Meta Research Bulletin ©2006
Astonishingly, a great many comets are discovered that have energy parameter values (defined as -100,000 times the reciprocal semi-major axis) close to zero, the threshold of gravitational escape. In the specified units, Earth’s energy parameter is -100,000. Before mixing with the planets, a clustering of comet energy parameters near –5 exists, as shown in the left half of Figure 6. However, as these same comets recede again after mixing with the planets, the clustering property is heavily smeared out, as shown on the right side of Figure 6. The average scattering is about ±50 energy units. As a consequence, no clustering can persist into the next revolution for these comets. So the comets showing clustering must be making their first visit to the planetary part of the solar system since their origin event. For that reason, they are called “new comets”.
These new comets, first noted by Oort, were not the belt of comets beyond Pluto expected by the primeval solar nebula hypothesis. They arrive from all directions on the sky, with no tendency to be concentrated toward the plane of the planets. Also, they move in directions opposite to the planets as often as in directions consistent with the planets. Because of these traits and a mean distance of 1000 times greater than that of Pluto from the Sun, the far-away source of Oort’s new comets was designated the “Oort cloud”.
The exploded planet hypothesis expected something similar. A given energy parameter implies a particular period of revolution around the Sun. If a planet exploded “x” years ago, then new comets returning for the first time today would arrive on orbits with period “x”. Comets with shorter periods would have returned in the past, mixing with the planets and eventually being eliminated (or now in the process of being eliminated). Comets with longer periods would not yet have returned for the first time. So the eph predicts that all new comets should have the same period “x”, and therefore the same energy parameter corresponding to a period of “x”. The center of the spike on the left side of Figure 6 corresponds to a period of 3.2 million years, which is therefore the time since the last explosion event.
In the 1970s, astronomer E. Opik, who wrote a paper critical of the eph, devised a test to determine if the Oort cloud really existed, or if the “clustering” seen for new comets was really a spike with almost no width as predicted by the exploded planet hypothesis. The trick was to separate smearing of the energy parameter caused by inaccurate observations from intrinsic smearing of the real new comet orbits. Fortunately, the published orbits of new comets have an orbit quality parameter that indicates which orbits ought to be very accurate because of a long observed arc with lots of well-distributed observations (class 1A); and which orbits ought to have higher observational errors because of short arcs and/or fewer or poorly distributed observations (classes 1B, 2A and 2B). In the standard model with an Oort cloud of comets, there is no obvious way to tell the difference between comets anywhere in the energy parameter range on the left side of Figure 6. So there is no reason for any observational class of comet to be other than randomly distributed among all the comets in that figure. If all the orbits could be improved to class 1A, the overall average appearance of the distribution ought to be unchanged.
However, in the eph, the real distribution would have all the comets in a single bin, and all the observed spread of energy parameter values would be due to observational error. So comets of observational classes 1B, 2A and 2B ought to have a broader distribution than class 1A comets because 1A comet orbits are closer to reality (less observational error). So Opik realized that eph predicts a different (narrower) distribution for class 1A comets than for the others where observational spread dominated. Opik’s test then was to separate comets of class 1A from the other classes to determine if the energy parameter distribution was significantly broader for the other classes than for class 1A (indicating the eph is right), or essentially the same for both groups (indicating the Oort cloud is right).
The results are shown on the left side of Figure 7 for new class 1A comets and on the right side of the same figure for new comets of classes 1B, 2A and 2B. (Note that these orbit quality codes are assigned by cometary astronomers using published criteria. No eph tester had any role in determining these designations.) The left side shows 2.6 times as many comets in the central spike as in the immediately adjoining bins combined. The right side shows only 0.8 times as many comets in the central spike as in the two adjoining bins, and has a clearly broader distribution.
The Opik test is cleanly passed by the exploded planet hypothesis, but not by the Oort cloud model. Anyone working with the published new comet data could arrive at the same conclusion. If skeptical readers suspect that the author may have consciously or unconsciously selected the data so as to give a favorable outcome, recall that Opik, who strongly doubted the eph when he thought of this test, came to the same conclusion even with the smaller amount of comet data available to him 20 years earlier. And new comets are continuing to be discovered. In essence, we have proved that Lagrange’s instinct 200 years ago was right on target: Comets apparently acquired their extremely elongated, planet-crossing orbits by ejection in an explosion that we can now date at 3.2 million years ago. New comets are the continuing rainback of debris from that explosion. And this simple, basic idea leads to explanations of virtually everything we know about the physical, chemical, photometric, and dynamical properties of comets without need to introduce any ad hoc helper hypotheses.