Science Over the Edge

A Mix of News, Events, History and Gossip

Applet credit: Ed Hobbs

March 1999

In the News:

Think you can tune in E.T. on your backyard satellite dish? That's just what scientists at the SETI Institute plan to do by connecting up to 1,000 small dish antennas together to make one large, but relatively cheap ($25 million), radio telescope array that will be used to search for signals from intelligent life outside our solar system. The array, which will probably be located on Mount Lassen, in California, is to be completed by the year 2004.

When they get the above radio telescope working they may want to point it at a star more than 3,000 light years away toward the center of our galaxy. Scientists have used a technique known as "gravitational microlensing" to detect a possible planet there with a size somewhere between that of Earth and Neptune. By watching a distant bright star pass behind a closer faint star scientists can detect how much the light from the distant star is bent by the gravity of the close star and therefore make a guess at the close star's size. While doing this last July Notre Dame researchers detected an extra change in the bent light that they think maybe a small planet. Up to this point only large Jupiter-like planets have been detected outside our solar system.

Scientists in Norway have discovered an undersea impact crater left by a meteor in the Arctic some 150 million years ago. The 25 mile wide crater was probably caused by a 1.2 mile wide object traveling at over 18 thousand miles an hour. The strike caused a tidal wave that reached from Russia to Canada. Scientists have named the crater Mjoelnir after the mythical hammer used by the Norse god Thor.

To read about another impact less than a century ago, click here!

NASA contractors have asked the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum to return parts of their shuttle exhibit to be used in future space launches. The contractor estimates that it will cost $300,000 to get the forward assemblies out of the exhibit's solid rocket boosters and refurbish them for use as opposed to $5 and $10 million to have new ones constructed. With the NASA budget being cut by the administration for the fifth straight year every dollar counts.

In History:

In the March 14, 1912 issue of the scientific journal Nature there was a report of a 6 pound stone falling to Earth in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm. A follow up story the next week reported that Dr. George T. Prior, of the British Museum had examined the rock and determined that it was "not of meteoritic origin."

So what was it? Maybe a thunderstone. In folk traditions thunderstones are aerial objects which crash to the ground during intense storms following a lightning strike or heavy thunder. No scientific theory now exists that would account for the formation of such an object though.

In the Sky:

March continues to be a great month to observe the planets of our solar system. Five of them are visible in a nearly straight, vertical line above the setting sun. Look for them about 40 minutes after the sun goes down. From horizon up they are Mercury, Jupiter, Venus (the brightest), Saturn and Mars.


Ron Halliday, author of the new book UFO Scotland, claims that the former NATO base at Machrihanish in Argyll is Scotland's version of Area 51 complete with alien technology. "For several years rumors have circulated regarding the secret activities that were carried out at this site and the experimental craft that have landed there," he writes in his book. The Ministry of Defense, though has denied it stores or operates any UFOs. "We do not have any such bases," a spokesman said.

On the Tube:

This is Alien Invasion Week on TCL. . ET Encounter: March 1, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET. The Uninvited: March 1, 10 p.m.-11 p.m. ET. Searching For UFOs: March 2, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET UFOs: 50 Years of Denial: March 4, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET.

The Fox Network presents Opening the Lost Tombs: Live from Egypt. Maury Povich presides over the opening of a tomb sealed for 4,500 years. March 2, 8PM ET.

The Curse of Tutankhamun on TCL. Seventy-five years after the historic opening of King Tut's final resting place the curse of his tomb continues to fascinate. Sunday, March 7, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET


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Copyright Lee Krystek 1999. All Rights Reserved.