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Jul 08, 2005
Deep Impact—The Smoking Guns?

We’ll hold off on a celebration for now, but the pictures above appear to exhibit some of the “smoking guns” that the electric theorists have predicted.

The single most dramatic prediction of the electric comet model is this: on close inspection an active comet nucleus will reveal the electrical arcs that progressively etch away the surface and accelerate material into space. From the electrical vantage point, Tempel 1 is a “low voltage comet”, but the etching process appears to be sufficiently active to make our case.

The white spots were noticed by the Thunderbolts crew as soon as the first pictures were released, and we offered an interpretation: they are small electric arcs analogous to the discharge plumes on Jupiter’s moon Io, and to the electrified dust devils on Mars. On July 6 we drew attention to an earlier Picture of the Day observing bright spots on Wild 2. There we suggested that these were the patches of electric discharge at the surface. Now, with the help of the Deep Impact images, that interpretation is further illuminated and strengthened.

In addressing these fuzzy white areas in one of the pictures taken by the projectile prior to impact, NASA reports, “The bright patches in the image may consist of very smooth and reflective material, the composition of which will be determined by Deep Impact's spectrometer”.

NASA’s observations came two days after impact, and the language used invites us to make further predictions. The patches will have nothing to do with “reflectivity”. They are better explained as the light of focused glow discharges, showing up as fuzzy whiteouts. They are the cometary equivalent to “St. Elmo’s fire” – coronal glow discharges sometimes observed dancing on high points in lightning storms on Earth. Similar, but more powerful arcs on Jupiter’s moon Io produced whiteouts that overloaded the Galileo probe camera and surprised the investigators. These discharges on the comet’s surface should show emission lines from ionized surface material and be emitting ultraviolet light (something that arc welders know well—it’s why they wear welder’s masks and protective clothing).

And if the instruments on either the projectile or the spacecraft obtained measurements at sufficient resolution to detect unexpectedly high tempuratures at the point source, NASA investigators will be in for quite a surprise. Electric arcs are hot!

Does NASA have the required data buried in the transmissions from Deep Impact? One reason for cautious optimism is the size of the whiteouts in the last pictures taken before the projectile’s camera’s shut down some 18 miles above the surface. (The very last picture is seen in the lower right). Both ultraviolet light emissions and “shocking” temperatures within the white spots would be definitive evidence for the electrical nature of comets.

When researchers investigating the Electric Universe express enthusiasm for comet study, a point of particular interest is the possibility that, by observing electrical arcing in action, we could see more clearly the relationship to the geology-in-formation on the comet nucleus.

Several years ago, Wallace Thornhill accurately predicted what Galileo investigators would find when they looked at the “volcanoes” on Jupiter’s closest moon Io. He said that the plumes would not be “volcanoes” but discharges moving around the edges of the excavated areas, exactly as NASA discovered on Io, and as now appears to be occurring on Tempel 1. He said the plumes would be much hotter than NASA officials expected (in fact they produced the same kind of whiteouts now seen on Tempel 1). And he said that the supposed “lava lakes” on Io would be cold (they are simply the excavated terrain beneath the surface, exposed by the etching process.) Now it is becoming more clear every day that Thornhill’s successful predictions for Io, make what is happening on Tempel 1 all the more significant. In the above pictures we see that the dominant positions of the white spots are on the rims of craters and the cliffs rising above valley floors. A particularly telling example of this relationship is seen in the picture here

In fact the active areas in the upper picture above reveal uncanny similarities to the discharge activity on Io as observed in previous Pictures of the Day. One of the features of electric arc erosion noted by Thornhill many years ago, is the tendency to create scalloped edges as it cuts away material from the cliffs edges it is acting on. This tendency we see abundantly on Io, which makes an observation in a NASA release on Deep Impact all the more noteworthy: "The image [of the nucleus] reveals topographic features, including ridges, scalloped edges and possibly impact craters formed long ago”. (The phrase “long ago” has no scientific basis; it is merely the projection of an unfounded assumption; continual ablation of cometary ices by solar heating of the surface would not permit the preservation of such abundant, sharply defined craters for long periods of time).

On Io, the darkest surfaces are associated with recent arcing along the edges of craters and cliffs, exposing the underlying rock. Electrostatic fallback of ejecta covers the flat areas with lighter material. The same thing seems to hold true for Tempel 1. The crater rims and ridges are darkest. The circularity of the craters is also characteristic of arc machining and is not to be expected from low-velocity impacts in the outer solar system.

One claim that sharply distinguishes the Electric Universe hypothesis from standard models is its emphasis on the electrical sculpting of rocky surfaces in the solar system throughout its eventful history. From planets and moons to comets and asteroids, the electrical model suggests that numerous surface features are the effect of electrical etching. For this reason, comets have the potential to bring new clarity to our understanding of planetary geology.

Finally, why were there no images returned from the impactor seconds before impact? The lower right image is the last from the impactor camera. Thornhill predicted an electrical flash before impact. Yesterday’s TPOD reported the surprise expressed by NASA’s expert on high-velocity impacts, Peter Schultz, when two flashes were seen. The lack of images in the last few seconds would be explained simply if the impactor was hit by a “cometary lightning bolt” seconds before contact. The “whiteout” seen in the lower right quadrant indicates significant electrical discharging near the impact point. Data from the communications team and the flyby spacecraft cameras should decide the issue.


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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