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Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

I am a catastrophist: I believe that the existing evidence overwhelmingly supports theories which conclude that earth's geology was primarily shaped by one or more catastrophic events, rather than theories which posit that earth's geology as we see it today is the result of the same types of processes we see acting around us today, and that given enough time these "normal" processes could produce the geological features we see on our planet.

The question of whether our planet's features reveal evidence of catastrophe, or whether our planet's features were produced by "normal" processes acting in a "uniform" manner over eons and eons of time (the so-called "uniformitarian" category of theories, which arose in the eighteenth century among those who may have had ulterior motives for rejecting then-prevailing catastrophist thought), is important in its own right, of course.

But it is also important with regard to the mystery of humanity's ancient past.

Just as I believe the evidence overwhelmingly supports a catastrophist conclusion regarding the forces which shaped the features we find all around us on planet earth, in contrast to the "uniformitarian" explanations which have now become the dominant conventional position of most in academia, I believe that the evidence overwhelmingly supports a view of ancient human history which is radically different from the currently-accepted conventional narrative held by academia today.

For example, the ancient mysterious monuments found on the Giza plateau in Egypt (the Giza pyramids), the ruins of the Indus Valley civilization (in modern-day India), the Nazca lines (in modern-day Chile), the temples at the Angkor complex (in modern-day Cambodia), and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) are all located on a "great circle" -- indicating some kind of coordination which we cannot currently explain with the conventional paradigm of human history, as well as very precise and sophisticated ancient knowledge of the size and shape of our spherical earth.

There are many other ancient sites located along different great circles -- part of a body of evidence suggesting that the most mysterious monuments on our planet may all have been part of some kind of a vast worldwide grid, the purpose and design of which remains a mystery at this time.

The geological evidence of a catastrophe or catastrophes (which is generally rejected by the uniformitarian camp dominant in academia) may well be related to the mysteries of humanity's ancient past (which, judging by massive evidence which refutes the conventional academic view, was almost certainly very different from what we have been taught).

Comets may constitute an entire category of space-borne evidence of a tremendous catastrophe within our solar system long ages ago. Dr. Walt Brown, the originator of the hydroplate theory (a catastrophist theory involving a global flood, a theory which has tremendous amounts of evidence to support it, and which is the subject of numerous previous blog posts as well as my first book, The Mathisen Corollary), believes that numerous pieces of evidence indicate that comets are the modern remains of water which was violently ejected from earth at the start of the catastrophic flood event.

You can read about some of this evidence in numerous previous posts on comets, such as these "internal search" results for the word comet using the internal search window for this blog found in the upper-left portion of most desktop browsers, and you can read more about Dr. Brown's analysis of the evidence regarding the origin of comets in this chapter of the latest edition of his book, which he graciously makes available in its entirety online here (you can also order the physical version of the book here).

Right now is an exciting time, because a long-traveling spacefarer in the form of a long-period comet has entered the inner solar system and is streaking past the earth, close enough to be visible with the naked eye (although not very easily -- it is more easily visible with binoculars). It is Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), discovered by Terry Lovejoy of Australia last year. This comet has an orbital period estimated by conventional scientists as approximately 14,000 years, which means that if they are right, it hasn't passed this way since around 12,000 BC, and won't be back again until around the year AD 14,000. 

There are some good reasons to suspect that the conventional estimates are somewhat flawed, which are discussed in this previous post about Comet ISON, which was based on Dr. Brown's discussion of Comet ISONin his book here. If Dr. Brown's theory is correct and the comets we see today are the remnants of a tremendous catastrophe which took place on earth thousands of years ago, it is possible that this is actually Q2's first return visit since that catastrophe took place. 

Those discussions also note that, due to the presence of mass at the outer reaches of our solar system, which might act to pull comets back a bit more quickly than conventional scientists currently calculate using their models -- which means that it might be a little less than 14,000 years before C/2014 Q2 passes back this way again. Nevertheless, an error of a few hundred years in an estimated orbital period of 14,000 probably won't make much difference to those of us living today -- and so we should probably make every effort to observe this long-traveling visitor this time around.

Fortunately, C/2014 Q2 is not difficult to locate, if you know where to look. It's not anywhere near as dramatic as was Comet Hale-Bopp, which was enormous even to the naked eye and looked exactly the way a "classical" comet would be expected to look. Q2 is very difficult to see with the naked eye, but it can be seen as a dim glow or fuzz with the naked eye, and with binoculars it can be easily perceived as what to me appeared to be a faintly-glowing tiny cloud, or perhaps what might be described as a very tiny flashlight shining towards us from behind a kind of blue fog.

But, while Hale-Bopp is also a long-period comet, its orbital period is nowhere near as long as that of C/2014 Q2. Hale-Bopp is expected to return in AD 4385 -- long before the next return of Comet Q2 -- and it had probably circled through the inner solar system at least once previously, in the 23rd century BC (there is some evidence that the ancient Egyptians may have recorded that previous visit). And so, Comet Q2, while much less visually spectacular, should inspire its own awe in the viewer, as we contemplate an object which has traveled so far, for so long, and which has streaked in towards us close enough to see from the almost-incomprehensible distance of 1,156 astronomical units (Halley's comet, a short-period comet, only gets out to 35 astronomical units before coming back, and it is due again in AD 2061).

Right now the moon is in its waning phase, on its way to a new moon on January 20. The moon is rising fairly late in the night (after 11pm, and getting later each night). So it is an excellent time to go out and look for Comet C/2014 Q2.

Below, I will present a series of images that will help you locate the comet, if you haven't been able to do so already. With apologies to my southern hemisphere friends, these will be "northern hemisphere-centric." 

First, head over to Sky & Telescope, where Alan McRobert has written an article containing two excellent star charts that show the path of the comet from one night to the next -- since we are now in January of 2015, you will want to use the second of the two charts (the very last chart at the very bottom of the article).

The arcing yellow line shows the comet's path from one night to the next, but you won't be able to actually see it moving -- look on the line for the little tick-marks indicating the comet's location by date, and find the mark indicating the current date to see where the comet should be along that curved line.

The images below should help get you "in the ballpark." 

I went outside and laid down on my back on the ground, and looked up at the sky using binoculars. If you happen to own a reclining lawn chair, that might be slightly more comfortable, although lying on the ground at night and looking up at the stars is also rather nice.

If it is not cloudy or foggy (or full of light pollution from city lights), you should have no difficulty observing the breathtaking panorama of winter stars, including Orion, Taurus, and the Pleiades. These will act as the pointers to direct us to the location of Comet C/2014 Q2.

The image below (from the excellent free open-source planetarium app Stellarium) shows the night sky as I observed it this evening, from a location that is about 35 North latitude, and looking to the south. You can clearly see Orion with his three belt stars, as well as Sirius in Canis Major to his lower left, inside the band of the Milky Way. To the right and up from Orion on the other side from Sirius, you can see the distinctive "V" of the Hyades, with orange-colored Aldebaran as their brightest star. Beyond the "V" of the Hyades you can see the gorgeous little cluster of the Pleiades. We will label these in a future slide, as we "zoom in" a little closer.

I would recommend using binoculars if you have access to some. While lying on the ground, try to observe the three belt-stars of Orion, without having to strain your neck at all (you should find that you can move the angle of the binoculars to "sweep" to different stars, without having to actually lift your head up off the ground or the reclining lounge chair). 

Check your focus -- see if they are clear and distinct. If not use the wheel to dial them into focus.

Then head up to the Pleiades. You should be able to see them all very distinctly. They are stunningly beautiful. You may want to just stare at the Pleiades for hours. They are often called the "Seven Sisters," but there are many more than seven, as you will see if you look at them with binoculars. Ensure your focus is nice and clear on the Pleiades.

Below is the same screen-shot as that shown just above, but this time I have outlined a rectangle that includes the area we want to focus on in order to locate Comet Q2:

This red rectangle shows the section of the sky that includes the "main body" stars of the constellation Orion, along with the "V" of the Hyades, and (in the upper-right corner) the cluster of the Pleiades.

Below is the area within that red rectangle:

Can you find the constellation Orion, the "V" of the Hyades (with Aldebaran), and the tiny cluster of the Pleiades in the image above?

Below is the same image, with those three landmarks labeled for you:

You should be able to find all three of these major sky landmarks with your binoculars and have good enough focus to make out the individual stars of the Pleiades or the Hyades before you try to find Comet Q2.

To find Q2, I believe the best way is to draw a line from the bottom of the "V" of the Hyades to the next star down from the "V." In other words, envision the "V" as a capital letter-"Y" instead of a "V." There is a star, clearly visible with binoculars, that you can find if you follow a line that bisects the "V" of the Hyades and if you follow that line through the point at the bottom of the "V" on across space until you reach a star that "turns the V into a capital-Y." The diagram below shows how to find this star:

The arrow at the bottom of this letter "Y" is pointing right to the first star below the "point of the V" of the Hyades. This star is actually the star designated as lambda Tauri, sometimes known as the "Bull's chest." If you find it, you are well on your way to locating the comet.

Note, of course, that this will only work for the comet's location on the next couple of nights. As those charts from Star & Telescope illustrate, the comet's path continues to arc further to the north, at the top of the screenshots above, and so soon we will have to find a new "handrail" to get us in the vicinity of the comet's location.

However, right now this method should work very well to allow you to find Comet Q2.

The comet is currently "down and to the right" from lambda Tauri, roughly along the same axis as the "arrow" shown in the screenshot just above. I found that if I continued in the same direction as the line formed from the bottom of the "V" of the Hyades through lambda Tauri

using my binoculars, lambda Tauri  would disappear from the "circle" of view of the binoculars just as the comet came into view (with lambda Tauri  disappearing to the "upper left" of the circle just as the comet appeared in the "lower right" of the circle).

Below, I have shown the "circle" of view as visible through my binoculars (10 x 24 with a 6 degree view). As I have tried to depict, if you continue down and to the right from lambda Tauri, you will get to a field that contains the comet just after lambda Tauri is no longer in the circle. The "dotted circle" would contain the comet:

As stated previously, the comet appeared to me as a kind of "glowing fog." It had a ghostly bluish color. It appears like an illuminated mist or haze, to me. I don't think you will mistake it for a star, if you have your binoculars in focus (use the Hyades or Pleiades to focus). The comet is currently at the location indicated by the red "X" below -- but remember that it will continue to travel north, and will be passing by the Pleiades on the 19th of January:

In the above image, you can see the "V" of the Hyades, then follow down the "Y" to the star lambda Tauri, and then continue moving the circular view of your binoculars a little further. You can see that the comet comes into the circle of the view as the star lambda Tauri is just outside the circle. 

Finally, I have created one more image in which I have attempted to create the "bluish glow" of the comet. This isn't really what it looks like "in person" -- the comet itself is much more magical looking, as if someone or something were illuminating a cloud or a fog. It is faint, but it is kind of ghostly-looking, as if it were glowing. The image below is simply an attempt to give the impression, in order to help you know what to look for. It also won't be this big -- not much bigger, in fact, than lambda Tauri or some of the other stars you will see as you make your way over to the comet's location, but possessing a very slight cloud around it.

I hope that this discussion gives you the motivation to go locate Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), as well as the confidence to know that you can and will find it!

This long-traveling comet is awesome to contemplate: with a periodicity that approaches 14,000 years, it is like an ocean wave which crests only once every fourteen millennia, a drum that beats out a rhythm  only once every one hundred forty centuries.

Additionally, it may be a messenger from an ancient catastrophe of incredible magnitude, a catastrophe that left scars across the face of our planet (and elsewhere in our solar system), and one that may be tied up with the mysterious ancient history of humanity.

I hope that you will be able to see it!

Comet ISON rapidly approaching perihelion, and some thoughts on fear-mongering, manipulation, and thinking for yourself

Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) is plummeting towards the Sun, and is now approaching perihelion (its closest point of approach).

The comet will slingshot around the sun at 2pm Eastern time on November 28th (which is 11am Pacific time, and since Pacific standard time is 8 hours behind Greenwich time, that means it will be 1900 Greenwich or Universal Time).

For intrepid observers who wish to try to observe the comet at or near perihelion, this helpful article from Sky & Telescope explains how to do it.  Note that you will have to block the Sun with a solid object, and use your naked eye.  Do not use a telescope or binoculars, which magnify the light and channel it right into your eyeball, and which can cause serious permanent damage.

Of course, you will have to be on a section of the globe that is facing towards the sun during the hours that Comet ISON is making its slingshot turn around the Sun -- that is to say, it will have to be daylight where you are, although if the Sun is just dropping below the horizon of the Earth's curvature, that would be a very handy "object" that you could use to block out the Sun and look for the comet.  If it is night-time where you are when the comet is reaching perihelion, you will be unable to see the comet's perihelion turn from that location using normal vision, since the entire bulk of our planet will be in your way.

That article also says that the comet will be within one "sun diameter" of our daystar during the three hour period from 1700 UT until 2000 UT (which is from 12 noon Eastern time or 9am Pacific standard until 3pm Eastern time and 12 noon Pacific).

Depending on the comet's condition after its "sungrazing" journey around the turn, it could become a spectacular object in the night sky (visible just prior to sunrise and just after sunset), and in some scenarios could become bright enough to see during full daylight.  And, as we have been told over and over, conditions could also lead to a scenario in which Comet ISON doesn't become very spectacular at all.

The video embedded above shows NASA footage of Comet ISON approaching the Sun over the  five-day period from 20 November through 25 November, composed of HD images snapped by the STEREO-A spacecraft and its Heliospheric Imager.  Here is a link to a page about the STEREO spacecraft (there are two of them, working in tandem, as you might expect) containing an outstanding graphic animation which shows where STEREO A was located when it took the sequence shown above.  The still-frame shot below shows where STEREO A was in relation to Comet ISON, the Sun, the Earth, and the planet Mercury on November 24 (near the end of the video sequence shown above).

Using the upper diagram, you can see why the Sun is located just out of the field of view to the right edge of the video above, and why Mercury is seen to the left and our planet Earth to the right.

In the video at top (not shown in the animation or the screenshot) you can also see very clearly Comet 2P/Encke, the comet with the shortest period of all known comets (only 3 years per round trip).  It is actually visible from the beginning of the video, heading "downwards" as if it wants to intersect the more "horizontal" path of Comet ISON.  Encke does not show much of a tail until towards the end of the video, so it looks in the video much the way a satellite looks moving through the night sky to a viewer on earth -- but it is a comet, not a satellite.

There are actually five comets visible in the night sky from the northern hemisphere right now for those using binoculars or small telescopes, including C/2013 R1 Lovejoy (the most easily-visible of them all right now, discussed briefly in this previous post, and currently visible to the naked eye in the pre-dawn morning sky near Bootes the Herdsman, who sits near the Big Dipper smoking a pipe which is very close to the handle of the Dipper),  Comet C/2013 V3 Nevski (just discovered this month!), Comet C/2012 X1 LINEAR, Comet 2P/Encke, and Comet ISON.  Descriptions of these comets, and directions for locating them in the sky, can be found on the Comet Chasing page from Skyhound, the makers of SkyTools 3 observing software.  The Comet Chasing page also describes a comet visible with small telescopes and binoculars to viewers in the southern hemisphere, as well as other comets visible only for those with larger telescopes.

Until the discovery of Comet Nevski, the appearance of four comets in the sky at the same time (with one of them, ISON, getting so much notoriety from various commentators) was prompting some comparisons to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (who are found in the book of the Revelation or Apocalypse -- both words literally mean "the unveiling," although the word "Revelation" is the way to say "unveiling" that is descended from the Latin, and the word "Apocalypse" is the Greek way to say it).  They are described in Revelation chapter 6.

Here is an article from Clyde Lewis of Ground Zero Media that pulls together an impressive array of connections between the comets, predictions in the Revelation, the Maya calendar cycle that was the subject of so much discussion at the end of last year, and worrisome current events (including volcanic eruptions).  The article also points out that elsewhere in the Revelation (in fact in Revelation chapter 8:10-11), a great star is described which fell from heaven, "burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters" -- the name of this star is called Wormwood.

While not mentioned in that "Four Horsemen" article, there have been several troubling articles appearing on various internet sites arguing that dangerous levels of radiation or radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster are now reaching the west coast and beginning to play havoc with marine wildlife.  However, some analysts have challenged some of these sensationalist claims, such as this article from deep-sea biologist Andrew David Thaler published on the Southern Fried Science blog.  Personally, I do not buy all of Andrew Thaler's arguments in this article, and believe some of those arguments are not well supported (at one point, he engages in a blatant ad hominem attack with no other evidence cited besides the ad hominem attack itself).

This controversy highlights the importance of doing some of your own "due diligence" when it comes to investigating matters that might be of great importance to your future.  When it comes to questions about the status of the fallout from the Fukushima disaster or questions about whether the current array of comets (and Comet ISON in particular) have anything to do with ancient apocalyptic prophetic literature, it is probably advisable to avoid being swept up by those who want to stir up fear (for whatever reason).  At the same time, while being wary of "fear mongering," it is equally important to avoid making the opposite error of complacency, or of too-rapidly dismissing possible dangers that might really be associated with these events.  For instance, just because some articles about the impact of the Fukushima radiation might be deliberately misleading and designed to create the maximum amount of fear and uncertainty among the widest possible number of people, it does not mean that we can dismiss the dangers of Fukushima altogether, or brand everyone who sounds an alarm bell on the subject as a "fearmonger."

For the record, none of the above statements should be interpreted as an accusation that Clyde Lewis's "Four Horsemen" article is being deliberately misleading or engaging in speculative fearmongering.  His article draws a number of interesting connections to a variety of ancient and modern subjects, and he tells his readers several times during the article that it is not meant to be read as a declaration that the apocalyptic doom some were trumpeting at the end of 2012 was "off by a year" and due at the end of 2013, but that on the other hand he thinks all these matters are worth being aware of.  That seems to be a responsible enough way to approach the subject.

However, I personally believe that the Maya calendar event of December 2012 referred to an astronomical event caused by the phenomenon of precession, and that "end of the world" prophecies  in sacred traditions around the world and across millennia generally refer to the end of a precessional age, not to physical or geological catastrophes that take place on the planet (they are referring to events in the sky).  Previous posts explaining the concept of precession include this one (which contains a video) and this one (which should make the impact of precession on the position of the stars completely clear).  For discussions of the Maya Long Count and 2012, and the connection to precession, see "The Maya Long Count and Galactic Alignment: the work of John Major Jenkins," and "The Staggering Implications of the Maya Long Count," among other posts from last year.

Similarly, I believe that most if not all of the events described in the book of the Revelation (or the Apocalypse) also refer to celestial phenomena.  For some discussion of this subject, see "The Scorpion and the Smoky Abyss."  That article discusses some verses in Revelation which some have taken to be referring to literal events on earth (for example, identifying the "locusts" of Revelation chapter 9 as helicopters in some horrific modern war that was being described by a vision given in ancient times), but which probably refer to constellations (the locusts of chapter 9 probably refer to the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius).  As Clyde Lewis states in the article linked above, the Four Horsemen have very clear astronomical connections as well.

However, just because those ancient sacred texts may not have been written to be understood in a strictly literal manner does not mean that certain people might not be using them as a script to try to follow: after all, the fact that millions of people believe that those ancient texts refer to literal events could give a huge boost in potential "fearmongering impact" to anyone who wanted to manipulate current events in conjunction with widely-known ancient verses.

Here is a link to a recent interview on Red Ice Radio with Richard C. Hoagland, who states during the second half of the interview that he believes Comet ISON might actually have been manipulated by humans who have access to extremely advanced forms of space travel (the so-called "secret space program") in order to arrive on specially-selected dates at a location and elevation which would produce significant numbers when measured from the site of major ritualistic events in early 2014 (such as the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics).

Whether or not you agree with this theory (I personally have not seen enough evidence to make a dogmatic assertion either way on that one, although it is certainly worth investigating), all of the above discussion seems to argue the importance of understanding the principles of the mechanics of the celestial objects whirling through our solar system, as well as the connections to the ancient sacred traditions of mankind, all of which reveal an extremely sophisticated scientific understanding of celestial phenomena, as well as a level of interest in these phenomena which implies their belief that these events are of more than just "academic interest" to men and women living on this planet.

When it comes to issues of major potential impact on our lives, we owe it to ourselves to do some analysis of our own and reach our own conclusions, and to avoid letting others tell us how to think, or manipulate us through fear.

Is this really Comet ISON's first trip into the inner solar system?

The much-anticipated Comet C/2012 S1(ISON) has been plummeting towards its near-rendezvous with the sun, picking up speed as it does, and this week the comet suddenly brightened dramatically and changed its appearance.  

This article from Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, writing over at Slate, showcases some of the outstanding photographs which observers around the world have been capturing of the comet as its appearance becomes more and more spectacular.  

His article also discusses the reasons Comet ISON might have suddenly brightened, the reasons comets begin to sport multiple tails as they approach the sun, and the factors which influence the coloration of those different tails.  Here's a link from that article to an incredible photograph captured on November 15th by talented photographer of the heavens Damian Peach.

Comet ISON is now inside the orbit of our planet, closer to the sun than we are, which means that we on earth need to look towards the sun in order to locate it.  That means that, like Mercury or Venus (which are also, of course, orbiting closer to the sun than we are), it must be observed near sunrise or sunset, depending on its location.  In its current location, Comet ISON is found by looking to the east prior to the sunrise.

There are several good resources to help observers who want to look for Comet ISON.  While some skilled observers with excellent viewing conditions have reported locating Comet ISON with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope are recommended.  Over the next few days, the comet is very close to the important star Spica, in Virgo, early in the morning prior to sunrise (Spica rises a little after 4 am right now for observers at the latitude of the Great Pyramid, and rises about four minutes earlier each morning).

Here are several resources which give directions to help observers locate Comet ISON in the predawn sky:
  • Skyhound's "Chasing Comet ISON."
  • Sky charts from Sky & Telescope showing the paths of Comet Lovejoy (higher in the morning sky than Comet ISON and nearly as bright!) and Comet ISON.
  • An excellent article with sky diagrams written on November 16 by Paul Sutherland at his Skymania site.
There are also numerous previous posts on this blog discussing the location of the constellation Virgo and how to find it, including this one, this one, and this one.

While almost every article you see about Comet ISON will declare that this is its first time through the solar system after being ejected from the hypothetical Oort cloud, there are solid reasons that individuals with open minds should question this assertion.

First of all, there are tremendous problems with the Oort cloud theory.  While the Oort cloud theory has many different variations, all of them posit an origin for comets at an incredible distance, and that poses some king-sized problems for subscribers to that theory.  This previous post discusses some of those problems, and refers to the work of Thomas Van Flandern, former Chief of Celestial Mechanics at the US Naval Observatory, who pointed out the huge problems with the Oort cloud theory and offered his own counter-hypothesis, which was that comets came from an exploded "fifth planet" in the solar system (which would have been located between Mars and Jupiter).  He also pointed out that Jan Oort himself "always maintained that an origin of comets from within the solar system, perhaps in connection with the event which gave rise to the asteroid belt, was the most probable" (footnote "e"on page 191 of Dr. Van Flandern's book Dark Matter). 

While Dr. Van Flandern maintains that an exploded planet from inside the orbit of Jupiter is the "only dynamically viable" alternative to the theory that comets come from far outside the solar system in the hypothetical Oort cloud (an assertion he makes on pages 179 and 218 of the book), the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown also proposes a theory that would explain aspects of comets that the Oort cloud cannot explain: that comets were ejected from earth during a catastrophic event, an event which also explains several hundred other pieces of evidence in the solar system and on earth which pose king-sized problems of their own for conventional theories.

In his online book, Dr. Brown devotes an entire chapter to discussing the origins of comets, and the evidence which defies explanation by hypotheses that have been proposed thus far, including the exploding planet theory and the various Oort cloud theories.  One of the biggest problems for the Oort cloud theories is the difficulty of explaining the very high number of comets in "Jupiter's family" -- comets whose orbit takes them to an aphelion (farthest point from the sun) that is between 4 and 6 astronomical units (AU -- defined as the average distance of the earth from the sun), whose orbital distance is 5.2 AU.  Dr. Brown discusses this problem on this page in his comet chapter.

The problem posed by Jupiter's family stems from the fact that if a comet really originates in the hypothetical Oort cloud, thought to be around 50,000 AU from the sun, that comet's velocity by the time it comes into the solar system is so high that slowing it down enough to join Jupiter's family is very hard to accomplish without ripping the comet apart completely.  It is possible that just the right interactions with multiple planets on the way into and/or out of the solar system could have slowed a comet down in just the right way to allow it to fall into Jupiter's family, but the high number of comets in Jupiter's family, and the fact that astronomers have noted that life in Jupiter's family is also very dangerous for a comet (with increased chance of collision with Jupiter, among other factors), bringing the life expectancy of a comet in Jupiter's family down to 12,000 years, makes an Oort cloud origin extremely unlikely.

Another important grouping of comets is composed of comets with aphelions far beyond those in Jupiter's family -- reaching distances beyond 500 AU before falling back towards the sun.  These comets have orbits that are "nearly parabolic" -- if they were to accelerate just a little more on the way out, they would escape the gravity of the sun altogether and never return.  A comet with enough energy to escape the solar system has an orbit that is termed "hyperbolic" (the boundary line between an elliptical orbit and a hyperbolic orbit is a parabola).

However, despite of the large number of comets with orbits that are near-parabolas ("just this side" of going hyperbolic), and despite the fact that incoming near-parabolic comets sometimes receive a boost in velocity and exit the solar system on a hyperbolic trajectory, no comets come in towards the sun with hyperbolic orbits.  As Dr. Brown explains in the discussion surrounding diagram 165 in his current online version of his book, "Incoming hyperbolic comets have never been seen -- a very important point" (italics in original).

This means that comets may be coming back into the inner solar system for the first time, but that based on their trajectories we cannot dogmatically declare that they have never been here before.  If they have orbital trajectories that are nearly parabolic, but that were not hyperbolic on their incoming journey, it is possible that they came from an explosive event in the inner solar system (either from earth or from an exploded "fifth planet")  and that their initial velocity was insufficient to allow them to escape.  Some comets from that initial catastrophe may have had enough velocity to escape, but of course they did not come back.  Those that we see coming back may be coming back for their first return journey, but if they are not coming in with an incoming hyperbolic trajectory it is possible -- even likely -- that they have been here before, at least once.

Thus, if the hydroplate theory is correct (and it would provide very satisfactory explanations for numerous other pieces of comet evidence discussed by Dr. Brown in his book [as well as the recent discovery of an object in the asteroid belt behaving like a comet], in addition to the large numbers of comets in both Jupiter's family and in the group with near-parabolic orbits), Comet ISON is not coming in for its very first visit to the inner solar system.  It has been here at least once before, even if only on its way out.  All the blogs and articles declaring that this is the comet's first visit (such as this one from the NASA website declaring that Comet ISON is "made of pristine matter from the earliest days of the solar system's formation" making it extremely valuable to scientists -- "a time capsule from when the solar system first formed") are wrong.  That in itself is an extremely important possibility which should cause scientists to carefully consider the hydroplate theory.

However, Dr. Brown discusses an even more astonishing possibility.  Apparently, Comet ISON is coming in so fast that it appears to have an incoming hyperbolic trajectory -- a first, and one which seems to be a huge problem for the hydroplate theory.  But Dr. Brown points out that Comet ISON's path is incredibly similar to the path of the Great Comet of 1680, as he discusses in an inset halfway down this page of his comet chapter, under Figure 167 (showing a contemporary painting by a Dutch artist of the comet's appearance).

Dr. Brown notes that some analysts soon after Comet ISON was first discovered were so struck by the similarity in trajectories between Comet ISON and the Great Comet of 1680 that they thought the two must have been the same comet in the distant past, and split apart.  Obviously this suggestion would not be possible if Comet ISON has never been in the inner solar system before and if it is really coming in on an inbound hyperbolic trajectory.

But why would those astronomers have suggested that Comet ISON was a split-apart piece from the Great Comet of 1680, instead of the return of the Great Comet of 1680 itself?  Because, based on their theories of the mass of the solar system, they believe that the Great Comet of 1680 will travel 880 AU from the sun and take 10,000 years to return.  However, Dr. Brown believes that they have underestimated the true mass of the solar system, and that additional mass lying outside the planetary region of our solar system will pull it back much sooner than conventional theorists believe -- that in fact Comet ISON is the return of the Great Comet of 1680!

There is good evidence to suggest that Dr. Brown is correct.  First, as the Pioneer spacecraft entered the region where Dr. Brown believes there is unexpected mass orbiting the sun at a great distance, they slowed down, to the surprise of scientists.  This phenomenon has since been dubbed "the Pioneer effect" or the "Pioneer anomaly."

Second, as Dr. Brown shows in Table 15 on this page of his comet chapter, there are perhaps two dozen other comets with remarkably similar orbit, which conventional scientists believe are different comets, but which Dr. Brown argues are the same comet returning earlier than conventional models would predict.  He calls these comets "strange pairs" and argues that they are not "pairs" at all.

Third, other comets have returned ahead of schedule.  Comet 153P Ikeya-Zhang, with an aphelion near 101 AU and the longest known orbital period of the "periodic comets," returned ahead of schedule, as did Comet 35P Herschel-Rigollet, as Dr. Brown discusses in the upper half of the same page in his comet chapter.

In addition to all the above, the possibility that Comet ISON is the return of the Great Comet of 1680 would then be yet another piece of evidence that -- far from posing a problem for the hydroplate theory -- adds strong additional supporting data which argues that Dr. Brown and his theory is correct!

As Dr. Brown points out, like the Great Comet of 1680, Comet ISON is going to make an extremely close approach to the sun -- to a distance of only 0.012 AU.  It is extremely unlikely for two different objects to come from so far away, from an almost identical direction, and pass so close to the sun.  It's as if, he says, it is "almost like barely missing a bull's eye from a distant star's solar system light years away."

You can see the trajectory for yourself in this excellent "orbit diagram" tool from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which enables the viewer to zoom in and zoom out, and to spin the solar system around on different axes in order to view the comet's path from the side, from "overhead," and from any other direction in space imaginable.  With it, you can get a real perspective at how difficult it is to accept that two different bodies coming from that far away could just randomly follow that path and get that close to the sun without hitting it (see two screen shots below as an example, although zooming in and out yourself is far more effective at conveying the enormous scale of the comet's orbit).

So, as you go out to look for Comet ISON in the early pre-dawn hours, you may actually be looking at the unanticipated return of the Great Comet of 1680!  And, at the same time, you may be looking at one of the most dramatic confirmations of Dr. Walt Brown's hydroplate theory.

What do you know? Astronomers discover an asteroid that acts like a comet, active asteroid P/2013 P5 (it's a UFLO)

In August of this year, astronomers monitoring the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii discovered a space object in the asteroid belt which was described as "unusually fuzzing-looking" -- a rather strange description and one that perhaps coins a new word ("fuzzing").**

The use of this strange new word, used in a way that seems to defy normal grammatical and syntactical conventions, may have been appropriate in this case, because the strange new object seems to defy normal assumptions about our solar system.  Less than a month later astronomers using imagery from the Hubble Telescope were astonished to observe the object, which was orbiting with asteroids along the inner edge of the asteroid belt, ejecting as many as six comet-like tails!  The object, which was designated "active asteroid P/2013 P5" or simply "P5" for short (a rather ungainly moniker, which might have been better left as the "UFLO," or "unusually fuzzing-looking object") seemed to combine characteristics of an asteroid and a comet, completely defying conventional models of either comets or asteroids, and causing lead investigator Professor David Jewitt to say that he and his team were "literally dumbfounded." 

The reason this asteroid-shaped object, located in the main asteroid belt but spewing tails that resemble comet tails, causes difficulty for many adherents of conventional models is that those models propose very different mechanisms for the origin of comets and the origin of asteroids.  An object located among the main asteroid belt exhibiting some comet-like properties exposes problems with the conventional model for the origin of both comets and asteroids.

The paper published today (November 07) in Astrophysical Journal Letters by Dr. Jewitt, along with Jessica Agarwal, Harold Weaver, Max Mutchler, and Stephen Larson entitled "The Extraordinary Multi-Tailed Main-Belt Comet P/2013 P5" does a good job of explaining the problems that this UFLO poses for the conventional models.  

The paper explains that P5 has an "asteroid-like orbit and comet-like appearance" (page 2).  The ejection of streams of vaporous matter can be explained for comets, which contain ice as well as mineral particles and which are thought to come from the "Oort cloud," a hypothetical shell of orbiting comets situated extremely far from the sun, but scientists are at a loss to explain how a comet from the Oort cloud could have possibly ended up in an asteroid-like orbit among the other asteroids in the main asteroid belt. 

Similarly, the Kuiper Belt (which is much closer to our sun than the hypothetical Oort cloud) contains ice and other gasses, as well as rocky objects, but again it is difficult to explain how anything from the Kuiper Belt could have joined the asteroid belt in an asteroid-style orbit like the orbit of P5.  In fact, the physics appear to rule out the possibility of either an Oort Cloud object or a Kuiper Belt object ending up following the path around the sun that P5 is following.  In their paper, Professor Jewitt et al. explain the problem:
No known dynamical path connects the main-belt to the Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud comet reservoirs [page 2 of the paper by Jewitt et al.]. [. . .] Neither is it likely that P5 could be a comet captured from the Kuiper Belt or Oort cloud comet reservoirs; numerical simulations show that such capture is effectively impossible in the modern solar system (Fernandez et al. 2002 [page 5 of the paper by Jewitt et al.].
This is a king-sized problem.  If this object, which appears to be behaving like a comet by spewing out long tails of matter, did not and could not have come from the outer fringes of the solar system (or far beyond the outer fringes, in the case of the proposed Oort cloud) where scientists believe that comets originate, then where did it come from?  Are we to suppose that comets can come from the inner solar system?  "Preposterous!" say the supporters of the conventional models.

But if P5 is not a comet (since comets can only come from the Kuiper Belt or even further away), then its comet-like tails must be explained as material that an asteroid or other solar system object might throw off, and the difficulty is in explaining how an asteroid could throw off the comet-like tails that P5 exhibits. 

Comet tails are composed of icy particles that can stretch for tens of millions of miles through space (or even longer).  The problem that P5 poses is that conventional models for the formation of asteroids in the main belt do not admit to the presence of enough water or ice to create comet-like tails.  The paper by Dr. Jewitt et al. explains that:
The orbit of P5 lies near the inner edge of the asteroid belt, in the vicinity of the Flora family of S-type asteroids.  These objects have been associated with the LL chondrites, which themselves reflect metamorphism to temperatures ~860o C to 960o(Keil 2000).  As such, P5 is an unlikely carrier of water ice, and sublimation is unlikely to account for the observed activity.  5.
With water or ice removed as an option for explaining the tails of fuzzing-object P5, the scientists have to come up with another hypothesis.  They suggest that impacts could raise dust clouds, but the problem is that P5 has been observed for some time now and the ejections are continuing.  See the two images from the Hubble Telescope above, which are available here, along with press releases and other discussion from NASA.   

After rejecting these explanations, the paper's authors conclude: "The surviving hypothesis is that P5 is a body showing rotational mass-shedding, presumably from torques imposed by solar radiation" (6). I other words, the sun is causing the asteroid to spin and the spin is causing it to disintegrate, and as it disintegrates the disintegrating particles are streaming out and looking like six comet tails.


How exactly that is taking place, and why it would look the way it does in the images, is not explained, and the paper's authors note that such a "rotational mass-shedding" has not yet been quantitatively modeled, and has some problems associated with it as an explanation (such as, how fast would the particles really be coming out of an asteroid that is spinning in the way that this hypothesis proposes?)

Not surprisingly, if the scientists were to consider the work of Dr. Walt Brown, whose hydroplate theory posits a very different mechanism for the origin of comets, they would find solutions for all of the above problems.  Dr. Brown's theory contains detailed chapters on the "The Origin of Comets" and "The Origins of Asteroids and Meteoroids," and it argues that both originate from the same source and are in fact related!  In other words, the discovery of a bizarre hybrid like P/2013 P5 is not astonishing at all -- on the contrary, it is exactly the sort of thing that the hydroplate theory would have predicted!   

First of all, the hydroplate theory argues that comets do not come from a hypothetical and currently-unobservable "Oort cloud."  The huge problems with the Oort cloud theory are discussed in this previous post entitled "Comet origins and the mysteries of mankind's ancient past," where former Chief of Celestial Mechanics at the US Naval Observatory Dr. Tom Van Flandern is quoted explaining some of the extremely improbable aspects of the Oort cloud theory.

Instead, the hydroplate theory argues that comets -- and asteroids and meteoroids -- are all products of a violent catastrophic event that rocked one of the planets of the inner solar-system, spewing both rock and water (which froze into ice) deep into space.  That planet of the inner solar-system is the one you are sitting on right now as you read this (unless you have an extremely unusual internet connection using a technology the rest of us do not know about yet). 

In the chapter on comets linked above, Dr. Brown explains why this hypothesis for the origins of comets fits the observed evidence, evidence which causes nearly insurmountable problems for all the other current theories, including the conventionally-accepted theories held by most academics today.

Furthermore, in the chapter on asteroids and meteoroids linked above, Dr. Brown explains that the asteroids in our solar system, including those in the main belt where P5 is orbiting, came from the same catastrophic inner solar system event.  He also explains that many large asteroids are not really solid space rocks, but are instead composed of many smaller particles which have clumped together and which are held together by a relatively weak glue of water ice, and which also contain a lot of empty space.  All of this discussion is supported by physics, which Dr. Brown cites.

This explanation by Dr. Brown explains a plethora of evidence surrounding both comets and asteroids, evidence which causes major headaches for proponents of the conventional theories.  Interestingly enough, Dr. Brown's explanation also explains the "problems" posed by P5 cited in the paper published today.

For starters, if comets do not originate in some very faraway Oort cloud, or even from the Kuiper Belt (both points of origin which cannot get a comet into the orbit P5 follows), then one of the biggest problems that P5 poses goes away immediately.  If comets originated from earth (and the evidence suggests that they did, as Dr. Brown's chapter on comets and as numerous previous posts on this subject -- see this post, this post and this post, for instance -- have illustrated), then the idea that a comet-like object could have ended up in the asteroid belt becomes quite possible.

Further, the fact that comets and asteroids are really all related clears up some of the other difficulties cited in the P5 paper published today as well.  As noted above, Dr. Brown believes that many asteroids contain water-ice, especially the larger asteroids which rotate more slowly (smaller asteroids which rotate very rapidly are probably solid chunks of rock, but large and slow-rotating asteroids are probably big aggregates or conglomerates of smaller chunks, held together by a glue of water ice).  

But what about the difficulty cited in the paper of having water ice on an asteroid, which contains chondrites indicating the rock experienced extremely high temperatures in the past?  Does Dr. Brown's theory deny the presence of these chondrites, or that they indicate extremely high heating and even metamorphism in the past?  

Not at all!  

Dr. Brown's theory explains in great detail that, prior to the catastrophic earth event which launched the rocks and water into space, rock within earth's crust was under tremendous pressure.  Some of the astonishing by-products of the forces at work are examined in the chapter entitled "The Origin of Earth's Radioactivity." It is perfectly consistent with the laws of physics to believe that the pressure and heating that created the signatures cited in today's paper took place while those rocks that are now in asteroids were still part of earth's crust.  

When they were violently launched into space, out of the orbit of the earth (but still in orbits around the sun, with many widely varying paths), along with tons of supercritical water from the earth, the water and debris ended up as today's comets and asteroids and meteoroids.  That water is now frozen, but the presence of frozen water alongside rocks that were once heated up to the point of producing chondrites does not cause any problems for advocates of the hydroplate theory.  It only causes problems for the conventional theories, but the conventional theories have all kinds of other problems that Dr. Brown outlines in his book, problems that involve evidence available for examination long before the discovery of P/2013 P5.

The discovery of P5 only serves as yet another dramatic piece of evidence which suggests the fundamental flaws of the conventionally-accepted theories.  

It also serves as yet another dramatic piece of evidence which suggests that Dr. Brown's theory, explaining the observed evidence on our planet and in our solar system through the mechanism of a catastrophic event in earth's past, has tremendous predictive and explanatory power.  The ability to make correct predictions, and to be able to explain new discoveries that were not even known when the theory was first put forward, may well be the most critical acid test for a scientific theory.

Why hasn't Dr. Brown's theory received the recognition it deserves?  Why haven't scientists flocked to examine it more closely?  Why is it not at least given a place as one of the "surviving hypotheses" when scientists come across new evidence which their favored theories have no way of explaining?

The obvious answer is that Dr. Brown's theory involves a global flood, in line with the flood described in the Old Testament.  This alone places his theory "beyond the pale" and ensures that conventional scientists will not touch it.  However, that is ridiculous behavior.  Accepting the possibility of a catastrophic event in our planet's past does not automatically require those who accept that possibility to suddenly adopt a literal understanding of the entire Old Testament (let alone the New Testament), any more than it requires them to suddenly adopt a literal understanding of the sacred traditions of ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, or of the Ackawois people (of the part of South America that is today called Guyana), or the Hopi people, or any number of other people around the globe who have also believed in a flood.

The fact that Dr. Brown's theory sheds tremendous light on the newly-discovered "active asteroid P/2013 P5" should cause astronomers and scientists around the world to take note and look into his arguments more carefully.  

Refusing to even consider it as a possibility is just an example of "fuzzing-thinking." 

** At least, that's the way it was quoted in this article, which contained links to sources, none of which actually contained the phrase "fuzzing-looking."   It may be that this was just a typo, or it may be that someone coined a new (awkward) descriptor to go along with a new (awkward, at least for conventional solar system models) space object.   See screenshot below:

Comet Tempel 1 and the Deep Impact mission of 2005

(image above: Wikimedia commons).

Comet Tempel 1 is a short-period comet with an orbital period of approximately 5.5 years and a perihelion of about 1.5 AUs (an AU or "astronomical unit" is a unit that is roughly the mean earth-sun distance, and the perihelion of 1.5 AUs means that Comet Tempel 1's orbit takes it further from the sun than the orbit of Mars but not as far as Jupiter).  

The comet was discovered in April of 1867 by Ernst Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel, of France, who was looking for comets at the time (see this discussion of the comet's history from the NASA webpage). As that page explains, the comet was observed that year using telescopes until it was lost from sight in August of 1867, but it was reacquired at its next visit in 1873, then again in 1879 (when Tempel himself recovered visual observation of his discovery), after which it was lost to observers on earth until 1967.

In 1967, Professor Elizabeth Roemer, an American astronomer, took several photographic images of the area in space where the comet was predicted to reappear.  Her initial inspection of the plates turned up nothing, but upon re-checking them the following year she noticed a very faint (18th magnitude) object near the location that the comet's return had been calculated to be, in the plate from June 8th of 1967.  Later analysis of the comet confirmed that this image was indeed Comet Tempel 1, reacquired after all those years.

On its next visit in 1972, Professor Roemer and another astronomer successfully recovered observation of Comet Tempel 1, and it has since been observed on every subsequent visit, according to the NASA site linked above.  

The most remarkable history of the comet, however, was yet to take place.  In 1999, planning began for a mission to study the composition of comets by firing a "smart impactor" into a comet, releasing material from the comet into space from the impact.  This material could then be observed up close by the spacecraft that had fired the impactor, and the spectrometry and other data studied to reveal information about the makeup of the comet itself.

The mission was dubbed "Deep Impact," and the Deep Impact spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (Cape Kennedy) in January of 2005, on its way to a rendezvous with Comet Tempel 1 in July of the same year (see this NASA page for details of the launch).  The Deep Impact spacecraft was a two-part system consisting of the flyby spacecraft (described as being about 11 feet by 8 feet by 7 feet) and the smart, instrumented, self-guiding impactor (which weighed about 816 pounds counting fuel at the time it was launched).  The impactor was made largely of copper (it was 49% copper) to minimize interference with the comet's material.

At this time eight years ago, Deep Impact was speeding towards Tempel 1, taking images as it approached.  From the images, scientists have calculated that the comet's nucleus is roughly 7.6 kilometers (4.7 miles) by 4.9 kilometers (3.0 miles), and venting or outgassing sporadically as it orbits the sun.  At twenty-four hours before intended impact, the impactor separated from the flyby vehicle and shot towards the comet's nucleus.

What happened next is astonishing.  The impactor successfully struck the comet and created an enormous cloud of debris (often referred to as the "ejecta" by scientists writing about the event).  The spectral analysis revealed a host of amazing material from the comet, including organic material!  How did that get there!?

In addition to this perplexing discovery, scientists found numerous materials in the debris cloud that also create some explanatory difficulties.  This discussion of the analysis of the ejecta pubished in 2006 indicates that the spectral analysis of the debris thrown up by the tremendous impact included: "both crystalline and amorphous (glassy) silicates, amorphous carbon, carbonates, clay minerals (phyllosilicates), water in both the gaseous and solid states and sulfides."  This page on the NASA website also discusses the material ejected when the impactor struck the comet.

Dr. Walt Brown, the originator of the hydroplate theory, provides extensive discussion of comets in his book (which can be read in its entirety online or purchased for reading in hardcopy), because comets have so many features which confound conventional theories, but which can be satisfactorily explained by the hydroplate theory (previous blog posts on this topic can be found here and here, for example, or found by using the blog-specific search window at the upper left of this page). 

Dr. Brown points out that the ejecta from the impact of the 2005 mission pose numerous problems for conventional comet theorists.  For example, the fact that the comet contains crystalline dust is difficult to explain if comets form in deep space.  Dust formed in outer space should be noncrystalline, posing a serious problem to the theory that comets form in a hypothetical "Oort cloud" beyond the solar system, as well as to other theories that posit a deep-space origin for comet dust, as Dr. Brown explains in the section of his book comparing various comet-origin theories in detail (that section begins here).  

Dr. Brown also notes that the organic material found in the comets poses serious problems for most conventional comet theories.  Vegetation or bacteria capable of producing the organic readings found in the spectra of Comet Tempel 1 would not be expected to originate in the cold, dark reaches of space where most conventional theorists believe comets come from.

Additionally, note that the 2006 list of debris ingredients includes silicates (which Dr. Brown points out contain considerable oxygen, "a rare commodity in space"), carbonates (they found calcium carbonates, or limestone, a mineral that forms in liquid water -- something difficult to explain in the frigid vacuum of space where the Oort cloud is supposed to reside), and clay (another mineral substance that requires liquid water).

All of these findings, however, including the presence of organic methane in the comet's ejecta, are completely predictable if the origin of comets was the planet earth!  According to the hydroplate theory, comets originated when subterranean supercritical water was ejected at tremendous velocities during the events surrounding a catastrophic flood in earth's past.  

Dr. Brown's explanation of this comet-origin theory can be found in the paragraph that begins below the long table (Table 13) on this webpage (a little over halfway down the webpage).  He explains that: "Carried up with the water were eroded dirt particles, minerals that form only in scalding-hot, high-pressure, liquid water, pulverized organic matter (especially cellulose from preflood forests), and even bacteria."  This explanation accounts for all of the surprising features of the composition of Comet Tempel 1.

For example, silicates are one of the most common components of earth's crust, and the fact that they contain oxygen is no problem if they originated on earth.   According to Dr. Brown's theory, the material that escaped earth's atmosphere and formed comets originated in the hot, mineral-rich water that had been trapped beneath the earth's surface under great pressure.  This theory would explain the presence of minerals and clays that form only in the presence of hot, liquid water (see this portion of Dr. Brown's book, point 7 near the bottom of the webpage).  Dr. Brown's theory also explains the organic materials: "Organic compounds—including methane, ethane, and the amino acid glycine—are found in comets,1 because that water contained pulverized vegetation from preflood forests (as well as bacteria and other traces of life) from within hundreds of miles of the globe-encircling rupture."

Further, comets contain significant amounts of heavy hydrogen -- about twice the amount that is found in the oceans on earth today.  This actually accords quite well with the hydroplate theory:
Comets are rich in heavy hydrogen, because the water in the subterranean chambers was isolated from other water in the solar system. Our oceans have half the concentration of heavy hydrogen that comets have. So, if half the water in today’s oceans came from the subterranean chambers (as assumed on page 118), then almost all heavy hydrogen came from the subterranean chambers. (This will become even more clear after reading the radioactivity chapter on pages 350395.)  
Other theories have difficulty explaining the presence of this heavy hydrogen because, as Dr. Brown explains, "The concentration of heavy hydrogen in comets is 20-100 times that of interstellar space and the solar system as a whole.  Evidently, comets came from an isolated reservoir."

This information is probably not common knowledge to many members of the general public.  This NASA page discussing the ejection plume mentions the "substantial amount" of organic material measured and speculates that other similar comets "could have brought this material to Earth early in our planet's history."  Such speculation, however, does not provide much detail as to how that organic material could have gotten into the comets in the first place.  A far more likely conclusion at this point, given all the evidence discussed above, seems to be that earth sent the organic material out into space, rather than the other way around.

The evidence in support of the hydroplate theory is extremely wide-ranging and not limited to our planet (although there is plenty of evidence here on earth as well, from the tops of the tallest mountains to the bottom of the deepest trenches of the Pacific).  The mysterious properties of comets rank high among the list of evidence that is very difficult for conventional theories to handle, but which strongly support the hydroplate theory's explanation of the events of the ancient past.

Asteroid 1998 QE2 and its newly-discovered asteroid moon

Earth was recently visited by a large asteroid, first discovered in 1998 and ironically given the name Asteroid QE2.  

As this page from the NASA website explains, the asteroid made its closest approach to earth (until it returns in another 200 years) on May 31 at 1:59 in the afternoon, Pacific time (4:59 pm Eastern / 2059 UTC).  Its approach only brought it to a distance of 3.6 million miles away -- about 15 times the distance of the earth and the moon, according to NASA.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this flyby was the discovery based on radar imagery, captured on the evening of May 29 this week, that Asteroid 1998 QE2 has its own small "moon" traveling in tandem with the asteroid on its lonely journey through space.  Scientists estimate that Asteroid QE2 itself is 1.7 miles in diameter, while its partner is only 2,000 feet wide.  Asteroids that travel in tandem with another asteroid are sometimes called binaries, and as the NASA site says, scientists estimate that about 16% of the near-earth asteroids 200 meters in size or larger (655 feet or larger) have moons.

While the asteroid and its companion received a lot of press, very few of the articles tackle the question of how an asteroid could capture another asteroid as its moon (including the NASA discussion of Asteroid QE2 and its moon).  No mention is made of just how difficult of a physics problem that is, and the general public is basically left with the impression that binary asteroids are not difficult to explain.

In fact, asteroids like QE2 that possess moons are very difficult to explain under conventional theories, as Dr. Walt Brown, originator of the hydroplate theory, discusses in the chapter of his book devoted to "The Origin of Asteroids and Meteorites." 

Conventional attempts to explain the origin of the asteroids that orbit the sun in our solar system often posit that they are space rocks that were on their way to becoming a planet, but never quite managed to do so -- the so-called "failed-planet theory."  Another theory, a bit more out on a limb, is the hypothesis that the asteroids are the remnants of an exploded planet.  Some analysts even believe that this exploded planet was destroyed in a cosmic war, rather than exploding due to some kind of natural event.

Dr. Brown explains that neither of these theories can easily explain the presence of asteroids with moons.  Part 6 of "Question 7" located just over halfway down this page in Dr. Brown's discussion of asteroids and meteorites outlines some of the problems in explaining binary asteroids:
Some asteroids have captured one or more moons. [See Figure 168.] Sometimes the “moon” and asteroid are similar in size. Impacts would not create equal-size fragments that could capture each other.48 The only conceivable way for this to happen is if a potential moon enters an asteroid’s expanding sphere of influence while traveling about the same speed and direction as the asteroid. If even a thin gas surrounds the asteroid, the moon will be drawn closer to the asteroid, preventing the moon from being stripped away later. An “exploded planet” would disperse relatively little gas. The “failed planet explanation” meets none of the requirements. The hydroplate theory satisfies all the requirements.
In addition to their problems explaining asteroid moons, the failed-planet theory and the exploded-planet theory have problems in and of themselves.

This previous post, entitled "Comet origins and the mysteries of mankind's ancient past" discusses some of the work of the late Dr. Tom Van Flandern, who was a proponent of the exploded-planet theory, as well as an astronomer who pointed out the numerous problems with the conventional explanations for the origin of comets (a subject discussed in that and several other previous blog posts).  In spite of the fact that the exploded-planet theory has some problems, those who are exploring that theory should be commended for realizing the many problems with the conventional paradigm that is usually offered as the only explanation (whether the paradigm of mankind's ancient past or of the origin of the various bodies in our solar system).

This previous blog post, provides a list of evidence that appear to cause serious difficulties for either the exploded-planet theory, the failed-planet theory, or both.  It also discusses the asteroid-origin theory put forward by Dr. Brown, who believes that most of the asteroids are actually fragments violently ejected from earth during the rupture that led to a cataclysmic global flood.  While such a proposal for the origin of asteroids may initially sound preposterous, it turns out that this theory explains many of the puzzling aspects of asteroids (as well as meteoroids and comets), including the presence of binary asteroid pairs.  The interested reader should take the time to read Dr. Brown's entire chapter on the subject for the complete discussion (and then to peruse the other chapters of his book, which detail thousands of other geological pieces of evidence on our planet which support this theory of a catastrophic flood).

On the very first page of his chapter on asteroid origins, Dr. Brown has posted a photograph of asteroid Ida, taken in 1993 by the Galileo spacecraft.  That image shows Ida to have a mile-wide moon, orbiting about 60 miles away from Ida (the moon was then named Dactyl).  In his discussion of Ida and Dactyl, and asteroid binaries in general, Dr. Brown writes:
Asteroid Ida and Its Moon, Dactyl. In 1993, the Galileo spacecraft, heading toward Jupiter, took this picture 2,000 miles from asteroid Ida. To the surprise of most, Ida had a moon (about 1 mile in diameter) orbiting 60 miles away! Both Ida and Dactyl are composed of earthlike rock. We now know at least 200 other asteroids have moons; nine asteroids have two moons.1 According to the laws of orbital mechanics (described in the preceding chapter), capturing a moon in space is unbelievably difficult—unless both the asteroid and a nearby potential moon had very similar speeds and directions and unless gases surrounded the asteroid during capture. If so, the asteroid, its moon, and each gas molecule were probably coming from the same place and were launched about the same time. Within a million years, passing bodies would have stripped the moons away, so these asteroid-moon captures must have been recent. 
From a distance, large asteroids look like big rocks. However, many show, by their low density, that they contain either much empty space or something light, such as water ice.2 Also, the best close-up pictures of an asteroid show millions of smaller rocks on its surface. Therefore, asteroids are flying rock piles held together by gravity. Ida, about 35 miles long, does not have enough gravity to squeeze itself into a spherical shape.
These are important issues surrounding the question of asteroids with moons.  The point about the moons being stripped away after a million years (or less) is very important, especially since most proponents of the conventional "failed-planet theory" believe that the asteroids are leftovers from a very early period in our solar system's history.  Elsewhere in the chapter, Dr. Brown also points out that tidal effects (which he describes in the "Technical Notes" section of his book) would "limit the lifetime of the moons of asteroids to about 100,000 years."  

For some reason, the recent articles proclaiming the discovery of the moon orbiting Asteroid 1998 QE2 do not seem to mention these problems.

The discovery this week of the moon orbiting QE2 is just another example of the wide array of evidence that the hydroplate theory can explain but which conventional theories have serious problems explaining.  It is interesting to consider that, since the moon around QE2 was only discovered on May 29 of this year, Dr. Brown could not have known about its existence when he wrote his book.  

The existence of another binary asteroid, however, is not as surprising to those who know about the hydroplate theory as it should be to those who do not.

Northern hemisphere, get ready for Comet PanSTARRS!

(mobile readers please scroll down to read the actual post)

Comet C/2011 L4 "PanSTARRS" is making its debut to observers in the northern hemisphere, having been visible to those in the southern hemisphere for the past several days.  Above is a beautiful image of the comet, photographed over the Brisbane Ranges west of the city of Melbourne, Australia after sunset on the 3rd of March. 

The comet is very close to the sun now, and thus to observe it one must look towards the sun.  However, when the sun is above the horizon, its brilliance drowns out the comet, and so the best time to spot Comet PanSTARRS is just after the rising western horizon comes between the observer and the sun.  As the twilight deepens, the comet will become visible in the darkening sky for a time, until the turning earth causes the comet itself to disappear below the western horizon, following the sun.

Here is a link to a page from Sky & Telescope containing an excellent diagram showing the position of the comet in the western sky for viewers located in the northern hemisphere, starting with its location after sunset on the 7th of March and continuing to show its location each evening through the 20th of March.  Here is a link to another page from Sky & Telescope devoted exclusively to this comet, with a host of beautiful photographs and ongoing updates on the comet's progress.

Here is a link to the outstanding orbital diagram tool for Comet C/2011 L4 on the NASA JPL "small-body database browser" site.  You can use the "sliding bar" controls on the right and below the image to rotate your "view" of the comet, as well as another "sliding bar" control slightly lower down to zoom your view in and out.  You can also change the date on this tool to see where the comet will be on different days, relative to the rest of our solar system.  Here is a link to a previous post (from April of last year) discussing that excellent comet-imaging tool, as well as the connection between certain comets and annual meteor showers.

This recent Reuters article discussing the arrival of Comet PanSTARRS in the evening sky of the northern hemisphere declares that:
Comet Pan-STARRS is believed to be a first-time visitor to Earth after being gravitationally bumped out from the Oort Cloud, a repository of small icy bodies located beyond Pluto in the solar system's back yard.
That popular news stories so matter-of-factly declare that comets get "gravitationally bumped out from the Oort Cloud" in this day and age is remarkable, as there are tremendous problems with this theory of comet origins.  This previous post, entitled "Comet origins and the mysteries of mankind's ancient past" discusses some of the numerous problems with an Oort Cloud origin for comets such as PanSTARRS C/2011 L4.

For starters, as that post explains, the hypothetical Oort Cloud has never actually been observed -- it is a mental construct of scientists who made it up in order to try to model a comet-generation mechanism that would fit the evidence we can gather from the comets we have observed.  As that previous post also explains (following the work of astronomer Tom Van Flandern, 1940 - 2009), the great astronomer Oort himself didn't even believe in the Oort Cloud that was later given his name -- he believed as did Dr. Van Flandern that comets had their origin from within the solar system itself.

Dr. Van Flandern's work, cited in that post, make clear that the hypothetical Oort Cloud is not just "beyond Pluto in the solar system's back yard," either.  If we were to reduce the entire solar system out to Pluto to the size of a dime, Dr. Van Flandern explained, then the supposed Oort Cloud would be over 19 feet away!  Right away, this fact reveals some of the problems with the idea that occasional passing celestial bodies "gravitationally bump" comets out of the Oort Cloud with such precision that they pass through the tiny dime-sized space of the solar system (or the even tinier circle of the inner solar system, where we on earth can see them).  That would be a difficult shot for even the most accomplished pool-hall master, let alone for a random passing star that wasn't even aiming for anything.

In his online book on the hydroplate theory, Dr. Walt Brown devotes an entire chapter to the origin of comets.  There, Dr. Brown gives extensive evidence that conventional theories (such as the Oort Cloud model) purporting to explain the origin of comets are incorrect.  He then provides evidence that comets originated inside the solar system, just as Dr. Van Flandern and Dr. Jan Hendrik Oort believed as well.  However, unlike Dr. Van Flandern's theory that comets came from an exploding watery planet formerly located in the orbit now occupied by the asteroid belt, Dr. Brown believes they originated from a different watery planet: our earth!

Dr. Brown gives extensive evidence, including evidence recently discovered about the composition of a different comet, Tempel 1 in 2005, that strongly supports his theory that comets originated during the explosive event in earth's past that initiated a catastrophic global flood and ejected water and other materials right out of the earth's orbit.

If he is correct, then Comet PanSTARRS is not a "first-time visitor" to our planet at all, although this may well be the first time it has re-visited the inner solar system since it was first ejected into deep space.

In any event, there will be plenty to marvel at over the next several evenings as you gaze at the heavenly spectacle of the visiting comet, and ponder its long and lonely travels through space and into your field of view.