For thousands of years, comets have been seen as mighty harbingers, and as such, their role in our reality has always been respected as having profound importance. These days, however, a few placeholder theories have caused a rather dramatic fall in the significance of these celestial voyagers.
Find a person with even a cursory knowledge of astronomy then ask them what a comet is made up of. The likely answer? Ice and maybe a bit of rock: a dirty snowball, in other words. And the closer you get to an astronomy buff, the more confident that answer will be. Certain individuals will even be able to elaborate and say that the jets and great tails of debris that we see with comets are the result of sublimation–solids turned straight to gas–taking place in their icy bodies as they approach the sun.
Sadly, that pervasive view on the nature of comets has never been anything more than a theory; one that was proposed before any decent observations of comets were ever made. When questioning any astronomy expert, you should find a person expressing doubt and reserving judgement over this antiquated theory. Instead, we find that it’s become a dogmatic belief, embedded in the minds of the populace.
Example of conventional comet patterns
Fortunately for us today, a body of evidence has been accumulating which can help us realize comets for what they truly are: electrical phenomena.
This accumulation began in the 80’s when our planet’s first probes reached comet Halley. The probes found that there was a density of negatively charged particles which the conventional model for comets forbids.
NASA’s Deep Space 1, a spacecraft launched in 1998, made a groundbreaking pass of comet Borrelly in which it obtained a host of measurements that allowed researchers to, for the first time, analyze a comet with a level of clarity that had never before been possible.
What the probe found was in stark contrast to what had been expected: there was no frozen ice on the surface. Instead, they discovered a surface that was hot and dry and rocky
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission to comet 67P, the most ambitious mission to a comet ever undertaken, has also worked against expectations by showing that its target comet is dry and rocky, with a surface nearly devoid of ice.
As well, this mission discovered well-defined cliff features and other rocky formations that cannot exist with the conventional comet model. It also revealed dunes and what would appear to be wind-streaks and even wind-ripples on the areas of the comet where dust had collected; which is naturally quite problematic because the comet cannot support wind–though such phenomena can be explained by electrical activity. These observed dust patterns even managed to shift during the period of observation; a discovery which was completely unexpected and certainly goes against the conventional model.
But before we go any further, let’s briefly return to the mystery surrounding a comet’s debris jets and tail. With the revelations from Deep Space 1, that at least some comets are not giant balls of ice, ideas began to shift and a new theory gradually came to the forefront: comets are still balls of ice, but some have a rocky exterior in which the sublimation of ice takes place beneath the surface in order to cause the jets of gas and long comet tail.
However, with the findings of the Rosetta mission, this theory has lost a considerable amount of ground. For one thing, no openings to the theorized sub-surface pressure chambers could be found, the regions where sublimation would be taking place and gas would be explosively ejecting out from beneath the surface. What the probe did observe was long and thin filaments of emissions, entirely inconsistent with any explosive buildup and ejection of gas and how sublimating reactions expand in a vacuum. The luminous dust particles travelling away from the comet were found to be accelerating far faster than such particles would be travelling if they were the result of mere sublimation. An unexpected electron-cloud was also observed around the comet. As well, the comet was found to be emitting electromagnetic oscillations, a phenomena that’s often referred to as singing.
A depiction of the famous Haley’s comet
Although the above discoveries confound the conventional model, they fit snugly with an electrical understanding of comets.
Looking at a comet’s emissions, we need look no further for an explanation than one that’s already been laboratory proven. Hydrogen ions in the solar wind slam into comets and interact with oxygen in the silicate to create hydroxyl–an oxygen atom bonded to one hydrogen atom–along with water. Electrical charges naturally build as comets dive into the inner solar system and collect ever-greater concentrations of hydrogen ions. Discharges occur with increasing frequency as the comet grows closer to the sun, and these discharges result in an electro-chemical reaction that creates the aforementioned hydroxyl and water.
(End of part one)
all images used in this article can be found in the public domain or are being used under a creative commons license