- With the imminent arrival of the "Deep Impact"
spacecraft at the comet Tempel 1, it is time to test competing theories
on the nature of comets. The predictions and lines of reasoning offered
here will set the stage for future analysis of the "electric comet"
- At 10:52 p.m. PDT July 2, the Deep Impact spacecraft
will fire an 800-pound copper projectile at the nucleus of Comet Tempel
1. If all goes as planned the projectile will impact on the nucleus 24
hours later. The impact is expected to eject into space large volumes of
- Cameras on the projectile will record its approach toward
the nucleus, and instruments on the spacecraft will record the event across
a broad spectrum. Dozens of telescopes will be trained on the comet. According
to NASA scientists, the released material will provide a sample of the
primordial water, gas and dust from which the Sun, planets, moons, and
other bodies in the solar system formed.
- Though Deep Impact team members see this as a milestone
event, advocates of the Electric Universe expect a "shock to the system"
with revolutionary implications. They say that a comet is not a primordial
object left over from the formation of the solar system. Fundamentally,
it is distinguishable from a rocky asteroid only by its more elliptical
- In the Electric Universe a comet is a negatively charged
object moving through the extensive and constant radial electric field
of the positively charged Sun. A comet becomes negatively charged during
its long sojourn in the outer solar system. As it speeds into the inner
solar system, the increasing voltage and charge density of the plasma (solar
"wind") cause the nucleus to discharge electrically, producing
the bright coma and tail.
- If the electrical theorists are correct, the implications
of the event will not be limited to comet theory alone. At issue is the
assumption of an electrically neutral universe, upon which every conventional
astronomical theory rests. An electric comet would forever change the picture
of the solar system and force astronomers to consider the overwhelming
evidence that electricity lights not only our Sun but also all the stars
in the heavens. Moreover, the cosmic electricians insist that this would
only be the beginning of a more sweeping revolution touching all of the
theoretical sciences and in the end recasting our understanding of earth
history and the human past.
- The most appropriate test of a new theory is its predictive
power (see predictions from October 2001 in Wallace Thornhill's "Comet
Borrelly Rocks Core Scientific Beliefs"). Therefore, we wish to make
as clear as possible, in advance of the projectile's impact, the distinctions
between the electric model and the standard model. Where the issues grow
complex, the primary reason is that the standard model, which failed to
anticipate any of the major discoveries about comets over the past three
decades or more, has fragmented into competing versions, forced upon the
theorists by unsettling facts. Nevertheless a shared ideology continues
to guide orthodox comet investigation while limiting scientific perception.
For this reason advocates of the electric universe do not believe that
a reconciliation of the current theoretical fragments is possible.
- To facilitate clarity we shall offer first a brief outline
of two theoretical models. As for predictions, we find that NASA scientists
have retreated from such essential adventures. Therefore we shall not attempt
to speak for them. But we will summarize the best guesses of the electrical
- DIRTY SNOWBALL MODEL
- *Comets are composed of undifferentiated "protoplanetary
debris" -- dust and ices left over from the formation of the solar
system billions of years ago.
- *Radiant heat from the Sun sublimates the ices (turns
them directly into vapor without the intermediate step of becoming liquid).
*The vapor expands around the nucleus to form the coma (head of the comet)
and is swept back by the solar wind to form the tail.
- *Over repeated passages around the Sun, the Sun's heat
vaporizes surface ice and leaves a "rind" of dust.
- *Where heat penetrates the surface of a blackened, shallow
crust, pockets of gas form. Where the pressure breaks through the surface,
energetic jets form.
- ELECTRIC COMET MODEL:
- *Comets are debris produced during violent electrical
interactions of planets and moons in an earlier phase of solar system history
-- a phase that persisted into early human history. Comets are similar
to asteroids, and their composition varies. Most comets should be homogeneous
-- their interiors will have the same composition as their surfaces. They
are simply "asteroids on eccentric orbits".
- *Comets follow their eccentric orbits within a weak electrical
field centered on the Sun. They develop a charge imbalance with the higher
voltage and charge density near the Sun that initiates discharge and the
formation of a glowing plasma sheath -- appearing as the coma and tail.
- *The observed jets of comets are electric arc discharges
to the nucleus, producing "electrical discharge machining" (EDM)
of the surface. The excavated material is accelerated into space along
the jets -- observed filamentary arcs.
- *Intermittent and wandering arcs erode the surface and
burn it black, leaving the distinctive scarring patterns of electric discharge.
*The primary distinction between a comet and an asteroid is that, due to
its elliptical orbit, electrical arcing and "electrostatic cleaning"
will clean the nucleus' surface, leaving little or no dust or debris on
- ELECTRIC MODEL PREDICTIONS FOR DEEP IMPACT:
- *An abundance of water on or below the surface of the
nucleus (the underlying assumption of the "dirty snowball" hypothesis)
- *Tempel 1 has a low-eccentricity orbit. Therefore its
charge imbalance with respect to its environment at perihelion is low.
(It is a "low-voltage" comet.) Electrical interactions with Deep
Impact may be slight, but they should be measurable if NASA will look for
them. They would likely be similar to those of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 prior
to striking Jupiter's atmosphere: The most obvious would be a flash (lightning-like
discharge) shortly before impact.
- *The impactor may form a sheath around it as it enters
the coma, becoming a "comet within a comet".
- *Electrical stress may short out the electronics on board
the impactor before impact.
- *More energy will be released than expected because of
the electrical contributions of the comet. (The discharge could be similar
to the "megalightning" bolt that, evidence suggests, struck the
- *Copious X-rays will accompany discharges to the projectile,
exceeding any reasonable model for X-ray production through the mechanics
of impact. The intensity curve will be that of a lightning bolt (sudden
onset, exponential decline) and may well include more than one peak.
- *If the energy is distributed over several flashes, more
than one crater on the comet nucleus could result -- in addition to any
- *Any arcs generated will be hotter than can be explained
by mechanical impact. If temperature measurements are made with sufficient
resolution, they will be much higher than expected from impact heating.
- *The discharge and/or impact may initiate a new jet on
the nucleus (which will be collimated -- filamentary -- not sprayed out)
and could even abruptly change the positions and intensities of other jets
due to the sudden change in charge distribution on the comet nucleus.
- *The impact/electrical discharge will not reveal "primordial
dirty ice," but the same composition as the surface.
- *The impact/electrical discharge will be into rock, not
loosely consolidated ice and dust. The impact crater will be smaller than
- We include below a summary of the lines of reasoning
followed by the electrical theorists.
- MISSING WATER
- For the survival of the standard model, nothing is more
crucial than finding an abundance of ices on or below the surface of the
nucleus of Tempel 1. It is not sufficient to find water merely in the comet's
coma. Negative oxygen ions from cathodic etching of rock minerals in the
nucleus will combine with protons from the solar wind to form water in
the coma and tail. Spectra of comets already reveal the presence of negative
oxygen ions. Moreover, the ions exhibit forbidden lines characteristic
of a strong electric field. There is no conventional explanation for these
- Wallace Thornhill, whose inquiry into the electric attributes
of comets goes back more than 30 years, sees a high probability that scientists
will find less water ice and other volatiles than expected, both on the
surface and beneath the surface of Tempel 1. In fact none of the electrical
theorists will be surprised if the impactor exposes a subsurface with little
or no ices. For popular comet theory this would be disastrous, since it
now calls upon volatile ices beneath the surface to drive the comet's jets
and create the glowing coma. This requirement is due to the surprising
discovery, through prior comet probes, of dry surfaces. The surface of
Comet Borrelly, for example, was parched.
- But the problem for comet theory is more severe, since
evidence for subsurface volatiles also ranges from minimal to non-existent.
Examination of Shoemaker-Levy 9 after the comet broke apart revealed no
volatiles. When comet Linear disintegrated in front of their eyes, astronomers
were astonished by the absence of meaningful water content. Comets do not
"disintegrate" by solar heating but explode electrically like
an overstressed capacitor.
- Of course there are plenty of icy moons in the solar
system, and the electrical theorists propose that many comets and asteroids
are part of the "afterbirth" of electrical expulsion of planets
and moons from their parent primary. So they do not exclude in advance
the possibility of water ice on Tempel 1. But it is not required in the
electrical model of comets for the production of jets, comas and tails.
- SHARP SURFACE RELIEF
- The electric model claims that the comas and tails of
comets are generated by cathode arcs excavating surface material from the
nucleus, in the fashion of electrical discharge machining (EDM) in industrial
applications. The model predicts a sculpted surface, distinguished by sharply
defined craters, valleys, mesas, and ridges?the opposite of the softened
relief expected of a sublimating "dirty snowball". (A chunk of
ice melting in the Sun loses its sharp relief, just like a scoop of melting
- BLACK SURFACES
- The first photographs of comet nuclei astonished astronomers
with the blackness of the surfaces. The nuclei were darker than copier
toner. This observation alone should have called into question the "dirty
snowball" hypothesis. But an ad hoc adjustment of the theory followed,
arbitrarily assuming that comets were parked for billions of years in deep
space, where they suffered radiation damage that blackened their surfaces.
- Electric discharge machining "burns" and darkens
the rocky comet surface. It requires no additional hypotheses or contrived
history of the comet. We see examples of the darkening effect from electrical
discharge on Jupiter?s moon Io and on the planet Mars.
- WEAKLY CHARGED COMETS.
- Comet Tempel 1, which NASA selected for the Deep Impact
mission, is certainly not ideal for testing the electrical hypothesis.
Of course, NASA scientists do not realize this, since the issue of electrical
charge has no place in standard theory.
- Short-period comets, which move on modestly elliptical
paths (the orbit of Tempel 1 stretches roughly between the orbits of Jupiter
and Mars) will not experience the degree of electrical imbalance experienced
by long-period comets on much more elliptical paths that take them out
well beyond the orbital distances of Neptune or Pluto. The latter have
much more time to adjust to the more negative voltage of regions remote
from the Sun. The voltage difference of short-period comets as they approach
the Sun will be much less than that of long-period comets, and they will
not discharge as energetically.
- Nevertheless, the electrical theorists say that even
a weak candidate for a test of the electrical hypothesis should be sufficient
to make a good case. The radical differences between the competing models
carry many direct and obvious implications.
- ANOMALOUS X-RAYS
- If (and it's the biggest "if") Tempel 1 is
sufficiently electrically active before impact, Thornhill expects to see
the usual non-linear behavior of plasma when subjected to increasing electrical
stress. That is, there will be a sudden electric discharge, or arc. An
electric discharge between the comet cathode and the copper projectile
anode will result in X-ray emission, just as in any X-ray machine on Earth.
Such X-rays are easily identifiable and in large amounts would be anomalous
for a mere impact.
- The electric field of a comet is contained within its
(Langmuir) plasma sheath, which encompasses its coma. So the size of the
coma is some measure of the electrical stress the comet is suffering. Comet
Tempel 1 has a small coma. Two months ago the coma was little bigger than
the Earth. However, the comet is rushing toward the copper projectile at
almost 23,000 mph, which will not give time for the copper projectile in
the exceedingly thin cometary plasma to balance its electrical potential
with that of the more negative comet nucleus.
- So, before physical impact occurs, we may expect a sudden
discharge between the comet nucleus and the copper projectile. It will
have the characteristic light-curve of lightning, with rapid onset and
exponential decay. The question is, will it be a mere spark or a powerful
- Whether due to impact or electric arc, positively charged
copper ions may be expected to produce radiation by recombination with
free electrons. A small proportion of that radiation may be in the x-ray
region. But the spectrum and intensity curve for radiation from an impact
should be quite different from the flash of an electric arc impinging on
a copper anode.
- The arc should also give a restricted, almost point,
source for the radiation from the target sites on the impactor and the
comet nucleus. This is quite different from anything expected from distributed
- Because electric arcing causes the craters seen on comets,
there is the possibility that the Deep Impact projectile will form an electrical
crater as well as (or instead of) an impact crater.
- When the impactor arrives, Thornhill considers it likely
that active jets will move or switch off, since the comet's electrical
field will have been suddenly disturbed. The simple thermal out-gassing
model does not expect this.
- ANOMALOUS DISCHARGE
- Outbursts from comet nuclei frequently occur, giving
rise to expressions of astonishment from comet observers. Such events do
not fit well with a model of sublimating ices, and the cause remains mysterious.
But such events cometologists to speculate about heating processes inside
the comet. In the electrical model, energetic outbursts are expected due
to the non-linear behavior of plasma in the changing electrical environment
of the solar "wind". Comets have flared beyond the orbit of Jupiter,
even beyond the orbit of Saturn, where known icy bodies do not sublimate
under solar radiation. A potentially embarrassing, ad hoc proposal has
been put forward that attributes the more remote and "miraculous"
outbursts to collisions with meteoric material.
- In fact, all energetic discharging from comet nuclei
at the distance of Mars' orbit or beyond is anomalous under the standard
model. Attempts at explanations invariably expose contradictions. We see
ice on Mars and on the moons of the gas-giant outer planets. Mars, of course,
is the closest of the three to the Sun, but when ice sublimates on Mars,
it does not produce jets. The icy moons of Jupiter do not produce jets
under the influence of solar radiation. Here, the electrical theorists
can only express their amazement at the general lack of attention to such
contradictions when comets begin discharging even farther out from the
- COLLIMATED AND FILAMENTARY JETS
- Despite years of photographs showing collimated jets
(narrow filaments that maintain their coherence across considerable distances),
the artists' conceptions of comets still show jets as geyser-like eruptions,
spraying out into space. An expanding jet is the expected behavior of neutral
gas and dust entering a vacuum. But it is not characteristic of an electric
discharge in plasma. A good look at the jets of Tempel 1 reveals the characteristic
features of a plasma discharge, with coherent current filaments that do
not obey the rules of behavior of neutral gases. A look at a novelty-store
plasma ball demonstrates the effect nicely.
- JET ENERGIES AND VELOCITIES
- On this issue the electrical theorists are emphatic:
by proposing mechanical "jets" from comet nuclei, standard theory
has descended into the preposterous. No analogy either in space or in experimental
science supports the idea that sublimating ices 150 million miles and farther
from the Sun could generate "jet chambers" or produce the sonic
and supersonic jet velocities our instruments have measured.
- The notion contradicts and violates the most obvious
dynamic principles. Collimated, mechanically induced jets over the observed
distances they travel would require, first, a finely machined nozzle, even
more precise than those used on rocket engines, not a jagged opening in
a "dirty snowball". The idea requires a chamber that is insulated
from the Sun, though anything even casting a shadow would lead to instant
- The "model" also requires subsurface heating
in the deep freeze of these remote regions. The "heating" would
have to reach through an insulating crust roughly estimated to be ten feet
deep, yet achieving things inconceivable for solar heating even in the
absence of insulation. Pressure must build up to an extraordinary level.
Then when the pressure erupts, something most mysterious must occur. Despite
the instant release, equivalent pressures must be sustained for long periods
to maintain the supersonic velocities -- even to alter the orbits of comets
in the way some astronomers now propose. We've said it before: "To
save the theory astronomers now cling to the incredible".
- For the electrical theorists, the answer is all too obvious.
Electrical discharge accelerates material into collimated jets along the
self-confining Birkeland currents that constitute the discharge arcs.
- HEAVY ELEMENTS
- If an arc is struck between the comet nucleus and the
projectile, we may expect to see metals such as Li, Na, K, Ca, Mg and Fe
in a flash spectrum before impact. They will have been removed from the
rocky comet in the cathode arc.
- The sulfur molecule S2 is one of the great unsolved mysteries
of comet chemistry. It has been identified in several, but not all, comets.
The molecule has a very short lifetime and sublimes at a higher temperature
than those found on cometary surfaces or grains. It is not the equilibrium
form of the molecule either. But S2 is the kind of molecule that could
be produced from rocky minerals in the extreme electrical environment of
a plasma arc.
- NEGATIVE IONS
- Negative ions were discovered in the inner coma of Comet
Halley with densities 100 times greater than expected from conventional
theory. Thornhill and his colleagues urge NASA investigators to look for
an abundance of negative ions in the impact ejecta. This would, of course,
be an obvious signature of a negatively charged comet. Forbidden spectral
lines from negative oxygen ions have been detected spectroscopically in
comet comas in the past. And no one can reasonably dispute that they indicate
the presence there of a strong electric field.
- It is advisable that investigators look at water abundances
both close to the nucleus and in the far coma to see to what extent water
is being formed away from the nucleus by the combination of negative oxygen
ions with protons from the solar wind. The logical concern here is that
these reactions will, by improper reasoning, give inflated values for the
water ice abundance in the comet nucleus.
- IMPACTOR LIGHTNING STRIKE
- The copper impactor has a camera that is supposed to
be active until impact. There is some doubt that the camera will be able
to provide images closer than a few tens of kilometers to the nucleus because
of anticipated damage to the lens by high-velocity dust particles. However,
transmissions should continue until impact, according to NASA investigators.
But if an arc to the projectile occurs, transmissions will cease before
- Of course, the most tragic potential here is that the
projectile, which carries its own navigation instruments, could experience
an electrical disruption before it had maneuvered itself into the precise
position required for impact.
- IMPACT SITE TEMPERATURES
- A mechanical impact will not produce the temperatures
of an electric arc, which can be tens of thousands of degrees over a very
small area. The problem will be whether temperature readings will have
the resolution to be able to distinguish a very high temperature over a
tiny area or merely an average over a large impact area. Anomalous high
temperature readings could precede physical impact, accompany impact, and
- COMET BRIGHTNESS
- Tempel 1 is a magnitude dimmer than (i.e., less than
half as bright as) expected from the comet's previous approaches to the
Sun. Conventional theory has no explanation for this lower energy. The
electrical model notes that the Sun is approaching the minimum in its sunspot
cycle, which means that the solar electrical energy input is at a minimum.
Because the comet's brightness depends on electrical energy from the Sun's
circuit, the effect is analogous to turning down the dimmer switch on a
light bulb. This lower energy level also reduces the likelihood of the
more dramatic "electrical fireworks" during Deep Impact's encounter.