picture of the day
Credit: F. W. Taylor. Composite image: W. Thornhill.
Oct 18, 2007
Electric Dipole of Venus
Late pertinent information: The polar caps of
Earth have now been shown to be filled with supersonic outflows of
plasma. Is this a standard feature of planets?
The diagram above depicts the main features of an extraordinary phenomenon
discovered by the Pioneer Venus Orbiter in December 1978. Mission
scientists called it a “giant vortex of surprisingly complex
structure and behavior located in the middle atmosphere at the north
pole of the planet.” They assumed that a similar feature occurred at
the south pole as well.*
“vortex” on Venus is the hottest spot in the planet’s upper
atmosphere. The diameter of the
“collar” around the vortex is about 5000 km and the temperature
contrast between the hottest part of the chevron-shaped dipoles and
the coldest part of the collar is about 45 K.
The configuration was not expected, and it remains an anomaly.
Electric theorists, however, say that Venus is highly active
electrically due to its unique origin and comet-like past. They will
tell you that astronomers and astrophysicists, having received no
training in the behavior of electric discharges, fail to perceive
such electrical phenomena, so they are continually straining to
explain electricity’s unexpected effects.
To a plasma
cosmologist, the polar vortex is a cross-sectional view of a cosmic
electric current. Within the solar system, as in every observed
region of space, electric currents flow over vast distances by means
of filaments of plasma that tend to organize themselves into
“twisted pairs.” A common name for this “doubleness” in
current-conducting plasmas is “Birkeland
currents”. All the features shown above suggest that the two hot
spots are the “footprints” of cosmic Birkeland currents. The "giant
vortex" and its "surprisingly complex structure and behavior"
are the energetic effect of twin currents flowing into the planet’s
atmosphere at the poles. In fact, the Venusian dipole shows both the
configuration and the motion of Birkeland current pairs in plasma
discharge experiments and in super-computer simulations, including
the surrounding spiral vortex.
The polar dipole exhibits an enhanced infrared emission, a
predictable effect of the dissipation of electrical energy in the
upper atmosphere of Venus. It has a variable rotation rate, and the
position of its axis of rotation with respect to that of the planet
varies as well. It was observed to move 500 km from the Venusian
pole in less than a day and return just as quickly. These movements
find a ready explanation in the variable nature of the electrical
input to Venus via the Sun, and the snaking about of the Birkeland
currents—again, a predictable feature of electrical input.
particular interest are the linear filaments sometimes seen
connecting the opposite sides of the hot spots. Taylor writes: “It
is virtually impossible, even with complete license, to begin to
speculate in any detail as to what mechanism could give rise to such
a curious effect.” But here too the “curious effect” is no surprise
to the cosmic electricians. As observed by plasma physicist Anthony
Peratt, in simulations of two interacting Birkeland current
filaments plasma becomes trapped in the elliptical core between them
and produces precisely this effect. (See Physics of the Plasma
Universe, page 120.)
should be noted that Peratt’s simulations were done before the
discovery of the Venusian dipole and were offered as an explanation
of the electrical forces that produce spiral galaxies, the grandest
cosmic plasma discharge phenomena in the universe. But the enormous
scalability of plasma phenomena demands comparisons of this
sort. The currents that form the Venusian polar dipole exhibit the
same features apparent in the formation of a spiral galaxy from the
interaction of two intergalactic current streams. The fact that a
filamentary connection between two current “hot spots” occurs in
laboratory discharge experiments, in computer simulations, on the
planet Venus, and in galaxy formation suggests that a more unified
picture of the universe is now possible.
This model allows us to predict that the “hot spot” at Saturn’s
south pole will exhibit features similar to those found in the
Venusian dipole when examined more closely by Cassini. Also, the
north pole of Saturn may be expected to exhibit a similar effect.
See Saturn's Strange Hot Spot Explained. [
* F. W. Taylor,
“The Venusian Polar Dipole,” Middle Atmosphere of Venus,
Akademie-Verlag Berlin, 1990, pp. 93-7. See also: www.pparc.ac.uk/frontiers/pdf/19F1.pdf
Professor F. W. Taylor is Halley Professor of Physics at Oxford
Anthony L. Peratt, "Physics of the Plasma Universe," Springer-Verlag,
Contributed by Wallace Thornhill.
Please visit our
The Electric Sky
and The Electric Universe