I am not averse to
generating a little alarm. For the case of impacts upon
the Earth, a little alarm is what is needed. Arthur C. Clarke
Colombo, Sri Lanka
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:
Learn what you can learn;
do what you can do;
and take what comfort you can in this.
About Marshall Masters
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
Marshall is also an active member of the
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
represent the heightened tension levels in between the other two
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
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
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
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
Chapman and Morrison take the
sensible step of defining what they would consider to be a
globally catastrophic impact. This would be an impact that,
destroys 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
So what is the probability of an
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
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 -
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. Frank Baldwin
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
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
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
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
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 equilibrium." 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
Greek philosopher Plato,
writing his book Timaeus in the fourth century BC,
related information from earlier Egyptian records when he spoke
...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 conflagration... 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. Duncan Steel
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
Stonehenge I and The Taurid Meteor
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
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
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?"
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.
The picture at right, 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
Plummeting Towards Earth The estimated
size of the Tunguska asteroid varies from 30 meters to 120 meters
depending on the
assumed density of the asteroid and whoever is making the estimate.
assessment is that the asteroid was made of solid rock,
and that it had a
diameter of no less than 50 meters.
20 Megaton Airburst During
decent, ablation heated the asteroid to approximately 10,000° C,
and caused it to
detonate at an altitude of approximately 6 to 10 kilometers above
The estimated energy
released was between 10-50 megatons. The prevailing figure is 20
Global Consequences The
airbust devastated 2,200 square kilometers of forest,
and well as 30% to
50% of the ozone layer over the Northern hemisphere.
Although the Earth soon regenerated the ozone, the average
temperature of the Northern hemisphere was one or two degrees colder
for several years thereafter.
Did the Tunguska Catastrophe Go
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
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
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
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
ground-burst. Studies of nuclear explosions have proved that
airbursts are more destructive than ground-bursts.
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
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
"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 +
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
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
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
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
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
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
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..."
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 exo-atmospheric kill vehicle."
Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle
Ever since we published that report, we at The Millennium Group
have been scratching our heads. Just what is an "exo-atmospheric
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.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 1999 19:48:18
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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
"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 - COLOMBIA
Aug. 17, 1999 - TURKEY
Sept. 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
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
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
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.
Object B 400% Magnification
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
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
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
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?
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.
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
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. Duncan Steel
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
Worse yet, we cannot get the answers from those who know the truth.
And without truth, there can be no real destiny!