Comet behaving like a comet

11 November 2014

At… … is another report on the NASA release on Comet Siding Spring from data produced by their MAVEN mission to Mars. Debris from the comet caused an intense meteor shower and enabled a new layer of ions, or charged particles, to the atmosphere of Mars. From observational data NASA scientists were able to make a direct connection between the input of the debris and the ions. They will now,over the next few years, be able to document any affects on the Martian atmosphere produced by the meteor shower and will it become noticeably colder on the surface?

MAVEN also showed intense ultra violet enhancement from magnesium and ions high in the atmosphere in the aftermath of the meteor storm – dominating the ultra violet spectrum for several hours afterwards. It then dissipated over the next few days. MAVEN was able to sample some of the dust. Early results show eight different types of metal ions which include those of sodium, magnesium, and iron.

Mars EXPRESS, on the other hand, showed a huge increase in the density of electrons in the Martin ionosphere following the flyby. What does all this mean for SIS catastrophism? How might we know if such an event has ever happened in recorded history?

Moe Mandelkehr's 2300BC event involved a heavy meteor shower – very heavy. This, he claimed, was due to the break-up of a comet in the sky that produced a fresh trail of dust and debris left in its wake. This is perhaps the nearest thing to a meteor storm – but did it happen?

Mythology could be one reservoir in which to pursue the possibility that Earth has experienced a close encounter with a comet, or possibly religious ritual in the following centuries (following a close encounter) until superceded or upgraded by new events (of different magnitude).

New information derived from data from all the spacecraft in the vicinity of Mars will filter through in the coming weeks and we can only look forwards to that – and hope that something solid will emerge. What seemed at first report to be a damp squib may yet prove to be paradigm shifting – as far as comets are concerned. On top of that we can still look forwards to the ESA Rosetta Mission in the upcoming months.


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