Reflections on the “Deep Impact” Anniversary
By Michael Armstrong and Mel Acheson
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
Extensive specific and detailed predictions were published on July 3, 2005
before the impact and these predictions and the results can be seen
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
The Electric Universe Model
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
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
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
In support of the above, we again quote New
Scientist magazine issue 2518, 24 September 2005, page 20,
precise origin of the world's most famous space rock, the Allan
Hills Martian meteorite, may have been pinpointed at last.
meteorite has been the subject of intense study ever since NASA
scientists reported it might harbour fossilised microbial life.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
There are several other indications that comets are
electrically interacting with their environment: (The passages below
are taken from the
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.
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.