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Interacting galaxy pair Arp 147. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/S.Rappaport et al.
Optical: NASA/STScI

A Galactic Fairy Ring

Today’s image is billed as a ring of black holes. As such, it presents a fairy ring of gravitational fantasies.

The first fairy dances a fantasy of Redshift-is-Proportional-to-Distance, overlooking half a century of contrary evidence. That puts the ring far away. For the ring to appear as bright as it does, a second fairy must dance a pas de deux of Super Luminosity. To get that much energy from the feeble force of gravity, a third fairy must support the others with the Dance of Great Mass.

Since the ring is constrained by the Assumption of Equivalence of Mass and Matter, a fourth fairy must squeeze in—and be squeezed to a supernatural density. She (or he, we can’t tell at these densities) can’t dance but can only quiver and quake. When the other fairies bump into her, she does emit X-rays. The ring is the result of the crowded stage and the bumping.

Fairy rings and fantasy dances are entertaining, but when a theory requires this much supernaturalism, it would be wise to question assumptions. Astronomers no longer see what’s there but gaze with incurious enchantment upon artists’ impressions of obsolete hypotheses.

The radiant energy and its pattern of distribution indicates the action of electricity, not gravity; of plasma discharges, not mass; of pinch and double layer effects, not density; of instabilities in a circuit, not collisions and mergers. In other words, it’s an entirely natural event, no super-sizing needed.

In the first place, Arp 147 is located in the ejection cone from M31. The “super-luminal” radio galaxy 3C120 is only a few degrees farther along. (As an ejection from M31, the galaxy would be nearby and its super-luminal jet would have a normal velocity for a plasma discharge.) Arp 147 is likely another high-redshift ejection from M31: 400 thousand light-years would be a better guess for its distance than 400 million. Its radiant energy would be 3 orders of magnitude less than what the second fairy is dancing for.

In the second place, an abundance of energy is available. The ring and the galaxy to the left that supposedly bumped it would be components in the same ejection current from M31. They are loads in the intergalactic circuit and dissipate only a small part of the total current. Much more energy will be flowing through them to drive other components (galaxies) farther along the circuit.

In the third place, Arp 147 is likely the galactic equivalent of the rings around the axis of SN1987a. As the current pinches down in typical hourglass form to power the galaxy to the left, variations in the plasma push the individual filaments of current into glow mode. Double layers accelerate the current carriers, and they emit ultraviolet and x-ray radiation.

As “mass and gas” astronomy pirouettes to ever more fanciful dances, plasma astronomy describes a natural history of electrical phenomena.

Mel Acheson

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