- To place the Deep Impact events in perspective, advocates
of the electric comet model remind us of the crash of the comet Shoemaker-Levy
9 into Jupiter in 1994.
- For some time now the electrical theorists have noted
that the institutionalization of scientific inquiry, in combination with
funding requirements, has encouraged a short attention span. The things
that do not fit prior theory elicit a momentary expression of surprise,
but as the events pass from view they are quickly forgotten. "What
we cannot comprehend, we shall forget".
- So it is that already the stupendous explosion produced
by Deep Impact -- the blast of light that shocked every member of the investigative
team -- is fading from the consciousness of the investigators. And just
two weeks after Deep Impact, all discussion of the equally remarkable advanced
flash has ceased. Perhaps none of the NASA scientists knew that the electrical
theorists had predicted these events in advance.
- Here is an interesting fact. When looking forward to
the Deep Impact mission in October 2001, Wallace Thornhill observed: ..."the
energetic effects of the encounter should exceed that of a simple physical
impact, in the same way that was seen with comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragments
at Jupiter". We gave the reasoning in our predictions posted early
in the day, July 3: The energy of the explosion will not come just from
a collision of solid bodies, but will include the electrical contribution
of the comet. Link: http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/050704predictions.htm
- Thornhill had not forgotten an earlier surprise, though
it appears that no one involved in Deep Impact remembered what happened
when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 approached Jupiter in the summer of 1994. Astronomers
expected the encounter to be a trivial event. "You won't see anything.
The comet crash will probably amount to nothing more than a bunch of pebbles
falling into an ocean 500 million miles from Earth". Then came the
encounter and an about face. As reported by Sky & Telescope, "When
Fragment 'A' hit the giant planet, it threw up a fireball so unexpectedly
bright that it seemed to knock the world's astronomical community off its
feet". So a brief summary of some of those earlier events are provided
below. For a more detailed article see Comet Tempel 1's Electrifying Impact,
- The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) detected a flare-up
of fragment "G" of Shoemaker-Levy long before impact at a distance
of 2.3 million miles from Jupiter. For the electrical theorists this flash
would occur as the fragment crossed Jupiter's plasma sheath, or magnetosphere
boundary. Thornhill comments: "'A plasma sheath', or 'double layer',
is a region of strong electric field, so the outburst there of an electrified
comet nucleus is expected. The outburst was a surprise to astronomers.
Hubble's Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS) recorded strong emissions from
fragment 'G' of ionized magnesium but no hydroxyl radical (OH), expected
from water ice". Also, after the flare-up in magnesium emissions there
was a "dramatic change in the light reflected from the dust particles
in the comet". All told, the similarities to the Deep Impact flash
- Just after the impact of SL-9 fragment "K",
HST detected unusual auroral activity that was brighter than Jupiter's
normal aurora and outside their normal area. Radiation belts were disrupted.
There were unexpectedly bright X-ray emissions at the time of impact. But
one mystery was never explained satisfactorily: Early impact events were
hidden from the Earth behind Jupiter's limb. However, the Galileo spacecraft
was positioned 150 million miles away from Jupiter at an angle that gave
it a ringside seat for these events. But Earth-based observatories saw
some of the impacts start at the same time Galileo did. "In effect,
we are seeing something we didn't think we had any right to see",
said Dr. Andrew Ingersoll of Caltech. "...it seems clear that something
was happening high enough to be seen beyond the curve of the planet",
said Galileo Project scientist Dr. Torrence Johnson of JPL.
- None of these discoveries is surprising if comets are
highly electrically charged with respect to their environment. Radio astronomers
had expected radio emissions from Jupiter at high frequencies to drop because
dust from SL-9 fragments would absorb electrons from the radiation belts,
where the electrons emit synchrotron radiation. Instead, observers were
surprised to find that emissions around 2.3 GHz rose by 20-30%. "Never
in 23 years of Jupiter observations have we seen such a rapid and intense
increase in radio emission", said Michael Klein of JPL. "Extra
electrons were supplied by a source which is a mystery". It never
occurred to anyone that the charged comet was the source of the electrons.
- Will the rapid exclusion of uncomfortable facts continue
as we await data analysis of Deep Impact? In tomorrow's Picture of the
Day, we shall list the urgent questions yet unanswered as NASA officials
have fallen into silence, even withdrawing much of the visual material
formerly available on the Deep Impact website.