picture of the day
Infrared image of
Holmes 17P. Credit:
Oct 22, 2008
The Spitzer Space Telescope has returned remarkable
images of Comet Holmes 17P, revealing structures that appear
to confirm the electrical nature of comets.
October 2007 Picture of the Day described the behavior
of Holmes 17P and noted that many of the observed phenomena
could be explained by an electrical theory of comets. Since
these pages were
first published, Electric Universe theorists have
challenged the prevailing "dusty snowball" cometary theory.
Comets becoming active at long distances from the
Sun—sometimes as far out as Neptune's orbit—contradict the
idea of a frozen ball of ice that only grows a tail or emits
jets of gas when it gets close enough for the Sun's heat to
sublimate its surface.
naked-eye comet that hung for weeks like an exclamation mark
in the 1997 sky, was still active four years after it left
the inner solar system. When it was farther from the Sun
than the orbit of Uranus it was almost
two million kilometers in diameter. It displayed a coma,
a dust tail, and an ion tail more than a million kilometers
long. Solar radiation will not melt ice at that distance,
otherwise the moons of Saturn and Jupiter would be bone dry,
so astronomers were unable to explain it.
In August of
2007, Comet Linear broke apart during its closest approach
to the Sun. When the cloud of debris was analyzed,
astronomers were surprised to find that it contained about
100 times more rocky material than ice.
Giotto probe met
Halley's Comet on March 16, 1996. Among several discoveries,
the comet was found to be covered with a black crust. Bright
jets of ionized gas, or plasma, blasted out from its surface
in three highly localized areas. Water was present in
Halley's coma, but according to Horst Uwe Keller of the Max
Planck Institut für Aeronomie: "We discovered that a comet
is not really a 'dirty snowball' since dirt is dominant, not
ice. Instead of being spherical like a warm snowball, a
comet nucleus is elongated. The physical structure of a
comet's interior is defined by its dust content rather than
its ice content."
Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragmented into several large pieces
plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere during the summer of
1994. It was hoped that the remnants of the fractured
nucleus would expose fresh ices that would then sublimate.
Spectrographic results from the Hubble Space Telescope
showed no evidence for volatile gases in the debris clouds
around the fragments.
Auroral emissions were also detected in the atmosphere
of Jupiter after the impact of fragment K, something that
was unexpected and then attributed to "snowplow" effects as
shock waves pushed the atmosphere aside.
Now, with the latest news
release from Spitzer about Holmes 17P, scientists are again
confounded by the workings of comets. "The data we got from
Spitzer do not look like anything we typically see when
looking at comets," said Bill Reach of NASA's Spitzer
Science Center at Caltech.
What are called "streamers"
have been found inside the shell of gas and dust that makes
up the haze around the comet's nucleus. Spitzer team members
have not yet determined why the twisted threads of material
continue to point in the same direction. They remain in the
same alignment as they had since their initial formation.
Despite several months of travel, they have not rotated to
stay aligned with the Sun. As has been discussed in
previous Picture of the Day articles, the
braided filaments are the sign of helical Birkeland
Outbursts like those on
Holmes 17P are how Electric Universe theorists expect comet
tails to be produced. Because electric discharges are
capable of removing solid material from surfaces, no
volatile gases exploding out of "trapped pockets," then
pushed away by radiation pressure, are necessary. A comet
will produce a tail when electrical stress reaches a
critical point and its plasma sheath starts to glow.
Irrespective of its composition, a comet will obey the
fundamental behavior of charged objects interacting with one
A comet's tail is created when its electric charge is struck
by solar discharge plasma, conventionally called the "solar
wind." As a comet approaches the Sun, its nucleus moves
through envelopes of increased charge density. Its surface
charge and internal polarization, developed in deep space,
respond to the Sun's charged environment, changing its
As it moves away from the Sun, a comet's electrical balance
with respect to the outer solar system will be different
than when it was on its inward trajectory. If it meets
another electrified plasma field of some kind it could begin
to discharge again. What more electrically dynamic region
than the one that exists around the gas giant planets?
Recent revelations about comets are more easily understood
within the electric comet theory than within theories that
depend on gravity and sublimation. The black, burned nuclei;
the craters and rocky landscapes instead of ice fields; the
narrow, energetic jets; the ion tails pointing toward the
Sun; the sulfur compounds that require high temperatures to
form; and the abundance of ultra-fine dust all point to
electricity as their common source. Most important of all,
water vapor is more prevalent farther away from the nucleus
than close in—surely the exact opposite of what should be
found if water ice and frost are what drive cometary jets.
The faster a comet's electrical environment changes, the
more likely that flaring and fragmentation will occur. It
seems probable that Holmes 17P is traveling through
conductive strands of plasma that are energizing it enough
for its "shell" to enter a glow-mode discharge state. The
filamentary steamers are significant evidence for that
By Stephen Smith
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