picture of the day
Cosmic bubble structure in Abell
520. Credit: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss
Oct 06, 2008
Astronomers say that exploding bubbles of magnetic energy
might have helped form galaxy clusters.
little over fifty years ago, before space shuttles, before
the Hubble Space Telescope, and before satellite technology,
electricity in space was not considered. Because the first
teams of space scientists were "steely eyed missile men"
with backgrounds in aeronautics and chemical fuel reactions,
when evidence for electric current flow around Earth was
found it was called a "radiation belt."
Although Kristian Birkeland had conducted experiments almost
fifty years before the first science package was launched
into Earth orbit, electricity remained unfamiliar to
researchers conditioned to think in terms of gravity and
mass. They had no concept of charged particles generating
filamentary structures that could interact and create
energetic phenomena—Birkeland's terella research and his
study of Earth's aurorae were forgotten.
That lack of familiarity continues today when moving charged
particles from the Sun are called a “wind” instead of an
electric current. Charged particles impinging on a planet or
a moon are referred to as a “rain” instead of an electrical
discharge. Ionized particles moving within a helical
magnetic field are called "jets of hot gas" instead of
field-aligned flows of electricity. When abrupt changes in
the density and speed of charged particles are observed,
those changes are called a “shock wave” instead of a double
layer. Birkeland continues to fret from beyond the pale.
Magnetic fields in space can be detected more easily than
electric currents, so modern astronomers think that the
fields are fragments left over from the Big Bang. They write
a blank check based on that conclusion to explain how the
primordial structures that make up the universe were formed.
An analysis of data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory seems
to indicate that "bubbles" over 60,000 light years in
diameter are slowly percolating out of galaxy clusters.
Within this cosmic fizz are supposed to be intense magnetic
fields that are released when the bubbles burst. Research
teams speculate that the fields detected in remote galaxy
clusters are caused by the bursting bubbles.
Galaxy clusters are thought to be made of individual
galaxies embedded in hot gases and dark matter, so
astronomers were surprised to find the bubbles, or cavities,
within the overall x-ray emissions detected by Chandra.
Inside most of the cavities are bright radio sources that
could be caused by the explosion of highly energetic
particles, but the cause of the explosions and the source of
the particles is not known.
Even so, according to Brian McNamara from
Ohio University: "We've known for the past 15 to 20
years that magnetic fields exist [in galaxy clusters], but
we didn't understand how they got there. This could be a
fact that moving charges constitute an electric current and
that those currents generate magnetic fields has been known
since the days of
Michael Faraday. However, since "perception is reality,"
as the saying goes, a lack of knowledge means a lack of
vision. As previously stated, charged particles in motion
constitute an electric current and that current is wrapped
in a magnetic field. As more charged particles accelerate in
the same direction the magnetic field gets stronger. That is
a familiar idea to electrical engineers, but when
astronomers find magnetism in space they are mystified. They
resort to ironic ideas about galaxy-wide voids with magnetic
fields frozen inside them.
Another fact that is not considered when attempts are made
to explain structure in the universe (or smaller-scale
planetary examples) is that for charged particles to move,
they must move in a circuit. Hannes Alfvén, the father of
plasma cosmology, identified several interacting circuits in
the Earth's magnetosphere. One of those circuits forms the
polar aurorae due to electric current effects linking the
Sun with our planet's charged environment.
the largest scale of all, the universe, larger energetic
events are not explained by reference to local conditions.
The effects of an entire circuit—which may encompass
clusters of galaxies—must be considered. For this reason,
while the consensus scientific worldview only permits
isolated galactic "islands" in space, the Electric Universe
hypothesis emphasizes connectivity with a vast network of
electrically active "transmission lines." That spatial
wiring is composed of Birkeland currents.
Loops and filaments suddenly expand and explode, throwing
off massive bubbles of plasma that can
accelerate to near light-speed. Jets from opposite poles
of a galaxy end in energetic clouds emitting copious radio
and x-ray frequencies. These are facts based in plasma
science and not the traditional theories of gas kinetics,
gravity, or particle physics. Astrophysicists see magnetic
fields, but they do not perceive the underlying electricity,
so they are at a loss to explain them.
Plasma behaves in unfamiliar ways. Its similarities to hot
gas are overshadowed by its differences. It is habitual
perception that makes it difficult to see plasma as
something different. By breaking free from a priori
assumptions, the unfamiliar behavior of plasma will become
familiar and astronomers will perceive a new universe.
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