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Artistic rendition of extrasolar planets. Credit: T. Riecken.


Heat Upon Heat Upon Heat
Jul 14, 2010

Mysterious objects too hot to be planets and too small to be stars have been found.

On March 7, 2009, NASA launched the Kepler Space Telescope on a three and a half year mission designed to search for planets revolving around other stars. Astronomers have been investigating the possibility that there are other stellar families outside of the Solar System for many years, but Earth-based telescopes have been able to detect only gas giants that are Jupiter-sized or larger. Kepler was built to find planets that are similar in size to Earth.

In 1992, radio astronomers found a pair of objects in orbit around PSR B1257+12, a radio pulsar 980 light-years away, as astronomers reckon distance. Aleksander Wolszczan and Dale Frail used a "radial velocity" technique to measure shifts in the pulsar's radio frequency, inferring the existence of dense bodies "tugging" on the star.

Other extrasolar bodies were found by teams such as those at the Lick Observatory, headed up by Geoff Marcy. Marcy is credited with discovering 70 new planets using a combination of astrometry, calculating stellar positional shifts caused by a planet's gravitational pull, and radial velocity measurements. That information is also used to determine the planetary masses and orbits.

Kepler is using the "transit method" to find remote worlds. By observing a star's brightness, the telescope can see when a planet passes in front of the stellar disc because there will be a reduction in the light. Theoretically, that slight dimming can be used to deduce the size of the object occluding the star. With repeated observations, the transit interval can allude to the planet's orbital duration.

Currently, the Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia lists 417 planets outside of the Solar System.

Recently, Kepler scientists announced that they have found five potentially new planets around various stars. Each of them are possessed of strange characteristics (one has the apparent density of Styrofoam), but the strangest of all is that two of them are incredibly hot—hotter than their parent stars. According to mission team members they have no idea what they could be. They are too hot to be planets, but too small to be stars.

One of the "mysterious" new objects is KOI 74b, with a temperature of 39,000 Celsius, while its stellar host is only 9400 Celsius. This cannot be explained with consensus theories: why would a planet be hotter than a star? That is, if it is a planet. However, because of its relatively small size—about as large as Jupiter—it is far too small for fusion fires to be burning there.

Another bizarre object, this time about as large as Neptune, with a temperature near 15,000 Celsius, is in such close proximity to its star that it completes one revolution in just over five days. Are these new types of celestial object, or are they simply conforming to the characteristics of plasma double layers, and the Electric Star theory?

Intense magnetic fields have been detected in space. Those fields are thought to be generated by electric currents flowing through and around galaxies along light-years long "transmission lines" called Birkeland current filaments. Magnetic forces constrict the filaments, twisting them around each other and forming "z-pinch" compression zones. The pinch effect is far more powerful than gravity when it comes to concentrating matter. Stars are formed when z-pinch effects crush plasma into rotating spheres of electric charge. This concept has been elucidated many times in these pages.

In a previous Picture of the Day article, the Electric Star theory was proposed as a way to deal with the then "puzzling" discovery of yellow, super-giant stars orbiting close to one another in the Holmberg IX galaxy. The conventional view of luminosity versus spectral class was shown to be overturned by the theory's premise. The theory also predicts that binary star systems at every stage of evolution and luminosity should exist.

The Electric Star theory states that stellar fissioning will occur if a star is under great stress because of excess current flow from the galactic generator. A blue-white star might explosively split into two or more daughter stars if the input current passes a critical threshold. In so doing, the surface area increases, resulting in a decrease in current density. The two (or more) new stars will experience a reduction in luminosity and appear to be "older" as conventional theories of stellar evolution discuss age. The electric currents flowing between the new stars might also be interpreted as heat.

Perhaps what the Kepler mission has done is help to confirm the Electric Star theory by providing data that supports stellar fissioning.

Stephen Smith



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