This image shows a Small Comet streak (in yellow box). This image was captured by the IRO on January 20, 1999. The longer black streaks are star trails.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of Dr. Louis A. Frank, The University of Iowa and NASA

Small Comets Bring Water to Earth
News story originally written on March 1, 2001

Scientists have been working for many years to try and figure out how the Earth first came to have water on it. Now there is a new theory -- the Small Comet theory.

Dr. Louis Frank and Dr. John Sigwarth have been working been with Small Comets since the early 80's. By using spacecraft images, Frank and Sigwarth were able to see that there were small snowy comets entering the Earth's atmosphere. Dr. Frank and Dr. Sigwarth also used the Iowa Robotic Observatory (IRO) in Arizona to take pictures of small comet streaks.

With all of this evidence in support, it does appear that there are about 20 snow comets weighing 20 to 40 tons each that crash into the Earth's atmosphere every minute. The comets are no danger to life on Earth because they fall apart in the atmosphere. In fact, these Small Comets might have been very beneficial to life on Earth. In the Small Comet theory, Frank and Sigwarth propose that the water in the Earth's oceans might have arrived by way of these small snow comets.

Dr. Louis Frank has been a University of Iowa faculty member since 1964. He has been the experimenter, co-investigator or principal investigator for instruments on 42 spacecraft! Dr. John Sigwarth has been Research Scientist at the University of Iowa since 1989. He currently is project scientist for the Visible Imaging System on the Polar spacecraft of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Last modified February 28, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

1999--A Year in Review...

It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more

STS-95 Launch: "Let the wings of Discovery lift us on to the future."

The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit. This was the United States' 123rd...more

Moon Found Orbiting Asteroid

A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more

U.S. is Fed Up with Russia

Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials want an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting to be...more

More on Recent Coronal Mass Ejection

A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun early last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. The SWICS instrument on ACE has produced a new and very...more

Mother Nature's Air Conditioning

J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service called forests the "heart and lungs of the world." This is because forests filter air and water pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and maintain...more

Planetary Alignment 2002

In late April through mid-May 2002, all five naked-eye planets are visible at the same time in the night sky! This is includes Mercury which is generally very hard to see. You won't want to miss this!...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA