Posts Tagged ‘Sun’

Does the Sun have a Positive Charge?

September 23, 2018

While I was reading about Venus’ atmosphere, and how the tremendous heat had split apart the hydrogen from water molecules and sent them off into space at escape velocity, I started thinking about the Sun’s plasma.

Hot gases are interesting, in relationship to how fast each molecule is moving. Small, light molecules move very quickly, while heavier molecules slog along at a slower pace in the same gas. So, in the formula  KEAVG=½ mv2=3/2*k*T, where k is Boltzmann’s constant and KEAVG is the average molecular kinetic energy, you can see right away that for a given temperature, the smaller the mass of the particle, the higher the velocity. So, if a particle in a gas is 100 times larger than another particle, you’d expect the smaller particle to be moving √100 = 10 times as fast.

So, back to the Sun. The Sun has a plasma atmosphere, that is, it’s mostly dissociated electrons and protons and other stripped atomic nuclei. Electrons are about 1/2000 the mass of a proton, so we expect that their average velocity in the atmosphere of the Sun is going to be √2000 faster that the average proton, or roughly 45 times as fast.

What this suggests to me is that, in the solar wind, most of the particles that actually reach escape velocity from the Sun (all suns) are going to be the electrons by a large margin. This also tells me that most of the particles that reach escape velocity from our galaxy are also going to be electrons.

So, some general figures to keep in mind; the escape velocity from our general region of the galaxy is about 537 km/s. Our Sun happens to be moving about 220 km/s around the perimeter, so particles would only have to be leaving our Sun’s heliosphere at about 317 km/s to escape the galaxy. The escape velocity from the Sun’s surface is around 618 km/s, and the solar wind (protons and electrons) supposedly passes by the Earth at about 400 km/s, though as we may discover, this isn’t exactly true. The escape velocity from the Solar System, if you start from Earth orbit, is only 42 km/s, much lower than the 400 km/s stream of particles flying by our planet.

I’m speculating that the solar wind consists of very fast electrons and much slower protons; if they were moving at the same speed, they would recombine into hydrogen. And since the electrons are moving much, much faster than the protons, I’m also speculating that a lot more electrons escape from the Sun than protons.

Over a long period of time, the Sun should become positively charged as more electrons than protons escape into interstellar space and intergalactic space.

One might look at the velocities, and think, well, hey, if the protons are moving at 400 km/s, they’re all going to escape the Sun’s gravity, too, and the balance of charge will be maintained! But they aren’t all traveling at this high speed; there’s something called the Boltzmann velocity distribution curve for particles in a gas, and some fraction of those protons aren’t going to make the necessary 42 km/s as they pass by Earth; they’re going to fall back into the sun. The electrons, as we noted, are probably moving 42 times as fast, on average, as the protons, so a much smaller number of them are going to be trapped by the Sun’s gravity. Likewise, a lot more electrons will escape our galaxy than protons.

Wow, the number 42 sure does pop up a lot. I wonder if that means anything?

Anyway, we speculate that a lot more electrons will escape from the Sun than protons. This would have some interesting side-effects.

The Sun, being positively charged, is going to be pushing and accelerating protons in the solar wind. The surplus interstellar electrons will be pulling on these same protons. Likewise, the motion of the electrons in the solar wind will be retarded due to the positive charge of the Sun. Eventually, I would expect some sort of balance, while still maintaining a net positive charge on the Sun. Somewhere out there in the heliosphere, the proton and electron velocities would finally match up, allowing them to merge into hydrogen.

I read recently that there is a yet-unexplained acceleration of the solar wind away from the Sun. Perhaps this charge imbalance is related to that.

So, we have a cloud of surplus electrons in between the galaxies. We have another cloud, probably denser, of interstellar electrons within our galaxy, between the suns. And we have positively charges suns stuck in this rotating cloud like a plum pudding. Over billions of years, I’d expect the intergalactic cloud to get denser, pushing the galaxies apart as one high-velocity electron wind smashed into others, and the field pushed the galaxies apart. Could this be interpreted as the acceleration of the separation of galaxies in the universe that we see and attribute to dark energy? I have no idea. Could the plum-pudding of positive charges (stars) imbedded in a rotating negatively-charged galactic cloud appear to be more massive than it really is, as it rotates within the universe’s own electron field? I also have no idea. I’m not an astrophysicist, or a plasma physicist, or any of the other useful fields that could actually answer these questions.

ADDENDA: I tried to look up velocity distributions for electrons and protons in a solar wind. The new Parker Probe, just launched, will probably be measuring this, and the GOES satellite and ACE measured this. Looking at the ACE SWEPAM experiment live data, it looks like electrons and protons have, on average, roughly the same electron-volt values, which, as I suggested earlier, would mean that electrons are moving a lot faster than the protons, which would give us results as described. But I don’t know how good the data is, or if I interpreted it correctly.

If you like this speculation, be sure to check out my SF short stories listed at my website.