Chapter 15: Asteroid belts and Meteor showers
In this chapter we shall see how the very existence of our Main Asteroid Belt (and the more distant Kuiper belt) as well as the famed, periodic meteor showers also lend support to the notion of the Sun and Mars being binary companions. The Main Asteroid Belt is located in the celestial region between Mars and Jupiter. Here’s how it is conventionally illustrated:
A dense belt of dust / debris revolving between Mars and Jupiter image source: Wikimedia commons (opens in a new tab)
No one really knows why and how this belt of dust and debris came to be in the first place. Over the centuries, explanations have been tried. For example, one basically goes like this: “The asteroid belt is made of fragments of a much larger planet that once occupied the Mars-Jupiter region, this planet having suffered an internal explosion or a cometary impact many million years ago”.
Another theory goes like this:
“Why does our solar system have an Asteroid Belt? One theory that astronomers have is that 4.6 billion years ago, when our solar system was being formed, a tenth planet tried to form between Mars and Jupiter. However, Jupiter’s gravitational forces were too strong, so the material was unable to form a planet.” "Asteroid Belt"- Astronomical Society Astrophysics inreach at Cornell University (2006) (opens in a new tab)
Clearly, both of these theories are nothing more than unproven conjectures. They are, after all, diametrically opposed: the first speculates that a planet did form in that region and then exploded. The second contends that no planet could ever have formed there due to the gravitational forces of Jupiter. Both fall short of describing any plausible cause and effect process that would account for the Main Asteroid Belt’s formation, nor why our Main Asteroid Belt would have settled just outside of the orbit of Mars.
Well, here's the thing: asteroid belts are naturally to be expected around binary systems - as the wakes (of dust and debris) of the two companions collide and get ejected in all directions - as illustrated by this graphic to be found at the Binary Research Institute’s website:
Watch the animated version of the above graphic here: Colliding binary debris (opens in a new tab)
Now, do we have any evidence that Mars keeps ejecting dust particles into its orbital wake? Yes indeed: a quite recent astronomy article (March 10, 2021) reported that the "zodiacal light" may be caused by Mars dust storms. This mysterious light has long been believed to be sunlight reflecting off dust grains that move in the plane of our Solar System (until this 2021 discovery, asteroids and comets were thought to be its source):
"Why are these scientists confident that Mars’ dust is the source of the zodiacal light? Their statement explained: The researchers developed a computer model to predict the light reflected by the dust cloud, dispersed by gravitational interaction with Jupiter that scatters the dust into a thicker disk. The scattering depends only on two quantities: the dust inclination to the ecliptic and its orbital eccentricity. When the researchers plugged in the orbital elements of Mars, the distribution accurately predicted the tell-tale signature of the variation of zodiacal light near the ecliptic." "Do Mars dust storms cause the mysterious zodiacal light?" - earthsky.org (opens in a new tab)
As two binary companions periodically cross paths along their intersecting orbits, fields of dust, particles and debris will be ejected as they collide - to be flung into a wider, circumbinary orbit. In the case of our Sun-Mars system, it should therefore be naturally expected that our Main Asteroid Belt should be located as is observed: just outside the orbit of Mars, in the celestial region between Mars and Jupiter.
In later years, in fact, questions have been raised as to the apparent (yet unexpected) major role that 'tiny Mars' plays in the context of asteroids:
"Oddly enough, tiny Mars - with only 14 percent of Jupiter's gravity - played a major role in explaining the Earth-crossing asteroids, although as Morbidelli acknowledges, "It may be astounding that Mars is so effective in stimulating chaos in the belt, because it is not massive. Did somebody say "chaos"? The Why Files is interested... Essentially "chaos" means that small perturbations - astronomese for "disturbances" - can cause large changes in orbits. Indeed, the improved simulation produced an inner asteroid belt that "is almost entirely chaotic," Morbidelli says." "Chaotic Asteroids" - whyfiles.org (1998) (opens in a new tab)
Understandably, since asteroid belts consist of very small dust particles, they are particularly hard to detect. Nonetheless, more and more so-called “debris discs” are continually being discovered and, sure enough, virtually all of them are being found around binary systems suspected of containing one or more planets. Most notably, circumbinary debris discs have been observed around systems such as Fomalhaut, Vega, Tau Ceti, Epsilon Eridani, Beta Pictoris and Copernicus (a.k.a. “55 Cancri”) – all of which are high on the lists of 'exoplanet hunters', those modern-day astronomers specializing in the detection of possibly habitable planets outside of our Solar System.
“Debris disc” around binary system image source: "Fomalhaut" - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab)
“The discovery of an asteroid belt-like band of debris around Vega makes the star similar to another observed star called Fomalhaut. The data are consistent with both stars having inner warm belts and outer cool belts separated by a gap. This architecture is similar to the asteroid and Kuiper belts in our solar system. The gap between the inner and outer debris belts for Vega and Fomalhaut also proportionally corresponds to the distance between our Sun’s asteroid and Kuiper belts. This distance works out to a ratio of about 1:10 with the outer belt 10 times farther away from its host star than the inner belt. As for the large gap between the two belts, it is likely there are several undetected planets, Jupiter-sized or smaller, creating a dust-free zone between the two belts.”
In other words, today we have empirical evidence of binary systems surrounded by both an inner and an outer asteroid belt. This is just like our own Main Asteroid belt and Kuiper belt. Amazingly, even the proportional distance (1:10) between the two closest and furthest asteroid belts observed in other binary star systems appear to be similar to that of our own Solar System!
For what it’s worth, the general consensus in our world’s scientific arena appears to be that water was brought to Earth by asteroids. No one really knows for certain, but it is fascinating to read what is currently being theorized:
“FOLLOW THE WATER : More and more research suggests that asteroids delivered at least some of Earth’s water. Scientists can track the origin of Earth’s water by looking at the ratio of two isotopes of hydrogen, or versions of hydrogen with a different number of neutrons, that occur in nature. One is ordinary hydrogen, which has just a proton in the nucleus, and the other is deuterium, also known as ‘heavy’ hydrogen, which has a proton and a neutron. The ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in Earth’s oceans seems to closely match that of asteroids, which are often rich in water and other elements such as carbon nitrogen, rather than comets. (Whereas asteroids are small rocky bodies that orbit the sun, comets are icy bodies sometimes called dirty snowballs that release gas and dust and are thought to be leftovers from the solar system’s formation.) Scientists have also discovered opals in meteorites that originated among asteroids (they are likely pieces knocked off of asteroids). Since opals need water to form, this finding was another indication of water coming from space rocks. These two pieces of evidence would favor an asteroid origin.”
Now here’s the funny thing: “exoplanet-hunting” astrophysicists render all sorts of computer simulations in order to assess the probability of the presence of water on planets in the Habitable Zone (“HZ”) of any given star system. Their studies have concluded, in essence, that binary systems have a far higher probability (of several orders of magnitude) to contain planets harboring liquid water. This is because in a so-called single star system (such as our solar system is believed to be) there would be far less instability and fewer perturbations causing asteroids to be flung off course, to deliver their water to any given planets.
“Of course, this leaves the question of whether water transport via asteroids is a viable mechanism for supplying a single star planet system (like our own Earth) with liquid water. There are currently still several competing hypotheses as to how our planet obtained its water supply, but these sorts of simulations should shed light on the feasibility of water transport through impacting bodies.” — "Flinging Asteroids into the Habitable Zone" - by Anson Lam (2015) (opens in a new tab)
It follows that, if these academic studies are anything to go by, and if our Earth were part of a single star system, the probability of water existing on our planet would be extremely low. Yet, here we are, with about 71% of our wet & blue planet drenched in water!
In conclusion: it is today a known, observed and verified fact that asteroid belts are a distinctive attribute of binary systems. Moreover, the very existence of our Main Asteroid Belt (just beyond the orbit of Mars) certainly appears to lend support to a fundamental premise of the TYCHOS model - as determined by Tycho Brahe more than 400 years ago: namely, that the orbit of Mars intersects the orbit of the Sun.
There’s probably no more fascinating celestial spectacle than the so-called “shooting stars” that we have all occasionally witnessed in our lifetimes. Amateur astronomers know where and when to look for even more spectacular events known as meteor showers. These events, which can last for a couple of days or up to several weeks, occur on a regular, annual basis in various parts of our skies and, quite reliably, in the same periods of the year. Most people will have heard of the largest known meteor showers, such as the Geminids, the Perseids, the Orionids or the Aquariids, all of which are named after the constellations (i.e. the celestial areas or “radiant points”) from which they appear to originate and radiate from.
If you have ever had the good fortune to marvel at one of the major meteor showers that occur every year around the globe, you must at one time have asked yourself this question: "WHY do these annual meteor showers regularly occur year after year (around the same dates) - and always appear to originate from almost the exact same celestial location?" This is, in fact, an excellent question. Here's what astronomers will tell you: "the various meteor showers occur every year due to Earth crossing the path of cometary trails of debris left over by various comets." Well, the problem with this theory is that NONE of our known comets return every single year. Halley's comet, for instance (whose trail is believed to be responsible for two major, annual meteor showers), returns only every 76 years or so. So we are actually meant to believe that the dust trails left by Halley's comet somehow linger for decades on end along given 'strips' of space that keep being impacted annually by Earth - causing fairly similar meteor showers every single year!
I trust that anyone can sense the absurdity of the current theory for the annual recurrence of the various meteor showers. Surely, the fact that they keep occurring each year over the same area of our skies must have a better and less fanciful explanation. What follows is a detailed, illustrated demonstration of how the TYCHOS can account for these recurring events.
Historically, these meteor showers have been a cause of great perplexity among astronomers and cosmologists. The obvious, principal questions were what causes them and why they occur every year at virtually the same place in the sky. Let me outline the current understanding of the nature of meteor showers by reproducing a few excerpts from the Wikipedia:
“The actual nature of meteors was still debated during the 19th century. Meteors were conceived as an atmospheric phenomenon by many scientists (Alexander von Humboldt, Adolphe Quetelet, Julius Schmidt) until the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli ascertained the relation between meteors and comets in his work ‘Notes upon the astronomical theory of the falling stars’ (1867). A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate, or originate, from one point in the night sky. These meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris called meteoroids entering Earth’s atmosphere at extremely high speeds on parallel trajectories. Most meteors are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all of them disintegrate and never hit the Earth’s surface. A meteor shower is the result of an interaction between a planet, such as Earth, and streams of debris from a comet. Comets can produce debris by water vapor drag, as demonstrated by Fred Whipple in 1951, and by breakup.” "Meteor Shower" - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab)
In other words, meteor showers are currently assumed to be caused by the Earth colliding (as it supposedly hurtles around the Sun at 30 km/s) with streams of debris left over from comets which periodically visit our solar system. However, there are a number of problems with this theory:
Comets which enter our solar system rarely, if ever, stray right across (i.e., intersect with) Earth’s orbital plane. Cometary orbits are almost invariably tilted in relation to Earth’s orbital plane and very few, if any, pass right through Earth’s celestial path. That is, most comets (which are all rather tiny objects no larger than a few kilometers) pass either “above” or “below” the ecliptic and would thus be unlikely to leave any significant amount of debris trails precisely along Earth’s (supposed) orbital path around the Sun.
Even if some comets intersected Earth’s supposed Copernican orbit, it would take no longer than a few minutes - at the most - for Earth to pass through their debris trails as it (allegedly) travels at 30 km/s. How then could large meteor showers that last for several days be explained?
Comets have vastly different periods (e.g. 76 years for Halley’s comet - or 3.3 years for Comet Encke). Indeed, the famous Perseid meteor shower is believed to be caused by the debris trail left over by the Swift-Tuttle comet which has a period of no less than 133 years! How then could this possibly explain the annual recurrence of the major meteor showers and their fairly regular intensities and durations? Is this cometary debris supposed to linger for years, decades or even centuries on end in the same area of the sky?
The basic premise of the TYCHOS model's working hypothesis is quite simple: the major meteor showers are caused by the debris trails perennially circulating behind (i.e. in the wake of) the Sun’s and Mars’ orbits, as the two binary companions constantly shed tiny particles along their orbital paths. As their slightly mutually-inclined orbits occasionally intersect in both right ascension (RA) and declination (DECL), the dust trails of the Sun and Mars will collide and send 'meteorites' in all directions, both "upwards" (towards the Main Asteroid Belt) and "downwards" (towards the Earth). In any event, there appears to be ample evidence that several types of meteorites are of Martian origin:
"The proof of their Martian origin appears to be almost absolutely conclusive, based on the chemical signatures of gases (...)." "Martian meteorites" - Vanderbilt.edu (opens in a new tab)
The following 4 animations depict how the meteor showers known as the Gemenids, the Perseids, the Orionids and the Aquariids would “play out” in the TYCHOS model. The animations were made with sequential screenshots from the Tychosium 3D simulator (opens in a new tab).
THE GEMENID METEOR SHOWER
We shall start with the famous Gemenid meteor shower. It recurs every year roughly between December 4 and December 17, peaking on December 14. The observed “radiant point” of this shower is located around 7h30 min of RA. According to the Wikipedia, the average speed of the Gemenid meteors is 35 km/s. This means that, since the impact between the Sun’s and Mars’ orbital wakes occurs at the distance of 1 AU (i.e., the distance between the Sun and Earth, ca. 150 million km), the Gemenid meteors will employ about 7 weeks to reach Earth’s atmosphere. Hence, we should expect the impact period to take place in the last days of October - and the Gemenid meteor shower to occur in mid-December.
And, in fact:
Watch the animated version here: tinyurl.com/gemenidsTYCHOS
THE PERSEID METEOR SHOWER
Next, let's look at the famous Perseid meteor shower. It recurs every year roughly between July 17 and August 24, peaking on August 12. The observed “radiant point” of this shower is located around 3 h of RA. According to the Wikipedia, the average speed of the Perseid meteors is 58 km/s. This means that, if the impact between the Sun’s and Mars’ orbital wakes occurs at the distance of 1AU, the Perseid meteors will employ about 4 weeks to reach Earth’s atmosphere. Hence, we should expect the impact period to take place in the last days of July - and the Perseid meteor shower to occur around mid-August.
And, in fact:
Watch the animated version here: tinyurl.com/perseidsTYCHOS
THE ORIONID METEOR SHOWER
Next, let’s look at the famous Orionid meteor shower. It recurs every year roughly between October 2 and November 7, peaking on October 21. The observed “radiant point” of this shower is located around 6h24min of RA. According to the Wikipedia, the average speed of the Orionid meteors is 67 km/s. This means that, if the impact between the Sun’s and Mars’ orbital wakes occurs at the distance of 1 AU, the Orionid meteors will employ about 3.7 weeks to reach Earth’s atmosphere. Hence, we should expect this impact period to take place in early October - and the Orionid shower to occur at the end of October.
And, in fact:
Watch the animated version here: tinyurl.com/orionidsTYCHOS
THE DELTA AQUARIID METEOR SHOWER
Finally, let us look at the famous Delta Aquariid meteor shower. It recurs every year roughly between July 12 and August 23, peaking on July 30. The observed “radiant point” of this shower is located around 23h20 min of RA. According to the Wikipedia, the average speed of the Delta Aquariid meteors is 41 km/s. This means that, if the impact between the Sun’s and Mars’ orbital wakes occurs at the distance of 1 AU, the Aquariid meteors will employ about 6 weeks to reach Earth’s atmosphere. Hence, we should expect the impact period to take place in mid-June - and the Delta Aquariid shower to occur at the end of July.
And, in fact:
Watch the animated version here: tinyurl.com/aquariidsTYCHOS
You may now rightly ask the following question: "Do those impact periods coincide with ACTUAL intersections (in celestial longitude AND latitude) of the orbits of the Sun and Mars?" The answer to this good question is "yes". For instance, the annual impact zone of the Sun and Mars orbits responsible for the Perseid meteor shower occurs at about 3h of RA (Right Ascension) and 15° of DECL (Declination) - at a point in space where the orbits of the Sun and Mars intersect - as can be verified by perusing the Tychosium3D simulator (opens in a new tab).
In conclusion, I would submit that the TYCHOS hypothesis for the occurrence of our major meteor showers holds water (and supersedes current theory for the occurrence of our largest meteor showers) in terms of plausibility, logic and empirical probation. In any event, it makes little sense that these meteor showers would be caused by Earth smashing annually into tiny wakes of lingering cometary dust - since no comets are known to transit in our skies on a yearly basis.
A POSSIBLE "MARS-METEORS / RED-RAIN" CORRELATION?
As a speculative addendum to this chapter (and a suggestion for further study), let's see whether "Martian meteor dust" may be related to the controversial phenomenon known as 'red rain'. Firstly though, please know that it appears to be a well-established fact that (at least some) meteorites have a Martian origin - as their chemical compositions have been analyzed and deemed to be consistent with the elements believed to be found on Mars:
"It has for some time been accepted by the scientific community that a group of meteorites came from Mars. As such, they represent actual samples of the planet and have been analyzed on Earth by the best equipment available. In these meteorites, called SNCs, many important elements have been detected. Magnesium, Aluminium, Titanium, Iron, and Chromium are relatively common in them. In addition, lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, niobium, molybdenum, lanthanum, europium, tungsten, and gold have been found in trace amounts." "Ore resources on Mars" - Wikipedia (opens in a new tab)
Red rain (or 'blood rain', as it was called in antiquity) is a hotly-debated phenomenon which still lacks a conclusive / satisfactory explanation - even though the Wikipedia boldly proclaims that "there is now a scientific consensus that the blood rain phenomenon is caused by aerial spores of green microalgae Trentepohlia annulata." Blood rain (opens in a new tab). However, and as admitted by its very proponents, this theory lacks any rational explanation for the uptake (or 'evaporation') of these terrestrial algae into the clouds!
In recent decades, a flurry of controversy has surrounded the rare occurrences (around the world) of red rain downpours which can last for several weeks (similarly to the famous meteor showers treated in this chapter). For instance, a number of red rain showers took place between 2001 and 2012 in India and Sri Lanka (some of them following suspected and/or subsequently confirmed meteor airbust events). Water samples of the red rain were then analyzed for their chemical composition by the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS):
"Some water samples were taken to the Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) in India, where they separated the suspended particles by filtration. Sediment (red particles plus debris) was collected and analysed by the CESS using a combination of ion-coupled plasma mass spectrometry, atomic absorption spectrometry and wet chemical methods. The major elements found were Carbon, Silicon, Calcium, Aluminium and Iron. The CESS analysis also showed significant amounts of heavy metals, including nickel (43 ppm), manganese (59 ppm), titanium (321 ppm), chromium (67ppm) and copper (55 ppm)".
All in all, the chemical composition found in "red rain" appears to be fairly consistent with that found in Martian meteorites... And this is where my own musings around this particular phenomenon will end. I will leave you with this abstract of a fairly intriguing study (2003) by Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar of the Mahatma Gandhi University:
"Red coloured rain occurred in many places of Kerala in India during July to September 2001 due to the mixing of huge quantity of microscopic red cells in the rainwater. Considering its correlation with a meteor airbust event, this phenomenon raised an extraordinary question whether the cells are extraterrestrial. Here we show how the observed features of the red rain phenomenon can be explained by considering the fragmentation and atmospheric disintegration of a fragile cometary body that presumably contains a dense collection of red cells. Slow settling of cells in the stratosphere explains the continuation of the phenomenon for two months. The red cells under study appear to be the resting spores of an extremophilic microorganism. Possible presence of these cells in the interstellar clouds is speculated from its similarity in UV absorption with the 217.5 nm UV extinction feature of interstellar clouds." Cometary panspermia explains the red rain of Kerala - by Godfrey Louis & A. Santhosh Kumar (2003 (opens in a new tab)
And yes, then there is Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe's fascinating "panspermia" theory, but disquisitions about just how life came about on this planet are - as you may appreciate - well beyond the scope of this book. In my view, humankind ought to start observing some humility and first determine the correct geometric configuration of our little Solar System - before engaging in the 'Godlike' and almost insanely ambitious quest to unravel the origins of terrestrial life, let alone the birth of our Universe (the obscene-sounding "Big Bang" theory notwithstanding).