Monday, July 23, 2012

A good day to contemplate the concept of comets


Today is a good day to spend some time contemplating comets, those lonely travelers of the solar system, whose orbits sometimes take them on incredibly remote journeys far from the familiar planets.

The reason July 23 is such a good day to consider the mysterious case of the solar system's comets is that July 23 is the day of the year that Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp simultaneously and independently of one another discovered the comet in 1995 when they saw it in the constellation Sagittarius, which is one of the more brilliant constellations dominant in the night sky this time of year, guarding the southern end of the Milky Way not far from the Scorpion. 

Here is a link to a blog post I published a year ago, on the previous anniversary of the discovery of the comet that would become one of the most spectacular comets for viewing in modern history.  That post and other previous posts dealing with the phenomenon of comets (such as this post and this one) discusses the aspects of comets which defy the conventional explanations for the origin of comets (all of which have serious difficulties with observed comet behavior, and the reason that Walt Brown's hydroplate theory may provide the best explanation for the origin of these icy apparitions.

To help appreciate the incredible distances that comets such as Hale-Bopp travel (and to see how very different the plane of orbit of some of these comets can be from the plane of orbit followed by the earth and the other planets), take a look at this excellent site provided by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  That site contains a graphic "map" of the orbit of Hale-Bopp in relation to the solar system, with three different "slide bars" that you can manipulate in order to shift and rotate the viewing angle, as well as zoom in and zoom out to get a real feeling for the enormity of that comet's orbit.  There is also a series of controls that enable you to change the date (and year) and go forward into the future (only until the year 2200, it seems) and backwards into the past.

Below is the view from the outer reaches of the solar system, showing the extreme angle that Hale-Bopp enters the solar system when it visits -- it follows a plane of orbit almost perpendicular to the plane of earth's orbit, and spends almost all of its time "below" the plane of the solar system, shooting above it only as it approaches perihelion (closest orbital point to the sun) before turning and diving back down again.

As you can see from the image, which is for the current date, the comet has already moved so far from the sun and the solar system that it doesn't even fit into this screen shot.  It is already 33.113 Astronomical Units (AU) from the sun (one AU is the approximate mean earth-sun distance).

The screen shot below is zoomed out much further, in order to get a glimpse of Hale-Bopp on its incredible orbit.  Even at this range, we cannot fit the entirety of the orbital path onto the screen.

Hale-Bopp's orbit was apparently altered by a close encounter with Jupiter on its last visit to the solar system, and so it will "only" get out to about 370 AU, rather than 575 AU as it previously did.  The comet is not scheduled to make another return until approximately AD 4385.

Dr. Walt Brown devotes an entire chapter in his book on the hydroplate theory (the entire text of which is available for free viewing online) to the question of the origin of comets, here.   He provides extensive scientific evidence to support the theory that comets originated from a catastrophic eruption of high-pressure water from beneath earth's crust (the same event which unleashed a global flood responsible for most of the geology we see on earth today).

In that chapter, he explains why long-period comets (Hale-Bopp is certainly a long-period comet) often have steeply-inclined orbital planes, in contrast to short-period comets, which often orbit in planes close to the plane of the earth and the other planets.  He also explains that long-period comets often have retrograde orbits (clockwise in motion around the sun) rather than orbiting counter-clockwise the way that the earth and the other planets -- as well as almost all the short-period comets -- orbit the sun.  He explains:
A ball tossed in any direction from a high-speed train will, to an observer on the ground, initially travel almost horizontally and in the train’s direction. Likewise, low-velocity cometary materials launched in any direction from Earth received most of their orbital velocity from Earth’s high, prograde velocity (18.5 miles per second) about the Sun. Earth, by definition, has zero angle of inclination. This is why almost all short-period comets, those launched with low velocity, are prograde and have low angles of inclination.

Cometary materials launched with greater velocities than Earth’s orbital velocity traveled in all directions. They formed long-period comets with randomly inclined orbital planes. Prograde cometary materials launched with the highest velocities escaped the solar system, because they had the added velocity of Earth’s motion. This is why so many of the remaining long-period comets are retrograde. [See Table 12 on page 288.] (Almost all other bodies orbiting the Sun are prograde: planets, asteroids, meteoroids, and short-period comets.) 
Sure enough, Comet Hale-Bopp also orbits the sun in a clockwise (retrograde) orbit, in addition to being steeply inclined.
The enormity of the distance that Hale-Bopp travels should fill us with awe if we really sit down and contemplate the path of this comet.  It should also cause us to question the origin of comets and the many aspects of their mysterious orbits which are better explained by the hydroplate theory than by the theories currently in vogue among conventional academics.
Strictly speaking, it should be noted that Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp only re-discovered this incredible comet.  There is some evidence that the ancient Egyptians saw it the last time it came through prior to 1997 (in the 23rd century BC).  

Even though Comet Hale-Bopp is not visible right now, it is still streaking along its orbital path, although so far away from everything else in the solar system that it almost boggles the mind to think about it.  Today is a good day to spend a little time focusing on that lonely far-traveling object, the incredible vastness of space, and the amazing forces that move the symphony of objects that speed along their many paths around our sun.