Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 39: May-Jun 1985

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











The Coming Revolution In Planetology

"Current ideas about the moon appear to be mistaken on two fundamental points. First, at least within certain large classes of lunar craters, internal origin (i.e., some form of volcanism) predominates over impact; this result raises questions about the reality of the 'era of violent bombardment.'Second, the origin of tektites by meteoric impact on the earth cannot be reconciled with physical principles and is to be abandoned. The only viable alternative is origin by lunar volcanism, which implies the following: continuance of (rare) explosive lunar volcanism to the present time; existence of silicic lunar volcanism and of small patches of silicic rock at the lunar surface; a body of rock in the lunar interior, probably at great depth, which is closely similar to the earth's mantle and which contains billions of tons of volatiles, probably including hydrogen; and the origin of the moon from the earth after the formation of the earth's core."

"Editor's Note. This article by John O'Keefe puts forth a viewpoint with which most planetologists disagree strongly. On the ground that a fresh airing of the long-standing discussion on lunar volcanism is appropriate, Eos offers this article, untouched by editors or referees, and awaits reply by readers."

O'Keefe's article reviews considerable evidence supporting his two points: for Point One; crater dimensions and frequencies, craters with dark floors, lunar soil constituents; and, for Point Two; tektite analysis. He also remarks that the ages of the terrestrial tektite fields correlate with biological extinctions. This can be explained in terms of lunar volcanism as follows: lunar volcanos expel material violently, some of which escapes the moon's gravitational field and is drawn toward earth. Some falls as tektites; the rest forms a temporary ring around the earth. The ring shadows parts of the earth, causing radical climate changes and, as a consequence, biological extinctions.

(O'Keefe, John A.; "The Coming Revolution in Planetology," Eos, 66:89, 1985.)

Comment. The Editor's Note does not really convey the depth of the antagonism in the controversy about tektite origin.

From Science Frontiers #39, MAY-JUN 1985. 1985-2000 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