picture of the day
Image of the
asteroid Itokawa (25143), taken by Japan’s probe
Hayabusa, reveals a rugged
surface of collected dust and debris.
Mar 28, 2006
The sharp contrast between the surfaces of some
asteroids and comets is underscored by recent images of asteroid
Itokawa. For the electrical theorists, the contrast also illustrates
the crucial distinction between electrical deposition and electrical
In the fall of 2005, the Japanese asteroid probe Hayabusa
approached the S-type (silicaceous/stony) asteroid Itokawa (25143),
named after the Japanese rocket scientist Hideo Itokawa. Though the
probe was unable to complete two planned landings to gather dust
samples from the asteroid, it did produce high quality pictures of
the asteroid’s surface that are now the subject of much debate among
As the electrical theorists see it, asteroids, comets, and meteors,
are all born by being torn from a planetary surface in a cosmic
plasma discharge or as the remains of rocky bodies that exploded
under the extreme electrical stresses. The asteroid’s irregular
shape is explicable because plasma discharges are known to create
“dumbbell” or “potato” shaped forms from soils. The comet Halley is
another well-known potato shaped body. But crucial distinctions must
be made between comets and asteroids under the electrical
interpretation of their origin— distinctions that are meaningless
under conventional definitions of such bodies.
• The planetary soil and rock that is hurled into space will be
modified by its degree of exposure to the plasma discharge. This is
evident in the most abundant meteorites – the chondritic meteorites,
so named for the melted spherules found within their dusty matrix.
Some scientists have acknowledged that the best explanation for
their origin is in a cosmic “lightning flash”. The velocity imparted
to the excavated material will determine whether it becomes an
asteroid or a comet. (The astronomer Tom Van Flandern has argued, on
the basis of their orbital characteristics, that comets were formed
by the explosion of a planet in the asteroid belt).
• Itokawa’s density is said to be less than expected—up to 39% empty
space. So researchers concluded it is probably composed of smaller
rocks that are held together by gravity. However, this conclusion
rests on an untested assumption that the gravitational 'constant' we
measure on Earth is the same for all other bodies. In fact, it
doesn't seem to be constant on Earth!
We have now seen many dark, rocky bodies in space have such low
apparent densities that astronomers have been forced to conclude
they are “mostly empty space”. But the electrical model of gravity
suggests that if it looks like solid rock, it probably is solid
rock. The internal electrical state of comets and meteorites differs
from the Earth, and this leads to erroneous calculations of their
densities. Astronomers have yet to reckon with the electrical origin
of gravity. (The most glaring example is the giant planet Saturn
which, on the astronomers’ calculations, should float on water, if
that were possible!)
• Astronomers expressed surprise at the absence of “impact craters”
in the Itokawa photos. (In fact, there appear to be no craters on
Itokawa, in contrast to the many craters seen on other asteroids).
This has caused some to suggest that the asteroid is a “rubble
pile”. But the electric model suggests that asteroids, like
chondritic meteorites, may tend to aggregate material
electrostatically. Asteroids that have no cratering (Itokawa being
the case par excellence) are more likely to have acquired a
boulder-strewn surface subsequent to their violent birth, but that
does not make them just a heap of rubble.
• An active comet will experience electrical etching of its surface.
Surface material will be removed and new craters formed. The comet
will be “electrostatically cleaned”—a prediction we made for Comet
Tempel 1 in advance of the “Deep Impact” encounter with the comet.
The contrast between the surface of Tempel 1 and that of Itokawa
adds an exclamation point to this prediction.
In the electric model comets, asteroids, and meteorites originated
in either the same or similar events. The model thus predicts that,
as we come to learn more about comets and asteroids, we will see
that their compositional types match those of meteorites, a class of
objects that has been well studied.
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