Velikovsky and Comets

30 Oct 2017

At ... seems like another one on the atomic comet - which begins with Velikovsky (and Venus ejected from Jupiter as a comet). It passed near the Earth but no collision (in spite of the title, Worlds in Collision) - which caught out a few of its critics napping, at the time and even long afterwards, showing up who read the book or did not read the book. It seems quite a few of your usual suspects, with their noses in the air, fell into the trap - they could hardly have read the book if they twittered on about cosmic billiards and 'planets bashing into each other'. It still catches people out today - but not Tim Cullen. More importantly, Velikovsky predicted the Venus comet must be rich in petroleum gases and hydrocarbons. Tim Cullen at this point mentions Swan bands. These are a characteristic of the spectra of carbon stars, comets, and hydrocarbon fuels (quoting ... Fred Whipple, on the other hand, at about the same time Worlds in Collision was published, visualised comets as conglomerates of ices - containing unobserved compounds such as hydrides, H2O, NH3, and CH4 molecules. Whipple was greeted enthusiastically by mainstream - and Velikovsky was ignored. Yet, Velikovsky's claim was closer to reality than Whipple, which is rather strange. Or is it?

At roughly the same time Jan Oort initiated the idea of a cloud of comets at the edge of the solar system (undetected by recent Voyager missions that have travelled to the far reaches of the same solar system). Again, the Oort Cloud is unobserved - in spite of all the space telescopes in the modern world. The Sun must be ... was the thinking (another hypothesis without material substance but still a theoretical possibility). Different scientists had different ideas about the Oort Cloud, particularly its distance from the Sun. The idea is that fresh comets from the Oort Cloud replenish the solar system with a regular supply - in spite of so many sun grazers disappearing every year. Tim Cullen suggests comets might be interstellar travellers, a theory enhanced by the self propelling properties that comets seem to display. He says that as Comet Halley approaches the Sun (after becoming trapped in the solar system, I assume) it expels jets of sublimating gas from its surface. Cullen describes this as reverse thrust - delaying perihelion for four days (on average). However, after perihelion Halley zooms away from the Sun as its violent gas and dust jets produce an enhanced 'after burn' thrust which is demonstrated by its increased visual magnitude.

Tim Cullen has obviously spotted the release by NASA last week - an interstellar comet A/2017 (Comet PANSTARRS) is supposedly an interstellar comet (and if one is interstellar why not more or even all of them). Of course, once trapped in the solar system they take on an orbit that periodically goes round the Sun, without ever returning to interstellar space. Interesting idea. The new comet was discovered on an extremely hyperbolic orbit on October 15th 2017 (see earlier post on the subject) by the Pan-STARRS telescope. The high eccentricity of its orbit is said to indicate it is not gravitationally bound to the solar system. So it must be interstellar - must it? It is also said to be red in colour ( ... which has similarities with carbon stars, also red in colour (they have a sooty atmosphere). Are red comets the same?

If Comet A/2017 (PANSTARRS) is a new comet, rather than one trapped in the solar system. We may be in for some interesting after effects as it comes closer to the Sun.