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No. 60: Nov-Dec 1988

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Icy comets evaporating?

To keep the scorecard up-to-date, we here record the probable obliteration of observations of excess hydrogen in the inner solar system. Mentioned in SF#58, this excess hydrogen was observed from Voyager 2, as it cruised toward Mars and looked backward towards earth. Al-though the amount of excess hydrogen detected was only l/10,000,000-th of that required by the small icy comets postulated by L. Frank et al, the result was surprising and gave a boost to the icy comet theory. Unfortunately, perhaps, the "excess" hydrogen evolved from a clerical error, when a student miscopied a figure during the data analysis. (No PhD for that student!)

Frank's icy comets are in even deeper trouble, since independent analysis hint that his satellite data may be attributable to instrument noise.

(Kerr, Richard A.; "Comets Were a Clerical Error," Science, 241:532, 1988. Also: Hall, D.T., and Shemansky, D.E.; "No Cometesimals in the Inner Solar System," Nature, 334:417, 1988.)

From Science Frontiers #60, NOV-DEC 1988. 1988-2000 William R. Corliss