Comets: Creators and Destroyers [NOOK Book]

Overview

David Levy brings these "ghostly apparitions" to life. With fascinating scenarios both real and imagined, he shows how comets have wreaked their special havoc on Earth and other planets. Beginning with ground zero as comets take form, we track the paths their icy, rocky masses take around our universe and investigate the enormous potential that future comets have to directly affect the way we live on this planet and what we might find as we travel to other planets.
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Comets: Creators and Destroyers

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Overview

David Levy brings these "ghostly apparitions" to life. With fascinating scenarios both real and imagined, he shows how comets have wreaked their special havoc on Earth and other planets. Beginning with ground zero as comets take form, we track the paths their icy, rocky masses take around our universe and investigate the enormous potential that future comets have to directly affect the way we live on this planet and what we might find as we travel to other planets.
In this extraordinary volume, David Levy shines his expert light on a subject that has long captivated our imaginations and fears, and demonstrates the need for our continued and rapt attention.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The recent discovery of an asteroid seemingly on a near-collision course with Earth has heightened awareness of the real risk to our species and civilization posed by asteroids and their spectacular cousins, the comets. Levy, who was a discoverer of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994 (and who chronicled the comet's explosive demise in Impact Jupiter), has authored a host of other books about comets and is science editor of Parade. In his compact and literate new book, he notes that comet impacts on the early Earth were the likely source of the water and organic materials that developed into life. They were also the most likely cause of the demise of the dinosaurs (and other mass extinctions), paving the way for the rise of mammalian life. The book is rich in photographs and images, including three paintings by James V. Scotti, discoverer of the near-miss asteroid that made recent headlines. Science fiction buffs will appreciate the millennial doomsday scenario Levy offers, beginning with a terse scientific announcement heralding a train of disrupted comet pieces heading for a spectacular impact on Earth in July 2000. Those who prefer fact-based speculation to flights of imagination will appreciate his knowledgeable discussion of the possibility of comet-seeded life on other worlds in the solar system, the Milky Way and beyond. 40 b&w photos. (May)
Library Journal
In 1986, the building blocks of life oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon were discovered in Halley's Cometin almost identical proportion to that found in humans. It is now theorized that when primordial Earth was struck by comets, they provided the materials to make life possible. Comet impact is also now widely accepted as a possible reason for the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. Noted astronomer Levy, the discoverer of 21 comets including the Shoemaker-Levy Comet, has written an exciting and informative lay reader's guide to the history of comets, providing the most current information about comets their composition and how they travel, past collisions and near misses between comets and Earth, and what defenses we can employ against the next inevitable collision between a comet or asteroid and Earth. Levy's style is riveting and leaves the reader hungry for more. Highly recommended for all popular science collections. [Three movies about comets are scheduled for release this year.Ed.]Gloria Maxwell, Kansas City P.L., KS
From the Publisher
Walter Anderson Editor-in-Chief, Parade magazine There's so much in these scientifically rich yet fast-moving pages that I have a new awareness of the history and vitality of those wonderful astral phenomena.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry A truly fascinating book! David Levy has managed to explain profound scientific theories in a way that is exciting and easy to understand.

James V. Scotti Spacewatch Project, University of Arizona David Levy's wonderful tale brings the spectacular beauty and terrifying danger of comets, both literally and figuratively, down to Earth.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439136898
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 5/20/1998
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

David H. Levy is a contributing editor of Parade magazine and has discovered twenty-one comets, including Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which collided with Jupiter. He is the author of nineteen books, including Skywatching, hundreds of articles, and a number of screenplays, all on aspects of astronomy. He lives in Vail, Arizona.
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Read an Excerpt


Preface: Ghostly Apparitions in the Night

I had watched a dozen comets, hitherto unknown, slowly creep across the sky as each one signed its sweeping flourish in the guest book of the Sun.

-- LESLIE C. PELTIER, STARLIGHT NIGHTS, 1965

Comets are like cats: they have tails, and they do precisely what they want. This book tells the story of comets, from their origins at the start of our solar system to Comet Hale-Bopp, which so many of us recently saw. The book is designed to tell that story by bringing together, in a simple, brief, and interesting way, the diverse subjects of comets, life, and impacts. The story of comets is a story of beautiful ghostly apparitions. It is also a narrative of wanton destruction and of the dawn of life.

Comets also are messengers. One of the hottest science stories of the century began on the icy wastelands of Antarctica at the end of 1984, when a group of young scientists riding a snowmobile found a meteorite. That rock, it turned out, was an emissary from Mars that had come here to stay. Blasted out of the Martian rock by the crash of a comet or an asteroid perhaps a billion years ago, the rock traveled lazily about the Sun as ages passed before striking the Earth, bringing with it evidence that simple life forms might have once inhabited Mars. The tale of that rock and all its scientific implications brings us to ponder what else comets have brought us through the ages and ultimately leads to the story of the life and death cycles of planet Earth.

When Comet Hale-Bopp swung around the Sun in the spring of 1997, its bridal-veil appearance on the world stage attracted the attention of millions. One night, I walked outside a hotel to see groups of people huddled in the parking lot, pointing out the comet. Another evening, two somewhat inebriated people looked at me, then at the sky to point out "Comet Halley-Bobb." Whatever you call it, the Great Comet of 1997 put on a spectacular performance. Newsweek's cover story pointed out that when it last appeared, around 2400 B.C., the pyramids of Egypt were relatively new. Although we do not know the comet's last orbit with such a degree of accuracy, the magazine's point was unerring: Hale-Bopp last viewed a very different picture of civilization on planet Earth.

The big comet's 1997 visit was an unsettled time on Earth, but for thirty-nine troubled souls it was deadly. On a cold spring morning, the members of San Diego's Heaven's Gate cult, believing that the comet offered them a journey to a new life, committed suicide. I was stunned when I heard this news. For me, comets are beautiful things, and searching for them is a happy task that I have done for more than thirty years. The idea that a comet would be associated with death does not make sense to me, but it did throughout most of the history of civilization. The famous illustration of a group of terrified soldiers gazing at Halley's comet just before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, preserved on the tapestry in a church in Bayeux, France, drives home humanity's perception that comets are omens of disaster. The word "disaster" was, in fact, made to show this role: it comes from the Greek "bad star."

Comets have had a bad rap for thousands of years, and it is only in the last two hundred years that science has been able to rehabilitate them. Instead of arriving on courses that would bring terrible calamity to some prince on Earth, they now circumnavigate the solar system following paths we call orbits. In 1979, one of the most astonishing stories in the history of science began as Walter and Luis Alvarez noticed, in a layer of Italian rock that dated back to the time of the elimination of the dinosaurs, the first evidence of cosmic impact. They proposed the revolutionary idea that a body from space collided with Earth, causing a mass extinction 65 million years ago. In 1991, a hundred-mile-wide impact crater was discovered, buried under Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, that confirmed, or at least validated, their thesis, Was it possible that comets do not predict disaster, but that they actually cause disaster?

The discovery that three-quarters of the species of life on this planet, including the dinosaurs, might have been extinguished by a single strike from space brought home to the scientific community the idea that impacts played a role in the course of life on Earth. But an event was about to take place that would bring the new evidence of impacts to front pages all over the world. in the summer of 1994, a train of shattered remnants of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet. It was the greatest explosion ever seen in our solar system. For several months after the collisions, dark clouds the size of Earth persisted over the impact sites. These strikes vividly displayed the awesome force that Nature can bring to bear in a comet crash. Suddenly, we had new ideas about our planetary heritage. The Earth has been struck by comets, and these collisions made drastic changes in the shape of life here.

There's more to this story. In 1986, a flotilla of spacecraft found carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen in Halley's comet -- the building blocks of life -- in virtually identical amounts to their existence in humans. Is it likely that when comets struck the primordial Earth, they brought the materials that made life possible?

Comets: Creators and Destroyers tells the story of comets from this new perspective. Gossamer travelers that visit our sky from time to time, these flying balls of ice and dust have shaped the course of life on Earth. In a special sense, we are the children of comets.

Copyright © 1998 by David Levy

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

Preface GHOSTLY APPARITIONS IN THE NIGHT 11

One FROM DUST TO DUST 17

Two FOUR BILLION YEARS AGO 37

Three COMETS AND THE ORIGIN OF LIFE 57

Four THREE BILLION YEARS AGO 71

Five SIXTY-FIVE MILLION YEARS AGO 87

Six COMETS ARE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORDS 103

Seven EARTH'S FIRST COLD WAR 115

Eight A TIME FOR COMETS 125

Nine A FIELD OF DREAMS 139

Ten TARGET EARTH 153

Eleven THREE LITTLE WORLDS 173

Twelve PROBING FOR LIFE IN OUR GALAXY 185

Thirteen YES, VIRGINIA, COMETS DO HIT PLANETS 197

Fourteen PRESCRIPTION FOR DOOMSDAY 215

Fifteen AN EPILOGUE 231

NOTES 239

INDEX 245
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Tim

    Comes in grabs the bag and brings it to force resalt four

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Jvienclanf

    Wbfuxiqm

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Res 10 on comet

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2013

    Julia

    Kkaleb go to res 41 be descriptive and hardm

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014


    <br>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    Feather

    Is anything you want me to be ;-)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    Blockade

    Is a wolf male ;)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2013

    Jade

    Watches my pus.y gettin wet.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2013

    Mariah to all lez girls

    Iam making a lez meeting place for girls only.its at 'sweet and sour' res one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2013

    TO ALL GIRLS AND GUYS!!!

    GO TO RESULT 9 NOW FOR SE<_>X!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2013

    Red to Blockade

    "What do you mean?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2013

    TO ALL HUMAN GALS

    There is a strong stallion named Night at result 20 who wants to f<_>uck some human a<_>ss

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    Nightmask

    Pads in hor<_>ny

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    Posted November 26, 2013

    Ally

    K

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