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Asteroid impact threat

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  • Roger Dymock
    Does any kind of international protocol exist for dealing with potential impacts ? For example how such an event might be announced to the general public ?
    Message 1 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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      Does any kind of international protocol exist for dealing with
      potential impacts ? For example how such an event might be announced to
      the general public ?
    • P. Clay Sherrod
      None at all so far as I am aware. In fact the last time we had a scare there was considerable Monday morning quarterbacking as to why it was not handled
      Message 2 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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        None at all so far as I am aware. In fact the last time we had a "scare"
        there was considerable Monday morning quarterbacking as to why it was not
        handled differently than it was. Other than "run for the hills" there seems
        to be very little protocol that has been agreed upon, _including_ notifying
        the public of any potential threat that might affect them.

        Clay
        _____
        Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
        Arkansas Sky Observatories
        MPC H45 - Petit Jean Mountain South
        MPC H41 - Petit Jean Mountain
        MPC H43 - Conway West
        http://www.arksky.org/



        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Roger Dymock" <roger.dymock@...>
        To: <mpml@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 5:57 AM
        Subject: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat


        > Does any kind of international protocol exist for dealing with
        > potential impacts ? For example how such an event might be announced to
        > the general public ?
        >
        >
        > ------------------------------------
        >
        > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        >
        > Posts to this list or information found within may be freely used, with
        > the stipulation that MPML and the originating author are cited as the
        > source of the information.Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
      • Alain Maury
        Hello Bill and others, A few comments on this post. I am right now writing my yearly statistics on NEO discoveries and adding a small text on the current state
        Message 3 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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          Hello Bill and others,
          A few comments on this post.
          I am right now writing my yearly statistics on NEO discoveries and adding a
          small text on the current state of affairs, ten years after the start of the
          Spaceguard Survey (which was supposed to be a ten years program, but which
          will, and it is good, continue).
          Apart from the very very very unlikely long period comet arriving from the
          Oort cloud and falling just on us, there are no more objects able to "end
          life as we know it" anywhere in the solar system which has not been
          detected. We are at the 70%, 80% level on the 1km diameter asteroids (or
          better phrased magnitude 18 and brighter asteroids), and a "global killer"
          is more like a 10km asteroid, and we all know them and none is anywhere near
          an impacting orbit.
          Very quickly (let's say another 5 years of hard work), the only worry left
          will be in the 200m range, i.e. "state" destroyers, not "continent
          destroyers".
          Then, as I have mentioned a few time before, even for these objects the
          probability that we detect one falling on Earth in the next century is very
          very small. Eventhough when you watch at the National Geographic channel,
          Discovery Channel or the History Channel, you get the impression all the
          impact mess is real, it is not. When the first reports on impact threat were
          written, 15 years ago, there was indeed the same probability of dying of an
          asteroid impact that from dying in an airplane accident, it is now several
          thousand times smaller, now that we have discovered all the potential
          "global killers" killing billions of people on impact and thereafter. But of
          course we are not safe from the, much more frequents, local consequences,
          impacts... yet. It is still at best in the one every thousands of years
          frequency, and there is no real need to get some persons officially mandated
          to contact a government in case of an asteroid impact, since very likely you
          are going to pay generations of people like this before one eventually has
          something to do. But should the case occur, maybe the director of the MPC or
          general secretary of the IAU would be the person who would have to contact
          the officials of such and such states, to alert them that in so many years,
          there might be an impact. I believe it would be better if several
          independant, official looking sources, would contact the persons in charge
          in the concerned countries so that they understand it is a real case. I
          don't see Bill Gray, or any non official individual, taking his phone and
          trying calling a country's president, and succeeding getting him/her over
          the phone, and convincing him/her that he his not kidding. Then in this
          case, it would be likely a space mission would be undertaken to divert the
          object. Some people would be happy :) Of course, now, after so many false
          alarms and rumors of this and that asteroid falling on earth in 2039, it
          would be very hard to contact the media and saying that now, it looks real
          :) If NASA and Milani and co would have refrained of publishing in a hurry
          invalid data, the situation would have been different.
          Then the TC3s.
          The larger the object, the more time we might have before impact. If TC3 had
          not been so small, it might have been detected as much as a week before
          impact, leaving more time for action, which has Bill stated can only be
          limited to evacuation of the zone, if possible. I believe that in this case,
          the same thing as above would occur, meaning several people, independant
          between them, having an official function in the astronomy, calling the
          press, and the politicians of these countries so that they take action to
          move as many people out of the impact zone before the impact. Then again,
          one TC3 in ten years of spaceguard survey, while maybe hundreds of TC3 have
          fallen in the same time unnannounced. I know Pan Starrs is going to put all
          the other observatories to shame when it starts in 2007, but you never know
          :)
          At any rate, if we learned something of the TC3 impact, it was that without
          the amateur community on this list, nothing would have been done. We are the
          network able to follow these objects in real time.
          So I can only take the opportunity to wish all of you a happy new year, but
          then I don't know if it means a year without impact, or with (small) impacts
          :).
          Alain

          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: mpml@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mpml@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of
          > Bill J Gray
          > Sent: samedi 3 janvier 2009 19:34
          > To: Roger Dymock
          > Cc: mpml@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat
          >
          >
          > Hi Roger,
          >
          > I know of no "official" procedure for such an announcement.
          > With apologies for a somewhat long post:
          >
          > I see two cases here: the Apophis case, where the possible
          > impacts are years/decades away (and usually involve really big
          > rocks capable of destroying entire countries or Ending Life As
          > We Know It); and the 2008 TC3 case, where the possible impact
          > is hours or days away (and, were it somewhat bigger than 2008
          > TC3 actually was, might destroy or damage a city).
          >
          > We already know how the first case would currently be handled:
          > the folks at JPL, and/or Andrea Milani's group, or the MPC,
          > would compute an impact probability and encourage more observations.
          > You can argue about the merits and demerits of this, and sometimes
          > the announcements might be better worded; but that does seem to
          > be the current procedure. There have been plenty of such cases,
          > with some flaws detected and (mostly) ironed out. I'm not worried
          > that an impact will be undetected, or suppressed, or drastically
          > hyped (though some would question that last!)
          >
          > The 2008 TC3 case is somewhat more worrying to me. Peter
          > Birtwhistle and I independently determined that TC3 was a likely
          > impactor. I'm not sure how Peter did this. I did it by looking
          > on NEOCP, and seeing an ephemeris that showed small motion for
          > about 17 hours, followed by tremendous motion, followed by
          > small motion; obviously a close fly-by.
          >
          > So I downloaded the astrometry, ran some Monte Carlo variants,
          > and made a post on MPML announcing that we had a high-probability
          > bolide heading our way. Peter notified MPC directly (and in
          > hindsight, I should have notified both MPC _and_ MPML.)
          > I then had to go out for a few hours to do a bit of programming
          > work, but various people got astrometry and posts were made on
          > MPML with impact lat/lon predictions by Reiner Stoss, Andrew Lowe,
          > and Aldo Vitagliano.
          >
          > I don't know if anyone else made the impact prediction
          > independently. I hope so, but I think JPL and the Andrea Milani
          > group check designated objects for future impacts (the Apophis
          > cases), not these 2008 TC3 cases. I don't know if the MPC software
          > would automatically notice the likely impact scenario. (Though
          > I'd not be surprised if all three organizations improved their
          > capabilities for short-term impact predictions after 2008 TC3. I
          > certainly did!)
          >
          > In some ways, the 2008 TC3 cases may be more important than
          > the Apophis cases. They're much more likely to happen, _and_
          > we have some concept of how to defend against them ("something
          > is about to hit your city; better go to another city"). And,
          > of course, even the ones that can't destroy anything (or hit
          > over water) can give us some useful scientific data. (And you
          > can bet we'll collect a slew of bolides, plus a few big splashes
          > and hits in uninhabited areas, before anything faintly dangerous
          > occurs.)
          >
          > A lesson that can be drawn from 2008 TC3 is that impact
          > threats of this sort are apt to be noticed and announced, though
          > not necessarily in any "official" manner. (I've revised my
          > Find_Orb software to make this sort of thing easier, and
          > there are probably at least a dozen people out there now who
          > could do exactly what Peter and I did. There's no real risk of
          > an impactor being "suppressed", though it might get overlooked.)
          >
          > I can think of two good reasons for an "official" procedure:
          >
          > (1) Suppose Peter and I had noticed that 2008 TC3
          > was going to hit a major city, and suppose it had been a
          > bigger rock? Are we supposed to call up the mayor of
          > Alma-Ata, or Montevideo, trying to explain that a big
          > rock is about to hit their city? Something tells me that
          > wouldn't be very productive.
          >
          > (2) I don't check NEOCP religiously, and Peter probably
          > doesn't either. Even if you add in the others who might
          > possibly notice such an event, something might slip by us
          > (and quite possibly has, at some point over the past few years).
          >
          > I don't know when Peter noticed this, but my prediction was
          > later than you'd ideally wish. My MPML post on the subject was
          > made at 13:54 UT on 6 October, simply because that's about when
          > I noticed it on NEOCP. But the necessary data must have been on
          > NEOCP by 8:17 UT; that's when James McGaha got confirming data
          > from (854) Sabino Hills. (With just the data before then, it's
          > still a likely impact, with the nominal impact a few hours late
          > and a thousand km too far west.) You could lose an object like
          > this very quickly, and its motion at discovery didn't look
          > all that unusual; you'd have to compute an orbit to realize that
          > it was an impactor.
          >
          > -- Bill
          >
          > ------------------------------------
          >
          > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          >
          > Posts to this list or information found within may be freely
          > used, with the stipulation that MPML and the originating author
          > are cited as the source of the information.Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
        • P. Clay Sherrod
          Ahh.... I forgot that Monday morning quarterbacking is an American pastime, best pursued during office hours by a water cooler discussing what could have
          Message 4 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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            Ahh....
            I forgot that Monday morning quarterbacking is an American pastime, best
            pursued during office hours by a water cooler discussing what "could have
            been", "should have been" and how the participants in the discussion would
            have done things differently.

            This, of course, applies to NEO alerts to the general public just as it
            would to the outcome of a football game: everyone will have the correct
            answer AFTER the fact.

            Clay
            _____
            Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
            Arkansas Sky Observatories
            MPC H45 - Petit Jean Mountain South
            MPC H41 - Petit Jean Mountain
            MPC H43 - Conway West
            http://www.arksky.org/

            ----- Original Message -----
            From: "Roger Dymock" <roger.dymock@...>
            To: "'P. Clay Sherrod'" <drclay@...>
            Cc: "'Asteroid mpml'" <mpml@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 1:20 PM
            Subject: RE: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat


            > Thanks for the replies so far. For the sake of us who don't play American
            > football what is 'Monday morning quarterbacking' ? Passing the buck or
            > covering you know what ?
            >
            > Regards
            >
            > Roger Dymock
            > Web Site Manager, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section, British
            > Astronomical
            > Association
            > Email: roger.dymock@...
            > Tel: 023 92647986
            > MPC Observatory Code: 940
            > BAA ARPS website: http://www.britastro.org/asteroids/
            >
            > -----Original Message-----
            > From: P. Clay Sherrod [mailto:drclay@...]
            > Sent: 03 January 2009 13:45
            > To: Roger Dymock
            > Cc: Asteroid mpml
            > Subject: Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat
            >
            > None at all so far as I am aware. In fact the last time we had a "scare"
            > there was considerable Monday morning quarterbacking as to why it was not
            > handled differently than it was. Other than "run for the hills" there
            > seems
            >
            > to be very little protocol that has been agreed upon, _including_
            > notifying
            > the public of any potential threat that might affect them.
            >
            > Clay
            > _____
            > Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
            > Arkansas Sky Observatories
            > MPC H45 - Petit Jean Mountain South
            > MPC H41 - Petit Jean Mountain
            > MPC H43 - Conway West
            > http://www.arksky.org/
            >
            >
            >
            > ----- Original Message -----
            > From: "Roger Dymock" <roger.dymock@...>
            > To: <mpml@yahoogroups.com>
            > Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 5:57 AM
            > Subject: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat
            >
            >
            >> Does any kind of international protocol exist for dealing with
            >> potential impacts ? For example how such an event might be announced to
            >> the general public ?
            >>
            >>
            >> ------------------------------------
            >>
            >> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            >>
            >> Posts to this list or information found within may be freely used, with
            >> the stipulation that MPML and the originating author are cited as the
            >> source of the information.Yahoo! Groups Links
            >>
            >>
            >>
            >
            >
            > ------------------------------------
            >
            > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            >
            > Posts to this list or information found within may be freely used, with
            > the stipulation that MPML and the originating author are cited as the
            > source of the information.Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >
          • Roger Dymock
            Thanks for the replies so far. For the sake of us who don t play American football what is Monday morning quarterbacking ? Passing the buck or covering you
            Message 5 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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              Thanks for the replies so far. For the sake of us who don't play American
              football what is 'Monday morning quarterbacking' ? Passing the buck or
              covering you know what ?

              Regards

              Roger Dymock
              Web Site Manager, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section, British Astronomical
              Association
              Email: roger.dymock@...
              Tel: 023 92647986
              MPC Observatory Code: 940
              BAA ARPS website: http://www.britastro.org/asteroids/

              -----Original Message-----
              From: P. Clay Sherrod [mailto:drclay@...]
              Sent: 03 January 2009 13:45
              To: Roger Dymock
              Cc: Asteroid mpml
              Subject: Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat

              None at all so far as I am aware. In fact the last time we had a "scare"
              there was considerable Monday morning quarterbacking as to why it was not
              handled differently than it was. Other than "run for the hills" there seems

              to be very little protocol that has been agreed upon, _including_ notifying
              the public of any potential threat that might affect them.

              Clay
              _____
              Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
              Arkansas Sky Observatories
              MPC H45 - Petit Jean Mountain South
              MPC H41 - Petit Jean Mountain
              MPC H43 - Conway West
              http://www.arksky.org/



              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "Roger Dymock" <roger.dymock@...>
              To: <mpml@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 5:57 AM
              Subject: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat


              > Does any kind of international protocol exist for dealing with
              > potential impacts ? For example how such an event might be announced to
              > the general public ?
              >
              >
              > ------------------------------------
              >
              > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              >
              > Posts to this list or information found within may be freely used, with
              > the stipulation that MPML and the originating author are cited as the
              > source of the information.Yahoo! Groups Links
              >
              >
              >
            • Alan W Harris
              ... The question of an official procedure has a long, and I must say in some ways sordid, past. Following the first fiasco with 1997 XF11, the IAU set up a
              Message 6 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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                At 02:33 PM 1/3/2009, Bill J Gray wrote:
                >Hi Roger,
                >
                > I know of no "official" procedure for such an announcement.

                The question of an "official" procedure has a long, and I must say in some
                ways sordid, past. Following the first fiasco with 1997 XF11, the IAU set
                up a committee to evaluate claims, with the intention of keeping things
                secret for 72 hours before announcing anything. That "committee" more or
                less ended in fiasco almost the first time they were called into action
                when they were forced by their own rules to make an announcement only hours
                before new data came in and changed everything. Since then, the impact
                hazard community has learned a few things by paying attention to how other
                natural hazards are handled, that is, weather disasters, geophysical
                disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions), tsunami warnings, and so
                forth. We still have a way to go, but the topic is not without serious
                consideration, and will be discussed (again) at the next Planetary Defense
                Conference in April (http://www.congrex.nl/09c04/). At a previous such
                conference, held in Orange County, CA, Feb. 23-26, 2004, the question was
                raised about the proper protocol and authorities to notify if one needed to
                report a possible impact. We were told then that if an impending hazard
                would involve response by more than one federal agency (e.g., NASA and
                FEMA), then the overarching authority becomes (and I am not making this up)
                the Department of Homeland Security, and one should notify them. This led
                me to make up a hypothetical tale, intended to be humorous, about
                discovering something like 2008 TC3 on its way to impact the next day, and
                trying urgently to contact the DHS. Since most government offices are not
                staffed 24/7, I suggested that the way to contact DHS after hours might be
                to go to the nearest airport and discuss the matter with the security
                forces there. I then speculated over the kind of reception I might receive
                bearing such news to the airport security officers. Somehow, the intended
                humor was missed by the government officials in attendance, and a few days
                later I got a one-line email that contained only the following:

                From: "Hollingsworth, Kathleen" <Kathleen.Hollingsworth@...>
                To: Alan W Harris <harrisaw@...>,
                Clark Chapman <cchapman@...>
                Subject: DHS 24-hour emergency response phone number
                Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2004 19:29:36 -0500

                202-646-4500

                So now you know. The next time you find an asteroid on a collision course
                with the Earth, call the Department of Homeland Security at the above phone
                number (sorry, they can't afford a toll-free line). I'm sure your
                information will be warmly received.

                Cheers,

                Alan

                *******************************************************************
                Alan W. Harris
                Senior Research Scientist
                Space Science Institute
                4603 Orange Knoll Ave. Phone: 818-790-8291
                La Canada, CA 91011-3364 email: awharris@...
                *******************************************************************
              • P. Clay Sherrod
                Terrific.... Now we know that at least there will be trailers available after the fact. Clay _____ Dr. P. Clay Sherrod Arkansas Sky Observatories MPC H45 -
                Message 7 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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                  Terrific....
                  Now we know that at least there will be trailers available after the fact.

                  Clay
                  _____
                  Dr. P. Clay Sherrod
                  Arkansas Sky Observatories
                  MPC H45 - Petit Jean Mountain South
                  MPC H41 - Petit Jean Mountain
                  MPC H43 - Conway West
                  http://www.arksky.org/

                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "Alan W Harris" <awharris@...>
                  To: "Bill J Gray" <pluto@...>; "Roger Dymock"
                  <roger.dymock@...>
                  Cc: <mpml@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 1:28 PM
                  Subject: Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat


                  > At 02:33 PM 1/3/2009, Bill J Gray wrote:
                  >>Hi Roger,
                  >>
                  >> I know of no "official" procedure for such an announcement.
                  >
                  > The question of an "official" procedure has a long, and I must say in some
                  > ways sordid, past. Following the first fiasco with 1997 XF11, the IAU set
                  > up a committee to evaluate claims, with the intention of keeping things
                  > secret for 72 hours before announcing anything. That "committee" more or
                  > less ended in fiasco almost the first time they were called into action
                  > when they were forced by their own rules to make an announcement only
                  > hours
                  > before new data came in and changed everything. Since then, the impact
                  > hazard community has learned a few things by paying attention to how other
                  > natural hazards are handled, that is, weather disasters, geophysical
                  > disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions), tsunami warnings, and so
                  > forth. We still have a way to go, but the topic is not without serious
                  > consideration, and will be discussed (again) at the next Planetary Defense
                  > Conference in April (http://www.congrex.nl/09c04/). At a previous such
                  > conference, held in Orange County, CA, Feb. 23-26, 2004, the question was
                  > raised about the proper protocol and authorities to notify if one needed
                  > to
                  > report a possible impact. We were told then that if an impending hazard
                  > would involve response by more than one federal agency (e.g., NASA and
                  > FEMA), then the overarching authority becomes (and I am not making this
                  > up)
                  > the Department of Homeland Security, and one should notify them. This led
                  > me to make up a hypothetical tale, intended to be humorous, about
                  > discovering something like 2008 TC3 on its way to impact the next day, and
                  > trying urgently to contact the DHS. Since most government offices are not
                  > staffed 24/7, I suggested that the way to contact DHS after hours might be
                  > to go to the nearest airport and discuss the matter with the security
                  > forces there. I then speculated over the kind of reception I might receive
                  > bearing such news to the airport security officers. Somehow, the intended
                  > humor was missed by the government officials in attendance, and a few days
                  > later I got a one-line email that contained only the following:
                  >
                  > From: "Hollingsworth, Kathleen" <Kathleen.Hollingsworth@...>
                  > To: Alan W Harris <harrisaw@...>,
                  > Clark Chapman <cchapman@...>
                  > Subject: DHS 24-hour emergency response phone number
                  > Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2004 19:29:36 -0500
                  >
                  > 202-646-4500
                  >
                  > So now you know. The next time you find an asteroid on a collision course
                  > with the Earth, call the Department of Homeland Security at the above
                  > phone
                  > number (sorry, they can't afford a toll-free line). I'm sure your
                  > information will be warmly received.
                  >
                  > Cheers,
                  >
                  > Alan
                  >
                  > *******************************************************************
                  > Alan W. Harris
                  > Senior Research Scientist
                  > Space Science Institute
                  > 4603 Orange Knoll Ave. Phone: 818-790-8291
                  > La Canada, CA 91011-3364 email: awharris@...
                  > *******************************************************************
                  >
                  >
                  > ------------------------------------
                  >
                  > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  >
                  > Posts to this list or information found within may be freely used, with
                  > the stipulation that MPML and the originating author are cited as the
                  > source of the information.Yahoo! Groups Links
                  >
                  >
                  >
                • Rik Hill
                  Looking back with 20-20 hindsight.
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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                    Looking back with 20-20 hindsight.


                    Roger Dymock wrote:
                    > Thanks for the replies so far. For the sake of us who don't play American
                    > football what is 'Monday morning quarterbacking' ? Passing the buck or
                    > covering you know what ?
                    >
                    > Regards
                  • Alain Maury
                    Scarry message, wasn t the FEMA, the department of homeland security and so on the people who were in charge during the Katrina hurricane ? Wow... But don t
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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                      Scarry message, wasn't the FEMA, the department of homeland security and so
                      on the people who were in charge during the Katrina hurricane ?
                      Wow...
                      But don't worry, it would have been worse anyway in many other places of the
                      world. Then again, americans should be worried, because as you know
                      asteroids always fall on Manhattan.
                      Alain

                      > -----Original Message-----
                      > From: mpml@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mpml@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of
                      > Alan W Harris
                      > Sent: samedi 3 janvier 2009 16:28
                      > To: Bill J Gray; Roger Dymock
                      > Cc: mpml@yahoogroups.com
                      > Subject: Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat
                      >
                      >
                      > At 02:33 PM 1/3/2009, Bill J Gray wrote:
                      > >Hi Roger,
                      > >
                      > > I know of no "official" procedure for such an announcement.
                      >
                      > The question of an "official" procedure has a long, and I must
                      > say in some
                      > ways sordid, past. Following the first fiasco with 1997 XF11,
                      > the IAU set
                      > up a committee to evaluate claims, with the intention of keeping things
                      > secret for 72 hours before announcing anything. That "committee" more or
                      > less ended in fiasco almost the first time they were called into action
                      > when they were forced by their own rules to make an announcement
                      > only hours
                      > before new data came in and changed everything. Since then, the impact
                      > hazard community has learned a few things by paying attention to
                      > how other
                      > natural hazards are handled, that is, weather disasters, geophysical
                      > disasters (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions), tsunami warnings, and so
                      > forth. We still have a way to go, but the topic is not without serious
                      > consideration, and will be discussed (again) at the next
                      > Planetary Defense
                      > Conference in April (http://www.congrex.nl/09c04/). At a previous such
                      > conference, held in Orange County, CA, Feb. 23-26, 2004, the question was
                      > raised about the proper protocol and authorities to notify if one
                      > needed to
                      > report a possible impact. We were told then that if an impending hazard
                      > would involve response by more than one federal agency (e.g., NASA and
                      > FEMA), then the overarching authority becomes (and I am not
                      > making this up)
                      > the Department of Homeland Security, and one should notify them.
                      > This led
                      > me to make up a hypothetical tale, intended to be humorous, about
                      > discovering something like 2008 TC3 on its way to impact the next
                      > day, and
                      > trying urgently to contact the DHS. Since most government
                      > offices are not
                      > staffed 24/7, I suggested that the way to contact DHS after hours
                      > might be
                      > to go to the nearest airport and discuss the matter with the security
                      > forces there. I then speculated over the kind of reception I
                      > might receive
                      > bearing such news to the airport security officers. Somehow, the
                      > intended
                      > humor was missed by the government officials in attendance, and a
                      > few days
                      > later I got a one-line email that contained only the following:
                      >
                      > From: "Hollingsworth, Kathleen" <Kathleen.Hollingsworth@...>
                      > To: Alan W Harris <harrisaw@...>,
                      > Clark Chapman <cchapman@...>
                      > Subject: DHS 24-hour emergency response phone number
                      > Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2004 19:29:36 -0500
                      >
                      > 202-646-4500
                      >
                      > So now you know. The next time you find an asteroid on a
                      > collision course
                      > with the Earth, call the Department of Homeland Security at the
                      > above phone
                      > number (sorry, they can't afford a toll-free line). I'm sure your
                      > information will be warmly received.
                      >
                      > Cheers,
                      >
                      > Alan
                      >
                      > *******************************************************************
                      > Alan W. Harris
                      > Senior Research Scientist
                      > Space Science Institute
                      > 4603 Orange Knoll Ave. Phone: 818-790-8291
                      > La Canada, CA 91011-3364 email: awharris@...
                      > *******************************************************************
                      >
                      >
                      > ------------------------------------
                      >
                      > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      >
                      > Posts to this list or information found within may be freely
                      > used, with the stipulation that MPML and the originating author
                      > are cited as the source of the information.Yahoo! Groups Links
                      >
                      >
                      >
                    • Bill J Gray
                      Hi Roger, I know of no official procedure for such an announcement. With apologies for a somewhat long post: I see two cases here: the Apophis case, where
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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                        Hi Roger,

                        I know of no "official" procedure for such an announcement.
                        With apologies for a somewhat long post:

                        I see two cases here: the Apophis case, where the possible
                        impacts are years/decades away (and usually involve really big
                        rocks capable of destroying entire countries or Ending Life As
                        We Know It); and the 2008 TC3 case, where the possible impact
                        is hours or days away (and, were it somewhat bigger than 2008
                        TC3 actually was, might destroy or damage a city).

                        We already know how the first case would currently be handled:
                        the folks at JPL, and/or Andrea Milani's group, or the MPC,
                        would compute an impact probability and encourage more observations.
                        You can argue about the merits and demerits of this, and sometimes
                        the announcements might be better worded; but that does seem to
                        be the current procedure. There have been plenty of such cases,
                        with some flaws detected and (mostly) ironed out. I'm not worried
                        that an impact will be undetected, or suppressed, or drastically
                        hyped (though some would question that last!)

                        The 2008 TC3 case is somewhat more worrying to me. Peter
                        Birtwhistle and I independently determined that TC3 was a likely
                        impactor. I'm not sure how Peter did this. I did it by looking
                        on NEOCP, and seeing an ephemeris that showed small motion for
                        about 17 hours, followed by tremendous motion, followed by
                        small motion; obviously a close fly-by.

                        So I downloaded the astrometry, ran some Monte Carlo variants,
                        and made a post on MPML announcing that we had a high-probability
                        bolide heading our way. Peter notified MPC directly (and in
                        hindsight, I should have notified both MPC _and_ MPML.)
                        I then had to go out for a few hours to do a bit of programming
                        work, but various people got astrometry and posts were made on
                        MPML with impact lat/lon predictions by Reiner Stoss, Andrew Lowe,
                        and Aldo Vitagliano.

                        I don't know if anyone else made the impact prediction
                        independently. I hope so, but I think JPL and the Andrea Milani
                        group check designated objects for future impacts (the Apophis
                        cases), not these 2008 TC3 cases. I don't know if the MPC software
                        would automatically notice the likely impact scenario. (Though
                        I'd not be surprised if all three organizations improved their
                        capabilities for short-term impact predictions after 2008 TC3. I
                        certainly did!)

                        In some ways, the 2008 TC3 cases may be more important than
                        the Apophis cases. They're much more likely to happen, _and_
                        we have some concept of how to defend against them ("something
                        is about to hit your city; better go to another city"). And,
                        of course, even the ones that can't destroy anything (or hit
                        over water) can give us some useful scientific data. (And you
                        can bet we'll collect a slew of bolides, plus a few big splashes
                        and hits in uninhabited areas, before anything faintly dangerous
                        occurs.)

                        A lesson that can be drawn from 2008 TC3 is that impact
                        threats of this sort are apt to be noticed and announced, though
                        not necessarily in any "official" manner. (I've revised my
                        Find_Orb software to make this sort of thing easier, and
                        there are probably at least a dozen people out there now who
                        could do exactly what Peter and I did. There's no real risk of
                        an impactor being "suppressed", though it might get overlooked.)

                        I can think of two good reasons for an "official" procedure:

                        (1) Suppose Peter and I had noticed that 2008 TC3
                        was going to hit a major city, and suppose it had been a
                        bigger rock? Are we supposed to call up the mayor of
                        Alma-Ata, or Montevideo, trying to explain that a big
                        rock is about to hit their city? Something tells me that
                        wouldn't be very productive.

                        (2) I don't check NEOCP religiously, and Peter probably
                        doesn't either. Even if you add in the others who might
                        possibly notice such an event, something might slip by us
                        (and quite possibly has, at some point over the past few years).

                        I don't know when Peter noticed this, but my prediction was
                        later than you'd ideally wish. My MPML post on the subject was
                        made at 13:54 UT on 6 October, simply because that's about when
                        I noticed it on NEOCP. But the necessary data must have been on
                        NEOCP by 8:17 UT; that's when James McGaha got confirming data
                        from (854) Sabino Hills. (With just the data before then, it's
                        still a likely impact, with the nominal impact a few hours late
                        and a thousand km too far west.) You could lose an object like
                        this very quickly, and its motion at discovery didn't look
                        all that unusual; you'd have to compute an orbit to realize that
                        it was an impactor.

                        -- Bill
                      • John Mahony
                        ... Nothing formal as far as I know. If there s something potentially dangerous out there, you ll usually here it here first, and there are science
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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                          ----- Original Message ----

                          > From: Roger Dymock <roger.dymock@...>
                          >
                          > Does any kind of international protocol exist for dealing with
                          > potential impacts ? For example how such an event might be announced to
                          > the general public ?

                          Nothing formal as far as I know. If there's something potentially dangerous out there, you'll usually
                          here it here first, and there are science journalists who follow this site, so "public notice" usually comes from them. In fact there have been at least a few cases where
                          a newly discovered object wasn't even noticed to be a possible impactor
                          until after the MPC's computers put it on the NEOCP, and someone here noticed
                          it looked dangerous. I think after AL00667 in early 2004
                          <http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/mpml/message/11316>
                          where the nominal NEOCP orbit implied a direct impact in only about 24 hours, but that fact wasn't noticed until it was pointed out by an amateur here, the MPC changed their proceedures to check for things like that first.

                          Of course the first few media stories often didn't include the important info that the "predictions" at the time were based on extremely preliminary measurements of brand "new" (and often tiny) objects, which usually already had only a very low probablility of actual impact. And it usually only took another day or so for more observations to reduce that small probablility to virtually zero. So after several such "scare stories" in the media, the Torino scale was refined to include info on whether an object deserves attention from the public, or government officials.

                          -John
                        • John Mahony
                          ... I don t check the NEOCP regularly either. The observatory I use is a public observatory a half-hour drive out of town, and as an amateur I don t get paid
                          Message 12 of 14 , Jan 3, 2009
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                            ----- Original Message ----

                            > From: Bill J Gray <pluto@...>
                            >
                            > (2) I don't check NEOCP religiously, and Peter probably
                            > doesn't either. Even if you add in the others who might
                            > possibly notice such an event, something might slip by us
                            > (and quite possibly has, at some point over the past few years).

                            I don't check the NEOCP regularly either. The observatory I use is a public observatory a half-hour drive out of town, and as an amateur I don't get paid or even reimbursed for gas, so I only check the NEOCP when I'm already planning to make the trip- normally on clear nights near the new moon. I've noticed that NEOCP objects fall into two general categories- objects with odd motion, so they _might_ be an NEO- or maybe not- and even if they are, that object and the earth probably won't be near each other in the same place in space anytime in the near future (for many years, if ever), and objects (usually small), which are making a close pass "right now" (+/- a day or two). After AL00667, I recall that the MPC changed their procedures to check for objects where there was a chance of impact in the very near future. Maybe they could send an automated notice to MPML when a critical object comes up, rather than relying on other MPML members to notice such
                            an object and mention it here. I get MPML via email and check my email far more regularly than I do the NEOCP.

                            -John
                          • Roger Dymock
                            Thanks again for all you replies. I guess the process could be summarized thus; 1) Discover NEO 2) Confirm discovery 3) Compute orbit 4) Compute chance of
                            Message 13 of 14 , Jan 5, 2009
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                              Thanks again for all you replies. I guess the process could be summarized
                              thus;
                              1) Discover NEO
                              2) Confirm discovery
                              3) Compute orbit
                              4) Compute chance of impact
                              5a) If no - end
                              5b) If yes then the situation might be summed up by the lady at the car
                              rental desk in a certain film starring Steve Martin

                              Happy Thanksgiving

                              Roger Dymock
                              Web Site Manager, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section, British Astronomical
                              Association
                              Email: roger.dymock@...
                              Tel: 023 92647986
                              MPC Observatory Code: 940
                              BAA ARPS website: http://www.britastro.org/asteroids/
                              -----Original Message-----
                              From: mpml@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mpml@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of John
                              Mahony
                              Sent: 04 January 2009 03:25
                              To: Bill J Gray; Roger Dymock
                              Cc: mpml@yahoogroups.com
                              Subject: [SPAM]Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat

                              ----- Original Message ----

                              > From: Bill J Gray <pluto@...>
                              >
                              > (2) I don't check NEOCP religiously, and Peter probably
                              > doesn't either. Even if you add in the others who might
                              > possibly notice such an event, something might slip by us
                              > (and quite possibly has, at some point over the past few years).

                              I don't check the NEOCP regularly either. The observatory I use is a public
                              observatory a half-hour drive out of town, and as an amateur I don't get
                              paid or even reimbursed for gas, so I only check the NEOCP when I'm already
                              planning to make the trip- normally on clear nights near the new moon. I've
                              noticed that NEOCP objects fall into two general categories- objects with
                              odd motion, so they _might_ be an NEO- or maybe not- and even if they are,
                              that object and the earth probably won't be near each other in the same
                              place in space anytime in the near future (for many years, if ever), and
                              objects (usually small), which are making a close pass "right now" (+/- a
                              day or two). After AL00667, I recall that the MPC changed their procedures
                              to check for objects where there was a chance of impact in the very near
                              future. Maybe they could send an automated notice to MPML when a critical
                              object comes up, rather than relying on other MPML members to notice such
                              an object and mention it here. I get MPML via email and check my email far
                              more regularly than I do the NEOCP.

                              -John
                            • Michael Schwartz
                              5b had me laughing at my desk at at 7:00am. Thanks for a good start to the day! Michael Schwartz Tenagra Observatories ... From: Roger Dymock To: John
                              Message 14 of 14 , Jan 5, 2009
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                                5b had me laughing at my desk at at 7:00am. Thanks for a good start to the day!

                                Michael Schwartz
                                Tenagra Observatories

                                ----- Original Message -----
                                From: Roger Dymock
                                To: 'John Mahony' ; 'Bill J Gray'
                                Cc: mpml@yahoogroups.com
                                Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 07:09
                                Subject: RE: [SPAM]Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat


                                Thanks again for all you replies. I guess the process could be summarized
                                thus;
                                1) Discover NEO
                                2) Confirm discovery
                                3) Compute orbit
                                4) Compute chance of impact
                                5a) If no - end
                                5b) If yes then the situation might be summed up by the lady at the car
                                rental desk in a certain film starring Steve Martin

                                Happy Thanksgiving

                                Roger Dymock
                                Web Site Manager, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section, British Astronomical
                                Association
                                Email: roger.dymock@...
                                Tel: 023 92647986
                                MPC Observatory Code: 940
                                BAA ARPS website: http://www.britastro.org/asteroids/
                                -----Original Message-----
                                From: mpml@yahoogroups.com [mailto:mpml@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of John
                                Mahony
                                Sent: 04 January 2009 03:25
                                To: Bill J Gray; Roger Dymock
                                Cc: mpml@yahoogroups.com
                                Subject: [SPAM]Re: {MPML} Asteroid impact threat

                                ----- Original Message ----

                                > From: Bill J Gray <pluto@...>
                                >
                                > (2) I don't check NEOCP religiously, and Peter probably
                                > doesn't either. Even if you add in the others who might
                                > possibly notice such an event, something might slip by us
                                > (and quite possibly has, at some point over the past few years).

                                I don't check the NEOCP regularly either. The observatory I use is a public
                                observatory a half-hour drive out of town, and as an amateur I don't get
                                paid or even reimbursed for gas, so I only check the NEOCP when I'm already
                                planning to make the trip- normally on clear nights near the new moon. I've
                                noticed that NEOCP objects fall into two general categories- objects with
                                odd motion, so they _might_ be an NEO- or maybe not- and even if they are,
                                that object and the earth probably won't be near each other in the same
                                place in space anytime in the near future (for many years, if ever), and
                                objects (usually small), which are making a close pass "right now" (+/- a
                                day or two). After AL00667, I recall that the MPC changed their procedures
                                to check for objects where there was a chance of impact in the very near
                                future. Maybe they could send an automated notice to MPML when a critical
                                object comes up, rather than relying on other MPML members to notice such
                                an object and mention it here. I get MPML via email and check my email far
                                more regularly than I do the NEOCP.

                                -John






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