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James McCanney - Plasma Discharge Comet Model

This Web site is for those who do not believe that comets are dirty snow balls. Enter here to find out what they really are. (P.S. Welcome Hale-Bopp as the newest planetary member of our solar system)

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The theoretical work you will encounter here is one of the best kept secrets in the Astronomy world. It was developed in the late 1970's while the author was on the faculty of the Physics and Mathematics Departments of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. My work was in theoretical Celestial Mechanics and Plasma Physics (for the layman, these are the the studies of planetary motion and electrified gases in outer space). Initial papers were published in astrophysics journals while later papers were quietly returned without referee comments.

The work showed among other things that comets were not dirty snow balls sublimating (vaporizing) in the solar environment, but were a complex plasma discharge interaction involving an asteroidal comet nucleus with the "solar capacitor", the capacitor being the result of a differential flow in the solar wind of high energy particles leaving the sun. The balance of charge in the solar system and a myriad of of other previously unknown effects were predicted by the theory, including the existence of an electron sheet arriving from the sun at a cometary nucleus and resulting x-rays. Only recently have these been verified by observation. The new comet theory also explained that the tail matter was not moving away from the comet nucleus, but was being drawn in by electrical forces millions of times more powerful than gravity or solar wind forces alone. Essentially a comet was now seen as a huge "cosmic vacuum cleaner". Comets were being captured into the solar system by the existing planets and the comet "tail drag" helped to circularize their orbits. Many commonly stated beliefs regarding the nature of the solar system were being dispelled with more subtle explanations.

The theoretical implications were devastating to commonly held beliefs. Comets were not dirty snow balls, the solar system did not form all at one time 4.5 billion years ago and dozens of other theories developed to allow new data to comply with these "axioms of Astronomy" might not be correct also. At any rate, an entire rethinking of astronomical theory was required.

As you may well imagine, this did not (and still does not) set well with some scientists, while others have recently (especially after Hale-Bopp) begun to realize that Hale Bopp is an extremely large, powerful and highly energetic comet. It's doing things you would not expect from a docile little snow ball (x-rays and snow balls in the same theory, hmmmm?? ), let's get serious. Why has NASA completely shut down dissemination of information as Hale-Bopp passed Perihelion?

The new "Plasma Discharge Comet Model" theory was presented at an invited talk by the author in 1987 at Los Alamos National Laboratories to approximately 50 plasma physicists under the title "Are Comets Really Dirty Snow-balls?" At this point noone could be convinced of cometary x-rays, high energy discharges or other effects. Noone had ever witnessed a really big comet like Hale-Bopp.

On May 27, 1997 the author again presented this theory as a "poster session" at the Spring Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) held in Baltimore, MD. I have been attempting to find recognition for this work for almost two decades. All I will say here is that as a scientist I am dismayed at the treatment this work has received and the lack of response and proper referencing by members of the Astronomy/Space Science community. Most of all I am dismayed that the experiments defined to determine the true nature of comets (as well as the data that has been taken) have been withheld by those in charge of publicly funded instruments and space craft who favor the "dirty snow-ball comet model".

I have attempted for nearly 20 years to work in a friendly manner within the ground rules of the established scientific community. It is unfortunate that the scientific process that is in place and which is supposed to be self regulating simply does not work. It is unfortunate that we have to resort to the Internet to bypass this stalled system. With the Internet available hopefully this situation will be changed.


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