Thunderblog - Michael Goodspeed
home     thunderblogs     forum     picture of the day     resources     team     updates     contact us

The Enduring - Yet Downplayed - Mysteries of Comets


"Mysteries are due to secrecy."
- Francis Bacon

On December 24, 2007, the website published a report entitled, "The Enduring Mysteries of Comets." The premise is intriguing, since it is rare for science media to acknowledge that "mysteries" of any real significance exist for conventional theories. Unfortunately, the report mentions few of the recent discoveries that have thrown the popular "dirty snowball" model of comets into disarray.

"We have now had four close encounters with comets, and every one of them has thrown astronomers onto their back foot." - Stuart Clark, New Scientist, September 09, 2005.

The article begins with the statement, "For millennia, comets were believed to be omens of doom." This itself is a profound anomaly left unanswered by mainstream theorists, but the author makes no inquiry into why this is so. Instead, his next sentence reveals that the veil of discredited theories distorting scientists' view of comets has yet to be lifted. "...Solving the mysteries regarding these 'dirty snowballs' could help reveal the part they played in the birth of life on Earth, as well as secrets concerning the rest of the galaxy." But as we shall see as we continue, one can only hold to the idea of comets as "dirty snowballs" by ignoring all of the recent revelations about comets.

The first item asks, "Did comets help create Earth's seas?" The report reads:

"For years scientists thought comets slamming against the newborn Earth helped deliver water to a once dry planet. But roughly a decade ago this view was shaken by the discovery that the water in comets and Earth's oceans did not match up in terms of hydrogen isotopes."

But the mainstream is not yet ready to abandon the notion of primordial comets dumping copious amounts of water onto Earth. The article continues: "In the last two years, however, researchers have discovered comets in the outer part of the asteroid belt. These 'main-belt comets' may have the right levels of hydrogen isotopes, and are perhaps close enough to Earth to have realistically brought us the seas that life emerged from."

In the minds of Electric Universe proponents, most cometologists have a distorted view of cometary water/ice. Cometary comas often exude an abundance of what scientists interpret as "water." In fact, what they measure as "water" is the hydroxyl radical OH, the most abundant cometary radical, which they assume is formed by the breakdown of water from solar UV radiation. It is this radical's presence that leads to their estimates of the amount of water ice sublimating from the comet nucleus.

Electrical theorist Wallace Thornhill offers a different interpretation, consistent with the surprising discoveries of recent years. He notes that space probes have detected the negatively charged oxygen atom, or negative oxygen ion, close to cometary nuclei. Additionally, spectral analysis of neutral oxygen (O) shows a 'forbidden line' indicative of the presence of an 'intense' electric field. Negative ions near a comet nucleus puzzled investigators because such ions are easily destroyed by solar radiation. Thus, investigators reviewing the findings at comet Halley noted, "an efficient production mechanism, so far unidentified, is required to account for the observed densities" of negative ions.

As stated by Thornhill, "...the intense electric field near the comet nucleus is inexplicable if it is merely an inert body plowing through the solar wind." But the electric model resolves the mysteries: "The electric field near the comet nucleus is expected if a comet is a highly negatively charged body, relative to the solar wind. Cathode sputtering of the comet nucleus will strip atoms and molecules directly from solid rock and charge them negatively. So the presence of negative oxygen and other ions close to the comet nucleus is to be expected. Negative oxygen ions will be accelerated away from the comet in the cathode jets and combine with protons from the solar wind to form the observed OH radical at some distance from the nucleus."

If Thornhill is correct, the OH does not require water ice on, or in, the comet. Though it would be irrational to categorically exclude the possibility of ice, our probes have revealed scorched surfaces looking more like burnt rocks than "dirty snowballs." They are, in fact, barely distinguishable from ice-free asteroids.

The report continues with questions about the origins of comets -- "Where do they come from?", and "Secrets regarding the birth of the solar system?". Astronomers have long told us that comets were born in the theoretical "Oort cloud," about 4.6 trillion miles from the Sun. Until fairly recently it was as simple as that. But a few years ago, cometologists began to adjust the theory, postulating that only long-period comets were born in an ultra-remote cloud. Scientists have not reached a consensus on where they think short-period comets originate. "Maybe there are other reservoirs of comets yet to be discovered," says astrophysicist David Jewitt.

Proponents of standard theory have long claimed comets are "Rosetta stones" that can help us decipher the origins of the solar system. But the notion was dealt a devastating blow by the findings of NASA's Stardust Mission. The tiny fragments of comet dust that the mission brought back to Earth did not accrete in the cold of space, but were formed under "astonishingly" high temperatures. Mineral inclusions ranged from anorthite, which is made up of calcium, sodium, aluminum and silicate, to diopside, made of calcium, magnesium and silicate. Formations of such minerals requires temperatures of thousands of degrees.

NASA curator Michael Zolensky said, "That's a big surprise. People thought comets would just be cold stuff that formed out ... where things are very cold....It was kind of a shock to not just find one but several of these, which implies they are pretty common in the comet."

Researchers were forced to conclude that the enigmatic particle material formed at a superheated region either close to our Sun, or close to an alien star. "In the coldest part of the solar system we've found samples that formed at extremely high temperatures," said Donald Brownlee, Stardust's principal investigator. "When these minerals formed they were either red hot or white hot grains, and yet they were collected in a comet, the Siberia of the Solar System."

Some scientists speculated that perhaps something occurred in or very near the Sun in its formative phase, flinging immense quantities of material out to the periphery of the Sun's domain (far, far beyond the orbit of Pluto), all the way to the Oort cloud. Then the researchers reminded themselves that this would produce a mixing and contradict the zoning that is evident in the asteroid belt. "If this mixing is occurring, as suggested by these results, then how do you preserve any kind of zoning in the solar system," Zolenksy asked. "It raises more mysteries."

But today, a new report states, quite unequivocally, that parts of Wild 2 formed in an area close to the Sun. The site writes: "The X-ray and isotopic analyses point to gas acquisition in a hot, high-ion flux nebular environment close to the young sun."

The startling bottom-line is that comet scientists cannot give us any reliable story of comet formation. And the glaring contradictions are barely acknowledged, if at all. The "mysteries" of the Stardust mission -- which are not mysterious under an electrical model of comets -- are not even mentioned in the report. Obviously, the question of comets' origins is profoundly affected by the discovery of abundant minerals that only form under super-hot temperatures.

The Electric Universe puts forth a very different hypothesis on the origins of both comets and asteroids. In an epoch of planetary instability in our solar system, many planets and moons, moving through the electric field of the Sun and immersed in an electrically dynamic environment, experienced electrical interactions with one another. Electric arcs shattered small moons and raked across planetary surfaces, producing the most dramatic scarring features we see on planetary bodies. These electrical scars include Valles Marineris, the stupendous chasm that stretches more than 3000 miles across the Martian surface. In this view the comets and asteroids we observe are leftovers from these violent electric discharge events. And the composition of comets is from the same material that planets and moons were formed.

In fact, this vision of the electrical theorists explains the next "mystery" in the piece, "Why are comets so close to the Sun?" The report reads, "The main-belt comets are themselves a mystery. Until their discovery, researchers had largely supposed no comets could have lasted that close to the sun without getting baked away after a few centuries or millennia." But then again, if the electrical theorists are correct, comets have not been around for billions of years, not even millions of years. They are the residue of catastrophe in the recent history of the solar system.

The story concludes by attempting to answer the question of speculative "Interstellar comets." It reads:

"As our solar system formed, calculations predict the gravitational pull of the planets would have scattered 90 to 99 percent of all comets that once orbited the sun away toward the stars, never to be seen again. 'If every star does that, you would expect some of their comets to come toward us, but no such object has ever been seen,' Jewitt said."

This admission only reinforces the failure of the standard model, confirming that virtually nothing discovered in recent decades has matched theoretical expectations. But in electrical terms, the idea of comets wandering interstellar space was never a viable concept. If comets are the remnants of electrical discharge activity within the solar system, then their short-term and long-term orbits are the results we should expect. considers the above mysteries to be the greatest puzzles for conventional comet theory. We can only urge them to more carefully consider the following comet discoveries, none of which are expected by a "dirty snowball" model, but which are both explicable and predictable by the electrical one:

Cometary Jets

Supersonic jets have been seen exploding from comets' nuclei. From the mainstream perspective, these jets are eruptions of subsurface gas and water from solar heating. But again and again, this theory has been refuted by observation. In the case of Comet Wild 2, some of its nearly two dozen jets emanated from the dark, unheated side of the comet. And as seems to be the case with most comet jets, they remained intact across great distances -- they did not disperse in the fashion of a gas in a vacuum (an anomaly left unresolved, and not even addressed by most mainstream theorists). Consider also the jets of comet Hale-Bopp, which began discharging (seven jets) while it was still too far from the Sun for a "snowball" to melt. 

Amazingly, as far as back as the early 20th century, the Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland demonstrated experimental evidence for the electric comet theory. He was able to emulate cometary jets from a cathode in a vacuum tube -- Birkeland wrote: "From a cathode of graphite there came long, steady pencils of light, which greatly resembled the so-called eruptions or jets in comets." (See Comets: Kristian Birkeland's Theory)

From the Electric Universe perspective, comet jets arise from the interaction between the electric charge of the comet and the solar discharge plasma. The comet spends most of its time far from the Sun, where the plasma charge density is low. The comet moves slowly and its charge easily comes into balance with that region. On the other hand, as the comet approaches the Sun, the nucleus moves at a furious speed through regions of increasing charge density and varying electrical characteristics. The comet's surface charge and internal polarization, developed in deep space, respond to the new environment by forming cathode jets and a visible plasma sheath, or coma. The jets flare up and move over the nucleus irregularly, and the comet may shed and grow anew several tails. Or the comet may explode like an overstressed capacitor (see below), breaking into separate fragments or simply giving up the ghost and disappearing.

Cometary discharging may also occur due to any disturbances of its electrical plasma sheath as it passes through regions of varying electric potential. This seems to have occurred in the recent "totally surprising" outburst of Comet Holmes 17P as it moved away from the Sun's domain.

Comets Breaking Apart or Exploding

The unexpected break-up of comets, some at considerable distances from the Sun, has long baffled comet investigators. In 1976, Comet West never approached closer than 30 million kilometers from the Sun. So when the comet suddenly split into four fragments, astronomers were shocked.

More recently, the explosive break up of Comet Linear in the summer of 2000 provoked even greater amazement. The event occurred well over a hundred million kilometers from the Sun. 

In fact, eighty percent of comets that split do so when they are far from the Sun, according to Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, authors of the book Comet. Comet Wirtanen fragmented in 1957 a little inside the orbit of Saturn, and something similar occurred to Comet Biela/Bambert.

But other comets have approached much closer to the Sun and not broken apart. The perihelion of the Great Comet of December 1680, studied by both Newton and Halley, was less than 100,000 kilometers from the Sun, but it did not split.

We can also point to the astonishing disintegration of Comet Schwassman-Wachmann 3, whose catastrophic fate remains unexplained by the scientific mainstream. Some proposed that the comet disintegrated due to "thermal stress" resulting from the rapid transfer of heat through thousands of feet of insulating material -- something inconceivable even if one ignores the deep freeze of the vacuum through which the comet is moving, with its sunward face continually changing due to rotation. Other explanations included "the outburst of trapped volatile gases," and the suggestion that the comet flew apart from "rapid rotation of the nucleus." One astronomer even proposed that the comet "was shattered by a hit from a small interplanetary boulder." This is yet another instance where scientists' lack of consideration for an electric model has left them unable to explain what they're seeing.

Many other "mysterious" comet discoveries and observations of comet behavior are best explained as electrical phenomena. These include:

  • Unexpectedly high temperatures and X-ray emissions from cometary comas (something never anticipated by mainstream theorists);

  • The sharply carved relief of comets -- the exact opposite of what astronomers expected under the "dirty snowball" model;

  • The unexplained ability of a relatively minuscule comet nucleus to hold in place a highly spherical coma, up to millions of miles in diamater, against the force of the solar wind;

  • Ejection of larger particles and "gravel" that was never anticipated under the idea that comets accreted from primordial clouds of ice, gas, and dust;

  • A short supply or complete absence of water and other volatiles on comets' nuclei;

  • The predicted occurrence of an advance flash prior to the impact of a projectile into the nucleus of Comet Tempel 1 ( Deep Impact.) Recently, the journal Icarus published a report confirming that the advance flash did indeed occur, "upstream" (and slightly off-course) of the projectile -- exactly as one might expect of an electric discharge just prior to impact.

This article began with reference to the historic quote, "Mysteries are due to secrecy." If a kind of tacit "conspiracy" exists amongst space scientists, it is to never speak of cosmic electricity, despite the overabundance of evidence for electrical activity in space. Sadly, mainstream astronomy seems still to be guided by the axiom, "If it doesn't fit, you must forget!" But the puzzles will not be solved by ignoring or downplaying them. And in increasing numbers, critics of today's standard theory are coming to agree that the key to resolving these unsolved mysteries is electricity.


Permalink to this article.

Public comment may be made on this article on the
Thunderbolts Forum/Thunderblogs (free membership required).

For a highly-acclaimed 60-minute video introduction to the Electric Universe, see Thunderbolts of the Gods on Google Video.

Michael Goodspeed
Michael Goodspeed is a freelance journalist who lives in Beaverton, Oregon

My Archives

Chronological Archives

Archives by Author

Archives by Subject

Thunderblogs home

  FREE update -

Weekly digest of Picture of the Day, Thunderblog, Forum, Multimedia and more.


An e-book series
for teachers, general readers and specialists alike.

(FREE viewing)
  Thunderbolts of the Gods

  Symbols of an Alien Sky


  Our NEW Multimedia page explores may diverse topics not traditionaly covered by the Thunderbolts Project.  

  Follow the predictions of the Electric Universe.  

[ top ]
Disclaimer - The opinions expressed in the Thunderblog are those of the authors of
the material, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thunderbolts Project.
The linking to material off-site in no way endorses such material and the Thunderbolts
Project has no control of nor takes any responsibility for any content on linked sites.
home     thunderblogs     forum     picture of the day     resources     team     updates     contact us