by David Talbott
Dec 29, 2004
2005 could be the
year of the breakthrough for the “electric comet” model.
Comets without water on their nucleus will invalidate a
lot more than obsolete comet theory.
In 2005, a lot of reputations, multi-million dollar research
projects, and scientific institutions -- including NASA itself
-- will suffer catastrophically if the planned Deep Impact
mission produces the “surprises” expected by Wallace
Thornhill, a leading theorist of the electric comet hypothesis.
The Deep Impact craft is scheduled for launch between January
12 and January 28, 2005. Its mission is an unprecedented encounter
with a comet nucleus. The target is Comet Tempel 1.
NASA plans to fire an 820-pound copper "impactor" toward
the nucleus, which is expected to strike the surface at about 23,000
miles per hour. According to NASA scientists, the
result should be a release of energy equivalent to that of exploding
4.8 tons of TNT, creating a deep crater. Fittingly, the scheduled
date for the celestial fireworks is July 4, 2005
But all of NASA’s expectations for the encounter are
tied to current ideas about comets. The conventional view is that
comets are inert chunks of ice and dust, or "dirty snowballs,"
evaporating in the heat of the Sun. The alternative view is
that comets discharge electrically as they move
through a radial electrical field of the Sun. No middle ground
between the two views seems possible, and if it happens that the
Deep Impact projectile strikes a solid rock the snowball theory
of comets is finished. Mainstream theorists will be left without an
explanation for a comet’s coma and tail.
While the electric universe model does not require that the nucleus
of Tempel 1 be devoid of water, Thornhill and
other advocates of the electric comet hypothesis think that a dry
comet nucleus is most likely.
Indeed, NASA has already encountered dry cometary
nuclei. The surface of comet Borrelly, visited in
2001, proved to be bone dry, prompting investigators to suggest that
water must be hidden beneath the surface. Nor did the Stardust flyby
of comet Wild 2 in January 2004 identify water on the surface of the
The problem with the supposition of subsurface ice is that only a
few inches of dry non-volatile surface material would be sufficient
to insulate the “ice” from the heat of the Sun.
Meanwhile the observed high speed jets are far more energetic than
could be reasonably expected even if there were no insulating
material. Nevertheless, the confidence of investigators was unshaken
by what they saw, for surely the presence of water on comet nuclei
is a fact!
The standard theory, it seems, has been kept alive by the discovery
of water in comet comas and tails, not on the nucleus itself. But
what is the source of the water in comet tails? Ironically
electrical activity within cometary comas may have deceived
investigators into thinking that their model is intact. Here is why:
The evidence suggests
that comets are highly negatively charged with respect to the
Sun. As they rush toward the Sun, the voltage increases
until at some point the comet nucleus begins to discharge. Electrons
are stripped from a few points on the comet surface where the
electric field is strongest. These “spark discharges” finely machine
rocky material from the surface to form a “cathode jet” of
negatively charged dust together with surface matter that has been
torn apart to release ionized atoms and molecules, including oxygen.
Under the conventional model there is no reason for the high
density of negative ions discovered near the comet nucleus. Negative
ions are difficult to produce by solar heating and are quickly
destroyed by solar radiation. Nevertheless, in March 1986 when
the Giotto spacecraft flew within 600km of Comet
Halley, an abundance of negatively charged atoms was
discovered in the inner coma — direct evidence that a comet is
the cathode in an electric exchange with the Sun. A few years later,
scientists discovered an unexpected “forbidden oxygen” line
at 1128Å in the spectrum of Comet Austin. That line is
consistent with the presence of an intense electric field
and/or densities in the coma many orders of magnitude higher than
those predicted from standard cometary theory.
There is reason to believe that the positively charged ions from the
solar wind react preferentially with the negatively charged oxygen
from the nucleus to generate the water observed surrounding comets.
The probe Vega 2 found the H2O (water) production
by comet Halley was one fifth of the OH production.
But scientists had supposed that OH was formed by photo-dissociation
of H2O at some distance from the nucleus. The report in
Nature in May 1986 reads:
"only indirect and
sometimes ambiguous evidence in favor of water has been found;
indeed, some facts appear to contradict this hypothesis." Thus,
the authors suggest, "This problem requires further analysis and
may indicate the existence of parents of OH other than H2O."
Such a discovery is most
simply explained if the parents of OH were a combination of solar
protons (hydrogen) and negative oxygen ions electrically removed
from silicates and other minerals in the nucleus. The greater
abundance of OH would then be expected. It then becomes clear that
the water we see is being produced through electrical exchange:
Negatively charged oxygen from the comet nucleus combines with the
positively charged hydrogen ions from the Sun, via the solar wind.
Models of water production from comets assume it is
sublimating from the surface of the nucleus at a constant rate and
expanding radially outward at constant velocity. But neither of
these assumptions is supported by observations. The encounter with
comet Wild 2 discovered that the removed material is
confined to very thin jets. A principal investigator also spoke of
energetic bursts “like a thunderbolt.” The
electrical model of cometary discharge does explain the
observations: an electric field accelerates matter in the jet; an
electromagnetic “pinch effect” provides densities in the thin jets
many orders of magnitude higher than those predicted from simple
radial sublimation; and instabilities and fluctuations suddenly
relocate jets in exceedingly short periods of time.
This model explains a great number of puzzles about recent comet
Why are comet
nuclei coal black as if they have been burnt?
Why are the
nuclei sharply cratered and rocky when they should be smooth
like a melting ice cream if they are merely sublimating in
the Sun’s heat?
Why are the
comet jets so narrow and energetic?
Why do some
comets sport an “anomalous” Sunward spike?
How can some
comets produce sulfur compounds like those found in the jets
on Io that require very high temperatures?
Why is there a
superabundance of extremely fine dust?
Why does the
presence of water molecules increase with distance from the
nucleus – quite the reverse of what we should expect if
water is driving dust off the comet?
Often the events most
disconcerting to conventional theory are the things most quickly
forgotten. While moving between the orbits of Saturn
and Uranus (14 times farther from the Sun than the
Earth), Comet Halley experienced an outburst between
the orbits of Saturn and Uranus that
caused dust to stretch over some 300,000 km. At that distance from
the Sun, the surface should be in deep freeze at –200º C. But it
happened at a time when the Sun was at maximum activity. This does
not mean that the Sun was producing significantly more heat but
rather that there was a marked increase in the charged particles
from the solar wind. And the vast cloud of dust from the comet fits
the electrical machining model but not the sublimating ices model.
A direct confirmation of the electric connection came unwittingly
from the Chandra X-ray Observatory on July 14, 2000. At that
time, the Chandra telescope viewed the comet
Linear repeatedly over a 2-hour period, detecting unexpected
X-rays from oxygen and nitrogen ions in the coma of the comet. The
capture of electrons from the negatively charged comet by positively
charged hydrogen ions in the solar wind is, of course, nothing else
than an electric discharge, nature’s highly efficient means of
It needs to be understood that a loss of faith in standard comet
theory today would have drastic effects on all theoretical sciences
touching on the nature of the universe -- from microcosm to
macrocosm. An electric field sufficient to cause electrical
discharging on a comet beyond the orbit of Saturn
would have the electric potential to power the Sun. We
could no longer ignore the cosmic electricians’ claims:
They tell us that
the Sun is not a nuclear furnace but an electric
glow discharge; its nuclear reactions are occurring not in the
interior but in the atmosphere of the Sun, where the intensity
of the discharge is highest.
All theories about the
evolution of the planetary system, including our earth, would have
to be reconsidered from the ground up. The nebular hypothesis of
planetary origins, claiming that the Sun and planets
emerged gravitationally from a primordial cloud, could no longer
maintain its intellectual monopoly. The fabled residue of the
hypothesized nebula, the “Oort cloud,” called upon to
send comets into the inner solar system as theorists need them,
would instantly lose its rationale. And no longer could it be
maintained that the planets have moved in clockwork fashion for
billions of years. Even the accumulated evidence of electrical
dramas and planetary upheaval in the human past would demand a
There is also the virtual certainty that electric events in our
solar system have countless analogs in deep space. Cosmological
theories based on gravity alone could not survive such a turn of
events. We have good reason, therefore, to speak of the imminent
prospect of a domino effect being unleashed, one that will set in
motion one of the great revolutions in human thought and perception.