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Selected links to asteroid, comet, and meteor news   -   August 2006

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Updated: 1 September 2006

Notes: 1) Many of these links are also carried on A/CC's RSS news feed and may sometimes appear there first. 2) News release links are fairly stable but news media links are often temporary, so grab any pages now that might be useful to you later.

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You may jump to the next news beyond the lengthy news listings for "Planetary definition."
Planetary definition
  • "CSEPR examines movement to set aside IAU planet definition ruling" (31 Aug.) SwRI/UNT CSEPR news release (75Kb PDF) at  "A key public policy question is who has the social mandate to alter the definition of something as fundamental as a planet."
  • "Planetary Scientists and Astronomers Oppose New Planet Definition" (31 Aug.) Planetary Science Institute news release at  "Just after the August 24th vote, serious technical and pedagogical flaws were pointed out in the IAU's definition of planets."
  • "Astronomers plot to overturn planet definition" (31 Aug.) New Scientist article:  "More than 300 researchers have signed a statement denouncing the recently adopted definition... Now, disgruntled astronomers are planning a conference to fix what they see as a flawed definition."
  • "Pluto: Down But Maybe Not Out" (31 Aug.) article:  "In a statement today, the largest group of planetary scientists in the world offered lukewarm support for the definition."
  • "AAS DPS Statement on the adoption of the definition of a planet by the IAU" (31 Aug.) DPS news release at  "Ultimately, the definition of a planet will come through common usage and scientific utility."
  • "Demote Pluto, or demote 'planet'?" (28 Aug.) Space Review editorial:  "Since Thursday's vote, I have found over 200 unique articles and editorials about the decision... [M]ost newspapers ... will simply run a wire story about a major scientific event [but] in many cases local newspapers ran their own stories about Pluto's demotion."
  • "Going 'round and 'round on defining Pluto" (28 Aug.) Boston, Mass. Globe Op-Ed:  "[Linnaeus] taught us that nothing is well described unless well named, and that nothing is well named until well described."
  • "Pluto vote 'hijacked' in revolt" (25 Aug.) BBC article:  "Owen Gingerich ... blamed the outcome in large part on a 'revolt' by dynamicists."
  • "New Planet Definition Leaves Scientific Loose Ends" (24 Aug) article:  "The IAU has not said how [dwarf planets] will be named. Pluto and [Ceres] both have classic planet names from Roman mythology. If that theme is extended to other dwarf planets, there won't be enough names, [Mike] Brown points out."
  • "Pluto gets the boot as the planet count drops" (24 Aug.) New Scientist article:  "After some confusion, the IAU members passed resolution 6a, which means that all the dwarf planets beyond Neptune will be named after Pluto. But resolution 6b, naming them 'plutonian objects', did not quite gain an overall majority... The decision will probably be left to an internal IAU committee."
  • "Pluto discoverer would understand demotion--widow" (24 Aug.) Reuters news item:  "[Patricia] Tombaugh said a tiny amount of her husband's ashes were on a spacecraft bound for Pluto." Note: This means that the first human remains to escape not just the Earth-Moon system, but the whole Solar System itself, are these ashes from Clyde Tombaugh, currently near the far edge of the Main Belt and headed eventually into interstellar space.
  • "Pluto Demoted: No Longer a Planet in Highly Controversial Definition" (24 Aug.) article:  "The vote involved just 424 astronomers who remained for the last day of a meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague ... out of some 10,000 professional astronomers around the globe... Alan Stern, leader of NASA's New Horizon's mission to Pluto ... said astronomers are already circulating a petition that would try to overturn the IAU decision."
  • International Astronomical Union (IAU) news items
  • "'The Day We Lost Pluto'" (22 Aug.) Sky & Telescope article -- Note: This piece is dated the 22nd but wasn't linked to S&T's news page until the 23rd or 24th.
  • "Mystery Surrounds Thursday's Vote on Pluto's Fate" (23 Aug.) article:  "IAU officials will release the refined proposal -- which they have sole discretion to modify as they see fit -- to the public prior to the vote. It is not known if they'll go with one of the alternate proposals or develop yet a fourth."
  • Report: The IAU General Assembly news page states on August 23rd that "We will tomorrow morning at roughly 8:30 CEST issue a press release. It will contain the Final Resolution on the planet definition put up for voting, the details of the voting procedure and an approximate timeline. We also plan to issue a press release with the result of the vote after it has taken place."
  • "Positing new planets divides astronomers" (23 Aug.) AP wire story at Fort Wayne, Ind. Journal Gazette:  "Leading astronomers are bitterly divided over new galactic guidelines that for the first time would define what is and isn't a planet, all but dooming a proposal to expand the solar system to 12 planets... And forget the term 'pluton' -- it's already history."
  • "Planet Debate Heats Up" (18 Aug.) Sky & Telescope article:  "All hell broke loose today as astronomers began openly debating the definition of 'planet' at the general assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Prague." Note: This article is dated the 18th but wasn't linked to S&T's news page until the 22nd or 23rd.
  • Report: On August 22nd New Scientist has two articles about opposition to the original IAU planet definition proposal: "Battle of the planet definitions heats up" and "Astronomers lean toward eight planets." The first tells that a "lunchtime meeting was fractious. When [Julio] Fernandez tried to read the alternative definition, he was cut off by IAU president Ron Ekers, chair of the meeting. 'I think it was disgraceful treatment,' says Brian Marsden, who was until last week head of the Minor Planet Center." And the second reports that "Andrea Milani of the University of Pisa in Italy had fiercely opposed the planet definition committee at the first meeting on Tuesday," but was "very satisfied" with negotiations to come up with a new proposal.
  • "Details Emerge on Plan to Demote Pluto" (19 Aug.) article:  This report includes the text of a leading alternative planet definition proposal: "New proposal for Resolution 5: Definition of a Planet: (1) A planet is a celestial body that (a) is by far the largest object in its local population... (2) ... [Objects such as Ceres and Pluto] are defined as 'dwarf' planets... Further Considerations: ... It is suggested that Pluto be kept unnumbered by historical reasons." Signers include Gonzalo Tancredi, Alessandro Morbidelli, David Nesvorny, Steven Chesley, and Patrick Michel.
  • "Pluto may yet lose planet status" (18 Aug.) New Scientist article:  "The idea ... is that real planets form by sweeping up debris in a broad zone around their orbit. Pluto, Ceres and the rest are merely debris that were never swept up."
  • Report: has no less than four articles on the 18th and 17th reporting opposition to the proposed IAU definition of a planet. Besides an item posted here immediately below earlier, the other three are "Public Laughs and Shrugs at 12-Planet Proposal" (18 Aug.), "Pluto May Get Demoted After All" (18 Aug), and "Earth's Moon Could Become a Planet" (17 Aug.). It is reported that a popular "alternate proposal" has been made by Uruguayan astronomer Julio Angel Fernandez to insert "the criterion that a planet must be 'by far the largest body in its population of bodies.' ... But some astronomers -- perhaps about half of those at the meeting -- are still rallying for Pluto to remain a planet."
  • "Astronomers Sharply Divided on New Planet Definition" (17-18 Aug.) article:  "A 12-person committee representing the world's largest group of planetary scientists [AAS DPS] today threw its support behind a new planet-definition... More dissent emerged, too, from several prominent planet experts... David Jewitt [said] the proposal is 'the worst kind of compromised committee report' ... Geoff Marcy [said] 'How would we explain to students that one large asteroid is a planet but the next biggest one isn't?' ... [One] mild endorsement came today from Brian Marsden." Note: This article was originally posted on August 17th with the headline, "Astronomers Support 12-Planet Solar System." The text has been revised and expert comments added in a sidebar.
  • "Planetary Scientists Support Proposed Redefinition of a Planet" (17 Aug.) AAS DPS news release at  "The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society is the world's largest international professional society of planetary scientists. The DPS Committee, elected by our membership, strongly supports the IAU resolution."
  • "Nine Planets Become 12 with Controversial New Definition" (16 Aug.) article:  "'It's flattering to be considered discoverer of the 12th planet,' [Mike] Brown said in a telephone interview. He applauded the committee's efforts but said the overall proposal is 'a complete mess.' By his count, the definition means there are already 53 known planets in our solar system."
  • "Q&A New planets proposal" (16 Aug.) BBC article:  "[Under the proposal, Ceres] regains the status it lost more than a century ago... Pluto and Charon are being referred to as a 'twin' planet... The IAU has a 'watchlist' of at least a dozen other potential candidates that could become planets once more is known about their sizes and orbits."
  • International Astronomical Union (IAU) news items
    • "IAU draft definition of 'planet' and 'plutons'" (16 Aug.) IAU news release:  "The world's astronomers, under the auspices of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), have concluded two years of work defining the difference between 'planets' and the smaller 'solar system bodies' such as comets and asteroids. If the definition is approved by the astronomers gathered 14-25 August 2006 at the IAU General Assembly in Prague, our Solar System will include 12 planets, with more to come: eight classical planets that dominate the system, three planets in a new and growing category of 'plutons' -- Pluto-like objects -- and Ceres. Pluto remains a planet and is the prototype for the new category of 'plutons.' ... Plutons are distinguished from classical planets in that they reside in orbits around the Sun that take longer than 200 years to complete (i.e. they orbit beyond Neptune)."
    • "Draft Resolution 5 for GA-XXVI: Definition of a Planet" (16 Aug.) IAU draft resolution:  "All non-planet objects orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as 'Small Solar System Bodies' ... This class currently includes most of the Solar System asteroids, near-Earth objects (NEOs), Mars-, Jupiter- and Neptune-Trojan asteroids, most Centaurs, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), and comets. In the new nomenclature the concept 'minor planet' is not used." Note: Does that mean then that the IAU Minor Planet Center (MPC) and its Minor Planet Electronic Circulars (MPECs) would be renamed?
    • "Planet Definition Questions & Answers Sheet" (16 Aug.) IAU news item:  "[In] terms of an IAU definition [if approved], Pluto is a 'pluton.' 'Dwarf planet' is simply a descriptive category like 'terrestrial planet' and 'giant planet.' None of these descriptive categories are formally defined by the IAU... [The] definition of 'double planet' requires that [their barycenter] must not be located within the interior of either body."
  • "Astronomer Calls for Unity on Planet Definition" (15 Aug.) article:  "'People have to be able to agree on a terminology that's used to describe things in the universe,'' Ronald D. Ekers, president of the International Astronomical Union, told reporters in Prague. 'We don't want an American version, a European version and a Japanese version.'"
  • "Pluto solid as a rock at KU" (15 Aug.) Lawrence, Kansas Journal-World article:  "[Pluto,] smaller than Earth's moon, has been on shaky ground for years... [Clyde] Tombaugh's daughter ... said her father was passionate about Pluto's designation and saw it as a personal attack when one top figure in the field chose the 50th anniversary of the discovery to question the planet's status [but] her father later came to accept the academic discussion surrounding his discovery."
  • "Pluto's Fate to be Decided" (14 Aug.) article:  "A new 'scientific and simple' proposal to define the word 'planet' will be released Wednesday and astronomers will vote on it next week. It is not clear whether the definition will settle a long-running debate on the status of Pluto, however."
  • "When is a planet not a planet?" (14 Aug.) London, England Guardian article:  "The answer, which will be mulled over by committee before being put to the vote at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague today, will end what has become an embarrassing crisis for scientists... [We] may soon have only eight. Or 23, or 39, or more."
  • "Plenty more like Pluto" (14 Aug.) Brian Marsden opinion piece at the London, England Guardian:  "As the 20th century rolled on, astronomers established that it would take more than 20 Plutos to produce a planet having even the small mass of Mercury."
  • "Astronomers Struggle to Define 'Planet'" (13 Aug.) AP wire story at (U.S.):  "Some argue that if Pluto kept its crown, Xena should be the 10th planet by default -- it is, after all, bigger... [Michael] Brown, Xena's discoverer, admits to being 'agnostic' about what the [IAU] conference decides. He said he could live with eight planets, but is against sticking with the status quo... 'If UB313 is declared to be the 10th planet, I will always feel like it was a little bit of a fraud,' Brown said." Note: This story is also available from Aug. 13th at the Albany, N.Y. Times-Union.
  • "Pluto: Is It a Planet?" (10 Aug.) National Public Radio (NPR) story:  "Sources say the [IAU] panel's new definition for planets would, in fact, create a third category embracing Pluto [if accepted next week]... What is too small to be a dwarf planet? Do moons count? What about round comets?"

Planned lunar impact
  • "SMART-1 maps its own impact site" (31 Aug.) ESA news release:  "SMART-1's impact is currently expected on 3 September 2006 at 07:41 CEST (05:41:51 UT)."
  • "Spacecraft Set to Smack the Moon This Weekend" (31 Aug.) article:  "Experts are not sure ... but it is possible the event will be visible only to seasoned observers."
  • "SMART 1 Awaits Its Fate" (30 Aug.) Sky & Telescope article:  "Although many professional telescopes watched for some indication of the [1999 Lunar Prospector] collision, nothing was seen."
  • "SMART-1 to Crash the Moon" (30 Aug.) Science@NASA article:  "The Moon actually sparkles, slowly and faintly, as one space rock after another hits the ground."
  • "Watching Lunar Dust Settle" (22 Aug.) MIT Technology Review article:  "[For the SMART-1 impact] telescopes with high-speed video or spectroscopic detectors could provide important data about the lunar surface and the dynamics of such impacts in a vacuum... [A] mission called LCROSS ... is planned to hit the moon's polar region in 2009... [A proposed Brown University student mission, FLASH] would be the first ever to hit the moon at a speed comparable to natural meteorites." Note: For more about LCROSS, see a Science@NASA July 28th news item, "Crash Landing on the Moon."
  • "SMART-1 impact: last call for ground based observations" (17 Aug.) ESA news release:  Note: See also a map of the expected impact location and the SMART-1 mission's Lunar Impact page.
  • "SMART-1 Impact: Call for Ground Based Observations" (16 Aug.) ESA news item:  "Even if the impact ... is of modest energy, the plume might be observable if it reaches sunlight, with an amateur telescope or binoculars... In addition [to professional facilities], ESA calls on amateurs around the world to participate in making observations of the Moon."
  • "SMART-1 towards final impact" (4 Aug.) ESA news release:  "The expected impact time (07:41 CEST ) will be good for big telescopes in South and Northwest Americas and Hawaii and possibly Australia. But if SMART-1 hits a hill on its previous pass, around 02:37 CEST on 3 September, then it can be observed from the Canary Islands and South America. If SMART-1 hits a hill on the pass on 2 September at 21:33 CEST, then telescopes in Continental Europe and Africa will have the advantage." Note: See also earlier news links and an August 16th ESA update.

Aug. 28th New Zealand event
  • "Astronomers interested in meteor shower" (30 Aug.) NewstalkZB article:  "Despite the loud noise, it was not large enough to register on seismology equipment at GNS Science, based in Wellington."
  • "'V8' meteor lights up Bay" (29 Aug.) Hawke's Bay, N.Z. Today article:  "A meteor lit up the Hawke's Bay sky at 9.45 last night and burnt up with a boom that rattled windows."

Dark skies
  • "Amended Lighting Rules Give Businesses Flexibility" (30 Aug.) Fort Bend, Texas Now article:  "Instead of being judged based on the illumance of individual lights, businesses’ allowed illumance is generally based on the amount of light within a 10-foot by 10-foot grid." Note: See also "Lighting ordinance revised one more time" at the Fort Bend Herald 30 Aug.
  • "NASA Invites Students to Help Astronaut Count the Stars" (25 Aug.) NASA news release:  "NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) are collaborating on a new education activity that ... will investigate the visual quality of the night sky and help assess the extent of atmospheric light pollution."
  • "A veil over the sky" (20 Aug.) Ottawa, Ont. Citizen article:  "Carleton University's Pamela Wolff warns that light pollution is distorting our view of the skies, preventing us and our children -- the scientists of tomorrow -- from appreciating Earth's place in the universe."
  • "Maui experiments with sky-saving lights" (19 Aug.) Honolulu, Hawaii Star-Bulletin article:  "Maui County officials are conducting a demonstration project that could curb the glare of urban lights from threatening the future of the multimillion-dollar astronomy industry. Officials have installed low-pressure sodium street lights in four locations on Maui."
  • "Utah man crusades for starry skies" (7 Aug.) Salt Lake City, Utah Deseret News article:  "[Anthony] Arrigo said light pollution wastes billions of dollars a year in the United States, money spent on electricity for 'light shining straight up.'"
  • "Dark Sky is a bright idea (5 Aug.) Toronto, Ont. Star article:  "[The] Torrance Barrens Conservation Reserve near Bala [in southern Ontario] became Canada's first official Dark Sky Reserve in 1999 [followed by] McDonald Park in British Columbia and Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in Saskatchewan and Manitoba."

Impact risk -- article:  "In what would be his last paper, [James Van Allen] explored a subject that hits somewhat closer to home: The likelihood of an asteroid colliding with Earth." See also an American Institute of Physics July 25th news item.

Korean Antarctic meteorite expedition -- article:  "The Korea Polar Research Institute (KPRI) in Songdo, Incheon, under the wing of the Korea Ocean Research and Development Institute, will hit the road to the South Pole in an effort to study meteors for the first time in Korea."

Mars meteorite borers? -- The Age article:  "Scientists have discovered tiny tunnels in the [Nakhla meteorite] that may have been bored by micro-organisms on Mars... Analysis suggested that [carbon-rich matter found in the rock's tunnels] was carbon originating on Mars."

SOFIA revs up -- Sky & Telescope article:  "On August 19 ... SOFIA taxied under its own power for the first time [and] is 'on track for first flight in November.'" Note: See also a SOFIA mission Aug. 19th news item and, for more about this 747-based observatory, see July news.
Mariner 4's meteor storm -- Science@NASA news item:  Synopsis: The Mariner 4 mission was winding down, drifting between Mars and Earth on 15 September 1967 when it endured a 45-minute meteor storm. Paul Weigert believes tentatively that it encountered defunct comet D/1895 Q1 (Swift).
Lunar impacts -- Report: on August 23rd tells that "In only 30 hours of observing, astronomers at the Marshall Space Flight Center have recently photographed seven explosions of light on the Moon. Each one, they believe, was caused by a meteoroid falling from the sky and hitting the ground," and gives a list and diagram with details. Note: See more about this work from June 19th.

Aug. 21st northern Norway event -- Aftenposten article:  "Calls streamed in to local police stations during the night after an unidentified flying object darted over the night skies in northern Norway... Observations were reported from Finnsnes to Trondheim. The main search and rescue station in northern Norway ... reported that calls also came from crews on board ships off the northern coast."

Asteroid namings
  • "UCSD Science Dean Has Minor Planet Named After Him" (14 Aug.) Univ. of Calif. at San Diego news release:  "Mark Thiemens ... was recently informed that a minor planet orbiting the inner part of the main asteroid belt has been designated (7004) Markthiemens [1979 OB9] in honor of his work with meteorites." Note: This was in the Aug. 6th namings.
  • "Charleville just heavenly" (21 Aug.) Brisbane, Qld. Courier-Mail article:  "Asteroid 13933 Charleville [1988 VE1] ... was discovered by Geisei astronomist Tsutomu Seki on November 2, 1988. [The naming connection] was Eiji Kato, a Japanese bed and breakfast owner in Ballandean, south of Stanthorpe... Mr Kato, who runs an observatory from his guesthouse, arranged a similar deal for Stanthorpe." Note: This naming, mistakenly attributed to NASA rather than the IAU, was in the August 6th namings batch. 10078 Stanthorpe (1989 UJ3) was in namings announced last September 19th.
  • Report: There are two separate but related news releases on 17 August, one from the London Natural History Museum, "Asteroids named after Museum experts" and the other from Imperial College, "Unusual honour sends meteorite experts into orbit." The first tells that "6579 Benedix [1981 ES4] is named after Dr. Gretchen Benedix, researcher in the Museum's Mineralogy Department," and the other that "Asteroids in orbit between Mars and Jupiter have gained a new identity this month after being named after three Imperial College London meteorite experts," 6580 Philbland (1981 EW21), 6626 Mattgenge (1981 EZ46), and 7552 Sephton (1981 EB27), named for Phil Bland, Matthew Genge, and Mark Sephton. Note the numbering of 6579 Benedix and 6580 Philbland, wife and husband. These all were in the August 6th namings batch, and all were discoveries made by Schelte J. Bus at Siding Spring in New South Wales, Australia. According to the museum news release, the four were "among around 35 members of the Meteoritical Society honoured by the International Astronomical Union, which bestows asteroid names once every three years, in recognition of their contributions to the discipline. The asteroid names were announced at the 69th Annual Meteoritical Society Meeting held in Zurich last week."
  • "Two Old Birds Cook Up a Mean Stew" (11 Aug.) RAS Observatory news release at PRWeb:  Note: This is about the naming by Robert Hutsebaut of 117715 Carlkirby (2005 GK1) for fellow amateur online observer and sponsor Carl Kirby, which was in the August 6th namings batch.
  • "Asteroid named to honor local pair" (10 Aug.) Orange County, Calif. Register item:  "Veteran asteroid finder Andrew Lowe named [117439 Rosner (2005 AR36)] after [Arnie and Nancy Rosner] founders of the RAS Observatory, a collection of remotely operated telescopes located in Mayhill, N.M... [Rosner] recently expanded his service, opening a remotely operated telescope at Biggera Waters, Queensland, Australia. He's also preparing to place a telescope outside Melbourne and one in Israel." Note: This naming was in the August 6th batch.
  • "Nice Asteroid, Tony!" (8 Aug.) Gearlog (blog) posting:  "For these achievements [e.g., finding over 70 SOHO comets], comet and asteroid hunter Rob Matson, who found this particular asteroid, honored him by naming [112900 Tonyhoffman (2002 QS50)] for him." Note: This naming was among 107 in the August 6th namings batch.
  • "Planet named after Purdue professor" (4 Aug.) Purdue Univ. student publication The Exponent article:  "Having a planet named [is] a testament to [chemistry professor Michael] Lipschutz's longtime involvement in teaching and meteor research." Note: This apparently refers to 2641 Lipschutz (1949 GJ).
  • "'Out of this world' honour for renowned astronomer" (1 Aug.) U.K. article:  "[Jack] Meadows is a former Head of Astronomy and History of Science at the University of Leicester. [He] was responsible for initiating the programme for detecting fast moving objects using the infrared survey satellite IRAS [and] carried out the first ultraviolet survey of minor planets using the IUE satellite [and also] successfully looked for fragments of the Barwell meteorite which fell on Christmas Eve 1965." Note: This is about the naming of 4600 Meadows (1985 RE4), which was in the June 13th namings batch, and also mentions an asteroid named for Ken Pounds of the school's Department of Physics and Astronomy, apparently 4281 Pounds (1985 TE1).

Paradigm change in space-based IR astronomy -- Space Review essay by John K. Davies "SIRTF, today renamed Spitzer, struggled on with various cryogenic concepts and redesigns until late 1993 and then switched to a new design that made aggressive use of radiative cooling after a warm launch. JWST adopted radiative cooling from the beginning."

Aug. 18th Scotland event
  • "Spectacular shower of meteors sparked fear of air crash" (Aug. 21) Edinburgh, Scotland The Scotsman article:  "Coastguards were inundated with frantic phone calls [Friday night] after a bright fireball was seen plunging from the sky over the Hebrides, prompting fears of a plane crash... The incident coincided with the Kappa Cygnid meteor stream which peaked at the weekend and continues for another fortnight."
  • "Meteors Spark a Scare" (Aug. 20) Glasgow, Scotland Sunday Mail news item:  "Worried locals swamped a coastguard with calls after mistaking a meteor shower for ship distress flares. Lifeboat crews scoured the sea off Skye and Lewis [Scotland] for a stricken ship after reports of explosions in the sky."

Lake Ontario impact crater candidate -- Syracuse, N.Y. News 10 Now article & video:  "Charity Shoal [is] located on the bottom of Lake Ontario at the U.S.-Canadian border... [Map maker John Warren says] 'Its likely origin is a simple impact crater. If so, the date of this occurrence may be significant to Earth history and the last glaciation.' The feature is only slightly smaller than ... Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona."

Aurigids good for 2007 -- article:  "[On 1 Sept. 2007] the Earth is expected to pass very close to the center of a dust trail [from C/Keiss] a comet last seen in 1911."
New Horizons heads for the edge -- New Horizons news item:  "New Horizons will reach 100 AU in December 2038, long after the probe passes through the Pluto system and enters the Kuiper Belt. But another milestone occurs much sooner: next week New Horizons crosses the outer boundary of the main asteroid belt at 3.3 AU." Note: See also a mission 17 Aug. news item on binary planets and JPL's Aug. 15th announcement that "Voyager 1, already the most distant human-made object in the cosmos, reaches 100 astronomical units from the sun on Tuesday, August 15 at 5:13 p.m. Eastern time."
IAU impact threat task force -- AP wire story on Fox News:  "The International Astronomical Union said Thursday it has set up a special task force to broaden and sharpen its focus on impact threats... 'We're now going to be finding such objects once a week instead of once a year,' said David Morrison, a NASA scientist who will chair the new IAU task force on impact threats." Note: This story has appeared on numerous news sites, including at the Discovery Channel on the 18th headlined, "Killer Asteroids Can't Hide Now."

DCT construction -- Payson, Ariz. Roundup article:  "The steel beams and concrete that will support the fifth largest telescope in the continental United States are being shaped by the hands of men on a hilltop in the Coconino Forest near Happy Jack... Once the telescope is up and running, Lowell Observatory astronomers will be the sole users of DCT ... [but the Discovery Channel] and Lowell Observatory would like to see a university partner with them." Note: See more DCT news links below.

Small bodies beyond Neptune
  • "Discovery Hints at a Quadrillion Space Rocks Beyond Neptune" (15 Aug.) article:  "A 100-meter body only occults a background [X-ray] source for about 10 milliseconds and optical detectors cannot record light continuously at such small time intervals."
  • "Tiny icy objects revealed in outer solar system" (9 Aug.) New Scientist article:  "[A Taiwanese team detected 58 miniscule TNOs] when they passed in front of a distant X-ray source ... by combing through 89 hours of archived Scorpius X-1 observations from NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). To calculate the sizes of the objects, the researchers had to assume they are all 43 Astronomical Units from the Sun [some as small as 20 metres, but they might be] larger, more distant objects."

Comet discovery awards -- Sky & Telescope article:  "[The] eighth annual Edgar Wilson Award for amateur comet discovery [according] to IAU Circular 8730 issued by the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams last July 17th [went to] Charles Juels (Fountain Hills, Arizona) and Paulo Holvorcem (Campinas, Brazil) for discovering C/2005 N1, and John Broughton (Reedy Creek, Queensland, Australia) for P/2005 T5."
2006 Perseids gallery --
NSF Antarctic meteorite collection restriction -- Federal Register item at  "On March 31, 2003, the National Science Foundation (NSF) issued a final rule that authorized the collection of meteorites in Antarctica for scientific purposes only... Antarctic expeditions planning to collect meteorites in Antarctica are required to submit their plans."
Serpentine minerals in CM carbonaceous chondrites -- U.S. Naval Research Lab news release:  "Serpentines form by chemical reaction of anhydrous silicates ... and water. The research team's findings reveal that the formation of these minerals occurred under oxygen-rich conditions, and suggest that the parent asteroids of the meteorites contained active hydrothermal systems that were capable of driving chemical reactions ... over 4.5 billion years ago in space."
NEO deflection workshops -- Assoc. of Space Explorers news release at  "[ASE] is pleased to announce the first of its series of International Workshops on NEO Deflection Policy ... will be held at the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France from 9-12 May, 2007. The workshops will culminate in the presentation of a draft United Nations Protocol on NEO Deflection to the UN's Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in the spring of 2009." Note: See also the ASE Committee on Near Earth Objects Web page.
"Cosmic ancestry" conference -- Cardiff Univ. news release:  "[Retiring Cardiff professor Chandra] Wickramasinghe said: 'For the past 30 years I have worked on the theory that life didn't start on Earth but on comets some 4,000 million years ago and this theory is fast moving into mainstream science.'" Note: See also the conference Web site.

Mt. Palomar's wireless infrastructure -- Caltech news release:  "For the past three years, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology's Palomar Observatory in Southern California have been using the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) [with bandwidth that] allows astronomers to transfer a 100MB image from a telescope camera at Palomar to their campus laboratories in less than 30 seconds."
1,000th Kreutz-group comet -- ESA news release:  "Polish amateur comet hunter Arkadiusz Kubczak recently discovered his third comet in SOHO LASCO coronagraph images, but [C/2006 P7 (SOHO)] was special: the 1000th SOHO comet discovery in the Kreutz group of sungrazing comets... All 1000 Kreutz comets are believed to be fragments of a single comet observed in c. 371 BCE by Aristotle and Ephorus, and the fragments themselves continue to fragment, making more sungrazing comets." Note: See also SOHO Hot Shots, Jonathan Shanklin's Sun approaching comets page, and MPEC 2006-P33.
Peter Jenniskens -- column:  "On September 9, Cambridge University Press is releasing a new book, 'Meteor Showers and their Parent Comets' authored by Peter Jenniskens. It is a great introduction in the field of minor planets, using meteor showers as something everybody can relate to... The book has an exhaustive set of tables describing major and minor meteor showers, predictions of future meteor outbursts in the next fifty years, and the scientific results of many people working together on predicting [and observing] meteor storms."
Aug. 8th Philippine event -- Cebu, Philippines Sun Star article:  "A loud explosion past 5 p.m. [Tuesday] baffled residents in northern towns... Some residents of Tuburan said they saw a burning object that fell from the sky before the loud explosion... PO1 Mariano Cajes of the Tabuelan police station said he and two other policemen were on patrol in Barangay Tabunok when they heard a powerful explosion."

July 14th southeastern Norway event -- Aftenposten article:  "'This is the first time since 1969 that a meteorite has gone through a roof anywhere in Europe. The meteorite is a so-called carbon - CO-meteorite. Previously only five falls of CO-meteorites have been observed on Earth, and the last one occurred in Russia in 1937,' said an enthusiastic [Knut Jorgen Roed] Odegaard." Note: This new find in Moss, Norway last week was near another associated with the July 14th event. See earlier news links.

July 31st Gujarat event
A fireball was reported from around 9pm local or a bit later on July 31st over the Kutch district of Gujarat, India with reports of loud noise, Earth "tremors," and surviving fragments found. There appears to be a dispute between the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Indian Department of Space Physical Research Laborataory (PRL) about who takes possession of any meteorites, and Indian media is reporting that GSI is warning people not to keep or touch meteorites. Note that this atmospheric event occurred near Pakistan, thus close to the border between two confrontational states armed with nuclear weapons.--Ed.
  • "GSI, PRL get only crumbs from meteorite shower" (9 Aug.) Times of India article:  "[GSI] was shocked to find that most of the meteorite fragments it collected from villagers through state authorities, were fake. Apparently, most of the meteorite fragments that fell in and around Kutch last month are either up for sale or remain undisclosed... [About] 80 gm have been found to be genuine meteorite."
  • "Meteorite buzz keeps city awake" (4 Aug.) Times of India article:  "On Wednesday night, word spread like wildfire that meteorite pieces had been found at a bungalow on Kalawad Road area. Eventually, the fragments turned out be nothing but pieces of coal... And it was not just thousands of people who rushed across..."
  • "Rajkot villagers worship meteor rocks" (3 Aug.) New Delhi Television article:  "Superstitious villagers in Saurashtra and Kutch region have started praying before the meteor remains believing it has divine powers. They have even put pieces of the meteorite in water with petals."
  • "Astronomers' delight: Meteorite recovered" (1 Aug.) Times of India article:  "It's official -- fragments of meteorites did fall in and around Vandhiya village of Bhachau taluka near Surajbari bridge linking Kutch and Saurashtra. The recovery was made from two houses of the village on Monday night."
  • "Meteorite shower gets GSI inspired" (1 Aug.) Kolkata, India Statesman article:  "[GSI official R.S. Goyal states] 'any meteorite fall in the world is considered to be world property and in India the GSI is the repository for any meteorite.'"
  • "Now, meteorite samples on geological institute's radar" (1 Aug.) Mumbai Express article
  • "Meteor shower?" (1 Aug.) Mumbai, India article:  Note: This piece has photos reported to be meteorites that hit a roof.
  • "PRL to study meteors which fell in Kutch" (1 Aug.) Press Trust of India (PTI) wire story at Hindustan Times
  • "GSI to study meteorites shower in Kutch" (1 Aug.) Times of India article from wire services
  • "Spectacle of meteorite showers in Gujarat" (1 Aug.) Times of India article from wire services

Hawaiian observatory permitting
  • "Judge reverses permit for new Hawaiian telescopes" (8 Aug.) New Scientist article
  • Hawaii Judge Reverses Permit for More Mauna Kea Telescopes (7 Aug.) Environment News Service story:  "A Hawaii state court has reversed a conservation district use permit granted by a state agency that would have allowed the construction of up to six more telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea... Appellant Clarence Ching [said] 'This is a precedent setting case [that will affect] Haleakala as well.'"
  • Note: These reports mention Pan-STARRS, which is now in early testing on Haleakala but may move to Mauna Kea. For more about Pan-STARRS, see July and June news links.

Meteorites from Mars -- AP wire story at CNN:  "[All] of the 30-some Martian meteorites now known to science, with the exception of ALH84001, are probably too young to have contained living organisms. But new Martian meteorites turn up almost every year. Eventually, another 4.5 billion-year-old piece of the red planet is going to be discovered."

Jordan impact crater candidate -- Jordan News Agency story:  "Professor Dr. Elias Salameh / University of Jordan has announced the discovery of a huge impact site in East Jordan near Jabal Waqf es Swwan... The diameter of the outer ring of the impact site measures around 5.5 km [and it is estimated] that the impact took place 7500 to 10000 years before present."

Unpristine 9P/Tempel 1 -- Sky & Telescope article:  "[When] a team ... aimed the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope at the cloud of ice and dust that erupted from the [Deep Impact] collision, they [found] that the Tempel 1 debris was laced with carbonates and clays."
Kingsland Observatory -- PingWales article:  "Kingsland Observatory [has] two [automated] primary instruments a 36-inch Newtonian reflector, reportedly the largest optical telescope in the British Isles, and a 16-inch Schmidt Cassegrain. They will assist the Kingsland Observatory in asteroid surveys and the search for new minor planets known as Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects (EKBOs) and in particular Planet X." Note: This is about MPC observatory code J62 in County Roscommon, Ireland.
NASA mission statement -- news item:  "Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) sent a letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Dr. Michael D. Griffin expressing concerns about the organization's elimination from its mission statement of the phrase 'to understand and protect the home planet.'" Note: This change in the 2002 mission statement is reported to have been made in February but didn't come to public attention until a July 21st New York Times article (see a NASA Watch July 22nd news item).

Aug. 1st Texas event
  • "Meteor caught on patrol car camera" (4 Aug.) News 8 Austin, Texas article:  "Patrol Officer Renee Kamradt was driving through the parking lot of a shopping plaza in Lakeway when a bright light flew through the sky."
  • "Strange Light In The Sky?" (2 Aug.) Austin, Texas KXAN-TV article:  "The fireball that was seen streaking across the Texas sky Tuesday night [just after 11pm local] was captured on a Lakeway PD dashcam." Note: This report has video links and eyewitness accounts.

Morokweng impact crater -- Univ. of the Witwatersrand student publication Vuvuzela article:  "A soccer-ball-sized meteorite fossil was discovered in the Morokweng crater [under the sands of the Kalahari Desert] when scientists drilled holes into the area where an asteroid with a diameter of 5-10km struck the Earth 145 million years ago."

Deep Space Network news

EBay meteor market -- Wired News article:  "The advent of online auctions fueled the meteorite boom, and today scientists are going to the internet in search of study samples... [Lunar geochemist Randy Korotev said] 'I think these finders are doing a wonderful thing for the scientific community. It's far cheaper than going to space and bringing the rocks back.' Most dealers on eBay are reputable, Korotev said, because meteorite dealers are aggressively self-policing."

DCT primary mirror -- joint news release from Lowell Obs. and Univ. of Arizona "Lowell Observatory and the University of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences (OSC) have finalized a $3 million, three-year contract to complete the Discovery Channel Telescope primary mirror. The 4.3-meter-diameter (14 foot), approximately 6,700-pound mirror is the heart of Lowell Observatory’s new Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT). The telescope is under construction at Happy Jack, Ariz., 40 miles southeast of Flagstaff." Note: See also a Discovery Channel Aug. 3rd news item.
Ondrejov Observatory 100th anniversary -- Radio Prague article:  "[Ondrejov Observatory] has grown into the largest scientific observatory in the country [with] the largest telescope [2 meters] in the Czech Republic as well as Central Europe."
Prairie Meteorite Search (PMS) -- Toronto, Ont. Globe & Mail article:  "[Found by Renee Johnson] while out chopping a Christmas tree near her home in Prince Rupert [B.C.] in 1968 [it] has been identified as the 69th meteorite recovered in Canada, the first in the country this year." Note: See July news links for more about this and other PMS news.

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