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A "microquasar" is said to reside near NGC 7793. Credit: ESO


Black Jets
Jul 15, 2010

An electromagnetic phenomenon on the fringes of galaxy NGC 7793 is confounding astronomers because they insist on seeing it as a gravitational superforce.

Explaining the jets of ionized particles often seen erupting from various objects in space ranks as one of the most difficult tasks facing modern astronomers. What force can create highly energetic particle emissions that span distances measured in light-years? What confines them into narrow beams?

Hundreds of stellar jets have now been observed, but the prevailing theory of "compacted gravitational point sources" exciting gas and dust as they orbit does not address the existence of collimated jets. There is only one force that can hold such a matter stream together over those distances: magnetism.

The only way to generate that magnetic confinement is through electricity flowing through space.
In the past, astronomers observed coherent filaments from so-called “Herbig Haro" stars, some more than 12 light-years long. Charged particles within the filaments were thought to exceed velocities of 500 kilometers per second. The finely knotted jets exceeded three times the distance from our Sun to the nearest star, Alpha Proxima. According to ESO's recent announcement, however, the jets from the NGC 7793 microquasar are several hundred light-years long.

Most researchers try to account for narrowly confined jets by invoking words like “nozzle” or "high pressure," defying all that science knows about the behavior of gases in a vacuum. Some are even willing to acknowledge that magnetic fields might focus gases into narrow beams, although there is a commonly held opinion that magnetic fields are not important.

Magnetic fields are only one part of the story, and failure to realize that electric currents create magnetic fields has led many physicists to model plasma in space without considering the flow of electricity. Nobel laureate Hannes Alfvén, a pioneer in the field of plasma cosmology, stated that plasma is "too complicated and awkward” for the tastes of mathematicians. It is “not at all suited for mathematically elegant theories” and requires laboratory experiments.

Alfvén observed that the plasma universe had become “the playground of theoreticians who have never seen a plasma in a laboratory. Many of them still believe in formulae which we know from laboratory experiments to be wrong”. He thought that the underlying assumptions of cosmologists “are developed with the most sophisticated mathematical methods and it is only the plasma itself which does not ‘understand’ how beautiful the theories are and absolutely refuses to obey them”.

Stars are nodes in electrical circuits. Electromagnetic energy could be stored in the equatorial current sheets surrounding them until some trigger event causes them to switch into a polar discharge. The electric jet could receive its energy from a natural particle-accelerator, a "plasma double layer" with a strong electric field. Toroidal magnetic fields would form because of the polar plasma discharge, confining it into a narrow channel.

Axial electric currents should be flowing along the jet's entire length. Only electric fields can accelerate charged particles across interstellar space.

Stephen Smith



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