October 28, 1999
I am not averse to generating a little alarm. For the case of impacts upon the Earth, a little alarm is what is needed.
Do you believe that a major impact event is inevitable? If so, the way you think about it can make all the difference for both you and your loved ones, when you decide to:
How we think about a thing, is just as important as what we do about it. For example, Americans have watched horrific news accounts of children who carry weapons to school, so they can kill and maim fellow students for nothing more than vain retribution. Stunned by these incongruent acts of violence we repeatedly ask ourselves, how could they do this? What could have been in their minds? Why? Why? Why?
The answers are still slow in coming and as a society we have yet to grasp some kind of universal understanding, and this lack of consensus makes us feel helpless. Consequently we are quick to take action even though we cannot agree on the underlying causes, because our universal sense of helplessness is so profoundly uncomfortable.
When it comes to the threat of an impact event, the vast majority of people see the reality of it but cannot seem to connect with it. It is as though they are are standing before a magnificent painting and no matter how long they stare at it, they consistently fail to see it's true significance.
And then, there is a small minority of people who will see the true significance at first glance. But for such people, this knowledge can be a curse as well as a gift, as they are often ignored or rudely dismissed when they try to share their insights.
To those who have seen the true significance at first glance, I wish you peace. To those of you who want to understand, it is my hope that this article will encourage you to become truly self-informed about the convergence, and the impact it will have on your own destiny.
I would like to thank Joseph Malinoski for a tremendous amount of research and photographic analysis. To my beloved wife Yelena, Gary Goodwin, James deBoer and Ramona Capilitan, a special thanks for their kind assistance and steadfast encouragement.
The facts presented in this article are drawn from many sources, including the book, Rogue Asteroids and Doomsday Comets, The Search for the Million Megaton Menace that Threatens Life on Earth by Duncan Steel, Forward by Arthur C. Clarke.
If you are interested in the potential consequences of an impact event, I highly recommend this book to you.
People often write us at The Millennium Group, with impact event questions in the hope that our answers will give them an absolute sense of certainty so that they can know:
- When will the big one hit?
- Where will it hit?
- What is their chance of survival?
At face value these appear to be reasonable questions, but in fact they really drive to the heart of how we evaluate potential threats such as an impact event. However, statistics are hard to calculate as there are so many variables to consider. Nonetheless, calculating exact odds may be possible, given the proper understanding.
To illustrate these concepts in layman's terms I will use the common Hollywood-style scenario about the victim who is tied to the railroad tracks. Once you've finished reading this simple analogy, you will have a clear understanding of the mathematical concepts used to determine your chances of becoming an impact victim
A Train is Coming
Imagine that you wake up one morning to find that your arms and legs have been firmly tied to one of four sets of parallel railroad tracks, and that three other people are likewise tied to one each of the other three tracks.
You look about to get your bearings and see that all four sets of tracks are joined to a single main line, that passes through several states. You also notice that there are no bystanders to be seen anywhere nearby. Then in your head, a soft voice says to you, "a train is coming."
"Of course there is a train coming" you mumble out loud, "I've lived here all my life. I know that. And, I know that a huge four-engine freight train is headed this way, so stop bothering me!"
Annoyed by the voice, you pull at the ropes. Sure enough, they are snugly tied, but since you know the freight train has not yet crossed the state line, the danger it presents is not imminent at this time. This is a bit of luck for you, as it gives you ample time to think your way through this, by first weighing your chances.
A simple first-pass with the math tells you that you have a 25% chance of being run over by the freight train. While those odds may be good for the average guy, you also know that you are better at math than the average guy, and so you start listening to what the other victims have to say, with hope of capturing some new intelligence that you can factor into your risk calculations.
Just then you hear one of them say, "I heard the engineer of the train is free to choose whichever of these tracks he wants and that he is right handed. Given that I'm tied to the middle of these four sets of tracks, my hope is that he follows to his right. You know, just like right-handed people lost in the desert, who keep walking in clockwise circles until they die from dehydration."
Now this is fortunate, as you are tied to the tracks that are to the engineer's far left and so you quickly do the math. After a respectable number of computations you determine that this factor alone reduces your risk of being hit by the train by another 10%. Now, you've gone from a 25% chance of being killed, to a 15% chance of being killed. Such a deal!
Just as you are congratulating yourself for a job well done, that pesky voice comes back again, "a train is coming" - but you're so elated that you have no trouble it dismissing it from your mind.
Inspired by your recent gains, you decide to see if there is anything else weighing in your favor and so you shout to the other victims, "so what do you guys think your chances are?"
The first replies are immediate: "Don't bother us you fool, can't you see that we're doing long division in our heads. Get lost!" However the victim nearest you volunteers a little information and you soon learn that the engineer of the train has a girlfriend; and that the back of her house faces the opposite side of the tracks.
What a fortuitous find. It just doesn't get any sweeter than this. The train engineer will most likely want to impress his girlfriend (or see what she is doing) and he'll favor his right hand and his desire to see his girlfriend, who likewise lives to the right side as well. This is too good to be true and you start doing the math again, and this time you shave another 5% off the risk level.
So now, you've gone from a 25% of being killed to 10%. Just as you're ready to whoop with glee, that pesky voice comes back again, "a train is coming." Again with this voice. Ugh... after all, you have odds on this deal that could make you rich in Las Vegas, so why worry!
Suddenly you feel an unusual shaking movement in the rails. Uh-oh -- not good. While you've been doing your math and congratulating yourself, the train not only crossed the state line -- it in fact passed the four track feeder junction and it is now barreling down your track, right towards you.
So much for the odds. What comes next?
Now you have a real sense urgency, you pull at the ropes holding you to the tracks and you discover that the rope holding down your right arm was improperly knotted. With patience and a little effort, you could eventually free that hand and then yourself.
As your fingers frantically claw at the knot, your mind does the math again. Even though you've accepted the realty that the train is going to hit you, learned habits are simply too difficult to ignore.
With certain reliability your mind quickly returns an absolute mathematical result -- you are out of time and you are going to die.
The numbers do not lie, and so you see no further point in struggling with the ropes. It is time to accept your fate. And so, you lay limp on the rails and look up into the heavens. "Please God, if you can spare my life... please, oh please, or this horrible big train will kill me for sure."
For the last time, you hear that little voice in your heard and this time it says, "I've tried to do just that, but you would not listen. For the last time, a train is coming."
In a manner of speaking, it was not that train that killed you. Rather, what killed you was something call I call Impact Thinking, which is a byproduct of our Cold War fatalism.
At the outset of the Cold War, we began to look up at the sky above our heads with fear in our hearts.
Prior to the Cold War, we enjoyed the security of a two-ocean buffer zone. But now, that buffer zone could be nullified by our enemies by simply adding a little booster stage to their ballistic nuclear missiles.
For the remainder of this century, we've dreaded the possibility of a ballistic missile launch against us, and this continuous threat of nuclear war has become a multi-generational fact.
In time, we found a way to cope with this ever-present threat so that we could go about our daily lives with some semblance of certainty. But our first reaction was that of sheer terror, and it was given a face in 1950.
Joseph R. McCarthy, a United States Senator from Wisconsin, was the most gifted demagogue in the history of American political science. With insight like that of Hitler's own propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, McCarthy clearly understood the terror that dominated the American consciousness and unabashedly used it to further his own aims, and so began one of the darkest ages in American history
Fortunately for us, this shameful period ended in 1954 when the Senate passed a resolution of censure against McCarthy, thereby ending the humiliation of a government gone mad.
While McCarthy was now out of the picture, nothing had changed the ever-present threat of a nuclear Armageddon. But with With McCarthy gone, we still needed to put a face on our fear, and we did. It was a simple four-stage signal board with threat risks labeled as: Defcon 1, Defcon 2, Defcon 3 and Defcon 4. Defcon 1 is business as usual, and Defcon 4 is kiss your loved-ones good-bye. Defcon 2 and Defcon 3 represent the heightened tension levels in between the other two extremes.
The Defcon board showed us that we could always step back from the precipice, and in this realization was born the Cold War fatalism that helped us to keep our wits and our sanity through one of the most dangerous periods man has yet to endure.
Good New and Bad News
The good news of the Cold War, is that it propelled us to develop the very technologies needed to divert or destroy a potential impactor. For the first time in the history of mankind, we possessed the possible power to save ourselves from the devastation of an impact event.
The bad news, is that the Defcon fatalism we used to mentally survive the Cold War, is the very thing that is now diminishing our chances of surviving an impact event. This is because Earth impactors are very different from enemy missile silos.
With nuclear missile silos there will be dual-key missile launch systems with tight security, rigid verification procedures and most important of all, rational human beings with keys. Consequently, the threat of a nuclear missile falling on us is a four step Defcon level measurement process.
But threats change, and comets and asteroids and have no launch keys or recall codes. Consequently there are only two danger states, Defcon 1 and Defcon 4.
Regrettably, we will no longer be protected by the making of acquaintances at embassy parties, or clandestine high-level meetings in some obscure coffee shop. This time it will be a large impact object, and it will possess all the charm and intelligence of a lead bullet.
Simply put: We cannot duck this time, even though the majority of Americans cannot set their Cold War fatalism aside long enough to understand this fact. This is because the survival mechanism of Cold War fatalism has evolved into something new -- Impact Thinking.
Like its Defcon predecessor, Impact Thinking employs a four-stage process to evaluate and manage the potential risks of an impact event. This thinking method includes the following risk assessment stages: Certainty, probability, refutability and deniability.
With this in mind, let's examine how we as a society have adapted our Cold War fatalism to the unpleasant task of ascertaining the potential risks of an impact event. To do this, let's build a realistic four-stage example of Impact Thinking in action.
Impact Risk Level 1 -- Certainty
Aside from death and taxes, we are seldom certain of most things in our lives. Yet, each time we board an airplane we know there exists a certain possibility that we could die in a fatal crash that day.
But the odd thing is, that we are statistically twice as likely to die during an impact event, as from an airplane crash.
- Does this statistical forecast seem strange?
- Does if feels like something credible?
- Does it seem like the dots will not connect?
If this feels odd, just keep in mind that we fear airplane crashes more than impact events because we have lived to witness the horror of a fatal airplane crash either in person, or through one of the many forms of news media available to us.
On the other hand, we have yet to see people die in an impact event, but in time, we will join with our ancient ancestors in the knowing of this.
Impact Risk Level 2-- Probability
Probability is nothing more than the ordered lists we create to reduce our confusion and uncertainty, by structuring our perceptions with measurements, averages, thresholds and so forth. For example:Chapman and Morrison take the sensible step of defining what they would consider to be a globally catastrophic impact. This would be an impact thatdestroys most of a year's global food crops, and/or
results in the deaths of more than 25% of humankind, and/or
threatens the stability and future of modern civilization.
So what is the probability of an impact? The answer to this question is, figuratively speaking, a moving target. Not because the math changes, but because our own ability to identify risks is continually evolving.
For example, prior to the 1950's our estimated chance of being hit by an asteroid with a diameter of two kilometers or more in size was one in a million.
Given that a two kilometer asteroid would have an impact release force of a million megatons of TNT, there is a lot to be said for blissful ignorance But that short-lived bliss was soon to be shattered. Beginning in 1950, our technology began to advance considerably and we soon started to find Earth-crossing asteroids larger than two kilometers at an alarming rate.
Consequently, our statistical chance of our planet being hit by a two kilometer asteroid was downgraded to one in one hundred thousand. Or in other words, we were ten times more safe when we were more ignorant of reality.
Our efforts to identify active comets continues to this day, but it is not easy going. While active comets are easier to detect than asteroids, they only make up approximately 2% to 30% of the potential impactors. Consequently, we are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than a comet.
Now for the bad news, should an asteroid strike soon, the odds are one in ten that we are presently unaware of its existence.
Impact Risk Level 3 -- Refutability
When a probability weighs against us or one of our opinions, we often look for some way to refute it so that it can be summarily dismissed.
A good example of refutability thinking lies at the bottom of Meteor Crater in Arizona.
In 1891, a chief geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, Grove Karl Gilbert correctly identified the crater as being the result of an energetic impact. However, he was subsequently "influenced" to reject his own hypothesis.
From that day forward, and up till 1945, the US Geological Survey continued to deny Gilbert's original hypothesis. Why? Because they expected to find a remnant of an impactor at the center of the crater and did not.
In this case, an unfulfilled expectation was used to stifle a credible but nonetheless politically unpalatable observation.
Impact Risk Level 4 -- Deniability
Of the four phases, deniability requires the most creative thinking because the goal here is to separate your reputation (if not your neck) from the responsibility of your own acts or misdeeds. Or in other words, you have to find a way of explaining how you could "reasonably" fail to see the risk as being both real and imminent.
If you are clever, you can escape all responsibility for your acts while maintaining your current position and level of authority.
If you are especially clever, you can use this to your advantage as there is always opportunity in chaos, and most especially when you've had a hand in creating it.
A core premise of Impact Thinking is that we are stationary like our missile silos. In other words, we view ourselves as remaining in a fixed position and that the danger, which in this case will be a rogue asteroid or comet, will seek us out.
With Impact Thinking we make the fatalistic assumption that as long as we do not go looking for trouble, we're OK. But, if trouble is looking for us and if it finds us, and there is no place to hide from it, what is the point in worrying anyway? While this may seem right, what actually happens in the case of any impactor is quite different.
The core premise of Convergence Thinking is that we are continually converging with Earth-impactors all the time, and that we need to view our relationship with comets and asteroids in a more holistic manner. This way, we can emotionally and mentally see ourselves as traveling through one zone of convergence after another, along with thousands of Earth-crossing impactors.
When these Earth-crossers impact us, as they do each and every day, it is because we've converged with them at a precise moment in time and space. The only reason why we are still alive, is that we've yet to converge with an Earth-crosser of life-threatening size. And this, brings us to another fundamental difference between Impact Thinking and Convergence Thinking
- Impact Thinking offers us a way to talk our adversaries out of a conflict.
- Convergence Thinking simply accepts that fact that you cannot negotiate with a rock.
In a simple sense, the Earth's orbit around the Sun is like a large circular highway with thousands of Earth-crossing intersections. Each time the Earth and an impactor travel converge on a common point in time and space, a zone of convergence is created.
While the illustration to the right may look like a fur ball, it actually plots the trajectories of the 100 largest known Earth-crossers (which by most estimates is only about 5% of all known Earth-crossers.)
Do not let the dot in the center mislead you into thinking that it is the Earth. Rather, it is the Sun and somewhere amongst all other asteroid and meteor orbit paths lies the Earth.
What will eventually replace Impact Thinking; when will it happen; and who will accept this new view of the world of the world about them?
It is already happening as a significant number of people have instinctively embraced Convergence Thinking, and now see that we have an eternal relationship with impactors. As a result, they understand that this relationship is the result of long cycles of life, that are routinely punctuated by significantly shorter cycles of death.
We require water to exist and when we are no longer able to hydrate ourselves we perish. Keep this in mind the next time you pour a glass of drinking water, as part of what you will see in that drinking glass will be the ancient remnant of a meteor impact that likely occurred when our planet was in its infancy.
The next time you pick a handful of herbs or fresh tomatoes from your backyard garden, know that you're eating plants that have been nourished by fine deposits of freshly accumulated stardust. This is because each day, 100 tons of meteoroids fall on the Earth at speeds between 40,000 and 260,000 kilometers per hour.
In an average year, this results in 200,000 tons of solid material reaching our planet from comets and asteroids that have crossed our path at one time or anther.
When you see a farmer on television complaining about the loss of topsoil in our country, keep in mind that during the last 3.5 billion years, a ton of cosmic debris has accumulated on each and every square meter of the planet Earth. While we and our friend the farmer may not be around to appreciate it, part of that lost topsoil will eventually be replenished with stardust.
This brings us to the important question of, how long does a cycle of life last? The first real answer to this question was found in the many impact craters that dot the Moon.
When man first set foot on the Moon, our knowledge of impact craters took an immense leap forward. Although we still debate the origin of lunar craters, there is no question that the timing of our exploration of the moon has helped us to understand how impact craters are formed.
We now know that waves of comets occur once every 30 million years or so. What distinguishes these periodic waves of comets, is that there are definite periods when the number of impacts is significantly more than the long-term average. Further, some of those impacts can be devastating. A case in point is the Tyco crater, which is a dramatic impact site. As one noted astronomer observed:The explosion that caused the crater Tycho would, anywhere on Earth, be a horrific thing, almost inconceivable in its monstrosity.
The Face of the Moon
Thanks to the evidence we gathered from our studies of the lunar surface, we are now able to find more craters here on the face of our own planet. Unlike the Moon, the Earth has many natural forces that wear away the evidence of past impacts. Consequently, we may have only discovered less than 1% of the ancient impact structures here on Earth.
But what we have learned from known impact craters here on Earth, is that they were created in the last 400 million years and appeared in conjunction with the development of geological boundaries and mass extinctions.
Further, our newly-found evidence also indicates that these craters were formed during highly active epochs, which were separated by long periods of comparative quiescence. This brings us to the conclusion that Charles Darwin was not entirely right, (but not that he could have known.)
Darwin's complete theory, On the Origin of Species, was published in 1859, and was often referred to as the "book that shook the world". In this book, Darwin essentially states that the evolution of species is a gradual and continuous process of natural selection.
Were Darwin alive today, and could see the impact crater information we have collected more than a hundred years after he first published On the Origin of Species, it would be clear to him that while the process of natural selection is continuous, it is not entirely gradual. Therefore, our present concept of evolution which predates our exploration of the Moon by more than a century, must now be redefined.
As a direct result of our our new understanding of impact craters, we know that life on our planet has evolved with what scientists call "a punctuated equilibria." Or in other words, three steps forward -- two steps back. Or in the case of the dinosaurs, five steps forward and six steps back.
Will we do better than the dinosaurs? Or more specifically, will we be able to pass through from our current cycle of life, through a short cycle of death, and then on to another extended cycle of life?
Or, will this observation by the ancient Egyptians be our epitaph as well:Greek philosopher Plato, writing his book Timaeus in the fourth century BC, related information from earlier Egyptian records when he spoke of:...a deviation of the bodies that revolve in heaven around the Earth and a great destruction, occurring at long intervals, o things on the Earth by a great conflaguration...once more, after the usual period of years, the torrents of heaven will sweep down like a pestilence, leaving only the rude and the unlettered among you.
Given that we can survive the next cycle of death, do we really want to begin the next cycle of life with "only the rude and the unlettered" among us? If not, then we need to better understand the cycle of death.
A carry-over from Cold War fatalism is our perception of time. We expect political misfortunes to be measured in weeks, months or even years. Given that we and our adversaries are unable to withdraw from the precipice, the time frame of the ensuing nuclear missile exchange will be measured in minuets and hours, and the consequences in terms of the lives lost.
But there are no retractable precipices in space. Therefore, the time frame of an impact event is measured in scores of eons, and the consequences are measured in terms of the number of species lost.
Comets and asteroids have been impacting our planet since it was first formed from a cloud of astral debris, and yet we typically seem to view them as a source of entertainment. Of the many streams that impact our planet, one of the most entertaining is the Taurid Meteor Complex. The Taurid Meteor Complex was created from Comet P/Encke, a very large Earth-crosser.
The Taurids have been identified as a very old meteor stream, and are made up of two two branches (shown below as the N. Radiant and the S. Radiant). These radiants are usually active every year in the Northern hemisphere during the Autumn months, and in the Southern Hemisphere during the Spring This year they will be active this in the Northern hemisphere from between October 20, 1999 to November 30, 1999.
The official discovery of the Taurid Meteor Complex was made in 1869. The Northern Taurids were observed by Giuseppe Zezioli (Bergamo, Italy). The Southern Taurids were observed by T. W. Backhouse (Sunderland, England).
The Taurid streams that we see every year in the skies above our heads, were primarily formed during a violent ejection of material from Comet P/Encke some 4700 years ago. (Which to be precise is 2700 b.c.).
There is also additional evidence that an unknown body separated from P/Encke some time in the distant past, and that resulted in another ejection some 1500 years ago.
Today, we enjoy watching meteoroids from the Taurid Meteor Steam as they smash into our atmosphere and disintegrate. But our ancestors watched watched this in horror, because the Taurid Steams brought death and destruction to the Earth on the scale of a small nuclear holocaust.
Stonehenge I and The Taurid Meteor Complex
Stonehenge, the circular arrangement of large stones near Salisbury, England, was once believed to be a temple for Druids or Romans.
The construction of Stonehenge took place in three stages, beginning in 3100 BC, when the first builders created a large circular ditch and bank, and dug pits known as Aubrey Holes. At this time they also erected two large Heel stones, only one of which remains. Until recently, the first Stonehenge was thought to have been either a temple for sun worshippers or some type of astronomical clock or calendar.
For the second and third stages of the Stonehenge construction that could very well have been true. However, Stonehenge I was constructed as an early detection system for observing large Taurid Meteor Complex impactors.
Recent evidence has also shown that Northern Europe was severely punished by multiple impactors which fell upon the Earth from the Taurid Meteor Complex, with impacts yielding between 10 to 20 megatons each. Furthermore, it is entirely feasible that at one point, the number of such impacts exceeded one hundred within a single span of time!
Of course this begs the question: "Given that these impacts occurred roughly 5,000 years ago, has the Taurid Meteor Complex expended it's remaining inventory of large impactors, leaving us with nothing more than a dazzling light show every year?"
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no, as was proved by the Tunguska asteroid impact of 1908.
Tunguska and The Taurid Meteor Complex
The Tunguska object arrived on June 30, 1908 over the skies of Siberia, Russia, during the peak of one of the most intense annual Taurid Meteor Complex daytime showers this century. This impactor was a fragment of the comet P/Encke.
This picture was made by the eyewitness T.N.Naumenko from the town Kejma (June 30, 1908), and was catalogued by Dr. A.Yu.Ol'khovatov. According to Dr. Ol'khovatov, this is what that Tunguska meteorite looked like in flight.
Below, is a sequence of stills later created by an artist to illustrate T.N.Naumenko's account of the impact.
Did the Tunguska Catastrophe Go Unnoticed?
Immediately after the airburst, cities throughout Northern Europe experienced white nights, and the available light at this time was so bright that people across the continent could read their newspapers till midnight and beyond.
Tunguska Impact Event as Recorded by the Irkutsk observatory (June 30, 1908)
Horizontal Seismograph with Optical Registration: Zollner-Repsold Pendulum
Although it would be almost 20 years before scientists would actually study the impact site, they already knew the magnitude of it as evidenced by the Tunguska seismogram shown above.
Final Thoughts on Tunguska
Have we seen the last of the large Taurid Meteor Complex impactors? Most likely not, and this stream returns to our skies every year like clockwork, to throw rocks on our heads for our entertainment. So, the next time you step outside to watch the show, just remember this:
- The Tunguska blast leveled an area the size of Connecticut, and nothing survived!
- Next time hope for a groundburst. Studies of nuclear explosions have proved that airbursts are more destructive than groundbursts.
- According to Duncan Steel, a Tunguska-class event can be expected every 50-100 years, which means that we're statistically on the short end of the rope.
While these facts are sobering, the one that is most notable is that the Tunguska event occurred during a peak of solar activity, which is another major factor in the cycle of death.
According to NASA, a "Solar maximum is the term for the maximum in solar activity that takes place approximately every eleven years; solar minimum is the lowest point of solar activity. The last solar maximum was in 1989." This means that we are are on the threshold of a new solar maximum, which will begin in 2000 (1989 + 11 years).
To put this in perspective, at least two more Tunguska-class impacts are expected in the next millennium, and they will most probably occur during the years of maximum of solar activity, according to Dr. A.E.Zlobin, of the Moscow State University, noted expert on the Tunguska catastrophe.
In 1995, British astronomer Mark Bailey and his colleagues discovered that another Tunguska-like event happened in 1930, when an asteroid impact leveled a huge expanse of jungle near an upper tributary of the Amazon in Brazil close to the border with Peru.
The result of this Tunguska-class impact in the Amazon, were raging fires that burned for months. The only European to have officially witnessed it was a Catholic priest, who dutifully reported the event to the Vatican. Unfortunately, the incident report was not released by the Vatican until 1995. It seems that the incident report was either misfiled or laid unnoticed until now.
With this in mind, let's quickly summarize a few of the facts presented so far:
- Cometary impacts follow cyclical patterns, with long periods of light activity, followed by short periods of high activity.
- Impact events are more likely to occur during high levels of solar activity.
- The debris stream that follows behind a comet contains impactors of generally 1 km in size, but it only takes a 50 meter impactor to create a 20-megaton Tunguska-class event.
With this in mind, review the following solar activity chart for the period of 1700-1992. (Please note, that the raw data for this illustration was acquired from a NASA web site.)
When an Earth-crossing comet passes without striking our planet, this does not mean that we've beat the odds and that we can return to business as usual without a care in the world. This is because meteor streams can last for tens of thousands of years, and they will follow the same orbital path as the Earth-crossing meteor from which they were formed, and thereby put us at risk of a Tunguska-class impact for thousands of years. A case in point is the recent discovery of Comet C/1999 Lee.
Over the last few months, The Millennium Group has been tracking Comet C/1999 Lee which has now past over the Earth and is headed for the outer system. During this time, we've also watched an unprecedented increase in the number of regional natural disasters.
This comet has caused a tremendous loss of life and property, and yet, is the danger really over? We do not believe that it is. C/1999 Lee, just like it's cousin, P/Encke, is an Earth-crossing comet, and our evidence shows that it is trailing a stream of debris behind it as well.
Our rate of discovery of Earth-crossing comets has begun increasing at an alarming rate. Further we are about to begin a new solar maximum which brings with it even higher probabilities of an impact. So then, what is our government doing about all this anyway?
Our government is aware of the dangers, but the possible solutions at hand face a tremendous inertia from both within and without. As we've already seen, the vast majority of Americans rely on Impact Thinking which is a dumb-rock version of post-McCarthy Cold War fatalism.
Consequently, the message the American public at large is sending to it's government is: "If it is not going to fall on us within the next fiscal quarter, then shut up and keep it to yourself. I've a got a mortgage to pay and I do not need this nonsense right now."
Therefore, if the government were to show political courage in this matter and come out with a clear warning, they would need to make sure that they stand in front of the cameras with an ample supply of flip charts illustrating that a Defcon 4 (highest of the four levels) threat level is in effect.
If they go with say a Defcon 3, or on the outside a Defcon 2, and the "damn thing" doesn't hit us after all, the responsible agency will be swiftly reeducated on the politically correct way to "kill the messenger." Nonetheless, our fearless leaders in the congress, have shown some initiative when appropriating funds for NASA in 1990."The Committee believes that it is imperative that the detection rate of Earth-orbit-crossing asteroids must be increased substantially, and that the means to destroy or alter the orbits of asteroids when they threaten collision should be defined and agreed upon internationally..."
NASA Multiyear Authorization Act of 1990
There are two phrases in this budget bill passed back in 1990, that set us up for the inertia from our former Communist adversaries: "destroy or alter the orbits" and "agreed upon internationally."
Destroy or Alter the Orbits
As a result of the Cold War, and the technological spin-offs of President John F. Kennedy's mandate to put a man on the Moon by 1970 and President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, we now have the ability to save ourselves from an impact event. So how would we do it?
The first step is early detection followed by a detailed study of the impactor while it is still at a considerable distance. Given that an impactor can make unpredictable changes in its trajectory, we must hunt it down with a highly intelligent spacecraft, with ample fuel for maneuvering. At least one that is as intelligent as the Cassini Space Probe.
On August 25, 1999, The Millennium Group published my article, Is Cassini a Kamikaze Deep Space Probe? in which I speculated about a possible ulterior motive for equipping the craft with 72 lbs. of plutonium.
In the intervening months, the Cassini Special Interest Group has done a respectable amount of research as to the feasibility of using this probe as some type of weapon of last resort. The general opinion is that the current speed of the probe is not sufficient to generate a nuclear detonation. However, there is not enough clear evidence for even the most skeptical observer to say with any certainty that a nuclear detonation is impossible, should the probe be smashed into an oncoming impactor, and so the debate rages on.
The next step is to launch a massive nuclear weapon against the against the impactor, which would require a rocket as large as the Saturn V rocket used to carry the Apollo 11 crew to the Moon. Upon arrival with the impactor, the detonation can then be programmed by the ground controllers to happen near, or directly upon the impactor itself.
But, there are consequences to this plan of attack. If we detonate the bomb, but fail to incinerate the impactor, all we may have succeeded in doing is to create a shower of Tunguska-class asteroids that will remain on the same impact course towards Earth. Consequently, a somewhat better way to deal with this, is to push the impactor out of its orbit by detonating the device to either side.
However, the best way to deal with this is to make the impactor go faster or slower so that it intersects the Earth's orbit before or after we arrive at the same point in time. This is because we can obtain a more reliable result by changing the impactor's speed which requires less energy than that needed to throw it off course.
OK, great! We've got a silver bullet to use way out in space, and we know to use it. But you know what they say about the "the best laid plans of mice and men" thing. Hmmmm..... Maybe we need to hedge our bet with some local Earth protection. No problem, that is until you want to do what congress tells you to do, which is to make sure your strategy is "agreed upon internationally."
Here is where the rub comes. Any system built that could deflect an asteroid's path away from the zone of convergence, could also be used to divert a benign asteroid into an impact trajectory. In other words, if we have the ability to save ourselves from an asteroid, we likewise have the power to rain asteroids down upon our enemies.
On October 3, 1999, The Millennium Group published an article titled A Sign of The Times, in which we published a Lockheed Martin press release dated, Sunday October 3, 1999 and titled Air Force, Army Launch Two Rockets, Complete Test Successfully.
In that article, we learned that:
"The US Air Force and Army successfully launched two Lockheed Martin rockets today within minutes of each other, but 4,200 miles apart, completing a test supporting the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization's (BMDO) National Missile Defense program. Today's MSLS mission successfully deployed two inert targets while the PLV delivered and deployed the exoatmospheric kill vehicle."
Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle
Ever since we published that report, we at The Millennium Group have been scratching our heads. Just what is an "exoatmospheric kill vehicle" anyway? And it appears that we are not only ones to be asking this question as evidenced by this article that just recently appeared on the Drudge Report web site.XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1999 19:48:18 ET XXXXX
RUSSIA THREATENS US OVER NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM
The Russian military on Monday hurled fighting words at the United States over her pursuit to create and implement a national anti-ballistic missile system, Tuesday's WASHINGTON POST is reporting.
POSTIE David Hoffman writes that Russia's first deputy defense minister Nikolai Mikhailov "told reporters that 'our arsenal has such technical capabilities' to 'overcome' any antimissile defenses. 'This technology can realistically be used and will be used if the United States pushes us toward it.'"
In the past few weeks since the Pentagon successfully tested its developing anti-missile system over California coastal waters, the Clinton administration has pursued a diplomatic strategy with Russia in an attempt to retool the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
According to Hoffman, the Russian strategy to overcome America's ABM system would be to "deploy more nuclear warheads atop its missiles, in the calculation that it could outnumber and penetrate any defensive shield."
Mikhailov warned that Russian nuclear warheads could reach any ABM facility.
The Clinton administration has stated that it will decide next Summer whether or not to pursue a limited antimissile system -- a move that would force America to either change the 1972 ABM treaty or abandon it.
After all these years of saying "would you like fries with those nuclear secrets?" you think we could at least get a little more sympathy if not cooperation. (By the way, just how do you say "would you like fries with those nuclear secrets," in Chinese?)
What all this goes to show you is that appeasement never really does work. Rather, the wisdom of an old Western American truism hits closer home, "Some days you eat the Bear, and some days the Bear eats you."
The result of all this is that our government is pressed on both sides by a populace and estranged foreign governments, who still cling to the shortsightedness of Cold War fatalism. Consequently, our government is following a policy whereby it withholds information from the uninterested majority (no big loss there), while squelching the efforts of the aware minority with disinformation and slander.
- Is this understandable? Yes.
- Is this excusable? No.
- Is this forgivable? Again, no!
The recent big-budget comet disaster films, Armageddon and Deep Impact, both revolve around the same basic story line: The government withholds information and people die because they are unable to get out of harm's way in time.
If movies are truly reflection of reality, it behooves each of us to become personally informed. As Fredrich August von Hayek once said:"Many of the greatest things man has achieved are not the result of consciously directed thought, and still less the product of a deliberately coordinated effort of many individuals, but of a process in which the individual plays a part which he can never fully understand."
Perhaps, Arthur C. Clarke was right, when he tells us that we will need to await a catastrophe before the governments of the world say, "There will be no next time." Until then our government is dealing with other estranged governments and a populace who feverishly cling to their Cold War fatalism even "as Rome burns." But, it is a given that not everyone will agree on this point.
Over the last several months, The Millennium Group has reported on several aspects of Comet C/1999 Lee. At present, the comet has passed to the North of us and is headed towards deep space.
Many feared that it would impact the Earth, which is something The Millennium Group never advocated, even though this is an Earth-crossing comet. While Lee and the Earth follow paths that cross over one another, they do so on very different time schedules.
While we viewed the possibility of a direct impact as being extremely remote, we did have our fears -- two of them to be exact. The first, was that we feared Comet Lee would interact with our Sun and cause regional natural disasters. This is exactly what it did.
Chronology of major earthquakes that each killed more than 1,000 people over the last 20 years. (September 21, 1999)
1981 Italy, Iran
1986 El Salvador
1988 Soviet Union
1990 Iran, Philippines
1991 Pakistan/Afghanistan, India
1995 Japan, Russia
1997 Iran, Iran
1998 Afghanistan, Afghanistan
1999 Colombia, Turkey, Taiwan
For the first time in 20 years, three such major earthquakes have occurred within one year. Two of which coincided with the post-eclipse passing of C/1999 Comet Lee.Jan. 25, 1999 - COLOMBIAAug. 17, 1999 - TURKEYSept. 21, 1999 - TAIWAN
The second fear, is that just like Comet P/Encke, Comet Lee would fracture and create a stream of Tunguska-class impactors or worse.
It is this second unfulfilled fear, that haunts us now primarily because we cannot obtain the information we need from our own government to bring closure to our analysis of the events surrounding the August 11, 1999 eclipse over Europe.
And this brings us to final, and most fearful piece of information presented in this article. Our second, unresolved fear regarding Comet C/1999 -- the rocks in the stream!
On August 11, 1999, I viewed a video clip on the CNN web site that had been captured from a live NASA feed. As a former CNN science news feature producer, I've always had a tremendous respect for the quality of CNN's science reporting, and encourage you to follow their web site at http://www.cnn.com.
Over the years, I've spent a great amount of time sitting behind professional videographers and directing their work as a field producer or director. Even though I migrated into the computer field, I never lost my eye because I'm an avid nature photographer and videographer. This is why something in that CNN video clip immediately grabbed my attention like winning lottery ticket.
I could see that the cameraman was trying to acquire something that had appeared in the overscan area of his camera viewfinder, in the upper right hand corner of the image viewing area. Upon closer inspection, I found three objects in the image, and further determined that they were not caused by defects in the camera or the recording medium.
It was this discovery that actually led me to The Millennium Group, and on August 17, 1999 my first article, Eclipse as Seen From Turkey There's a Surprise You won't Believe!. In that article, I presented a frame-by-frame analysis of the NASA imagery and noted the three objects which I titled A, B and C.
To my surprise, this first article was read by tens of thousands of people all around the world, and their responses were both immediate and intense. Consequently, my first update, Solar Eclipse as Seen From Turkey Update #1, appeared on August 22, 1999 However, it was not until the day after we published this second article that I would hit paydirt.
As the old saying goes, "less is more" and this brief but intriguing message from Jennifer and Joseph Malinoski had a single file attached.Hello
Feel free to post this
Best Regards, Jen & Jos.
Click here to view full size image.
Since then, I have enjoyed a very rewarding ongoing correspondence with Joseph, as we jointly pursued the nature of Objects A, B and C. In time, we proved that Object A and Object C are man-made, and we validated that using sources. Nonetheless, Object B continued to elude us, as it has done so even to this day.
In my following article, Solar Eclipse as Seen From Turkey Update #2, I presented a detailed analysis of Object B, in which I claimed it to be Comet Lee, and that it had fractured.
What surprised me about the reaction to this article, was that the debate on Objects A and C continued unabated, while Object B just seemed to languish until recently.
Since then, Joseph and I have continued our analysis of B, and to date we have received a lot of conjecture about Object B, but not one soul has come forth with any real evidence to dispute our initial any findings about Object B. However, it is interesting note however, that several people now feel that it could be a rogue impactor from the Taurid Meteor Complex, which is now active in the Northern hemisphere.
For this reason, it is critically important for us to clearly show what we feel is the most frightening aspect of Object B, as observed in Turkey during the August 11, 1999 solar eclipse. It is important to note that a live NASA video feed of the event was the original source of the images below.
This image was created from the original live MPEG feed from NASA. If you look hard, you'll notice an especially dark area to the left of Object B.
Unlike Objects A and C, this object has no sharp edges, or antenna like protrusions.
70% Gamma Shift
We found that many people have PC monitors or video cards that are old or just offer average performance. For this reason, Joseph created a color enhanced version to enable easier viewing with older PCs.
In these images provided by Joseph, the comet is traveling from left to right. This is because an outgassing comet like Lee, will have a horseshoe shaped corona on its leading edge. Therefore, the dark mass in this imagery is behind Lee. This is a critical point, because when comets fracture they eject fragments forward, sideways or backwards.
- Forward Ejected Fragments: These fragments usually stay close to the main body of the comet. Since they are thrown forward, they continue moving in the same direction, just forward of the comet.
- Sideways Ejected Fragments: These fragments will usually take up station alongside the comet and move in the same direction. The larger the fragment, the further it will station itself away from the meteor.
- Backward Ejected Fragments: When a fragment is ejected from the main body of a comet, it's direction of ejection is opposite that, of the comet's forward trajectory. This will cause an overall difference between the forward velocity of the comet and it's backward ejected fragment, and so the distance between the two will grow over time.
While NASA keeps a tight lip on this, they have said that there is no evidence to dispute my claim that Comet Lee has fractured.
So, let's put this in perspective:
- Comet Lee is a newly discovered comet, that came into our solar system from deep space.
- Comets have streams that can last for tens of thousands of years.
- Comet Lee has an orbit around our Sun, and so does the debris trailing behind it.
- The large object trailing Comet Lee is sufficient in size to survive entry into our atmosphere.
- The large object trailing Comet Lee is traveling backwards, away from Comet Lee while going forward at the same time.
- Four days after the August 17, 1999 quake in Turkey, Comet Lee was photographed with both a tail, and an anti-tail. The tail pointed away, in the direction of the solar winds, while the anti-tail pointed directly back towards the sun.
So what does this all mean? It could mean nothing. It could mean that we will soon experience a Tunguska-class event that will kill and maim thousands. It could mean multiple Tunguska-class impacts that could result in the end of our civilization as we now it.
From our standpoint, we know who knows what this means and that they will tell when they feel the time is right. If the worst is to happen, the most we can hope for will be a few short hours to be with those whom we love and cherish.
Is this the destiny you want?
In the preparation of this article, I've drawn heavily from the book Rogue Asteroids and Doomsday Comets, The Search for the Million Megaton Menace that Threatens Life on Earth, by Duncan Steel, and I was particularly inspired by his immediate call to action, when he wrote:For the first time since life began on Earth, a species has the ability and the wherewithal to save itself from extinction, along with countless other species, which, the paleontologoical record shows us, would also perish in a gargantuan impact. Perhaps we should undertake the necessary search-and-intervention program not only for the sake of self-preservation, but also as an act of atonement for the numerous extinctions that we have inflicted on the world's flora and fauna in our exploitational activities over the past few centuries.
If the people who built Stonehenge I could speak to us today, I believe they would say: "We know the horror that shall befall you, and that once it does, an unimaginable suffering will forever change your notion of the universe. As for us we could only watch, pray and suffer; but you can work together to save yourselves and that part of us which is in you."
What saddens this author most, is that we now have the technology and the knowledge to prevent an impact event for the very first time in the history of mankind and that by our own neglect and foolishness we are cheating ourselves from the full measure of that benefit.
Worse yet, we cannot get the answers from those who know the truth. And without truth, there can be no real destiny!
Listen closely: "A train is coming!"
The Millennium Group
Marshall works in the Silicon Valley area of Northern California. He is now a working computer professional with twenty years of experience. He was also a science feature field producer for the Cable News Network for two years, and co-produced the Online technology cable program for the Texas Cable Network for four years.
Marshall lives in the Santa Cruz area, with his wife Yelena. His hobbies include travel and nature photography and videography. Samples of his nature photography can be viewed at http://www.virtualserenity.com. Marshall is also an active member of the SETI@home project.
All material is copyrighted by THE MILLENNIUM GROUP and may not be used without their express written permission.