Twinkle, twinkle electric star
Astronomers don’t know what you are!
“Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”
— T.H. Huxley
An undergraduate textbook on the structure and evolution of stars makes a star seem a simple thing:
“A star can be defined as a body that satisfies two conditions: (a) it is bound by self-gravity; (b) it radiates energy supplied by an internal source.”
Buried in this definition are some critical assumptions that Sir Arthur Eddington bequeathed to us long before the space age in his 1926 opus, The Internal Constitution of the Stars. But how many students now read his original work with a critical eye?
“The problem of the source of a star’s energy will be considered; by a process of exhaustion we are driven to conclude that the only possible source of a star’s energy is subatomic; yet it must be confessed that the hypothesis shows little disposition to accommodate itself to the detailed requirements of observation, and a critic might count up a large number of ‘fatal’ objections.”
A single fatal objection would suffice to falsify the hypothesis, but the apparent isolation of stars in the vacuum of space encouraged the belief that stars must consume themselves to fuel their fire. The fatal objections would be sorted out later. Two such objections are behind NASA’s plan to launch a mission to the Sun in 2015. That will be 89 years of denial that there is a serious problem with our understanding of the nearest star — the Sun!
Eddington argued the need for a central fire as follows:
“No source of energy is of any avail unless it liberates energy in the deep interior of the star. It is not enough to provide for the external radiation of the star. We must provide for the maintenance of the high internal temperature, without which the star would collapse.”
But this assumes that a star is basically a ball of hot gas, obeying the standard laboratory gas laws. Eddington’s ‘logic of exhaustion’ had to set aside facts that didn’t fit the “only possible” theory.
Appearances can be deceptive when viewed through the lens of a single idea. A kind of tunnel vision develops that accommodates ‘fatal objections’ with the excuse that “someday we will find the answers.” To compensate for the weakness of the excuse, those who adopt the consensus view acquire a kind of evangelical zeal. As exhibit, the undergraduate textbook referred to above opens with: “The theory of stellar structure and evolution is elegant and impressively powerful.” Yet we have recently discovered a star that “shouldn’t exist” because it is too big to be inflated by a central fire.
The tunnel vision does more than magnify the elegance of the single idea. It also excludes considering other ideas. Alternative ideas are stymied by unquestioning faith in the “only possible” theory. For this reason, as history shows, most fundamental breakthroughs come from outsiders — those who “sit down before facts like a child.”
One such outsider had already published an electrical theory of the Sun in 1913, long before Eddington’s work on the subject. Kristian Birkeland (above left) was a renowned Norwegian scientist and Nobel Prize nominee who set up observatories in the Arctic Circle to study the Aurora Borealis. His story can be read in Lucy Jago’s biography, The Northern Lights. His theory that the aurora is due to ‘charged particle beams’ from the Sun has only recently been confirmed. Birkeland’s approach was largely experimental. He managed to reproduce sunspot behavior (inset) in his famous Terrella experiments where he applied external electrical power to a magnetized globe suspended in a near vacuum.
Another outsider was Charles E. R. Bruce. He was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (1942), the Institute of Physics (1964), the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1965), and was a member of the Electrical Research Association (ERA) from 1924 until his retirement in 1967. His interest in astronomy and study of lightning led him to write in 1968:
“The main observational evidence indicating the existence of cosmic electrical discharges is the same as that which would lead an external observer to conclude that lightning flashes occur in our own atmosphere — namely, the sudden change they effect in the spectra of the Sun, stars and galaxies. In the Sun’s spectrum, lines suddenly appear indicating the existence of gas temperatures of hundreds of thousands or even millions of degrees.”
Electric Fields in Space, Penguin Science Survey 1968, p. 173.
An important outsider was the late Ralph E. Juergens, an engineer and a pioneer of the electrical model of stars who was inspired by Bruce. Because of the tunnel vision of the consensus view, he was forced to publish his ideas in obscure journals in the early 1970s. His model is a shining example of commonsense and simplicity when compared with the infernally complex and improbable thermonuclear paradigm. Yet such is the inertia of institutionalized science and its hostility toward interlopers that Juergens’ insight was in danger of being lost following his untimely death in 1979.
“As I pursued the phenomenology of electric discharges, it gradually dawned on me that, structurally, the atmosphere of the sun bears a striking resemblance to the low-pressure type of electric discharge known as the glow discharge…”
— Ralph E. Juergens.
The insiders’ unquestioned assumptions blindfolded them to other possibilities. Sydney Chapman commented in The Solar Wind:
“It seems appropriate to call attention to the ideas, put forward over many years by Bruce, concerning the importance of electrical discharges in the cosmos, and in particular in the Sun’s atmosphere. Bruce agrees that the Sun offers his ideas perhaps their greatest challenge, because of the very high electrical conductivity of the solar material at all levels. Any electrical discharge in the Sun’s atmosphere demands an exceptionally rapid and strong means of generating differences in electric potential.”
Here we see a recognized leader in the field assuming that the Sun itself, as an isolated body in space, could somehow generate its own electricity.
Eddington had addressed this problem of generating electricity when trying to explain bright lines in the spectra of some stars. The difficulty is that the heat of the star cannot supply the energy of the atoms producing the bright lines. Something extra is adding energy. He came close to the answer when he wrote, “If there is no other way out we may have to suppose that bright line spectra in the stars are produced by electric discharges similar to those producing bright line spectra in a vacuum tube.” He explains, “a disturbed (cyclonic) state of the atmosphere might establish local and temporary electric fields—thunderstorms—under which the electrons would acquire high speeds.” Collisions between the high-speed electrons and atoms in the stellar atmosphere would give rise to the bright spectral lines.
However, in a footnote Eddington reveals the fundamental limitation of his theory of stars: “The difficulty is to account for the escape of positively charged particles; unless charges of both signs are leaving the escape is immediately stopped by an electrostatic field.” This statement will reverberate down the years as one of the gravest mistakes in science. It is an ELECTROSTATIC model of an isolated, self-contained star. But stellar magnetism is an ELECTRODYNAMIC phenomenon, requiring electric currents flowing in circuits beyond the star.
Lightning and electrical discharges are a form of plasma and research into plasma was going on while astrophysicists were developing their one idea about stars. But their tunnel vision kept them from becoming aware of it. When they did notice, they only took in a flawed, incomplete form known as ‘magnetohydrodynamics,’ which, as the name implies, treats plasma as a magnetized fluid. Their training does not give astrophysicists the authority to judge an electric discharge theory of stars.
Nowhere will you find any reference to electric discharge in cosmology. The subject is not taught in astrophysics. Research into plasma discharge phenomena is the domain of the largest professional organization in the world, the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). My paper on electric stars was published in the IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Special Issue on Space and Cosmic Plasma in August 2007. The IEEE recognizes and supports plasma cosmology. Electric stars fit seamlessly with plasma cosmology and electric galaxies.
Almost all the matter in space is in the form of plasma. Clouds of gas and dust contain free charged particles — ions, electrons and charged dust (molecules). These charged particles respond strongly to electric and magnetic fields. In cosmic molecular clouds, where stars are formed, just one charged particle in ten thousand neutral particles is sufficient for electric and magnetic forces to overcome gravity.
Plasma in space is an excellent conductor but it is not a superconductor, as astronomers assume when they talk of ‘frozen in’ magnetic fields. Plasma clouds that move relative to each other generate electric currents in each other. Electric currents in plasma take the form of twisted filament pairs, which follow the ambient magnetic field direction. The filamentary current is electrically insulated from the surroundings in a way similar to a current in an electric cable located in the ocean and carrying current through a low resistance metal wire. The magnetic fields generated by these currents have been detected between and within galaxies. These currents are not visible because the current density is too low to excite the plasma to emit light: The current is in what plasma physicists call “dark current mode.”
For currents to continue to flow, they must eventually form into circuits. These invisible circuits are of crucial importance in understanding the cosmos. If external electrical currents power stars and galaxies, the power source is probably not located in the stars. The situation is similar to viewing from space the twinkling lights of great cities on Earth, which give no indication of where the power is being generated.
Charged bodies embedded in plasma create about themselves a protective cocoon of plasma, rather like a living cell wall. This cell wall is known as a Langmuir plasma sheath, or ‘double layer,’ which contains most of the voltage difference between the charged body and the surrounding plasma. Only an electric current sustains the charge separation across the double layer. If the surrounding plasma is moving relative to the charged body, the plasma sheath is drawn out into a teardrop or cometary shape. And if the charged body is rotating it will generate a magnetic field that is trapped inside the plasma sheath. This has led to the misnomer — “magnetosphere” — when referring to a plasma sheath.
The father of plasma cosmology, Hannes Alfvén, expressed the opinion that double layers should be classed as “a new type of celestial object.” They are responsible for the radio noise from ‘radio’ galaxies. In interstellar space they produce the cosmic microwave radiation, mistakenly interpreted as the afterglow from the mythical big bang. Alfvén tentatively suggested that X-ray and gamma ray bursts may be due to exploding double layers.
An important feature of plasma sheaths, or double layers, is that the electric field on either side of the thin double layer is very weak and the plasma there is ‘quasi neutral.’ That’s why we do not see evidence of a strong electric field from the charged Sun, and why the ‘solar wind’ appears to be electrically neutral. For this reason, the bulk movement and magnetic field of the ‘solar wind’ best signify the Sun’s electrical activity.
“So far as the solar wind is concerned, it is essentially a dynamical phenomenon, which does not resemble, in any way, what one would expect when treating stellar structure.”
— J. C. Pecker —Solar Interior and Atmosphere.
The so-called ‘winds’ and ‘jets’ of stars are a form of ‘dark current,’ equivalent to the breeze from an air ionizer. The enigma of prodigious stellar winds accelerating away from the ‘cool’ photospheres of red giant stars is simply solved [see later].
Note: American Scientist explains:
“the making of a star is directed by a maelstrom of competing forces—including gravitational collapse, magnetic fields, nuclear processes, thermal pressures and fierce stellar winds—all of which wish to have their way with the unformed star. Because the interaction of these forces is not fully understood, there is much that remains mysterious about the birth of a star.”
Precisely! The mysteries persist after more than a century because the standard model of stars is utterly wrong.
An electric star is formed by the equivalent of a lightning bolt in a molecular (plasma) cloud. Just like earthly lightning, cosmic lightning scavenges, squeezes and heats matter along the discharge channel. Where the squeeze is most intense, the current may ‘pinch off’ to give the effect of ‘bead lightning.’ In high-energy plasma lab discharges researchers have found that hot plasma ‘beads’ (known as plasmoids) form along the discharge axis before “scattering like buckshot” when the discharge quenches.
Another important phenomenon known as ‘Marklund convection’ occurs along the discharge axis. It separates the chemical elements radially. Marklund convection causes helium to form a diffuse outer layer, followed by a hydrogen layer, then oxygen and nitrogen in the middle layers, and iron, silicon and magnesium in the inner layers. So electric stars should have a core of heavy elements and an upper atmosphere mostly of hydrogen. This renders the difference between stars and planets to be more apparent than real.
In addition to scavenging elements, stars produce electrically in the high-energy electrical discharges of their photospheres all of the elements required to form rocky planets. Nucleosynthesis of heavy elements does not require a supernova explosion. Planets are then born by electrical expulsion of matter from the body of the star in the form of giant mass ejection events, like we see in miniature in solar outbursts. Large stellar flares and nova outbursts probably signal the birth of planets. Disks of matter encircling stars are not due to gravitational accretion but to electrical expulsion.
The bright photosphere of a star is an electric discharge high in its upper atmosphere that can be compared directly with low-pressure glow discharges in the lab. The spectrum of the photosphere reflects the star’s upper atmosphere composition, which is largely hydrogen. The heavy elements seen in the spectrum are produced right before our eyes in the photospheric discharge.
Measurements of stellar radii are misleading since the photosphere is a bright plasma ‘skin’ at great height in the atmosphere above the solid surface of the star. That height, in the case of the Sun, may be estimated simplistically as follows: the Sun has a mass equivalent to 333,000 Earths; if most of the mass of the Sun is in heavy elements similar to the Earth, the Sun would have a solid diameter somewhat less than 900,000 kilometers, compared to its optical diameter of 1.4 million kilometers. That suggests the photosphere is some 250,000 kilometers above the surface of the Sun.
Note: An immediate objection may be raised by helioseismologists, who claim to be able to determine what is going on inside the Sun by the way the Sun ‘rings like a bell.’ However, helioseismology assumes the standard thermonuclear model of stars and interprets the oscillations of the photosphere as a purely mechanical phenomenon. In fact, the question of what causes the Sun’s ‘ringing’ remains unanswered.
“The flute does not produce music unless one blows in it. Therefore one is led to the question: who is blowing the pipe?” J. C. Pecker —Solar Interior and Atmosphere.
On the other hand, a fundamental characteristic of plasma double layers is that they are driven electromagnetically to oscillate. Photospheric oscillations are properly the study of double layers and stellar circuits, not mechanical sound waves. This study has wider applications than to photospheric ‘ringing.’ For example, the regular pulsations of ‘neutron stars,’ conventionally attributed to a “runaway lighthouse effect,” are better explained by oscillations in the magnetospheric circuit of a normal, lazily rotating and externally powered electric star.
A star is a pinpoint object at the center of a vast plasma sheath. The plasma sheath forms the boundary of the electrical influence of the star, where it meets the electrical environment of the galaxy. The Sun’s plasma sheath, or ‘heliosphere’ is about 100 times more distant than the Earth is from the Sun. To give an idea of the immensity of the heliosphere, all of the stars in the Milky Way could fit inside a sphere encompassed by the orbit of Pluto. The Sun’s heliosphere could accommodate the stars from 8 Milky Ways!
Clearly, in the immense volume of the heliosphere an unmeasurably small drift of electrons toward the Sun and ions away from the Sun (the solar wind) can satisfy the electrical power required to light the Sun. It is only when we get very close to the Sun that the current density becomes appreciable and plasma discharge effects become visible. The enigma of the Sun’s millions-of-degrees corona above a relatively ‘stone cold’ photosphere is immediately solved when the Sun’s power comes from the galaxy and not the center of the Sun!
It is clear from the behavior of its relatively cool photosphere that the Sun is an anode, or positively charged electrode, in a galactic discharge. The red chromosphere is the counterpart to the glow above the anode surface in a discharge tube. When the current density is too high for the anode surface to accommodate, a bright secondary plasma forms within the primary plasma. It is termed “anode tufting.” On the Sun, the tufts are packed together tightly so that their tops give the appearance of “granulation.”
“The Sun is a variable X-ray star; it is fortunate for us that the variability is not reflected in the energy flux in the visible.”
— R L F Boyd, Space Physics: the study of plasmas in space.
We rely on the Sun to shine steadily. The variation in light and heat is measured to be a fraction of one percent from year to year. Yet the Sun is a variable star when viewed in X-rays. And X-rays are emitted where electrical activity is most intense.
When considered without tunnel vision, it is obvious that stars with a thermonuclear core are not likely to be stable. So sensitive to core temperature are some of the nuclear reactions that the night sky should look like the fourth of July.
Juergens went to great pains to explain the complex and exquisitely tuned control mechanism of the solar discharge. His insights are of paramount importance for an understanding of the Sun and for clarity on one of the most frequently asked questions: can we rely upon the Sun as a constant source of life-giving energy? As noticed by Scott, the tufted plasma sheath above the stellar anode seems to be the cosmic equivalent of a ‘PNP transistor,’ a simple electronic device using small changes in voltage to control large changes in electrical power output. The tufted sheath thus regulates the solar discharge and provides stability of radiated heat and light output, while the power to the Sun varies throughout the sunspot cycle.
This ability of the Sun’s plasma sheath to modulate the solar current was demonstrated dramatically in May 1999, when the solar wind stopped for two days. The bizarre event makes no sense if the solar wind is being ‘boiled off’ by the hot solar corona. But in electrical terms, its regulating plasma sheath performed normally and there was no noticeable change in the Sun’s radiant output.
Note: Sunspots are a phenomenon that is not expected in the standard thermonuclear model of stars:
“The very existence of sunspots is intriguing. They should be heated quickly from the sides and disappear. They should never have formed — but they do form. Their behavior is so strange that there is still argument between scientists as to why they are there at all.”
— Ronald Giovanelli, Secrets of the Sun.
Sunspots are a clearing of the tufts where a dark discharge from an equatorial plasma toroid encircling the Sun punches through them. Birkeland had the general idea figured out in 1913! The dark center, or umbra, of the sunspot shows the cooler temperature of the Sun beneath the bright plasma. The sunspot penumbra, in which we are looking at the sides of the “hole” punched through the tuft layer, shows the structure of the tufts. They are bright tornadic cylinders of plasma, thousands of kilometers long. Tornadoes are constrained by strong electromagnetic forces to be a slow form of lightning discharge. This explains why solar granulations last for about 10 minutes before slowly fading to be replaced by others. They have nothing to do with convection, although they do dredge material from below.
One of the greatest mysteries of the Sun is the sunspot cycle. It is intimately associated with that other great puzzle — the Sun’s magnetic field. This puzzle is that it is extremely difficult to conjure a magnetic field from inside a hot ball of conducting plasma, particularly when the solar magnetic field shows amazing complexity and often rapid variability.
The Sun has a generally dipole magnetic field that switches polarity with the sunspot cycle. Unlike a dipole magnet, in which the field is twice as strong at the poles as at the equator, the Sun has very evenly distributed field strength. This oddity can be explained only if the Sun is the recipient of electric currents flowing radially into it. These magnetic field-aligned currents adjust the contours of the magnetic field by their natural tendency to space themselves evenly over an anode surface. An internal dynamo will not produce this magnetic field pattern.
The Sun’s interplanetary magnetic field increases in strength with sunspot number. Electrically, the relationship is essential, since the interplanetary magnetic field is generated by the current flow to and from the Sun. As the power increases, sunspot numbers rise (reflecting current input) and the magnetic field strengthens.
The standard thermonuclear star theory has no coherent explanation for the approximately eleven-year sunspot cycle. In the electrical model the sunspot cycle is induced by fluctuations in the DC power supply from the local arm of our galaxy, the Milky Way, as the varying current density and magnetic fields of huge Birkeland current filaments slowly rotate past our solar system. The solar magnetic field reversals may be a result of simple ‘transformer’ action.
Electric lights come in a wide variety. There are the original incandescent filament lamps where the light comes from a filament heated internally by electric current. And today we have fluorescent lights, high-intensity gas discharge lamps, arc lights, neon lights and solid-state light emitting diodes (LEDs).
Stars fall into the categories of neon lights, gas discharge lamps and arc lights. They are not incandescent (heated from within). The main differences between these types of lights are the power density of the discharge and the location in the gas discharge path where most of the light comes from. For example, in a neon tube the light comes from the extensive plasma column between the electrodes at each end of the tube. In an arc light, the light is concentrated at the electrode. As the power of an arc light is increased its color changes from yellow-white to white to blue-white. The sharp discontinuities in the nature of the light from an electric discharge as it switches from a red glow to a bright arc explain many of the mysteries of starlight.
Astronomers use the Herzsprung-Russell (H-R) diagram to categorize stars. It is a plot of the absolute brightness of stars against their spectral class (temperature).
The data graphed by the H-R diagram are observed quantities, while assumptions drawn about the diagram’s meaning are not. Clearly, not being electrical engineers, astronomers have got things precisely backwards (left). As you increase the current density to an electric arc, the light becomes brighter, hotter, and therefore bluer. In other words, the current density is responsible for both the luminosity (y-axis) and the color temperature (x axis) of the H-R diagram. That explains the near 45˚slope of the so-called ‘main sequence’ stars in the corrected H-R diagram (right).
At the lower left-hand end of the main sequence we find the red dwarfs – small stars under low electrical stress, in which anode tufting is sparse and the light from the tufts is emitted at low energies, toward the red end of the spectrum. A good deal of the red light comes from the chromospheric anode glow.
As we move diagonally upward and to the right on the H-R diagram the stars become more massive and the current density increases. Anode tufting becomes more intense and the tufts’ mutual repulsion forces the photosphere to grow to accommodate them. At the top right of the main sequence the light from the tufts is the electric blue of a true arc and the stars appear as ‘blue giants’ — intensely hot objects considerably larger than our Sun. These blue giants tend to be concentrated on the central axes of our galaxy’s spiral arm arms, where the galactic currents are strongest.
But what about the stragglers — the red giants and the white dwarfs? Here the natural simplicity of the electric star model shines. Stellar color and luminosity are discontinuous functions for good reason: plasma discharge phenomena at an anode exhibit sharp discontinuities. Thermonuclear star models projecting theoretical stellar evolution onto the H-R diagram require great imagination to explain these discontinuities. Usually it requires that a star explodes, or else the transition off the main sequence is said to be so rapid that we don’t see a continuous plot. The terms ‘giant’ and ‘dwarf,’ when applied to these stars, are highly misleading since a star’s size is a plasma phenomenon too. And the notions that a red giant is an old, dying star, and that a white dwarf is a remnant of an exploded star, have no validity.
Eddington himself expressed his puzzlement about white dwarfs: “Strange objects, which persist in showing a type of spectrum entirely out of keeping with their luminosity, may ultimately teach us more than a host which radiates according to rule.” He was right.
A white dwarf is a star that is under low electrical stress so that bright ‘anode tufting’ is not required. The star appears extremely hot, white and under-luminous because it is equivalent to having the faint white corona discharge of the Sun reach down to the star’s atmosphere. As usual, a thin plasma sheath will be formed between the plasma of the star and the plasma of space. The electric field across the plasma sheath is capable of accelerating electrons to generate X-rays when they hit atoms in the atmosphere. And the power dissipated is capable of raising the temperature of a thin plasma layer to tens of thousands of degrees.
White dwarfs are often found in multiple star systems, which puzzles astronomers because “it is not easy to understand how two stars of the same age could be so different.” The answer is simple. The appearance of stars has nothing to do with their age. In multiple star systems the brighter primary star usurps most of the electrical power, dissipating the energy in optical wavelengths. The white dwarf converts its share of power most efficiently into X-rays.
An example is the nearby double star system of Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky and one of the closest. Sirius also has a partner, called Sirius B, a ‘white dwarf.’ To our eyes, it is 10,000 times fainter than the primary star, Sirius A. However, when astronomers pointed the Chandra X-ray telescope at Sirius, they got a shock. In the X-ray image (right), Sirius A is the lesser of the two lights. Sirius B, the white dwarf, is the greater. It is the reverse of what we see with human eyes.
Red stars are those stars that cannot satisfy their hunger for electrons from the surrounding plasma. So the star expands the surface area over which it collects electrons by growing a large plasma sheath that becomes the effective anode in space. The growth process is self-limiting because, as the sheath expands, its electric field will grow stronger. Electrons caught up in the field are accelerated to ever-greater energies. Before long, they become energetic enough to excite neutral particles they chance to collide with, and the huge sheath takes on a uniform ‘red anode glow.’ It becomes a red giant star.
The electric field driving this process will also give rise to a massive flow of positive ions away from the star, or in more familiar words—a prodigious stellar ‘wind.’ Indeed, such mass loss is a characteristic feature of red giants. Standard stellar theory is at a loss to explain this since the star is said to be too ‘cold’ to ‘boil off’ a stellar wind. So when seen in electric terms, instead of being near the end point of its life, a red giant may be a ‘child’ losing sufficient mass and charge to begin the next phase of its existence— on the main sequence.
COMING TO TERMS WITH ELECTRIC STARS
Electric stars change forever the picture of our place in the universe. At first the idea of electric stars is unsettling. The comforting fable about the history of the Sun and its reliability for billions of years into the future is gone. Reliability now depends upon the steadiness of power from the Milky Way itself. Nearby stars look steady enough. But there is no guarantee that surges and brown-outs will not interrupt the electric Sun’s steady shining for millions, let alone billions, of years into the future.
Ken Croswell noted in New Scientist, January 27, 2001: “It was always thought that any planet orbiting a red dwarf would be an extremely unlikely place to find life. But it now looks as though these dim red suns could harbour most of the Galaxy’s life-bearing worlds.” Such phase-locked worlds would, however, have one hemisphere roasted and the other frozen.
Electric stars offer radically new ideas about life on other worlds and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. A galactic source of electrical energy provides more possibilities for sustaining life in the universe than the lottery of finding an Earth-like planet orbiting in a narrow ‘habitable zone’ about a bright star like the Sun. The probability of the latter occurrence is very low. But with electric stars, we can turn to the most numerous stars in the galaxy as likely incubators of life — the brown ‘dwarfs’ —which are actually red in color. They could be described as ‘cosmic plasma eggs.’ This picture is much more encouraging than conventional thinking on such dwarf stars.
Imagine giant Jupiter and its moons floating independently in deep space. Outside the Sun’s dominating electrical influence, Jupiter would become a dim electric star enclosed in the huge radiant red plasma shell of its ‘anode glow’ — a brown dwarf. Inside the glowing sheath is the most hospitable environment in the universe for life because the radiant energy received by each satellite is evenly distributed over its entire surface. There are no seasons, no tropics and no ice caps.
The radiant energy from the plasma cell of a brown dwarf star is strongest at the blue and red ends of the spectrum. Photosynthesis relies on red light. L-type brown dwarfs have water as a dominant molecule in their spectra, along with many other biologically important molecules and elements. Satellites would accumulate atmospheres from the brown dwarf and water would mist down. Regardless of its spin and axial tilt, a satellite orbiting inside the sheath of a brown dwarf could experience an ideal environment for life.
It is instructive to note the icy nature of the moons of our gas giant planets. Those planets may be electrically captured brown dwarf stars. That would explain their odd axial tilts, excess heat, and remnants of expulsion disks or rings.
However, the brown dwarf ‘Garden of Eden’ comes with a caveat. Stars off the main sequence do not have the self-regulating photospheric discharge to smooth out variations in electrical power input. Consequently, brown dwarfs are subject to sudden outbursts, or ‘flaring,’ when they encounter a surge in the circuit that powers them. These flares could cause sparking to and between the satellites orbiting inside the sheath and lead to sudden extinction events, vast fallout deposits and fossilization. There is much food for new thoughts!
WHY NO CALL FROM ET?
The problem for SETI is that no radio signals can penetrate the glowing plasma shell of such a brown dwarf star. Even the dim twinkling of other stars would be obscured. Intelligent life forms living on the satellites of a brown dwarf star would be unaware of the spectacle of the universe that we are privileged to witness. Seeing only a purple glow in their sky, they would have no cause to attempt to communicate. This may explain why SETI hears only eerie static on the galactic phone.
Eddington remarks, in the conclusion to The Internal Constitution of the Stars:
“The history of scientific progress teaches us to keep an open mind. I do not think we need feel greatly concerned as to whether these rude attempts to explore the interior of a star have brought us to anything like the final truth.” Fine words, but his prejudice cannot be contained, “The partial results already obtained encourage us to think that we are not far from the right track… it is reasonable to hope that in a not too distant future we shall be competent to understand so simple a thing as a star.”
We are swiftly approaching the centenary of Eddington’s publication without that understanding.
The standard model of stars has become a nightmare of complexity and special pleading (miracles). The situation may be due to bad timing. Before Eddington, the principal difficulty was to find a long-lived, steady source of energy for the Sun. In 1862, William Thomson (later known as Lord Kelvin) wrote On the Age of the Sun’s Heat:
“It seems therefore, on the whole most probable that the Sun has not illuminated the Earth for 100, 000,000 years, and almost certain that he has not done so for 500, 000,000 years. As for the future, we may say, with equal certainty, that inhabitants of the Earth cannot continue to enjoy the light and heat essential to their life, for many millions of years longer, unless sources now unknown to us are prepared in the great storehouse of creation.”
The unlocking of the energy of the atom in Eddington’s time seemed to provide the “great storehouse of creation.” Meanwhile the study of electric discharges in low-pressure gases was in its infancy. Eddington recognized the difficulties in explaining how lethal nuclear energy could be released in relatively stone cold stars and converted to benign sunshine. The difficulties were overcome gradually by inventing a truly “Heath Robinson” model. Since hydrogen was necessary as fuel, this lightest of elements had to be in the core of the star as well as its atmosphere. The deadly high-energy radiation from the thermonuclear core had to be tamed by proposing an extensive radiation zone between the core and the surface of the star, where scattering of the radiation over a million years could tame it. No known physical body exists that transfers internal heat by radiation. Finally the heat reaches the surface by convection. But the solar granulation doesn’t behave like convection of hot hydrogen. Despite these seemingly fatal objections, the desperate need to explain how the Sun works over-rode commonsense. Meanwhile, the many strange solar phenomena in plain view that had no place in the thermonuclear model were pushed to one side. There they remain.
While enormous time and resources have been poured into the effort to understand stars based on a single outdated idea, those familiar with plasma discharge phenomena have been paying close attention to the observed phenomena on the Sun and finding simple electrical explanations. After 100 years of neglect, an electrical model of stars is just beginning to emerge. It is an engineer’s view that offers a coherent understanding of our real place in the universe (cosmology) and practical insights for the future exploration of space. If the Sun shines as an electric light ‘plugged in’ to the Electric Universe, the objective tests become obvious. Perhaps, with a real understanding of stars we may reach childhood’s end in the cosmos.