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Credit: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)/ESA/NASA

Caption: the comet NEAT in 2003, meeting up with a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun.


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May 26, 2005
Comet Neat and CME's

When a coronal mass ejection greeted Comet NEAT, space scientists called it a “coincidence”. But in an electric universe such events deserve a second look.

The comet NEAT was discovered November 2002 by NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Tracking (NEAT) program. As the comet moved toward “perihelion”, its closest approach to the Sun, astronomers were not sure it would survive. The explosive destruction of Comet Linear three years earlier, at nine times NEAT’s distance from the Sun, underscored the danger to comets from such a close passage around the Sun.

The Sun’s glare prevented observers on Earth from viewing NEAT’s approach. But the SOHO spacecraft, stationed between Earth and the Sun, has an instrument called Large-Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO), which blocks the Sun’s brightest light, permitting the satellite to record the comet’s dramatic swing around the Sun.

As NEAT raced through the extended solar atmosphere, a large coronal mass ejection (CME) exploded from the Sun and appeared to strike the comet. The comet responded with a “kink” that propagated down the tail. A video clip of the event can be seen here. (The disk in the center is created by the coronograph as it blocks the Sun’s glare). For astronomers, the event illustrated the dynamic interactions between comets and the solar wind.

Scientists were quick to point out that meeting with ejected material was a “chance encounter”. But was it? Though electrical theorists assert no interpretation of the event at this time, they reject the theoretical assumptions that prompt mainstream theorists to dismiss out of hand any possibility that a comet could trigger an eruption from the Sun. If the Sun is a glow discharge at the center of an electric field, and a comet carries a strong negative charge together with a vast envelope of charged particles, the categorical dismissal of mutual interactions is premature.

In fact, SOHO has recorded several instances of comets plunging into the solar corona in “coincidental” association with CMEs. Here we see two comets grazing the Sun followed by a particularly energetic blast from a mass ejection. Another instance of two comets grazing the Sun can be viewed here.

In a headline story, “Twin Comets Race To Death By Fire”, June 5, 1998, reported:

“In a spectacular coincidence, a coronal mass ejection (CME) accompanied by an erupting prominence occurred on the southwest limb of the Sun within hours after the destruction of the comets. The CME and prominence were probably unrelated to the comets, being instead the product of weeks of intense magnetic activity in that region of the Sun”.

Perhaps the original source of this story (apparently a science writer with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center), paid dearly for his use of the word “probably” in the above paragraph. Only an electrical influence could justify any qualifications to the assertion of a “spectacular coincidence”. But the scientific mainstream allows for no electric force outside the Sun to have any influence on the Sun’s atmospheric behavior.

SOHO scientists make the point explicit in their discussion of sungrazing comets and CME’s:

 “A popular misconception is that sungrazing comets cause solar flares and CMEs (coronal mass ejections). While it is true that we have observed bright comets approach the Sun immediately before CME's/flares, there is absolutely no connection between the two events. The sungrazer comets -- in fact all comets -- are completely insignificant in size compared the Sun”.

The statement is reasonable if the issue of “connection” and influence is decided by relative size. But from an electrical viewpoint the disregard for the powerful electric force in space is the greatest single mistake in the theoretical sciences today. How would an electric Sun respond to the approach of a relatively small but strongly charged object? Comets typically display a bright coma extending for hundreds of thousands of miles around the hidden nucleus. They can also entrain an immense envelope of hydrogen gas. We do not normally see the hydrogen envelopes of comets because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs their light. But spacecraft can detect them and measure them. Electrical theorists suggest that the ability of larger comets to hold their hydrogen clouds in place against the solar wind is a good indicator of the comet’s powerful charge.

The influence of the comet’s electrical field is far more significant than its trivial mass in relation to the Sun. What will occur electrically if the charge  plasma or “atmosphere” of the comet penetrates the insulating double layer of the Sun’s plasma sheath? An analogy might be the effect of a pebble from space penetrating into the upper atmosphere of the Earth where the intruder’s plasma trail short circuits the Earth’s electric field to cause a high altitude discharge. The issue has virtually nothing to do with the respective masses of the Earth and the pebble. The disturbing image of the space shuttle Columbia being struck by a discharge that followed its plasma trail through the upper atmosphere also comes to mind.

Perhaps the observation of Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfvén, the father of plasma cosmology, can put the issue in context. It was his opinion that coronal mass ejections are caused by a breakdown or breach of the Sun’s double layer—an event that provokes an explosive exchange between the insulated plasma cell of the Sun and the plasma of surrounding space.

For the electric theorists, such questions deserve conscientious investigation, with attention to the electrical phenomena indicated in both solar and cometary behavior.


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
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