legacy page  
     homeaboutessential guidepicture of the daythunderblogsnewsmultimediapredictionsproductsget involvedcontact

picture of the day

chronological archive               subject archive


The Flame Nebula. Image from the VISTA telescope. Credit: ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA.
Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

VISTA's First Light
Jul 01, 2010

A new telescope designed to see objects in visible and infrared light has just come online.

The Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) began operations a day after its December 11, 2009 dedication ceremony. NGC 2024, otherwise known as the Flame Nebula, was among those objects recorded during its first light.

The Flame Nebula is located in the constellation of Orion, just below the three visible stars that make up its belt. Of the three stars that comprise Orion's sword, one of them is actually the Orion Nebula, a celestial object that has been the subject of past Picture of the Day articles. Both the Flame and Orion nebulae are part of the Orion Molecular Cloud complex that also includes the Horsehead Nebula, the Barnard-30 star-forming region, M43, and M78.

Normally, the Flame Nebula is obscured by an opaque cloud of dust. However, VISTA's supercooled infrared detection apparatus (frozen at - 200º C) can "see through" the cloud, because it is sensitive to the infrared light being emitted by warmer gases and dust behind the dark veil. High resolution images confirm that the nebula is similar in structure to others that have been identified in these pages as electrically active phenomena.

What is a nebula?

Consensus opinions state that a star in the latter stages of its evolution will experience violent upheavals as its supply of hydrogen fuel diminishes and the "ash" of heavier elements accumulates in its core. Before the star reaches its final white dwarf stage, it is thought that the disequilibrium induced by the fusion of those heavier nuclei causes the dying star to eject vast quantities of matter—effectively "sloughing off" its outer layers. It is this expanding cloud of dust and gas, illuminated by the senescent star at its center, that astronomers detect.

The name "planetary nebula" was assigned to the glowing formations early in the days of telescopic observation. They appeared to be round, with a faint greenish tinge, looking similar to Uranus, so it was assumed that they might also be gas giant planets.

Planetary nebulae come in all shapes and sizes: round, elliptical, interlocking rings, or nested cylinders. They often exhibit long tendrils, symmetrical hourglass shapes, and bubbles within their structures. According to conventional theories, those features are the result of shock waves, or stellar winds blowing off the parent star, crashing into the slower material ahead of them.

In the case of the Flame Nebula, the unmistakeable appearance of twisting Birkeland current filaments is clearly visible bisecting the center of the image. The overall configuration is an hourglass, not a sphere, and the shapes within the nebula correspond to the filaments, helices, and pillars that electrical discharge in plasmas create.

In the laboratory, plasma forms cells separated by thin walls of opposite charge called double layers. Could separation of charges also take place in nebulae? That question might require centuries to answer, since the only way to detect a double layer in space is by flying a probe through one. However, everywhere in our own Solar System cellular structures separated by double layers abound: the Sun's heliosphere, comet tails, and magnetospheres are all examples of charge separation in plasma.

Although no definitive answers are yet forthcoming, Electric Universe advocates assume that plasma will behave in the same way whether in the laboratory, or in a formation like the Flame Nebula. Electric double layers resulting from charge separation in space prompted Nobel laureate Hannes Alfvén to suggest that they be considered their own class of celestial object. If that were so, the mysteries that confound astronomy today would become substantially less quixotic.

Stephen Smith




"The Cosmic Thunderbolt"

YouTube video, first glimpses of Episode Two in the "Symbols of an Alien Sky" series.


And don't forget: "The Universe Electric"

Three ebooks in the Universe Electric series are now available. Consistently praised for easily understandable text and exquisite graphics.

  This free site search script provided by JavaScript Kit  
  FREE update -

Weekly digest of Picture of the Day, Thunderblog, Forum, Multimedia and more.
*** NEW DVD ***
  Symbols of an Alien Sky
Selections Playlist

An e-book series
for teachers, general readers and specialists alike.
(FREE viewing)
  Thunderbolts of the Gods

  Follow the stunning success of the Electric Universe in predicting the 'surprises' of the space age.  
  Our multimedia page explores many diverse topics, including a few not covered by the Thunderbolts Project.  

Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.
More info
Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.
More info
In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.
More info

The opinions expressed in the Thunderbolts Picture Of the Day are those of the authors of
the material, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Thunderbolts Project.
The linking to material off-site in no way endorses such material and the Thunderbolts
Project has no control of nor takes any responsibility for any content on linked sites.

EXECUTIVE EDITORS: David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott,
Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman,
Tom Wilson
WEBMASTER: Brian Talbott
© Copyright 2010:
top ]

home   •   picture of the day   •   thunderblogs   •   multimedia   •   resources   •   forum   •   updates   •   contact us   •   support us