The Real Impact of Victoria Crater

“I don’t like the ‘terrorist geology of impact’, which is not the same thing as saying that no impacts have ever occurred.”
—V. Axel Firsoff.

Far side of the Moon from Apollo 16

Photo from Apollo 16 on the flight back to Earth centered on the eastern-most part of the Moon visible from Earth. The right half shows the heavily cratered far side of the Moon. Credit: NASA

One of the key arguments used to support the impact origin of craters in the solar system is that they seem similar to terrestrial explosion craters. However, superficial appearances can be deceptive. There are many unresolved problems with the impact-cratering model, which led the Irish astronomer, Firsoff, to express his dislike of the theory. However, no one has considered a better theory, electrical cratering, because of the current dogma in astrophysics that yes, “there is electricity in space, but it doesn’t do anything.”

Joseph Priestley, in 1766, was the first to observe cathode cratering and to compare the craters to those on the Moon. He noted their circular, ringed patterns. Robert Dietz, in 1963, suggested that the explosion from a lightning bolt might create shocked minerals near craters in a manner similar to that thought to occur from meteorite impacts. However, he was unwilling to flout convention and contemplate lightning bolts in space. The Englishman, Brian Ford, proposed in 1965 to the British Interplanetary Society that plasma discharge effects early in the Moon’s history formed its many craters. He suggested that the Moon may have been more closely coupled electrically to the Earth’s magnetosphere in that early epoch. Like Priestley, he used a spark-machining apparatus and demonstrated parallels between the laboratory craters and lunar craters. He reproduced the crater circularity—some, but not all, with central peaks—and the tendency for small craters to impinge on the rims of larger craters, but not the reverse.

Plasma physicists have endorsed the wide scalability of electrical phenomena. It offers simple laboratory tests of the theory of electrical cratering of celestial bodies. Electrical cratering has an explosive aspect but unlike an explosion it has precursor surface effects such as an electric wind that causes surface cleaning, and cold-cathode disruption to produce extensive crater chains, rilles and rays. Also, an electric arc, once established, may last long enough to produce many peculiar effects that are diagnostic.

Meanwhile, no one has found the source of the impactors that are supposed to have sculpted the surfaces of solid bodies in the solar system billions of years ago. No one has witnessed such an impact (Comet Shoemaker Levy 9 didn’t hit a solid surface). And no one has come up with convincing experimental tests of the impact theory.

Impact explanations of crater features are weak. For example, the NASA news release on October 6, ‘Victoria Crater’ at Meridiani Planum, shows a remarkable closeup of a Martian crater that is also under close scrutiny by one of the indefatigable Mars Rovers:

Victoria crater on Mars

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) returned its first images of the Martian surface last week during a test, including this image of Victoria crater. Credit: NASA / JPL / HiRISE Team

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows “Victoria crater,” an impact crater at Meridiani Planum, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Layered sedimentary rocks are exposed along the inner wall of the crater, and boulders that have fallen from the crater wall are visible on the crater floor. The floor of the crater is occupied by a striking field of sand dunes.

Since January 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been operating at Meridiani Planum. Five days before this image was taken, Opportunity arrived at the rim of Victoria crater, after a drive of more than 9 kilometers (over 5 miles). The rover can be seen in this image, at roughly the “ten o’clock” position along the rim of the crater.

Cape Verde

This is an enhanced, false-color rendering of images that Opportunity took using its panoramic camera (PanCam). This view of Victoria crater is looking north from Duck Bay toward the striking promontory called Cape Verde. This cliff of layered rocks is about 50 meters (164 feet) away from the rover and is about 6 meters (19.6 feet) tall. The taller promontory beyond that is about 100 meters (328 feet) away, and the vista beyond that extends away for more than 400 meters (1,312 feet) into the distance. Credit: NASA / JPL / Cornell

>> This is an enhanced, false-color rendering of images that Opportunity took using its panoramic camera (PanCam). This view of Victoria crater is looking north from Duck Bay toward the striking promontory called Cape Verde. This cliff of layered rocks is about 50 meters (164 feet) away from the rover and is about 6 meters (19.6 feet) tall. The taller promontory beyond that is about 100 meters (328 feet) away, and the vista beyond that extends away for more than 400 meters (1,312 feet) into the distance.
Credit: NASA / JPL / Cornell [Click to enlarge]

The pictures of Victoria crater expose the feebleness of the official “explanation.” The crater “has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material.” The crater actually looks quite fresh, with very little debris and no sign of the large heaps of rubble to be expected at the bases of the large scallops. If the rubble has been covered by wind blown sand, we have two problems. First, there is practically no air on Mars to shift sand grains. And second, there is a radial pattern on the floor of the crater that is inexplicable by wind-blown dust or sand.

So what does that make of the floor of the crater “occupied by a striking field of sand dunes?” They look like no field of dunes on Earth. Dunes have a difference of slope across their ridges. And to form “network dunes” requires episodes of winds blowing steadily from different directions. They resemble instead shallow intersecting bowl-shaped depressions.

Victoria—The Electrical Crater

Geology was originally considered a “soft” science, being mainly descriptive. It was not until physicists began to provide geologists with tools like radioactive dating and astronomers developed a cosmogony (story of the formation of the solar system) that geology was accepted as a “hard” science. However, if geologists have been “sold a pup” by their colleagues, then geology is no more than a fictional “once upon a time, long, long ago,” story. And stories told at mother’s knee tend to stay with us for life. Mars now has such a story, complete with geological eras known, from oldest to youngest, as the Noachian, Hesperian, and Amazonian Epochs.

According to the Lunar & Planetary Institute:

“these Epochs are defined by the number of meteorite impact craters on the ground surface; older surfaces show the scars of more impact craters. The actual timing of the Epochs is not known. The Noachian extends back in time to the beginnings of the planet, and ended sometime between 3.8 and 3.5 billion years ago (according to accepted models). Many large impact craters scar Noachian age surfaces. Next in time was the Hesperian period, a time of extensive lava plains. The Hesperian Epoch ended sometime between 3.55 and 1.8 billion years ago; the range here reflects different models of the rate of meteorite falls onto Mars. Finally, the Amazonian Epoch extends to the present day. Ground surfaces of Amazonian age have few meteorite impact craters, but otherwise are quite varied. The Amazonian Epoch has seen the formation of the huge volcano Olympus Mons, lava flows elsewhere on Mars, formation of the landslides in Valles Marineris (like these in Gangis Chasma), and formation of the broad plains and sand dunes near Mars’ poles.”

The crucial factor missing from radioactive dating and cosmogony is the electrical nature of the universe as described by the new science of plasma cosmology. Stars are an electrical phenomenon and their planets are involved in the stellar electrical circuit. The most common manifestation on Earth of this connection is lightning. But the origin of lightning remains a mystery due to the collective blind spot about cosmic electricity. If stars are an electrical phenomenon then the life story of the Sun is fictional. If planets have suffered powerful electrical discharges in the past then they are not closed energetic systems and radioactive dating is rendered practically worthless. Rather than concoct stories about the unimaginably distant past, we should reconstruct our recent past as effectively as we can to see what we might have missed.

Recent peer-reviewed papers in plasma science provide strong evidence that the Earth has suffered from sub-gigaampere auroral-type discharges in our recent prehistory. Such discharges, where they reach the surface, are capable of large scale scarring. It clearly demonstrates the failure of our current astrophysical fable to deal with a solar system that has an electrical aspect. The solar system most definitely is not simple Newtonian clockwork. Retro-calculations and stories based on this belief are fiction. Counting electrical craters, which can cover a planetary hemisphere in moments, has no dating value whatsoever.

I have written earlier on the electrical formation of the colossal gash across Mars’ face, Valles Marineris. That surface bears the hallmark of the most powerful electrical plasma discharge phenomenon in the universe—the characteristic form of the spiral galaxy. The problem facing science is that neither cosmologists nor geologists are trained in plasma discharge. So the pattern goes unnoticed on Mars.

Victoria crater is tiny but it demonstrates the value of simple laboratory experiments using electrical discharges to solid surfaces. There are two types of lightning strokes; the most common is the negative cloud to ground, where the earth is the positive electrode, or anode. Less common is the more powerful positive cloud to ground stroke, where the earth is the negative electrode, or cathode. The scar is different in each case.

An arc struck to an anode tends to “stick” in one place, causing much melting and often raising a circular blister, called a “fulgamite.” Fulgamite scars on lightning arrestors are bell-shaped with a circular crater, or craters, at the summit. They often rise steeply from a circular depression or “borrow pit,” with many rings. This should sound familiar to any keen observer of Mars. Olympus Mons has all of these strange features, which do not fit the volcano model. The giant “volcanoes” on Mars are in fact massive fulgamites!

Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons, 25 kilometres high, is NOT the highest volcano in the Solar System. It is a giant raised electrical blister with characteristic superimposed circular craters at the summit. It is the kind of blister seen on metal lightning arrestor caps after a strike. Credit: USGS/NASA

Victoria crater appears to be a short-duration anode scar, or “spark” crater, where melting is insignificant. In laboratory experiments it is found that the anode spark scar on a “contaminated” surface develops many arc “spots” at the center of a roughly circular scar. In a very short time the central arc spots move out to form a ring. The spots enlarge and join into a ring. For a time the entire arc current passes through the annular ring. If it were to continue, melting would occur, obliterating the fine scalloped structure of the crater wall. In experiments there may be a hundred or more spots.

Victoria crater diagram

I would suggest that the “sand dunes” are the result of the central arc spots, forming overlapping circular depressions (see diagram above). Certainly, the orthogonal ridges have more in common with a corona discharge pattern than they do with sand dunes. They may therefore be solid, glassified sand, rather like that found in dry soil following a lightning strike. Such glassified sand is known as a “fulgurite.” It is noteworthy that the Apollo astronauts found clumps of glass-crusted soil near the centers of small (1 to 5 foot) craters on the lunar surface. It raised a stir because the glass was a surprise. In addition, orthogonal lineaments in the lunar soil were reported. They cannot have been there for long.

The blast effect of the cosmic “spark” together with the electrical stripping of ionized surface matter, produced the clean crater and surrounds. The sudden outward movement of the arc spots may have formed the radial pattern on the crater floor. The scalloped crater wall is simply the erosion signature of the irregular ring of enlarged anode spots.

The dark material on the crater floor may be from an exposed strata and/or the arc may have modified the lighter material. It may be rich in Martian hematite “blueberries.” The somewhat curved dark streaks beyond the crater wall are to be expected from an electric discharge because of the rotating winds it generates.

I wish the Mars Rover, Opportunity, every success in exploring Victoria crater. It may at last be able to provide confirmation of the electrical model of planetary cratering. Of course, that does not guarantee acceptance by planetary scientists. That requires giving up strong beliefs imbibed with mother’s milk.

“A man receives only what he is ready to receive. . . .
The phenomenon or fact that cannot in any wise be linked with the rest of what he has observed, he does not observe.”
—Henry D. Thoreau

Wal Thornhill

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