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Reflections on the “Deep Impact” Anniversary
By Michael Armstrong and Mel Acheson

Stars in an Electric Universe DVD
Lecture by Wal Thornhill at the 2011 NPA conference

This is an excellent science lecture and one of the most important ever delivered in that the ramifications are so extensive for the entire field of physics. Thornhill gives a ringing philosophical endorsement to retreating from imaginary mathematical models and returning to the reality of observational deductions. The video lecture is heavily supported with diagrams and graphical material that will challenge most everything you have been taught about gravity, particle physics and especially cosmology, including the big bang, redshift, quasars, the H-R diagram, and how stars are powered.

Based on more than four decades of systematic research and challenge to the prevailing cosmology, and standing on the shoulders of the electric cosmologist giants, physicist and natural philosopher Thornhill delivers a paradigm package where electricity is the dominant force and plasma is the dominant material. Stars in an Electric Universe will introduce you to celestial spectacles with much simpler explanations, and insights into how stars are structured, why there are the different types, how sunspots are formed, why the stable stars like our sun are able to control their radiant output while receiving a variable input of energy, the why and how of cosmic rays, and so much more. (Approximately 109 minutes.)

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“Comets are perhaps at once the most spectacular and the least well understood members of the solar system.”   M. Neugebauer, Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The Thunderbolts Group proponents of the Electric Universe (EU) model predicted on December 6, 2004 that the Deep Impact mission would signal the demise of prevailing comet theory.

Extensive specific and detailed predictions were published on July 3, 2005 before the impact and these predictions and the results can be seen here and here.

As you can see, most of the predictions hit the mark. This first anniversary of the Deep Impact Space Mission is an appropriate time to cast a backward glance upon the state of comet science and to contrast it with the EU understanding.

On September 09, 2005, www.NewScientist.com news service published a revealing article by Stuart Clark, “Comet Tails of the Unexpected”. This article gave a good review of present comet science and highlighted the utter amazement of the analysts. Although he included some theoretical assumptions as information, he wrote good, hard-hitting passages concerning the failing yet prevailing theories. The article was riddled with quotes from cometologists admitting that they can’t see the emperor’s clothes, but there seems yet to be no awareness that the emperor is naked. The article’s portrayal of cometary surprises and scientists’ perplexity highlights the need for a serious revision in the cometary hypotheses.

The Electric Universe Model

Here is an early quote from a dated yet "modern" astronomy book:

"As to the cause of luminosity, it is practically agreed that it cannot be due to any general heating of the mass of the comet, of which the mean temperature, on the contrary, is probably extremely low. The explanation now most favored attributes the light to electric discharges between the solid (?) particles through the gases which envelope them, -discharges due to the inductive action of the sun on the "cometic" cloud rushing towards it from regions of space, where the electric potential is presumably different from that of the sun itself. At present...there is not any known reason for assuming a uniform electric potential through all space." - Charles A. Young, Ph.D, LL.D., Manual of Astronomy, 1909

Electrical theories of comets date back to the 1800s, before “electricity” became taboo in astronomy. They were well-founded on observations and on the proven laws of electromagnetism. In the last few decades, they have been refined by Wal Thornhill and the www.thunderbolts.info group to the point where the findings that are so hard on the fashionable theory are expected and predicted:

A brief statement of the pertinent aspects of the EU model is necessary to lay the foundation for the balance of the response. The model posits that the sun is positively charged with respect to the interstellar plasma and that therefore a radial electric field extends  through the solar plasma (the “solar wind”) out to the heliopause. The intensity of this field is naturally different in the plane of the ecliptic (about 7° from the solar equatorial plane) to that in the polar direction.

“Not the least of the evidence for electrified comets is x-ray production. In accepted theory a comet is believed to be a dirty snowball slowly wasting away in the heat of the Sun, and there is nothing that would lead an astronomer to expect a comet to emit x-rays.”

Comet orbits are highly elliptical. Comets spend most of their time in the lower voltage outer regions of the sun’s extended plasma environment and tend to reach charge equilibrium with that region. As they orbit toward the inner reaches of their sojourn, the electric field becomes stronger and more positive. The voltage difference between comets’ cores and the surrounding plasma quickly increases. They travel faster and have less time to achieve charge equilibrium. This growing voltage difference creates a plasma sheath around them, and when the voltage reaches a threshold value the sheath begins to glow. This is the familiar teardrop-shaped cometary tail. Sometimes the discharge forms more than one tail, but all will be aligned—coming and going—with the sun’s radial field. The Birkeland currents between the sheath and the comet that attempt to equalize the charge also machine craters and rilles on the surface. In the EU thinking, the difference between comets and asteroids is simply that comets move through regions of much different voltage on their highly elliptical and extensive orbits while asteroids spend their time in more nearly circular orbits with a less varying voltage level.

Following is an issue and response treatment from the perspective of the electric model. No doubt the implications and ramifications of this model are or will be troubling to many, but the reader is challenged to set aside his misgivings long enough to just focus on the following comet science problems and challenges.

Comet Encounters are Troubling

The New Scientist article continues, “We have now had four close encounters with comets, and every one of them has thrown astronomers onto their back foot. 

The hard times for electrically neutral cometology began with Comet Halley. Snowball theory expected more or less uniform sublimation of the surface as the nucleus rotated in the sun, much as you would expect of a scoop of ice cream on a rotisserie. But Halley had jets. Less than 15% of the surface was sublimating, and the ejecta were shooting away in thin beams. The New Scientist article notes that this observation “has shown astronomers that they are in the dark about even the basics”, and quotes Giotto project scientist Gerhard Schwehm of the European Space Agency, "We still do not know what drives comet activity."

The idea that heat from the sun makes water and carbon dioxide ices sublimate to form collimated jets fails to account for most of comets’ behaviors. Gases from heated volatiles would billow out and disperse in space, even if ejected from finely machined nozzles. Also comets glow and have tails when they are out in the reaches of the gas giants where there is simply not enough heat energy from the sun to have any significant effect.

NASA’s Stardust mission found 22 jets as it flew past comet Wild 2. Two of them were on the night side! This, along with the field alignment and collimation of the jets, should be enough to put the “heat explanation” to rest for good. The New Scientist article quotes Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington, “It’s a mystery to me how comets work at all.”  Of course, the EDM activity is going to be independent from the light and heat, and only partially dependent on orientation. The radial electric field of the solar system will push the coma or cometary sheath closer to the surface on the sun-side and stretch it away on the other side.

The surfaces of both Halley and Wild 2, as well as previously mentioned Borrelly, were found to be black as coal. This also perplexed the cometologists. The New Scientist article again quotes Brownlee, “I think that some process is allowing heat to get down below the surface of a comet and drive the activity from the inside out…. I have no idea about the details of the process.” Other speculations include a porous structure, light penetrating beneath the surface and heating the interior while dark layers stop the heat from escaping, and pressure building up to a resulting explosion. But there is no reason to think that comet structure is porous, or heat trapping, or pressure confining.

The “black as coal” exteriors of these comets are what you would expect on electrically burned surfaces. The surface of comet Wild 2 was measured to be 18° C, If this is correct, it was likely due to electrical heating, not from solar radiation. The amount of heat energy received from the sun at these distances is easily radiated away from these “black” bodies.

Comet Theory Adjustments

The theory was adjusted to allow for hot spots, chambers below the surface in which gases could build up pressure and erupt through small holes to produce the jets. It went unmentioned that the holes must have been finely machined, like the nozzle of a rocket engine, in order to collimate the jets into beams:  Just any rough hole would result in a wide spray of gases.

Comet Borrelly made the hard times harder. It was dry. And black. Theoreticians tinkered with the dirty snowball theory until they got the dirt to cover the outside and to hide the snow inside. Somehow they got the dirt, which ordinarily is an insulator, to conduct heat preferentially into the rocket chambers to keep the jets going.

Peter Schultz of Brown University is a member of the Deep Impact team. He says of comets, "We really need to think differently. They are like no other bodies in the solar system." Unfortunately, training and peer pressure constrain astronomical thought to the traditional ruts, and no new thinking has been forthcoming.

Comet Composition and Formation

In the currently accepted model, comets are thought to be conglomerations of ice, rock and dust that originated in the outer Solar System. The gravitational fields of passing stars and the gas giant planets are hypothesized to pull an occasional comet into an elliptical solar orbit. However, there is no reason to think that cometary material is different from that found on the surfaces of the rocky planets. The Stardust mission even brought back samples of cometary material that were rock-like and must have formed at high temperatures.

In the EU model, comets are the debris that has been electrically excavated from the rocky planets and moons in catastrophic episodes of electrical discharge with other bodies. Cometary nuclei did not condense from a cold diffuse cloud in isolation, but were part of a rocky body before these pieces were accelerated into space to become comets.

The over-2500-mile-long Vallis Marineris on Mars— about a thousand times the volume of the Grand Canyon—is the scar left by a huge EDM (electrical discharge machining) excavation. By itself, it probably contains enough volume to account for most of the mass of the comets. The material from this huge canyon should have a variety comparable to that of an earthly continent, but one would expect it to be primarily rock of different mineral compositions.

It is telling that many comet orbits cross the plane of the ecliptic at essentially the same point. This implies that these comets are young and that they originated close to that point. Given this origin, we should also not expect a high ice or dust component. Consequently, they did not originate in the “frozen wastes of the outer solar system” nor were they “nudged” into inner orbits.

In support of the above, we again quote New Scientist magazine issue 2518, 24 September 2005, page 20,

“The precise origin of the world's most famous space rock, the Allan Hills Martian meteorite, may have been pinpointed at last.

“The meteorite has been the subject of intense study ever since NASA scientists reported it might harbour fossilised microbial life.

“Data from the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey orbiters suggests matches between the rock's mineral content and the composition of the Eos Chasma branch of the Valles Marineris canyon system, says Vicky Hamilton of the University of Hawaii, who presented her results at a meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, last week.

“This would make it a prime landing site for future missions.”

The Spitzer Space Telescope indicated that Tempel 1 contained clays and carbonates.  “How do clays and carbonates form in frozen comets where there isn't liquid water?” said Carey M. Lisse, a research scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University who is presenting the Spitzer data today at a meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences in Cambridge, England. “Nobody expected this."

The Spitzer Space Telescope also detected crystalline silicate materials, which indicate types of common mineral rock that are not expected to be present under the “standard” model of comet formation. Even the “exploding planet” hypothesis, which is not consonant with the EU model, has more merit than the prevailing model in terms of explaining the characteristics of comet material.

Comet Disintegration

Since comets are thought to be somewhat composed of volatiles such as ice and carbon dioxide, with such material sublimating (passing directly from the solid to the gaseous state) from being heated each time the comets pass around the sun, some astronomers envision them exploding from “trapped heat” that increases the pressure inside.

The EU model admits that comets are in a state of disintegration But that disintegration is caused by the electric discharge machining (EDM) they are subjected to on each trip to the inner solar system. The jets are the cathode arc currents of the EDM process.

As to catastrophic fragmentation, the electrical stress on a comet’s interior may be enough to break it up, just as an electrical breakdown of the insulator in a capacitor may cause the capacitor to explode. Some 50 examples have been documented of comets breaking up. This is likely what happened to comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. The fragments then lined up in the electrical field of Jupiter before slamming into Jupiter’s upper atmosphere with energetic discharge flashes that left earth-sized dark spots. Speculations of some mysterious comet structure and process of trapped heat “increasing the pressure under the frozen surface” are unnecessary.

Deep Impact Space Mission

The Deep Impact mission was truly a magnificent NASA engineering achievement that gave us a wealth of productive information when seen in the light of the proper comet model. Comets are relatively local and frequent in their visits and, except for meteors and asteroids, they are the smallest astral bodies. Except for our moon and the two closest planets, they are also the most accessible. What are the implications for cosmology if we cannot even begin to understand comets?

When the Deep Impact spacecraft collided with Comet Temple 1, the profuse release of energy and ejecta surprised mission scientists. The New Scientist article quotes Schultz, “If I had to choose just one surprising result from this encounter, it would be the amount of material thrown up.” Other scientists speculated that this result was caused by a fragile cometary surface. The New Scientist article quotes Michael A’Hearn, Deep Impact’s principal investigator, ”The surface material can have no more strength than lightly packed snow, otherwise we would not have seen that amount of dust.”

This last statement is not a fact but a conclusion dictated by the blinkered assumptions of the standard comet model. There is no evidence that dictates this conclusion.

In the EU model, the kinetic energy of the impact would have been augmented, perhaps even surpassed, by the electrical energy of the encounter. The 370-kilogram copper impactor was at or near charge equilibrium with its surroundings, but the comet, as indicated by its jets and glowing sheath, was still highly negative with respect to the impactor’s environment. In the short time that the spacecraft took to traverse Temple 1’s coma, the impactor could not adjust its charge. The rapidly increasing electric field between comet and impactor reached the breakdown threshold, and an arc flashed between the bodies moments before physical impact. This is the explanation for the double flash. In the near vacuum of a coma, charge carriers are not apt to be abundant enough to neutralize the charge differential with one arc, so an unknown amount of electrical energy would have been added to the kinetic energy of the impact. EU theorists predicted both the double flash and the greater energy release.

Surface Ice found on Tempel 1?

The mission team analyzed data captured by an infrared spectrometer, and interpreted the data to show a few small patches of ice on the surface of the comet. NASA’s site says, “Based on this spectral data, it appears that the surface ice used to be inside Tempel 1 but became exposed over time. The team reports that jets – occasional blasts of dust and vapor – may send this surface ice, as well as interior ice, to the coma, or tail, of Tempel 1.”

Here again assumptions masquerade as facts: Spectral data give no indication of where any surface ice “used to be”. Most of the detections of “water” were from the coma, and there was much less than expected. The detection of “water” in a comet’s coma does not indicate that the comet has an icy composition. The detection is actually of OH- ions, which standard theory interprets as water (HOH) that has been decomposed by the solar wind. But EDM of the comet’s rocky nucleus will generate O-2 ions, which will combine with H+ ions from the solar wind to yield OH- ions.

Comet Electric Discharge Scars

Shortly before impact, the impactor photographed kilometer size craters on the nucleus, and these provided more grist for the mill of confusion. The craters, of course, aren’t actually called impact craters. Laurence Soderblom  of the US Geological Survey theorizes that they must be “caused by an explosion within the comet”, because they had flat floors and terraced walls. Explosions cause flat floors and terraced walls? All this is despite the myriad of other craters on rocky planets and moons with flat floors and terraced walls that are called impact craters. In this thinking, many of the other flat-floored circular depressions with terraced walls on earth and other planets are not considered to be craters because they have “unusual shapes”. Confusing, isn’t it?

In the EU model the craters described above are not impact craters nor were they caused by an interior explosion. They are typical EDM features: the Birkeland currents that excavate material sometimes stick, revolve around a center axis, and leave a flat-bottomed crater with steep walls. If the currents don’t quite touch, their excavation will leave a mound or peak of relatively undisturbed material in the center.. The current accelerating the material “upwards” many times leaves terraced walls, especially in sedimentary strata, where the material comes free along the strata planes. Fortunately, we have areas on earth where time and the weather do not obliterate important features, and similar structures may be seen here: the Richat Structure in the Sahara desert in Mauritania is one such crater with terraced walls.

One very interesting aspect of electrical or plasma phenomena is that they are scalable over several orders of magnitude. Brian Ford first put forward experimental electrical cratering evidence matching the features on the Moon in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, “Spaceflight”, Vol VII, No. 1, January 1965. Since then, other EDM scar researchers have duplicated many other crater, rille and concretion features in the laboratory.

Tempel 1 has Quick Return to Normal

In the face of a hope to trigger a new jet and continued higher levels of activity, another note of disquiet to cometologists was the comet’s quick return to normal. In the EU thinking, after the impactor had delivered its comparatively small charge to the much bigger comet, the EDM activity soon dropped back to previous levels of discharge. Given that the Deep Impact impactor actually collided with the comet and released most of its energy in this collision, the crater formed should be from a combination and look somewhat different than either a simple impact crater or a pure EDM crater.

Mission Objective Failure is Actually Success

The Deep Impact mission objectives were essentially fourfold: (1) observe crater formation, (2) measure its parameters, (3) analyze the composition of the interior, and (4) assay changes in the quantity of material expelled before and after the impact ejection.

Because of the large amount of unexpectedly fine dust released by the impact and a balky focusing capability on Deep Impact’s high-resolution camera, graphical confirmation of the impact area including its measurements has eluded mission scientists. The analysis of the composition may be subject to widely divergent interpretations, and the anticipated rate of change has not materialized.

These results can be construed as partial mission objective failure, but proponents of the EU model think that the mission scientists succeeded very well, if not in their defined objectives, then in giving us a wealth of data to work with. The double flashes by themselves, including the X-rays given off, well substantiate the electrical hypothesis. The growing ranks of plasma cosmologists following in the footsteps of Kristian Birkeland, Hannes Alfven, C.E.R. Bruce, Ralph Juergens, Anthony Peratt, Wal Thornhill, et al., need not be disappointed in the Deep Impact mission’s findings.

The New Scientist article goes on to talk about another mission:

     “We may learn a little more about comets next January, when the Stardust mission brings dust from Wild 2 to Earth, but many astronomers are now pinning their hopes on the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission to comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. ‘Rosetta will be the key to understanding comet activity because it will not be just another snapshot of a comet, it will watch it continuously,’ says Brownlee. Upon arrival in 2014, Rosetta will enter orbit around the 2-kilometre-wide nucleus and monitor the comet for two years, during which time it will make its closest approach to the sun and begin to head back out again. Once Rosetta has mapped the comet, a small lander called Philae will descend to the surface. Equipped with harpoons to anchor itself to the comet's surface, Philae will examine the composition and structure of the surface in fine detail.

     “With so much left unknown about the nature of comets, that nine-year wait for Rosetta is going to feel like an eternity to the astronomers meeting in Cambridge this week. And it's possible, of course, that Churyumov-Gerasimenko will throw up another set of surprises. When it comes to comets, there's only one clear message: expect the unexpected.”

The last statement in the above quote is only true if the model is too far off the mark.  In the EU model, comets are just relatively uninteresting pieces of rock that have been thrown into orbits that cause them to go through cycles of charging and discharging. Their composition tells us little if anything about the origin or formation of the solar system, nor does it throw light on far more important issues such as how our variable star and its surrounding electrical field affects catastrophic weather on earth.

The Rosetta mission team would be well-advised to take into consideration the electrical factors and potential charge differential if it is to be successful.  One danger is that the functionality of Rosetta may be impaired or destroyed in a discharge if it gets too close to Wild 2 too quickly for a moderate rate of charge equalization.

The New Scientist article asks a third question, “Where are the impact craters?” and speculates anew that “seismic tremors caused by small impacts could disturb the surface material on a comet to “fluff it up” enough to destroy any craters or other features thereby creating the smooth plains. Of course, this leads to the question of why at least two craters did survive on Tempel 1. The article quotes Soderblom again, “That’s part of the mystery that we have to solve. Perhaps they are not old but young craters.”

In the EU model the comets are not “fluffed up” and the craters are young yet excavated in non-volatile material.

There are several other indications that comets are electrically interacting with their environment: (The passages below are taken from the www.thunderbolts.info site.)

Comet orbits do not follow strictly gravitationally defined trajectories, and some scientist speculators have even proposed a new force to account for orbital variance.

The jets’ filamentary structure stretches across millions of miles. Enhanced pictures show visible jets retaining their coherence over distances that cannot be maintained by neutral gases in the vacuum of space.

There is reason to think that comet approaches to the sun trigger CME’s. As comet NEAT raced through the extended solar atmosphere, a large coronal mass ejection (CME) exploded from the Sun and appeared to strike the comet. The comet responded with a “kink” that propagated down the tail. In fact, SOHO has recorded several instances of comets plunging into the solar corona in “coincidental” association with CMEs.

Not the least of the evidence for electrified comets is x-ray production. In accepted theory a comet is believed to be a dirty snowball slowly wasting away in the heat of the Sun, and there is nothing that would lead an astronomer to expect a comet to emit x-rays.  But the ROSAT image from March 27, 1996 reveals Comet Hyakutake radiating x-rays as intense as those from the x- ray stars that are ROSAT's usual target.

Most of the voltage difference between the comet and the solar plasma is taken up in a “double layer” of charge that is the surface of a plasma sheath surrounding the comet. When the electrical stress is great enough, the sheath glows and appears as the typical comet coma and tail. Electrical discharges occur within the sheath and at the nucleus, radiating a variety of frequencies, including x-rays. The highest voltage differences occur at the comet nucleus and across the plasma sheath. So where the sheath is most compressed, in the sunward direction, the electric field is strong enough to accelerate charged particles to x-ray energies. That explains the crescent-shaped x-ray image in relation to the comet nucleus and the Sun.

Most larger comet nuclei do not exceed one billionth of the mass of Earth. Hence, even under the standard assumptions, a comet’s gravity is insufficient to do the things that comet investigators, confronted with new surprises, ask it to do. Look at the surface of Comet Wild 2, for example. When they first saw the pictures of the comet, a number of scientists declared that the craters were the result of impacts. But a small rock will not attract impactors, and in view of the emptiness of space, even in the hypothetical “planet-forming nebula” stage, it is inconceivable that such a small body could have been subjected to enough projectiles to cover it, end to end, with craters. Nor is it plausible to imagine a melting snowball or iceberg retaining such impact structures from primordial times. Sublimating ice quickly loses its distinctive features.

Since a comet holds a highly negative charge, it attracts the positively charged particles of the solar wind, giving rise to an immense envelope of ionized hydrogen, up to millions of miles across. But the comet watchers do not realize that this vast envelope is gathered and held electrically. And so the question continues to haunt them: How could a tiny piece of rock, no more than a few miles wide, gravitationally entrain and hold in place a ten million mile wide bubble of hydrogen against the force of the solar wind? Yes, the entrained envelope is extremely diffuse, but in gravitational terms it should not be there!

It is unlikely that kinetic effects alone could fill the coma as fast as it was filled from the ejecta of comet Tempel1. EDM accelerates the particles of dust at a much faster rate than a kinetic effect rate.

Both the volume of dust and its extraordinarily fine texture have created mysteries for cometologists. The ejected dust appears to be as fine as talcum powder. In no sense was this expected. But it is characteristic of “cathode sputtering”, a process used industrially to create super-fine deposits or coatings from cathode materials.

Final implication

What is most relevant in all this is that this whole comet model mix-up is just the tip of the iceberg of the changes needed in cosmological theory. If the electric comet model is correct, then the sun must be a charged body and the solar system must be electrified, then other star systems, then the galaxy must be electrified, then….

It’s an electric, not a gravitational, universe.

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