by Wal Thornhill | October 27, 2010 10:23 am
What can be said about the Deep Impact spacecraft’s imminent second rendezvous with a comet? From NASA websites comes the following information:
The Deep Impact spacecraft is about to rendezvous with another comet. It will be the fifth comet to be observed in a close flyby by a spacecraft. The mission is called by the peculiar acronym, EPOXI. EPOXI is a combination of the names for the two extended mission components: the extrasolar planet observations, called Extrasolar Planet Observations and Characterization (EPOCh), and the flyby of comet Hartley 2, called the Deep Impact Extended Investigation (DIXI). The spacecraft continues to be referred to as “Deep Impact.”
The DIXI component (Deep Impact Extended Investigation) of the EPOXI mission will observe comet 103P/Hartley 2 to compare it with comets observed by other spacecraft missions. Comparisons with data from Tempel 1, taken with the exact same instruments, will be particularly useful for determining which cometary features represent primordial differences and which result from subsequent evolutionary processes.
Comment: The Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1 was perhaps the most successful space mission for confirming ELECTRIC UNIVERSE® predictions and confounding the consensus view of comets as inert, primordial icy bodies. If the scientific method were truly applied, the puzzles from Deep Impact 1 should have been cause for a review, not just of the current paradigm but also of every choice that led up to it.
“Of all the forces we know, there is none stronger than a paradigm.”
My predictions were based upon a distinctly different hypothesis of the origin and nature of comets. It assumes nothing about their inaccessible primordial origin. It is based on the broadest human observations of the heavens. My colleagues have amassed a powerful forensic case, based on the earliest recorded human memories and prehistoric petroglyphs, for electrical exchanges between solar system bodies during a period of recent planetary chaos. It is significant that global traditions associate the thunderbolt with stones from heaven, or meteorites. More compelling is the discovery on Earth of recent meteorites from Mars. The message is clear. Comets, asteroids and meteorites all originate from rocky planets and moons, lofted into space by overwhelmingly powerful electrical discharges.
This website carried the only prediction of the unexpected initial flash before impact: “before physical impact occurs, we may expect a sudden discharge between the comet nucleus and the copper projectile. It will have the characteristic light-curve of lightning, with rapid onset and exponential decay. The question is, will it be a mere spark or a powerful arc?” Also, I predicted that instead of seeing very little impact effect: “the energetic effects of the encounter should exceed that of a simple physical impact, in the same way that was seen with comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 at Jupiter.”
With these successful predictions, what might we expect from Deep Impact 2?
DIXI Science Objectives
At the heart of NASA’s Solar System Exploration endeavor is the need to understand the origins of planets, asteroids, comets and objects in the Kuiper belt. In the EPOXI mission, the interest is in both how the Solar System originated and how it is evolving. In either case we are interested in comets because it is thought that they tell of conditions that prevailed in the early stages of Solar System formation. They are original members of the Solar System and are little changed because they have spent most of their lives in frigid regions of the Solar System.
Comment: The story of the formation of planets from the ‘leftovers’ of the gravitational formation of the Sun is purely hypothetical because a body less than 1000 km diameter will fragment in a collision. The hypothesis falters trying to achieve bodies 1 km in size! As if that weren’t enough, in the words of one expert, “it needs a different story for every planet.” Referring to the Stardust mission analysis of dust from the tail of comet Wild 2, Dr. Phil Bland, Reader in Meteorics and Planetary Science, Imperial College, London, wrote in the Times:
“The composition of [comet] minerals is all over the place, which tells us that the components that built this comet weren’t formed in one place at one time by one event. Fundamentally we still don’t know how you make planets from a cloud of dust and gas.”
However, the story goes that comets enter the inner solar system when disturbed from an invisible cloud of icy objects located about 1000 times the distance of Pluto, a good fraction of the way to the nearest star. The disturbance is thought to be due to a passing star or the movement of the Sun above and below the galactic plane. But many astronomers have pointed to the lack of evidence for sporadic comet showers that such disturbances should unleash and concluded that such events could only account for about one-fifth of the comets we see.
The astronomer, the late Tom Van Flandern, devised a scale model that demonstrates the implausibility of this theory.
“If the Earth’s orbit were represented by the period at the end of this sentence and Pluto’s orbit by a circle of one centimetre diameter, then the nearest star is 41 metres away. The Oort cloud of comets would orbit near a sphere 6 metres in diameter containing one comet per cubic millimetre. The comets would move at about 3 millimetres per 1000 years. They are effectively motionless. Passing stars on rare occasions ‘whiz’ past at a metre per 1000 years and stir up the nearby comets. Less than 1 in 10,000 disturbed comets will be knocked onto a path that will target the 1 millimetre or so sphere surrounding the Sun where a comet might be seen from the Earth.”
Having visualized this, Van Flandern makes the point that the volume of a sphere encompassing Pluto’s orbit is so vast that all the 200 billion stars in our galaxy would fit inside with room to spare. He writes:
“But the volume enclosed by the comet cloud is a billion times greater yet. It truly is unimaginably large, surviving as a plausible idea in large part because our intuitions fail so miserably to comprehend the vastness of this volume.”
This is another example from astronomy of an improbable model based on invisible matter. One serious observational difficulty with the idea is the total lack of comets on hyperbolic orbits. Yet the model persists unquestioned!
The recent discovery that stars form like a string of pearls conforms to the laboratory tested electromagnetic pinch theory of plasma cosmology. The ELECTRIC UNIVERSE® model goes further in proposing both electrically mediated stellar capture, and expulsion of planetary bodies, satellites and rings of debris from stars and gas giants in that process and while achieving order in the new planetary system. In other words, the history of the solar system is complex and episodic. Our weird assortment of planets and moons supports this view. Each body has its own unique origin and history.
Comets and asteroids are, in this picture, the debris from these interplanetary electrical events and are not “primordial.” This hypothesis was recently buttressed by the ‘surprising’ discovery of high-temperature minerals captured from a comet tail by the Stardust spacecraft. Like the planets, each comet has a complex history. Comets may have different planetary parents or be torn from different surface materials on the same planet. They may be more or less electrically burnt and scarred in their ‘birth’ process. Researchers noted, “the fact that the shapes and topographies of three comets in Jupiter’s family (Borrelly, Wild 2, and Tempel 1) are so different from one another raises the question of whether any comet is typical when looked at closely.” Such a question should not arise if all comets were formed in a distant, homogeneous Oort cloud.
Observations to be made during the comet portion of the EPOXI mission are motivated largely by unexpected discoveries made during the Deep Impact mission. They are: frequent outbursts originating on the surface that radiate outward in a fanlike fashion; surface features not seen before, such as exposed edges of surface layers and relatively large flow-like features; spatial asymmetry of gases in the inner coma; evidence for shallow penetration of solar radiation; and small patches of water ice on the surface.
Comment: A history of unexpected discoveries is the hallmark of a failed hypothesis. The electrical model of comets was able to predict or simply explain all of the discoveries made during the Deep Impact mission. The “outbursts” from the comet are in the form of ‘cathode jets,’ which are bursty in nature and tend to jump around from one high point or sharp edge to another. The so-called ‘volcanoes’ on Io are also intermittent cathode jets, which show the “fanlike” ejecta and, unlike terrestrial volcanoes, move about the surface of the moon.
The surface features of Tempel 1 are characteristic of electric discharge machining. The asymmetry of gases in the inner coma is discussed later. The shallow penetration of solar heat, shown by the rapid cooling of the unlit surface, and small patches of surface ice are not a problem because the jets are not heat related.
In order to better understand how comets formed and evolved we will compare EPOXI observations with previous flyby observations of comets Halley, Borrelly and Wild 2 – Giotto and Vega at Halley, DS1 at Borrelly, Stardust at Wild 2, Deep Impact at Tempel 1 – looking for both similarities and differences.
The discoveries made by Deep Impact at Tempel 1 raised several new questions:
• Can the heterogeneity of gases in the inner coma be related to the formation of the comet by the accretion of different kinds of cometesimals from different parts of the solar system?
Comment: No. The cometesimal hypothesis is conjectural and unsupported by attempts to model accretion of impacting objects. Also the orbits of comets do not conform to their supposed origin in a hypothetical ‘Oort cloud’ at great distance from the solar system. Van Flandern proposed that the observed ‘families’ of comets could be traced to an inner solar system origin, which he attributed to perhaps four distinct (but unexplained) planetary explosions.
• Do other comets show the frequent, short outbursts seen by Deep Impact at Tempel 1 and why do they happen?
Comment: The EU model predicts that all active comets will exhibit frequent, short outbursts in different spots on their surface. The outbursts happen because they are electrical discharge phenomena, known technically as (cold) cathode jets. Their onset will be as sudden as an electric spark (described in one report as “nearly instantaneous”) and their duration extended only because space plasma has a limited current carrying capacity. The jets will focus on an extremely small bright area generally situated on a raised point or edge of the comet surface. In July 2004, I wrote in relation to Comet Wild 2:
“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. What do we find? “The most significant albedo, or at least brightness, features are rare small bright spots that occur in multiple images at different phase angles …ruling out the possibility that it is a phase effect or image artifact. In stereo images, it [a <50-m bright spot at the edge of a flat-floored depression] has no height. There is an adjacent shadow-like dark spot that could be the shadow of an optically thick jet… The bright spots are small and rare, suggesting that they may be short-lived.”
Some of the jet sources are reported as tending “to coincide with the locations that are brighter than average.” The jets will form on the comet nucleus closest to its plasma sheath and where the electric field is strongest. Since the plasma sheath is generally closest in the solar direction, it has given rise to the notion that solar heating is responsible for comet jets. However, the solar wind strongly influences the comet’s plasma sheath, which may give rise to jets occurring on unlit areas of the comet.
In comparison, jets due to heating can be expected to have a slow onset and persistence in the same location only while receiving maximum sunlight.
• Do other comets have exposed layers and large scale flow-like features bounded by scarps? What causes them?
Comment: All comets should exhibit electrostatic cleaning of their surfaces and spark machining, which produces flat surfaces surrounded by terraces or scarps. An example is the so-called ‘calderas’ on Io, which are larger in scale and have been imaged in the process of spark machining of the ‘caldera’ wall.
• Is the dark side of a comet extremely cold because heat cannot penetrate very far below the surface?
Comment: Yes. The consensus view of comet jets being formed by heat conduction to volatiles beneath the surface is a desperate and unlikely hypothesis featuring unverifiable guesses about what lies hidden inside a comet. Also, it requires impossibly perfect cylindrical venturies in the surface rock to produce the observed fan-like jets.
• Does the dilapidated shape of craters tell us that comets were formed earlier than previously thought?
Comment: NO. All comets were formed recently in catastrophic planetary electrical encounters. The craters are not due to impact. They are electrical craters that are having their sharp edges eroded each time they approach the Sun.
• Does the distribution of volatiles, such as the ices of water or carbon dioxide, result from an evolutionary process or did it occur during the initial formation?
Comment: Most of the volatiles detected in cometary comas are formed not by solar heating but by electrical ‘cathode sputtering’ of the high-temperature minerals on the comet surface. The evidence for this comes from the ‘puzzling’ abundance (densities at least 100 times greater than expected) of negative ions near the nucleus. The negative ions combine with the positive hydrogen ions from the solar wind to give, amongst other things, the OH radical, which is then misinterpreted as signaling the presence of water ice on the comet. That is why all other means of detecting significant water ice on comets have generally failed.
Comets have not undergone “an evolutionary process.” They are the debris resulting from electrical discharge sculpting of planetary surfaces. They belong to ‘families,’ which characterize their parent planet. They were born in an intense plasma discharge environment which tends to drive off volatiles. However, as chondritic meteorites show, there are plasma effects which tend to produce surface layering and fragment agglomeration.
• How can we distinguish characteristics set in place during the initial formation of a comet from those that evolved later?
Comment: First, the formation mechanism of comets needs to be understood. And that requires that scientists accept the possibility that the Stardust mission’s detection of high-temperature minerals in comet tail dust signalled the falsification of the consensus ‘dirty snowball’ hypothesis of comet formation. Instead, we witnessed the dreaming up of another post hoc story to cover this fundamental challenge to comet theory; “somehow, the high-temperature minerals must have been blown to the outer reaches of the solar system.”
One of the significant findings made during the primary Deep Impact mission that, hopefully, will be studied during the EPOXI mission was the presence of frequent, sporadic, fan-shaped outbursts of brightness in the coma that are correlated with the comet’s rotation.
This discovery is significant for the following reasons. First, outbursts of Tempel 1, unlike observations of previous comets, have been monitored continuously and at regular intervals, allowing their study as they develop. Second, outbursts of Tempel 1 were from a relatively inactive comet. Third, groups of outbursts correlate with the rotation of the comet. Fourth, the intensity rises very rapidly to its maximum, in a matter of minutes. Fifth, the outbursts often appear to emanate from localized regions on the surface.
Questions for study outbursts at Hartley 2 include the following:
• Does Hartley 2 exhibit rapidly rising outbursts?
• What is the significance of the rapid rise time?
Comment: It is an electric discharge with a sudden onset like lightning.
• Do Hartley 2’s outbursts, if any, correlate with local sunrise?
Comment: Not necessarily. The outbursts should correlate with changes in distance of the surface from the comet’s plasma sheath. This will be principally due to the rotation of high points on the nucleus toward the Sun and changes in the proximity of the plasma sheath due to interaction with the solar wind. The evidence for this electrical correlation comes from the flaring of Halley’s comet in the deep-freeze of space beyond Saturn at the time a solar outburst passed through the region.
• Can surface features, such as the presence of ices, differences in chemical composition or topographical features, be associated with the sources of the fan-like structures?
Comment: Contrary to all expectations, the ‘fan-like structures’ (jets) will tend to emanate from sharp-edged topographical highs. Chemical composition that enhances conductivity, or cold-cathode electron emission, of surface rocks will be favored as jet sources.
• What processes within the comet cause the outbursts to occur?
Comment: Just as there are no causes within the Earth to cause lightning to strike, there are no processes operating within the comet to cause the outbursts. Both are simply evidence of the location of the electrical breakdown path and are therefore surface/atmospheric effects rather than processes within the body. The comet nucleus behaves like a passive electret subjected to external electrical stress.
• Does the loss of material from the outburst contribute significantly to the loss of material from the surface. If so, are there any evolutionary consequences?
Comment: The loss of material is entirely from the surface except when rising internal electrical stress from surface discharge activity may cause a comet to explode like an overstressed capacitor. The electrical disintegration of a comet is the only evolutionary consequence.
>> This image is a composite of two exposures – a long one where the nucleus was overexposed (showing the coma) and a shorter exposure of the nucleus that underexposed the coma. In addition, the coma is grey-scaled logarithmically to show structure while the nucleus is inset with linear contrast levels, scaled so that it is not saturated. CREDIT: NASA/UM/Tony Farnham
Jet Activity in the Coma
During the encounter with Tempel 1, jets of material were observed spiking out from the surface of the comet. As the comet rotated, observations made from different angles enabled analysts to trace the jets to their origin on the comet’s surface. Indeed, other observations show jets rising directly from the surface. Although many jets have been observed, only one weak jet seems to be associated with one of the three patches of water ice on the surface.
Comment: “Jets rising directly from the surface” are characteristic of cathode jets, which are constrained by the electric field to rise perpendicularly. There is no reason to expect gas rising from beneath the comet surface, as the consensus model holds, to form a jet or to rise perpendicularly.
• Interestingly enough, some jets appear to persist even though their sources are on the dark side of the comet. This phenomenon, if observed, can tell us about the thermal properties of Hartley 2’s nucleus. Note that jets may have been observed coming from the dark side of comet Wild 2.
Comment: As explained earlier, the jets are not due to solar heating. Therefore they may appear on the dark side of the nucleus. They will tell us nothing about the thermal properties of a comet based on the solar heating model.
Relating The Coma To The Nucleus
We have already noted above the spectacular outbursts and jets observed on Tempel 1. Here we describe the more delicate features of the coma that we will seek to relate to features on the surface of the nucleus.
When examined with the spectrometer in Deep Impact’s High Resolution Instrument, it was discovered that Tempel 1’s coma has an excess of water vapor on its sunward side. It is most pronounced along the direction toward the sun. Further, an excess of carbon dioxide vapor was found above Tempel 1’s southern hemisphere. Why these things are true is a matter for further analysis hopefully aided by observations of Hartley 2.
Comment: The electrical model of comet behavior offers a simple answer to why an excess of water ‘vapor’ was found on Tempel 1’s sunward side. First, it is an unwarranted use of the word ‘vapor.’ It is the OH radical that is detected. It is an assumption that it is formed by the breakdown of H2O ‘vapor’ by solar UV radiation. As explained earlier, electrical sputtering of rocky minerals on the comet nucleus will tear molecules apart, producing O– ions which combine with protons (H+) from the solar ‘wind’ to produce OH. The sunward side of the coma is the place where the coma is most compressed and where we should expect OH to be most concentrated.
The localized CO2 signature, usually identified by carbon monoxide (CO), most likely represents sputtering from a localized carbon-containing mineral. It must also be considered that CO ions will have a unique trajectory under the influence of electromagnetic forces associated with the cathode jets. Once again, this finding doesn’t necessarily represent the sublimation of carbon dioxide ice. In fact, “it seems that CO is produced only in part by the cometary nucleus and in greater proportions by some extended source in the coma,” which suggests perhaps recombination of carbon and oxygen ions at some distance from the nucleus should also be considered.
We would like to trace features in Hartley 2’s coma to areas of heightened activity on the comet’s surface. Having done so, we can entertain questions such as the following. What fraction of the dust and gas in the coma comes from active areas? What fraction of Hartley 2’s area shows heightened activity? To what degree do the localized areas differ in composition? Can the differences be attributed to the presence of cometesimals that the nucleus accumulated in different parts of the Solar System as the then-forming comet migrated outward from the sun? On the other hand, differences may not be evidence of cometesimals at all, but rather they may be layered accumulations of dust and ice that solar activity has eroded at different rates because of differences in composition or because the comet’s spin axis changes.
Comment: Here we see an attempt to explain an inhomogeneous comet nucleus. As pointed out earlier, hypothetical impacting cometesimals would fragment, not coalesce. And now we see an ad hoc addition to the original theory of comet origins as “leftovers” from a primordial solar nebula. In order to explain high-temperature minerals in comets, some heavy elements must have somehow “migrated outward from the sun” against gravity! The conventional story of comets becomes more complex and bizarre with each new attempt to save it.
The mass of a typical comet is thought to be roughly half ice. Not all of the ice is made of water or carbon dioxide. More complex carbon-based molecules are present. In order to learn more about these ices, the coma near Hartley 2’s surface will be compared spectroscopically with the coma farther out. What we hope to observe is that these complex molecules dissociate under the action of solar radiation and then, perhaps, recombine to form different molecules.
A small amount of water ice was discovered on the surface of Tempel 1 and it remains to be seen whether there is water ice on Hartley 2. If so, can it be correlated with any features in the coma?
Comment: It is amazing that comets are still thought to be “half ice” after the non-detection of ice on so many comet flybys. The spectroscopic survey is very important. I predict that photo-dissociation will be found totally inadequate to explain the degree and nature of ionization of molecules close to the nucleus. It has been known since the Giotto spacecraft flew through the inner coma of comet Halley that “negative ions occurred with densities 100 times greater than expected, and the discrepancy is still not well understood.”
Only a week ago, NASA reported about comet Hartley 2 that, “recent observations of comet Hartley 2 have scientists scratching their heads, while they anticipate a flyby of the small, icy world on Nov. 4. Our observations indicate that cyanide (HCN) released by the comet increased by a factor of five over an eight-day period in September without any increase in dust emissions. We have never seen this kind of activity in a comet before…” This is simply another piece of contrary evidence suggesting that comets are not a homogeneous aggregate of primordial ice and dust.
Talps and Layers
The primary Deep Impact mission discovered surface features on Tempel 1 that shed light on the mechanisms by which, at least some, comets were formed. These features are called talps or layered piles. They consist of layers of material that are fairly large relative to the size of the comet. In high-resolution images, the lower smooth flat area shows signs of flowing from left to right. Its source at the left end is in an obscure area, its right end is marked by a scarp e.g. a steep slope or cliff, some 20 meters high.
Recent theory has it that talps were laid down one after another during low speed collisions between a growing nucleus and smaller, readily deformable, objects. Further, the theory holds that there are more talps beneath the surface and that they are the “predominant building blocks” of the nucleus.
All this is thought to have happened in the earliest days of the Solar System while comets were still forming. Therefore, we say that the material is pristine. On the other hand, the scarps are thought to have formed later by the erosive effect of volatile material escaping from the nucleus after having been turned from ice to gas by the heat of the sun.
Be it noted that there is some evidence of layering and smooth flowlike areas on other comets. For example, layering in both Borrelly and Wild 2 and the suggestion of smooth flowlike areas on Borrelly.
The flat areas are theorized to be composed of a powdery substance. Some layers are seen edge on. Up to seven layers have been identified in the region just above and to the right of the large flat area.
Comment: When the wrong concept (primordial accretion) is used, it is impossible to “shed light on the mechanisms by which comets were formed.” When the right concept is used, it is possible to confirm it by observation and experiment. We have not observed, in modern times, a cosmic thunderbolt capable of wrenching mountains from a planet into space. The closest we see are coronal mass ejections of billions of tons of matter from the Sun. And we have petroglyph evidence of the Earth having experienced a “mega-aurora” in prehistory. Also, there was the surprising discovery of meteorites arriving from Mars that do not show the expected signs of an impact origin. But gravity and mechanical impact are the only tools available in the poor astrophysical toolbox.
If asteroids, comets and meteorites are fragments of large, well-differentiated celestial bodies, we may expect them to exhibit any stratification due to their origin. There should also be evidence of blast, electrostatic and shock heating effects from a plasma discharge. I wrote a paper in 1987 that outlined a simple answer to 17 enigmas found in common chondritic meteorites. Most of the mysteries centred around a feature that seems shared by chondritic meteorites and comets — the presence of Calcium-Aluminium rich inclusions (CAIs). CAIs formed by flash-heating at high temperatures for a few seconds, which argues for a highly localized event. I proposed, “The arc of material leaving the fissioning parent body would be composed of ionised gases, liquids and solids ranging in size from microns up to asteroid or planetoid dimensions. Electric discharges would take place between the parent planet and the highly charged departing matter.” I argued that chondritic meteorites have all of the features to be expected from powerful lightning in a very dusty plasma and suggested an experiment to be carried out in a plasma oven.
In 1995 a paper was published in Icarus by a leading expert on dusty plasmas. He concluded, “..lightning is a viable mechanism for chondrule formation worthy of more complex theoretical and also laboratory investigations.” Of course, the paper doesn’t discuss the origin of the lightning. Even on Earth that is not understood! And it should be remembered that all of the giant planets have ephemeral ring systems and many satellites, which are indicative of past expulsion of matter.
I have dealt earlier with the surface features of comets. They show the classic signatures of electric discharge machining. The flat areas are not “composed of a powdery substance.” They have been etched clean by electric discharge. The unexpectedly fine powder found in all comet jets is further evidence of cathode sputtering. The powder does not exist in this form on the comet nucleus and could not be produced in the quantity observed at comet Tempel 1 by the impact alone.
Allowing electrical effects into astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science will be the greatest scientific revolution in history.
I leave the last word to Tom Van Flandern:
“As science progresses we will eventually unravel the mystery of our origins, and the solution will come sooner if our minds are prepared to accept the truth when it is found, however fantastic it may be. If we are guided by our reason and our scientific method, if we let the Universe describe its wonder to us, rather than telling it how it ought to be, then we will soon come to the answers we seek, perhaps even within our own lifetimes.”
– Science Digest, April 1982.
Sadly, Tom did not live to see any progress. Science as an ideal in the search for the truth has yet to deal with human nature.
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