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Apr 27, 2005
The Electric Glow of the  Sun

A little known fact: Popular ideas about the Sun have not fared well under the tests of a scientific theory. The formulators of the standard Sun model worked with gravity, gas laws, and nuclear fusion. But closer observation of the Sun has shown that electrical and magnetic properties dominate solar behavior.

For centuries, the nature of the Sun’s radiance remained a mystery to astronomers. The Sun is the only object in the solar system that produces its own visible light. All others reflect the light of the Sun. What unique trait of the Sun enables it to shine upon the other objects in the solar system?

Today, astronomers assure us that the most fundamental question is answered. The Sun is a thermonuclear furnace. The ball of gas is so large that astronomers envision pressures and densities within its core sufficient to generate temperatures of about 16 million K—producing a continuous “controlled” nuclear reaction.

Most astronomers and astrophysicists investigating the Sun are so convinced of the fusion model that only the rarest among them will countenance challenges to the underlying idea. Standard textbooks and institutional research, complemented by a chorus of scientific and popular media, “ratify” the fusion model of the Sun year after year by ignoring evidence to the contrary.

A growing group of independent researchers, however, insists that the popular idea is incorrect. These researchers say that the Sun is electric. It is a glow discharge fed by galactic currents. And they emphasize that the fusion model anticipated none of the milestone discoveries about the Sun, while the electric model predicts and explains the very observations that posed the greatest quandaries for solar investigation.

More than 60 years ago, Dr. Charles E. R. Bruce, of the Electrical Research Association in England, offered a new perspective on the Sun. An electrical researcher, astronomer, and expert on the effects of lightning, Bruce proposed in 1944 that the Sun’s "photosphere has the appearance, the temperature and the spectrum of an electric arc; it has arc characteristics because it is an electric arc, or a large number of arcs in parallel." This discharge characteristic, he claimed, "accounts for the observed granulation of the solar surface." Bruce’s model, however, was based on a conventional understanding of atmospheric lightning, allowing him to envision the “electric” Sun without reference to external electric fields.

Years later, a brilliant engineer, Ralph Juergens, inspired by Bruce’s work, added a revolutionary possibility. In a series of articles beginning in 1972, Juergens suggested that the Sun is not an electrically isolated body in space, but the most positively charged object in the solar system, the center of a radial electric field. This field, he said, lies within a larger galactic field. With this hypothesis, Juergens became the first to make the theoretical leap to an external power source of the Sun.

Juergens proposed that the Sun is the focus of a "coronal glow discharge" fed by galactic currents. To avoid misunderstanding of this concept, it is essential that we distinguish the complex, electrodynamic glow discharge model of the Sun from a simple electrostatic model that can be easily dismissed. Throughout most of the volume of a glow discharge the plasma is nearly neutral, with almost equal numbers of protons and electrons. In this view, the charge differential at the Earth’s distance from the Sun is smaller than our present ability to measure—perhaps one or two electrons per cubic meter. But the charge density is far higher closer to the Sun, and at the solar corona and surface the electric field is of sufficient strength to generate all of the energetic phenomena we observe.

Today, the electrical theorists Wallace Thornhill and Donald Scott urge a critical comparison of the fusion model and the electrical model. Given what we now know about the Sun, which model meets the tests of unity, coherence, simplicity, and predictability? Why did so many discoveries surprise investigators and even contradict the expectations of the fusion model? Is there any fundamental feature of the Sun that contradicts the glow discharge hypothesis?

Our closer looks at the Sun have revealed the pervasive influence of magnetic fields, which are the effect of electric currents. Sunspots, prominences, coronal mass ejections, and a host of other features require ever more complicated guesswork on behalf of the fusion model. But this is the way an anode in a coronal glow discharge behaves!

In the electrical model, the Sun is the “anode” or positively charged body in the electrical exchange, while the "cathode" or negatively charged contributor is not a discrete object, but the invisible “virtual cathode” at the limit of the Sun’s coronal discharge. (Coronal discharges can sometimes be seen as a glow surrounding high-voltage transmission wires, where the wire discharges into the surrounding air). This virtual cathode lies far beyond the planets. In the lexicon of astronomy, this is the “heliopause.” In electrical terms, it is the cellular sheath or “double layer” separating the plasma cell that surrounds the Sun ("heliosphere”) from the enveloping galactic plasma.

In an electric universe, such cellular forms are expected between regions of dissimilar plasma properties. According to the glow discharge model of the Sun, almost the entire voltage difference between the Sun and its galactic environment occurs across the thin boundary sheath of the heliopause. Inside the heliopause there is a weak but constant radial electrical field centered on the Sun. A weak electric field, immeasurable locally with today's instruments but cumulative across the vast volume of space within the heliosphere, is sufficient to power the solar discharge.

The visible component of a coronal glow discharge occurs above the anode, often in layers. The Sun’s red chromosphere is part of this discharge. (Unconsciously, it seems, the correct electrical engineering term was applied to the Sun’s corona.) Correspondingly, the highest particle energies are not at the photosphere but above it. The electrical theorists see the Sun as a perfect example of this characteristic of glow discharges—a radical contrast to the expected dissipation of energy from the core outward in the fusion model of the Sun.

At about 500 kilometers (310 miles) above the photosphere or visible surface, we find the coldest measurable temperature, about 4400 degrees K. Moving upward, the temperature then rises steadily to about 20,000 degrees K at the top of the chromosphere, some 2200 kilometers (1200 miles) above the Sun's surface. Here it abruptly jumps hundreds of thousands of degrees, then continues slowly rising, eventually reaching 2 million degrees in the corona. Even at a distance of one or two solar diameters, ionized oxygen atoms reach 200 million degrees!

In other words the “reverse temperature gradient,” while meeting the tests of the glow discharge model, contradicts every original expectation of the fusion model.

But this is only the first of many enigmas and contradictions facing the fusion hypothesis. As astronomer Fred Hoyle pointed out years ago, with the strong gravity and the mere 5,800-degree temperature at the surface, the Sun’s atmosphere should be only a few thousand kilometers thick, according to the “gas laws” astrophysicists typically apply to such bodies. Instead, the atmosphere balloons out to 100,000 kilometers, where it heats up to a million degrees or more. From there, particles accelerate out among the planets in defiance of gravity. Thus the planets, Earth included, could be said to orbit inside the Sun's diffuse atmosphere.

The discovery that blasts of particles escape the Sun at an estimated 400- to 700-kilometers per second came as an uncomfortable surprise for advocates of the nuclear powered model. Certainly, the “pressure” of sunlight cannot explain the acceleration of the solar “wind”. In an electrically neutral, gravity-driven universe, particles were not hot enough to escape such massive bodies, which (in the theory) are attractors only. And yet, the particles of the solar wind continue to accelerate past Venus, Earth, and Mars. Since these particles are not miniature “rocket ships,” this acceleration is the last thing one should expect!

According to the electric theorists, a weak electric field, focused on the Sun, better explains the acceleration of the charged particles of the solar wind. Electric fields accelerate charged particles. And just as magnetic fields are undeniable witnesses to the presence of electric currents, particle acceleration is a good measure of the strength of an electric field.

A common mistake made by critics of the electric model is to assume that the radial electric field of the Sun should be not only measurable but also strong enough to accelerate electrons toward the Sun at “relativistic” speeds (up to 300,000 kilometers per second). By this argument, we should find electrons not only zipping past our instruments but also creating dramatic displays in Earth’s night sky.

But as noted above, in the plasma glow-discharge model the interplanetary electric field will be extremely weak. No instrument placed in space could measure the radial voltage differential across a few tens of meters, any more than it could measure the solar wind acceleration over a few tens of meters. But we can observe the solar wind acceleration over tens of millions of kilometers, confirming that the electric field of the Sun, though imperceptible in terms of volts per meter, is sufficient to sustain a powerful drift current across interplanetary space. Given the massive volume of this space, the implied current is quite sufficient to power the Sun.

Look for more details on the drift current, solar magnetic fields, nuclear reactions, and many other features of the Sun in upcoming Pictures of the Day.

See also these Pictures of the Day—

TPOD July 29, 2004: Arc Lamp in the Sky
TPOD July 27, 2004: Stellar Nurseries
TPOD Sep 22, 2004: Electric Stars

TPOD Oct 06, 2004:  The Iron Sun
TPOD Oct 15, 2004:  Solar Tornadoes
TPOD Nov 03, 2004:  Kepler Supernova Remnant

More about electric stars can be found here:


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Michael Armstrong

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