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    Explaining the radioactivity at Aristarchus

In his March 14, 1967 memorandum to the Space Board of the National Academy of Sciences, Velikovsky wrote: "Because of the intensity and multiplicity of the interplanetary bolts to which the Moon was subjected only 27 and 35 centuries ago (as described in Worlds in Collision) radioactivity must still be present on the surface of the Moon in quantity damaging to unprotected man or animal and by far exceeding any exposure regarded as safe."  This advance claim of strong radioactivity on the lunar surface was in some measure substantiated by the first Apollo landing in July, 1969, and the proportions of the phenomenon were most clearly delineated in 1972, when the Apollo 15 orbiter was equipped with instruments designed to survey radioactivity in a broad band centered on the lunar equator.  As anticipated by Velikovsky, the crater Aristarchus proved to be the center of a region of especially strong radioactivity.

Gorenstein and Bjorkholm, who reported the Apollo 15 Alpha Particle Spectrometer results (Science 179, 25 February 1973, pp. 792-94), concluded that "the excess 222Rn at Aristarchus is at least a factor of 4 higher than the lunar average," a fact that must be explained in terms of "either an increase in the local uranium concentration or an increase in the emanation rate, or perhaps both."  But the indicated increase in uranium concentration is ruled out by the results of the Apollo 15 gamma-ray-spectrometer experiment.  So they conclude that the Aristarchus activity is due to increased emanation of radon-222, which has a half-life of 3.8 days.

They add: "The higher emanation rate at Aristarchus is not likely to be related to the impact process which formed Aristarchus because of the large difference between the age of the crater and the half-life of 222Rn."  But radon-222 is a daughter of radium-226, which has a half-life of 1620 years.  If the radium were produced by an electric discharge to the Aristarchus site some 2700 years ago, more than 25 percent of it would still be there, emitting radon-222.

As to how radium might be produced, one can only speculate at this time.  Seaborg and Bloom ("The Synthetic Elements: IV," Scientific American, April, 1969, pp. 57-67) point out, however, that "the creation of a heavy element is essentially the reverse of a decay process. . . ."  They also remark that "indications are that the superheavy elements can be created only by bombarding target nuclei with sufficiently energetic projectiles consisting of heavy ions."  And they give as an example the fact that "a reaction that is relatively easy to produce involves bombarding [curium-248] with [argon-40] to produce [heavy isotope] 284114."

Now, while radium is not considered a "superheavy" element, it is one of the heaviest of naturally occurring elements, so it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that it, too, might be created by heavy-ion bombardment of such stable isotopes as lead-206 or bismuth-209.  From the standpoint of technology, the problem connected with producing superheavy elements right now is one of building an accelerator capable of delivering heavy ions with the required energies.  But if interplanetary electric discharges may be considered natural phenomena with driving potentials upward of 100 billion volts, they would appear capable of accelerating heavy ions to energies quite adequate to produce a variety of radioactive isotopes at "cathode" impact sites.

R. E. Juergens


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