home. "These are usually rocky or a
mixture of rock and metal."

2007 - 10 January - Russia - a
meteorite fell in January in the Altai Territory in southern Siberia
and searchers found an extraterrestrial substance which could be
meteorite fragments. "We have collected about 50 samples, and vitreous
threads (traces of comet substance) were discovered in the first of
them using a microscope." Local motorists and residents witnessed the
impact of a fiery ball, which eventually ended in a loud sound
resembling an explosion.

2007 - 24 Jan. - Virginian, U.S. -
Giles County residents were a little shaken after a tremor-like event,
others say they heard a loud "thunder-like" sound. Virginia Tech
researchers say they received several calls about a meteor sighting the
same time of the tremors. The bizarre incident took place around 8pm.
Researchers say the seismic station in Giles County did get a very
short but intense seismic signal.

2007 - 31 Jan. - Turkey - Police were
inundated with calls from scores of people from Didim to Bodrum after
they heard a big bang and a flash of light across the skies. The
flashing green, yellow and red lights were from a meteorite which
crashed through the earth's atmosphere and landed in Yesilkent. A
startled man revealed that the rock had smashed a hole in the ground at
the Green Park Complex, at Yesilkent, narrowly missing him by ten
metres. Police reported that people from Bodrum, Milas and Didim had
heard a bang and seen the flashing light across the skies at about

2007 - 4 Feb. - Midwestern U.S. -
Scores of people all over the Midwest and Upper Midwestern United
States reported seeing flames and fiery explosions in the sky Sunday
night. From southeastern Wisconsin to as far as Des Moines, Iowa and
St. Louis, people reported seeing balls of fire, possibly meteors,
streaking across the sky on Sunday night. "We had a pilot reporting
seeing a meteor". Reports came from residents in central Missouri,
Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

2007 - 15 Feb. - Ohio - Something
happened at around 9 p.m. that a lot of people heard. But nobody seems
to have any idea what it was. "It" was a loud bang, something loud
enough to be heard all over the county, and loud enough to make small
objects move in houses. Rumors range from an earthquake to a meteor
strike, a sonic boom to something ice-related. While we may never know
for sure, at least one scientist believes the meteor could be the
answer. There's no evidence to suggest an earthquake could have caused
the bang, especially not over the range specified. One man said he saw
a meteor with a relatively long trail, with red, green and gold
coloration. It was headed east to west and lasted about three seconds;
after it faded, the sonic boom washed over him. "I saw it first. It was
the most eerie, cool, scary, wonderful thing. You just see this dragon
tail going across the sky. All of a sudden, everything goes boom."

2007 - 22 Feb. - Rajasthan, India -
Three people were killed and four injured in a mysterious blast in a
village in India's northern Rajasthan state Thursday that villagers
claim was caused by a meteorite, news reports said. Residents of
Banchola village in Bundi district, about 200 kilometres south of
Rajasthan capital Jaipur, said the victims were sitting with some iron
scrap in an open field when an "object" fell from the sky and hit them,
IANS news agency reported.

2007 - 23 Feb. - Panama - Panamanian
geologists found a meteorite at Rio Hato, a coastal town west of the
capital Panama City. The meteorite fell onto Rio Hato's beach on
Friday. The landing was witnessed by a security guard, who described it
as a ball of fire crashing down from the sky onto the sand. The 4.2 kg
red object, measuring 20 cm in diameter, was to be X-rayed for more
details. The meteorite shows burn marks on its exterior, and appears to
be mainly carbon-based, in contrast to most meteorites, which mainly
contain iron.

2007 - 29 Mar - Flaming debris of a
possible meteor almost hit a plane - The pilots of a Chilean passenger
jet reported seeing flaming debris fall past their aircraft as it
approached the airport at Auckland, New Zealand. The captain "made
visual contact with incandescent fragments several kilometres away".
The pilots reported the near-miss to air traffic controllers,
reportedly saying the noise of the debris breaking the sound barrier
could be heard above the roar of his aircraft's engines.

2007 - 10 May - Spain - Fireball
spotted across central Spain. Scientists think some fragments may have
fallen to earth in the Ciudad Real area. A fireball fell across the
centre of the country on Thursday night with sightings in Cuenca,
Toledo, Ciudad Real and Valladolid. Scientists believe it was a
meteorite and say it's quite a normal phenomenon, possibly a fragment
from a comet which fell from earth orbit.

2007 - 14 May - Hubbardton, Vermont -
Recorded as a 2.1 temblor on the Richter scale, a quake hit at 4:10
a.m. One Hubbardton resident who said he was wide awake at 4 a.m. said
he not only felt the earthquake, he saw what caused it. He said he saw
something in the sky to the northeast of Lake Hortonia. He believes he
saw a meteorite and that's what triggered the earthquake. "It was like
a streak of fire. I've heard meteorites hit before and that was what it
sounded like. It was no earthquake, it was a meteor."

2007 - 26 May - Woburn, Mass. - Meteorite punched a hole through a warehouse roof.

2007 - 7 June - Norway - A large
meteorite struck in northern Norway this week, landing with an impact
an astronomer compared to the atomic bomb used at Hiroshima. The
meteorite appeared as a ball of fire just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, June
7th, visible across several hundred miles in the sunlit summer sky
above the Arctic Circle. 'I saw a brilliant flash of light in the sky,
and this became a light with a tail of smoke. I heard the bang seven
minutes later. It sounded like when you set off a solid charge of
dynamite a kilometer (0.62 miles) away.' The meteor struck a
mountainside in Reisadalen. The country's leading astronomer said he
expects the meteor to prove to be the largest to hit Norway in modern
times, even bigger than the 198-pound Alta meteorite of 1904. 'If the
meteorite was as large as it seems to have been, we can compare it to
the Hiroshima bomb. Of course the meteorite is not radioactive, but in
explosive force we may be able to compare it to the bomb.'

2007 - 10 June - Sri Lanka - The
strange objects that lit the night skies on June 10 have now been
confirmed as meteors. "This is the first time that meteors of such
magnitude have fallen in Sri Lanka. The shockwaves and vibrations have
been heard throughout the country, from Galle to Puttalam. A Senior
Consultant believes that two large meteoroids entered the atmosphere,
the larger one splitting into two and the smaller one into about 25
fragments. The loud explosions were some of the particles exploding,
probably about 50 to 100 km above the ground. In Kovinna, Andiambalama,
at 9.05 p.m. on the 10th, a woman had noticed something unusual in the
western sky. A bright light, almost as large as the full moon, appeared
to be moving towards her in a wide arc. Alarmed by thoughts of
terrorist air attacks, she called out to her neighbour. Together they
watched fearfully as the glowing object drew closer, landed on the roof
and vanished completely. A few minutes later the air vibrated with a
loud explosion. The next day they discovered that parts of the asbestos
sheets on the roof were charred and cracked. A few pieces of rock and
sand were scattered around the damaged area. Similar incidents were
reported around the country that night. Several people in areas such as
Puttalam, Maho and Bingiriya also noted the appearance of the bright
light in the sky as well as the loud explosion. In Kimbulapitiya a
woman watched a flaming object land on a house and heard the booming
sounds soon afterwards. In Campbell Place, Dehiwala, the roofs of two
buildings were damaged, and a loud noise was heard. "24 asbestos sheets
were broken."

2007 - 6 July - Cali, Colombia, S.
America - an incoming object broke apart in the lower atmosphere with a
trio of ferocious explosions that shattered windows and shook the
ground violently. Moments later, stones rained from the sky and pelted
homes in the poor barrios surrounding the city. Some smashed through
the roofs of homes. Recovered objects were chondritic (rocky) meteorite.

2007 - 26 July - Iowa - 5:30AM - A
Dubuque woman said she is lucky to be alive after a 50 pound chunk of
white ice crashed through the roof of her home, landing about 15 feet
away from where she was standing. She said it sounded like a bomb
exploded when the massive ball of ice hit her roof. Other large chunks
of ice fell from the sky in this northeast Iowa city, tearing through
nearby trees. Dubuque had clear skies at the time the ice fell.

2007 - 1 August - India - Hotipur
(Sangrur) village near Khanauri hit the headlines when a meteorite fell
in the fields on Wednesday night, leaving many villagers baffled. The
police have taken possession of the 8-cm meteorite to hand it over to a
three-member team of Geological Survey of India. Curious villagers
queued up in the fields to see the "heavenly object", while the farmer,
who was the only witness to the fall of the "fireball", said, "I got
scared of the big fireball that was coming my way at 8:45 pm on
Wednesday night. I ran for cover as I felt that it will fall on me."
(May be hoax.)

2007 - 11 Aug. - 12:09 am -
Representatives with the Sonora Police Department and both the Tuolumne
and Calaveras County Sheriff's Departments say they fielded numerous
calls early in the morning in regards to a "loud boom," and "structures
shaking." There were several calls from residents who reported seeing
"a blue light," just before the "loud boom." The incident reportedly
occurred at 12:09am. The Police Department notes that it also received
a call from a resident in Tuolumne, in which a female reported seeing
what she thought was fireworks, and then something spiraling over her
house. Early indication from the law enforcement agencies is that the
loud boom was somehow the result of a meteor shower.

2007 - 15 Sept. - Peruvian Highlands -
The meteorite's impact sent debris flying up to 820 feet (250 meters)
away, with some material landing on the roof of the nearest home 390
feet (120 meters) from the crater. Nearby residents who visited the
impact crater complained of headaches and nausea.

2007 - 3 Oct. - Minnesota - Shortly
after 2 p.m., people across the Twin Cities reported seeing a
"metallic" object or "flaming ball" falling from the sky. Broadcasters
and emergency dispatchers got hundreds of calls from people who saw the
object traveling from the northeast to the southwest. Residents of Lyon
County in far southwestern Minnesota reported a loud boom that might
have been connected with the sightings in the Twin Cities. A man who
lives near the town of Amiret says it shook his house and sounded like
a sonic boom from an F-14 breaking the sound barrier at close range.
Coincidentally, at the same time, drivers in the Twin Cities metro were
dodging debris in the middle of Interstate 94. Some drivers said the
debris fell from the sky shortly after 2:00 p.m. Wednesday.

2008 - 5 Mar. - The Physics and
Astronomy Department at Western has a network of all-sky cameras in
Southern Ontario that scan the sky monitoring for meteors. Associate
Professor Peter Brown, who specializes in the study of meteors and
meteorites, says that Wednesday evening (March 5) at 10:59 p.m. EST
these cameras captured video of a large fireball and the department has
also received a number of calls and emails from people who actually saw
the light.

2008 - 8 Mar. - A resident of Yaka
said he heard a loud roaring noise at around 11:20 a.m. on the day the
meteorite fell, sounding as if "a plane had crashed."

"We were amazed to find such a small stone after that thunderous
sound. It was black and about 40 centimeters in diameter, weighing
three kilograms at most," another said, adding that the meteorite
opened a small crater in the ground and created a cloud of dust.

2008 - 10 Mar. - Sudbury, Canada -
great balls of fire were seen falling from the sky - While most
sightings were reported around 1:30 p.m. near Sudbury, Hagar, Highway
69 North and North Bay, Wayne Lachance spotted something in the sky
earlier in the morning. Lachance was driving home to Massey after a
night shift at Vale Inco Ltd. when something caught his eye around 7:30
a.m. "I thought it was a real bright star," he said. "It was getting
brighter and coming down with sparks." Lachance arrived home and looked
outside his bedroom window to see "spirals of smoke" falling.

2008 - 13 Mar. - Meteorite videotaped hitting the Moon.

India: Dense celestial shower again over Rajasthan

The Hindu

Tue, 05 Sep 2006 17:18 EDT

Rajasthan has once again witnessed the fall of a large meteorite,
continuing with the unusually dense celestial shower over the desert
State during the past decade. An iron meteorite fell at Kanvarpura
village near Rawatbhata, where the Rajasthan Atomic Power Plant is
situated, in the bright sunlight on August 29.

At least 10 cosmic bodies have fallen in the State, especially in
its western parts, since 1995. The previous meteorite fall was reported
at Bhuka village in Barmer district in June 2005. The Kanvarpura
celestial object, made of iron, is the rarest of the three kinds of
meteors, the other two being stony and stony iron meteors.

The Geological Survey of India (GSI), announcing the meteorite fall
here on Monday, said the cosmic shower in Kanvarpura was an
"unspectacular event'' when compared with the fall of meteorite
fragments in the rainy night sky in Gujarat recently. The meteorite,
weighing 6.8 kg, landed at the rocky plains outside the village and
created a small crater in the ground.

The Deputy Director General of GSI (Western Region), R.S. Goyal,
said there were no fireworks in the sky as the fall was during the day
time at around 1:37 p.m. "The bright sunlight masked any glow in the
sky and the event would have probably gone unreported but for two
shepherds who were there and reported the matter at the nearest police
station," he said.

The chemical and metallurgical analysis by the GSI scientists has
revealed that the meteorite consists of 90 per cent iron, 8.5 per cent
nickel, 0.4 per cent cobalt and traces of other elements. Dr. Goyal
said the geologists were yet to identify the cause of the unusually
high incidence of meteorite fall in Rajasthan, but indicated that the
desert State's location at the Tropic of Cancer lying north of the
Equator could be a factor that should be studied. meteorites originate,
had a synchronised orbit vis-à-vis the Tropic of Cancer and the
meteors, going astray from their orbit, generally enter the Earth's
atmosphere over this line.

As the meteorite fell on the ground with a loud cracking sound, the
two shepherds initially got frightened. Dr. Goyal said the enquiries
had revealed that the shepherds beat the meteorite with lathis and
dragged it to some distance and immersed it in a small water body. The
GSI scientists, who rushed to the village, could get the meteorite with
the help of the local administration.

Speech by Gen. Simon Worden: "Military Perspectives on the Near-Earth Object (NEO) Threat"

Gen. Simon P. Worden

United States Space Command / SpaceRef.com

Mon, 15 Jul 2002 13:18 EDT



Deputy Director for Operations

United States Space Command

Peterson AFB, CO

July 10, 2002

The opinions and concepts expressed are those of the author and
do not necessarily represent the position of the Department of Defense
or the United States Space Command


A few weeks ago the world almost saw a nuclear war. Pakistan and
India were at full alert and poised for a large-scale war - which both
sides appeared ready to escalate into nuclear war. The situation was
defused - for now! Most of the world knew about this situation and
watched and worried. But few know of an event over the Mediterranean in
early June of this year that could have had a serious bearing on that
outcome. U.S. early warning satellites detected a flash that
indicated an energy release comparable to the Hiroshima burst. We see
about 30 such bursts per year, but this one was one of the largest
we've ever seen. The event was caused by the impact of a small asteroid

- probably about 5-10 meters in diameter on the earth's atmosphere. Had
you been situated on a vessel directly underneath the intensely bright
flash would have been followed by a shock wave that would have rattled
the entire ship and possibly caused minor damage.

The event of this June caused little or no notice as far as we can
tell. But had it occurred at the same latitude, but a few hours
earlier, the result on human affairs might have been much worse.
Imagine that the bright flash accompanied by a damaging shock wave had
occurred over Delhi, India or Islamabad, Pakistan? Neither of those
nations have the sophisticated sensors we do that can determine the
difference between a natural NEO impact and a nuclear detonation. The
resulting panic in the nuclear-armed and hair-trigger militaries there
could have been the spark that would have ignited the nuclear horror
we'd avoided for over a half-century. This situation alone should be
sufficient to get the world to take notice of the threat of asteroid

The Threat

I've just relayed the aspect of the near-earth objects (NEO) that
should worry us all. As more and more nations acquire nuclear weapons -
nations without the sophisticated controls and capabilities build up by
the United States over the 40 years of Cold War - we must first and
foremost ensure that the 30-odd impacts on the upper atmosphere are
well understood by all to be just what they are.

A few years ago those of us charged with protecting this nations
vital space system, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) became
aware of another aspect of the NEO problem. This was the Leonid meteor
storm. This particular storm occurs every 33 years. It is caused by the
debris from a different type of NEO - a comet. When the earth
passes through the path of a comet, it can encounter the dust thrown
off by that comet through its progressive passes by the Sun.

This dust is visible on the Earth as a spectacular meteor storm. But
our satellites in space can experience the storm as a series of
intensely damaging micrometeorite strikes. We know about many of these
storms and we've figured out their parent comet sources. But there are
some storms arising from comets that are too dim or spent for us to
have seen that can produce "surprise" events. One of these meteor
storms has the potential of knocking out some or even most of our
earth-orbiting systems. If just one random satellite failure in a pager
communications satellite a few years ago seriously disrupted our lives,
imagine what losing dozens of satellites could do!

Most people know of the Tunguska NEO strike in Siberia in 1908. An
object probably less than 100 meters in diameter struck over Siberia
releasing the equivalent energy of up to 10 megatons. It leveled a
forest 50 miles across. But most people don't know that we
have evidence of two other strikes during last Century. One occurred
over the Amazon in the 1930s and another over central Asia in the 1940s.

Had any of these struck over a populated area, thousands and perhaps
hundreds of thousands might have perished. Experts now tell us that an
even worse catastrophe that a land impact of a Tunguska-size event
would be an ocean impact near a heavily populated shore. The resulting
tidal wave could inundate shorelines for hundreds of miles and
potentially kill millions. There are hundreds of thousands of objects
the size of the Tunguska NEO that come near the earth. We know the
orbits of but a handful.

Finally, just about everyone knows of the "dinosaur killer"
asteroids. These are those objects a few kilometers across that strike
on timescales of tens of millions of years. While the prospect of such
strikes grab people's attention - and make great catastrophe movies -
too much focus on these events has in my opinion been
counterproductive. In my organization, the Department of Defense, I
have tried to raise our concern and interest in addressing the very
real threats outlined above. However I get the predictable response.
"General, if this threat only hits every 50 million years, I think we
can focus our attention of more immediate threats!" In short the
"giggle factor" in the professional scientific and national security
community has meant that we have gotten little done on this problem.

What Should We Do?

First and foremost we must know when an objects strikes the earth
exactly what it is and where it hit. Fortunately our early warning
satellites already do a good job of this task. And our next generation
system, the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) will be even better.
The primary difficulty here is that this data is also used for vital
early warning purposes and its detailed performance is classified.
However, in recent years the U.S. DoD has been working to provide
extracts of this data to nations potentially under missile attack with
cooperative programs known as "Shared Early Warning." Some data about
asteroid strikes has also been released to the scientific community.
Unfortunately this data takes several weeks to get released. Thus my
first recommendation is that the United States DoD make provision to
assess and release this data a soon as possible to all interested
parties - exercising proper cautions of course to ensure that sensitive
performance data is safeguarded.

We have begun to scope what an NEO warning center might look like.
We believe adding a modest number of people, probably less than 10 all
told, to current early warning centers and supporting staffs within
Cheyenne Mountain could accomplish this. A Natural Impact Warning
Clearinghouse has been scoped to do this job.

Perhaps the most urgent mid-term task has already been begun. This
is the systematic observation and cataloguing of close to all
potentially threatening NEOS. We are probably about halfway through
cataloging "large" NEOS (greater than a kilometer in diameter). It's
interesting to note that the most effective sensor has been the MIT
Lincoln Lab LINEAR facility in New Mexico. This is a test bed for the
next generation of military ground-based space surveillance sensors. But
this ground-based system, however effective, can only really address
the "large", highly unlikely threats. We find out every few weeks about
"modest" asteroids a few hundred meters in diameter.
These are
often caught as they sail by the earth, often closer than the Moon,
unnoticed until they have nearly passed. Most recently the object
2002MN had just this sort of near miss - this time only a few tens of
thousands of kilometers from the earth! Moreover, ground-based systems
such as LINEAR are unable to detect one of the potentially most
damaging classes of objects, those such as comets that come at us from
the direction of the sun. New space-surveillance systems capable of
scanning the entire sky every few days are what's needed.

New technologies for both space-based and ground based surveys of
the entire space near the earth are available. These technologies could
enable us to completely catalog and warn of objects as small as the
Tunguska meteor (less than 100 meters in diameter). The LINEAR system
is limited primarily by the size of its main optics - about 1 meter in
diameter. By building a set of three-meter diameter telescopes equipped
with new large-format CCD-devices, the entire sky could be scanned
every few weeks. But more important the follow-up observations
necessary to accurately define orbits, particularly for small objects
could be done.

The most promising systems for wide-area survey - particularly to
observe close to the sun to see objects coming at up from that
direction - are space-based surveillance systems. Today the only
space-based space surveillance system is the DoD's "MSX" Satellite.
This was a late 1990s missile defense test satellite and most of its
sensors have now failed. However one small package weighing about 20 kg
and called the "SBV" sensor is able to search and track satellites in
Geosynchronous orbit using visible light. This has been a phenomenally
successful mission having lowered the number of "lost" objects in GEO
orbit by over a factor of two. MSX is not used for imaging asteroids,
but a similar sensor could be. The Canadian Space Agency, in concert
with the Canadian Department of National Defense is considering a
"microsatellite" experiment with the entire satellite and payload
weighing just kg. This Near-Earth Surveillance System (NESS) would
track satellites in GEO orbit, as MSX does today. However, it would
also be able to search the critical region near the sun for NEOs that
would be missed by conventional surveys.

The U.S. DoD is planning a constellation of somewhat larger
satellites to perform our basic satellite-tracking mission. Today our
ground-based radars and telescopes, and even MSX only track objects
that we already know about. These systems are not true outer-space
search instruments as the LINEAR system is. However, the future
military space surveillance system would be able to search the entire
sky. As an almost "free" byproduct it could also perform the NEO search
mission. Corresponding, larger aperture ground based systems could then
be used to follow up to get accurate orbits for the NEOs discovered by
the space-based search satellites. Again, I believe there is
considerable synergy between national security requirements related to
man-made satellites and global security related to NEO impacts.

Regardless of how well we know NEO orbits and how well we can
predict their impacts the fact remains that today we have insufficient
information to contemplate mitigating an impact. We do not know the
internal structure of these objects. Indeed, we have reason to believe that many, if not most are more in the nature of "rubble piles" than coherent objects.
This structure suggests that any effort to "push" or divert a NEO might
simply fragment it - and perhaps turn a single dangerous asteroid into
hundreds of objects that could damage a much larger area.

What are needed are in-situ measurements across the many classes of
NEOs, including both asteroids and comets. This is particularly the
case of small (100meter) class objects of the type we would most likely
be called upon to divert. Until recently missions to gather these data
would have taken up to a decade to develop and launch and cost 100s of
millions of dollars. However, with the rise of so-called
"microsatellites" weighing between 50-200 kg and which are launchable
as almost "free" auxiliary payloads on large commercial and other
flights to GEO orbit, the situation looks much better. These missions
can be prepared in one-two years for about $5-10M and launched for a
few million dollars as an auxiliary payload. Such auxiliary
accommodation is a standard feature on the European Ariane launched and
should be, with proper attention, here in the United States on our new
EELV launcher systems.

With a capable microsatellite with several kilometers per second
"delta-V" (maneuver capacity) launched into a GEO transfer orbit (the
standard initial launch orbit for placing systems into GEO) the
satellite could easily reach some NEOs and perform in-situ research.
This could include sample return and direct impact to determine the
internal structure and potential to physically move a small object.
Indeed, NASA is planning several small satellite missions. The key
point here, however, is that with missions costing $10M each, we can
sample many types of objects in the next decade or so to gain a full
understanding of the type of objects we face.

There is an interesting concept to consider. If we can find the
right small object in the right orbit we might be able to nudge it into
an orbit "captured" by the earth. This would make a NEO a second
natural satellite of earth. Indeed, there is at least one NEO that is
close to being trapped by the Earth now, 2002 AA29. If such an object
were more permanently in earth orbit it could not only be more closely
studied but might form the basis for long-term commercial exploitation
of space. Moreover, a very interesting next manned space flight mission
after the Space Station would be to an asteroid, maybe even one we put
into earth's gravity sphere.

The key of each of these proposed actions on developing the ability
to mitigate NEO impacts is that they are all items our national
security community and we in the United States are likely to do for
other reasons. If these efforts can be adapted to the NEO threat
problem, this would add minimal additional expense.

One of the most important aspects of NEO mitigation is often
overlooked. Most experts prefer to focus on the glamorous "mitigation"
technologies - diverting or destroying objects. In fact, as the
military well knows the much harder part is what we call "command and
control." Who will determine if a threat exists? Who will decide on the
course of action? Who will direct the mission and determine when
mission changes are to be made? Who will determine if the mission was
successful? And there are hosts more.

These command and control issues are those that the military has
long struggled with. The NEO community has not faced this essential
issue. Indeed, the United States Space Command has just completed a
concept of operations for the first step in NEO mitigation - a Natural
Impact Warning Clearinghouse. This operation is a command and control
function. It would be able to catalog and provide credible warning
information on future NEO impact problems as well as rapidly provide
information on the nature of an impact.

International Issues

Much discussion has been expended suggesting that any NEO impact
mitigation should be an international operation. I would respectfully
disagree. International space programs such as the International Space
Station fill many functions. An NEO mitigation program would have only
one objective. In the latter case a single responsible nation and
organization would have the best chance of a successful mission.
Moreover, the nation responsible would not need to worry about giving
up national security sensitive information and technology as it would
build and control the entire mission itself. For as pointed out the
means to identify threats and mitigate them overlap considerably with
other national security objectives.

It does, however make considerable sense that the data gathered from
surveys and in-situ measurements be fully shared among all. This will
maximize the possibility that the nation best positioned to perform a
mitigation mission would come forward. One of the first tasks of the
Natural Impact Warning Clearinghouse noted above would be to collect
and provide a distribution point for such data.


NEO Mitigation is a topic whose time has come. Various aspects
related to NEO impacts, including the possibility than an impact would
be misidentified as a nuclear attack, are critical national and
international security issues. The focus of NEO mitigation efforts -
both in finding and tracking them and in exploring and moving some
should shift to smaller objects. Not only are the near-term threats
much more likely to come from these "small" objects (100 meters in
diameter or so), but we might also be able to divert such objects
without recourse to nuclear devices.

After a suitable class of NEOs are found, microsatellite missions to
fully explore and perhaps perform test divert operations should
commence. The technologies for low-cost NEO missions exist today.

The necessary command and control, sensor and space operations
technologies and equipment are all "dual use" to the military. We have
similar, and in some cases almost identical requirements. It thus
stands to reason that strong military involvement and even lead in the
decades ahead on NEO mitigation is in order. As the U.S. Government
considers how to proceed on this critical issue, the major role that
the military and the technologies it controls should be carefully
integrated into our overall national work.



David Morrison

Impact Frequency

In his written statement (above) Pete Worden mentions three large
impacts during the 20th century, and in his oral testimony he called
all three of these 100-m class impacts. He wrote: "Most people know of
the Tunguska NEO strike in Siberia in 1908. An object probably less
than 100 meters in diameter struck over Siberia releasing the
equivalent energy of up to 10 megatons. It leveled a forest 50 miles
across. But most people don't know that we have evidence of two other
strikes during last Century. One occurred over the Amazon in the 1930s
and another over central Asia in the 1940s. Had any of these struck
over a populated area, thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands
might have perished". Others have made similar comments, sometimes also including the dramatic Sikhote-Alin iron meteorite fall of February 12, 1947.

Of these four events, the Tunguska impact (June 30, 1908) of an
asteroidal object nominally 60 m in diameter was by far the most
dangerous, producing an airburst releasing 5-15 megatons energy.
Sikhote-Alin was well observed and studied, and more than 40 tons of
iron were recovered from multiple craters, but the estimated diameter
of the projectile was no more than 3 meters. The Amazon impact in the
1930s has been discussed but is based on scattered human reports with
no supporting physical evidence, and most researchers suspect that this
impact is spurious. I have not heard anything about the Kazakastan
impact of the 1940s, and I suspect that is spurious also.

Thus by my count for the 20th century we have one confirmed 60-m
impactor (Tunguska) and no evidence of anything else approaching this
size (although of course we would miss most impacts since they would occur in the ocean; absence of evidence in this case is not evidence of absence).
For comparison, the latest estimated frequency of impact of 60-meter
projectiles is only about once per millennium, rather lower than the
older estimates of once every couple of hundred years.

Call for an NEO Warning Center

Several participants in the NEO Roundtable called for establishing a
NEO coordination and warning center. In the summaries by the panelists
this was a nearly unanimous recommendation. Worden wrote above that "We
[USAF Space Command] have begun to scope what an NEO warning center
might look like. We believe adding a modest number of people, probably
less than 10 all told, to current early warning centers and supporting
staffs within Cheyenne Mountain could accomplish this. A Natural Impact
Warning Clearinghouse has been scoped to do this job."

It would be interesting to me to understand better what is meant by
such a warning center. I think everyone can share Worden's concern
about misidentification of meteors that hit the atmosphere and explode
with kiloton-scale energies. I certainly support his proposal that this
information be disseminated more widely and quickly. However, these are
not what I call "warnings" -- they are timely reports on events that
have already happened and been observed from space.

The only warnings I know of would concern asteroids or comets
discovered to be on possible impact trajectories. Over the past 6 years
there have been several short-lived "warnings" of possible future
impacts that were quickly withdrawn as new data and/or better orbital
calculations became available. Today with multiple international
centers for calculating orbits and improved data sharing, it is likely
that there will be fewer such public warnings. In fact, the only
legitimate warning (if you want to call it that) on the books today is
NEA 1950DA, with a nominal chance of 1 in 300 of an impact in March

As the NEA surveys increase in power, there will almost certainly be
additional cases of newly-discovered NEAs that appear for a short time
to have a possibility of colliding with the Earth. These will all be
predictions for far in the future, probably at least several decades.
Some will be reported in the press, but most will be quietly checked
out and their orbits refined without the glare of publicity.
Astronomers in several countries today have this computational
capability. I therefore wonder what is the purpose of the proposed
warning center, and just what sort of warnings it anticipates issuing?

Perhaps it is worth repeating that none of the proposed surveys is
designed to look for any NEA on its final plunge to collision with the
Earth. Indeed, it would be very difficult and non-cost-effective to try
to design such a "last minute warning" system. The approach first
articulated a decade ago is to survey the sky, discover NEAs, determine
their orbits, and predict their future paths. Any potential impactor
should be picked up decades (or more) in advance. We can do this
because orbital dynamics is an exact science, and asteroids do not
change orbits capriciously. This approach will apply as well to the
smaller NEAs that are discovered in the future as it does to those
being found today. "Warning" is a word that conveys the wrong
impression: In my opinion, what we should be talking about are
long-term predictions, based on a comprehensive survey of NEAs.

Mysterious Egyptian Glass Formed by Meteorite Strike, Study Says 

Stefan Lovgren

National Geographic

Thu, 21 Dec 2006 09:09 EST

Strange specimens of natural glass found in the Egyptian desert
are products of a meteorite slamming into Earth between 100,000 and
200,000 years ago, scientists have concluded.

Dakhla glass
of so-called Dakhla glass appear in clumps of ancient lake sediment
excavated in Egypt's Western Desert. Scientists have concluded that the
glass is the product of a meteorite slamming into Earth between 100,000
and 200,000 years ago.

The glass - known locally as Dakhla glass - represents the first
clear evidence of a meteorite striking an area populated by humans.

At the time of the impact, the Dakhla Oasis, located in the western
part of modern-day Egypt, resembled the African savanna and was
inhabited by early humans, according to archaeological evidence (see Egypt map.)

"This meteorite event would have been catastrophic for all living
things," said Maxine Kleindienst, an anthropologist at the University
of Toronto in Canada.

"Even a relatively small impact would have exterminated all life for [several] miles."

Crater Mystery

The origin of the glass had puzzled scientists since Kleindienst discovered it in 1987.

Some researchers had suggested the Stone Age glass may have been produced by burning vegetation or lightning strikes.

But a chemical analysis showed that the glass was created in
temperatures so high that they could only have been the result of a
meteorite impact.

Gordon Osinski, a geologist at the Canadian Space Agency in
Saint-Hubert who conducted the analysis, found that the glass samples
contain strands of molten quartz, a signature of meteorite impacts.

"We can now say for definite that they were caused by a meteorite impact," he said.

Osinski is the lead author of the paper detailing the findings, which was published online in ScienceDirect.

But scientists have found no signs of an impact crater in the area.

"Usually from an impact like this, we should have a crater at least a kilometer [0.6 mile] across," Osinski said.

The absence of a crater, the scientists believe, suggests
that the large space rock may have disintegrated upon entering Earth's

What happened may have been similar to the so-called Tunguska event,
in which an asteroid exploded miles above the Earth's surface in a
remote area of Siberia in 1908. That explosion felled an estimated 60
million trees over 830 square miles (2,150 square kilometers).

(See an interactive feature on asteroids.)

"There was no hole in the ground at Tunguska either," said Albert
Haldemann, a planetary scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, California, who has been using radar to scour the Egyptian
desert for impact signs.

"In an air burst like that, contents of the explosion continue to
travel downward ... providing a gas pulse across the [Earth's] surface
that could vitrify sediments," Haldemann explained.

Life-Forms Killed

Scientists know much more about what happens when meteorites hit
hard rock than when they impact sand and sedimentary rock, as would
have been the case in the Egyptian desert.

At the time, there was a large lake in the area, the researchers say.

"If there was an impact at the surface and it happened to hit the
lake, it wouldn't be surprising if the [crater] was filled in,"
Haldemann said.

"Did the event boil the entire lake away, or did it just cause a
really big wave to go across the lake? Maybe we can figure that out
from the sediments."

Kleindienst, the anthropologist, has been excavating at the site for more than 20 years as part of the Dakhla Oasis project.

(Her research has been partially funded by the National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration. The committee and National Geographic News are both divisions of the National Geographic Society.)

Kleindienst has obtained a large amount of evidence, including
spears and scrapers, to show that humans continually inhabited this
region of Egypt's Western Desert during the Middle Stone Age, from
about 200,000 to 30,000 years ago.

She has even found glass in lake sediments with archaeological
evidence of human habitation in the soil layers below and above it.

"There is no reason to suspect that humans were not there at the time that this catastrophe happened," she said.

The meteorite research has important implications for understanding
the environmental and human history at the time, Kleindienst added.

"Calculations at Meteor Crater [in Arizona] give some idea of what
the effect of a [relatively small] impact would be," she said.

"Life forms are killed or seriously injured for many tens of kilometers away from the impact.

"If this event happened during a humid period, the area might have
been ecologically repopulated fairly quickly from surrounding areas,"
she added.

"But if it happened during a dry period, it might have taken a
considerable period for life to be re-established in the oasis region."

Haldemann, who is also the deputy project scientist on NASA's Mars
Exploration Rover project, says the meteorite strike underlines the
interconnectedness between Earth and the rest of the solar system.

"We already know the environment of the whole Earth is tied together," he said.

"What we've been learning more and more in the last 20 years
or so is that we're also tied to the solar system as a whole over
longer time periods and that this interaction tends to be punctuated by
these catastrophic events.

"Here we have evidence in the [Early Stone Age] records that this kind of thing can really happen to us."

Aviation Week

Fri, 28 Mar 2008 21:26 EDT

Saturn's bizarre moon Enceladus is a little more mysterious after
the recent Cassini flyby found it to be remarkably like a comet in its
internal chemistry.

"A completely unexpected surprise is that the chemistry of
Enceladus, what's coming out from inside, resembles that of a comet,"
says Hunter Waite of the Southwest Research Institute, principal
investigator for the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer. "To
have primordial material coming out from inside a Saturn moon raises
many questions on the formation of the Saturn system."

The March 12 flyby found the so-called "tiger stripes" around the
moon's south pole are some 200 deg. F. warmer than the rest of the moon
(although still a frigid -135 deg. F.). The tiger stripes - essentially
fissures in the frozen surface - are the source of the spectacular
geysers of water and ice that spew so far into space that they actually
feed the nearby E-ring around Saturn.

When Cassini flew through the geysers at an altitude of 120 miles on
its most recent pass, Waite's spectrometer found them a rich mix of
volatile gases, water vapor, carbon dioxide and monoxide and organic
materials. Overall, the geysers were about 20 times denser than

That, and the unexpectedly high temperatures associated with the
geysers, support speculation that they originate in a subsurface sea of
liquid water.

"Enceladus has got warmth, water and organic chemicals, some of the
essential building blocks needed for life," says Cassini Project
Scientist Dennis Matson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We have
quite a recipe for life on our hands, but we have yet to find the final
ingredient, liquid water, but Enceladus is only whetting our appetites
for more."

Cassini is scheduled to make another close flyby of Enceladus in
August as it continues its unprecedented tour of the Saturn system.

Ireland's Druidschool

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 14:56 EDT

The Druids of ancient times had no illusions about the stability of
our planet, or about the other planets in our solar system. They had
inherited knowledge of earlier catastrophic happenings, and this led
them to believe that the earth would be destroyed by fire and water.
But they always preached that the universe and the souls of those
living in it are indestructible. In the legendary voyage of Snedgus and
McRiagla there is an island with two lakes, one of fire and the other
one of water.

In the Mythological cycle we are told that the world will end when
the sun and moon will be mixed together. The Sorcerer Mathgen promised
to cast the mountains of Ireland on the Fomoire, and that the lakes and
islands of Ireland would be hidden from the Fomoire, and that the Druid
Figol would cause three showers of fire to fall upon the faces of the
enemy and that Dagda, Lug and Ogma spent seven years making weapons and
preparing for battle in the heavens.In the Cattle Raid of Cooley the
transmitted memories of terrestrial catastrophes were left unmodified
by the monk chroniclers, when Sualtaim, who was Cuchulains father, was
told about his son fighting against the odds and when he heard the
noise of the battle, he called out:"This is from afar. Is it the sky
that cracks or the sea that ebbs or the earth that splits or is it the
distress of my son against the Foray of Cuailgne".When he got to his
son Cuchulain told him to go to the Ulstermen and tell them to protect
their cattle. When Sualtaim reached Emain he told the Ulstermen and
their King Conor..."Men are slain, women are carried off, cattle are
driven away, O Ulstermen." King Conor replied "A little too loud is
that cry, for the sky is above us, the earth beneath us, and the sea
all around us, but unless the sky with its showers of stars fall upon
the surface of the earth or unless the ground burst open in an
earthquake, or unless the fish abounding blue bordered sea come over
the surface of the earth, I shall bring back every cow to its byre and
enclosure, every woman to her own abode and dwelling, after victory in
battle and combat and conquest." What I always find interesting is the
thought that he would retrieve the cattle first, and the women second.

When Queen Meave had got the Brown Bull of Cooley and was on her way
home, she sent MacRoth, her chief messenger to check if the Ulstermen
were following them over the plains of Meath. When MacRoth returned to
Queen Meave he reported the following..."Not long was he there when he
heard a noise and a tumult and a clamour. It seemed to him almost as if
the sky had fallen onto the surface of the earth, or as if the fish
abounding blue bordered sea had swept across the face of the world, or
as if the earth had split in an earthquake, or as if the trees of the
forest had all fallen into each others forks and bifurcations and
branches. However the wild beasts were hunted across the plain in such
numbers that the surface of the plain of Meath was not visible beneath
them". This occurred over 100 years before the birth of Christ. The
story was transmitted orally (like so many others) in the strict Celtic
Bardic Tradition before being written down by unknown monks.

Ptolemy's biography of Alexander the Great tells us about a meeting
of a Celtic Prince with Alexander on the lower Danube in 335 BC.
Alexander was only 21 years of age and was publicly establishing the
river as the northern boundary of Greece. Alexander called for the
allegiance of all the peoples south of the Danube. We have one story
about a Celtic Prince who came to see Alexander. Only two sentences
have survived on record. Alexander put the following question -"Tell me
O Prince, what is it that you and your people fear most?"The reply
holds race memories of cataclysms and shows the courage of the Celtic
race. The Celtic Prince replies...."Only that the heavens might fall on
our heads".

In the legendary account of the Destruction of Da Dergas Hostel,
which is in Glenasmole, we have an account of the death of Conaire King
of Ireland, whose rule was good and reign peaceful. He was returning
from a visit to Munster where he had settled a quarrel between two
foster brothers of his and he stayed over at Da Dergas hostel. This
hostel was always open with food and lodging free to those upon the
Kings business. Conaire was given a welcome and Da Derga himself
prepared the feast. During the feast an earthquake shook the building
"So that the weapons fell from their racks" . King Conaire cried out
aloud -"I do not know what it is unless it be that the earth has been
rent, or that the Leviathan encircling the earth is striking with its
tail to overturn the world, or the boat of the sons of Donn Desa that
has come to land".

Now the Leviation was a comet, which in ancient times was known as a
fiery dragon. Norse legend tells of three comets, a serpent, a wolf,
and a dog. In the book of Job this Leviathan is referred to as the
apostate dragon. Con Connor reckons to have found the site of Da Dergas
Hostel. Using dowsing rods on the potential site, which was narrowed
down after much research, we actually came across the crack left by the
earthquake all those years ago. It is about six to eight feet wide,
travels about north - south for hundreds of steps, and the now grassed
over crack is clearly visible as a linear depression. Further south is
a well-known standing stone alignment, which we believe to be
annotating the earth fracture. The highest point has a bullaun stone,
which is a huge boulder lying on its side with a 16 inch wide
depression or bowl carved into it. Part of the story of the Destruction
of Da Dergas hostel tells us that the hostel was visible from the sea,
and this means that the sea was also visible from the Hostel. Standing
beside the bullaun stone there is an incredible panoramic view to Tara
and Newgrange but also to the sea at Howth. One of the four Royal roads
to Tara came from Da Dergas Hostel in Glenasmole, and it seems
perfectly appropriate that Tara could be seen from the Hostel.
Glenasmole has long been thought of as the Valley of the Thrushes, but
a friend Thomas Maher, an Irish scholar, has brought us a proper
translation as the 'glen of the burnt out ruins'. From this site you
can also see the cairns on Tallaght and Saggart hills. HAG has gone to
this site on a HAG day out and the dowsing effects over this crack are
quite powerful.

Our ancestors worshipped the external forces and factors that
affected their lives. To them the earth did not shake by chance. Their
challenge was to discover what caused these dreadful happenings, and to
do this they watched the heavens. In the Senchus Mor, we learn that
seven divisions of the firmament above the earth were recognized,
consisting of the moon, mercury, venus, the sun, mars, jupiter and
saturn. About the stars they believed " as a shell is about an egg, the
firmament is about the earth. They believed that the twelve
constellations represented the year and that the sun runs through one
each month. They believed that the earth was enclosed by a solid sky,
outside of which was the Gods. The sun, moon, the planets and the stars
were associated with these Gods. Celtic belief is that horses draw the
chariot of the sun across the sky into the other world, to rest and
then return in the morning. Comets were seen as the armies of the Gods.
Today's popular hobby of astrology has its origins in this memory, and
from this the factual science of astronomy was born. But predictions
from observations in the heavens were not confined to just our ancient
ancestors....."For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an
oven....." Malachi,c.iv,v.1. "And there appeared another wonder in
heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten
horns, and seven crowns upon his head. And his tail drew the third part
of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth." Book of
Revelation, c.xii, 3and 4. "..... lo, there was a great earthquake; and
the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as
blood...and the stars of heaven fell upon the earth ... and ... people
hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains... Book of
Revelation, c. vi.

Not far south of Glenasmole is the Scalp, a mountain I have yet to
climb. The steep west side is covered with thousands of great granite
boulders which do not just sit on this mountain but are in fact
embedded into it. P.A. O Suiochan in his book 'Ireland, A journey into
lost time', sees this as mute but remarkable evidence of a massive
cataclysm. Bray head is similar. Now this is the east side of Ireland,
and the stones are embedded on the west side of the mountains, only the
blue bordered sea could do such an incredible feat.Seven thousand years
ago, a warm stable climate predominated and blue skies were the norm in
this beautiful land. Professor Murphy of the Dublin Institute of
Advanced Studies tells us that the seas around the south and west of
Ireland were virtually stormless. We also know that the rise in sea
level was completed by about 5,500 years ago. This is also about the
time that Newgrange was abandoned. Whatever disaster caused this, we
have no Irish records, but we do have the Mayan Prophecies.

The 'Mayan' third age lasted from 7,000 BC to 3100 BC. They left the
forest and rebuilt their world. They were farmers and ate tzinlocoacoc
that is similar to almond paste as distinct to the wild fruits of the
previous age. This was the age of fire. The Mayan Prophecies tells us
that the third age ended about 3,100 BC or (5,100 years ago) when
excessive UV was hitting the earth, consequently threatening human
survival. The survivors of the third age then moved to the high plateau
at Teothuacan. The third age ended when an increase in solar radiation
led to a loss of fertility in people. The Irish Quartz age (our final
passage cairn building age) ended about 5,000 or 5,500 years ago. When
we study with this as a filter we can see the various effects of UV in
different zones. The Mayan Prophecies by Maurice Cotteral and Adrian
Gilbert shows the UV burn zone as 20 degrees north and south of the
equator. Ireland is at 50 degrees north of the equator, over thirty
degrees above the burn zone. The effect at Irelands latitude was dense
cloud cover, permanent rain, flooding, and deluge. The transpiration
cycle, the cycle of rain and rainmaking, tells us of an equal and
opposite reaction with the sun on the sea making hot 'steam' and then
the cold and heavy clouds falling as rain only to start all over again.
When the burn zone was hot, there was very wet conditions elsewhere.
This is when Irelands bogs began to expand and grow at an alarming
rate, and at this time the ancient Irish lived and farmed and had their
temples on top of mountains. It just got too wet. Permanent rain!
Imagine it!When we examine the known dwellings of that time we quickly
see that they were laid out compactly but not lived in all day by a
family as today.

The people of the Irish Quartz Age were an outdoor race meaning that
their huts were for sleeping and their world was nature. This cloud
cover would act as a quality UV filter. It would also prevent proper
harvests and procreation. The ability to construct so many huge stone
temples was and is today dependant on abundance. With permanent rain
this abundance began to fail, and solar engineering magic and weather
modifying just could not stop the change. The men, women and children
of the Irish Quartz Age emigrated. They went to Europe and then to
Egypt, and came back to Ireland as the Celtic Civilization. When they
returned they never went back to live on top of the mountains, but
instead settled on the mountain slopes and the hilltops There was a
major volcanic eruption at Thera (Santorini) beside the island of Crete
in the Mediterranean sea, which was the capitol of the Minoan Empire.
This eruption was a major break in the earths surface, bigger that
Krakatoa and St. Helens. The movement of the earth's surface was
cataclysmic and it happened over only a few days or weeks. Once it was
over, it is believed that it just closed up again. It is conceivable
that the force of that eruption could actually punch a hole through our
atmosphere, possibly allowing the cosmic cold to enter our atmosphere,
or maybe the dust and debris thrown into our upper atmosphere created
weather conditions that blocked the suns rays from entering the zone 30
to 50 degrees north of the equator. The Minoan culture had links with
Ireland before and after Thera erupted. The bull cult, the art, the
dress style, the laws and so on, are all very Irish. It is possible
that the Minoans had emigrated from Ireland about 5,500 years ago,
bringing with them the wisdom of the ancient Irish stone age. But they
came home and this we have on record.

In the Irish book of Invasions there is a poem which has no name,
but we have the name of its author, Roigne Rosgadach, son of Ugoine
Mor, whose other son Mal, was then the monarch of Ireland. It is an
account of the travels of a Celtic tribe or clan named the Gathelians,
and it tells of their departure from Scythia to Egypt and from there to
Spain and then from Spain to Ireland. The story goes that Mal requested
from Roigne detailed information on the origins of the his people and
as always this was given in verse.

O worthy son of Ugoine dust know who invaded Eirin. In remarkable journeyings the Gael reached Scythia

Then departed to Shinar from thence to Egypt. In the reign of
Pharoe Cincheris who drowned with his hosts In the waters of the Rea

Prospering there, Nuil married Scota daughter of the Pharoe

Who bore our great ancestor from whom the Gael are named

Named also Scoti his mothers name.

Later a war was fought between the clans of Nuil and Neonbail Their Decendants.

Refloir son of Neman was slain by Gollam who fled to Egypt

In the reign of Pharoe Nectenibus decendant of Scota.

They journeyed through Africa.

Of their descent Fenius Farsaid was eminent.

Their descendants reached Spain.

Ilith begat strong children Donn, Aireach, Aimergin, Eber, Ir and
Copla, Ereamon and Aranan, Eight Descendants of Gollam begat by noble

Whose name they took Mir Milidh

Their childrens children from Spain to Erin sailed

And took possession of he land dividing it among twelve chiefs.

The truth of this is found in our historical records. This is the
story of the coming of the Milesians to Ireland, and it clearly tells
us of continual emigration for survival. This 'emigrate to survive
plan' was true on the other side of the Atlantic as well, as the Hopi
Creation myth tells us -

"Now the people began their migrations. Each group became a clan,
some of them followed certain signs, some followed stars. They left
their writing on the rocks, and every so often they stopped and built
villages. But they never stayed long before moving on once more. Their
guides were the sun, the moon, the stars, and their maize. If they
reached places where the maize failed to grow, they knew that they had
come too far and they turned back"

Our armchair romantic perspective lets us fantasize about the
wanderlust of our ancestors, when in fact the reality was failing
harvests, failing birth rates, and their inherited memories of natures
abundance, i.e. when the Gods smiled upon us. In the last two thousand
years we have tried to dominate nature and to the profit of a minority
we have succeeded, but there are huge famines happen all the time and
the majority of the world seems to be in panic for our future survival.
We can blame the marketing overlords who create unreal desires, or the
church, which does not cater to our modern spiritual needs, or the
corrupt politicians who squander our limited resources, but until we
ourselves take full responsibility for our own futures - we will always
be in confusion.

Our ancestors took full responsibility for their futures and they
physically moved on, today it seems that we must take full
responsibility for our future and mentally move on.

Much has been written about Newgrange, mostly highly academic,
sometimes completely ridiculous, but it all stems from the fascination
that everybody who visits the place automatically gets. The first
written records of Newgrange are in the earliest Irish prose stories,
the Mythological Cycle. Written in medieval times by the monks, they
are in fact much older. They are about the Tuatha De Danann, the
earliest known native Irish Gods. They are disguised as a supernatural
race of wizards and magicians. They descended from the sky in a metal
ship in the northwest and inhabited Ireland long before the Bronze Age.
They are "The Lords of Light" that live in the great mound at
Newgrange. The ancient name for Newgrange is Bru Na Boinne, and in the
translation of this name is the first major clue to the wonders of
their magic. Na Boinne means the river Boyne, and Bru means an
otherworld palace or festive hall, existing in an eternal timeless
realm of the supernatural and not as a place of human habitation. This
is the land of the Gods, a place of continual party where no one ever
dies. It is written that the Bru had three fruit trees that were always
in fruit, and an inexhaustable cauldron from which no company went away
unsatisfied. Today we would call this the land of milk and honey. The
first to live at this Bru was Elcmar, who was married to Boand, the
divinised personification of the river Boyne. Not much is known about
Elcmar, but the Boyne has magical and mystical attributes. The source
of the Boyne is described as the well of Segais, an Otherworld Well
regarded as being the origin of all wisdom and occult knowledge. This
well is surrounded by hazel trees whose nuts drop into its water,
forming na bolcca immaiss or bubbles of mystic inspiration. Either once
a year, or once in every seven years, these pass into the river Boyne.
The next occupant of the Bru is Dagda. We know lots about Dagda, the
good god. He is the all powerful and omniscient and most prominent of
the ancient native Irish gods. Also known as Ruad Ro-fhessa, the Lord
of Great Knowledge. He is a sky god, and a god of the sun. Dagda lives
in the Bru and has carnal union with Boand by using his mastery over
time. Elcmar is sent on an errand for one day, which really becomes a
period of nine months.

During this time Oengus is conceived and born. He is called Mac ind
Oc, meaning the youthful one by his mother who says: Young is the son
who was begotten at the break of day and born betwixt it and evening.
Oengus is regarded as a personification of the day, and he is born on
the start of the shortest day at Newgrange. Newgrange is also known as
Bru Mac ind Oc, or the Bru of Oengus. Now the story of his birth moves
on to adulthood when he requests a Bru of his own. Dagda says, " I have
none for thee", Oengus replies" Thou let me be granted a day and a
night in thine own dwelling ". When Dagda informs him " thou hast
consumed thy time", Oengus says, "It is clear that night and day are
the whole world, and it is that which has been given to me". From then
on it is Oengus who dwells in the mound at the bend in the Boyne.A
major poem about the Brú and Oengus by George Russel has Aengus himself
talk about the past days of glory at the Brú while also implying its
present state as a catastrophe. A Dream of Angus Oge, George Russel

"As he spoke, he paused before a great mound grown over with trees,
and around it silver clear in the moonlight were immense stones piled,
the remains of an original circle, and there was a dark low narrow
entrance leading within- He took Con by the hand and in an instant they
were standing in a lofty, cross shaped cave, built roughly of huge
stones. "This was my place. In days past many a one plucked here the
purple flower of magic and the fruit of the tree of life . . ."And even
as he spoke, a light began to glow and to pervade the cave, and to
obliterate the stone walls and the antique hieroglyphics engraven
thereon, and to melt the earthen floor into itself like a fiery sun
suddenly uprisen within the world, and there was everywhere a wandering
ecstasy of sound; light and sound were one; light had a voice... " I am
Aengus, men call me young. I am the sunlight in the heart, the
moonlight in the mind; I am the the light at the end of every dream...
I will make you immortal; for my palace opens into the Gardens of the

In the Fenian cycle, the latest tradition in literature, Oengus
reappears when Finn Mc Coole describes the mound as the house of
Oengus, which cannot be burned or destroyed as long as Oengus is alive.
The famous love story of Diarmaid and Graine also connect to the Bru
when Diarmaid is dying, partly because of Finn McCoole, and Finn says,
" Let us leave this tulach for fear that Oengus and the Tuatha De
Danann may catch us". Finn then brings Diarmaid to Newgrange in order
to " put aerial life into him so that he will talk to me every day".

This story has many of the magical components of the Egyptian story
of Isis bringing Osiris back to life in the great pyramid. Many other
similar links between the Egyptian magical tales and the older Irish
magical tales exist which suggests that the magical and astronomical
skills of the Egyptians had their origin in Ireland. The very curious
tale of the high King, Conn, and the Ri Raith (Royal Fortress) at Tara
entitled "The magical stone of Tara" states; -

One evening Conn of the hundred battles repaired at sunrise to the
Ri Raith at Tara, accompanied by his three Druids, Mael, Bloc and
Bluicne, and his three poets, Ethain, Cord and Cesare; for he was
accustomed every day to repair to this place with the same company, for
the purpose of watching the stars, that no hostile aerial beings should
descend upon Ireland unknown to him. While standing in the usual place
one morning, Conn happened to tread on a stone, and immediately the
stone shrieked under his feet so as to be heard all over Tara and
throughout all East Meath. Conn then asked the Druids why the stone had
shrieked, what its name was and what it said. Fifty three days later
they answered; - Fal is the name of the stone, and it comes from the
Island of Fal.

This is the Lia Fal, the stone of destiny, which was brought to
Ireland by the Tuatha De Dannan, and this stone is still within the
Royal Fortress at Tara, although it is no longer beside the passage
cairn, it is only 400 yards from its original site (there is a story
that the real Lia Fail is under the coronation seat at Westminster).
Here we have a King making astronomical observations, and declaring his
interest in " hostile aerial beings" at a temple that was at that time
thousands of years old. The cairn at Tara is even today brilliantly
illuminated at the time of two important Celtic festivals; Samhain in
early November and Imbolc in early February.

Today's Irish Druids can have no illusions about the stability of
our planet, or about the other planets in our solar system. We have the
old Druids knowledge of actual impending catastrophic happenings - that
the earth would be destroyed by fire and water. We have modern
ecological and environmental awareness of the global weather patterns
collapsing. The fire of the internal combustion engine has consumed
nearly all the fossil oxygen in our atmosphere. Commercial
deforestation has destroyed the air and water cycles in ways that will
take many thousands of years to self-repair. These modern looming
catastrophes are denied by the governments of the money lenders but
even the dogs in the street know its bad and that it's getting worse.
But today's Celtic Druids know that the Universe and the souls of those
living in it are indestructible - so we live in the here and now - just
as our ancestors did.

Carolyn Kaichi

Bishop Museum

Sun, 30 Mar 2008 11:42 EDT

There is a major meteor shower next month, the Lyrids, peaking on
the evening of April 21. Unfortunately, an almost-full moon will shine
in the sky all night, making viewing conditions less than ideal for
seeing many meteors.

The radiant is between Lyra and Hercules but won't even begin to
rise until 9:30 p.m., when the moon is well up in the eastern sky.
Fortunately, there are many other science-related events going on right
here in the Islands to satisfy your celestial appetite.

Consider coming to the Bishop Museum Sky Tonight evening program, on
Friday. This is an hourlong planetarium program concentrating on
details of the month's sky, with the opportunity to do some telescope
viewing if the weather cooperates. Please note that this program has
been moved by an hour, now starting at 8 p.m., and reservations are
required. Call 848-4168 for reservations and information. There is a
charge of $4 for non-Bishop Museum members.

The 51st Hawai'i State Science and Engineering Fair is another
learning opportunity open to the public on Wednesday. Amazing and
imaginative displays and projects from more than 400 students
representing 80 schools around the state will be on display at the Neal
Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition to
these fascinating and sometimes amusing presentations (is your mouth
cleaner than your dog's?), there are several other special exhibits as

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is sponsoring a
visit by TERRI, a 5-foot-tall sophisticated robot that sings, tells
stories and converses with people. NOAA will also bring an interactive
computer exhibit called SciLands - a virtual world in which to explore
the Earth in ways most people would never experience. With your virtual
personality, you can float on a thundercloud, fly through a hurricane,
explore underwater caves and more in the Second Life world. The Air
Force Association will have a full-size model of the space shuttle
cockpit to walk through. All this is free and open to the public on

On Saturday the Bishop Museum hosts the 4th annual Mad About Science
Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the theme, "Healthy Living, Healthy
Planet," focusing on ideas from medicine to global warming. The popular
behind-the-scenes tours of the museum's natural sciences collections
will be offered and special programs and activities for the entire
family will be ongoing throughout the day.

Speakers from environmentally conscious businesses and government
agencies in the community will offer talks on keeping our lifestyles,
homes and land healthy and safe. NOAA will again make an appearance
with TERRI, SciLands demonstrations and hands-on activities for the
kids. This is also the last few weeks of the Bishop Museum's special
exhibit, Animal Grossology, which will be open during the Mad About
Science Festival.

At the end of the month, on April 27, the University of Hawai'i
Institute for Astronomy will hold its annual Open House from 11 a.m. to
4 p.m. Many fascinating astronomy displays, talks and activities will
be offered from the Institute and its partners (including the Bishop
Museum). This event is free and open to the public.

Finally, a sneak peek into activities in May - Big Island residents
can look forward to AstroDay May 3 at the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo.
It's a daylong celebration of the science, technology and culture in
Hawai'i involving participants from all over the state.

More on the Southern Cross

Several readers commented on the fact that one of the featured
constellations I wrote about last month, the Southern Cross, was not
visible in last month's map. That is because our map can only show one
part of the evening sky and we chose to illustrate the sky only until
10 p.m. or so. Unfortunately for last month that just missed the time
the Cross rose in the sky. However, since the stars rise around four
minutes earlier each night (because of our orbit around the sun) this
means that by the end of the month those stars rise roughly two hours
earlier. Therefore, the Southern Cross will be on our map this time
since it will be up in the south by 10 p.m. at the beginning of April.

The Planets


Mercury is traveling behind the sun this month but by the last few
days of April emerges low in the western sky at evening twilight. The
Pleiades sits near the small planet but that little cluster, along with
the other stars associated with the winter sky, are getting
progressively lower in the west and more difficult to see as the days
get longer.


Like Mercury, Venus is also preparing to go behind the sun,
although it still has a couple months to go. But it is very close to
the sunrise, rising less than an hour before the sun in early April and
half an hour in late April. By then it will be too challenging to see
until it reappears in the evening sky in late summer.


Mars starts off the month on the side of the brother Castor in the
constellation of Gemini. As the month progresses, the planet begins to
shift eastward toward the other twin Pollux and by the last day of
April appears as almost a third "brother" in the constellation. On
April 11, a first quarter moon skims by the Red Planet, making for a
nice sight with binoculars or a telescope.


Jupiter rises in the east by 2 a.m. in early April and two hours
earlier at the end of the month. It will appear right above a third
quarter moon on April 27, very early in the morning. The giant planet
is heading toward opposition in July, so it is getting bigger and
brighter in our night sky as we approach that date.


Saturn is nicely placed at the "top" of the sky as night falls in
the constellation of Leo. The pale golden planet is only a few degrees
from the star Regulus, the heart of the lion. Three days after visiting
near Mars, the moon pays a call on the Saturn and Regulus on April 14.


Lewis Smith

London Times

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 08:36 EDT

A clay tablet that has baffled scientists for 150 years has been
identified as a witness's account of the asteroid suspected of being
behind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Cuneiform Tablet
©London Times
The clay tablet, which is 6cm in diameter

Researchers who cracked the cuneiform symbols on the Planisphere
tablet believe that it recorded an asteroid thought to have been more
than half a mile across.

The tablet, found by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in
the royal place at Nineveh in the mid-19th century, is thought to be a
700BC copy of notes made by a Sumerian astronomer watching the night

He referred to the asteroid as "white stone bowl approaching" and recorded it as it "vigorously swept along".

Using computers to recreate the night sky thousands of years ago,
scientists have pinpointed his sighting to shortly before dawn on June
29 in the year 3123BC.

About half the symbols on the tablet have survived and half of those
refer to the asteroid. The other symbols record the positions of clouds
and constellations. In the past 150 years scientists have made five
unsuccessful attempts to translate the tablet.

Mark Hempsell, one of the researchers from Bristol University who
cracked the tablet's code, said: "It's a wonderful piece of
observation, an absolutely perfect piece of science."

He said the size and route of the asteroid meant that it was likely
to have crashed into the Austrian Alps at Köfels. As it travelled close
to the ground it would have left a trail of destruction from supersonic
shock waves and then slammed into the Earth with a cataclysmic impact.

Debris consisting of up to two thirds of the asteroid would have
been hurled back along its route and a flash reaching temperatures of
400C (752F) would have been created, killing anyone in its path. About
one million sq km (386,000 sq miles) would have been devastated and the
impact would have been equivalent to more than 1,000 tonnes of TNT

Dr Hempsall said that at least 20 ancient myths record devastation
of the type and on the scale of the asteroid's impact, including the
Old Testament tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the
Ancient Greek myth of how Phaeton, son of Helios, fell into the River
Eridanus after losing control of his father's sun chariot.

The findings of Dr Hempsall and Alan Bond, of Reaction Engines Ltd, are published in a book, A Sumerian Observation of the Köfels' Impact Event.

The researchers say that the asteroid's impact would explain why at
Köfels there is evidence of an ancient landslide 5km wide and 500m

Tale of devastation

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire
from the Lord out of Heaven; and he overthrew those cities and all the
valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities . . . [Abraham] looked
down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley,
and beheld, and lo, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a

Source: Genesis 19:24-28

University of Bristol

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 09:55 EDT

A cuneiform clay tablet that has puzzled
scholars for over 150 years has been translated for the first time. The
tablet is now known to be a contemporary Sumerian observation of an
asteroid impact at Köfels, Austria and is published in a new book, A Sumerian Observation of the Köfels' Impact Event.

The giant landslide centred at Köfels in Austria is 500m thick and
five kilometres in diameter and has long been a mystery since
geologists first looked at it in the 19th century. The conclusion drawn
by research in the middle 20th century was that it must be due to a
very large meteor impact because of the evidence of crushing pressures
and explosions. But this view lost favour as a much better
understanding of impact sites developed in the late 20th century. In
the case of Köfels there is no crater, so to modern eyes it does not
look as an impact site should look. However, the evidence that puzzled
the earlier researchers remains unexplained by the view that it is just
another landslide.

This new research by Alan Bond, Managing Director of Reaction
Engines Ltd and Mark Hempsell, Senior Lecturer in Astronautics at
Bristol University, brings the impact theory back into play. It centres
on another 19th century mystery, a Cuneiform tablet in the British
Museum collection No K8538 (known as "the Planisphere"). It was found
by Henry Layard in the remains of the library in the Royal Place at
Nineveh, and was made by an Assyrian scribe around 700 BC. It is an
astronomical work as it has drawings of constellations on it and the
text has known constellation names. It has attracted a lot of attention
but in over a hundred years nobody has come up with a convincing
explanation as to what it is.

With modern computer programmes that can simulate trajectories and
reconstruct the night sky thousands of years ago the researchers have
established what the Planisphere tablet refers to. It is a copy of the
night notebook of a Sumerian astronomer as he records the events in the
sky before dawn on the 29 June 3123 BC (Julian calendar). Half the
tablet records planet positions and cloud cover, the same as any other
night, but the other half of the tablet records an object large enough
for its shape to be noted even though it is still in space. The
astronomers made an accurate note of its trajectory relative to the
stars, which to an error better than one degree is consistent with an
impact at Köfels.

The observation suggests the asteroid is over a kilometre in
diameter and the original orbit about the Sun was an Aten type, a class
of asteroid that orbit close to the earth, that is resonant with the
Earth's orbit. This trajectory explains why there is no crater at
Köfels. The in coming angle was very low (six degrees) and means the
asteroid clipped a mountain called Gamskogel above the town of
Längenfeld, 11 kilometres from Köfels, and this caused the asteroid to
explode before it reached its final impact point. As it travelled down
the valley it became a fireball, around five kilometres in diameter
(the size of the landslide). When it hit Köfels it created enormous
pressures that pulverised the rock and caused the landslide but because
it was no longer a solid object it did not create a classic impact

Mark Hempsell, discussing the Köfels event, said: "Another
conclusion can be made from the trajectory. The back plume from the
explosion (the mushroom cloud) would be bent over the Mediterranean Sea
re-entering the atmosphere over the Levant, Sinai, and Northern Egypt.

"The ground heating though very short would be enough to ignite any
flammable material - including human hair and clothes. It is probable
more people died under the plume than in the Alps due to the impact

The full translation of the tablet together with the analysis supporting these conclusions can be found in the book, A Sumerian Observation of the Kofels' Impact Event published by Alcin Academics, ISBN 1904623646, priced at £12.99.

Please contact Joanne Fryer for further information.

Science Daily

Mon, 31 Mar 2008 10:40 EDT

Evidence of the biggest meteorite ever to hit the British Isles has
been found by scientists from the University of Oxford and the
University of Aberdeen. The scientists believe that a large meteorite
hit northwest Scotland about 1.2 billion years ago near the Scottish
town of Ullapool.

©University Of Oxford
If there had been human observers in Scotland 1.2 billion years ago they would have seen quite a show.

Previously it was thought that unusual rock formations in the area
had been formed by volcanic activity. But the team report in the
journal Geology that they found evidence buried in a layer of
rock which they now believe is the ejected material thrown out during
the formation of a meteorite crater. Ejected material from the huge
meteorite strike is scattered over an area about 50 kilometres across,
roughly centred on the northern Scottish town of Ullapool.

Ken Amor of Oxford University's Department of Earth Sciences, co-author on the Geology
paper, said: 'Chemical testing of the rocks found the characteristic
signature of meteoritic material, which has high levels of the key
element iridium, normally only found in low concentrations in surface
rocks on Earth. We found more evidence when we examined the rocks under
a microscope; tell-tale microscopic parallel fractures that also imply
a meteorite strike.'

The proposed volcanic origin for the rock formations has always been
a puzzle as there are no volcanic vents or other volcanic sediments
nearby. Scientists took samples from the formations during fieldwork in
2006 and have just had their findings published.

Professor John Parnell, Head of Geology & Petroleum Geology at
the University of Aberdeen, also a co-author on the paper, said: 'These
rocks are superbly displayed on the west coast of Scotland, and visited
by numerous student parties each year. We're very lucky to have them
available for study, as they can tell us much about how planetary
surfaces, including Mars, become modified by large meteorite strikes.
Building up the evidence has been painstaking, but has resulted in
proof of the largest meteorite strike known in the British Isles.'

'If there had been human observers in Scotland 1.2 billion years ago
they would have seen quite a show,' commented Oxford University's Ken
Amor. 'The massive impact would have melted rocks and thrown up an
enormous cloud of vapour that scattered material over a large part of
the region around Ullapool. The crater was rapidly buried by sandstone
which helped to preserve the evidence.'

Scott Thackrey, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, and
also co-author of the paper, said: 'The type of ejected deposit
discovered in North West Scotland is only observed on planets and
satellites that possess a volatile rich subsurface, for example, Venus,
Mars and Earth. Due to the rare nature of these deposits, each new
discovery provides revelations in terms of the atmospheric and surface
processes that occur round craters just after impact.'

Since the formation of the solar system leftover space material has
collided regularly with the Earth and other planets. Some of these
impacts are large enough to leave craters, and there are about 174
known craters or their remnants on Earth.

Oxford's Ken Amor said: 'This is the most spectacular evidence for a
meteorite impact within the British Isles found to date, and what we
have discovered about this meteorite strike could help us to understand
the ancient impacts that shaped the surface of other planets, such as

Adapted from materials provided by University Of Oxford.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's not a 1st April joke
Some interesting discovery about

Clay tablet identified asteroid that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah

look up at

Cheers , Guy (leguy11@hotmail.com )