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Comet SOHO 6 meets its doom. Credit: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).



Apr 22, 2009

Some comets fly in close to the Sun and then loop back into the outer reaches of the Solar System, with unusual results.

Comets are described as "dirty snowballs" by the astronomical community, despite images returned from space probes such as Giotto and Deep Impact that show them to have blackened, cratered, and fractured surfaces. No snowy fields, high albedo crust, clouds of water vapor, or other indications of icy conditions have been observed. In fact, Giotto's close approach to Halley's comet revealed it to be the blackest object ever seen, with isolated energetic plumes erupting out of a dense nucleus.

The Deep Impact mission encountered comet Tempel 1 in June 2005, and launched a projectile designed to strike the surface with the force of an artillery shell. While research team members at the time wondered if they would see anything of note, Electric Universe theorist Wal Thornhill predicted several results that subsequently proved correct, validating his ideas about the electrical nature of comets.

Tempel 1 was thought to correspond with the conventional theory of comet evolution. Comets are supposed to be cold remnants from the primordial nebular cloud out of which the Solar System is theorized to have condensed. They are said to be "leftovers" that did not consolidate into large planetary bodies, so they remain orbiting the Sun at a distance of several billion kilometers in perpetual deep freeze.

The remote sphere of debris is occasionally perturbed by a passing planetoid or a wandering star, whereupon several of the fragments lose their orbital equilibrium and begin to fall inward toward the Sun. As they gain proximity to solar radiant emissions they heat up, which causes their icebound surfaces to sublimate, forming a coma that is gradually pushed back by the solar wind. The elongated coma forms a tail.

However, Tempel 1 resembled an asteroid more than anything else. A large crater, boulders, and cliffs were plainly visibleónothing like the prevailing theory of snowballs and steam vents. Although water was discovered in the comet's environment, there was far too little ice on the surface to account for it.

Other comets have defied convention, as well. Shoemaker-Levy 9 exploded into shards when it crossed Jupiter's powerful magnetosphere, but the freshly broken pieces did not expel any of the volatile compounds astronomers hoped to see. When Deep Space 1 flew by comet Borrelly in 2001 it was found to be hot and dry instead of cold and wet. The Stardust mission to comet Wild 2 discovered a great deal of dust nearby, but no trace of water could be found on its surface.

Sungrazers tend to reaffirm the Electric Universe opinion about comets. If comets are the remains of electrical events that took place early in the life of the Solar System, then their "anomalous" behavior can be easily explained. Since there is a radial electric field from the Sun permeating the Solar System, as comets come closer to its greater charge density they experience a breakdown in their electrical equilibrium and begin to glow. The charged material, or plasma sheath, surrounding the cometary nucleus is accelerated out and away, sometimes forming a tail millions of kilometers long.

The increased electric charge that comets accumulate as they near the Sun is demonstrated by sungrazers. Since the Sun's e-field is a dynamic structure, it changes in strength and size depending on the electric currents flowing into it from the galaxy. It is in a state of constant flux, requiring only a small trigger for it to discharge violently. Such discharges are known as solar flares or coronal mass ejections (CME).

Comet NEAT swung close by the Sun in 2003, apparently initiating a CME eruption that appeared to impact the comet. Astronomers at the time discounted any relationship between the two events because of the size differential between the comet and the Sun. However, several other sungrazers have been associated with violent flares. One event can be a coincidence, two can be long odds, but three or more can not be dismissed as mere oddities.

When comet 96P/Machholz circled the Sun, it came so close that if it were composed of ice with a small percentage of rock and dust it would have certainly disintegrated. It did not rapidly dissipate, however. Instead, its intense charge differential caused a gigantic CME to discharge from the Sun, blasting out for millions of kilometers.

The electrical connection between comets and the Sun seems certain. If that is the case, then the electrical connection between the Sun and its entire family of planets and moons is certain. Changes in solar input and output can affect the environments of every member in that family: weather, orbits, magnetic fields, and surface features. Climate change, for example, rather than being an anthropic phenomenon, is doubtless an aspect of the electrical connection between Earth, the Sun, and the galaxy.

Stephen Smith



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