Galactic Impressionism

“Colliding” galaxy clusters Abell 3411 and Abell 3412. This image contains X-rays from Chandra (blue), radio emission from the GMRT (red), and optical data from Subaru (red, green, and blue). Image is about 10 million light years across. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/R. van Weeren et al; Optical: NAOJ/Subaru; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT.

Dec 9, 2019

What is real in space is hidden behind veils of assumption.

A recent press release reports that astronomers detected two “merging” galaxy clusters connected by filaments of plasma. As announcement states, “The presence of material connecting two clusters isn’t strange. But the area over which the team saw radio emission is larger than predicted, which suggests something strange is going on.”

Here is another in a long list of observations that are “strange” to the scientists investigating cosmology. Each new clue seems to point in directions that are unfamiliar and unpredictable using conventional theories.

Plasma between Abell 3411 and Abell 3412 is thought to highlight the existence of a structure that connects all galaxies in the Universe. The so-called “cosmic web” is believed to consist of galaxy clusters and superclusters, with vast voids between them. It is extremely difficult to map galaxy clusters, since the the density of matter between galaxies can be as low as one atom per ten cubic meters…there is not much radiation for detectors to see.

The Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) allows astrophysicists to study synchrotron emissions that are created when electrons spiral in electromagnetic fields. Since galaxies occur in strings, and the extent of their connection with larger circuits can be traced by radio telescopes, it means that plasma’s behavior relies on electric circuits. Double layers, so often mentioned in these pages, exist in those filamentary structures with large voltages between them. This means that the electric force in double layers is stronger than gravity. Those filaments can also have different temperatures or densities. Double layers broadcast radio waves over a wide range of frequencies, as well. They can also accelerate charged particles to cosmic ray energies.

On the other hand, most astronomers use gravity to explain high temperatures in galaxy clusters. In the consensus view, Abell 3411 and Abell 3412 are hot because molecules of gas and dust crashed into each other, and then condensed into million-light-year strands joining them together.

Computer simulations assure cosmologists that what they observe “billions of light-years” away can be modeled on a desktop. It is, therefore, not surprising that observations appear to match simulations. The concepts used to build computer algorithms are also in the minds of those working with the instruments. Building a device that is designed to see what has been simulated is how modern science works.

Plasmas in space defy conventional explanation to the point where the laws of physics and cosmological theories are twisted trying to explain them. Without adding electricity to the mix, a key component in understanding the Universe, theories will remain incomplete.

In his monograph, Cosmic Plasma, Hannes Alfvén described how theory has lost touch with reality:

“…several of the basic concepts on which theories of cosmical plasmas are founded are not applicable to the condition prevailing in the cosmos. They are ‘generally accepted’ by most theoreticians, they 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…”

Stephen Smith

The Thunderbolts Picture of the Day is generously supported by the Mainwaring Archive Foundation.

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