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Jul 06, 2005
Reconsidering Comet Wild 2

The spectacular close-up photographs of Comet Tempel 1 invite us to look back at clues provided by the earlier Stardust mission to Comet Wild 2, culminating in early 2004. The photographic evidence of electrical hot spots on Wild 2 now takes on much greater significance.

Among the most stunning pictures returned by the Deep Impact mission was a close-up view of Comet Tempel 1 showing stark geology punctuated by bright spots on the surface.

We are reminded of the photos of comet Wild 2 taken by the spacecraft Stardust, which revealed small bright spots that received virtually no attention from NASA investigators. In our Picture of the Day for August 5, 2004, we drew attention to these bright spots and suggested an electrical interpretation.

Several of these bright spots are seen in the medium resolution photo on the left, and two are seen together in the higher resolution inset on the right. A few of the bright spots have adjacent dark spots that may be shadows cast by the material shooting up from the surface. The following paragraphs are from our earlier Picture of the Day discussing the Wild 2 bright spots—

From an Electric Universe point of view, these are the sparks where electric currents from the sun impinge on the more negatively charged surface of the comet. This is where electricity is peeling away the surface of the comet's nucleus. The material removed from the comet is funneled away in tight jets that twice surprise conventional expectations. The conventional model expects to find an even distribution of evaporated volatiles in the comas and tails of comets.  Instead Stardust found dense concentrations of particles in the jets themselves and fewer particles than expected in the coma and tail.

During the late 1800's, researchers noted the similarities between comet behavior and electrical phenomena in mainstream magazines such as Nature, Scientific American and English Mechanic and World of Science. But in the early 1900's, astronomers backed away from those ideas because they imply electric currents between the comet and the sun, something 20th century astronomers were not willing to consider. They instead developed the "dirty snowball" theory of comets, which says that comet displays can be explained by ice and volatiles (compounds with low melting points) sublimating under the heat of the Sun.

The Electric Universe researchers are ready to turn the tide of comet theory back toward electrical phenomena. Electricity, not heat, is at work on the surface of Wild 2. If this is true, then a second problem is solved. We don't have to wait for the rare impact to form the cratered landscape. The craters we see are being carved by electric arcs. These arcs also cause the (surprising) dark color of every comet we've seen up close. They produce the (surprising) x- rays that the ROSAT x-ray observatory discovered. And they create the (surprising) streams of rocky particles that pummeled the spacecraft Stardust.

Textbooks will have to change. It is no longer important that comets be composed of mostly ice and volatiles. Electric arcs are strong enough to strip away rock. We use similar processes in industry here on Earth, both to remove material and to deposit it.

But the biggest effect of looking at a comet from the Electric Universe point of view is that it means we have to re-examine almost everything we know about the universe. Electric currents don't appear alone. They cannot flow unless there is a return current -- a complete circuit. So if the comet is electrically active, then the Sun must be a part of its circuitry. And if the Sun is electrically active, then so are all of the stars, in all of the galaxies. And what about the galaxies themselves? These tiny sparks on Wild 2 could light a fire of discovery for astronomy.

TOMORROW: “Deep Impact” on the Future of Science

See  July 13, 2004  Jets on Hale-Bopp
        July 21, 2004  Cometary Knots
        May 23, 2005  Comets, Gravity, and Electricity
        Nov 22, 2004  What's in a Comet's Tail?
        May 20, 2005  The Explosive Demise of Comet Linear


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
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