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Cosmology Article Links

Galactic Rotation
Globular Clusters
Religious Big Bang
Quasar in Front
The Fingers of God
Redshift Review
Redshift Rosetta Stone
Relativity & Einstein Tragedy
Dent in Space-Time Fabric?
Nature & Definition of Space
The Neutrino Aether
The Nature of Force Fields
Stars: Nuclear or Electric?
Big Bang "Science"
Wings of a Butterfly
The Bug Nebula
The Bullet Cluster
Dark Matter
Meaning of Deep Impact
Deep Impact Anniversary
Electric Lights of  Saturn
EU Discharges & Scars
Gamma Ray Bursters
Olber's Paradox
Impossible Cosmology
Local Group Galaxies
Magnetar Dream World
The Ornament Nebula
Plasma 99-9%
The Pleiades Problem
Arp's Quasar Ejection
Nature of Ring Nebula
Seeing Red Review
Solar Capture
Tornadoes in Space I
Tornadoes in Space II
Star Fairy Ring
Ring of Stars
Stars: Nuclear or Electric?
Search of Two Numbers
Cosmologists: Wrong or Blind?
Vampire Astronomy
Velikovsky, Heat of Venus


Credit: Image developed by Prof. John Wilcox from an original painting by NASA artist Werner Heil

Plasma: The other 99.9%

How do you see the Solar System? The simple view is gas giants and rocky asteroids and planets moving through nearly empty space. The sophisticated view illustrated above, shows the heliospheric current sheet, a component of the interplanetary plasma we call the Solar Wind, awash throughout the Solar System.

Over 99.9% of the universe is made of plasma, including the Sun and
all stars, and most of the space in between. So if you don't know the
basic properties of plasmas, then you might not understand the
properties of most of the universe.

Did you know?:

   1. Plasmas are formed by adding energy to gas, causing it to
ionize (an atom looses one or more electrons). For example, if
hydrogen ionizes, it produces equal numbers of negatively charged
electrons and positive ions (in this case, protons). Even a one percent
ionized gas may be considered to be a plasma, and have the properties
of a fully ionized plasma.

   2. Plasmas are affected by electromagnetic forces 1039 times
greater than the force of gravity. So strong is its influence that it
creates the ballerina's skirt shaped heliospheric current sheet (see
diagram), the largest structure in the Solar System, extending out
beyond the orbit of Pluto.

   3. Plasma is not always electrically neutral. In general it is quasi-neutral,
meaning that localized regions of charge separation may occur. And
objects that comes into contact with a plasma will charge negatively,
such as dust, spacecraft and the surface of the Moon.

   4. Plasma is a better conductor of electricity than copper. Its conductivity and response to electromagnetic influences distinguishes it from a gas. Indeed, metals can be classified as plasma, too, because they contain free electrons.

   5. Moving plasma can self-generate electromagnetic fields.

   6. Plasma can store energy in magnetic fields.

   7. Plasmas form double layers between regions of different densities, temperatures or magnetic field strengths. A double layer:
      (a) consists of two layers of opposite charge
      (b) tends to form cellular structures with the double layer as the "cell wall." (eg. magnetosphere, photosphere, heliosphere)
      (c) can form in filamentary current channels known as "Birkeland currents" (see below);
      (d) can explode, as discovered in mercury rectifiers used in high-power direct-current transmission lines;
      (e) can accelerate charged particles, in opposite directions up to velocities approaching the speed of light.

   8. Relative movement of different plasma regions produces electric currents within them.

   9. Electric current in plasma produces "pinched" filaments known as Birkeland currents. Birkeland currents form the cosmic power lines and the "wires" of cosmic circuits. An example is found in the ionosphere where these filaments carry up to a million amps, and power the aurora. Those in the Sun's prominences have been estimated to carry up to 100 billion amps (1011 A).

  10. Birkeland currents collimate "jets" of matter and charged particles. Astronomical "jets" were so named by astrophysicists because they look somewhat like fluid jets produced in the laboratory. Yet astronomical jets look nothing like a supersonic jet coming out of a nozzle, with all the attendant fluid instabilities. Heated gas should quickly disperse in space but the magnetic pinch of a Birkeland current can maintain filaments of glowing matter over thousands of light years.

  11. Synchrotron radiation from pinched current filaments can be in the form of x-rays and gamma rays.

  12. The pinch effect can be used in nuclear fusion reactors.

  13. Plasma phenomena scale in size over at least 14 orders of magnitude. So the same phenomena may be seen in a dense laboratory plasma and a tenuous space plasma.

  14. Parallel plasma filaments attract one another with a force inversely proportional to their distance apart. Compare this with gravity, which attracts matter with a force inversely proportional to the SQUARE of the distance. That makes pinched Birkeland currents by far the most effective way of condensing rarefied dust and gas to form molecular clouds and stars.

 So since the Universe is 99.9% plasma, the important question is not IF the properties of plasma are important in cosmology, but HOW come we focus on the puny force of gravity?

...............................

"The space data from astronomical telescopes should be treated by scientists who are familiar with laboratory and magnetospheric physics, circuit theory, and of course modern plasma physics." Hannes Alfvén, Double Layers and Circuits in Astrophysics, IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Vol. PS-14, No. 6, December 1986.

Contributed by Ian Tresman

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