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Cosmic Rain
The Controversial Discovery of Small Comets

by Dr. Louis A. Frank

Trade Paperback, 294 Pages, 33 Illustrations

$34.95, ISBN: 978-1-949501-19-3

Genre(s): Speculative Science

Every minute several huge “snowballs” break up as they approach the Earth and deposit a large cloud of water vapor in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

That’s the startling finding that world-renowned physicist Louis A. Frank came to after studying the images from the Dynamics Explorer 1 spacecraft. His conclusion, based on data acquired at the limits of detection, created a storm of controversy among scientists. This is the story that was told in The Big Splash, published in 1990. But the story does not end there.

Less than a decade later, Frank’s discovery of these previously undetected small comets was confirmed when images were received from cameras aboard a different spacecraft named Polar. The news of this “vindication” of Frank’s provocative theory in 1997 made the front pages of several large metropolitan newspapers, including The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Washington Post.

Cosmic Rain, a greatly expanded, full color edition of The Big Splash, tells this never-before-told follow-up, in Frank’s own words, of the confirmation of the existence of small comets and the harsh criticism he faced from colleagues for upsetting so many scientific applecarts in the process.

About the Author:

Louis A. Frank (1938-2014)

A native of Chicago, Frank’s first professional research activities began in 1958 when he assisted James Van Allen in the calibration of the first U.S. lunar probes, Pioneers 3 and 4, as an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa. Later, Frank was the principal investigator for the auroral imaging instruments for the Dynamics Explorer Mission, the plasma instrumentation for the Galileo Mission to Jupiter, the U.S. plasma instrumentation for the Japanese Geotail spacecraft, and the camera for visible wavelengths for the Polar spacecraft of the International Solar Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) Program. His scientific accomplishments were many: he discovered the theta aurora, the remarkable configuration of auroral and polar cap luminosities that looks like the Greek letter theta hovering above the polar cap; he made the first measurements of the plasma ring around Jupiter and Saturn; and he was the first to measure solar-wind plasma funneling directly into the Earth’s polar atmosphere, as well as the belt of ions around the Earth known as the “ring current.” Frank was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and the recipient of the National Space Act Award.

Recent Small Comet News:

Snowballs in Hell
William Abbott takes space physicist Louis A. Frank's small comet theory and runs with it...all the way to Mercury. Though Frank dismissed the possibility that small comets could reach the innermost part of the solar system intact, Abbott cites recent discoveries that suggest there is indeed evidence of water—as well as other cometary ingredients, sodium and potassium—on Mercury. Abbott discusses a surface feature of Mercury known as "the hallows," which are recent formations. Small comets anyone?

Water on the Moon
Yes, there is water not he Moon; lots of it. But where did—or does—come from? NASA's forthcoming Lunar Polar Hydrogen Mapper will tell us about the distribution of that water and perhaps its origins. And in doing so, it may lend support for the late space physicist's small comets discovery. If Louis Frank is correct, small comets should be delivering a relatively homogeneous layer of glacial ice within the polar craters. In other Moon news, Chinese scientists have analyzed the lunar soil collected and brought back by their Chang-5 mission and concluded that Lunar Soil Has the Right Stuff for "Extraterrestrial Photosynthesis," the water for which could be sourced from lunar ice.

Millions of Tons of a Strange New Chemical Were Discovered in Earth’s Atmosphere
Scientists in Germany have discovered that these newly discovered chemicals called hydrotrioxides linger in the atmosphere for at least 20 minutes (remember that number). Hydrotrioxides are made up of a hydrogen atom and three oxygen atoms. The researchers estimate that at least 11 million tons of hydrotrioxides form in the atmosphere each year. "This work," they conclude, "draws attention to an important class of strong oxidizing agents previously disregarded in atmospheric kinetics models." Disregarded by the mainstream perhaps, but not by the late space physicist Louis A. Frank at the University of Iowa, who proposed that an influx of previously undetected small comets is currently depositing millions of tons of oxygen and hydrogen atoms in the form of water vapor into the upper atmosphere each year. Most remarkably, that "20 minute" linger time the researchers discovered matches exactly the linger time of the water vapor in the upper atmosphere from the disintegration of small comets that Frank discovered.

Chinese Rover Finds Evidence That Water Was Present on Mars More Recently Than Thought
The question is: how "recent"? The scientists speculate that part of the Martian surface were covered with water up until approximately 3 billion years ago. Okay, but what about the evidence of water in the Martian atmosphere today? We have evidence of it in the form of noctilucent clouds in the Martian atmosphere. Earth has them, too. Noctilucent clouds are produced by water vapor in the mesosphere. But no one has offered a plausible transport mechanism to get that much water vapor up that high from a now dry planet, as William Abbott explains in Water on the Planet Mars. Unless of course you accept the controversial discovery of small comets proposed by the late space physicist Louis A. Frank at the University of Iowa.

Jupiter's Mushballs
Some people are taking Louis A. Frank's small comet discovery seriously. William Abbott is one of them. In his latest post he addresses the presence of lots of water at high altitudes in Jupiter's atmosphere. He doesn't buy the explanation proposed by NASA's Juno scientists who call them "Mushballs," slushy ammonia-rich hailstones formed by the gas giant's violent thunderstorms. That designation reminds Abbott of astrophysicist Ernst Öpik's "Dustballs," the name given in the 1920s to the faint meteors that glow brightly for about 2 seconds entering Earth's atmosphere. Frank thought this class of faint meteors, Öpik’s Dustballs, were small comets. "Perhaps NASA’s Jovian Mushballs, with their flashes of light, are also Frank’s small comets," concludes Abbott. (PH)

Foreword by Patrick Huyghe

Part 1: The Big Splash (1981-1990)
1 A Radical Departure
2 Cosmic Rain
3 The Black Spot Mystery
4 True Confessions
5 A Storm of Controversy
6 The Creation of the Oceans
7 Heat, Dust, and the Origin of Life
8 The Atmosphere and the Ice Ages
9 A Masquerade for Radar
10 How to Spot a Small Comet
11 Flying Saucers and Other Strange Events
12 A Scramble for Satellite Data
13 Extraordinary Evidence
14 Launch of the Arti cial Comets
15 Some Cometary Competition
16 The Verdict
17 The Competition Fizzles
18 Why the Moon Doesn’t Ring Like A Bell
19 Mars and the Outer Planets
20 Where the Small Comets Come From
21 Death of the Dinosaurs
22 The Debate Comes to an End
23 Astronomers Enter the Fray
24 Where Are You Now, Galileo?
25 The Great Search Begins
26 Double Trouble
27 The Turning Point

Part 2 Vindication (1990-2001)
28 The Rest of the Story
29 Polar Rising
30 Vindication
31 Grand Slam
32 Dessler and His Pawns
33 Steering Through Rough Waters
34 Contact Sport
35 Spacewatch Redux
36 Deep Waters
37 Last Dance
38 The Witch Hunt
39 Snowballs in Hell
40 Small Comets and the Future

Illustration Acknowledgments
Appendix 1: How to Search for Small Comets
Appendix 2: How This Book Came to Be
Name Index

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What they're saying:

"Cosmic Rain is really several books in one. Most directly, it is a fascinating scientific detective story. At the same time, as Frank recognized, it is an important case study in the history of science, illuminating most particularly the circumstances of scientific breakthroughs that are surprising and unforeseen. Frank’s experiences illustrate several general points about the manner in which science receives—or rather, resists—startling novelty. Furthermore, this book is a very detailed first-hand description of scientific activity, warts and all, that should enable non-scientists to begin to recognize that scientific activity is very much like other human activities: influenced by human behavior and human psychology, not only by the objective technical considerations." — Henry Bauer, Journal of Scientific Exploration 

"Reading Cosmic Rain leaves no reader doubting Frank’s small comets are infalling, all ten million of them annually.  It’s an extraordinary discovery – and that is why it is controversial...His discovery of the small comets is a scientific triumph...The day is coming when everyone will remember what he accomplished." — William Abbott, "The life and times of Prof. L. Frank," William's Newsletter

What reviewers said about The Big Splash, the first edition of this book...

“A savage tale of how science works.” — Dennis Overbye, The New York Times Book Review

“A provocative work in a hotly contested area.” — Jack W. Weigel, Library Journal

“Well worth reading...Offers unique insights into the way a theory is developed and the way the scientific community handles unorthodox ideas.” — Richard Morris, San Francisco Chronicle

“A fascinating book. An exciting story. May be a classic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey


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