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No. 33: May-Jun 1984

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A Real Death Star

As reported in SF#31, the geological record seems to show that widespread biological extinctions have occurred about every 26 million years. Coupled with this is Walter Alvarez's recent observation that terrestrial impact craters 10kilometer-diameter and up have been blasted out episodically -- every 28.4 million years on the average. This figure is close enough to 26 million years to impel some astronomers to search for a periodic source of cosmic projectiles. R.A. Muller and M. Davis, at Berkeley, think they have found one. They postulate that the solar system is really a double-star system. Our sun's companion star has only about 0.1 solar mass and is so faintly luminous that we have not found it visually. It does, however, now cruise along its orbit some 2.4 light years away. But it will be back! In fact, it returns every 26 million years to jostle the Oord Cloud of comets that hovers on the fringe of the solar system. This nudging periodically sends a large shower of comets careening around the inner solar system. The earth intercepts one or more of these projectiles each visit and -- bang -- we have new craters and another biological catastrophe.

(Anonymous; "A Star Named George," Scientific American, 250:66, April 1984.)

Comment, Ho hum! Still another cometary impact scenario. Ignatius Donnelly was pretty convincing in this matter a century ago.

From Science Frontiers #33, MAY-JUN 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987