Our Mysterious and Variable Sun


 (Discovering the Electric Sun – Part 2)


It is the general agreement between theory and observation that provides the foundation for quantification. Specialized inquiry can then test the rigor and precision of the qualitative argument with equations and numbers. In a successful test, the quantitative results will correlate well with predictions arising from the underlying theoretical assumptions; they will add logical strength and precision to the prior qualitative argument.

The concrete relationship of quantification to underlying fact has borne fruits in plasma physics, where qualitative extrapolations from laboratory findings have repeatedly anticipated observations in space and supported practical mathematical modeling.

In the case of the Sun, however, neither a qualitative nor a quantitative argument exists, since the dominant attributes of the Sun, now revealed to us in stunning detail, lie beyond the predictive ability of the theoretical assumptions. This sweeping failure of predictive ability removes the rationale for the more specialized assumptions, equations, and simulations offered in the name of solar physics today. The only way to overcome this spectacular deficiency would be to demonstrate a logical pathway of quantified analysis leading from the theoretical starting point to the major attributes of the Sun. After decades of trying, the promise of a quantified model was never fulfilled, not even in a limited sense. No direct line of reasoning from the assumed nuclear furnace to even one enigmatic attribute of the Sun can be substantiated. And so the specialized debates go on and on, guided by the dogmatic certainty that an acceptable answer must be available. After 60 years and billions of dollars spent exploring the Sun, no peer-reviewed article has yet questioned the fusion model.

“Meeting Our Global Energy Needs”

In the absence of successful tests of a hypothesis it is a grave mistake to pretend that issues are settled. Nevertheless, with the support of popular media, a guess about the “nuclear core” of the Sun led to a leap of faith. Limitless energy should be available to humanity by controlling a fusion process—”just like the controlled fusion in the center of the sun.”

The cost of this exuberance may never be accurately calculated. Globally, governments poured billions upon billions of dollars into research, seeking to replicate the imagined events hidden inside the Sun. From the 1950s onward it was an easy sell. But the only fusion the experiments provoked lasted a second or so— typically much less than a second—and never produced as much energy as was pumped into the experiments. In physics, that’s the definition of an unworkable idea—and it’s very likely the most expensive failure of theory the world has ever witnessed. [16]

Contrasting Theory and Observation

The “settled science” of the Sun sees it as an isolated ball of gas in space, slowly consuming itself through nuclear reactions at its core. In the electrical alternative, the Sun’s energetic output is largely—perhaps entirely—the consequence of external electric fields and the heliospheric movement of charged particles, powered by circuitry along the arms of the Milky Way. Given the volume of available data, a comparative test of predictive failure and predictive success is long overdue.

Is it possible that the failures of the standard model are, in fact, the predictions of the electric model? To see that this is so, one must trace the connection between theoretical assumptions and their inescapable implications. Wherever the implications are logical requirements of the model, the absence of the predicted findings will amount to falsification of the model as stated.

Though the electrical hypothesis remains in its infancy, and the foundational phase of the investigation is far from complete, an issue-by-issue evaluation of the two models cannot be avoided.

The Constant and Inconstant

Under the assumptions of the fusion model the Sun’s electromagnetic emissions appear enigmatic, with unexplained variations depending on wavelength. “Solar spectral irradiance variations are known to exhibit a strong wavelength dependence with the amount of variability increasing towards shorter wavelengths.” [17]

Traditional theory assumes that, over hundreds of thousands of years, heat from a fusion reaction at the Sun’s core travels first through a supposed “radiative zone.”  It then rushes upward through an imagined “convective zone” to create the Sun’s visible surface, the photosphere. Unexplained events then energize the chromosphere and corona from below. But why would this theorized process produce highly constant visible light but much more variable extreme UV light and X-rays above the photoshere?

“Solar Constant”

The least variable emissions occur in the infrared, which accounts for more than half of the Sun’s radiative output. Moving up to visible light the Sun’s output varies only slightly more. In the recent solar minimum its visible light dimmed by only 0.1%. [18]

Does the constancy of the Sun’s output in infrared and visible light follow logically from the standard model? The only known analogies for nuclear fusion are at the extremes of inconstancy: on the one hand a hydrogen bomb and on the other the failed laboratory attempts to control the fusion process. A hydrogen bomb underscores the fact that thermonuclear reaction rates are highly unstable and particularly sensitive to core temperature. Even a modest increase in temperatures at the Sun’s core would multiply the likelihood of a runaway reaction a thousandfold and more.

The refusal of the Sun to become a “hydrogen bomb” is a good reason to consider the electrical alternative.

Solar Variability

At higher frequencies the Sun’s constancy disappears. At the wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light the Sun’s emissions dimmed by 30% during the last solar minimum, a 300% greater dimming than in visible light. And at the frequency of X-ray generation the Sun is vastly more variable, as seen in the X-ray images of a solar cycle below. “The Sun is a variable X-ray star,” states R L F Boyd. “It is fortunate for us that the variability is not reflected in the energy flux in the visible.” [19]

Solar cycle observed in X-ray emissions

Fig. 6. Solar cycle observed in X-ray emissions. Credit: the Yohkoh mission of ISAS(Japan) and NASA.

What could be causing a constant Sun at one frequency to become an inconstant Sun at a higher frequency? From the region below the photosphere, up through the photosphere, the chromosphere and the transition region, into the corona, we find an increasing dominance of higher frequencies and greater variability.

Perhaps our own Earth provides a useful analogy. Above the earth—in the ionosphere and Van Allen radiation belt—with energy levels much greater than at the surface. We know that the flow of charged particles and associated energetic activity is not generated from within the Earth. It is a direct result of arriving particles from beyond the Earth, specifically, from the Sun. Is it not reasonable, therefore, to ask if the layers of more variable and energetic activity around the Sun could be due to electrical contributions from its larger environment, the heliosphere, fed by electrical currents along the arms of the Milky Way?

Overview of the Electric Sun

In the electric model, the thin plasma layer of the Sun’s photosphere acts as a PNP transistor, a device used to control current flow. It maintains the photosphere’s steady radiation of heat and light while the power input varies during the sunspot cycle and other changes in electrical input. (See discussion of “The Sun’s PNP Transistor” below.)

In the schematic below, the “hills” are the slopes of voltage change outward from the subsurface of the Sun (region beneath the photosphere). Positively charged particles will “roll down the hills.” So the tufted plasma of the photosphere (B-C) acts as a barrier, limiting the Sun’s power output. When it is breached we see gigantic coronal mass ejections.

As Scott explains, solar protons that reach the point (C) on the voltage curve accelerate down the “waterfall,” causing the turbulence at the bottom of the steep curve that is the source of the million-degree corona.

The Sun’s implied voltage curve

Fig. 7. The Sun’s implied voltage curve in relation to elevation, as originally envisioned by Ralph Juergens, and further analyzed by Wal Thornhill and Donald Scott.

Electrical theorists are not surprised by the fact that the most energetic and variable activity of the Sun occurs well above the Sun’s photosphere, in the corona—the spectacular halo which shows up when the Sun’s light is blocked by a solar eclipse (below). In electrical terms its counterpart is the corona of a glow discharge.

Sun Corona and Glow discharge in the Lab

Fig. 8. Left: the corona of the Sun as seen in an eclipse. Right: glow discharge in the laboratory

Coronal Heating

The temperature gradient from the Sun’s surface to the corona has always presented a problem for astrophysical models. If the Sun were like a glowing ember or a flame (or a nuclear furnace), one would expect the temperature to drop off with distance from the central heat source. Yet, as seen, this is not the case.

At about 500 kilometers (310 miles) above the base of the photosphere, we find the coldest measurable temperature of the Sun, about 4400K. Moving outward, the temperature then rises steadily to about 20,000K at the top of the chromosphere, some 2200 kilometers (1200 miles) above the Sun’s surface. Here it abruptly jumps hundreds of thousands of degrees, then continues slowly rising, eventually exceeding 2 million degrees. And incredibly, ionized oxygen at a distance of 1 or 2 solar diameters reaches 200 million K!

Professor Jay Pasachoff, of the Department of Astronomy at Williams College, puzzles over the manner in which the heating of the solar corona defies “everyday physics.” How could this be? he asks. What events are “transporting energy from the cold part to the hot part?” Pasachoff’s wry assessment is refreshing. “The problem has been solved,” he states.  “It’s been solved a dozen times over, and there are a dozen different answers. So of course that means it really hasn’t been solved…” [20]

Schematic illustration of the Sun’s reverse temperature gradient

Fig. 9. Schematic illustration of the Sun’s reverse temperature gradient. Credit: W. Thornhill.

But can astronomers and astrophysicists break free from the arbitrary assumption that the energy is “coming from the cold part”?  In fact, the reverse temperature gradient of the Sun contradicts every original expectation of the thermonuclear model. However, it mirrors perfectly the behavior of glow discharge phenomena in the laboratory.


Fig. 10. In contrast to the candle on the left, a candle in a Mir space station experiment produces a luminous surrounding shell, signifying the transaction between the vaporized wax of the candle and the external atmospheric oxygen.

The inescapable key is the external energy source. A crude analogy would be the flame of a candle. The relatively cool temperature at the base of the flame gives way to much higher temperature above the candle at the region of maximum exchange with the oxygen-bearing atmosphere.  In a weightless environment, as seen in an experiment on the Mir Space Station a few years ago (above), the exchange shows up as a luminous shell around the candle.  The analogy with the corona is crude, but it does illustrate the indispensable external contribution to a reverse temperature gradient. Nature as we know it offers no contradiction of this principle.

Mysteries of the Solar Wind

A direct confirmation of the Sun’s electric field is the solar wind, a continuous flow of charged particles streaming from the Sun and continuing to accelerate out past the planets. Electric fields accelerate charged particles, and it is not reasonable to reject the obvious when no comparable effect can be achieved by any other known force in interplanetary space.

Great volumes of material depart from the Sun without regard to its massive gravitational tug. The Sun’s blast of particles typically reaches speeds of 400 to 700 kilometers (about 250 to 435 miles) per second. And though a few authorities anticipated a “wind” from the Sun due to thermodynamic expansion in the solar atmosphere, it soon became clear that the measured rapid acceleration was far beyond the explanatory ability of any prior guess about “heat” expansion as the source.

The solar wind is also highly variable. In 2010, its speed dropped by 3%, its temperature by 13%, its density by 20%, and its magnetic field strength by more than 50%. Why a stable star will send out a wind of charged particles at widely varying speeds is a mystery with no apparent connection to anything going on inside the Sun.

When considering unsolved mysteries of this sort, often the most critical evidence comes from the extremes. In this case the two extremes would be, 1) a blast of solar wind in the form of a coronal mass ejection in 2005, reaching up to a quarter the speed of light before striking the Earth, and 2) the complete cessation of the solar wind for two days in May, 1999 (See discussion below.)

Ion Velocities

Fig. 11. Chart of ion velocities in the solar wind. From D. Scott, The Electric Sky.

The first problem is that even the more normal ranges of solar wind velocities are beyond the reach of any traditional model.  The typical coronal mass ejection (CME) will reach Earth in 15 to 50 hours. But in January 2005, a CME exploded from the Sun, accelerating so rapidly that it reached Earth in only 30 minutes, producing what NASA scientists called “the most intense proton storm in decades.

The protons reached the Earth at nearly one quarter the speed of light—a theory-busting test of the nuclear Sun, and a theory-affirming testament to the electric Sun, the center of a heliospheric electric field.

NEXT: The Sun and the Electric Universe

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[ 16 ] Michael Moyer, “Fusion’s False Dawn,” Scientific American, March 2010.

[ 17 ] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364682601000207

[ 18 ] http://solar.physics.montana.edu/SVECSE2008/pdf/woods_svecse.pdf

[ 19 ] R L F Boyd, Space Physics: the Study of Plasmas in Space (Oxford University Press, 1975).

[ 20 ] From an interviews in the National Geographic Channel documentary, “Easter Island Eclipse” (2010).

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