May 29, 2006
Impact and Shoemaker-Levy 9
To place the Deep Impact events in
perspective, advocates of the electric comet model remind us of the
crash of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into Jupiter in 1994.
time now the electrical theorists have noted that the
institutionalization of scientific inquiry, in combination with
funding requirements, has encouraged a short attention span. The
things that do not fit prior theory elicit a momentary expression of
surprise, but as the events pass from view they are quickly
forgotten. “What we cannot comprehend, we shall forget”.
So it is
that already the stupendous explosion produced by Deep Impact—the
blast of light that shocked every member of the investigative
team—is fading from the consciousness of the investigators. And just
two weeks after Deep Impact, all discussion of the equally
remarkable advanced flash has ceased. Perhaps none of
the NASA scientists knew that the electrical theorists had predicted
these events in advance.
Here is an
interesting fact. When looking forward to the Deep Impact mission in
October 2001, Wallace Thornhill observed: “…the
energetic effects of the encounter should exceed that of a simple
physical impact, in the same way that was seen with comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragments at Jupiter.” We gave the reasoning in our
predictions posted early in the day, July 3: The energy of
the explosion will not come just from a collision of solid bodies,
but will include the electrical contribution of the comet.
Thornhill had not
forgotten an earlier surprise, though it appears that no one
involved in Deep Impact remembered what happened when comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 approached Jupiter in the summer of 1994.
Astronomers expected the encounter to be a trivial event. “You won’t
see anything. The comet crash will probably amount to nothing more
than a bunch of pebbles falling into an ocean 500 million miles from
Earth.” Then came the encounter and an about face. As reported by
Sky & Telescope, “When Fragment ‘A’ hit the giant planet, it
threw up a fireball so unexpectedly bright that it seemed to knock
the world’s astronomical community off its feet.”
So a brief summary of some of those earlier events are provided below.
For a more detailed article see
Comet Tempel 1's Electrifying
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) detected a flare-up of fragment “G” of
Shoemaker-Levy long before impact at a distance of 2.3 million
miles from Jupiter. For
the electrical theorists this flash would occur as the fragment
crossed Jupiter’s plasma sheath, or magnetosphere boundary. Thornhill comments: “A plasma sheath, or ‘double layer’, is a region
of strong electric field, so the outburst there of an electrified
comet nucleus is expected. The outburst was a surprise to
astronomers. Hubble’s Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS) recorded
strong emissions from fragment ‘G’ of ionized magnesium but no
hydroxyl radical (OH), expected from water ice”.
Also, after the flare-up
in magnesium emissions there was a “dramatic change in the light
reflected from the dust particles in the comet”. All told, the
similarities to the Deep Impact flash are remarkable.
after the impact of SL-9 fragment “K”, HST detected unusual auroral
activity that was brighter than Jupiter’s normal aurora and outside
their normal area. Radiation belts were disrupted. There were
unexpectedly bright X-ray emissions at the time of impact. But one
mystery was never explained satisfactorily: Early impact events were
hidden from the Earth behind Jupiter’s limb. However, the Galileo
spacecraft was positioned 150 million miles away from Jupiter at an
angle that gave it a ringside seat for these events. But Earth-based
observatories saw some of the impacts start at the same time Galileo
did. “In effect, we are seeing something we didn’t think we had any
right to see,” said Dr. Andrew Ingersoll of Caltech. “...it seems
clear that something was happening high enough to be seen beyond the
curve of the planet,” said Galileo Project scientist Dr. Torrence
Johnson of JPL.
None of these discoveries
is surprising if comets are highly electrically charged with respect
to their environment. Radio astronomers had expected radio emissions
from Jupiter at high frequencies to drop because dust from SL-9
fragments would absorb electrons from the radiation belts, where the
electrons emit synchrotron radiation. Instead, observers were
surprised to find that emissions around 2.3 GHz rose by 20-30%.
“Never in 23 years of Jupiter observations have we seen such a rapid
and intense increase in radio emission,” said Michael Klein of JPL.
“Extra electrons were supplied by a source which is a mystery.” It
never occurred to anyone that the charged comet was the source of
the rapid exclusion of uncomfortable facts continue as we await data
analysis of Deep Impact? In tomorrow’s Picture of the Day, we shall
list the urgent questions yet unanswered as NASA officials have
fallen into silence, even withdrawing much of the visual material
formerly available on the Deep Impact website.
Jul 05, 2005
Deep Impact—First Impressions
Jul 06, 2005
Reconsidering Comet Wild 2
Jul 07, 2005
The Meaning of Deep Impact
Jul 08, 2005
Deep Impact—The Smoking Guns?
Jul 15, 2005
The Missing Water of Comet Tempel 1
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