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Kreutz Comets — a Navigable Gegenstrom to the Solar Wind

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The solar wind streaming radially outward from the Sun offers a natural contact force for spacecraft propulsion. The Solar Sail is limited in degrees of freedom by the general unidirectional velocity vector of the solar wind. We discuss aspects of a focal natural comet stream opposing the solar wind direction, pellets of charged, incandescent matter that approach the sun reaching 0.2% lightspeed. They graze or are captured by the sun on the average of one comet every two days, often as twins. This is the Kreutz Comet Group, the most frequent and channelized provider of comets to the inner solar system. Historic records suggest a steady frequency sustained over many centuries, spotted by sharp-eyed observers shortly before sunrise. Early theoretical predictions from the 1980s about details of the plasma-nature of comets are now confirmed by recent discoveries around comet 67P. With those, streams of comets offer a variety of tapping sources for modern propulsion systems.
Kreutz Comets — a Navigable Gegenstrom to the Solar Wind
Holger Isenberg Mountain View, CA William Gardiner ! Atlanta, GA May 16, 2022
Kreutz Comets Facts
fastest objects in the solar system
600km/s orbital speed at perihelion,
0.2% lightspeed
every 2 days on average a new comet
constant solar-distance invariant 700km/s speed difference
between nucleus and solar wind
at 1au: 42km/s orbital speed,
at 200au assumed aphelion: 20m/s
from 1au to Sun: 3 weeks
estimated: ε=0.99992, period=750y
perihelion well below the 1.8 solar
radii Roche limit
-> surviving nuclei need to be rock-
solid, ice can't persist at that location
most nuclei diameters < 100m
identified as comet group
by Heinrich Kreutz in 1886
recent bright ones: C/1965 S1 Ikeya-Seki, C/2011 W3 Lovejoy
Sunward Stream of Matter
see: animated visualization of 2000
Comets observed via LASCO SOHO
C2/C3 1996 — 2010 [Karl Battams, Fig.5]
at any time, in average,
15 Kreutz Comets travel
on the incoming stream
within 1 au distance
from the Sun [Fig.4]
resembles a meteor-stream
of large objects
incoming trajectories
cluster around
144° inclination and
281° perihelion longitude
radiant point 5° NE of Sirius
Reliable Constant Stream
constant frequency of new comets since
SOHO observations began in 1996
earliest reliable confirmation by orbital
elements with C/1843 D1 by Piazzi Smyth
[Warner 1980]
progenitor object assumed as
X/1106 C1 (The Great Comet of 1106)
Origin of the Stream
no convincing theory exists to explain the Kreutz comet stream as result
from the fragmentation of a progenitor object
origin from a progenitor object would require an unusual directed
acceleration along the orbit to line up the fragments that widely
Zdenek Sekanina suggests a multi-step fragmentation resulting in 9
groups to avoid the unexplainable acceleration:
The magnitude of the needed acceleration — assumed to be driven
by the sublimation of water ice — was enormous, ranging [...] from
1.7% to 85% of the Sun’s gravitational acceleration!
[Sekanina 2021]
our hypothesis: Kreutz comets originate
from a steady plasma stream and condense
from there as individual objects.
The initial precisely sunward directed
impulse is governed by the radial
heliospheric electric field.
Historic Observations
2 ceiling murals in the Dendera Hathor
Temple depict a stream of objects
pointing towards the Sun [Figs.9, 10]
1 mural shows planetary positions of the
year 1168 [Fig.9, Fomenko 2002],
only other match 13201 BCE,
or excluding Sun & Moon: 551 BCE
2nd temple axis is pointing towards the
yearly Sirius heliacal rising point at the
horizon at 108° east of true north
stream origin around Hathor head
with the Sun in front of the constellation
of Cancer (scarab-crab) [Fig.9]
Hathor is equated with Isis in temple wall
Isis is equated with Sirius by the small Isis
Temple attached to the Hathor Temple
with its main axis pointing to the Sirius
heliacal rising point
the main holiday of the temple was the
Egyptian New Year,
defined by the heliacal rising of Sirius
with the Sun at the end of Cancer
the Egyptian New Year is followed within
a few days by the yearly Nile flood
fertilizing and watering the dry valley
Tradewinds of the Future
direction-steady and occurrence-
reliable winds at certain latitudes
allowed for global travel during
the era of the sailing ships
first map of those was published
by Edmond “comet-patron”
Halley in 1686
streams of matter or plasma
could enable the first generation
of interstellar trade routes
Wind Shear and Gegenstrom
The incoming stream of Kreutz Comets is a counter current (German:
Gegenstrom) against the radially outwards streaming solar wind. The
observed Solar Wind speed increases with growing distance from the
Sun, while the speed of Kreutz Comet on a direct gravity-bound sunward
course increase while closing in towards the Sun. The graphs of both
speeds with solar distance are nearly mirror symmetric [Fig.3].
The difference between both opposed velocity vectors is a constant of
700 km/s.
While those difference are measured in different mediums, the plasma
of the solar wind and the hard surface of the comet nucleus, a speed
difference within the same medium is also present:
In the diamagnetic cavity [Fig.14] on the anti-sunwards side of the
comet nucleus, the solar wind speed is reduced to almost 0 relative to the
nucleus. That means we have a speed difference of 700 km/s within
plasma as medium in at the boundary layer of the diamagnetic cavity.
An equivalent situation is known on Earth as wind shear and utilized
by the dynamic soaring [Fig.12] of the Albatros, flying 1000 km distance
without wing-flapping by extracting energy around the shear boundary
layer [Higgins 2021].
Dynamic Soaring or Sailing
dynamic soaring: flying in circles or S-curves
between layers of different wind speeds,
max. reachable speed independent from wind
speed, only static minimum of about 25 km/h
RC planes achieved 94% of theoretical
max. of 902 km/h [Fig.12]
36 times the wind speed difference!
Energy Sources around Comets
nucleus and tails are self luminous
[Herschel 1808]
-> Large Energy source powering it.
the straight sodium tail appears to
ignore gravity [Fig.13]
distinct electric field [Fig.15]
induced magnetosphere [Fig.14, 15]
no solar wind in diamagnetic cavity [Fig.14]
Oumuamua 1I/2017 U1 slipped through
with 88km/s at 0.25au without disturbance
of the IMF and without the typical
comet effects. -> What's different there?
Energy Transfer Methods for
Plasma Magnet of 10+km radius [Fig.16],
by induced ring current in plasma
Ambient Plasma Wave Propulsion,
[Gilland 2011]
the conductive plasma ring within the
plasma magnet around a spacecraft
entering the boundary between comet
magnetosphere and diamagnetic cavity
behind the comet would induce a high
see also: [Greason 2019], energy
extraction from the solar wind with a
moving plasma magnet
Let's complete the sequence:
Tradewinds used by sailing ships,
Jet Streams used for faster eastwards travel by aviation,
Comet Streams propelling interstellar travel!
The Kreutz comets require a continuous and highly focussed energy
source to sustain the stream.
We propose to emulate the processes a Kreutz comet undergoes with
a spacecraft.
Speculatively, we envision the hypothesized plasma stream as a
constant and focussed energy stream whose sources of energy are
other than gravitational, thermal and collisional, that is: electrical.
Suggested Follow-ups
James Webb Space Telescope (Infrared):
find the orbit trails [Fig.18]
of the Kreutz Comet Stream
to estimate its historic rate and origin
spectral analysis of orbit trails
NASA Parker Solar Probe &
ESA Solar Orbiter (plasma and EM field):
check for effects on the IMF
continue publishing orbital elements
calculated from x-y positional SOHO
LASCO C2/C3 data beyond 2010
Large Kreutz Comet
Oct 1, 2011 Fig.1a
Halley's Tradewinds Map Fig.11
published in 1686
Speed: Solar Wind vs Comet Fig.3
based on: Jones et al: Science of Sungrazers […] 2017
Plasma Stream Fig.8
Photo licensed from Depositphotos by author
Kreutz Comets Fig.5
still image from animation
by Karl Battams and Tom Bridgman
Naval Research Lab, 2015
The Great Comet of 1843 Fig.2
Charles Piazzi Smyth, Cape Town
Royal Museums Greenwich, Wikimedia
Hypostyle Hall, Dendera Fig.9
Ceiling mural with 12 zodiac constellations,
locations of 5 planets, Moon and Sun.
photo licensed from iStock by authors
other Dendera photos:
RC Sailplane at 900 km/h
Dynamischer Segelflug mit 900 km/h
[Sachs & Grüte 2018]
Electric field of a small comet Fig.15
Dynamics of a small comet, [J.McCanney 1987]
related paper: [James McCanney 1984]
Plasma Magnet R>10km Fig.16
The Plasma Magnet, [J. Slough 2004]
Kreutz Comets per year Fig.7
graph: Isenberg
based on SOHO LASCO observations
Different regions around Fig.14
an active comet
Low-Energy Ions Around Comet 67P
Doctoral Thesis, [Sofia Bergman 2021]
Orbit Trail in Infrared Fig.18
Spitzer Space Telescope, 2006
Comet NEOWISE Fig.13
C/2020 F3, photo: Nicolas Lefaudeux
Kreutz Comets 1996 — 2010 Fig.6
graphic: Isenberg, using Cosmographia
orbital elements from NASA/JPL Small Body Database
Kreutz Comets, a Comet Stream Fig.4
graphic: Isenberg, using Cosmographia
orbital elements from NASA/JPL Small Body Database
2h later, traveled 2Mkm
-> 280km/s Fig.1b
Locations for energy extraction
with a Plasma Magnet at high
gradient locations of B-field and
solar wind speed Fig.17
graphic: modified by Isenberg, based on [L.Matteini]
Solar Orbiter’s encounter with C/2019 Y4, [Matteini 2021]
[Fomenko 2002] A.T.Fomenko and G.V.Nosovskiy 2002/2006: History, Fiction or Science? Vol 1, p113,
History, Fiction or Science? Vol 3, pp325-440,
[Higgins 2021] Dynamic Soaring as a Means to Exceed the Solar Wind Speed
[Sachs & Grüte 2018][document_id]=480223
[Herschel 1808]
[J.McCanney 1984]
[J.McCanney 1987]
[Bergman 2021]
[J.Slough 2005],
[Greason 2019]
[Gilland 2011]
[Matteini 2021]
[Spitzer 2006]
[Warner 1980] Piazzi Smyth's Journal,
[Sekanina 2021] New Model for the Kreutz Sungrazer System: Contact-Binary Parent [...],
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Context. Solar Orbiter is expected to have flown close to the tail of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) during the spacecraft’s first perihelion in June 2020. Models predict a possible crossing of the comet tails by the spacecraft at a distance from the Sun of approximately 0.5 AU. Aims. This study is aimed at identifying possible signatures of the interaction of the solar wind plasma with material released by comet ATLAS, including the detection of draped magnetic field as well as the presence of cometary pick-up ions and of ion-scale waves excited by associated instabilities. This encounter provides us with the first opportunity of addressing such dynamics in the inner Heliosphere and improving our understanding of the plasma interaction between comets and the solar wind. Methods. We analysed data from all in situ instruments on board Solar Orbiter and compared their independent measurements in order to identify and characterize the nature of structures and waves observed in the plasma when the encounter was predicted. Results. We identified a magnetic field structure observed at the start of 4 June, associated with a full magnetic reversal, a local deceleration of the flow and large plasma density, and enhanced dust and energetic ions events. The cross-comparison of all these observations support a possible cometary origin for this structure and suggests the presence of magnetic field draping around some low-field and high-density object. Inside and around this large scale structure, several ion-scale wave-forms are detected that are consistent with small-scale waves and structures generated by cometary pick-up ion instabilities. Conclusions. Solar Orbiter measurements are consistent with the crossing through a magnetic and plasma structure of cometary origin embedded in the ambient solar wind. We suggest that this corresponds to the magnetotail of one of the fragments of comet ATLAS or to a portion of the tail that was previously disconnected and advected past the spacecraft by the solar wind.