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[escepticos] Sobre la teoria de los minicometas

        No se si habreis oido hablar de esa teoria que dice que
miles de pequen~os cometas caen sobre la Tierra todos los dias.
Supuestamente traerian el agua necesaria para formar los
        El autor de esta teoria es un ejemplo de tenacidad 
cientifica (je) ; se defiende contra viento y marea sin cambiar
un apice su modelo. Pero se lo ponen cada vez mas dificil, 
si os interesa el tema leed lo de abajo.
        Nota: a mi siempre me ha fastidiado esta teoria por ese
toque medio Nueva Era que tiene sobre los cometas trayendo vida...
pero fijemonos en que esto no aparece para nada en la discusion.



 From ayee en nova.astro.utoronto.ca Sun Dec 14 23:10:43 EST 1997
 From: Andrew Yee <ayee en nova.astro.utoronto.ca>
 Newsgroups: sci.space.news
 Subject: Arizona scientists highly skeptical of 'small comet' theory (Forwarded)

Arizona scientists highly skeptical of 'small comet' theory

Earth's sky would sparkle like a Christmas tree, its air would hold at least
30,000 times more inert gas and its moon would be pocked with millions
more bright-spot craters than spacecraft see if a prominently publicized
small-comet theory were correct, scientists from The University of Arizona
in Tucson report in the Dec. 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

University of Iowa physicist Louis A. Frank and his former graduate student
announced last May in a NASA news release and at an American
Geophysical Union news briefing that images from their Visible Imaging
System on the Polar spacecraft show Earth is showered by a steady stream
of water-packed objects, small comets that bombard our planet at a rate of
between five and 30 per minute. They published the results in the Oct. 1
Geophysical Research Letters. If true, the discovery would force a
rethinking of the origins of the oceans, terrestrial life and the formation of
the solar system.

In five independent studies to be published Dec. 15, scientists -- including
three teams from The University of Arizona -- conclude that theoretical
calculations and observational evidence rule out the small-comet

If the small-comet theory were correct, the Earth's sky would be a continual
display of bright clouds and flashes, according to calculations by Bashar
Rizk and Alex J. Dessler of the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. If
30,000 small comets bombard Earth daily, as the theory says, constant
meteor-like displays would be visible even during the day.

The expanding cloud of tiny ice particles that small-comet theory suggests
is created when a 30-ton, 40-foot-diameter comet breaks up high in the
atmosphere would have a brightness somewhere between that of Venus
and the full moon, Rizk and Dessler calculate. (Dessler in the late 1980s
published a review of several earlier scientific studies that rigorously
tested small-comet theory.)

If, as small-comet theory says, a small comet strikes Earth about every
three seconds, it would be visible for at least a minute to the naked eye,
readily seen by anyone looking up, Rizk and Dessler add. "Where are
they? We should see them," the LPL researchers puzzle.

"A whole-Earth flux of 20 comets per minute implies the sudden
appearance of at least two bright patches of light every five minutes," they
report in GRL. "The two-hour periods after sunset and before sunrise ought
to produce the most spectacular sightings -- intermittent punctuations of
bright, rapidly moving points of light." Twilight would be much more
exciting in Tucson, Cairo, Sydney, Capetown and other communities, say
Rizk and Dessler. Citizens of Fairbanks, Montreal, Moscow and Stockholm
would be treated to near all-night meteor shows, they add.

Small-comet theory requires that the bombarding comets were formed in
very cold regions far the from sun, Timothy D. Swindle and David A. Kring
of the LPL note in their paper. Comets that formed far out in space
condensed from the same dust and gas that accreted into planets,
trapping "noble" gases in the same ratio as the sun and the rest of the solar
system. Noble gases are inert, or non-reactive gases, not easily removed
from the atmosphere. They include argon, krypton, xenon, as well as the
more common nitrogen, helium and neon.

Swindle and Kring analyzed how much noble gas the small comets would
have delivered to Earth's atmosphere over the lifetime of the solar system.
"We know that if the Earth's atmosphere were bombarded according to
small planet theory, it would have a dramatically different composition,"
Kring said in an interview.

At the current rate of supposed small comet bombardment, Earth should
have 500 times as much krypton and xenon and 30,000 times as much
argon in its atmosphere, Swindle and Kring calculate. Put another way,
all the kypton and xenon in Earth's atmosphere would have been
delivered by small comets in 10 million years. All the argon present would
have been added in 100,000 years. The scenario for Mars' atmosphere is
an even more enigmatic: Small comets would have delivered the known
martian inventory of krypton and xenon in 500 years and the known
inventory of argon in about 60,000 years.

Either the rate of supposed small-comet bombardment is today 30,000
times greater than it has been over the 4.5-billion-year lifetime of the solar
system, or the comets formed much nearer the sun, about the distance of
Jupiter, for the theory to fit the observed noble gas inventory, Swindle and
Kring conclude. Comets can be greatly depleted in noble gases if they
form closer to the sun, near Jupiter. "The problem with that idea is that it is
completely inconsistent with several other physical conditions that Frank's
team require to explain other features of their hypothesis," Kring said in
the interview.

If the small-comet hypothesis is right, a small comet hits the moon at a
rate of almost one per minute, Jennifer A. Grier and Alfred S. McEwen of
the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory report in their paper. That is,
scientists should see evidence of 400,000 comet hits on the moon

Even a small, low-density comet would excavate a crater at least 50 meters
in diameter and spread bright ejecta over an area of at least 150 meters in
diameter, Grier and McEwen calculate. (The lunar surface darkens over
time; the underlying, unexposed soil is lighter in color.)

Grier and McEwen compared Apollo 17 images taken in late 1972 to
Clementine images taken 22 years later for a 52,000 square-kilometer
area of the moon, which is about half the size of Kentucky and more than
one-tenth of one percent of the lunar surface. Any crater and bright spot
seen in the 1994 Clementine images but not visible in the 1972 Apollo
photos might record a small impactor hit.

Each of the 3,920 bright spots seen over the study area in 1994 by the
Clementine spacecraft was also recorded by Apollo. If the small-comet
theory were correct, Clementine imaging should have discovered more
than 10,000 new bright impact spots over this area.

Grier and McEwen calculate from the spacecraft observations an upper
limit of 33 impacts a year for the entire moon, not 400,000 hits per year as
expected according to the small-comet hypothesis. Small comets with
properties hypothesized by Frank's team are probably more than a billion
times less abundant than predicted, Grier and McEwen further conclude.

In another research article published in the Dec. 15 Geophysical Review
Letters, a team of researchers who use a Polar spacecraft camera similar
to the Frank team's Visible Imaging System also report seeing the dark
pixels, or black points, that Frank interprets as evidence for small comets.
This team, however, concludes the dark pixels are an inherent camera
feature, or "noise" rather than real features.

A fifth paper in the journal suggests meteorites as small as 50 centimeters
in diameter create plumes of atmospheric gas that Frank and his team
interpret as small comets. The large-scale analogy to this phenomenon is
the Comet Shoemaker-Levy impacts on Jupiter, they report.

Andrew Yee
ayee en nova.astro.utoronto.ca