Previous articles in this series
Someone once said comets are like cats — they have tails and they do what they want. As of this writing (late Nov. 2013) it appears that Comet Ison has not survived its close passage around the Sun intact and will not, therefore, provide the hoped for celestial display that might inspire folks other than astronomers to take a deeper interest in cosmic events. This is not to say that important knowledge will not be gleaned from its demise, but it is disappointing nonetheless. What we have seen is a comet in the final stages of its life cycle, disintegrating into a stream of cosmic dust and boulders. Let me elaborate upon what I mean by the life cycle of a comet, from its genesis to its final termination as a celestial body.
The life of a comet falls naturally into five stages, or phases, of existence. Its birth, commensurate with that of the Solar System, goes back some 4 and a half billion years. This first stage in its existence involves the aggregation and condensation of a cometary nucleus out of the primordial cosmic material, fragments of the proto-planetary disk left over after the construction of the planets and their satellites, the ‘stone the builders rejected’, so to speak. This material, of which comets are composed, is a remarkable mix of exotic ingredients, including crystalline rock ranging from dust size, through the size of boulders, up to the size of mountains; various frozen gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and ammonia; organic compounds such as methanol, ethanol and formaldehyde; also hydrocarbons and amino acids— all frozen together in a matrix of ice and finally enclosed within a crust of cemented cosmic dust and rock several meters thick, like the shell of an egg. This first stage of the cometary life cycle I call Aggregation.
The second stage begins after ejection of these remnants of creation from the inner Solar System through gravitational interactions with the large outer planets, and their subsequent banishment to the far reaches of the outer Solar System into two vast reservoirs, the Kuiper belt and the Oort Cloud.
The Kuiper belt, or disk, named after Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper, is a region of comets extending from just outside the orbit of Neptune at about 30 Astronomical Units (an AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth, about 93 million miles) to about 55 AU. It lies more or less in the Plane of the Ecliptic, the plane of the planetary orbits. The number of comets residing in the Kuiper belt is estimated to be in the hundreds of billions! The Oort cloud, named after astronomer Jan Oort, who first predicted its existence in the 1950s, is a huge spherical shell of comets surrounding the Solar System at a distance of 5000 to 10,000 AU. (By contrast, it is over a quarter million AU’s to the nearest stars.) There may be as many several trillion comets residing in the Oort cloud! Both reservoirs slowly revolve about the Sun in huge circular orbits and are part of the Solar System in its entirety. Here, in these regions, comets lie in a state of dormant deep freeze, a sort of cosmic hibernation which represents the second stage of their life cycle. We will call this 2nd stage Hibernation. (Wikipedia, under the heading of Oort cloud has a good artists illustration showing both the cloud and the belt.)
The comets within both reservoirs orbit in a quasi-stable state, somewhere between unstable and metastable, that is, it requires only minimal force to dislodge them from their orbital position, but for most of the time there exists in the vastness of space no force sufficient to disturb their delicately balanced arrangement. However, from time to time something does happen that disturbs the deep sleep of these extraordinary bodies. In the realm of the Oort cloud it may be an errant star, a nearby supernova, or the passage of the Solar System across the galactic plane— each can potentially trigger the dislodging of comets from their place of cosmic slumber and send them on a long, slow, spiraling descent towards the Sun. Comets commencing their journey from the Oort cloud may take up to several million years before reaching the Sun and can approach from any direction. These are the long-period species of comet that travel into the inner Solar System on an open-ended parabolic orbit, rendezvous one time only with the Sun, and then journey back out into the great deep of space never to return, at least within the time of mankind upon the Earth.
Comets originating within the Kuiper belt, which is much closer to the inner Solar System than the Oort cloud, represent the second species, the short-period comet. These celestial visitors are on a much shorter and quicker periodic orbit that brings them in towards the sun on an elliptical pathway. Short period comets generally have orbital periods less than several centuries and may complete an orbit in just a few years, such as Comet Encke, which makes a journey about the Sun once every 3.3 years, or every few decades, such as Halley’s Comet which completes an orbit every 76 years. The short period comets whose orbits are described by the geometry of closed ellipses travel back and forth between Jupiter and the Sun along pathways that lie mostly within the plane of the Ecliptic, the region encompassed by the twelve signs of the zodiac against which the Sun, Moon and planets are seen to move. The majority of comets that have been observed repeatedly throughout history are of the short period variety.
The process by which these comets are introduced from their trans-Neptunian reservoir into orbits that take them through the inner Solar System is different than that of the Oort Cloud comets. Whereas the disruption of Oort Cloud comets and subsequent descent to the Sun is instigated by forces on a galactic scale, that of the Kuiper belt is the result of planetary forces acting gravitationally upon the inner regions of the belt. It appears that alignments of the large outer planets Uranus and Neptune can perturb comets in the inner regions of the belt and either accelerate or decelerate their orbital velocity. If they accelerate they migrate to an orbit farther out from the Sun. If they decelerate they move towards the Sun and pass within the orbit of Neptune and hence within its sphere of influence. It is here that a process quite extraordinary becomes operational.
In 1996 Science News published a report on the work of Harold E. Levison of the Southwest Research Institute along with Martin J. Duncan and Stuart M Budd, both of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, who made a presentation at a comet workshop at the University of Toronto’s Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics. They had developed the most extensive computer simulation ever performed on the Kuiper belt and the process by which comets leave that reservoir to commence their celestial journey to the inner Solar System, and, potentially, to become Earth crossers.
I will quote Science News regarding their findings:
It’s this celestial bucket brigade, he notes, that allows a select group of comets to grace the skies above Earth, flaunting their dusty tails as they deliver key organic compounds into our atmosphere.
“…A new study reveals that the locations of the four large, outer planets play a crucial role in shepherding comets into the inner solar system from a lair beyond the orbit of Pluto. From Neptune to Uranus to Saturn to Jupiter, “comets are being handed off from planet to planet,” says Harold F. Levison . . . It’s this celestial bucket brigade, he notes, that allows a select group of comets to grace the skies above Earth, flaunting their dusty tails as they deliver key organic compounds into our atmosphere. If this gang of four were spread farther apart, comets that rank as frequent fliers to the inner solar system, visiting at least once every 60 years, could never make the journey. If the outer planets were bunched closer together, the orbits of these comets would look radically different . . . In simplest terms, comets leave the belt because it has a slow leak . . . Once a comet falls into Neptune’s gravitational clutches, the other large, outer planets start to exert their own gravitational influence. In this way, some comets from the Kuiper belt make their way toward the inner solar system, where they come alive in the sun’s warmth . . . Yet the new calculations by Levison and Duncan show that one shouldn’t take such a model for granted. It’s only because Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter are spaced exactly far enough apart that each has a chance of handing off a comet to the next.”
It’s only because Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter are spaced exactly far enough apart that each has a chance of handing off a comet to the next.”
In other words, it is only because of the precise geometric architecture of the Solar System that comets can be transferred from their holding station in the Kuiper disk, enabling them to deliver their extraterrestrial cargo to the inner Solar System, and ultimately to Earth, where their exotic ingredients can catalyze the processes of cosmic alchemy that result in the formation of the planetary biosphere. Without this specific and unique arrangement of the planets, it now appears, the delivery of critical materials for the genesis and evolution of life would be impossible.
In other words, it is only because of the precise geometric architecture of the Solar System that comets can be transferred from their holding station in the Kuiper disk, enabling them to deliver their extraterrestrial cargo to the inner Solar System, and ultimately to Earth, where their exotic ingredients can catalyze the processes of cosmic alchemy that result in the formation of the planetary biosphere.
It is with this perturbation and subsequent trans-planetary voyage that the 3rd stage in the cometary life cycle commences. It is the stage I call Activation. As it passes within the gravitational influence of the planets and draws ever closer to the Sun the comet awakens from its deep sleep. It begins to outgas and forms a tail that can be millions of miles in length. It begins to unload its payload of volatiles, of dust and boulders, of exotic metals and strange organic substances. (Please see the previous two months installment of this series.) The jetting gases can cause the nucleus to spin on its axis, further energizing it.
But due to this energetic release the next stage in the life cycle commences, that of Disintegration. The nucleus literally begins to come apart. It is through this process of disaggregation of the cometary nucleus that meteor streams are born. Almost all known meteor streams have associated comets, either as parents or as older siblings, i.e. the Taurids with Comet Encke, the Leonids with Comet Temple-Tuttle, the Perseids with Comet Swift-Tuttle, and so on. One nucleus can fragment into multiple nuclei, such as was witnessed on a grand scale in 1993-1994 with the fragmentation of Comet Shoemaker-Levi 9 into 21 separate objects and their subsequent impact into Jupiter.
This brings us to the 5th and final stage in a comets’ life cycle. I call it Amalgamation. To amalgamate means variously to mix, blend, unite, combine or coalesce. It is in this last stage that the remnant material of the disintegrated comets is swept up by the Sun or planets. It was this sweeping up of millions of comets in the early stages of the formation of the Earth that delivered the great volume of water now comprising the hydrosphere: the world’s oceans, rivers, glaciers and groundwater. It was this sweeping up that delivered the raw material of Life to Earth in the form of nucleotide templates. It was this sweeping up of cosmic debris, including asteroids, that drives the process of evolution by interrupting the succession of Life on Earth with great catastrophes and mass extinction events and by delivering their payload of cosmic enzymes that initiate the extraordinary ‘rapid speciation’ events occurring in the wake of these tremendous catastrophic reboots of the Earth’s biosphere. The evidence for these encounters and the most dramatic expression of Amalgamation, where the matter of heaven is introduced into the terrestrial domain, is to be found in the hundreds of impact craters and astroblemes emerging into view as we become ever more proficient at perceiving our planetary home from a cosmic perspective.
We now come to the point where another layer of the Grail Mystery can reveal itself. I would ask you to again ponder deeply the odd and extraordinary vision of the Grail procession in the Hall of the Fisher King, as described in previous articles and then, perhaps, after due consideration, the words of the anonymous 12th century Grail author in Perlesvous will yield up another layer of meaning to the Great Secret:
“The Grail appeared at the ceremony of the mass, in five different forms that none ought to tell. For the secret things of the sacrament should not be told openly, except by him given by God to tell them. King Arthur beheld all the changes; the last of them was a change into a chalice.”
For serious students of the Mysteries I give this hint. Interpret the meaning of the Grail according to the Language of the Birds, as discussed in previous articles specifically going back through the chain of etymological transmission to original meanings. Therein shall be found the key to the interpretation of the lost technology of planetary transformation and regeneration.