Mar 29, 2006
Asteroids That Should Not Be
Recent pictures of asteroids suggest that the survival of these
bodies refutes the popular theory of their formation and history. If
the largest craters had been formed by impact, the asteroids would
have been shattered.
The popular view of asteroids holds that their history began in the same
way as that of planets in their early formative phases, accreting
out of a primordial cloud of neutral gas. But while planets
continued to accrete matter, the asteroids did not, perhaps because
of the gravitational influence on them from the emerging gas giant
It is commonly suggested that asteroids have, by virtue of their
interrupted history, preserved a pristine record of the early solar
system. A similar belief holds with respect to comets, though most
comets are claimed to have formed much farther away from the Sun, in
the now legendary Oort cloud.
These speculative notions have been around now for decades, and often
science writers forget to distinguish between speculation and fact.
Astronomers do not know how asteroids formed. They have
guessed at an answer.
One undeniable fact is that recent photographs of these bodies pose
severe challenges to popular ideas about asteroids. By comparison
with planets and moons, asteroids are trivially weak attractors
gravitationally. Furthermore, most of the lesser bodies traveling in
their neighborhood would be moving in the same direction. Standard
impact theory requires speeds of many thousand of miles per hour.
After their hypothesized formation, how did they acquire such pervasive
cratering? They are covered with innumerable small circular craters
and a few unnervingly large craters, a feature that virtually all
asteroids appear to have in common.
If the impact theory of crater formation were true, observation suggests
that each body was struck by a least one rock (some by more than
one) of sufficient size and velocity to shatter the body. But none
were shattered. The asteroids have not only remained intact,
but they show no evidence of cracking or splintering under the
As new pictures came in, the mystery grew to the point that some
astrophysicists began to speculate that perhaps asteroids were
formed by an aggregation of lesser rocks.
A similar turn occurred when the standard comet model
began to fail. When comets such as Linear broke up, the
cometologists could only imagine this happening if they were loose
aggregates of separate pieces, or perhaps something as tenuous as
But none of our visits to asteroids or to comets have supported such
notions. The best pictures suggest rock-solid objects, as can be
seen in the images given above.
And as far as comets go, by NASA’s own admission the “Deep Impact”
on Tempel 1 effectively ended speculation about comets as loose
On issues such as this, the electric model of comet and asteroid
formation has a distinct advantage. To produce craters of any size,
it does not stipulate that one solid body must crash into another.
The proposed electrical history of the solar system was punctuated
by intensely energetic events and by violent electrical interactions
between planets and moons, but the resulting scars did not come from
the brute force of collision. Electric arcs can remove material with
ease. They have the ability to cut surface depressions, to scoop out
material, and to accelerate it into space, leaving behind cleanly
cut geologic relief. This ability of the electric arc is why it is
used so commonly in electric discharge machining (EDM).
In the photograph of the
above left, the right side of the asteroid exhibits sharply cut
gouges that altered the fundamental shape of the body The same
asteroid shows a depression on its westward termination almost as
wide as its diameter. Could impacts have achieved these things while
leaving no other evidence of disturbance?
Then there is the
asteroid Eros as photographed up
close and personal by the NEAR spacecraft. On the
impact theory, it must have been broadsided more than once,
producing craters with diameters equal to the width of the
distinctly oblong object.
asteroid Mathilda revealed equally inconceivable “impacts”. At its closest approach,
NEAR flew within 1,200 kilometers of Mathilda. As stated in the
report by the Planetary Society:
“The images show a surface covered with craters, some surprisingly
large in size. At least five of the craters imaged by NEAR are over
20 kilometers in size. To form craters that large, Mathilda had to
be hit by objects almost 2 kilometers in size. It is amazing that
such collisions didn't completely break apart the asteroid”.
“Amazing”, yes, but apparently not sufficient to provoke a
reconsideration of theory.
To further underscore the enigma, we include on the right below five views of the
taken on Galileo’s approach. If the large craters were caused by
impact, then something miraculous occurred to prevent the demolition
of the body. Here too the “impacts” on the ends of the object
succeeded in creating depressions almost as wide as the diameter of
the body itself. But the surrounding terrain was not disturbed.
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