Comet Wild 2

‘The remarkable properties of comets are not even remotely explicable by any of the numerous ad hoc assumptions of ‘modern’ comet theory.’
- Prof. R A Lyttleton, Journey to the Centre of Uncertainty, Speculations in Science & Technology, Vol. 8, No. 5 p. 344.

NASA published the following News Release (2004-001) on January 2, 2004:

NASA Spacecraft Makes Great Catch…Heads for Touchdown

Comet Wild 2

Comet Wild 2 is shown in this image taken by the Stardust navigation camera during the spacecraft's closest approach to the comet on January 2. The image was taken within a distance of 500 kilometers (about 311 miles) of the comet's nucleus with a 10-millisecond exposure.

Team Stardust, NASA’s first dedicated sample return mission to a comet, passed a huge milestone today by successfully navigating through the particle and gas-laden coma around comet Wild 2 (pronounced “Vilt-2″). During the hazardous traverse, the spacecraft flew within 240 kilometers (149 miles) of the comet, catching samples of comet particles and scoring detailed pictures of Wild 2′s pockmarked surface.

“Things couldn’t have worked better in a fairy tale,” said Tom Duxbury, Stardust project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

“These images are better than we had hoped for in our wildest dreams,” said Ray Newburn of JPL, a co-investigator for Stardust. “They will help us better understand the mechanisms that drive conditions on comets.”

“These are the best pictures ever taken of a comet,” said Principal Investigator Dr. Don Brownlee of the University of Washington, Seattle. “Although Stardust was designed to be a comet sample return mission, the fantastic details shown in these images greatly exceed our expectations.”

The collected particles, stowed in a sample return capsule onboard Stardust, will be returned to Earth for in-depth analysis. That dramatic event will occur on January 15, 2006, when the capsule makes a soft landing at the U.S. Air Force Utah Test and Training Range. The microscopic particle samples of comet and interstellar dust collected by Stardust will be taken to the planetary material curatorial facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, for analysis.

Stardust has traveled about 3.22 billion kilometers (2 billion miles) since its launch on February 7, 1999. As it closed the final gap with its cometary quarry, it endured a bombardment of particles surrounding the nucleus of comet Wild 2. To protect Stardust against the blast of expected cometary particles and rocks, the spacecraft rotated so it was flying in the shadow of its “Whipple Shields.” The shields are named for American astronomer Dr. Fred L. Whipple, who, in the 1950s, came up with the idea of shielding spacecraft from high-speed collisions with the bits and pieces ejected from comets. The system includes two bumpers at the front of the spacecraft — which protect Stardust’s solar panels — and another shield protecting the main spacecraft body. Each shield is built around composite panels designed to disperse particles as they impact, augmented by blankets of a ceramic cloth called Nextel that further dissipate and spread particle debris.

“Everything occurred pretty much to the minute,” said Duxbury. “And with our cometary encounter complete, we invite everybody to tune in about one million, 71 thousand minutes from now when Stardust returns to Earth, bringing with it the first comet samples in the history of space exploration.”

Scientists believe in-depth terrestrial analysis of the samples will reveal much about comets and the earliest history of the solar system. Chemical and physical information locked within the cometary particles could be the record of the formation of the planets and the materials from which they were made.


COMMENT:

Congratulations to the technologists who achieved this remarkable engineering feat! However, the news release shows that NASA scientists are no closer to understanding the true nature of comets than they were when the Deep Space 1 spacecraft snapped images of Comet Borrelly more than 2 years ago.

On 18 October 2001 I featured a news item about that earlier successful comet encounter. (See Comet Borrelly rocks core scientific beliefs). That headline was taken from a syndicated newspaper article which trumpeted, “comet Borrelly will revolutionise our understanding of these frozen wanderers.” It hasn’t. The same set of beliefs about comets is being repeated today. My 2001 item outlined some of those core scientific beliefs and why they are mistaken and concluded: ‘”A revolution in our understanding of comets will only occur when the unconscious core beliefs are questioned.’”

The NASA report shows that scientists remain unconscious of the beliefs that are preventing progress in astrophysics and astronomy. So their comet catechism is repeated. ‘”Comets will unlock the secrets of the origin of the Earth.”‘ That may be so. But it will not happen until we really understand what a comet is and where it comes from. All we have at present is a story that has become accepted opinion through endless repetition. Accepted opinion is a belief. And firmly held beliefs are the major roadblock to scientific advancement.


This is an ideal opportunity to examine the picture of Wild 2 from the perspective of the electric universe model of comets. Briefly, in that model a comet is a highly negatively charged body with respect to the Sun. Like all charged bodies in plasma, a comet will be enveloped in a plasma sheath (the coma) that limits the reach of the comet’s electric field. A forbidden oxygen line was discovered in Comet Austin’s coma. “Forbidden lines” are spectral signatures that are not expected in space because here on Earth they are found only within strong electric fields. To astronomers’ surprise, forbidden lines are common in space, not only in comets, but in nebulae and galaxies. A cometary display is produced when the nucleus discharges at a rate sufficient to generate a visible tail. The dust and gases that form the comet”s tail are not evaporated by the heat of the sun, but instead are electrically ‘machined’ from the nucleus by cathode arcs. Laboratory examination of cathode arcs shows that they jump around on the cathode surface, removing surface material in jets to form small circular craters. The industrial process of Electric Discharge Machining (EDM) uses this feature to erode a surface to accurate depth. To the naked eye, the EDM surface looks remarkably smooth. However, when viewed at high magnification, the peculiarities of the machined surface become clear. The tendency for the cathode arc to erode one high point then move to the next high point tends to generate chains of flat-floored craters. The finished surface appears as if someone used a circular cookie cutter to produce extended depressions and channels with scalloped edges. Variations in arc current will produce a layered or terraced effect both within craters and between adjacent craters. Below is an example of EDM scarring.

EDM surface

Scanning Electron Microscope image of a surface subjected to EDM.

The picture below of Comet Wild 2 was taken at a distance four times closer than that of Comet Borrelly. The surface features are therefore seen more clearly. Or they should be. It is odd that the picture released by NASA lacked contrast and was fuzzy. A simple digital correction provides a much clearer image.

Comet Wild 2 nucleus enhanced

Enhanced image of the nucleus of Comet Wild 2.

Here we see clearly the hallmarks of electric discharge machining of the comet nucleus. We see the circular pitting and flat floors of the pits. Pits overlap to form crater chains with scalloped edges and layering or terracing. Compare it with the earlier EDM microscope image.

The position of the active jets is shown in an overexposed image provided by NASA. It is noteworthy that the comet nucleus is brightest in the region where the brightest jet seems to originate.

Comet Wild 2 jets

A prominent jet can be seen at the 2-o'clock position.

There is a bright region at the 2 o’clock position on the nucleus where the prominent jet is seen. In the electric theory, unresolved bright spots are to be expected where the cathode arcs impinge on the nucleus and give rise to the cathode jets. The dirty snowball theory of comets expects to find jets where material is heated more, which suggests jets from darker areas.

So how does the current theory of comets fit this picture?

‘ Comets are conventionally described as ‘dirty snowballs’ – dust and lumps of rock glued together by ices. Their orbits take them far from the Sun most of the time.

‘ As a comet nears the Sun, its surface warms up. Ice sublimes from its surface and forms a tenuous atmosphere, called a coma, which can span a million kilometres. Solar radiation and a steady flow of charged particles called the solar wind push material from the coma away from the Sun, forming a long, glowing tail.

‘ Comets probably formed at the same time as the Sun and planets, about 4.5 billion years ago. But many of them were somehow removed far from the Sun by interactions with the outer planets. Astronomers suspect that as many as one trillion of these objects reside in a shell, called the Oort Cloud, that extends as much as a light-year from the Sun. No one has ever seen anything in the Oort Cloud. It is too far away for any 21st century space instrument to observe. Its existence is based on many assumptions, including how the solar system was formed, how long the solar system has been in its present stable configuration, and how a comet works.

Oort cloud

"'The Oort-shell, ..has become widely regarded as a firmly established triumph of 'modern cometary theory' when in fact, it is a piece of trash heralded as one of the corner-stones of cometary 'science'."' Prof. R A Lyttleton, Journey to the Centre of Uncertainty, Speculations in Science & Technology, Vol. 8, No. 5 p. 343.

‘The Oort cloud is understood to be the source of comets that reach the inner solar system. If that is so, there is a severe deficit in the number of comets observed in short-period orbits like Comet Halley.

‘None of the comets imaged so far look anything like a dirty snowball. They look like the blackest of asteroids ‘ a lump of cratered rock that originated from a larger, differentiated body. Indeed, they have been described as ‘complex worlds’ in their own right. There is no reason to assume that they are primordial samples left over from the formation of the solar system.

‘The cratering of comets and asteroids remains an enigma for astronomers. Craters are supposedly formed by impacts, but many tiny comets and asteroids have craters so large that their nucleus should have been shattered if an impact had formed them.

‘The low density attributed to comets and asteroids, despite their appearance of being solid rock, is based on gravitational perturbation measurements. Electric Universe theory suggests that we do not understand the true nature of gravity and that Newton”s universal constant of gravitation,’G,’ is neither constant nor universal. (The penny should have dropped long ago when measurements on Earth showed G to be the most variable ‘constant’ in physics).

‘Sublimation of ices from the comet nucleus by solar heating is not expected to form the distinctive circular craters or well-collimated jets. The surface features of Comet Wild 2 are inexplicable by out-gassing.

Comet surface outgassing

Fanciful depiction of out-gassing from a comet nucleus. Why it should be concentrated from a few spots is not explained. Why it always forms vertical jets is not explained. The velocity of the jets cannot be explained by simple heating.

‘Solar heating should be least where the comet nucleus is brightest. We should least expect jets from a bright region of the nucleus.

‘Comet Borrelly showed no trace of the water ice needed to account for the amount of dust emitted from the nucleus. It was described as ‘dry and hot.’ Out-gassing doesn”t seem to bear any relationship to the surface area of a comet.

‘Halley produced a ‘major surprise’ in the amount of finest dust being emitted. Before the comet flybys the dust population was expected to peak at a certain size, then tail off toward smaller particles. Giotto swept up specks no larger than a millionth of a centimeter; only 100 atoms in diameter.

‘Comet dust collected in the Earth’s stratosphere contains tiny grains of annealed silicates that were formed at a temperature of about 1600K.

‘Copious X-rays were discovered by accident coming from a comet. No one expected them from an inert body rushing through the solar wind. An ad hoc explanation was devised that required protons from the Sun to combine with electrons from the comet. No one sensed the irony. that moving protons combining with electrons is the defining characteristic of an electric current flowing between the Sun and the comet.

And how does the electric universe model fit this picture?

‘The electric universe model of comets has a simple, coherent explanation for all of the features and behavior of comets.

‘Comets are not leftovers from the formation of the solar system. Present theories of the formation of planetary systems cannot explain our solar system anyway.

‘Just as there is no invisible dark matter required in the galaxy to save the electric universe theory, there is no invisible Oort cloud of comets required to provide a theoretical comet source. In the electric universe – what you see is all you need.

‘Comets are the result of electrical discharge machining of planetary bodies that occurs in the catastrophic evolution of planetary orbits. It is far too simplistic to assume that the planets were formed along with the Sun and remained in their present orbits ever since.

‘In addition to removing dust, the gargantuan electric forces of an interplanetary thunderbolt are able to loft entire mountains into space from the surface of a planet. Comets and asteroids can be formed this way.

‘And the same discharge that gives birth to comets and asteroids may burn them black and leave distinctive birthmarks in the form of large arc craters. That is how asteroids, like Mathilde, can be covered in gigantic craters without suffering any disruption.

‘Density calculations based on gravitational perturbation theory are worthless. Gravity is a weak dipole electric force between subatomic particles. So the charge distribution in a body affects gravity strongly. Comets are highly charged bodies and will exhibit anomalous gravity. Newton”s gravitational ‘constant,’ G, is a dependent variable. It is dependent on the electrical state of a body.

‘So-called non-gravitational accelerations exhibited by comets are due to the electrical interaction of a comet with the Sun”s weak radial electric field (which affects deep space craft like Pioneer and Voyager) and the electrical interaction within the plasma sheaths (magnetospheres) of the outer planets. The non-G accelerations have nothing to do with the cometary jets, which are far too weak to have any significant effect.

‘Powerful internal stresses caused by redistribution of charge within an actively discharging comet are responsible for their observed tendency to fragment. The effect is like an exploding condenser. It is not due to the comet being a weakly coherent rubble pile. (There is a lesson here for geologists about earthquakes). Many comets fragment at large distances from the Sun, which argues against heating and dynamic stresses being responsible.

‘One comet disappeared after fragmenting. This is contrary to expectations of the icy comet theory because the sudden increase in surface area exposed to the Sun would be expected to create a spectacular outburst. However, the dispersal of an electrically charged comet would be expected to reduce or extinguish the visible discharge phenomena.

‘Comet jets, being cathode arcs, will always jet vertically from the surface. Because they constitute an electric current, the jet streams will remain separate and coherent over vast distances. Comet Hyakutake’s tail was detected by the Ulysses spacecraft half a billion kilometres away!

Comet jets

Cometary filaments cannot be explained by outgassing. They are definitive evidence for the electrical nature of comets and the solar environment.

‘The trajectory, velocity and filamentary nature of the comet”s ion tail conform to that known experimentally as a ‘plasma gun.’

‘X-rays are generated naturally by high-voltage discharges.

‘Electric discharge machining of the comet nucleus will produce the extremely fine dust observed in the Comet Halley fly-by.

‘Electric discharge machining of the comet nucleus will produce annealed silicate grains.

‘Comet jets, being an electric discharge phenomenon, do not require solar heating. That explains cometary flare-ups beyond the orbit of Saturn, where a comet is in ‘deep freeze.’

A book could be written comparing the two theories of comets. The points briefly mentioned above merely give a glimpse of the possibilities. The electrical theory opens up new ways of interpreting the comet dust samples when they are returned to Earth. We should compare the elemental ratios of comet dust with that of Martian meteorites. We should look for signs of flash heating of dust particles in an electric arc, like the chondrules seen in many meteorites. Meteorites are formed in the same process as comets. That is why we have meteor showers when a comet disintegrates. We should look for isotopic anomalies in the comet dust and the presence of short-lived radionuclides generated by an interplanetary thunderbolt. No nearby supernova is required.

Comets have nothing to tell us about the origin of the solar system but they do carry important information about its recent catastrophic history!


Postscript – Scars show comet has ‘solid’ centre

New Scientist vol 181 issue 2430 – 17′January’2004, page 14:


THE latest analysis of pictures taken by NASA’s Stardust probe during its headlong plunge through comet Wild 2 on 2 January has revealed a big surprise: the comet’s icy nucleus is covered in what look like impact craters.

In its first bulletin last week on the mission’s findings, the Stardust team reported that the jets of gas producing the comet’s spectacular coma and tail appear to be emanating from pits on the surface of the nucleus (New Scientist, 10 January, p 11).

Now the team has studied more detailed pictures from the probe and found that as well as sinkholes apparently caused by ice vaporising below the surface, the nucleus is covered in what look like well-preserved impact craters. That is completely unexpected because comets are believed to be loose aggregations of dust and ice that would shatter on impact.

“I don’t think any of us ever really considered the possibility of impact craters,” says Ray Newburn of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. If the pits are craters, the surface of the comet nucleus must be much stronger than experts thought. “It may be a well-cemented rubble pile, but it’s definitely not a loose powdery surface,” he says.

Wal Thornhill

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