Physics Question #318

Wayne Boutzale, a 51 year old male from the Internet asks on January 12, 1998,

What are giant ice meteorites? Would it be possible for them to hit the earth?

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The answer

Donald J. Barry answered on January 12, 1998

It has been difficult to confirm the claims of giant ice meteorites encountering the Earth, or to support this model against many criticisms which have been advanced against it. Here are a few of the reasons for a skeptical viewpoint.

  1. It is difficult to explain the absence of any visual evidence for these bodies. They would need to be cohesive enough to survive a lengthy period in the inner solar system without fragmentation and evaporation, yet fragile enough to break up far above the atmosphere into pieces uniformly so microscopic that a plasma trail (meteor) doesn't form.
  2. The impacts of these same bodies should be visible on the moon, which has no atmosphere to cause them to burn up. It is not.
  3. There should be seismographic evidence in the instruments which were briefly operated from the Apollo landers' science packages to show contact with the moon. There is none.
The principle evidence cited in support of the model by its author is data recorded by a satellite which records ultraviolet emissions by the upper atmosphere, and which seems to show small spots which appear in the atmosphere (or in the image detector of the satellite!) which *could* be interpreted as quenching of ultraviolet glow by the infusion of lots of water into that area of the atmosphere. I'm not convinced. But it should be an easy enough hypothesis to verify or reject over the next year or two, using data from existing satellites which study the earth's atmosphere.

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