Sunday, 24 September 2017

‘Thousands of people could die’: 70,000 in Puerto Rico urged to evacuate with dam in ‘imminent’ danger

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Tens of thousands of residents in northwestern Puerto Rico were ordered to evacuate Friday amid fears that a dam holding back a large inland lake was in imminent danger of failing because of damage from Hurricane Maria's floodwaters.
Officials worried that as many as 70,000 people could be in the path of a massive amount of rushing water in the event the Guajataca Dam releases into the Guajataca River, which flows north through low-lying coastal communities and empties into the ocean.
The dam suffered a "fissure," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said in a news conference Friday afternoon. Residents in the municipalities of Quebradillas, Isabela and part of San Sebastian could be affected if the dam collapses, he said, and it could be a catastrophic event.
"To those citizens … who are listening: Please evacuate," Rosselló said. Buses were sent to ferry residents out of harm's way. "We want your life to be protected … Please, if you're listening, the time to evacuate is now."
Abner Gomez, executive director of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency, said in an interview late Friday night that the dam's gates suffered mechanical damage during the storm, making it impossible for them to open and let out normal water currents. Officials worry that could cause the dam to spill over.
Gomez said that under current conditions, with water rising after the hurricane, "there is no way to fix it" right now. Additional water flowing into the lake could create sudden dangers, so emergency evacuation was the only option, he said. If the dam tops over or fails structurally, he said, "thousands of people could die."
The urgent situation Friday came more than 48 hours after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico's southeastern coast as the most powerful storm to strike the island in more than 80 years. It was a reminder that Maria's impact on Puerto Rico is far from over; officials still have little sense of the scope of the damage the island sustained as a communications and power blackout continued to affect nearly everyone in the U.S. territory.
Gomez characterized Maria as "one of the greatest natural disasters" in recent U.S. history, comparing it to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The destruction in some parts of the island "looked more like a tornado than a hurricane," he said. Rescue and recovery could take months, he said, and a "return to normalcy" could take at least a year.
Authorities on Friday reported six deaths across the island. Three of the fatalities occurred in the municipality of Utuado as a result of mudslides, Puerto Rico's public safety department said in a statement. Two others died in flooding in Toa Baja, and one other person died in Bayamón when a panel struck him in the head. More deaths are likely to be reported in coming days as search and rescue crews reach previously inaccessible areas, officials said.
"We are aware of other reports of fatalities that have transpired by unofficial means but we cannot confirm them," said Héctor M. Pesquera, secretary of the public safety department.
Though damage assessments have been nearly impossible, early reports reveal an island ravaged by Maria's high winds and torrential rains, with roofs peeled open like tin cans, neighbourhoods waterlogged, and trees that were lush just days ago now completely stripped bare of leaves. The hurricane ploughed through the entire 100-mile island, with the eye tracking diagonally from the southeast to the northwest.
A home destroyed in Naguabo, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
"Every vulnerable house here made out of wood was completely or partially destroyed during the path of the eye of the hurricane," Rossello said of an island where many homes are constructed of wood foundations and zinc roofs. "Puerto Rico has endured a horrific ordeal."
The lack of communications has isolated rural areas of the island. Just 15 percent of the island's communication towers are working, and some of the island's transmission towers have collapsed. Up to 85 percent of its fibre cables are damaged.
Power remains completely out on the island, and just 25 percent of it has water service.
Shock has given way to frayed nerves as officials warned that it could be months before power is restored to some areas, and there is no indication of when communications infrastructure will be fixed. In the capital, streets were choked with traffic as people tried to find loved ones and spent hours waiting in line for gas.
Aerial view of the devastation at Palma Real Shopping Center in Humacao, a municipality on the east side of Puerto Rico. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
The De La Cruz family could not find fuel on Thursday. On Friday morning they waited in line for six hours at one of the open stations here, and there were still 20 cars in front of them. Gabriel De La Cruz and his wife, Luisa, took turns fanning their 1-year-old son, Ismael, who sat sweating in the hot car, wearing only a diaper.
"This is all we have," De La Cruz, a 30-year-old restaurant cook, said of the car. They lost their home and all their belongings in the storm.
Residents searching for loved ones in remote areas met downed trees, power lines and other debris. The news was particularly scarce from the southern and central parts of the island, as well the tiny island of Vieques to the east.
"Even worse than not having power or water, which we've unfortunately become accustomed to, a communications blackout was the real anxiety-inducing feature … we haven't really dealt with it before," said Miguel A. Soto-Class, president of the Center for a New Economy, a San Juan-based think tank. "Are people dead and suffering or are people like we are, bruised but fine? The not knowing part is just terrible."
The line outside a supermarket in San Juan snakes around the building Friday morning as supplies were in high demand. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
Soto-Class stood on the roof of his home, the only place where he could get a cellphone signal, as Coast Guard helicopters buzzed overhead. He has not been able to get in touch with family on the island's west coast and considered driving to find them. He abandoned the plan after realizing he does not know the condition of the roads.
Puerto Rico, with 3.5 million U.S. citizens, also is facing a crisis because of its geography: It is an island dependent on air and sea for supplies and volunteers. The immediate response that occurred after Hurricane Harvey in Houston, where volunteers from Louisiana headed in during the storm, or during Hurricane Irma in Florida, where utility trucks were pre-positioned to turn on the power, is impossible here.
Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage to Puerto Rico. Drone footage captured the scene in San Juan and Canóvanas on Sept. 21. (The Washington Post)
"It's not like you can just drive a tractor-trailer," said Melissa Mark-Viverito, the Puerto Rican-born president of the New York City Council. "That adds a whole other layer of logistical challenge to it."
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) flew here Friday, bringing 34,000 bottles of water and nearly 10,000 Meals Ready to Eat.
Photos are taken from a helicopter surveying the damage in the southeast part of the island, encompassing an area that on a good day would be a two-hour drive from the capital of San Juan, show entire neighbourhoods blanketed in murky water. Tops of buildings were sliced open, their rooms visible like dollhouses.
A building on a coastal luxury resort, once with enviable ocean views, is now partially floating over the open air as rocks and mud crumbled under one corner and fell into the sea. Windmills broke and shattered, and solar panels shone like mirrors.
The enormity of what they had just been through — and what was yet to come — appeared to be sinking in for many people, including those who considered themselves hurricane-hardened.
A destroyed group of houses in Juncos, Puerto Rico, as seen Friday from the air. (Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post)
"This storm was something," said Geraldo Ramirez, 36, a resident of San Juan's La Perla neighbourhood. "I was here for Hurricane Georges back in '98, and that was hard to believe, how badly it affected the island. But this, Maria, was something altogether different."
Ramirez lives in a small three-story purple house near the waterfront on Calle San Miguel with his sister, her husband and their two children. His house, a sturdy cinder-block structure, was built 17 years ago and did not suffer much structural damage. But rain and ocean water managed to find its way into every room.
Asked when the power would likely return to his small neighbourhood, he answered, without hesitating, "Three or four months, at least. Maybe six."
"But it's okay, we will make do," he said. "We are used to it and it's always the same. Georges, Hugo, we lose power and we lose water. But we know how to survive."
Leaning against the wall of his carport in his light blue one-story home in coastal Loiza, Jorge Diaz, 72, had only one thing on his mind: his brothers and his sister, and how one day soon he would be with them in Orlando.
"There's only one thing I'm waiting for," he said. "The airport to open."
"I just heard on the radio, eight months without electricity and water?" Diaz said. "That's unreasonable. You can't live like this … It's a dark time now. A dark time for Puerto Rico."
One block down and across the street, Lizmarie Bultron, 39, trudged through the calf-high water to exit her home, about a block away from the beach.
"Everything I had is gone. I lost my whole house, the only thing left is the floor," Bultron said. She looked at her feet, still ankle-deep in water. "And this, this water won't be gone for at least a month. All we can do is wait. Wait for help to come. That's the only choice. But no one has come yet. Not FEMA, not anyone."
Aerial photos of the destruction in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria
The hurricane brought 160 mph winds to the island, leaving at least six dead.
Cassady reported from Loiza, Puerto Rico; Somashekhar and Zezima reported from Washington. Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo in San Juan and Jesse Mesner-Hage in Washington contributed to this report

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tit for tat: we're on the war path; not that we weren't: South Korea fires ballistic missiles in response to North's latest test launch.

09:08 15.09.2017(updated 13:46 15.09.2017)Get short URL
Two Hyunmoo-2 missiles were launched from a site near the inter-Korean border six minutes after the North fired a missile from the Sunan district of Pyongyang, Yonhap reported Friday citing the South Korean military.
One of the South Korean missiles "accurately hit" a simulated target in the East Sea some 250 kilometers away, according to a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official. The other fell into water during the initial stage of the flight.
According to the report, the launch was performed while the North Korean missile was still in the air. The South Korean Defense Ministry explained that it was able to make an on-the-fly response because it had detected the North’s preparation for a launch in advance.
Earlier in the day, it was reported that had Pyongyang launched another missile, the 15th North Korean missile test this year.
The unidentified projectile was heading east, according to published reports, after leaving the launch pad around 6:57 a.m. local time. The missile flew for about 20 minutes until falling into the Pacific Ocean at 7:16 a.m. about 2,000 kilometres east of Hokkaido, NHK reported citing Japanese government officials.
The South Korean Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reports that American and South Korean personnel are currently investigating the details of the launch.
The new North Korean missile launch came just days after the UN Security Council approved sanctions against Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear program. On September 3, the North conducted its most powerful ever nuclear test, which many believe to be an H-bomb

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Is someone looking after us?

The Small Comets Frequently Asked Questions List *
Version 3.0 April 9, 1999
On this page we answer the most commonly asked questions about small comets. This FAQ will be regularly updated. More information on the small comets is available in the original discovery papers  and the Replies to Comments that appeared in Geophysical Research Letters, and in The Big Splash by Louis A. Frank with Patrick Huyghe, published in 1990 by Birch Lane Press.
What is the difference between these small comets and the large comets like Hale-Bopp and Halley's?
The small comets are a million times smaller than these more famous comets. The small comets also contain little dust and lack the iron and other metals necessary to make them glow brightly and produce a tail like the larger comets. But what they have in common--and the reason they were dubbed "small comets" in the first place--is that they are both largely made of water.
Why haven't the space shuttle and our satellites been hit by these small comets?
In low Earth orbit, where the space shuttle flies, astronauts can expect to run into the cometary water clouds from the small comets once in every 200 orbits. At the shuttle's altitude a small comet has already disintegrated in a cloud; it is no longer a solid object and the collision with a cloud is benign. So the astronauts have probably flown through these things and not known it. But at high altitudes, an impact of a spacecraft with a small comet would be disastrous. Since these comets are small and the collision frequency is low, an average-sized spacecraft would only be struck once in every 50,000 years or so. This means that one spacecraft in every thousand will be struck in high Earth orbit every 50 years. Has it happened yet? No one knows. But some spacecraft have been lost and no one knows why.
Why hasn't the Spacewatch Telescope seen the small comets?
It has. In 1988, Clayne Yeates, the late Jet Propulsion Laboratory physicist and science manager for the Galileo project, used the Spacewatch Telescope in a "skeet shooting" mode to obtain some stunning optical images of very faint streaks from the small comets. The objects he photographed had the same motion in orbit, the same speed, and were about the size, darkness, and frequency as the atmospheric holes themselves, or could be deduced from the known characteristics of atmospheric holes. [ L.A. Frank, J.B. Sigwarth, and C.M. Yeates, "A Search for Small Solar-System Bodies Near the Earth Using a Ground-Based Telescope: Technique and Observations," Astronomy & Astrophysics, 228, 522, February 1990.]
How long have the small comets been bombarding the Earth?
We do not know. But if the present influx of small comets is assumed to be true for the past 4.5 billion years as well, then the small comets may be responsible for all the water in the oceans and in our atmosphere.

In the spring of 1999 some scientists concluded that the Earth's water probably did not come from comets. So how could the small comets be responsible for the water in the Earth's oceans?

The possibility that the water in our oceans is due to an influx of large comets during the early history of our planet has been quite popular among many scientists until recently. But things have changed now that we can remotely determine the amount of deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, in these well-known large comets. These remarkable measurements have shown that the fraction of deuterium relative to that for hydrogen in the large comets is inconsistently high relative to that in our oceans. That is, the large comets cannot be the source of our oceans because this hydrogen "fingerprint" does not match. And because some scientists view the small comets as simply miniature versions of the large comets , they have concluded that the hydrogen fingerprint of the small comets is similarly inconsistent as the source of water in our oceans. But this conclusion is not necessarily correct because the small comets have already been shown to be much different in composition than the large comets. Measurements by the Polar spacecraft have shown that there is little dust and sodium in the small comets compared to the large comets. Thus the contents of the small comets greatly differ from those of large comets and there is no reason to conclude that the hydrogen fingerprints of these two classes of solar system objects are the same. Tom Donahue, a well-known atmospheric scientist at the University of Michigan, has proposed that the question of origins of our oceans can be resolved by measurements of the hydrogen fingerprint in the upper atmosphere because some of the contents of the small comets are continually deposited there. This is a difficult measurement but it would be decisive in establishing the small comets as the source of the ocean's waters. To date such an instrument has not been proposed for launching on a small rocket or for remote sensing from an orbiting spacecraft.
How do we know that these objects are depositing water in our atmosphere?
This startling conclusion comes from trying to account for the presence in the images of the "atmospheric holes," those dark spots where the ultraviolet day glow has been absorbed over areas of 50 to 100 km in diameter. This is a large area and requires a lot of material. For the wavelength range viewed by the Polar and Dynamics Explorer cameras, water is the only common gaseous substance in the solar system that can efficiently absorb the day glow along the line-of-sight of the cameras. No one has ever offered an alternative mechanism or substance. The absorption cross section of the water molecule is large and very well known. The total water cloud mass is still large, in the range of 20 to 40 tons. In addition, one of the Polar cameras for visible wavelengths was used to independently verify that the objects contained large amounts of water by viewing the intensities of OH radical emissions at 308.5 nm, which is the standard proxy for water in the studies of large comets. The OH is produced by the dissociation of water molecules in the sun's light and the OH radical fluoresces very brightly in the sunlight. This finding is a great achievement and is beyond the capabilities of any other camera flown to date. There is a large amount of water in these cometary gas clouds. The final closure was provided by the remarkable fact that the frequency of the OH trails is very similar to the occurrence frequency of atmospheric holes.
Why do the small comets break up and turn into clouds of water vapor?
The small comets are giant, loosely packed "snowballs" with some kind of thin shell, made perhaps of carbon, that holds them together as they travel through interstellar space. But as they approach the electrically charged Earth, the electrostatic stress on these objects causes them to break up at an altitude of about 800 miles above Earth. Rapid electrostatic erosion appears to be the mechanism responsible for stripping the thin protective mantle from the water-snow core of a small comet. By the time the fragments of the comet have descended to about 600 miles, the "snowball" fragments have been vaporized by the Sun's rays.
How much water do the small comets add to the Earth's surface?
At a rate of one 20-to-40 ton comet every three seconds, this influx of small comets into the atmosphere would add about one inch of water to the Earth's surface every 20,000 years or so. The implications of this added water for long range global climate, global warming, and pollution mitigation will need to be examined by the experts in those fields.
Is there any geological evidence to support the need for such an "outside" source of water as the small comets?
There is indeed. In 1999, David Deming, a geologist at the University of Oklahoma, published a refereed paper [Palaeo, 146, 33-51, 1999] which has attracted the attention of many scientists. His work points out that recent investigations of the movement of oceanic continental plates into the mantle, known as subduction, show that the loss rates for the water on this planet are very large as the plates carry the water deep below the surface. So unless there is an influx of water to our planet on time scales much shorter than its age of 4 billion years or so, our planet would be presently "dry as a bone." Remarkably the necessary influx of water from interplanetary space agrees quite well with what the small comets are calculated to be bringing to the Earth.
The amount of water added to the atmosphere by the small comets seems to conflict with well-established evidence that the stratosphere is extremely dry. How can you explain this?
The influx of water into the stratosphere from the small comets is insufficient to provide a "wet" stratosphere. The problems lie in the lower thermosphere and upper mesosphere. Simple models of water transport by eddy diffusion could not support the cometary water influxes if the upper boundary were taken above these regions. But the small comet's momentum carries the water into the mesosphere and thus provides a low percentage of water vapour in the atmosphere. This effect could accommodate the cometary water influx into the atmosphere without exceeding the known densities. To date no one to my knowledge has used such a source term in the standard atmospheric models. Below the mesopause at about 50 miles there is a general pattern of atmospheric circulation that extends into the troposphere. The cometary water would be carried in this circulation pattern. The stratosphere is dry because the "cold finger" near the tropopause precipitates the water into the troposphere. This cometary "rainfall" is insignificant relative to the rest of the water being transported at these altitudes.
Are noctilucent clouds produced by small comets?
The influx of small comets into Earth's atmosphere may help explain the source of water needed to form noctilucent clouds. These strange and quite beautiful clouds can be seen over the polar regions during the summer months. They are thin clouds, wavy or banded, colored silver or bluish white. They form at an altitude of about 55 miles, in the coldest part of the upper atmosphere, a relatively unexplored boundary known as the mesopause. No other cloud occurs so high in the sky. They are called noctilucent clouds because they can only be seen against a dark sky when illuminated by the setting sun. These clouds require considerably more water vapor than can be expected at that altitude from ocean evaporation. No one thoroughly understands why these clouds exist. But rocket-borne experiments sent up by aeronomers--those who explore the upper atmosphere--to probe these clouds have shown that the clouds are composed of ice crystals formed around meteoric dust particles--a finding that suggests small comets might indeed be responsible.
Do the small comets also impact the Moon? If so, where are these impacts and why don't we see dust clouds on the moon when the comets hit? Why didn't the Apollo seismometers record their impacts? Where is all the water on the Moon?
If you remember that the small comets are like fluffy snowballs--not rocks--the Moon does not present a problem to the existence of small comets. It's the difference between throwing a rock at your car and a snowball; one will leave a permanent mark, the other will not. Because the Moon is one thirteenth as large as the Earth it should receive about thirteen times fewer objects than the Earth. But the seismometers that were set up on the Moon during the Apollo missions recorded only about 2,000 events a year. How to account for this apparent discrepancy? The small comets do impact the Moon, but the seismometers were calibrated by looking at the seismic signature of everything from nuclear explosions to bullets shot into loose sand. No one ever worked out what effect a large snowball would have on the lunar surface. The small comets that strike the Moon will not make impact craters; they probably kick up some lunar dust and produce strange glows, and indeed these kinds of anomalous events have been reported by lunar observers for centuries. It is the seismometers' lack of sensitivity to the impact of small comets that accounts for the discrepancy in the low number of large objects detected on the Moon relative to the number of such objects that are seen falling into Earth's atmosphere. But if small comets strike the Moon, where is all the water then? The lunar gravity is such that practically all the water vapor from the impact of small comets simply flies off, though some of the water molecules may wander around and eventually condense in the crevices near the poles--exactly where it has been reported of late.
Can the small comets help resolve the long standing controversy about the difference in impact rates on the Moon and into the Earth's atmosphere?
Yes, there is a well known discrepancy between the number of objects of a given mass which are impacting Earth's atmosphere as inferred from fireballs in the atmosphere and the number of objects of similar mass as detected by the Apollo seismic network. Even taking in account the fact that the Moon is smaller than the Earth, the number of objects impacting the Moon has been found to be considerably less than those in our atmosphere. This major discrepancy has never been resolved, but the flux of small comets provides the solution to this problem. Because there is no dust in these small comets, their glow in the atmosphere must be estimated from the heat they produce when they hit the atmosphere at supersonic speeds. We have roughly estimated the visual magnitudes of the impacting small comets and find them to be in the range of -2 to -4. Remember, of course, that solar radiation is not available on the night side of Earth to produce a large water vapor cloud as it does on the dayside where the atmospheric holes are observed. The number of fireballs in Earth's atmosphere with a visual magnitude of -2 is in the range of about 10,000 to 100,000 for each 24 hour period, according to D.W. McKinley, in Meteor Science and Engineering (McGraw Hill, 1961). And so the small comets do help explain the difference in the number of observed impacts on the Moon and in the Earth's atmosphere.
If the small comets are hitting Earth and the Moon, shouldn't they also be impacting the other planets in the solar system?
They do. But few small comets will survive inside the Earth's orbit because they will be destroyed by the Sun's heat. So there will be no small comets for Mercury, and maybe just a few for Venus. But the rest of the planets and their moons do get pelted by the small comets. While Earth gets about 10 million small comets a year, Mars receives less than a million and a half, Jupiter gets 16 billion, Saturn gets 4 billion, Uranus gets 260 million, Neptune gets 300 million, and Pluto only about 500 thousand a year. If the ice is not visible on the surface, as is it for many planetary moons, then the water and ice from the small comets probably lies beneath the planet's surface.
Where do the small comets come from?
The small comets do not come from the Oort cloud located far beyond the orbits of the planets, but from an inner belt of cometary material beginning just beyond the orbit of Neptune. To explain the constant bombardment of the Earth by small comets, a large, dark, as-yet-undiscovered planet must be regularly passing through the outer part of this comet belt where the small comets are thought to be located. The eccentric orbit of this dark planet is speculated to cross the comet belt once every 26 million years or so, sending swarms of small comets streaming into the inner solar system and toward the Earth itself.
Are all the small comets the same size? Is there any variation in their flux at the Earth?
The size of the "small comets" no doubt varies somewhat. Most are thought to be in the 20-40 ton range, but there will also be some even smaller comets--and some occasional larger ones. Some of these larger ones may be responsible for such things as anomalous ice falls that have been reported in the literature. And just as there are variations in the sizes of these objects, there have probably also been peaks and valleys in the influx of small comets on Earth over time.
Is there a seasonal variation in the observed influx of small comets?
Three sets of data for the period November through January point to a very pronounced seasonal variation. Recent data from the Polar spacecraft show that the influx of small comets into the Earth's atmosphere is 10 times greater in early November than in mid-January, when the small comet rate diminishes dramatically. This is the same seasonal variation discovered in the 1980s in images from a different camera aboard a different spacecraft, Dynamics Explorer-1, which travelled a different orbit than the Polar spacecraft. The oldest data set showing the influx of small comets into the Earth's atmosphere dates back to 1955. Using forward scatter radar, two Canadian scientists, E. L. Vogan and L. L. Campbell, found exactly the same seasonal variation, a November high and January low, in their non-shower, or sporadic, radar meteor rate. Why the atmospheric hole rate should correlate so well with the meteor rate measured by forward scatter radar is no mystery. After all, small comets are just a part of the meteoric dust and debris that orbits the Sun and falls into the Earth's atmosphere on a daily basis. Because the weakly bound small comets and mantle debris are expected to produce ionization at higher altitudes than stony or iron meteoroids, forward scatter radar--which is much more sensitive to ionization at higher altitudes than backscatter radar--is ideally suited to record the infall of small comets. (Backscatter radar events, on the other hand, are dominated by the infall of iron and stony meteoroids.) Why is there a period in January when the small comets don't seem to be running into us?
The seasonal variations of the small comet fluxes are due to events in the distant disk of comets which lies generally parallel to the orbital planes of the planets, including that of Earth. Passing stars or a rogue dark orbiting planet cause local disturbances in the distant disk of comets which send some of them into the inner solar system. The position of a given disturbance would provide a corresponding stream of small comets at a particular position of the Earth's orbit around the Sun, that is, at a given time in the year. During the course of a year our planet will intercept the composite of these showers which accounts for the features in the atmospheric hole rates. For example, the minimum during January would correspond to a position in the distant comet disk for which there was no local disturbance. In future years, telescopes should be able to determine the orbits of the small comets and hence the general location of the corresponding disturbances in the enormous comet disk which lies beyond the planets.
Is there a daily variation in the observed influx of small comets?
Yes, there is. The maximum rate of atmospheric holes is observed from about 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. This maximum is two to three times greater than the event rate at 6 p.m. There is a good reason for this. First consider a uniform stream of small comets directed parallel to the Earth's orbital motion and travelling 10 km/s relative to Earth. Of course, the small comets are all influenced by the Earth's gravitational field when they are close to our planet. In the evening the small comet trajectories are more-or-less parallel to the gravitational force. The comets speed up but they are not deflected very much as they plunge toward the atmosphere. On the other hand, trajectories passing over noon are directed almost perpendicular to the gravitational field and they will be significantly bent toward the atmosphere and thus "gravitationally focused." So the impacts on the dayside atmosphere, including the effects of gravitational focusing, will be confined to local times at the equator extending from local evening at 6 p.m. to about 10 a.m. In the absence of gravitational focusing this impact zone is confined to local times at 6 p.m. to local noon. Then realize that for the trajectories of the small comets just above Earth's atmosphere the path length, and hence the duration, of a given atmospheric hole is substantially longer for the comet trajectories which graze the atmosphere at late morning hours relative to the direct plunging of the evening cometary water clouds. What this means then is that the late morning comets have a higher probability of being recorded by the camera. The small comets also have a range of perihelia, although not as far in as the orbit of Venus, and a limited range of inclinations, which will act to widen the maximum in the late local morning hours. This daily variation in the small comet influx is a fundamental feature associated with the fact that the comets are moving in a stream past the Earth. If the small comets were moving in random directions relative to Earth, there would be no such daily variation.
Can the small comets be seen by the naked eye?
You cannot see an intact small comet with the naked eye, but if you have a lot of patience--and a little luck--you might be able to see a small comet immediately after it breaks apart in the atmosphere. To see the flash produced by the disruption of a small comet you must stand out on a clear dark night, looking up at a 40 degree angle, until you see a short streak that quickly snuffs out. It will be about the brightness of Venus for about two seconds before it vanishes. But you will have to be out there for a hundred hours or so to see one. A hundred hours of clear night viewing does not happen often in the average lifetime.
How can amateur astronomers spot the small comets?
Amateur astronomers whose telescopes have mirrors or lenses measuring 12 inches or larger should be able to sight the small comets before they disrupt in the atmosphere. During the course of a day there are two times for observation, each about one or two hours long. One ends about 45 minutes before sunrise; the other begins about 45 minutes after sunset. The small comets will be seen at a distance about 4,000-7,200 km (2,500 to 4,500 miles) from the observer, so the telescope should be pointed in such a way that it is looking for them at these distances, just outside the Earth's shadow. Inside the shadow the objects are not illuminated by the Sun and are invisible. Every hour or so a small, quite dim object will slowly move across your view, as long as your field of view is about four times the size of the Moon. The object will move at a distance equal to the Moon's diameter every five seconds or so. (For more details, see How to Search for Small Comets.) Several amateur astronomers have reported seeing such objects.
Do the small comets contain organic material that may be responsible for seeding life on Earth?
The small comets may contain organic materials, though this is only speculation at the moment. If they do, they would seem to be ideal vehicles for carrying organics safely through the atmosphere; they do not burn up the way meteors do, and their icy interiors may protect the organics just long enough to slip safety to Earth on a cushion of water vapour.
Could the water vapour from the small comets account for the "fireflies" that John Glenn and other astronauts saw on the early orbital missions?
No. By the time of Scott Carpenter's flight three months later, NASA had determined that those brilliant little specks floating around outside the spacecraft were caused by tiny ice crystals fluttering out from beneath the rippled heat shingles of the Mercury capsules.
How do the new results from NASA's Polar satellite confirm the original Dynamics Explorer images from a decade ago showing "holes" in the atmosphere?
There is no question that the Polar images confirm the previous Dynamics Explorer observations of atmospheric holes. This includes the dimensions of the holes, their frequency of appearance over the sunlit atmosphere, and their east-to-west motion across the sunlit atmosphere. The Polar detections are approximately several thousand per day and, accounting for viewing and image accumulation times, give a global rate in the range of 5 to 20 per minute. The database consists of 50,000 to 100,000 direct detections per month as clusters of darkened pixels. In many cases the holes are detected in consecutive frames, most are moving from east to west, and the effects of the camera platform motion (double vision) are present when the instrument computers do not compensate for this latter effect. The verification of the existence of atmospheric holes is completely secure.
The spectacular small comet streak acquired on Sept. 26, 1996 at UT 2228 and shown on the "front page" of the small comet site is obviously a processed image. What does the original "raw" Earth camera image look like?
The Near Real Time images available on our Visible Imaging System web site as "Current Image" or "Past Current Images" are actually a "stack" of five consecutive "raw" images all with some cosmetic processing to remove cosmic ray hits, nightglow backgrounds, flat-field optical normalizing, distortion removal, etc. These same corrections have been applied to the "streak" image in question. On the right is the "raw" streak image of Sept. 26, 1996.
How are the altitudes of the small comet trails in the Polar images calculated?
The approximate altitudes of the trails are determined by the apparent lengths of the trails between shutter closings of the camera and the fact that the apparent speed of the objects is about 10 km/s. Generally, the shorter the trail, then the greater distance between the trail and the Polar spacecraft.
Do you maintain a catalog of small comet sightings by the Polar cameras?
Yes, we do. The Catalog of Atmospheric Holes associated with the impact of small comets into Earth's atmosphere is available for each day of the year starting April 20, 1997. In addition, the current image from the Polar spacecraft is available live.
Now that the existence of the small comets has been confirmed by the Polar spacecraft, what's next?
What we have to do now is go up there and meet the small comets at 600 miles out. Polar sees these objects with great resolution but from a great distance. Now we have to get up close and see these objects in detail. And that's just what a group of us--Sigwarth and myself, along with some of my former critics, including Thomas Donahue and Michael Combi at the University of Michigan; Paul Feldman at John Hopkins University; Robert Meier, George Carruthers and Charles Brown at the Naval Research Laboratory; and Ralph Bohlin at the Space Telescope Science Institute--have proposed. This proposed spacecraft is the first step in doing more sophisticated studies on these objects. Its two imagers will not only be more powerful and sensitive than those on Polar, but they will be able to look at the emissions coming from these objects. We are going to be looking for carbon, oxygen and simple organic gases. Maybe later we will be able to send a major mission after these objects and bring back samples.

Before the ending.

These Beautiful People, priceless - oh no! That can't be, they are black. Most beautiful people on Earth.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

‘We Only Kill Black People,’ Police Officer Says During Traffic Stop - If you are black in America, you are already fucked!

Apocalypse Soon - Get Ready. Locked and Loaded - So what is the difference between the USA and North Korea? In the USA we only kill negroes.

New Zealand a vassal to the Evil Empire

CHRIS TROTTER 19:09, Oct 01 2012

New Zealand is a vassal state; always has been; probably always will be.
We are a small and vulnerable country whose security remains the obligation of much stronger powers. For a quarter-century, while the rest of the world re- arranged itself after the Cold War, we have enjoyed the illusion of independence. Now, thanks to Kim Dotcom, the age of illusion is over.

'Nuclear-free New Zealand' may have ruffled the feathers of the American eagle and turned the Anzus Treaty into a dead letter, but it did not amputate the New Zealand pinky finger from the Anglo-Saxon fist. Our membership of the agreement linking the intelligence agencies of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand remained intact throughout.

The US may have excluded the New Zealand Defence Force from its military and naval exercises, and blanked our diplomats at Washington cocktail parties, but its National Security Agency never shut down the continuous feed of signals intelligence from our Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

Labour and National Governments may come and go, but 'Echelon', the National Security Agency's global signals intelligence collection and analysis network is forever - as are the GCSB's electronic eavesdroppers at the Tangimoana and Waihopai 'listening posts'.
It's what vassals do: they pay their dues.

Medieval lords held their lands from the king and within the boundaries of those lands their word was law. In return, the king's vassals were obliged to take the king's part in all quarrels, pay his taxes and send men and supplies to fight in his wars.

Those who served a medieval vassal needed two good eyes.

One to watch over their lord's needs and the other to look out for the interests of their king.

It did not suit the US to make too much of their vassal state's breach of fealty in the late-1980s.
Its anti-nuclear policy may have posed 'the threat of a good example' (to use Noam Chomsky's trenchant phrase) but for the makers of the Washington Consensus that threat was more than offset by the Lange Government's radical example of free-market economics.

So long as New Zealand remained a part of the Echelon network, a few relatively gentle diplomatic slaps would suffice as punishment.

Had David Lange and his ministers got serious about severing New Zealand's military and intelligence connections to the US, and attempted to pull the plug at Tangimoana and Waihopai, then the reaction of the Reagan Administration would have been very different - and much more painful.

The full force of American retribution was, however, avoided because the servants of the New Zealand state all had two good eyes.

While Treasury kept Washington's goodwill by persuading the Lange Government to implement the most radical structural adjustment programme ever attempted in the OECD, the New Zealand foreign affairs, defence and intelligence communities quietly reassured their American counterparts that a bi-partisan policy of incremental reconnection to the US was the New Zealand (if not the Labour) government's number one priority.

The king was thus reassured by his errant vassal's own servants and men-at-arms that their lord's lapse of loyalty was purely temporary and that his successors would doubtless prove considerably more obliging.

And so it has proved.

The smiling face of Leon Panetta, the US Secretary of Defence, and his good news about New Zealand's warships' re-admittance to America's naval facilities, was startling vindication of our foreign affairs and defence establishment's patient diplomacy.

The king's favour has been restored: the kiss of fealty given and received.

Fitting, too, that days after receiving our liege lord's blessing, New Zealand's prime minister and his deputy were forced to reveal its price. Remember always that a king's enemies are his vassal's enemies also. And Dotcom is, without doubt, the US' enemy.

Those New Zealanders who were surprised and alarmed by the extreme light-handedness of the political oversight of our security and intelligence services are still trapped in the illusion of independence.

Our political leaders learned long ago what lapses in loyalty can mean for a vassal state.
Much better to leave these matters to the permanent guardians of our own - and our masters' - interests.

How else to explain Bill English's casual admission that, were he given it all to do again, he wouldn't hesitate to re-order the suppression of all evidence relating to the activities of the GCSB. Why else would John Key refuse a comprehensive inquiry into the illegal surveillance of Dotcom? And be backed in his refusal by a former Labour prime minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer?

'You can't have an open inquiry like a commission of inquiry with evidence in public about that,' Palmer told TV3's The Nation, 'because these agencies will cease to be any use if their secrecy is not preserved.'

Of use to whom?

The Press

North Korea is a Pentagon Vassal State

01.11.2016 Author: F. William Engdahl

Column: Politics
Region: Eastern Asia
Country: North Korea

If it weren’t for the fact that he is absolute dictator of a country with a formidable army and nuclear missile technology, North Korean President Kim Jong Un, the 290 pound, the 32-year-old ruler would be a clown figure. Unfortunately for world peace, Kim Jong Un, while he is playing games with his rockets and threats of war, is serving the long-term interests of the USA, especially the military industrial complex, the Pentagon and State Department, whose priority increasingly is to make an Asia Pivot of military power projection to contain and isolate the Peoples’ Republic of China as well as Russia.

In the end of the 1990’s, I had the chance occasion to have a chat with the late James R. Lilley. Lilley was at the Davos World Economic Forum and by chance had sat at my dinner table together with a delegation from the China Peoples’ Liberation Army. As I was the only westerner at the table he struck up a conversation, and as he saw I was more than conversant in global politics, he began talking, perhaps more than he should have with one he did not know.
James R. Lilley was no outsider. A member, together with his close friend, George H.W. Bush, of the infamous Yale University Skull & Bones secret society, Lilley served some three decades at the CIA along with Bush. Both Lilley and Bush were US Ambassadors to China.
Lilley’s term in Beijing coincided with the May-June 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests. I have reason to believe he played the key US role in orchestrating that clash between thousands of protesting students and the Chinese government as one of Washington’s early Colour Revolution attempts to destabilize communist China simultaneously with the CIA’s role in destabilizing the Soviet Union.

At the time of Tiananmen protests, the man who developed the handbook for colour revolutions, Gene Sharp, of the Albert Einstein Institute, was in Beijing until the Chinese told him to leave, and George Soros’ Chinese NGO, the Fund for the Reform and Opening of China, after Tiananmen, was banned when Chinese security services found that the fund had links to the CIA.
This background is important to better situate who Lilley was – a consummate insider of the George Bush CIA “deep state” networks that try to remake the world to their liking. In our Davos talk, Lilley told me he had been furious at President G.H.W. Bush in the aftermath of Tiananmen for refusing to make a stronger denunciation of the Beijing government, that, for a massacre that he knew never took place.

In the event, in our Davos discussion, we touched on events in Asia and the ongoing focus by Washington on North Korea’s nuclear program. Unexpectedly, Lilley made a remarkable statement to me. He said, “Simply put, at the end of the Cold War, if North Korea didn’t exist we would have to create it as an excuse to keep the Seventh Fleet in the region.” Shortly before our Davos discussion North Korea had launched a missile over Japan, causing huge anxieties across Asia.

What is Kim Jong Un?
Who or better said, what is Kim Jong Un? Since the death of his father in 2011 Kim Jong Un has consolidated power as absolute dictator. In December 2011 Kim became Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. His earlier history has been carefully hidden. It has been verified that he attended school in Europe at Liebefeld Steinhölzli School in Moniz near Bern. Accounts say he lived in Switzerland, under a false name, from 1991 until 2000. There he reportedly developed a prodigious taste for French Bordeaux wines, Yves St Laurent cigarettes, Swiss Emmenthaler cheese and luxury Mercedes autos according to Kim Jong-il’s former personal chef, Kenji Fujimoto.
While Kim’s extended stay in Europe might or might not have been the opportunity for US intelligence to nurture some kind of contact, Kim’s deeds since taking control have been a godsend to the US role in disrupting Chinese as well as Russian relations with both North Korea and with South Korea as well as with Japan.

One of Kim Jong Un’s earliest indications of a major shift in foreign policy away from Beijing came when he ordered the arrest of his uncle for treason in December 2013. Jang Sung-taek had been vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, second only to that of the Supreme Leader and was “key policy adviser” to the politically inexperienced Kim Jong-un on the death of Kim’s father. More importantly, Jang was well-known as China’s best friend in Pyongyang.
As Washington moved to implement its new Asia Pivot military encirclement policies against China, removal of Beijing’s most influential friend in North Korea would be very convenient, to put it mildly.

Kim Jong Un not only had Jang executed, Jang’s wife, Kim Kyong-hui, the only daughter of former North Korean supreme leader Kim Il-sung, the only sister of former North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-il and the aunt of Kim Jong-un, a General in the army and Politburo member, was reportedly poisoned on orders of Kim, though no confirmation has been possible. What is known is that Kim ordered the systematic execution of all other members of Jang’s family including children and grandchildren of all close relatives. Those reportedly killed in Kim’s purge include Jang’s sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong-jin, and Jang’s nephew and ambassador to Malaysia, Jang Yong-chol as well as the nephew’s two sons. At the time of Jang’s removal, the Kim regime announced, “the discovery and purge of the Jang group…made our party and revolutionary ranks purer …”
Clearly, Kim Jong Un was just the kind of dictator Washington’s war hawks could “do business with.”

Kim’s War Threats
The timing and effect of Kim Jong Un’s bizarre threats to wage war against South Korea and other states of the region, including Japan, as well verbal threats to strike cities on the US West Coast since 2013, fit too neatly into the geopolitical agenda of Washington, but not against North Korea. The agenda of Washington was aimed rather against China and the Russian Far East.
In March 2013, North Korea’s Kim, absurdly enough, threatened the United States with a “pre-emptive nuclear attack”, and Kim Jong-un issued a detailed threat to “wipe out” Baengnyeong Island, under United Nations Command and South Korean control since the Korean War and scene of previous naval clashes. Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea has boasted of plans for conducting nuclear strikes on US cities, including Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Military experts suggest the threats were pure macho bravado and that Kim’s nuclear capabilities are bluff at least at this stage. It had the effect of painting Washington as a major enemy of Pyongyang, a useful cover for Washington however and creating the backdrop for Washington to promote its Asian military expansion, in fact, aimed at both China and Russia, not Pyongyang.

It’s commonly believed that since the 1950’s Korean War, communist North Korea has been a Beijing puppet regime. It’s true that China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner, and the main source of food, arms, and energy. It has also helped sustain Kim Jong-un’s regime and has historically opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea. However, the relationship is anything but congenial for Beijing. Their main concern is to keep their North Korea neighbour from exploding in chaos.
While China does maintain certain influence and while China sees North Korea as a buffer between it and the US-allied South Korea, Beijing’s ability to influence the erratic Kim Jong Un seems to be extremely limited, if at all, a significant change from earlier Kim dynasty dictators. The one power to gain from Kim Jong Un’s bellicose actions is the United States as geopolitical hegemon desiring to turn Japan and especially South Korea against China.

In February of this year, North Korea announced that it had fired a long-range rocket in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that was voted with the approval of both China and Russia. The rocket firing was immediately condemned by Japan, South Korea, and the US. Most notably, right after the North Korean rocket firing, the Seoul South Korea government entered serious talks for acquiring Washington’s THAAD missile defence system, arguing it was to counter the threat from the north. China protested loudly.

At the same time, Japan increased its THAAD infrastructure installations from the US. Both deployments were aimed not at North Korea, whose missile threat to South Korea is ruled out. They were aimed at goosing up the governments of South Korea and of Shinzo Abe in Japan in their development of anti-China postures. Only months earlier, relations between South Korea and Japan were chilly and China was making peaceful economic overtures to South Korea. The Seoul decision to accept THAAD missiles has chilled those ties.
Russia Also Loses

China is not the only strategic loser in the latest nuclear tests and rocket firing provocations of Kim Jong Un. Russia, which has had largely positive relations with North Korea going back to the Cold War, has undergone a major loss of influence owing to very tough UN Security Council economic sanctions passed in March 2016 in response to Kim’s latest military provocations. Russia agreed to the UN sanctions, but quite reluctantly, as did China.
Moscow stands to lose major economic deals and influence as a result in North Korea. More importantly, those deals, denominated not in dollars but in roubles, will also be prohibited by the financial sanctions. The Security Council resolution, drafted by the United States, will also scotch plans for a new financial clearing house to facilitate transactions between the Russia and North Korea.

Further, the US-drafted economic sanctions target very precisely Russian-North Korean economic projects. It severely restricts North Korean mineral exports–explicitly of coal, iron and iron ore, gold, titanium, vanadium, and rare earth minerals–which were to be used to pay for the Russian investments and projects that included Russian electric power stations and metallurgic plants. Russia had planned to re-export the North Korean coal and finance Russian rebuilding of a rail link between North Korea’s Rajin port and Russia’s Khasan.

In November 2013, before Washington launched its Ukraine coup d’ etat, otherwise known as Euromaidan, to split Russia from the European Union, Russia, North Korea, and South Korea had signed a Memorandum of Understanding during a visit of Russian President Putin to Seoul. That agreement would also include South Korea in a further restoration of the entire Trans-Korean Railway, a major positive development towards stabilizing relations between the two Koreas.

At this point, it clearly is the case that under the erratic 32-year-old Swiss-educated Kim Jong Un, Washington has found the perfect boogie man to scare South Korea and Japan into embracing Washington’s agenda to maximize pressure, military as well as economic, against Russia and against China. James R. Lilley’s Davos remark to me is borne out by the recent militaristic and foreign policy actions of North Korean Supreme Commander, Jim Jong Un. It seems it wasn’t even necessary for the United States to “create North Korea.” Washington only had to cultivate the infantile personality of Kim Jong Un.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer; he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine

Monday, 14 August 2017

Out There

By Louis A. Frank and Patrick Huyghe

The universe is what it is. I don't bury observations that stand in the way of conventional wisdom. I don't gloss over things I don't understand. I will not compromise my integrity. Unfortunately, this stance has made me the target of scientific vandalism. 

It all began in the mid-1980s when a camera aboard a NASA spacecraft called Dynamics Explorer presented me with data that many scientists would have ignored or overlooked. Curious black spots appeared in the images of Earth's aurora, one of the phenomena I have devoted my career to studying as an experimental physicist. I came to realize that the black spots in the images were not caused by "instrument noise," as many scientists believed, but were evidence of a remarkable geophysical phenomenon occurring unnoticed right above our heads.

In the spring of 1986, I published my explanation of the black spots in a scientific journal: The Earth's atmosphere was being bombarded by house-sized, water-bearing objects travelling at 25,000 mph, one every three seconds or so. That's 20 a minute, 1,200 an hour, 28,800 a day, 864,000 a month and more than 10 million a year. Spelled out in this way, the numbers truly boggle the mind. These objects, which I call "small comets," disintegrate high above the Earth and deposit huge clouds of water vapour into the upper atmosphere. Over the history of this planet, the small comets may have dumped enough water to fill the oceans and may have even provided the organic ingredients necessary for life on Earth.

Scientists reacted to my announcement as if I had ploughed through the sacred field of established science with a bulldozer. I had. If the small comets were real, one scientist commented, textbooks in a dozen sciences would have to be rewritten. And so scientists dismissed the small comets, in much the same way they discounted Alfred Wegener and his theory of continental drift in the early part of the 20th century.

I spent more than a year answering the objections of critics. But I didn't convince them. It was 10,000 to 1 -- actually 2, me and John Sigwarth, whose task as my graduate student assistant had been to help me resolve this black-spot mystery. "We have taken a representative poll of current opinion in this field," an editor at Nature wrote in rejecting a small-comet paper we submitted to them in 1988, "and the verdict goes against you." It was my first encounter with taking polls as a way of doing science.

Now, a decade later, many of those who had "voted" against us are changing their minds. In May at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, we presented images acquired by our ultraviolet camera aboard NASA's Polar spacecraft, a satellite sent up to study the Sun's effects on the Earth's environment. This camera, too, had picked up the black spots in the Earth's sunlit atmosphere. And this time there was no doubt; these black spots or atmospheric holes, as we called them, occurred in clusters of pixels or picture elements, not single pixels as in the Dynamics Explorer images. The phenomenon could not be due to instrumental artefacts. We could also see these black spots expanding and moving as they entered Earth's atmosphere. And the filters on our visible-light camera confirmed that these objects consisted of water -- enough water to produce clouds of water vapour 50 miles across, high in the atmosphere.

The new evidence stunned many of our former critics into admitting that we had been right. The University of Michigan's Thomas Donahue, one of the world's leading experts in atmospheric science, said so, as did Robert Meier, a space physicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. "I guess I'll just have to swallow crow," wrote one detractor. These former critics now agree that these objects are indeed water-bearing, but they don't want to call them small comets because they don't have the dust that the large, well-known comets do. That's okay. Call them "cometesimals" if you want -- that's the term Donahue prefers -- but the fact remains: They carry lots of water just like the large comets, and they are millions of times smaller than Hale-Bopp and Halley.

At first glance, this apparent resolution to the small-comet affair would seem worthy of applause -- the scientific process of debate, peer review and criticism would appear to have functioned admirably. But the gap between appearance and reality is a large one. After I presented my findings on the small comets in 1986, the scientific community did its best to extinguish my career. In the past decade, I have been unable to get any other projects off the ground. Before the small-comet findings became public, my success in this regard was envious; I was able to get instruments on board several major spacecraft -- Polar, Galileo and Geotail. But after my small-comet announcement, I got nothing. I had my ongoing projects, such as the one on Polar that eventually produced the confirmatory data. But the new projects I proposed went nowhere -- even those that had nothing to do with small comets.

I am a very strong competitor. In my 40 years as an experimental physicist, I have worked on experiments on 40 spacecraft. I have been on the forefront of many discoveries in the field of plasma physics. I made the first measurements of the plasma ring around Saturn. I was the first to measure solar-wind plasmas funnelling directly into the Earth's polar atmosphere. I was the first to observe with a scientific instrument the belt of ions around the Earth that is now known as the "ring current." And I discovered the theta aurora, a luminous phenomenon which, seen from space, looks like the Greek letter "theta" stamped across the polar cap.

I can understand why the small comets were so startling to people. Their existence raises a number of questions: Where is the evidence of their passage through the Earth's atmosphere? Why haven't the seismometers left by the Apollo astronauts on the Moon recorded any small comet impacts? And so on.

These are the kinds of reasonable questions raised at the beginning of the small-comet debate, and I tried to answer them as best I could -- knowing, of course, that some answers could only come from additional research. But the intellectual discourse on the subject was brief, at best. Many of my colleagues labelled me a crank for my unwavering defence of the small comets, and I was blackballed from the community. Awards and honours with my name on them were cancelled. It is public knowledge, for instance, that I was not elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences for this very reason.

The science game can be brutal. I was shunned by almost everyone. It got to the point that when I went to out-of-town meetings, I normally ate alone, occasionally joined by a few close friends who are physicists. I've paid a stiff price. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so naive, but the behaviour of some former friends and colleagues amazed me. It went far beyond what I expected.

There were a few people -- I can count them on one hand -- who started out as critics but had the intellectual honesty to pursue this subject properly. One was John Olivero, then of Pennsylvania State University and now at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida. Olivero and a graduate student named Dennis Adams collected data on water-vapour concentrations in the upper atmosphere and found temporary increases of the sizes and frequency one would expect if the small comets existed. Clayne Yeates, who has since died, was another. He was the science manager for the Galileo project. He devised a way of using the Space watch Telescope in Arizona to track the small comets -- which he doubted were real -- and managed to obtain a set of images showing the small comets in consecutive frames. It didn't take long for Yeates to be ostracized, just as I had been, and life for Olivero hasn't exactly been a picnic since he presented his controversial findings before the American Geophysical Union in 1987.

We began working on our instrument for the Polar spacecraft several years before the small comets were even a gleam in the eyes of Dynamics Explorer. We had the data from Dynamics Explorer by 1984, so we knew the small comets were real. But we were still a couple of years away from making our findings public. We began, however, to think about how we could modify our instruments -- under construction for Polar -- to include the capability of specifically looking for the small comets. We did this without any risk to the primary objective, which was studying the Earth's aurora. Basically, we made sure that the ultraviolet camera had a very large field of view and very low noise so that there would be no question of instrumentation being responsible for the black spots in the images. For the visible-light cameras, we put in filters that were not related to the aurora, and it was these filters that eventually told us the small comets had no sodium, no dust, but water -- lots of water.

Polar went up on Feb. 24, 1996. After we worked hard to get our instruments turned on, the first images came through. Sigwarth was at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt and he called me back in Iowa City to say the black spots were there. He wasn't surprised. Neither was I. We had done our research carefully enough that we knew they just had to be there.

The new data from Polar have not silenced all my critics, however. Alexander Dessler, the editor who published my original small-comet papers in Geophysical Research Letters in 1986, is one of them. He published the material against the recommendation of his reviewers because he welcomed controversial topics and didn't want to miss a possible breakthrough. But he quickly became a critic, convincing people that the camera aboard the Dynamics Explorer wasn't working properly. Like most of those who continue to criticize the small-comet findings, he hasn't even seen our latest data. I can deal with my critics on an intellectual basis. But if they pound their chests and bray at the moon, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

I have submitted four papers on our latest small-comet findings to Geophysical Research Letters. A raft of reviewers is working hard to get them out so that everybody can see the results. It's been a fair review; some of the reviewers have been quite helpful in even squeezing more out of the results.

But the shabby treatment I've received at the hands of some science journals has continued. Last year, Nature rejected one of our team's new small-comet papers by saying: "We are unable to conclude that the paper provides the sort of advance in understanding that would excite the immediate interest of a wide, general audience." How wrong can you be? When we announced our results from Polar at the end of May, the story drew the attention of CBS, CNN, NPR, most of the major daily newspapers in this country, including this one, as well as Time, U.S. News and World Report, and Science.

People tell me I should have dropped the whole subject, but that would have violated my sense of integrity. What has happened, however, is that science has lost its fun for me. The joy of working with the general scientific community is gone. But I have not lost my ability to do research at the very highest levels. I essentially have become a science machine: In the past three to four years alone, I have authored or co-authored nearly 100 papers on Jupiter's moons, nonlinear plasma physics in the vicinity of Earth, the Earth's aurora and a dozen other topics. And during that same period, I have presented or co-presented nearly 200 papers at national and international meetings.

I've done what I had to do. It took me a tenth of a century to do it. I've proved the atmospheric holes are there. I've shown that these objects have water in them. And I've shown that there are 10 million of these things coming in a year. What we have to do now is go up there and meet the small comets at 600 miles out. Polar sees these objects with great resolution but from a great distance. Now we have to get up close and see these objects in detail. And that's just what a group of us -- Sigwarth and myself, along with some of my former critics, including Donahue and Michael Combi at the University of Michigan; Paul Feldman at John Hopkins University; Meier, George Carruthers and Charles Brown at the Naval Research Laboratory; and Ralph Bohlin at the Space Telescope Science Institute -- have proposed. We all agree that there is a really astounding number of previously unknown objects coming into our atmosphere, but we are in total disagreement about what they are. That's what the proposal says.

This proposed spacecraft is the first step in doing more sophisticated studies on these objects. Its two imagers will not only be more powerful and sensitive than those on Polar, but they will be able to look at the emissions coming from these objects. We are going to be looking for carbon, oxygen and simple organic gases. Maybe later we will be able to send a major mission after these objects and bring back samples. What an exciting adventure that will be for everyone. Meanwhile, we must begin to come to terms with the thought that as our planet twirls around the Sun, as the Earth's tectonic plates heave and dive, the cosmos is bathing us in a gentle cosmic rain.

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