Oct 10, 2019
Electricity is stronger than gravity.
Electricity is really just organized lightning.
— George Carlin
Cosmic rays are ions from deep space traveling at high velocities. Most cosmic rays are single protons, followed by 5% helium nuclei, with the rest comprising all other elements in the periodic table. The term, “cosmic ray” comes from the early days of modern science. A simple device called an electroscope was invented to detect electric charge on objects. Scientists were puzzled when air inside their detector housings became ionized, despite careful insulation.
In 1912 Nobel laureate Victor Hess built an electroscope that could withstand pressure and temperature variations. Hess assumed that ground radiation would not be detectable at altitudes above 500 meters, so he and his apparatus went up to 5300 meters in a helium balloon. Hess found that his electroscope discharged, so ionizing radiation was coming from above and not below. He believed that the radiation was electromagnetic, so he called it “cosmic rays”.
In reality, since cosmic rays are atomic nuclei, they are electrically charged particles. Electric Universe theory assumes that cosmic rays are created and accelerated by electric double layers. In 1929 Nobel laureate Irving Langmuir described double layers. They form when electric charge flows through plasmas. Later, Hannes Alfvén described double layers as, “… a plasma formation by which a plasma—in the physical meaning of this word—protects itself from the environment. It is analogous to a cell wall by which a plasma—in the biological meaning of this word—protects itself from the environment.”
Recently, a team from the Telescope Array, described as a collection of 507 particle detectors covering 700 square kilometers of desert in Utah, found what they call a “hotspot in the sky,” a region where most high-energy cosmic rays originate. In other words, cosmic rays, rather then being randomly distributed, might have a local source, instead of a source that is potentially intergalactic.
Among the untold trillions of cosmic ray ions are those whose energy signatures were identified with “omg” in the records, meaning that their mass readings were unbelievable. Some of the protons that struck the detectors were said to possess the mass of a baseball, because they were traveling at a fraction less than the speed of light. No astronomer knows how protons can acquire energies in the exaelectron volts, or 10^18 electron volts. They speculate that it happens over millions of years as the particles are boosted in their travels by small magnetic fields.
Previous Pictures of the Day describe the power inherent in the electric force. It can be 10^39 greater than gravity, so it is capable of providing endless energy: enough to drive the Universe. It is not surprising that some double layers push charged particles to such high velocities.
The Thunderbolts Picture of the Day is generously supported by the Mainwaring Archive Foundation.