Did snow comets brought water to Earth?

Discussion in 'Earth' started by Porfiry, Mar 3, 2001.

  1. Porfiry Nomad Staff Member

    In a paper published in the March 1, 2001 issue of the American Geophysical Union's Journal of Geophysical Research, University of Iowa physics professor Louis A. Frank says that he has found new evidence to support his theory that the water in Earth's oceans arrived by way of small snow comets.

    Frank reports that he obtained pictures of nine small comets among 1,500 images made between October 1998 and May 1999 using the Iowa Robotic Observatory (IRO) located near Sonoita, Ariz. In addition, he says that the possibility of the images being due to "noise," or electronic interference, on the telescope's video screens was eliminated by operating the telescope in such a manner as to ensure that real objects were recorded in the images. This operation of the telescope utilized two simple exposure modes for the acquisition of the images. One scheme used the telescope's shutter to provide two trails of the same small comet in a single image, and the second scheme used the same shutter to yield three trails in an image.

    "In the two-trail mode for the telescope's camera, no events were seen with three trails, and for the three-trail mode, no events were seen with two trails," he says. "This simple shutter operation for the telescope's camera provides full assurance that real extraterrestrial objects are being detected." Frank notes these images with the IRO confirm earlier reports of small comet detection using the ground-based Spacewatch Telescope during November 1987, January 1988 and April 1988.

    The small comet theory, developed in 1986 with UI research scientist John Sigwarth from data gathered using the Dynamics Explorer 1 satellite, holds that about 20 snow comets weighing 20 to 40 tons each disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere every minute. Over the lifetime of our planet, the comets would have accounted for virtually all of the Earth's water. The small comet theory has been controversial almost from the beginning, with some scientists suggesting that images identified as small snow comets actually result from electronic noise on satellite sensors and other researchers asserting that the images represent a real phenomenon. In 1997, Frank revealed a series of photographs taken by Visible Imaging System (VIS) cameras designed by Frank and Sigwarth and carried aboard NASA's Polar spacecraft as further proof of the existence of the small snow comets.

    Robert A. Hoffman, senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. and project scientist for both the Dynamics Explorer 1 and the Polar spacecraft missions, says that because satellite-based imagery related to the small comet theory has been interpreted in different ways, ground-based imagery is a good alternative.

    "Due to the controversy surrounding the interpretation of the images from space-borne detectors taken primarily in ultraviolet wavelengths, ground- based visible observations with sufficient signal-to-noise appear to be the most practical approach to obtaining clear evidence regarding the existence of these objects. I hope more such studies will be performed," Hoffman says.

    Frank, a UI faculty member since 1964, has been an experimenter, co-investigator, or principal investigator for instruments on 42 spacecraft. His instruments include those used to observe the Earth's auroras, as well as those used to measure energetic charged particles and thin, electrically charged gases called plasmas. He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Physical Society, a member of the American Astronomical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Academy of Astronautics, and a recipient of the National Space Act Award.
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  3. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

    There's something that's bothering me about this theory. 20 comets per minute, each weighing 20-40 tons? If these are comets, they are traveling extremely fast -- say 50 kilometers per second. That means that the kinetic energy of each is around 0.5*20,000kg*(50,000m/s)^2=2.5*10^13 J, or the equivalent of about 5-10 kilotons of TNT (a ton of TNT giving roughly 4 billion J). Of note, the Hiroshima atomic bomb was a 20 kiloton device.

    The Earth gets hit 365*24*60*20=10,512,000 times per year. On earth, these things may burn up in the atmosphere and release their energy more or less gradually. But on the Moon, the little comets would smack right into the surface in one big explosion. Even assuming that for every 1,000,000 snowballs that hit the Earth only 1 hits the moon (an arbitrary assumption, but I doubt it's an overestimate), that's still 10 fresh and rather large impacts on lunar surface every year from these comet things alone. I don't know, this sounds incredibly frequent. Sum over 1 billion years, and you get 10 billion little comet impacts on the moon, explosive power of each approaching that of an atomic bomb. I'm not an expert on crater dynamics, but I'd expect such explosions to dig out craters on the order of a hundred meters in diameter. If such were the case, and if the snowball bombardment was even heavier before (which is reasonable to expect), then the poor Moon wouldn't have a single spot that hasn't been dug out by one of these impacts...
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  5. dexter ROOT Registered Senior Member

    what about the man on the moon? his eyes are pretty big.

    and also, perhaps we didnt go to the moon
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  7. Blackheart Registered Member

    well for that matter, at 10 hits per year, wouldn't you expect to see a bit more water on the moon?

    And if the earth gets hit 10,512,000 times a year how many tons of water is that a year approximately?

    40 million tons? 20 million tons? average it and say 30 million tons a year? So that's 3 billion tons of water this century...

    this has been going on how long? Something's screwy here. Maybe it's my math. Maybe it's someone else's math...
  8. Boris Senior Member Registered Senior Member

    Well, presumably any water that gets deposited on the moon gets quickly baked off by sunlight (the moon doesn't have enough gravity to retain the water vapor, and it simply escapes into space.)

    And actually, it does sound like too much water. A metric ton of water is around 1 cubic meter in volume. The Earth's surface area is 510 million square kilometers. Spread 3 billion cubic meters of water evenly around the Earth's surface, and you get a layer of around 6 meters high. You would think that a centennial rise in sea levels of 6 meters would be noticeable, not to mention catastrophic. Of course, there has to be some loss of water back into space. And perhaps some of the water percolates through the sea floor down into the mandle, reducing sea levels. Still...

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