Dust, Zodiacs & Queen (the band)

It’s a strange world sometimes…

One of my favorite shows of all time was “Connections”. A sort of science / history / adventure blend. I loved it because it was how I experienced the world. I’d start off looking at one thing and pretty soon I’d be off on something “totally unrelated” that was directly connected… I’ve taken to calling those moments “Connections Moments” now.

I’ve been trying to move forward the horizon of understanding just a bit on “cold spikes” in our Holocene History, with some particular emphasis on the 8.2 Kiloyear Event and honorable mention for The Dark Ages and the 6.2 Kiloyear Event. It cycles around cycles and occasionally blazes with a comet or two…

So I’m slogging through some hard core science papers on the one hand and some “popular web pages” on the other. Punctuated Equilibrium on the one hand and Coherent Catastrophism on the other… Pages of graphs of orbital calculations for the Taurid swarm… Stuck in the middle of several of them is the phrase “zodiacal dust” or sometimes “zodiacal meteors”. Once or twice I can “let it slide” and just assume it’s “dust out there somewhere”… But it nags at me…

WHAT makes zodiacal dust different from any other? So I look it up.


Zodiacal light is a faint, roughly triangular, diffuse white glow seen in the night sky that appears to extend up from the vicinity of the Sun along the ecliptic or zodiac. It is best seen just after sunset and before sunrise in spring and autumn when the zodiac is at a steep angle to the horizon. Caused by sunlight scattered by space dust in the zodiacal cloud, it is so faint that either moonlight or light pollution renders it invisible.

The zodiacal light decreases in intensity with distance from the Sun, but on very dark nights it has been observed in a band completely around the ecliptic. In fact, the zodiacal light covers the entire sky, being responsible for major part(60% of the total skylight on a moonless night. There is also a very faint, but still slightly increased, oval glow directly opposite the Sun which is known as the gegenschein.

The dust forms a thick pancake-shaped cloud in the Solar System collectively known as the zodiacal cloud, which occupies the same plane as the ecliptic. The dust particles are between 10 and 300 micrometres in diameter, with most mass around 150 micrometres.

OK. It’s a layer big / thick enough to be seen on a dark sky at dusk / dawn and is in the plane of the ecliptic. That’s a lot of dust… Comets come in and break up. The bits slowly erode, spiraling inward until they get small enough to be blown back out by the solar wind. Strange. Sounds a bit like a traffic jam in the making (but I presume cometary debris is from all over the compass, as are comets, while the zodiacal dust is narrowed into the ecliptic…)

Now I’m thinking about the Zodiac, and wondering about the fixation on Orion’s Belt in Egypt, Mexico, and the circles of England… Comets coming in in droves, leaving in dust, changing history and life along the way…


The giant comets normally reside far beyond the planets, in a spherical cloud surrounding the Sun, called the Oort cloud. There is also evidence for a flattened disk of comets closer to the inner solar system, called the Edgeworth/Kuiper belt. What prompts members of either of these comet repositories to enter the realm of the planets? Clube and Napier suggest a galactic influence. The solar system periodically passes through the plane of the galaxy as the Sun (and the solar system with it) orbits the galactic center. Each passage may dislodge giant comets and divert them closer to the Sun. The outer planets, particularly Jupiter, may then perturb some of these giant comets into orbits which enter the inner solar system. These comets, stressed both by gravity and by heat from the sun, may fragment into a cloud of smaller objects with dynamically similar orbits.

Chiron offers a good example of a giant comet as called for by Clube and Napier’s giant comet hypothesis. Chiron is somewhere between 148 and 208 kilometers in diameter. Currently Chiron’s unstable “parking orbit” lies mostly between Saturn and Uranus. Chiron may end up injected into the inner solar system within a hundred thousand years, or ejected from the solar system on a similar time scale. It is also possible that Chiron has already visited the inner solar system.

The Taurid complex and the Kreutz sungrazer group are two families of objects which most likely represent the fragmented remains of two giant comets in the current era. SOHO has recently discovered many new members of the Kreutz group which were previously unknown.

Giant Comets? One that’s a couple of hundred kilometers in diameter and lurking in an unstable orbit near the gas giants?


has an interesting animated graphic of the orbit in it:

Chiron orbit Saturn Stationary view

Chiron orbit Saturn Stationary view

You might have to click on this to “make it go”. Saturn is the little white stationary dot at about 10 o’clock. The blue ring is Jupiter. The unstable orbit of the Giant Comet From Hell That’s Going To Get Us Someday is the chaotic red thing…

And down in the Wiki on Zodiac Dust I find:

Brian May

In August 2007, Brian May, lead guitarist with the band Queen, handed in his PhD thesis Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud 36 years after starting it and then abandoning it in favour of a musical career. That he was able to submit it was possible only because of the minimal amount of research on the topic that had been carried out in the intervening years. May describes the subject as being one that became “trendy” again in the 2000s.

OK… Aside from the notion of taking nearly 4 decades to get a Ph.D. (and me thinking it was too late and maybe I need to rethink that ;-) we find it isn’t a well studied area.

But Brian May? THAT Brian May? THAT Queen? He’s the one playing the redish lead guitar in the following, not the one on the dark base.

So we’ve got a Ph.D. rocker… I think he made the right career choice as even astrophysics doesn’t pay as well as Rock Star…

Now I’m off to a night of watching Queen Videos ( 176 of them in the “official” site on Youtube…) pondering The Zodiac and wondering just how I got here from The Iron Age Cold Period and the Migration Era Pessimum…

Wondering how much of the Ancient Wisdom and New Age stuff “has legs” in a poetic kind of way.



Amanda Laoupi

Centre for the Assessment of Natural Hazards and Proactive Planning

(National Technical University of Athens)(NTUA), GREECE

Presented at the International Symposium on SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY – IN HOMERIC EPICS, 27-30 August 2006, Ancient Olympia, Greece

Yes. You read that right. “National Technical University of Athens” in the same breath with “Homeric Epics”…

d) Hephaestos fell from Heaven, either on land (in the latitude of NE Aegean) , or into the deep sea (a submarine impact), where he remained invisible working in his workshop. Scientific research has shown that both arguments function logically. Furthermore, impact cases can trigger increased volcanic activity, as the geo-archive of our planet has already revealed.
e) If the Homeric Iliad is deciphered from the standpoint of Archaeoastronomy, Hephaestos is also related to the meteor swarm of Perseides. Finally, god’s deformity and his reappearance in the latitude of Eastern Mediterranean may include the element of periodicity (? comet).

In fact, a great deal of information acquired from Iliad seems to refer to the extended catastrophe of the beginning of 2nd millennium B.C. Consequently, Hephaestos may function as a symbolic archetype of past impact events, being one of the pivotal figures within the gnostical system of the Pelasgians during the 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C. Phaethon’s ride, the famous fall of Troy and the 12th cent. catastrophes were added later, forming another mythological ‘layer’ of information in the palimpsest of ancient astronomical knowledge in the circum-Mediterranean region.

And another curious Connections Moment happens…

We are all stardust. The planet was formed in dust. Life and death are punctuated by dust. The Zodiac matters more than I’d ever thought. And the Iliad is only a moment in time away from Queen…

And I’m realizing that I need to get a copy of the Iliad and see if maybe it has something to say about the actual history of climate / comet events “back then”.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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15 Responses to Dust, Zodiacs & Queen (the band)

  1. Those strange connections between things…. Start on one subject, end up somewhere totally different. Sometimes it’s worth just surfing the net and following whims, since it provides a lot of food for thought, but I at least don’t often do it – can end up 8 hours later thinking it’s really really time to head to bed now. One such surf led me into LENR research, which is totally off-topic on this thread but connected by the way I found out about it. Another connection is that that interest led me to finding this blog….

    Brian May has been on astronomy programs on the BBC. He’s a bright guy (a lot of successful musicians are, even if you didn’t like the music as such) and, according to a friend of mine who met him, also is just as friendly in real life as he appears to be on the box. I’d take his ideas seriously.

  2. Petrossa says:

    If you only knew how long it took me to understand what a 8.2 kiloyear was….. Old age Sigh.

  3. Julian Jones says:

    Connections … The Biblical/Koranic tale of Joseph/Yussuf interpreting the Pharoah’s dream of seven fatted calves & seven lean equating to seven years of plenty, followed by seven years famine has long seemed to me a possible approximation to a solar signal in rainfall; there is some evidence in UK rain data … such linkages have been better detailed by Svensmark, Corbyn et al. Any such ‘cosmic’ connections will undoubtedly be vast but also complex – affecting atmospheric & terrestrial climatic drivers, cloud formation, microbial activity (the biggest portion of our biomass) and oceanic processes at the least.

  4. Pascvaks says:

    People don’t remember facts, but they do remember legends a while; though, over time, they even forget the legends. Recent federally funded studies have shown that people don’t remember anything as well as they used to… People don’t remember… People don’t… People…

    No matter what happens in the next 4 billion years remember the ‘Wheel’. Please?

  5. Ed Forbes says:

    “..One of my favorite shows of all time was “Connections”…”

    I still have good memories of these programs. It had one of the best primers on how calculus was developed and first used of any I have seen. Should be required for all entry level calculus classes.

  6. Jason Calley says:

    “Finally, god’s deformity and his reappearance in the latitude of Eastern Mediterranean may include the element of periodicity ”

    There are apocryphal stories that the image of a crippled metal smith is an echo of a very much older tradition. The suggestion is that a person who could work metal was so valuable to a village (both for tools and weapons) that the smith was intentionally “hobbled” to prevent him from running off to another village. I am not convinced, but it is an interesting idea.

  7. w.w.wygart says:

    How did this thread start again? – Connections [TV series] – I confess I had to look that one up. Now that we’re finally in the internet age, its probably worth going back and having a look-see. I’m pretty hip to the concepts presented in the series by James Burke [though not him in particular]. All all about non-linearity, complexity, and “Alternative Views of Change” what I would refer to as a ‘fractal view of history’.

    I have to applaud you for your interest in trying to, “…move forward the horizon of understanding just a bit…” even if its something as relatively obscure as Holocene “cold spikes”. Anything that tends to move the horizon of understanding, as opposed to mere pedantry, has to be applauded. Good luck with it.

    Its an interesting subject, how various solar and cosmic processes feed[back] into earth’s systems: climatological, evolutionary, biological, and cultural [all four]. It almost goes without saying that these ‘local’ cosmological cycles have ‘something’ to do with our climate system. Question is, is it significant? Given enough [quality] data and proper application of The Method, and I’m sure you have a good a possibility as anyone of making some useful discoveries, even if the discovery is that the zodiacal lights, or whatever, are not significant in their impact on Earth’s climate.

    I’m noting a bit of irony inherent in that process. Uncle Terrence used to paraphrase his brother Dennis as saying something like, [there were several versions of this bit of ‘lazzi’] “Have you noticed that as you build the bonfire of Knowledge ever brighter that the surface area of Mystery revealed grows ever larger?”

    Personally what I find interesting is that we, as a species, are ever able to make any real progress in “understanding” AT ALL given our biological propensity towards bias and systematic errors in reasoning. One of the most interesting aspects of this notion has to do with the unique non-linear way the human brain processes information. We as humans are quite literally able to detect [create] patterns out of almost ANYTHING. On the one hand almost everything new and significant that is discovered, comes as a ‘funny idea’ of some kind and the effort to try and pour reality through that ‘funny idea’. On the other hand the reality is that most of those ‘funny ideas’ turn out to be completely wrong, or mostly wrong, or significantly wrong, or partly wrong… you get the picture.

    This is where I think a lot of people, academic scientists included can lose their way with The Method, namely not taking the null hypothesis strongly enough and not designing an experimental approach that tries to eliminate the working hypothesis from possibility and ‘prove’ the null hypothesis. It seems to me to be the case that often trying to ‘confirm’ the hypothesis leads to confirmation bias in results.

    This morning doing my rounds of the blogosphere I was reading Richard Landes over at TheAugeanStables.com paraphrasing Nietzsche, “Nietzsche once compared thinking to diving into an ice-cold pond and seizing a stone lying on the bottom. Time to wet more than our feet.”


  8. Dizzy Ringo says:

    The one thing I remember about connections was the comment that everyone was getting so specialised that there was going to be a desperate need for generalists who could communicate across specialities.

  9. Pascvaks says:

    @w.w.wygart – “How did this thread start again?…This morning doing my rounds of the blogosphere I was reading Richard Landes over at TheAugeanStables.com paraphrasing Nietzsche, “Nietzsche once compared thinking to diving into an ice-cold pond and seizing a stone lying on the bottom. Time to wet more than our feet.””

    Vetty , vetty interesting, would you like to vet the dust, the zodiac, or the queen? (;-)

    @Dizzy Ringo – “The one thing I remember about connections was the comment that everyone was getting so specialised that there was going to be a desperate need for generalists who could communicate across specialities.”

    Specialists have always developed their own languages that only they understand; in my experience anything worth listening to or reading will be translated into the vernacular by another specialist for a fee. As far as a lack of ‘generalists’, not to worry, kids these days aren’t getting a tenth of the education they and their parents are paying for, the economy is tanking, and the Iranians are going “Mad as Hatters in Vunderland”, it’s all going to be over in a poof and back to basics soon (climate change or not), and “You Know WHO” will be blamed as usual. WE are so bad. Nothing changes. Nothing important changes; not for we the fallen, killer angels;-)


    The ability to imagine the impossible is our greatest talent and curse. I believe Germans call it poison, a Gift.

  10. tckev says:

    Neat site of comet/earth impact chronology. There is a lot here! –

  11. tckev says:

    Here is another site in which the author, James L Bradley, writes of many asteroid/comet impacts of thousands of year – very much in the Immanuel Velikovsky mold.

  12. No one has yet mentioned Queen’s science fiction piece. Not “Flash,” the theme to the silly remake of the old serial, but a piece on the complications of relativistic interstellar time travel. It’s called simply ’39, often referred to as In the Year of ’39 (Youtube). Here are the lyrics:

    In the year of thirty-nine
    Assembled here the volunteers
    In the days when lands were few
    Here the ship sailed out
    Into the blue and sunny morn
    The sweetest sight ever seen

    And the night followed day
    And the story tellers say
    That the score brave souls inside
    For many a lonely day
    Sailed across the milky seas
    Never looked back
    Never feared
    Never cried

    Don’t you hear my call
    Though you’re many years away
    Don’t you hear me calling you
    Write your letters in the sand
    For the day I’ll take your hand
    In the land that our grandchildren knew

    In the year of thirty-nine
    Came a ship from the blue
    Volunteers came home that day
    And they bring good news
    Of a world so newly born
    Though their hearts so heavily weigh
    For the Earth is old and grey
    Little darlin’ look away
    But my love this cannot be
    Oh so many years have gone
    Though I’m older but a year
    Your mother’s eyes
    From your eyes
    Cry to me

    Don’t you hear my call
    Though you’re many years away
    Don’t you hear me calling you
    Write your letters in the sand
    For the day I’ll take your hand
    In the land that our grand-children knew

    Don’t you hear my call
    Though you’re many years away
    Don’t you hear me calling you
    All your letters in the sand
    Cannot heal me like your hand
    For my life
    Still ahead
    Pity me

    I particularly like the “the land that our grandchildren knew” line. One curiosity about the timing could be resolved by assuming a hundred years between the departure and return.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  13. DocMartyn says:

    Plot minus log(Dust) and temperature (Deuterium) in the 800K ice core record.
    Change in dust precede temperature by a little and CO2 by a lot.

  14. Pingback: Biting Off More Than I Can Chew – Part One – the redacted reply | The Coraline Meme

  15. crosspatch says:

    I have mentioned before, don’t remember if it was on this blog or not, but certainly at Mr. Watts’ blog, that I wish there were ongoing measurements of zodiacal light so we might compare that with climate fluctuations. The solar system flies through Galactic space and the amount of dust we encounter varies. An ongoing measurement of zodiacal light would give us some notion of the variation of this dust over time and might give us some indication of what impact, if any, that this might have on Earth’s climate.

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