Apr 18, 2006
Sunspot Penumbra Shock Astrophysicists
Textbook theory of sunspot activity faces new
difficulties posed by the magnetically confined structures of the
penumbra. The old idea that the penumbra filaments are “convection
currents” must now give way to new evidence that electric currents
dominate these solar structures.
We can thank the “Astronomy Picture of the
Day” folks for the two images above. They are from a brief sequence
that can be viewed as a movie by clicking
here. The movie
shows the sunspot in false-color images from different heights above
the surface or photosphere. The first image (upper image in the
picture above) shows the Sun's photosphere as it normally appears,
covered with granules. The large dark sunspot sports a clear dark
in the center through which we can peer into the cooler
region beneath the surface. Surrounding the sunspot is the lighter
penumbra, composed of rope-vortices rising explosively from beneath
the surface. In the linked movie, the images appearing toward the
middle of the sequence show what is occurring a few hundred
kilometers above the photosphere, as the twisted filaments of the
penumbra begin to spread out horizontally.
The last image
of the sequence (lower image above) shows the Sun at a few thousand
kilometers into the chromosphere, the layer of the Sun’s atmosphere
just above the photosphere. Here we see the “ropes” of the sunspot
penumbra extending outward into a surrounding maze of filaments, all
constrained by the complex magnetic fields that have so amazed and
enchanted solar physicists in recent years.
For decades, the standard
model of the Sun treated the penumbra filaments as “convection
cells”, columns of hot gases transporting heat from the interior to
the surface. Astrophysicists formulated such concepts while under
the spell of gravity and familiar gas laws. Seeing the Sun as an
isolated island in space, they had no other tools to work with.
But proponents of the
Electric Universe assert that there are no isolated islands in the
universe. They contend that concepts of simple heat transport are
alien to the plasma discharge behavior evident in sunspot activity.
As Wallace Thornhill observed, the penumbra filaments “bear no
resemblance to any known form of convection in a hot gas, magnetic
fields or no”.
So we pose the question:
what is controlling the behavior of the penumbra in these
pictures—magnetic fields or gas laws? The new profile of the solar
atmosphere has left the astrophysicists in a state of ambivalence.
The APOD folks do not describe the network of interacting filaments
as “convection cells”. They say simply, “Here
magnetic field lines can be clearly followed outward from the
sunspot to distant regions”. That is not the behavior of convection
The problem is
that now the solar physicists appear to have fallen under the spell
of another popular fiction—that science can appropriately discuss
magnetic fields without concerning itself with the cause.
Now the refrain is, “Just look at all those twisted magnetic
fields!” The solar “experts” have forgotten first principles: only
electric currents produce magnetic fields.
Yes, the complex magnetic fields are there, and they are the
predictable effect of “anode tufting” or secondary discharging above
the positively charged sphere in a
the electric model of the Sun remains to be elaborated in important
details, sunspot activity is eminently suited as a critical test.
Where should one look for evidence of electron currents flowing into
the Sun? If, as Thornhill claims, the sunspot is the opening through
which discharge currents pass from the more negatively charged torus
around the Sun, then sunspot activity should be investigated
systematically with an entirely new vantage point in mind.