SEARCHING FOR THE SCARS OF BATTLE
Part 2 of
Moon and Mars
Ralph E. Juergens
Mr. Juergens is associate editor of Pensée. This paper is an
extension of his presentation to the McMaster University
symposium, "Velikovsky and the Recent History of the Solar System,"
June 16-19, 1974.
The first part of this paper (Pensée, Fall, 1974) was devoted
primarily to an argument that sinuous rilles, features peculiar to maria
surfaces on the Moon, are of electrical origin. It was suggested that these
tortuous "riverbeds" were produced instantly and explosively as subsurface
formations succumbed to electrical stresses, and that the youngest of them
resulted from an encounter between Mars and the Moon. Electrons thus torn
from the lunar crust pioneered paths in space along which powerful
discharges transferred electric charges between the two bodies. It was
further suggested that the energy delivered in just one such discharge was
sufficient to create, and probably did create, the large explosion crater,
There are several other lunar surface features that seem best explained as
electrical scars. But before taking a look at them we may usefully ask how
much electric charge might have been exchanged in the postulated
Aristarchus event. Would this charge, for example, be a reasonably small
fraction of the total charge carried by each of the two planetary bodies
Suppose we approach this problem by taking the measure of an ordinary
lightning bolt, which hopefully is the nearest thing to an interplanetary
discharge likely to be observable in our time. The energy of a fairly
average lightning discharge, according to Viemeister (59), is about 250
kilowatt-hours—roughly 9 x 108 joules. On Earth, most of this
energy is dissipated in the atmosphere. But what might happen if such a
bolt were to strike an airless body like the Moon?
From Baldwin's analysis of lunar and terrestrial explosion craters
would appear that such a bolt ought to produce a lunar crater about 85
meters in diameter (see Figure 1 ). Aristarchus, as indicated in the
figure, was probably formed by an explosion releasing some 2 x 1021
joules of energy. So we are talking about an interplanetary discharge a few
million million times as energetic as ordinary lightning.
Cloud-to-ground electric potentials in thunderstorms reach values near 109
volts (61). Presumably the potential drop across an interplanetary spark
gap would be considerably greater than this, but by how much we can only
guess for now. Let us assume that it would be at least a thousand times
greater—say, 1012 volts. On this basis, since the energy of a
discharge is the simple product of the potential drop between electrodes
and the total charge transferred, we can estimate that a spark transferring
109 coulombs of charge would suffice to produce an Aristarchus on
the Moon and wreak corresponding havoc, though of a different kind, on Mars
Some recent estimates of total electric charges carried by solar-system
bodies include Bailey's 1018 coulombs for the Sun
Michelson's 1013 coulombs for the Earth (64). Michelson's
figure is derived from Bailey's on the assumption that the specific
charges—total charges divided by total masses—of all bodies in the
solar system might be alike. The same assumption would imply total
charges of about 1012 and 1011 coulombs for Mars
and the Moon, respectively. However, as pointed out elsewhere
ubiquitous interplanetary plasma can be expected to equalize surface
potentials rather than specific charges; except during near-collision
episodes, and perhaps even then
to large degree, the potentials of all the planets (or at least the
inner planets of the system) should be pretty much alike and equal to
that of the Sun.
Nor need one put too much stress on Bailey's estimate of the Sun's net
charge. Most of his arguments assume that electric fields propagate
across interplanetary space, and this seems ruled out by the plasma.
Nevertheless, for present purposes we might take Bailey's figure as a
minimum value for solar charge and deduce from it a minimum value for
the Sun's surface "potential"-1019 volts.
(In passing, it is well to note that this "potential" is relative to
some "zero" of potential that probably does not apply anywhere in the
solar system, and may not apply anywhere within the limits of the local
galaxy, either. Bailey contended that the Sun maintains a potential of
this magnitude relative to its immediate surroundings ("empty space"),
but his analysis of the solar-charge problem was made before Mariner 2
demonstrated the all-pervasive nature of the interplanetary plasma.)
On this basis, then, since the plasma effectively "grounds" the planets
to the Sun, each of them ought to be charged so as to have this same 1019-volt
surface potential. The charge on each of them, expressed as a fraction
of the Sun's charge, should be proportional to the planet's radius,
expressed as a fraction of the Sun's radius. Earth, Mars, and the Moon
should then carry respective "normal" charges of approximately 1015,
5 x 1014, and 2.5 x 1014 coulombs.
Given such charges—and it bears reemphasizing that these figures may
be substantially on the low side—we can see that the postulated
Aristarchus discharge, transferring 109 coulombs between Mars
and the Moon, would alter the "normal" charge of Mars by only about two
parts in a million, and that of the Moon by some four parts in a
million. Quite a few such bolts might pass between the two bodies
during a single encounter without significantly affecting the electrical
balance between either of them and the interplanetary plasma.
But of course Aristarchus and craters of similar size are by no means
the entire story. The crater Tycho in the Moon's southern highlands
gives every indication of being one of the most youthful of lunar
features; indeed, Shoemaker et al. (66) consider it even younger than
Aristarchus, but this solely on the basis of geologic considerations
that may not apply to a Moon involved in near-collisions only a few
thousand years ago. In any case, as Hartmann and Yale stress
(67), Tycho and Aristarchus are the only two among the larger craters on the
Moon with floors of bare rock, unlittered with debris from later
eruptive events in their neighborhoods. This would seem to put both in
the same age bracket—one of extreme youth.
Tycho, about 86 kilometers in diameter, is located in a highland region
that is generally more than 1200 meters above the Moon's spherical
datum—the surface of a hypothetical sphere of average lunar radius
(68). The crater site appears to be at the summit, or very close to the
summit, of terrain that trends downward in every direction away from
the site for hundreds of kilometers. The summit is more than 2600
meters above the spherical datum, according to Baldwin (69). (The
crater site is thus topographically comparable to that of Aristarchus,
which, according to Baldwin's contour map, is near the summit of a
more-than-2700-meter rise from a plain that is generally several
thousand meters below spherical datum.)
Shoemaker and his colleagues (70) emphasize that, aside from the fact
that Tycho is twice the size of Aristarchus, the two craters are
remarkably similar in their structural details, which include prominent
central peaks, and floors that have preserved the contours of "flows . .
. . partly draped or folded around small hills......... (They suggest,
too, that "the floors of other large ray craters probably have also been
formed by similar flows.")
Observations indicating that Tycho is a persistent "hot spot" after
sundown on the Moon (71) and that it is a strong reflector of radar
beams (72) support the conclusion that its floor is remarkably clean.
They also suggest that the flows observable in Lunar-Orbiter photographs
are of congealed, lava-like material. And this may be taken as further
evidence in support of the discharge hypothesis of Tycho's origin.
Explaining a crater floor of bare, once-molten rock in terms of the
conventional impact theory is a little difficult. One must resort to
ad-hoc theorizing to the effect that something—perhaps the shock of the
postulated impact explosion—melted a considerable volume of rock at
some depth, and that following the explosion this material welled up to
engulf the crater floor and flow around obstructions encountered there;
otherwise, debris from the explosion itself could be expected to clutter
the crater floor (73). Impact theory offers no reason, however, to
expect such a sequence of events, and nothing in terrestrial experience
with crater-producing explosions supports the idea.
On the other hand, if Aristarchus and Tycho were produced by electric
discharges, their clean floors would be just about what one would
expect. The abilities of discharges to produce melting on cathode
surfaces and generally to "clean up" those surfaces have been remarked
upon since the earliest experiments with electric discharges
Furthermore, though an electric discharge might be thought of as taking
place in a very brief span of time, an interplanetary discharge must
surely be an event of greater duration than an impact explosion; the
long-distance flow of current would persist beyond the instant of any
initial touchdown, explosion, and ejecta that chanced to fall back into
the crater thus produced could be swept away or melted in place. (The
hummocky appearance of the floors of Tycho and Aristarchus may testify
in part to such melting of fallout blocks too large to be forcefully
Tycho's position in Figure 1 shows that the explosion that produced it,
whether attributable to impact or to electric discharge, must have been
perhaps 40 times as energetic as the Aristarchus event. Assuming that
the explosion resulted from an electrical strike and that the driving
potential (spark-gap voltage) was of the order of 1012 volts,
we are led to conclude that the Tycho bolt must have transferred
something approaching 1011 coulombs of charge between Mars
and the Moon. But even this amounts to only a few parts in ten thousand
of our estimated "normal" charges on Mars and the Moon; the electrical
balance between either body and the undisturbed interplanetary medium
would be only negligibly affected.
But if Tycho, like Aristarchus, is a cathode crater, where are the
sinuous rilles that might be expected to have provided triggering
electrons for the Tycho discharge? Should not such features be tens of
times more abundant around Tycho than in the area of Aristarchus?
We have already noted the fact that sinuous rilles occur only on mare
surfaces. And Tycho is located in a highland region, hundreds of
kilometers from the nearest mare margin and even farther from the
nearest evidence of sinuous-rille activity. Could a Martian spark to
the Tycho site have been triggered in another way?
I suggest that the answer to this last question may be, yes. The
supporting evidence seems to lie in Tycho's most obvious feature—its
spectacular system of rays
The Origin of Tycho's Rays
The rays of Tycho constitute a centuries-old puzzle that has defied
solution in terms of conventional thinking about the history of the
Moon. Velikovsky's demonstration that Earth's satellite, like the Earth
itself, actually has a recent history—a natural history—and that this
history has been punctuated by episodes of interplanetary violence, puts
the Tycho-ray puzzle—like many other astro-geological problems—in an
entirely new light. In this instance, Velikovsky's work suggests that
astronomers, selenographers, and astrogeologists alike may have been
searching in too few compartments of scientific knowledge for clues to
the puzzle's solution.
To judge from the preponderance of recent literature, today's majority
opinion is heavily in favor of the idea that lunar-ray systems
originated in the ejection of materials from central craters. And
Tycho's long rays, some of them reaching so far as to pass out of sight
beyond the limb of the Moon's visible disk, are considered exceptional
but still explainable as ejecta from Tycho itself. Ralph Baldwin, a
leading advocate of this view, mocks those who would seek other
explanations: "There must be something about the moon which causes
astronomers and others to suffer severe attacks of imagination"
He refers specifically to ray-origin suggestions ranging from an
efflorescence of mineral salts along radial cracks, or an expulsion of
ice crystals through openings in crater walls, to an emission of lava
along tectonic fractures, or an ejection of volcanic ash in
extraordinarily straight, evenly spaced streams. His answer: The rays
are simply rock flour jetted outward by impact explosions.
Now, obviously, some of the ideas Baldwin takes exception to are pretty
far-fetched. But their common inspiration is just as obviously the many
difficulties that plague the ejection hypothesis.
For one thing, the rays have no discernible
depth. Surely materials squirted laterally from any explosion site
would at least occasionally fall more heavily in one place than in
another and build up substantial formations. But no one has ever been
able to point out such a ray "deposit."
Another difficulty concerns the fact that the rays are scarred with
numerous small craters. Baldwin's explanation is that "some solid
material was shot out with the jets and produced 'on-the-way' craters"
(76). But Kopal pointed out some years ago
(77) that the total volume
of material of this type alone, if called upon to explain the secondary
craters along Tycho's rays, would amount to some 10,000 cubic
kilometers—an amount of material entirely inconsistent with careful
measurements indicating that practically all material excavated from
Tycho's crater has been deposited in its rim. Furthermore, Ranger
photographs suggest that on-ray craterlets may be even more abundant
than either Baldwin or Kopal thought likely. Baldwin, writing at a time
when only Earth-based telescopic observation was possible, noted that
"when these rays are closely studied, they are found to be composed of
long, narrow, elliptical sections, often with a small crater or
elongated groove in the white region" (78). But after examining the
Ranger photos, Shoemaker commented (79): ... . . . many small secondary
craters, too small to be resolved by telescopes on earth, occur at the
near end of each ray element."
Thus not only the presence of the secondary craters in connection 'with
"each ray element," but their placement, always "at the near
end," poses a problem for the ejection hypothesis. Is it
conceivable that larger objects randomly mixed with fines in ejecta
streams would always manage to drop to the surface just at the inner
ends of fallout patterns produced by the fines?
The strange proportions of Tycho's long rays seem all-but-impossible to
reconcile with ejection origins. Enormous velocities of ejection must
be postulated to explain the lengths of the rays, yet the energetic
processes responsible for such velocities must be imagined to be focused
very precisely to account for the ribbon-thin appearance of the rays.
Early in this century Pickering reviewed the ray-origin ideas then
abroad and found them wanting (80). He suggested: "Another and perhaps
better explanation is that electrical repulsion . . . . furnished the
radial force which caused the arrangement [of Tycho's rays]." It was
his personal observation that "those streaks which do not issue from
minute craterlets lie upon or across ridges, or in other similarly
exposed situations." Although he was none too specific as to the
details of an electrical mechanism that might explain Tycho's rays, he
drew an interesting comparison between the suggested phenomenon and
I think that in this case Pickering was indeed on the right track.
Before pursuing the point, however, suppose we take a close look at the
entire Tychonian system.
Shoemaker et al. (81) give us this description of conditions just
outside the rim of the crater: "The exterior flank of the rim . . . .
comprises a belt of terrain 80 to 100 km wide that differs from the
surrounding highland terrain in , topography, albedo, radar
reflectivity, thermal characteristics, and other physical properties.
This belt is underlain by a complex sequence of rim deposits. They are
divisible, on the basis of both topography and albedo, into distinct
geologic facies, which form a series of three concentric rings around
the crater . . .
"The inner ring [which] extends from the crest of the crater rim a
distance of 5 to 10 km down the rim flank . . . . is characterized by
irregularly hummocky topography and a normal albedo of 16 to 17%.
Within this ring are many well-developed flows, some as long as 8 km. .
"The second ring is marked by numerous sub-radial ridges and valleys
superimposed on a broadly undulating surface . . . . Some undulations
clearly reflect ancient craters that have been buried, or partly buried,
by the rim materials of Tycho. . . . The ring appears in full-moon
telescopic photographs as a prominent, broad, dark halo completely
"Surrounding the dark-halo facies is a third major ring characterized by
abundant secondary or satellitic craters.... Beyond the third or outer
ring, the rim deposits are discontinuous and grade outward into the ray
"The Tycho rays consist of a discontinuous series of bright streaks.
In more distant parts of the ray system, the streaks lie nearly along
great circle arcs that pass through the parent crater. Close to Tycho,
the pattern is more complex and includes broad, roughly linear, bright
bands and numerous bright ellipses and loops.
"The pattern of the rays is superimposed on nearly all the other
topographic and geologic features of the lunar surface.........
But do the long rays—all, or even most of them—actually "pass through
the parent crater?" Another point that has long troubled the ejection
hypothesis of ray origin is the readily observed fact that Tycho's long
rays do not diverge from the center of the crater, although such
divergence would be expected for material thrown out by a point
explosion. It is often said e.g., (82) that the rays are tangent to the
crater rim, and various ad hoc modifications of the ejection hypothesis
have been offered to explain, or explain away, such a peculiarity in ray
alignment. As a matter of fact, however, the briefest examination of
good photographs of the full Moon indicates that only a few rays are
"tangent to the rim of the crater," while others seem to point directly
to, or through, the center of the crater.
Close scrutiny of the long rays suggests that they actually may diverge
from a common point, or common focus, located on or buried beneath the
western (83) rim of the crater.
But Tycho's shorter rays-those which fill the inner regions of the gaps
between the long rays and appear to be quite similar to the rays of
other craters, such as Copernicus, Kepler, and Aristarchus—seem to
diverge from Tycho itself.
Could it be that we have here two systems of rays, one superimposed on
the other? Such a situation would be consistent with the known
behavior of certain electric discharges.
In the first part of this paper (note 12), it was suggested that the
bright rays associated with lunar craters, recognized some years ago by
Velikovsky as electric-discharge markings (84), are Lichtenberg
figures-starlike patterns produced when electric sparks terminate on
non-conducting surfaces. The proportions of Lichtenberg figures are
determined by such variables as the polarity of the surface with respect
to the discharge, the magnitude of the impressed voltage (the
potential drop across the spark gap), and the abruptness of the wave
front in the flow of current (85). Positive figures-those produced
where positive charges touch down, as on a non-conducting cathode are
generally more distinct; their patterns are more obvious, and for a
given impressed voltage they are larger than negative figures
Since Lichtenberg figures result from the breakdown of gases immediately
adjacent to surfaces (87), they increase in size both as the spark-gap
potential goes up and as the ambient gas pressure goes down (88). Thus,
at atmospheric pressure on Earth, a 1000-volt positive figure might be
only a centimeter or so in diameter, while one produced by a
100-million-volt lightning bolt might be meters in diameter; features of
the latter proportions are occasionally seared into exposed lawn
surfaces. On the Moon, where the ambient gas pressure, even during an
encounter in which the atmosphere of Mars might be partially drawn into
the gap prior to the onset of electrical displays, would scarcely be
significantly greater than that of interplanetary space, a bolt
striking with a driving potential of several million million volts
might well produce a Tychonian ray system.
Lichtenberg figures, though they have been known for several centuries
and have been employed to practical advantage in various ways
far from completely understood. The essential function of the process
that results in a positive figure, however, seems to be one of
Because the surface receiving the electric
spark is non-conducting, the electron-collecting mechanism takes the
form of breakdown streamers in atmospheric gases in contact with the
surface. By means of strong electric fields associated with
concentrated space charges at their outer tips, these streamers
propagate outward literally at "lightning speed." At the same time,
they are held to the surface by the electrostatic attraction between
their tip charges and those they seek to extract from the surface. And,
although they originate at a common point where there exists an
intensely concentrated field, they are able to extend that field far
beyond its initially effective reach in all directions-again by virtue
of the strong field at their tips (90).
Now, suppose that Tycho's rays actually constitute two systems: A
primary system of long, narrow rays diverging from a point just
outside the crater; and a secondary system of much shorter, much more
diffuse rays that actually focus upon and are more intimately
associated with the crater itself. The visual evidence seems to support
this idea, and the local absence of sinuous rilles seems to require it:
The long, primary rays would be needed to trigger a discharge to the
general area; the more concentrated secondaries—counterparts of the
rays of Aristarchus-would be needed to pinpoint the actual site of the
Interestingly enough, E. Nasser and D. C. Schroder, of the Iowa State
University Department of Electrical Engineering, have published a
report on spark studies indicating that just such a composite system of
rays might be expected where there is no other practical means of
assembling triggering electrons (91). This report is illustrated with
an "autograph," a Lichtenberg figure recorded on photographic film,
showing a less-extensive, secondary figure superimposed on a
more-extensive, primary figure. The authors describe their autograph,
obtained by placing the photographic film where it would intercept
cathode-directed spark streamers, this way: "The usual radial primary
streamer pattern is in evidence but superimposed on this are the traces
of secondary channels . . . . [which] branch more extensively and have
associated with them a very dense net of filamentary 'threads' which
leave a circular pattern of traces. The trunks of the secondary
channels often form along the path of a primary streamer, but they
have been observed to form between primary streamer traces also. The
branches of the secondary streamer traces often cross primary traces
and the secondary streamer growth would appear independent of the
particular paths chosen by the primary streamers. The fine
filamentary tips of the secondary streamers seem to propagate in a
circular pattern.... Although the filamentary traces do cross, the
general pattern indicates that they tend to repel each other."
Nasser and Schroder interpret their primary streamer traces as effects
of a mechanism assembling electrons that triggered the spark event, but
their analysis shows that the "secondary channel mechanism . . . . is
responsible for creating the highly ionized path along which the spark
channel develops" in the gap between the electrodes.
In other words, the primary streamers set the stage for a discharge to
the area in question, while the secondary streamers selected the precise
point of touchdown for the main-stroke spark. If this is what happened
at the Tycho site on the Moon, then it is misleading to refer to Tycho
as the "parent crater" for the rays; instead, the secondary rays must be
considered the parents of the crater, and perhaps the primary rays the
I suggest that the sequence of events that produced Tycho and its rays
was something like this:
• The external electric field due to the nearby presence of Mars was
locally intensified by the high ground at this site. The center of a
radial ground field that resulted was probably a pre-existing peak of
ground that now lies buried in Tycho's western rim.
• The radial field was unable to produce breakdown in subsurface
formations by the sinuous-rille process, and as a consequence the field
intensified to a point where breakdown was initiated in the thin lunar
• Instantly, breakdown streamers began to propagate in all directions,
generating electrons "the hard way." As the intense fields at the
streamer tips passed over susceptible geologic formations, electrons
were exploded from the ground, and on-ray craterlets were born; the
fines from each little explosion were carried along for some distance
and deposited in an elliptical patch by the "wind" force of the plasma
• Small-scale branching of the primary streamers locally broadened the
rays, and occasionally led to the splitting of rays, but the force of
the guiding field and repulsive forces between the rays kept them
generally straight and narrow.
• The electrons thus collected and fed back to the initial breakdown
point were funneled off toward Mars by the electric field in the
interplanetary gap, and the Kanalaufbau mechanism established a
path to be followed by a main-stroke spark. (It seems conceivable that a
peak of high ground initially responsible for concentrating the external
field might have been destroyed as the primary streamer electrons took
leave of the Moon. If so, it seems likely that in the minute or so
between the departure of the triggering electrons and the arrival of the
return streamer the field would have shifted its focus to another nearby
point of high ground. In any case, the evidence suggests that the Tycho
cratering explosion took place some tens of kilometers to the east of
the initial focus of the long-ray system.)
• As the spark streamer from Mars approached, the lunar atmosphere again
broke down. Secondary Lichtenberg streamers fed electrons from
proliferating local eruption craters toward the new focus of the field,
thus determining the precise touchdown point for the Martian streamer.
• Finally-again, all this probably happened in a minute or so—the
Martian streamer bridged the interplanetary gap, and the crater Tycho
was born in the resulting explosion. Material thrown from the crater
blanketed the outer slopes of the crater rim, itself formed largely of
material shoved laterally, creating a dark ring that obliterated the
brightest parts of the secondary ray system.
Thus the visual evidence suggests that triggering electrons for the
Tycho discharge were assembled by means of an atmospheric-breakdown
process that drew them from numerous distant points in all directions
and hauled them over the surface to a common collection point. On the
far side of the Moon are several more long-rayed craters (92),
presumably marking sites where much the same thing happened; these,
too, are located in highland terrain.
Now let us take another look at Tycho's primary rays. Though some of
them pass out of sight to the far side of the Moon, it is readily
apparent from those that run their courses entirely on the visible
hemisphere that ray lengths vary considerably. Also, there is a wide
variation in brightness and width from one ray to another, and even
between different reaches of single rays. When these characteristics
are examined in conjunction with Baldwin's lunar contour map
interesting point emerges: The brightest, widest rays, and the
brightest, widest parts of individual rays, seem to be those traversing
the highest ground. All rays appear to narrow as they approach mare
margins, and some of them terminate abruptly at such points.
If we assume, on the basis of reports by careful visual observers
that ray prominence (or brightness) and width is a reflection of
ray-element abundance, we are led to conclude that there is a
correlation between ground elevation and ray-element abundance. This
recalls Pickering's observation, already noted, that ray elements show
a preference for "exposed situations."
A proliferation of ray elements could well be explained in terms of the
natural tendency of electric fields to become intensified by projections
from surfaces; the Moon's highland terrain is notably more rugged than
the lowlands. An abundance of stress concentrations induced by the
approach of a charged streamer tip could be expected to promote streamer
branching and thus increase the sprawl as well as the density of
craterlet eruptions and ray elements. But this does not seem to account
for the narrowing of rays as they approach the edges of lowland plains;
highland terrain at lower elevations is probably just as rugged as at
Part of the narrowing, presumably, is attributable simply to distance
from the initial breakdown point; a corresponding narrowing with
distance is evident in sinuous rilles. But perhaps atmospheric density
at ground level has something to do with the effect, too. The lunar
atmosphere is everywhere extremely tenuous. Nevertheless, some
variation in density with altitude must exist, and the extraordinary
broadening of rays at high altitudes and the narrowing at lower
altitudes may indicate that streamer-branching was promoted as much by
lower gas densities as by surface roughness.
But why atmospheric breakdown in the first place? Why should one
process—sinuous-rille eruption—provide primary electrons for
spark-ignition in lowland regions, while another process—breakdown in
the Lichtenberg mode—does the same job in the highlands?
The fact that long-rayed craters are so few necessarily limits
confidence that can be placed in any answers to these questions.
Nevertheless, since sinuous rilles are confined to mare surfaces and
long rays seem to be associated only with craters located at
considerable elevations above spherical datum, and since there is reason
to suppose that both types of feature were produced by triggering
events leading to interplanetary discharges, perhaps some speculation
as to the implications of this dichotomy is in order.
Presumably, topographic intensification of an external electric field
would be much the same on one part of the Moon as on another.
Consequently, the intensities of radial ground fields thus induced
should also be comparable. It would seem, then, that if the mode of
triggering differs radically between the two locations, the difference
must reflect the relative dielectric strengths of materials at the two
The present hypothesis suggests that in lunar maria breakdown occurred
preferentially in coherent rock formations at shallow depths beneath
the regolith, or surface mantle of fractured rock. In the highlands, on
the other hand, electrical stresses of equal or perhaps greater
intensity failed to achieve a similar result, and nothing much happened
until field strengths increased to values sufficient to initiate
breakdown in the overlying atmosphere. When this happened, fields of
even greater intensity at streamer tips apparently did manage to break
down surface materials, but only locally, producing small craters
instead of rilles.
This could mean that the regolith mantling lunar highlands is much
deeper than that covering the maria-perhaps much too deep to be
explained in terms of in-situ fragmentation under bombardment of any
kind, meteoritic, electrical, or otherwise. Is it possible that,
contrary to the accepted notion that the lunar highlands are exposures
of the Moon's oldest rocks, these mountains consist largely of debris
emplaced from the outside, and that therefore the highland materials,
for the most part, are not even "lunar" materials at all?
What kind of damage might the planet Mars be expected to sustain from
episodes in which electric discharges passed between it and the Moon?
In seeking an answer to this question, let us first recall that the
medium separating the two planets up to the moment discharging started
must have been an almost perfect vacuum by any terrestrial standard.
And in such a medium a spark cannot pass until electrons forcefully
drawn from the cathode body by the electric field can cross the gap and
ionize anode materials (see discussion in Part I of this paper),
Under the postulated conditions, therefore, Mars, as the anode body,
must have yielded up some significant fraction of its own matter for the
production of positive ions required by the discharges. Electrons
liberated in the ionization process would have remained with Mars, but
the positive ions—the identifiable fractions of the atoms and
molecules broken in the process—would have been transferred in
considerable measure to the Moon.
Martian Gases in Lunar Rocks
In an encounter of the type described by Velikovsky the atmosphere of
Mars would certainly become highly distorted (96). Gravitational
forces, electrical forces, and thermal effects could be expected to
pull and push the planet's gaseous envelope in various directions. In
any case, however, one would expect that the first Martian "anode"
materials to be encountered by triggering electrons from the lunar
cathode would be atmospheric gases. In view of this, it is most
interesting and suggestive to find that Mars lacks much of the
atmosphere it ought to have.
Atmospheric pressure at the Martian surface was for many years believed
to be nearly one-tenth that at the Earth's surface (97). Then, in the
early 1960's, Earth-based studies turned up "surprising" indications of
a much thinner Martian atmosphere (98). And Mariner 4, in 1965,
confirmed the fact that Mars' surface pressure is less than
one-hundredth that of the Earth (99). Some 90 percent of the gases Mars
should have retained-had if orbited peacefully since the birth of the
solar system-seem to have been lost. (It might well be added, lost
"recently," for if volcanism has been an active process on Mars, as is
generally supposed from the presence of very fresh-looking "volcanoes"
on that planet (100), then the outgassing process has not yet had time
to replace the missing gases.)
The atmosphere of Mars consists of carbon dioxide and rare gases,
notably argon and neon (101). If the pre-encounter atmosphere was of
similar composition, we would expect electrical discharging between an
anode Mars and a cathode Moon to result in a massive transfer of these
gases to the Moon. It is in the nature of things for positive ions
from a discharge medium to become deeply implanted in cathode surface materials
And what gases are found to be implanted from the outside into lunar
surface materials? Precisely, carbon dioxide, argon, neon, and other
rare gases (103).
The accepted explanation for the surprising abundance of argon in lunar
soils is rather contrived, as Velikovsky emphasized several years ago
(104). Investigators found that argon-40 was too abundant to have
been produced in place by the radioactive decay of potassium-40, and too
abundant to have been collected from the solar wind. Therefore it is
imagined to have been produced from potassium-40 deep inside the Moon,
then to have migrated to the surface, and finally to have been driven
into surface materials by impacting solar-wind ions. Velikovsky asked:
"Is this not a most artificial explanation, especially in view of my
advance claim of rich invasions of argon and neon of extralunar
Almost as surprising as the great abundance of argon-40 were the
lesser, but still "excessive" abundances of neon and other rare gases in
lunar materials. For them, all the blame fell on the solar wind by
default: "The large amounts of rare gases found in the lunar soil and
breccia indicate that the solar atmosphere is trapped in the lunar soil
as no other source of such large amounts of gas is
known" [emphasis added] (105).
And the story was much the same with carbon dioxide. Those who found
this gas in lunar materials were looking primarily for elemental
carbon. This they found to be concentrated near particle surfaces, as
if it had been implanted, like the rare gases, from the outside. But
they found more than just elemental carbon.
Several teams of researchers reported (106) that carbon dioxide gas was
present, as such, in the lunar fines. It clearly did not belong there,
but there it was. This led to speculation that carbon dioxide thus
implanted was "consistent with reactions of elemental [solar-wind]
carbon . . . . with the mineral matrix" (107). But the relative
abundances of oxygen isotopes in the carbon dioxide molecules did not
match those of the rocks themselves. Contamination by Apollo lander
rocket gases was ruled out by "the tenacity with which the CO2
is held in the samples" (108). So it was finally conceded that the
matter "calls for further investigation" (109).
As things stand, therefore, the situation is this: Lunar fines are rich
in argon, neon, other rare gases, and carbon dioxide. None of these
gases is known to be present in the solar wind, nor is elemental carbon
a known constituent of that medium (110), yet somehow the solar wind is
supposed to have been instrumental in their forceful implantation on
And this is not all. The reasoning has been carried full-circle, so
that it is claimed that the composition of the solar wind can be
inferred with confidence from the evidence in the lunar rocks. In
particular, an unusual "excess" of carbon-13 with respect to carbon-12
in the lunar fines has been interpreted as evidence of a similar excess
of carbon-13 on the Sun (111), even though spectroscopy of the solar
atmosphere indicates nothing of the kind (112).
It will be most interesting, when and if a detailed analysis of the
Martian atmosphere becomes possible, to learn whether or not
carbon-13-to-carbon-12 ratios there resemble those of the carbon atoms
and carbon-dioxide molecules stranded in lunar rocks.
For now, however, it seems highly significant that precisely those gases
known to be present in the atmosphere of Mars-the great bulk of which
has been mysteriously "stolen" away in the not-too-distant past-are also
found tenaciously held in superficial crystalline layers of the Moon's
outermost blanketing materials. This would be a most incredible
coincidence if the interplanetary discharges described by Velikovsky
never took place.
Anode Scars on the Surface of Mars
Even though the Martian atmosphere were importantly involved in
furnishing positive ions for electric discharges between Mars and the
Moon, we need not suppose that the Martian surface would go unscathed.
The spark streamers triggered in the atmosphere by electrons from the
Moon would almost certainly reach backward, too, and very quickly
establish the body of the planet as the true anode in the exchange.
Typical anode effects of a destructive kind, leaving detectable markings
after discharges are extinguished, include intense heating by streams
of high-energy electrons (113), and erosion due to the leaching away of
surface matter in the form of positive ions (114), as well as to the
bulk extraction and removal of materials (115).
In the first part of this paper we noted Leonard Loeb's explanation of
the triggering process by which vacuum sparks are ignited and his
further comment that if the electrodes in an industrial or an
experimental setup are not carefully outgassed in advance, a vacuum
spark will usually lead to a general breakdown of the gap in the form
of a power arc-essentially a 'high-current, low-voltage discharge that
persists rather longer than a spark discharge (116). In the postulated
Mars-Moon discharge, even though we must imagine vacuum conditions to
prevail at the cathode (the Moon), where triggering electrons are
extracted only with some difficulty, we can hardly suppose that Mars,
with its atmosphere, will behave as an "outgassed" electrode (anode).
So it seems entirely likely that any spark channels established between
the two bodies must immediately- have been transformed into arc
channels. This would facilitate the enormous transfers of charge
already inferred from the dimensions of lunar craters like Aristarchus
and Tycho. It would likewise facilitate a drain-off of great masses of
Martian atmosphere and their emplacement in lunar rocks (117). And it
leads us to look for arc-anode scars on Mars; these traces, like the
spark-cathode markings on the Moon, should be among the youngest
features of the Martian surface.
Concerning thermal effects, the Thomsons tell us (118) that a
distinguishing feature of the arc discharge, due to high current
densities, is the high temperature of the anode junction: "This is so
high that the anode vaporizes, the vapour combines with the gas through
which the arc is passing and forms a flame......... Also, anode
materials can be heated to hundreds of degrees above their boiling
It is instructive, too, to take notice of the thermal effects produced
on Earth by mere lightning bolts. One such effect is the formation of
fulgurites-glassy objects, usually tubular and often branching, formed
in dry ground (such as dune sands) as concentrated streams of electrons
funnel into the Earth from the lower ends of lightning channels
Another is the vaporization of surface materials, as shown by their
appearance as emission features in lightning spectrograms
of course the fire-ignition capabilities of lightning are well-known and
too numerous to list. It remains to be added that in most
cloud-to-ground lightning strikes the Earth's surface is the anode.
Now, which are the youngest features on the
surface of Mars? We know a lot more about this planet than we did just
a few years ago, thanks to the thousands of excellent photographs taken
by Mariner 9. But still this knowledge is rudimentary compared with
what we know of surface details on the Moon. Therefore, any ranking of
Martian features by their relative ages must for now be highly
speculative and tentative. Nevertheless, by all accounts of those who
have studied the Mariner 9 evidence in great detail, the great volcanoes
that rise many kilometers above the surface in the Amazonis and Tharsis
regions of Mars are among the youngest of Martian formations.
Volcanoes surely indicate sites of intense thermal activity. Could
volcanism be initiated by an arc discharge of cosmic proportions?
Possibly so. In the first place, no one really knows what causes
volcanism on Earth (121). Presumably the basic requirements are a
source of heat and a breach in the planetary crust. Whether either or
both are due to external or internal causes may well be immaterial.
volcanoes of Mars have some strange features
For example, the huge Nix Olympica structure-some 600 kilometers across
at its base and standing perhaps 23 kilometers above the surrounding
plain (122) has a summit "caldera" 65 kilometers in diameter that is
unlike anything ever observed on Earth. It is described as "a complex
multiple volcanic vent" (123), or as a complex of "successive collapse
pits" (124), but it has peculiarities hard to reconcile with such
explanations. Presumably, if molten materials simply welled up from a
series of successive vents, flows radiating from the later vents would
over-ride and at least partially obliterate the outlines of the earlier
vents; in this case, however, although the later scars do deface the
earlier ones, such effects are strictly local, and there is no evidence
of overflowing between or among them. The idea of collapse does not
seem to square with the near-perfect circularity of the pits, or with
their extremely flat floors.
A study of Mariner 9's overhead shot of Nix Olympica suggests that the
summit crater on this vast pile is indeed the result of one pit having
been superimposed on another, the process repeated at least five times.
But the sequence seems to run from larger to successively smaller pits
in at least the first three stages, and in every case the later pits
appear to be centered on rims of earlier pits. Such a seeming
preference of later craters for high points on the rims of earlier ones
is strongly suggestive of electrical activity.
One hesitates to propose that Nix Olympica, in spite of its obvious
youth, is a result of Mars-Moon discharge activity only 2700 years ago.
Its bulk alone is enough to give pause to such speculation. Still, who
can say what internal forces might be tapped by a thunderbolt to a body
like Mars? Conceivably the heat and shock of such a strike could have
been all that was necessary to produce an enormous outpouring of lava,
especially from a Mars already disturbed by not-much-earlier contacts
An observation by M. H. Carr (125) may be of great significance in this
connection: "Nix Olympica is unique among the Martian shield volcanoes
in being surrounded by an aureole of what appears to be highly
fractured terrain." Could this region have been disturbed and fractured
during one interplanetary encounter, then provoked to massive volcanism
during a similar encounter closely following the first?
If indeed this volcano resulted from sudden triggering by a Mars-Moon
arc discharge, and if the arc continued to play on it summit as it rose,
occasionally shifting its focus in response to changes in the local
electric field, the diminishing sizes and rim locations of the
successive craters forming the present caldera would be understandable
The enormity of Nix Olympica, of course, makes this difficult to
imagine. One is inclined to argue that any conceivable discharge of
static electricity must surely burn itself out long before a mountain of
molten lava equal in volume to "the total extrusive mass of the
Hawaiian Islands chain" (127) could be built up beneath it. Still,
given a ready-made body of magma under great pressure, the sudden shock
of an interplanetary bolt, and the gravitational pull of the nearby
Moon, who can say what is to limit the rate at which molten material
might be delivered to the surface?
It is by no means excluded, of course, that only the uppermost parts of
the Nix Olympica structure were added to the pile in the final episode
affecting the site.
There remain several phenomenological limbs to be explored on Mars, and
with the reader's indulgence I would like to climb out on each of them
Another Martian "volcano" has features that differ from those of Nix
Olympica, but which may also be suggestive of discharge origins. This
is a "mountain" near Nodus Gordii that has been dubbed "South Spot"
(128). It is more a crater than a mountain-an enormous pit 140
kilometers across at the crest of an impressive 17-kilometer rise from
the floor of the Amazonis basin to the west (129). Both inside and
outside the flat-floored crater, its otherwise remarkably smooth rim is
scarred by what have been described as "multiple concentric fractures"
(130) or "concentric grabens"
(131). Again we have a structure with no
known close counterpart among terrestrial volcanoes.
Might this be the planetary-surface equivalent of what R. D. Hill has
termed a "fulgamite" (132)? Discussing the effects of lightning on
metal caps placed over the ends of lightning rods, Hill calls attention
to "pips," or mounds of metal, "melted and raised above the surface of
the metal." He describes the sides of these fulgamites as "usually
ridged with closely spaced concentric grooves" and their bases as
"usually flared like a bell." And he remarks: "Sometimes the position
of the strike is found to wander slightly during the formation of the
mound [as] shown by the shallow development of the 'borrow pits'
[concentric graben?] from which the mound is built up.
Hill attributes the mounding-up of fulgamites to magnetic-pinch forces
at the junction of the discharge with the electrode (lightning rod).
His calculations indicate that such forces in a lightning column are
easily adequate to raise metallic welts a centimeter or so in diameter,
and they neatly account for the bell-shaped fulgamite surfaces as well.
The concentric rings and ridges, in his opinion, are best explained as
remnants of ripples set up in the molten surface during fulgamite
formation by oscillations in the plasma of the lightning column.
But what of the great disparity in scale between the Martian feature,
South Spot, and Hill's tiny fulgamites? In diameters, this amounts to
at least seven orders of magnitude. As for mound heights, if we assume
that South Spot's central crater resulted from subsidence of material
initially mounded much higher, the difference in scale is at least five
orders of magnitude. And the disparity in masses of material melted and
elevated can only be guessed at, but it must be roughly proportional to
the cube of the mean difference in dimensions. Is the proposed analogy
even marginally reasonable?
The area of an anode "spot"—the usually molten area where the discharge
makes electrical contact with the anode surface-is determined by the
total magnitude of the discharge current and the rate at which a unit
area of anode surface can accept charge. Metallic anodes can be induced
to accept current densities of tens of thousands of amperes per square
centimeter (133). In contrast, the greater resistivity of carbon has
the effect of limiting current densities at carbon-arc anodes to less
than 10 amperes per square centimeter; when the arc current is
increased, the anode crater enlarges, so that an acceptable current
density is maintained (134). Now the resistivity of carbon responsible
for this effect is roughly a thousand times that of copper.
Accordingly, we may suppose that a refractory planetary body might
display electrical resistivity sufficient to limit acceptable current
densities to, say, no more than 0.0001 ampere per square centimeter.
(Actually, the resistivity of dry earth is about 109 times
that of carbon.)
Again taking the Tycho discharge as an example, we can make some further
assumptions and estimate-very, very roughly-how large the corresponding
anode spot on Mars might have to be. We have 1011 coulombs
of charge to accommodate, but we do not know the arrival rate. Let us
guess that the discharge persisted for a full minute after the
conducting channel between Mars and the Moon was established. The
average discharge current in this case would have been 1011
coulombs/60 seconds = 1.7 x 109 amperes. And pushing such a
current through a surface capable of accepting a current density of only
10-4 ampere per square centimeter would involve a total
surface some 1.7 x 1013 square centimeters in area. This
works out to a circular spot some 46 kilometers in diameter—within an
order of magnitude of the size of South Spot.
Obviously this kind of calculation involves many assumptions and pure
guesses. But it suggests that anode scars the size of South Spot on
Mars are at least conceivable in terms of the present hypothesis.
As for exotic erosional features on Mars, there is almost too much
variety. For now, let us simply take a brief look at a system of
enormous canyons near the Martian equator. The rims of these canyons
are serrated and gouged in a most peculiar fashion. Some canyons
appear to be doubled, their parallel reaches separated by ridges
showing similar gouging on both sides. It is estimated that some two
million cubic kilometers of material was removed in the formation of
the "Canyonlands" (135), yet the spoil seems nowhere in evidence on the
surface of the planet.
Some suggest that subsidence can explain these features (136). But to
me this entire region resembles nothing so much as an area sapped by a
powerful electric arc advancing unsteadily across the surface,
occasionally splitting in two, and now and then-weakening, so that its
traces narrow and even degrade into lines of disconnected craters (see
The proportions of this vast excavation seem to put it beyond comparison
with any feature of the Moon we have discussed (except, perhaps, the
lunar-highland deposit that blankets more than half of the Moon). But
it is well to remember that Mars tangled with Venus and with the Earth,
too, according to Velikovsky. I can only wonder: Is it possible that
Mars was bled of several million cubic kilometers of soil and rock in a
single encounter with another planetary body? Might the Canyonlands of
Mars have been created in an event perhaps hinted at by Homer when he
wrote: "Athena [Venus) drove the spear straight into his [Ares' (Mars')]
belly where the kilt was girded: the point ran in and tore the
flesh....... [and] Ares roared like a trumpet......... (137)?
An Anode Role for Mars
It remains to be shown that the planet Mars, probably carrying twice the
negative charge of the Moon as the two bodies first approached one
another, could have become the anode (positive electrode) in discharge
activity that followed.
In private conversation at the McMaster University symposium on
"Velikovsky and the Recent History of the Solar System," Professor
Clement L. Henshaw of Colgate University kindly took the time to discuss
this problem with me. He argued, for example, that when two negatively
charged bodies are brought close together without actually making
contact, there results at some point between them a mathematical
"surface" of zero electric potential—an effective barrier to the
transport of charge from one body to the other (138).
It appears to me, however, that this argument
assumes too readily that both bodies are good conductors of electricity,
so that their charges reside entirely on their surfaces. In such a
situation, there would be no electric field in the interior of either
body, and the electric potential at any internal point would equal that
of the surface. And, as the bodies were brought together, the surface
charges would simply distribute themselves so that the demands of the
interacting electric fields and the necessity for preserving uniform
surface potentials would be simultaneously met (139).
But consider what happens when a storm cloud passes over the surface of
the Earth. Typically, the underside of the cloud is negatively
charged. The surface of the Earth normally carries negative charge,
too. Beneath the cloud, however, the Earth becomes positively charged
(relative to the cloud), so that cloud-to-ground lightning delivers
electrons to the Earth. And this happens even though the Earth as a
whole carries net negative charge, and the cloud as a whole is probably
electrically neutral. The easiest explanation is that the Earth's
surface and near-surface charges are more mobile than those in the
cloud; they are repelled by the electric field of the cloud, and as they
flee they leave behind a region that is positive with respect to the
The electrical situation in an encounter between Mars and the Moon
might be similar to that just described. If we assume, for example,
that the conductivity of the Martian surface (or some interior region
where the bulk of the charge may reside) is greater than that of the
Moon, it would seem likely that a "positive charge"—a relatively high
potential—would be induced in a localized part of the Martian surface
by the electric field of the "overhead" Moon. Martian electrons would
flee the zone in question, raising its electric potential (and
presumably lowering the potential of regions to which the repelled
negative charges retired).
Figure 2. (No scale)
Schematic diagram of interplanetary electric field between Mars and Moon
resulting from repulsion of negative charges from localized, sub-lunar
point on Martian surface. It is assumed that, due to the effectively
high temperatures of plasma electron with respect to positive ions, the
normal potentials of both bodies are somewhat lower than that of the
plasma itself, consequently electric field lines, both from Mars and
from the plasma, are shown terminating on an equipotential that takes in
the entire surface of the Moon, as well as a non-spherical surface
associated with Mars. (The Martian equipotential, hachured in the
diagram, dips beneath the planetary surface on the side towards the
Moon, implying the presence of an electric fieold directed inward in
this part of the body of Mars. Breakdown of such a field might
contribute to the formation of volcanic tubes, provided "instant" access
to the surface for magmatic materials.)
Figure 2 is a schematic representation of the kind of electric field
such a sequence of events might establish between Mars and the Moon.
No attempt has been made to consider distortional effects due to the
nearby presence of the Earth, or confining effects due to the
surrounding plasma. Nevertheless, it seems generally reasonable to
expect the field lines (solid lines in the figure) to diverge from a
limited, sub-lunar point on Mars and to converge upon the Moon from all
directions; a critical assumption here is that the Moon's negative
charges would be practically immobile until discharging got underway.
Ensuing activity, of course, would quickly alter and for the most part
destroy the initial field.
Several other participants in the McMaster symposium in June, 1974,
offered critical comments on the theme of this paper. Professor Derek
York, a specialist in the radiometric dating of terrestrial and lunar
rocks, had this to say concerning electrical scarring of the Moon: "If
much of the sculpting of the surface was produced in this fashion, then
based on the radiometric dating results. . . , these discharges must
have occurred over three billion years ago and not in present times
during postulated recent catastrophes." The issue raised, of course, is
the validity of accepted interpretations of radiometric evidence, and
this is a subject that must be dealt with elsewhere. But it bears
noting that if meteoritic bombardment of the Earth and the Moon is a
process that has gone on from the distant past to the present at
anything like the present rate, the "freshness" of the lunar rilles and
craters discussed here is exceedingly difficult to reconcile with ages
of more than a few thousand years. And rays must almost certainly
disappear completely in relatively short spans of time, since they are
purely superficial in nature.
Professor David Morrison, of the Institute for
Astronomy, University of Hawaii, objected to the discharge hypothesis
for its speculative extrapolations "from small-scale terrestrial effects
to landforms on the Moon that are many orders of magnitude larger." This
kind of argument certainly compels caution; it is difficult to imagine
how one today might establish conditions capable of duplicating any of
the processes proposed here on a scale that would remove all doubt.
However, the same objection can be levelled at the widely accepted
impact theory, which is also an enormous extrapolation from terrestrial
effects observed on a very small scale; no meteorite capable of
producing a large "lunar" crater has ever been observed to fall on
Perhaps some support for the present ideas can be drawn from
observations in which electric-discharge effects appear to be closely
duplicated on scales ranging from that of tiny scars, visible only under
magnification, to that of damage caused by lightning. Since the first
part of this paper was written, it has come to my attention that
microscopic features remarkably similar to earth-channels excavated by
lightning (and to lunar sinuous rules) are produced when electrons are
wrested from photographic emulsions by cathode electric fields. Loeb
(141) describes these "delta ray tracks"
(142) as having the appearance
of "grainy dots." They are formed when "the cathode surface through the
image force field of the [approaching] positive [spark] streamer gives a
very heavy field across the emulsion." This strong field liberates
electrons in the emulsion. "Sixteen-fold magnification indicates the
dots to be small, very tortuous tracks, of lengths on the order
of 0.05 mm. (emphasis added).
Thus, if lightning can cut "delta ray tracks" some five orders of
magnitude larger than those observed in photographic emulsions (see
photo illustrating Part 1 of this paper), it seems conceivable that an
interplanetary discharge might duplicate the effect and magnify it
another five orders of magnitude in scarring the surface of the Moon.
Velikovsky's reconstruction of the recent history of the solar system
indicates that electric discharges passed between planets some thousands
of years ago as they encountered one another in near-collisions. If
this is so, we would expect the Moon and Mars, involved in the most
recent of those near-collisions, to display "fresh" surface markings
interpretable as discharge scars, and this indeed seems to be the case.
Furthermore, as anticipated by Velikovsky, the Moon's surface materials
contain surprising abundances of precisely those gases that Mars could
be expected to have planted there if it were the anode and the Moon were
the cathode in electric discharges between the two planets.
Viewed as a whole, the complex of evidence would appear to add
considerable substance to the thesis of Worlds in Collision.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(59) P. E. Viemeister, The Lightning Book (New
York: Doubleday, 1961), p. 110.
(60) R. B. Baldwin, The Measure of the Moon
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), Chapter 8.
(61) L. B. Loeb, Journal of Geophysical Research
71, (October 15, 1966): 4711.
(62) The postulated Mars-Moon potential difference of 1012
volts, spanning an interplanetary gap of 5000 km (5 X 108
cm) yields an average field strength in the gap of only 2 X 103
volts/cm, whereas it is likely that fields of 107 or more
volts/cm would be required to break down lunar rock formations and
produce sinuous rilles. However, local topographic features can be
expected to intensify an external field at least one hundredfold.
Also, as Loeb points out (Fundamentals of Electricity and
Magnetism, p. 501), similar effects on a much finer scale (due to
surface-roughness features too small to be seen) can further intensify
electric fields by several orders of magnitude. Thus it is not too
difficult to imagine an interplanetary field of only a few thousand
volts per centimeter being intensified locally on the lunar surface to a
point where coherent rock formations begin to succumb to the electrical
stress. Overlying loose materials—fractured rock and dust, with voids
permeated with tenuous gases—would have greater resistance to
breakdown than a sound, underlying formation, and thus the "lightning"
channel would pursue a subsurface path.
(63) V. A. Bailey, Nature 186 (May 14, 1960): 508.
(64) I. Michelson, Pensée 4 (Spring, 1974): 15-21.
(65) R. E. Juergens, Pensée 2 (Fall, 1972): 6-12.
(66) E. M. Shoemaker, R. M. Batson, H. E. Holt, E. C.
Morris, J. J. Rennilson, and E. A. Whitaker, Journal of Geophysical
Research 74 (November 15, 1969): 6081.
(67) W. K. Hartmann and F. G. Yale, Sky and
Telescope (January, 1969): 4.
(68) In an article on "Measuring the Shape of the Moon,"
in Sky and Telescope for March, 1966, R. L. Wildey calls
attention to, and reproduces, a map of the Moon prepared in 1901 by two
German astronomers. On this early and rather primitive map we find
Tycho in the highest region—"über 1200 Mtr."
(69) Baldwin, The Measure of the Moon, Chapter II.
(70) E. M. Shoemaker, et al., Journal of Geo-physical
Research 74 (1969): 6081.
(71) Cf. "Hot Spots on the Moon," Sky and
Telescope (February, 1961): in an abstract published in the
Astronomical Journal (vol. 68, p. 287), B. C. Murray and R. L.
Wildey suggest that "These anomalies are possibly generated by extensive
exposures of bare rock. In January, 1963 (pp. 3 and 24), Sky and
Telescope reported: "Corroborative evidence for a relatively denser
surface in Tycho has recently been found through infrared measurements
of lunar surface temperatures (Shorthill, Borough and Conley, 1960)."
(72) T. W. Thompson and R. B. Dyce report (Journal of
Geophysical Research 71 [October 15, 1966]: 4843) that their
radar-back-scattering studies suggest that back-scattering from Tycho is
anomalously high because its floor is free of a "tenuous layer" that
otherwise blankets the Moon.
(73) S. H. Zisk's discussion of the flooding of crater
floors with molten material from below (Science 178 [I December
19721: 977) is just one example. L. J. Kosofsky and F. El-Baz comment
(The Moon As Viewed by Lunar Orbiter [Washington: NASA,
19701 p. 83): "Some geologists consider the symmetrical rings or shells
surrounding the large mounds [in the floor of Tycho] to be due to the
flowage of shock-melted rock off the surface of the mounds. Others
interpret them as volcanic domes." Given proper conditions, perhaps
each of these ideas has merit, but none of them seems convincing in
context with the absence of debris from the floor of Tycho, or with the
makeup of the crust in this lunar highland region.
(74) J. J. and G. P. Thomson (Conduction of Electricity
through Gases, Vol. II [1933, New York: Dover Publications, 1969],
p. 458) point out that cathode disintegration through the expulsion
(sputtering) of atoms of metal was first reported by Plücker in 1858.
The cleanup process includes, in addition to the sputtering of cathode
metals (an effect long in use technically in the production of
semi-transparent metallic films on glass for optical purposes), the
generation of considerable fine dust and of cathode-material vapors,
which condense and produce fallout beyond the confines of the immediate
cathode "spot" or "crater" in which a discharge burns. This last effect
suggests a likely source for the Moon's ubiquitous glassy-sphere soil
(75) Baldwin, The Measure of the Moon, p. 351.
(76) Ibid., p. 358.
(77) "News Notes," Sky and Telescope (July, 1966).
(78) Baldwin, The Measure of the Moon, p. 355.
(79) E. M. Shoemaker, "The Geology of the Moon,"
Scientific American (December, 1964): 38-47.
(80) W. H. Pickering, The Moon (New York:
Doubleday, Page and Company, 1903), p. 53.
(81) E. M. Shoemaker, et al., Journal of Geophysical
Research 74 (1969): 6081.
(82) V. A. Firsoff, Strange World of the Moon
(New York: Science Editions, 1962), p. 168.
(83) The term "western" is here used in the astronautical
sense. The rim of Tycho in question is therefore that side of the
crater where the Sun sets. Astronomical custom, as a result of the
reversal, left to right, and inversion, top to bottom, of telescopic
images, would have it that this same "sunset" region is the "eastern"
rim of Tycho.
(84) To the best of my knowledge, Velikovsky's March 14,
1967 memorandum to the Space Board of the National
Academy of Sciences (Pensée 2 [Fall, 1972], p. 28) was his first
occasion to express in writing the idea that lunar rays were produced by
interplanetary discharges. On July 4, 1962, I wrote to Harold C. Urey,
suggesting, among other things, that the rays constitute Lichtenberg
figures. His reply (July 25, 1962) struck me as the expression of a
rather strange attitude for a prominent scientist: "I find it more
satisfactory to admit that I do not understand a natural phenomenon at
any time than to accept explanations based on other things which I also
do not understand."
(85) Cf. J. D. Cobine, Gaseous Conductors, p. 201.
(86) Cf. S. Whitehead, Dielectric Breakdown of
Solids (New York: Oxford, 1951), pp. 170-71.
(87) Cf. L. B. Loeb, Electrical Coronas, pp. 189
(89) For example, Lichtenberg figures can be used to
measure very brief time intervals between current surges (see Cobine,
Gaseous Conductors, p. 202).
(90) Cf. Loeb, Electrical Coronas, pp. 189ff.
(91) E. Nasser and D. C. Schroder, International
Conference on Gas Discharges, 15-18 September 1970 (London:
Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1970), pp. 539-43.
(92) Cf. E. Driscoll, "Far Side: Study of Contrast,"
Science News 100 (September 18, 1971):194-95.
(93) Baldwin, The Measure of the Moon, p. 236.
(94) Baldwin (The Measure of the Moon, p. 355)
calls attention to Pickering's early work .(1892) indicating that rays
are made up of component parts, or elements, "all roughly alike"-long,
narrow, elliptical sections.
(95) The kind of interplanetary near-collision described
by Velikovsky necessarily raises many questions as to the provenance of
many different materials on all the planetary bodies involved in such
encounters. In the context of Worlds in Collision, it will not
do to assume, for example, that any particular material, however
abundant it may be on the present surface of the Moon, is "lunar" in the
sense of having originated on that body..
(96) In Worlds in Collision, Part II, Chapter 4,
Velikovsky relates numerous forms ascribed to Mars by ancient peoples
and suggests that distortions of the Martian atmosphere during
approaches to other bodies—Venus, Earth, Moon—inspired such reports.
(97) Cf., S. Glasstone, The Book of Mars
(Washington: NASA, 1968), p. 86.
(99) Glasstone, The Book of Mars, pp. 8790; see
also B. C. Murray, "Mars from Mariner 9," Scientific American
(January, 1973): 4969.
(100) Cf. for example, M. H. Carr, "Volcanism on Mars,"
Journal of Geophysical Research 78 (July 10, 1973): 4049.
(101) G. H. Kuiper reported the first firm evidence
of carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere in 1947, although its
presence had long been assumed. Velikovsky anticipated, in a lecture
copyrighted in 1946, and again in Worlds in Collision (1950), the
ultimate discovery that rare gases, argon and neon in particular, make
up a considerable fraction of Mars' atmosphere; others postulated argon
as a likely constituent, but only in minor amounts. A typical 1961
estimate of the makeup of the planet's atmosphere was this: Nitrogen-93%
of molecules present; Argon-5 to 6%; carbon dioxide-1 to 2%. Infrared
data secured in 1963 led to a major revision in the estimate: carbon
dioxide up to between 50 to 100%. (The foregoing largely from The
Book of Mars.) But in April, 1974, the Soviet Union announced that
the Mars 6 lander had detected "tens of percent" of inert gases in the
Martian atmosphere. The investigators concluded that argon was the most
likely candidate-gas to account for this finding, with neon probably in
(102) The Thomsons (Conduction of Electricity through
Gases) describe this phenomenon in terms of "Fall in Pressure in
the Gas due to the Discharge" (vol. 2, pp. 466-68): "Solids in contact
with gas have always a layer of gas condensed on their surface, much of
which comes off when the layer is heated. If, however, an electric
discharge is passing through the gas in which the solid [a glass
discharge tube, for example] is immersed, the gas gets into a state in
which it is only partially detached from the surface by heating, at any
rate by any heating the glass of the discharge tube can stand."
Strictly speaking, of course, the cathode and the walls of a discharge
tube are two different things. Yet lunar surfaces not directly involved
as spark-channel "cathodes" (craters) might well be likened to
discharge-tube walls. Indeed, during interplanetary-discharge events,
it would seem highly likely that the entire surface of a cathode body
would be covered with glow or electrical corona—less violent forms of
discharge. In any case, as Loeb points out (Electrical Coronas,
p. 360), breakdown, "being a cathode controlled phenomenon, is
extremely sensitive to the surface properties of the. . . . cathode . .
. . positive ion bombardment sputters oxide films, gas films, and
cathode material from the surface. Ambient gases reacting chemically
or physically with the surface, as well as with ions driven into the
surface by their impact energy, will alter or strive to alter
the surface in various and sometimes opposing fashions. . . . Too heavy
bombardment and high current densities will melt and/or sputter the
surface. They may also trap gases which can erupt; or else vapor jets
from local hot spots can erupt. . . . " [emphasis added]
(103) Cf. various papers in Science 167 (January 30,
1970), especially in sections headed "Abundance of Major Elements" and
"Stable Isotopes, Rare Gases, Solar Wind, and Spallation Products."
(104) I. Velikovsky, Pensée 2 (May, 1972): 20.
(105) J. G. Funkhouser, et al., Science 167 (January
30, 1970): 538; quotation from abstract.
(106) Cf. I. Friedman, et al., Science 167 (January 30,
1970): 538; I. R. Kaplan and J. W. Smith, Science 167 (January
30, 1970): 541.
(107) Lunar Sample Preliminary Examination Team, Science
165 (September 19, 1969): 1211.
(108) I. Friedman, et al., Science 167 (January 30,
(109) G. Eglinton, et al., Scientific American
(October, 1972): 81.
(110) A. J. Hundhausen (Reviews of Geophysics and Space
Physics 8 [November, 1970]: 729) lists, as the only positively
identified ions in the solar wind, 1H+, 4H++,
4He+, 3He++, 16O+5,
16O+6, and 16O+7. Carbon
ions are known to be present in solar cosmic radiation, but they
probably originate in the lower atmosphere of the Sun, not in the corona
(idem, p. 736).
(111) W. Cochran, "Apollo II Lunar Science Conference,"
GeoTimes (February, 1970); G. Eglinton, et al.. Scientific
American (October, 1972): 81.
(112) Cf. C. E. Moore, "The Identification of Solar Lines," in
The Sun, ed. G. P. Kuiper (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
(113) Cf. Cobine, Gaseous Conductors, p. 343. This
author also points out (p. 364) that in electric-arc cutting, "the work
is usually made the anode when direct current is used because of the
greater heat developed at the anode."
(114) J. J. and G. P. Thomson (Conduction of Electricity
through Gases, p. 579) call attention to the rapid erosion of the
anode in a carbon arc due to the extraction of positive ions.
(115) E. J. Hellund (The Plasma State [New York:
Reinhold, 1961] points out (p. 74) that "Electron bombardment of the
anode surface can lead to disruption of the molecules normally resident
there. . . . land] loosely bound atoms are disposed to volatilize and
leave the parent lattice."
(116) One notices a certain lack of definition of terms in the
works of authors discussing electric-discharge phenomena. Particularly
hazy is the distinction between a "spark" and an "arc.,, One author
describes a spark as a transient arc. J. M. Somerville (The Electric
Arc [New York: Wiley, 19601) says: "The term arc is usually
applied only to stable or quasi-stable discharges, and an arc may be
regarded as the ultimate form of discharge which will be reached under
all conditions if the current through the gas is made large enough." He
adds, however: "Attempts at rigid definitions of physical phenomena are
seldom successful or helpful, and the arc is no exception. It is best
to outline the characteristics of a typical arc and leave the question
of the classification of marginal cases for tearoom debate."
(117) Cobine (Gaseous Conductors), discussing the
"Low-pressure Arc Column" (which is the probable analog of an
interplanetary discharge burning in a very thin gas, such as might be
drawn into a Mars-Moon gap), points out that ionization is most intense
at the axis of the column and that the electric potential is also
highest at the axis (with respect to other points on any cross section
of the column). As a result, positive ions formed in the plasma of the
column "are being continually lost to the walls of the tube" (p. 319).
If we liken the general surface of the Moon to discharge-tube walls (see
note 102), we can imagine a Mars-Moon arc column spraying positive ions
across vast regions of the lunar surface, which, under the present
postulates, would be of lower potential, thus attracting positive ions
(118) Thomson and Thomson, Conduction of Electricity
through Gases, vol. 2, p. 590.
(119) Viemeister (The Lightning
Book, pp. 138-41) discusses this process in easily understood
(120) Cf., L. E. Salanave, "The Optical Spectrum of
Lightning," Science 134 (November 3, 1961):1395.
(121) I refer here to ultimate causes. It is commonly
explained that volcanism is due to rifting of the Earth's crust, which
permits the establishment of "permanently open conduits" along which
molten rock can rise from the mantle. Currently, geophysicists connect
volcanism with "continental drift" and "plate tectonics," but it is
difficult to do the same with Martian volcanism. Velikovskian
catastrophism, supported by historical documentation, seems to provide
as compelling an explanation of first causes as has yet been advanced.
(122) Cf. M. H. Carr, Journal of Geophysical Research
78 (1973): 4049.
(123) Photo caption for JPL P-13074 (Nix Olympica Mosaic),
(124) M. H. Carr, Journal of Geophysical Research
78 (1973): 4049.
(126) Somerville (The Electric Are, p. 89) comments: "There
is usually a considerable contraction [of the arc column] at the anode and
the anode spot sometimes moves over the anode surface... [and] the motion
may be discontinuous, a series of spots being left on the anode instead of
a continuous trace."
(127) H. Masursky, Journal of Geophysical Research
78 (1973): 4009.
(128) This volcano is the southernmost in a chain of high "spots"
that were among the first Martian features to appear as the dust storm that
greeted Mariner 9's arrival began to subside.
(129) Cf. M. H. Carr, Journal of Geophysical Research
78 (1973): 4049.
(130) Photo caption for JPL P-12688 (Nodus Gordii-South Spot),
(131) M. H. Carr, Journal of Geophysical Research 78
(132) R. D. Hill, Journal of Geophysical Research 68
(133) Cf. Somerville, The Electric Arc, p. 89.
(134) J. J. and G. P. Thomson remark (Conduction of Electricity
through Gases, p. 403): "The function of the anode is to provide for the
electrons striking against it a way of escape from the discharge."
Concerning the carbon arc, they add (p. 579): "All observers seem to agree
that the temperature of the anode reaches a value which is independent of
the current. . . . An increase in current increases the area of the
luminous crater......... Cf. also Cobine, Gaseous Conductors, p. 521.
(135) See R. P. Sharp, Journal of Geophysical Research 78
(1973): 4063: "The major problem of trough [canyon] genesis involves
disposal of about 2 x 106 km3 of material."
(137) The Iliad, Book V (Translated by W. H. D. Rouse). E.
Schorr suggests that imagery such as this is simply the poet's way of saying
that the successes and failures of men in the warfare at Troy were credited
to or blamed on the celestial gods. In the passage in question, the spear
is thrown by Diomedes and redirected by Athena, then withdrawn from the
flesh of Ares by Diomedes. I leave it to others to explain why, if Diomedes
was indeed a mere man, he would be casting spears at a planetary god in the
(138) A graphic representation of this situation is to be found
in Figure I among the Plates at the end of Volume I of Maxwell's "A Treastise on Electricity and Magnetism," Third Revised Edition (1891).
(139) See Maxwell's Article 118 (pp. 178-79) in Volume I of the "Treastise."
(140) Cf. Viemeister, The Lightning Book, p. 112.
(141) Loeb, Electrical Coronas, p. 192.
(142) In a footnote, Loeb explains that electrons liberated by
x-rays and other types of radiation were described as "delta rays,"
presumably by those who first observed the phenomenon in this (photoemulsion)
medium. Actually the term "delta ray" seems to have been applied earlier to
a similar electron-ejection effect observed in gases; cf. J. J. and G. P.
Thomson, Conduction of Electricity through Gases, Vol. 2, p.
PENSEE Journal X