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Electric Cosmos

The Universe

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Jun 08, 2005
Electric Craters on Planets and Moons

A mere half a century ago the only detailed surface features we could see on another body were on the moon. It showed countless bowl-shaped depressions, large sea-like basins, mountain ranges and river-like rilles. The circular depressions begged an explanation because they were not quite like anything then recognized on Earth. Galileo first used the word "crater," meaning "cup" or "bowl" in the original Greek, when referring to them.

Historically, only two mechanisms, volcanism and impact, have been considered for their formation. A century ago it was the subject of hot debate. The geologist, William Morris Davis, wrote in 1922 that "astronomers tended to explain the craters of the Moon by volcanic action, a geologic process, while geologists tended to explain them by meteoritic action, an astronomic process--each scientist evidently feeling free to take liberties with a field other than his own."

The Czech astronomer Zdenek Kopal was a lone voice when he scrupulously pointed out that the word "crater" should be used without presupposing the mechanism of its origin. That is, astronomers should not add the description "volcanic", "impact", or anything else to the word crater. Otherwise, he warned, it could "easily render the word as much a misnomer as the Martian 'canals' or the lunar 'seas.'" His warning went unheeded.

Ninety percent of the rocks that the Apollo Astronauts brought from the moon were "brecciated". In other words, they were composed of rock fragments of diverse origin that had been altered by a mechanical shock and then welded together. In addition, there were the ubiquitous green and orange glass "beads," which were evidently flash melted and quickly frozen before forming part of the lunar soil. Volcanism was clearly unable to explain these rocks and glass beads, but the shock and heat of an impact seemed to provide one plausible mechanism for their formation.

The geologist, Robert Dietz, made the argument clear: "Barring the unlikely possibility of a natural nuclear explosion, a meteorite impact is thus the only mechanism for producing intense shock on a large scale (a lightning bolt might do so on a small scale)." Dietz deserves credit for recognizing (albeit parenthetically) that a lightning bolt could be responsible for shock and heat effects.

For the Electric universe, the cosmic thunderbolt is the mechanism of cratering on the planets and the moons of our solar system. Cosmic lightning is not the small-scale discharge of an ordinary thunderstorm, but the heaven-spanning weapons of the gods celebrated by every human culture. And the craters themselves are the wounds inflicted by these cosmic weapons. This cratering mechanism explains not only the glass beads and brecciated rocks, but many other features which fit poorly into the impact explanation, such as flat bottoms, terraced walls, central peaks and secondary craters centered on the rims of larger craters. All of these typical lightning features are seen in the above photo of craters on Mercury.

TPOD for 2004 July 2, 
Craters in the Lab

TPOD for 2004 July 2,  Domed Craters on Mars


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

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