(Left) A solar flare showing the twisting motion characteristic of a Birkeland current.
(Right) An X-ray image of the sun showing the active lower corona.
The Electric Sun Hypothesis
In this day and age there is no longer any doubt that electrical effects in plasmas play an important role in the phenomena we observe on the Sun.
The major properties of the “Electric Sun (ES) model” are as follows:
- Most of the space within our galaxy is occupied by plasma (rarefied ionized gas) containing electrons (negative charges) and ionized atoms (positive charges). Every charged particle in the plasma has an electric potential energy (voltage) just as every pebble on a mountain has a mechanical potential energy with respect to sea level. The Sun is surrounded by a plasma cell that stretches far out – many times the radius of Pluto. These are facts not hypotheses.
- The Sun is at a more positive electrical potential (voltage) than is the space plasma surrounding it – probably in the order of 10 billion volts.
- Positive ions leave the Sun and electrons enter the Sun. Both of these flows add to form a net positive current leaving the Sun. This constitutes a plasma discharge analogous in every way (except size) to those that have been observed in electrical plasma laboratories for decades. Because of the Sun’s positive charge (voltage), it acts as the anode in a plasma discharge. As such, it exhibits many of the phenomena observed in earthbound plasma experiments, such as anode tufting. The granules observed on the surface of the photosphere are anode tufts (plasma in the arc mode).
- The Sun may be powered, not from within itself, but from outside, by the electric (Birkeland) currents that flow in our arm of our galaxy as they do in all galaxies. This possibility that the Sun may be exernally powered by its galactic environment is the most speculative idea in the ES hypothesis and is always attacked by critics while they ignore all the other explanatory properties of the ES model. In the Plasma Universe model, these cosmic sized, low-density currents create the galaxies and the stars within those galaxies by the electromagnetic z-pinch effect. It is only a small extrapolation to ask whether these currents remain to power those stars. Galactic currents are of low current density, but, because the sizes of the stars are large, the total current (Amperage) is high. The Sun’s radiated power at any instant is due to the energy imparted by that amperage. As the Sun moves around the galactic center it may come into regions of higher or lower current density and so its output may vary both periodically and randomly.
The Sun’s corona is visible only during solar eclipses (or via sophisticated instruments developed for that specific purpose). It is a vast luminous plasma glow that changes shape with time – always remaining fairly smooth and distributed in its inner regions, and showing filamentary spikes and points in its outer fringes. It is a “normal glow” mode plasma discharge. If the Sun were not electrical in nature this corona would not exist. If the Sun is simply a (non-electrical) nuclear furnace, the corona has no business being there at all. So one of the most basic questions that ought to arise in any discussion of the Sun is: Why does our Sun have a corona? Why is it there? It serves no purpose in a fusion-only model nor can such models explain its existence.
The Solar Wind
Positive ions stream outward from the Sun’s surface and accelerate away, through the corona, for as far as we have been able to measure. It is thought that these particles eventually make up a portion of the cosmic ray flux that permeates the cosmos. The ‘wind’ varies with time and has even been observed to stop completely for a period of a day or two. What causes this fluctuation? The ES model proposes a simple explanation and suggests a mechanism that creates fluctuations in this flow. The standard model provides no such explanation or mechanism.
Electrical Properties of the Photosphere and Chromosphere
The essence of the Electric Sun hypothesis is an analysis of the electrical properties of its photosphere and the chromosphere and the resulting effects on the charged particles that move across them. A radial cross-section taken through a photospheric ‘granule’ is shown in the three plots shown, below. The horizontal axis of each of the three plots is distance, measured radially outward, starting at a point near the bottom of the photosphere (the true surface of the Sun – which we can only observe in the umbra of sunspots). Almost every observed property of the Sun can be explained through reference to these three plots; for this reason, much of the discussion that follows makes reference to them.
The first plot shows the energy per unit (positive) charge of an ion as a function of its radial distance out from the solar surface. The units of Energy per Unit Charge are Volts, V. The second plot, the E-field, shows the outward radial force (toward the right) experienced by such a positive ion. The third plot shows the locations of the charge densities that will produce the first two plots. The chromosphere is the location of a plasma double layer (DL) of electrical charge. Recall that one of the properties of electric plasma is its excellent (although not perfect) conductivity. Such an excellent conductor will support only a weak electric field. Notice in the second plot that the almost ideal plasmas of the photosphere (region b to c) and the corona (from point e outward) are regions of almost zero electric field strength.
Energy, Electric field strength, and Charge density
as a function of radial distance from the Sun’s surface.
All three of these plots are related mathematically. By the laws of electrophysics: E = – dV/dr, and Charge density = dE/dr. In words: The value of the E-field, at every point r, is the (negative of) the slope of the energy plot at that point. (The reason for the negative sign in the first equation is that the force on a positively charged particle is down the potential hill, not up.) The value of the charge density at each point, r, is the slope of the E-field plot at that point. The two layers of opposite charge density necessary to produce the compound shaped energy curve between points c and e used to be called a ‘double sheath’. Modern nomenclature calls it a ‘double layer’ (DL). It is a well known phenomenon in plasma discharges. Because of the DL positioned between points c and e, a +ion to the right of point e sees no electrostatic force from +ions to the left of point c. The ‘primary plasma’ of the corona and the ‘secondary plasma’ of the photosphere are separated by the DL – a well known, and often observed property of plasmas.
The energy plot shown above is valid for positively charged particles. Because a positive E-field represents an outward radial force (toward the right) per unit charge on any such particle, the region wherein the E-field is negative (a to b) constitutes an inward force. This region of the lower photosphere is, thus, an energy barrier that positive ions must surmount in order to escape the body of the Sun. Any +ions attempting to escape outward from within the Sun must have enough energy to get over this energy barrier. So the presence of the single positive charge layer at the bottom of the tuft plasma serves as a constraint on unlimited escape of +ions from the surface of the Sun.
Tuft Shrinkage and Movement
In order to visualize the effect this energy diagram has on electrons (negative charges) coming in toward the Sun from cosmic space (from the right), we can turn the energy plot upside down. Doing this enables us to visualize the ‘trap’ that these photospheric tufts are for incoming electrons. As the trap fills, the energy gap between b and c decreases in height, and so the tuft weakens, shrinks, and eventually disappears. This is the cause of the observed shrinkage and disappearance of photospheric granules.
Charged particles do not experience external electrostatic forces when they are in the range b to c – within the photosphere. Only random thermal movement occurs due to diffusion. (Temperature is simply the measurement of the violence of such random movement.) This is where the 6,000 K temperature is measured. Positive ions have their maximum electrical potential energy when they are in this photospheric plasma. But their mechanical kinetic energy is relatively low. At a point just to the left of point c, any random movement toward the right (radially outward) that carries a + ion even slightly to the right of point c will result in it being swept away, down the energy hill, toward the right. Such movement of charged particles due to an E-field is called a ‘drift current’. This drift current of accelerating positive ions is a constituent of the solar ‘wind’ (which is a serious misnomer). As positive ions begin to accelerate down the potential energy drop from point c through e, they convert the high (electrical) potential energy they had in the photosphere into kinetic energy – they gain extremely high outward radial velocity and lose side-to-side random motion. Thus, they become ‘dethermalized’. In this region, in the upper photosphere and lower chromosphere, the movement of these ions becomes extremely organized (parallel).
The Transition Zone
When these rapidly moving + ions pass point e (leave the chromosphere) they move beyond the radially directed E-field force that has been accelerating them. Because of their high kinetic energy (velocity), any collisions they have at this point (with other ions or with neutral atoms) are violent and create high amplitude random motions, thereby re-thermalizing the plasma to a much greater degree than it was in the photospheric tufts (in the range b to c). This is what is responsible for the high temperature we observe in the lower corona. Ions just to the right of point e are reported to be at temperatures of 1 to 2 million K. Nothing else but exactly this kind of mechanism could be expected from the electric sun (anode tuft – double layer) model. The re-thermalization takes place in a region analogous to the turbulent ‘white water’ boiling at the bottom of a smooth laminar water slide. In the fusion model no such (water slide) phenomenon exists – and so neither does a simple explanation of the temperature discontinuity.
Acceleration of the Solar ‘Wind’
The energy plot (to the right of point e) actually trails off, with slightly negative slope, toward the negative voltage of deep space (our arm of the Milky Way galaxy). A relatively low density plasma can support a weak E-field. Consistent with this, a low amplitude (positive) E-field extends indefinitely to the right from point e. This is the effect of the Sun being at a higher voltage level than is distant space beyond the heliopause. The outward force on positive ions due to this E-field causes the observed acceleration of +ions in the solar wind.
The particles in our solar wind eventually join with the spent solar winds of all the other stars in our galaxy to make up the total cosmic ray flux in our arm of our galaxy.
Juergens points out that the Sun is a rather mediocre star as far as radiating energy goes. If it is electrically powered, perhaps its mediocrity is attributable to a relatively unimpressive driving potential. This would mean that hotter, more luminous stars should have driving potentials greater than that of the Sun and should consequently expel cosmic rays of greater energies than solar cosmic rays. A star with a driving potential of 20 billion volts would expel protons energetic enough to reach the Sun’s surface, arriving with 10 billion electron volts of energy to spare. Such cosmic ions, when they collide with Earth’s upper atmosphere release the muon neutrinos that have been much in the news recently.
Hannes Alfven in his book, The New Astronomy, Chapter 2, Section III, pp 74-79, said about cosmic rays: “How these particles are driven to their fantastic energies, sometimes as high as a million billion electron volts, is one of the prime puzzles of astronomy. No known (or even unknown) nuclear reaction could account for the firing of particles with such energies; even the complete annihilation of a proton would not yield more than a billion electron volts.”
Fluctuations in the Solar “Wind”
It is interesting to note in passing that the three plots presented above are identically the plots of energy, E-field, and charge distribution found in a pnp transistor. Of course in that solid-state device there are different processes going on at different energy levels (valence band and conduction band) within a solid crystal. In the solar plasma there are no fixed atomic centers and so there is only one energy band. In a transistor, the amplitude of the collector current (analogous to the drift of +ions in the solar wind toward the right) is easily controlled by raising and lowering the difference between the base and emitter voltages. Is the same mechanism (a voltage fluctuation between the anode-Sun and its photosphere) at work in the Sun? e.g., If the Sun’s voltage were to decrease slightly – say, because of an excessive flow of outgoing +ions – the voltage rise from point a to b in the energy diagram would increase in height and so reduce the solar wind (both the inward electron flow and the outward +ion flow) in a negative feedback effect. In May of 1999 the solar wind completely stopped for about two days. There are also periodic variations in the solar wind. The transistor-like mechanism described above is certainly capable of causing these phenomena. The fusion model is at a complete loss to explain them. Transistor ‘cutoff’ is a process that is used in all digital circuits.
Characteristic Modes of a Plasma
In the page on Electric Plasma the three characteristic static modes in which a plasma can operate are discussed. Here is a more detailed description. The volt-ampere characteristic of a typical plasma discharge has the general shape shown below.
The volt-ampere plot of a plasma discharge.
This plot is easily measured for a laboratory plasma contained in a column – a cylindrical glass tube with the anode at one end and the cathode at the other. These two terminals are connected into an electrical circuit whereby the current through the tube can be controlled. In such an experiment, the plasma has a constant cross-sectional area from one end of the tube to the other. The vertical axis of the volt-ampere plot is the voltage rise from the cathode up to the anode (across the entire plasma) as a function of the current passing through the plasma. The horizontal axis shows the Current Density. Current density is the measurement of how many Amps per square meter are flowing through a cross-section of the tube. In a cylindrical tube the cross-section is the same size at all points along the tube and so, the current density at every cross-section is just proportional to the total current passing through the plasma.
When we consider the Sun, however, a spherical geometry exists – with the sun at the center. The cross-section becomes an imaginary sphere. Assume a constant total electron drift moving from all directions toward the Sun and a constant total radial flow of +ions outward. Imagine a spherical surface of large radius through which this total current passes. As we approach the Sun from deep space, this spherical surface has an ever decreasing area. Therefore, for a fixed total current, the current density (A/m^2) increases as we move inward toward the Sun.
- In deep space the current density there is extremely low even though the total current may be huge; we are in the dark current region; there are no glowing gases, nothing to tell us we are in a plasma discharge – except possibly some radio frequency emissions.
- As we get closer to the Sun, the spherical boundary has a smaller surface area; the current density increases; we enter the normal glow region; this is what we call the Sun’s “corona”. The intensity of the radiated light is much like a neon sign.
- As we approach still closer to the Sun, the spherical boundary gets to be only slightly larger than the Sun itself; the current density becomes extremely large; we enter the arc region of the discharge. This is the anode tuft. This is the photosphere. The intensity of the radiated light is much like an arc welding machine or continuous lightning. A high intensity ultraviolet light is emitted.
Some early plasma researchers and most modern astronomers believe that the only “true” plasma is one that is perfectly conductive (and so will “freeze” magnetic fields into itself). The volt-ampere plot shown above indicates that this does not happen. Every point on the plot (except the origin) has a non-zero voltage coordinate. The static resistivity of a plasma operating at any point on the above volt-ampere plot is proportional to the slope of a straight line drawn from the origin to the point. This means that, at every possible mode in which a plasma can operate, it has a non-zero static resistivity; it takes a non-zero E-field to produce the current density. Obviously the static resistivity of a plasma in the high end of the dark mode can be quite large. (The arc region and the left half of the glow region exhibit negative dynamic resistance – and the E-field can be quite small – but that is not what is in question.) No real plasma can “freeze-in” a magnetic field. The highest conductivity plasmas are those in the arc mode. But, even in that mode, it takes a finite, non-zero valued electric field to produce a current density. No plasma is an “ideal conductor”.
Fusion in the Double Layer
The z-pinch effect of high intensity, parallel current filaments in an arc plasma is very strong. Whatever nuclear fusion is taking place on the Sun is occurring here in the double layer (DL) at the top of the photosphere (not deep within the core). The result of this fusion process are the “metals” that give rise to absorption lines in the Sun’s spectrum. Traces of sixty eight of the ninety two natural elements are found in the Sun’s atmosphere. Most of the radio frequency noise emitted by the Sun emanates from this region. Radio noise is a well known property of DLs. The electrical power available to be delivered to the plasma at any point is the product of the E-field (Volts per meter) times current density (Amps per square meter). This multiplication operation yields Watts per cubic meter. The current density is relatively constant over the height of the photospheric / chromospheric layers. However, the E-field is by far the strongest at the center of the DL. Nuclear fusion takes a great deal of power – and that power is available in the DL.
It is also observed that the neutrino flux from the Sun varies inversely with sunspot number. This is expected in the ES hypothesis because the source of those neutrinos is z-pinch produced fusion which is occurring in the double layer – and sunspots are locations where there is no DL in which this process can occur.
Sunspots and Coronal Holes
In a plasma, both the dimensions and the voltages of the anode tufts depend on the current density at that location (near the anode). The tufts appear and/or disappear, as needed, to maintain a certain required relationship between +ion and electron numbers in the total current. This property of anode tuft plasmas was discovered, quantified, and reported by Irving Langmuir over fifty years ago.
In the Electric Sun model, as with any plasma discharge, tufting disappears wherever the flux of incoming electrons impinging onto a given area of the Sun’s surface is not sufficiently strong to require the shielding produced by the plasma double layer. At any such location, the anode tufting collapses and we can see down to the actual anode surface of the Sun. Since there is no arc discharge occurring in these locations, they appear darker than the surrounding area and are termed “sunspots”. Of course, if a tremendous amount of energy were being produced in the Sun’s interior, the spot should be brighter and hotter than the surrounding photosphere. The fact that sunspots are dark and cool strongly supports the contention that very little, if anything, is going on in the Sun’s interior. The center of the spot is called its umbra.
A sunspot showing the umbra, penumbra, and surrounding anode tufts (DLs).
Because there is no anode tufting where a spot is located, the voltage rise (region a to b in the energy plot above), which normally limits the local flow of positive ions leaving the anode surface, does not exist there. In sunspots, then, a large number of ions will flood outward toward the lower corona. Such a flow constitutes a large electrical current – and, as such, will produce a strong localized magnetic field near the sunspot.
The Sun’s corona is difficult to see except in solar eclipses and in X ray images. This is because the corona is a “normal glow” discharge compared to the tufts which are in “arc mode”. In some X ray images of the Sun (such as the one shown in the first figure at the very top of this page) we can see “coronal holes” – large dark regions in the brighter image of the solar corona. The bright regions in X-ray images of the corona indicate hotter, more energetic areas; these are mainly above the sunspot regions.
In the three images of a sunspot group, shown below:
- The top one is the photosphere – taken in visible light – where, in the umbrae, we can see down to the dark (cool) surface of the Sun. Ions are pouring upward out of the Sun at these locations.
- The middle image is taken in ultraviolet light and shows the chromosphere / transition region.
- The lower panel is an X-ray image showing the violent activity in the lower corona. This activity is due to the flood of accelerating positive ions escaping the Sun and colliding with atoms higher in the atmosphere (lower corona).
The effects of +ions flowing out of a sunspot.
Strong electric currents also flow in and above the Sun’s surface at the edge of sunspot umbrae due to the voltage difference between nearby anode tufts and the central umbrae of the spots (where there are no tufts). This region is called a sunspot’s penumbra. These currents of course produce magnetic fields. Since, in plasmas, twisting electrical (Birkeland) currents follow the direction of magnetic fields, the glowing plasma in these regions often shows the complicated shapes of these spot related looping magnetic fields. Remember. Brikeland currents TWIST !
(Left) The Penumbra – Birkeland currents following the voltage drop from the photosphere down to the umbra.
(Right) The twisting Birkeland currents evident in a detailed image of the penumbral streamers.
Prominences, Flares, and CME’s
All of the above discussion applies to the steady-state (or almost steady-state) operation of the Electric Sun. But there are several dynamic phenomena such as flares, prominences, and coronal mass ejections (CME’s) that we observe. How are they produced? Nobel laureate Hannes Alfven, although not aware of the Juergens Electric Sun model, advanced his own theory (3) of how prominences and solar flares are formed electrically. It is completely consistent with the Juergens model. It too is electrical.
Any electric current, i, creates a magnetic field (the stronger the current – the stronger the magnetic field, and the more energy it contains). Curved magnetic fields cannot exist without either electrical currents or time varying electric fields. Energy, Wm, stored in any magnetic field, is given by the expression Wm = 1/2 Li ^2. If the current, i, is interrupted, the field collapses and its energy must be delivered somewhere. The magnetic field of the Sun sometimes, and in some places on its surface, forms an “omega” shaped loop. This loop extends out through the double sheath layer (DL) of the chromosphere. One of the primary properties of Birkeland currents is that they generally follow magnetic field lines. A strong looping current will produce a secondary toroidal magnetic field that will surround and try to expand the loop. If the current following the loop becomes too strong, the DL will be destroyed1. This interrupts the current (like opening a switch in an inductive circuit) and the energy stored in the primary magnetic field is explosively released into space.
Hannes Alfven’s Solar Prominence CircuitTRACE Image of Plasma Loops
It should be well understood (certainly by anyone who has had a basic physics course) that the magnetic field “lines”2 that are drawn to describe a magnetic field, have no beginning nor end. They are closed paths. In fact one of Maxwell’s famous equations is: “div B = 0″. Which says precisely that (in the language of vector differential calculus). So when magnetic fields collapse due to the interruption of the currents that produce them, they do not“break” or “merge” and “recombine” as some uninformed astronomers have claimed (e.g., see the quote regarding the mainstream concerns above – in 4. Acceleration of the Solar “Wind” Ions). The field simply collapses (very quickly!). On the Sun this collapse releases a tremendous amount of energy, and matter is thrown out away from the surface – as with any explosively rapid reaction. This release is consistent with and predicted by the Electric Sun model as described above. Some astronomers have proposed that heat is routinely transported out to the lower corona by magnetic fields and released there by “reconnection of magnetic field lines, whereby oppositely directed lines cancel each other out, converting magnetic energy into heat. The process requires that the field lines be able to diffuse through the plasma.” This idea is inventive but, unfortunately, has no scientific basis whatever.
Note that although astronomers ought to be aware that magnetic fields require electrical currents or time varying E-fields to produce them, currents and E-fields are never mentioned in standard models. Possibly because they do not seem to be included in astrophysics curricula.
1. Double layers can be destroyed by at least two different mechanisms: a) Zener Breakdown – The electric field gradient becomes strong enough to rip all charges away from an area, thus breaking the discharge path; b) Avalanche Breakdown – A literal avalanche occurs wherein all charges are swept away and no conducting charges are left – thus the conducting path is opened.
2. A magnetic field is a continuum. It is not a set of discrete ‘lines’. Lines are drawn in the classroom to describe the magnetic field (its direction and magnitude). But the lines themselves do not actually exist. They are simply a pedagogical device. Proposing that these lines break, merge, and/or recombine is an error (violation of Maxwell’s equations) compounded on another error (the lines do not really exist in the first place). Magnetic field lines are analogous to lines of latitude and longitude. They are not discrete entities with nothing in between them – you can draw as many of them as close together as you’d like. And they most certainly do not break, merge, or reconnect any more than lines of latitude do. Oppositely directed magnetic intensity H-fields simply cancel each other – no energy is stored or released in that event.
This has been the briefest of introductions to Juergens’ Electric Sun model – the realization that our Sun functions electrically – that it is a huge electrically charged, relatively quiescent, sphere of ionized gas that supports an electric plasma arc discharge on its surface and is powered by subtle currents that move throughout the now well known tenuous plasma that fills our galaxy.
A more detailed description of the ES hypothesis as well as the deficiencies of the standard solar fusion model are presented in The Electric Sky.
Today’s orthodox thermonuclear models fail to explain many observed solar phenomena. The Electric Sun model is inherently predictive of all these observed phenomena. It is relatively simple. It is self consistent. And it does not require the existence of mysterious entities such as the unseen solar ‘dynamo’ genie that lurks somewhere beneath the surface of the fusion model. The Electric Sun model does not violate Maxwell’s equations as the fusion model does.
Ralph Juergens had the genius to develop the Electric Sun model back in the 1970’s. His hypothesis has so far passed the harsh tests of observed reality. His seminal work may eventually get the recognition it deserves. Or, of course, others may try to claim it, or parts of it, and hope the world forgets who came up with these ideas first.
There is now enough inescapable evidence that a majority of the phenomena we observe on the Sun are fundamentally electrical in nature. Ralph Juergens was the person with the vision to see it.
Ralph Juergens in 1949. a