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02/14/94

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Planetary scientist to discuss meteor impacts on Earth

STANFORD -- Astrogeologist Eugene M. Shoemaker will deliver the 13th annual Bunyan Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, in room 100 of the Physics Lecture Hall at Stanford University.

The lecture, titled "Cosmic Bullets, Craters and Catastrophes," is sponsored by Stanford's astronomy program. It is free and open to the public.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, Shoemaker will give a second lecture in room 101 of the Physics Lecture Hall titled "The Crash of Periodic Comet Shoemaker-Levy on Jupiter"; it is geared toward a smaller, academic audience.

Shoemaker is one of the scientists who determined that a comet will crash into the backside of the planet Jupiter in July 1994 with an energy equivalent to the detonation of a several megaton nuclear bomb. His recent work identifying smaller impact events in the Earth's atmosphere and impact craters from ancient collisions indicates that these events are not uncommon. His public lecture will focus on the frequency of impacts, their effects on the environment and how we might detect prospective threats.

After receiving his master's degree in geology from the California Institute of Technology in 1948, Shoemaker joined the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and was involved in uranium exploration in Colorado and Utah. His studies of the Meteor Crater in Arizona, undertaken while obtaining his doctorate from Princeton University in 1960, led him into lunar studies as part of the Apollo program.

He established a geological time scale for lunar features and developed methods for geologically mapping the moon using television systems that were later extended to other planetary bodies. He played a key role in the formation of the USGS Center for Astrogeology in Flagstaff, Ariz., in 1966 and served as the center's first chief scientist. After spending 16 years on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology, Shoemaker in 1986 returned to the USGS, where he became a scientist emeritus in 1993. His current area of research is the study of impact processes in the solar system and the effects that the impact of large meteors may have had on the evolution of life on Earth.

Shoemaker has been involved in a number of space missions. From 1961 to 1968 he was respectively co-investigator and principal investigator of the television experiments on Project Ranger and Project Survey, the programs that provided the first detailed surveys of the moon's surface. He was also co-investigator of the television experiment on the Voyager mission that produced the first detailed look at Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and their many moons.

He has received many awards and honors, including the National Medal of Science, NASA Medal for Scientific Achievement, the U.S. Department of the Interior's Honor Award for Meritorious Service, the Arthur L. Day Medal and G. K. Gilbert Award of the Geological Society of America, the Kuiper Prize of the American Astronomical Society and the Whipple Award of the American Geophysical Union. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Geological Society of America, the Mineralogical Society of America and the American Geophysical Union.

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