picture of the day
Credit:left, G. Scharmer, L. Rouppe van der Voort (KVA ) et
al., SVST: right, copyright 2001, Reel EFX. Inc.
Jun 14, 2007
As Fred Hoyle long ago pointed out; the Sun does
not conform to the expected behavior of an internally heated ball of
gas, simply radiating its energy into space. Instead, its behavior
at every level is complex and baffling. Nowhere is it more
mysterious than in a sunspot.
strange blemishes on the face of the Sun that offer some of
the strongest evidence against the Sun being powered
internally. They are conventionally described as being a
result of strong magnetic fields pinching off the convection
of heat from inside the Sun before it can reach the surface.
The electric star interpretation is that sunspots are breaks
in the hot surface of the sun, through which we can get a
glimpse of the underlying layers. To satisfy the standard
theory, these deeper layers of the Sun should be hotter to
drive the so-called vigorous convection. But they aren't.
The dark center of the sunspot, or umbra, is 20% cooler than
the rest of the surface of the Sun.
The outer shadow of the sunspot, or penumbra, and the
structure and behavior of the filaments that form the
penumbra are also too complex to be explained by standard
There is a temptation for plasma researchers to simply
equate the penumbral filaments with gargantuan lightning
bolts, but the features do not match all that well. A
typical lightning flash lasts for 0.2 seconds and covers a
distance of about 10 km. The penumbral filaments last for at
least one hour and are of the order of 1000 km long. If we
could scale a lightning bolt 100 times we might have a flash
that lasted between 20 and 200 seconds and was 1000 km long.
The lifetime is too short. Also, measurements of scars on
lightning conductors show that the lightning channel is only
about 5 mm wide. Scaling that by 100 times would have solar
lightning channels far below the limit of telescopic
However, there is another familiar form of atmospheric
electric discharge that does scale appropriately and could
explain the mysterious dark cores of penumbral filaments. It
is the tornado! Tornadoes last for minutes and can have a
diameter of the order of one kilometer. Scale those figures
up 100 times and we match penumbral filaments very well. And
if the circulating cylinder of plasma is radiating heat and
light, as we see on the Sun, then the solar "tornado" will
appear, side on, to have bright edges and a dark core (right
Please visit our
The Electric Sky
and The Electric Universe