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January 12, 2000

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Asteroid Search: Less Talk, More Action

UVic astronomy researcher Dave Balam, a member of the International Spaceguard Foundation, says more resources need to be applied to tracking potentially dangerous asteroids.

Reacting to Britain's appointment of a three member council to assess asteroid risks, Balam says only a dozen people world-wide are actually doing the painstaking work needed to track the fast-growing list of near-earth asteroids.

Balam spends 130 nights per year at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory near Victoria doing follow up observations of the fastest and faintest objects.

A total of 211 potentially-hazardous objects (those objects which cross the Earth's orbit at a distance less than 20 times the distance to the moon) have been identified among the more than 1,000 near-earth asteroids. These objects pose a threat and great pains are taken to track them in order to determine precise orbits and Earth encounter circumstances.

Once the orbits are refined the trajectory of each is calculated for 100 years into the future and close earth encounters are noted.

In a given night, Balam's team will compute the orbits of several dozen new or unconfirmed near earth objects from online data received from automatic sky scans provided by U.S.-operated discovery telescope systems.

"Talk is okay," says Balam, "but there is only a tiny handful of observers who need a relatively small amount of funding to carry out the work that needs to be done."   Media Contacts:
Dave Balam (Astronomy) at (250) 721-7749 or http://astrowww.phys.uvic.ca/~balam

Culture, Tourism, and the New Economy

Victoria Arts manager Steven Thorne presents a special public lecture at UVic Jan. 20 showing the opportunities that exist for the Capital Region to take advantage of the lucrative and growing cultural tourism sector.

Thorne predicts the region could see $72 million in new tourism spending--and 1,500 new jobs--by developing and marketing arts events, cultural festivals, museums and heritage attractions. Presented by the faculty of fine arts and the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery.

4:30 p.m., Jan. 20 in the Senate Chambers (Room A180), University Centre.   Media Contacts:
Martin Segger (Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery) 721-8298.

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