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KRONOS Vol II, No. 1

For the Record...

New Light on Venus

Soviet scientists recently disclosed new information about Venus, obtained from the Venera 9 and 10 landings of Oct., 1975. The findings were presented at a space research meeting (COSPAR) in Philadelphia. V. S. Avduevsky, deputy director of the Soviet Space Flight Control Center, announced that pictures taken of Venus' surface by Venera 9 revealed a rock-strewn terrain which cast distinctive and unanticipated shadows.

As reported in The Philadelphia Inquirer of June 14, 1976, "the atmosphere at the surface [of Venus] was much brighter than scientists had expected. The photographs showed very dark shadows even when floodlights were turned on" (emphasis added).

"According to Avduevsky, there should not be any shadows because sunlight was diffused by the cloud cover. He and M. Y. Marov of the Institute of Applied Mathematics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, said that indicated a direct light source on the surface but they could only guess what it was" (emphasis added).

In reporting on the same meeting, Science News (Vol. 109, June 19, 1976, p. 388) noted that "the Venus clouds turn out to be more tenuous than anybody had thought .... more like a haze than heavy clouds. As a result, the surface illumination is brighter than anyone expected, and photography is much easier there. With the sun at a 30 angle from the zenith, the light flux at the surface is about 100 watts per square meter, an illuminacy of about 14,000 lux." M. V. Keldysh, former president of the USSR Academy of Sciences, observed that "this value corresponds to the illuminacy at the terrestrial mean latitude in the daytime with overcast clouds."

Although it discussed the surface light on Venus in some detail, Science News significantly refrained from explicitly ascribing the source of that light to the Sun. Thus, the surface illumination of Venus still remains an inexplicable puzzle to conventional thought, for it evidently cannot be attributed to Solar light.

Yet, it may be that the solution to the problem is to be found in the pages of Worlds in Collision ("The Thermal Balance of Venus"). There, we read that, because of its violent history "between the third and first millennia before the present era, the core of the planet Venus must still be hot. Moreover, if there is oxygen present on Venus, petroleum fires must be burning there" (emphasis added). [Also see Science News, Vol. 109, April 10, 1976, p. 234; Pensee VI, Winter, 1973-74, pp. 22-23.1

Could it be that this is the unexpected source of light which, as it flashes across the rock-strewn terrain, helps to create the perplexing shadows on the Venusian surface?

The important subject of Venus' age was also once again raised by Marov. He "said there was an indication that the planet was geologically quite young and was seismically active until recently . . ." (emphasis added). Not all scientists presently agree with Marov's conclusion, however. Nevertheless, "Marov would like to see seismic studies of Venus to determine if the rocks indeed mean that Venus is a young planet still undergoing tectonic activity" (Science News, June, 19, loc. cit.).

Thus, the data so far retrieved from the latest Soviet space probes go a long way towards confirming Velikovsky's conclusions about the planet Venus. At the same time, the new information is a telling blow to Carl Sagan's claim (presented on p. 54 of his revised AAAS paper, currently in pre-publication circulation) that "the Venera 9 and 10 missions . . . obtained clear photographs in sunlight [sic] of surface rocks." Moreover, Sagan's "pet" theory that Venus is heated by an "enhanced greenhouse effect" continues to crumble, and even invoking the ghost of Rupert Wildt cannot save it.


KRONOS, I, 3 (Fall-1975), pp. 85-86; KRONOS, I, 4 (Winter-1976), p. 90.
Industrial Research, Vol. 17, No. 13 (December-1975), pp. 30 and 32.
Yale Scientific Magazine, XLI, No. 7, April, 19 67.

The Martian Atmosphere

In March of 1974, the Soviet Mars 6 spacecraft first detected, what was believed to be, a significant amount of unexpected argon in the Martian atmosphere (See KRONOS, I, 3, pp. 88-89) - unexpected, that is, to all save Velikovsky.

Since then, the Soviet finding was reaffirmed more than once. For example, a Dec. 1975 NASA publication (NASA-TT-F 16823) was reviewed to include the following information: "The detection of some inert gas in the Martian atmosphere, apparently argon, by the Mars-6 probe is recounted. A combined analysis is conducted of infrared and ultraviolet spectrometric observations as well as results of radio-occultation measurements of the Martian atmosphere to determine the accuracy of the Mars-6 results. It is shown that all these data indicate an argon abundance of 25% to 35% in the Martian atmosphere."

Additionally, two more recent reports on Mars, in conjunction with the up-coming American Viking landing, also focused on the subject of Martian argon. In July of 1976, Science News (Vol. 109, June 5 & 12, 1976, p. 363) again referred to Soviet calculations which tentatively indicated "that there may be as much as 35 percent argon in the [Martian] atmosphere"; and the July 10, 1976 issue of Science News noted that, "in the vicinity of the Martian south pole, the [Viking] heat-mapper reported temperatures as low as -216 F. The likeliest explanation ... seems to be that CO2 is diluted by some inert gas that simply won't freeze out at those temperatures - another indication of the already inferred presence of argon. Argon has been estimated to comprise up to 35 percent of the air on Mars, but the polar temperatures measured by Viking would indicate that the inert component comprises as much as 80 percent of the local atmosphere ... causing a substantial depletion over the rest of the planet" (pp. 20-2 1, emphasis in text). [But cp. with 3rd paragraph below.]

This past July 20, the American Viking I space vehicle accomplished the first successful landing on the Martian surface. Among other things, it confirmed the presence of argon in Mars' atmosphere. However, according to preliminary analysis of transmitted data, the quantity of argon is considerably less than had been expected. Present indications are that the Martian air is 1.5 percent argon, though this figure is not without its problems.

The New York Times of July 22 (p. 24) reported that "the Mars argon level is only slightly higher than that on Earth. Since Mars seems to have lost considerable amounts of other constituents, including nitrogen, but no argon, the latter should be relatively plentiful. Dr. Sieff [of NASA Ames] said the low level of observed argon therefore remained a puzzle." It should be noted that quantitative expectations for argon are based on the assumption "that the original constituents of the atmosphere on Mars resembled those of the Earth."

"If, says Michael McElroy of Harvard University, the earth and Mars formed with similar proportions of potassium-40 (of which argon-40 is a decay product), Mars ought to have about 25 times the amount of argon-40 detected by Viking. This suggests that gases have been passing from the lithosphere to the atmosphere much more slowly than they have on earth .... [Furthermore,] recent unexpectedly low temperatures measured over the Martain [sic] south pole which were tentatively attributed to a large inert-gas component in the atmosphere, could, says McElroy, have been due to readings from a layer of ice crystals rather than the surface" (Science News, 7/24/76, p. 53).

If the "1 to 2 percent of the by now nearly notorious argon" (in the words of Science News) should prove to be a correct figure, the relatively low amount might be the result of an argon loss to the Earth, the Moon, and interplanetary space during the celestial events described in Worlds in Collision [see below; and also see the note on terrestrial argon in Nature, 261 (May 6, 1976), p. 771.

The first person to contend publicly that Mars' atmosphere must contain argon, and also neon, was Immanuel Velikovsky (in a lecture titled "Neon and Argon in the Atmosphere of Mars," copyrighted in 1945; test requests addressed in 1946 to Harvard College and Mount Wilson observatories; Worlds in Collision in 1950, "The Atmosphere of Mars") [See KRONOS, loc. cit.; The Velikovsky Affair, 1966, pp. 237-2381.

At least one prominent individual, Arthur C. Clarke, was positively aware of Velikovsky's claim. In a letter (dated January 4, 1973) which was sent to the journal Pensee, Clarke expressed his belief that Velikovsky had been mistaken in his expectation of Martian argon and neon. However, three years later, in a personal communique (dated 30th January 1976) to Dr. Velikovsky, Clarke remarked: ". . . when I saw the Russian announcement of argon in Mars' atmosphere, I immediately said to myself 'Dr. Velikovsky strikes again'! However, I think we should wait until the Viking landings next July, which hopefully may settle a great many matters about Mars."

In sharp contrast to Clarke's position, is the attitude of Carl Sagan who has attempted to deny Velikovsky's priority by crediting Harrison Brown, an atomic scientist, with the argon prediction. Brown did not make his conclusions concerning argon known, however, until 1949 (The Atmospheres of the Earth and Planets, ed. Kuiper, 1949, p. 268; also see The Velikovsky Affair, p. 238), a good four years after Velikovsky.

Yet, in his revised AAAS paper (p. 62), Sagan improperly claims that "the first [sic] published argument for argon and neon was made by Harrison Brown in the 1940's." Additionally, Sagan erroneously concludes that Velikovsky argues for a terrestrial origin of Martian argon when, in fact, Velikovsky claimed just the opposite. In Worlds in Collision ("The Atmosphere of Mars"), Velikovsky wrote: "The main ingredients of the atmosphere of Mars must be present in the atmosphere of the earth. Mars, 'the god of war,' must have left part of his property on his visits. As oxygen and water vapor are not the main ingredients of the atmosphere of Mars, some other elements of the terrestrial atmosphere must be the main components of its atmosphere. It could be nitrogen, but the presence of nitrogen on Mars or its absence - has not yet been established" [emphasis added].

"Besides oxygen and nitrogen, the main components of the terrestrial atmosphere, argon and neon are present in detectable quantities in the air. These rare gases excite spectral lines only when in a hot state; consequently, they cannot be detected through lines of emission from a comparatively cool body such as Mars. The absorption lines of argon and neon have not yet been investigated. When a study of these lines will make possible a spectral search for these rare gases on planets, Mars should be submitted to the test. If analysis should reveal them in rich amounts, this would also answer the question: What contribution did Mars make to the earth when the two planets came into contact?" (emphasis added). [Also see KRONOS, I, 3, p. 88.1

Faced with the prospect of a possible argon capitulation to Velikovsky, Sagan has resurrected Harrison Brown on the Martian stage, just as he brought back Rupert Wildt on the Venusian one. Unfortunately for Sagan, his two stellar performers fail to meet the criteria demanded of them.

It is curious indeed that Sagan, who personally did not believe argon to be present in the Martian atmosphere right into the 1970's, should now be feverishly attempting to elevate the opinion of Harrison Brown at the expense of Velikovsky's 30 year-old claim. Likewise, between 1960 and 1974, one heard very little from Sagan, if anything, about Rupert Wildt's work. It is only now, when it is convenient to do so in connection with a criticism of Velikovsky, that he does. As an aside, it should be noted that Sagan's "patron", Isaac Asimov, does not list the greenhouse effect as something notable about Wildt in Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (1964).

In a final effort to squirm out of his Martian dilemma, Sagan has also summarily dismissed the possibility of neon on Mars. "Substantial quantities of neon are now excluded by the Mariner 9 S-band occulatation [sic] experiment" (p. 62). The data from space probe activity of the Red Planet are hardly complete, however..

Interestingly enough, the New York Times of June 18, 1976 (p. D16) reported that "Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists displayed the first close-up pictures of Mars taken from Viking I and said they were puzzled by a bright haze that obscured details of the planet's surface . . . . The haze in the north was so bright it obscured the camera." What caused this strange unexpected bright light, no one could say.

Perhaps the answer has already been provided by Velikovsky in his AAAS speech: "I would speculate that the red color of Mars, due mainly to the ferruginous material acquired from Venus when the latter displaced it from its orbit (in the theomachy described in great detail in the Iliad), may partly be due also to an electrical effect in a neon-rich Martian atmosphere" [Pensee VII, Spring-1974, pp. 12-13, emphasis added].

With the discovery of 2 to 3 percent nitrogen in the Martian atmosphere [Science News, loc. cit. I, yet another of Sagan's assaults on Worlds in Collision is rendered impotent.

Again turning to Sagan's AAAS paper (pp. 62-63), we read the following: "But even if large quantities of argon are found on Mars, it would be no evidence for a Velikovskian atmospheric exchange ... A much more serious problem for Velikovsky is the apparent absence of N2 from the Martian atmosphere. The gas is relatively unreactive, does not freeze out at Martian temperatures, and cannot rapidly escape from the Martian exosphere. It is the major constituent of the Earth's atmosphere. If such an exchange of gases [between Mars and Earth] occurred, where is the N2 on Mars? These tests of the assumed gas exchange between Mars and Earth, which Velikovsky advocates, are poorly thought out in his writings; in fact, the tests contradict his thesis."

In point of fact, where Velikovsky's thesis is concerned, tests involving Mars now contradict only Sagan. Wrong about argon, wrong about nitrogen, unsure about neon, it is Sagan's cosmological theories which are poorly thought out - if thought out at all - and found severely wanting in the balance.

L. M. G.

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