The Atomic Comet: Death In The Clouds

Although molecular Nitrogen represents 78.09% of the air we breath this doesn’t mean all substances containing Nitrogen are nice and nurturing.

In reality Nitrogen is a very curious substance that can also be very nasty.

The combination of Nitrogen and Carbon in the form of Cyanogen is very toxic.

Cyanogen is the chemical compound with the formula (CN)2.

It is a colorless, toxic gas with a pungent odor.

Like other cyanides, cyanogen is very toxic, as it readily undergoes reduction to cyanide, which poisons the cytochrome c oxidase complex, thus interrupting the mitochondrial electron transfer chain.

Inhalation of 900 ppm over a period of 10 minutes is considered lethal.

Comets are very toxic because they produce cyanogen.

Comet Halley is a very toxic comet.

Cyanogen is a highly toxic compound.

In 1910 a spectroscopic analysis of Halley’s Comet found cyanogen in the comet’s tail, which led to public fear that the Earth would be poisoned as it passed through the tail.

Because of the extremely diffuse nature of the tail, there was no effect when the planet passed through it.

The approach of Comet Halley in 1910 led to speculation the human race would be “snuffed out”.

The 1910 approach, which came into naked-eye view around 10 April and came to perihelion on 20 April, was notable for several reasons: it was the first approach of which photographs exist, and the first for which spectroscopic data were obtained.

Furthermore, the comet made a relatively close approach of 0.15 AU, making it a spectacular sight.

Indeed, on 19 May, Earth actually passed through the tail of the comet.

Berkeley, Cal., Feb. 9.

“If the astronomers are right in their estimations of the amount of cyanogen gas in the tail of Halley’s comet, and if that body’s vapors do envelop the earth, we may have a chance to feel the sensations of the bugs and insects which are killed by the use of this deadly gas as an exterminator.”

Such is the cheerful opinion expressed yesterday by Prof. Edwin Booth of the department of chemistry at the University of California, and a well known expert on spectrum analysis.

We’ll all be snuffed out, he said, if a sufficient quantity of this cyanogen gas unites with the hydrogen of this planet’s atmosphere.

“Their union,” he continued, “would form the deadly gas know as hydro-cyanic acid, the most deadly poison known to science and which means death for all animals.”

Prof. Burckhalter of the Chabot observatory, Oakland, maintains on the other hand that there is very little gas in the comet’s tail and that the earth’s people have nothing to fear.

The Ogden Standard, Ogden City, Utah – 9 Feb 1910

One of the substances discovered in the tail by spectroscopic analysis was the toxic gas cyanogen, which led astronomer Camille Flammarion to claim that, when Earth passed through the tail, the gas “would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.”

His pronouncement led to panicked buying of gas masks and quack “anti-comet pills” and “anti-comet umbrellas” by the public.

Despite the expert pronouncements “the world suffered no ill effects” from Comet Halley in 1910.

In reality, as other astronomers were quick to point out, the gas is so diffuse that the world suffered no ill effects from the passage through the tail.

However, cometary encounters aren’t always so benign.

The 607 CE Earthly encounter with Comet Halley appears to have triggered the catastrophic plunge in temperatures that only began to recover after the Arabian Horizon in 637 CE.

The 760 CE Earthly encounter with Comet Halley appears to be associated with the catastrophic deposition of sand and gravel.

And the 912 CE Earthly encounter with Comet Halley appears to be closely associated with the catastrophic Heinsohn Horizon in 914 CE.

The Transit of Venus in 912 CE also suggests 912 CE was a very powerful alignment and that a Halley-Venus-Earth alignment could have emulated the conditions associated with Immanuel Velikovsky’s “Comet Venus”….


A dangerous configuration occurs when a comet’s “gaseous tail” is pointed directly towards Earth.

Arguably, Comet Halley’s perihelion in 912 AD delivered the coup de grace to the Mayans.

A seasonally resolved record of titanium shows that the collapse of Maya civilization in the Terminal Classic Period occurred during an extended regional dry period, punctuated by more intense multiyear droughts centered at approximately 810, 860, and 910 A.D.

Climate and the Collapse of Maya Civilization
G H Haug, D Gunther, L C Peterson, D M Sigman, K A Hughen, B Aeschlimann
Science – Vol 299 – 14 March 2003

Click to access Haug03.pdf

When the events are sorted into date order it becomes immediately apparent that the three outlier events during the 1st Millennium are precisely aligned with many of the developmental milestones in Mesoamerica.


In Mesoamerica comets became a “portent of a coming catastrophe.”

Astronomers – ilhuicatlanzatininze in Nahuatl – were part of the ruling strata of Mesoamerican societies; the emperors themselves were required to watch the night sky to try to establish a direct link to the gods.

At his coronation, Mexica emperor Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (1466-1520) was explicitly urged to observe different specific constellations at midnight and Venus at dawn.

Most of the Mesoamerican peoples conceived of the area above the Earth as divided into different levels or heavens.

For example, the nineteenth century document known as Historia de los mexicanos por sus pinturas (History of the Mexicans Through Their Paintings) informs us that the Fifth Heaven, situated above the heaven which holds the Sun, was occupied by fire snakes made by the fire god, and that from there emanated comets and other heavenly signs.

Comets have an important place among heavenly bodies.

In many of ancient Mexico’s language comets are called “the smoking star”: citialin popoca in Nahuatl, budz ek in Yucatan Maya and ifuo’nganotzo’ in Otomi or Ñañhu.

The appearance of a comet was traditionally taken as the portent of a coming catastrophe.

Comets in Pre-Hispanic Mexico – Jesús Galindo Trejo and Arcadio Poveda Ricalde
Voices of Mexico – No. 42 – 1998

Click to access 4208.pdf

During the 16th century a series of catastrophic epidemics reduced the indigenous population in the Valley of Mexico “by more than 80% in the course of about 60 years”

After the arrival of the Europeans in Mexico and the conquest, indigenous populations plummeted.

The population before the time of the conquest is unknown and hotly contested, but disease is known to have ravaged the region; thus, the indigenous population of the Valley of Mexico is estimated to have declined by more than 80% in the course of about 60 years.

Many of these epidemics are connected with a cryptic condition called Cocoliztli which [over the years] has been speculatively identified as yellow fever, plague, influenza, leptospirosis, hepatitis, malaria, typhus, measles, smallpox and [more recently] hemorrhagic fever.

In 1545, twenty-four years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, a disease that had never before been seen appeared in the highlands of Mexico.

The illness was characterized by an acute onset of fever, vertigo, and severe headache, followed by bleeding from the nose, ears and mouth; it was accompanied by jaundice and severe abdominal and thoracic pain as well as acute neurological manifestations.

The disease lasted three to four days, was highly lethal, and attacked mainly the native population, leaving the Spanish population almost untouched.

The epidemic of 1545 covered Mexico, lasted four years, and was responsible of approximately 800,000 deaths in the Valley of Mexico alone.

Large Epidemics of Hemorrhagic Fevers in Mexico 1545-1815.
R Acuna-Soto, L C Romero and J H Maguire
Am J Trop Med Hyg – 62(6) – June 2000

The 1545 Cocoliztli epidemic is estimated to have killed between 5 and 15 million people.

The epidemic of cocoliztli from 1545 to 1548 killed an estimated 5 million to 15 million people, or up to 80% of the native population of Mexico.

In absolute and relative terms the 1545 epidemic was one of the worst demographic catastrophes in human history, approaching even the Black Death of bubonic plague, which killed approximately 25 million in western Europe from 1347 to 1351 or about 50% of the regional population.

Megadrought and Megadeath in 16th Century Mexico
R Acuna-Soto, D W Stahle, M K Cleaveland and M D Therrell
Emerging Infectious Diseases – 8(4) – April 2002

However, the actual “cause” of the epidemics remains “unknown” and the symptoms of Cocoliztli are difficult to associate with any “disease known today”.

The cause of the epidemic remains unknown

The disease described by Dr. Hernandez in 1576 is difficult to link to any specific etiologic agent or disease known today.

Megadrought and Megadeath in 16th Century Mexico
R Acuna-Soto, D W Stahle, M K Cleaveland and M D Therrell
Emerging Infectious Diseases – 8(4) – April 2002

Given the long tradition of conjecture regarding the cause of the 1545 Cocoliztli epidemic it seems appropriate to add to the list of possibilities: Inhalation of cometary cyanogen gas and/or the ingestion of cometary cyanide compounds.

The Cocoliztli epidemics of 1545 and 1576 [both] coincide with cometary observations.

Chinese texts… briefly mention a “star” that appeared… on 1545 December 26.
Although this indicates a possible circumpolar object, it would have been easiest to see in the morning sky, implying a probable UT of December 25.9.

Sometime during the month of 1546 January 2 to January 31 the object went out of sight.

Texts reporting a comet in this year come from Mexico, China, and Korea, but discordant dates and a total lack of additional details make it difficult to state absolutely that there was only one comet.
The earliest sighting of July 12 comes from the Mexican text Anales de Tecamachalco, which appears in a catalog of Mesoamerican comets produced by Ulrich Kohler (1989).

Cometography: Volume 1 – A Catalog of Comets – Gary W Kronk – 1999

Like all the other candidate causes the symptoms of cyanogen and/or cyanide poisoning provide a range of short and long term possibilities that can also be selectively matched with Cocoliztli symptoms to suit your argument.

Like other cyanides, cyanogen is very toxic, as it readily undergoes reduction to cyanide, which poisons the cytochrome c oxidase complex, thus interrupting the mitochondrial electron transfer chain.

Inhalation can lead to headache, dizziness, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and death, depending on exposure.

Inhalation of 900 ppm over a period of 10 minutes is considered lethal.

Cyanide poisoning is poisoning that results from exposure to a number of forms of cyanide.

Early symptoms include headache, dizziness, fast heart rate, shortness of breath, and vomiting.

This may then be followed by seizures, slow heart rate, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and cardiac arrest.

Diagnosis is often difficult.

The effects of cyanide ingestion are very similar to the effects of suffocation.

eMedicineHealth – Cyanide Poisoning

Cyanosis is defined as the bluish or purplish discolouration of the skin or mucous membranes due to the tissues near the skin surface having low oxygen saturation.

Cyanosis is divided into two main types: Central (around the core, lips, and tongue) and Peripheral (only the extremities or fingers).

However, matching symptoms is complicated by a couple of confounding factors.

Firstly, the indigenous inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico are adapted to living and working in the rarefied atmosphere associated with altitudes between 2,200 and 5,000 metres.

Secondly, the Valley of Mexico is an enclosed valley that may centrally concentrate toxic compounds because there is no natural outlet for water.

The Valley of Mexico is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with present-day Mexico City and the eastern half of the State of Mexico.

Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including Teotihuacan, the Toltec, and the Aztec.

The valley has a minimum elevation of 2,200 meters (7,200 ft) above sea level and is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes that reach elevations of over 5,000 meters (16,000 ft).

It is an enclosed valley with no natural outlet for water to flow and a gap to the north where there is a high mesa but no high mountain peaks.

Currently, the concept of cometary cyanogen poisoning is only a possibility.

But that concept will be put to the test in 2061.

Gallery | This entry was posted in Arabian Horizon, Astrophysics, Atomic Comet, Catastrophism, Comets, Heinsohn Horizon, History, Solar System. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Atomic Comet: Death In The Clouds

  1. Martina:) says:

    Really great research, a pleasure to read, thank you

  2. oldbrew says:

    This report on Rosetta’s encounter with Comet 67/P has ‘some impressive views of the comet’s global activity, including jets and outburst events’ in a short video (a run-through of 210 stills).

    There’s an interesting-looking ‘outburst event’ at about 1m.04s.

  3. Thx1138 says:

    “Comet Hartley 2 is smaller yet much more active than the others,” explains A’Hearn. “Although its core is only 2 km wide—about a third the size of Tempel 1—it is spewing five times more gas and dust.”

    The comet has already shocked the science team by producing a massive surge of CN, the cyanogen radical commonly known as “cyanide.” Cyanide itself wasn’t the surprise; CN is a common ingredient of comet cores. Rather, it was the size and purity of the outburst that has researchers puzzled.

    “The abundance of CN in the comet’s atmosphere jumped by a factor of five over an eight day period in September—that’s huge,” says A’Hearn. “Curiously, however, there was no corresponding increase in dust.”

    This flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Comet cores are thought to be a mish-mash of volatile ices, rock, and dust particles, generally well mixed. When the ice evaporates to produce a jet of gas, dust naturally comes along for the ride. Yet this outburst was pure gas.

    A’Hearn stresses that readers shouldn’t worry about a “poisonous comet.” For one thing, Comet Hartley 2 is more than 11 million miles from Earth. There’s no direct contact between our planet and the comet’s gaseous shroud. Furthermore, the cyanide gas is very diffuse. If it did touch Earth, it would not be able to penetrate our planet’s dense atmosphere.

    • Thx1138 says:

      OSHA PEL (permissible exposure limit) (ceiling) = 10 ppm
      (skin) (averaged over 15 minutes) (OSHA 1999)

      So far the only cometary exposure to cyanide envisioned has been by remnants of the tail. Electrical interaction of course is never discussed. During a close flyby such as we envision the negatively-charged Cyanogen radical could easily be attracted to the positively charged ionosphere and combined with protons to form prussic acid. The potential of 800 tons of prussic acid raining down on Earth is never considered. I could see where that could be very deadly to a lot of folks.

      • malagabay says:

        Hydrogen cyanide (HCN), sometimes called prussic acid, is a chemical compound with the chemical formula HCN.

        On 11 August 2014, astronomers released studies, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) for the first time, that detailed the distribution of HCN, HNC, H2CO, and dust inside the comae of comets C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) and C/2012 S1 (ISON)

  4. Pingback: The Atomic Comet: The Feathered Serpent | MalagaBay

  5. cadxx says:

    Reading this page reminded me of Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe:

    New Scientist: “This theory advances the idea that life did not originate on Earth itself but, rather, on comets which can provide a more suitable environment. Periodic approaches of life-bearing comets to the Sun would have released ice-bound and freeze-dried cells “like the scattering of seeds” to drift down on to the Earth’s surface.
    Today, the two astronomers suggested, we see the diminished remnants of this process as outbreaks of epidemic diseases caused by the showering down on our planet of viruses and bacteria which have evolved away out in space.

    Sir Fred emphasised that existing terrestrial theories of the origin of life are highly unsatisfactory for sound chemical reasons. However, we do know that at least the precursors to life’s large molecules occur abundantly in certain parts of space. Infrared spectra of such objects as the Horse’s Head nebula imply that interstellar clouds there could be rich in organic material.

    Hoyle believes that organic molecules in the Solar System, at the distance of Uranus or Neptune, became concentrated on icy comets by what he calls a “contact sweeping” process. After about one-tenth of the Solar System’s life, he says, there may well have been around a million million of these comets bigger than 10 kilometres in size, layered to a depth of about 1 km with a shell of organic matter. The heat produced by collisions would eventually melt the icy interface between shell and underlying comet to form vast life-synthesising laboratories – in striking contrast to what Darwin envisaged as “warm little ponds”. The life-generating process was thus well insulated and physically protected from the outside world by the thick outer layer of organic material.
    First published in New Scientist on 19 January 1978

  6. Earth’s protection would have ripped apart the ctanogen and hydrated it

  7. Pingback: The Hecker Horizon: Cometary Coincidences | MalagaBay

  8. Pingback: Alaskan Muck: Layer Cake | MalagaBay

  9. Pingback: Alaskan Muck: Indelicate Details | MalagaBay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.