by Michael Goodspeed


from Thunderbolts Website


The day of this writing, December 13, 2007, is the 140th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian-born physicist Kristian Birkeland.


It was Birkeland who correctly hypothesized in the early 20th century that electric currents from the Sun power the earth's auroras.


For many decades, the scientific mainstream largely rejected Birkeland’s thesis, favoring instead the idea that Earth's magnetosphere is an impenetrable envelope, "squeezed" by the solar wind to induce auroral activity.


Only when satellites detected the magnetic signatures of electric currents in the aurora in 1973 was Birkeland's hypothesis irrefutably validated - though for another two decades many astronomers resisted the implications of this discovery.

In testing his ideas about the Earth/Sun connection, Birkeland built a vacuum chamber and placed a magnetized metal ball called a terrella inside it, representing the Earth. He observed how the terrella behaved in its artificial, electrically charged atmosphere. In addition to solving the riddle of Earth's auroras, Birkeland's electrical experiments also uncannily simulated planetary rings and the energetic displays of cometary jets.


Yet a full century later, astronomers continue to be mystified by these phenomena in space. (To see Birkeland's observations on the electrical properties of comets, published in 1913, read "Comets - Kristian Birkeland's theory").

More than a century after Birkeland's polar expedition to investigate the Northern Lights, mainstream scientists still express surprise or even astonishment when they observe the telltale signs of electrical circuitry connecting the earth and the Sun.


That is because they still cling to theoretical models that conceptually exclude the possibility of electrical circuits in space - even when their models are refuted by new observations that they characterize (and sometimes discard) as "impossible."

The disconnect between astronomical theory and discovery is in full display in the recent NASA press release, "
NASA Spacecraft Make New Discoveries about Northern Lights".






Themis Spacecraft Launch



The report discusses the THEMIS spacecraft's recent observations of,

"giant magnetic ropes that connect Earth's upper atmosphere to the Sun and explosions in the outskirts of Earth's magnetic field."

Describing the THEMIS encounter with a "magnetic rope" NASA investigator Dave Sibeck states:

"It was very large, about as wide as Earth, and located approximately 40,000 miles above Earth's surface in a region called the magnetosphere."

Investigators observed that the so-called rope,

"formed and unraveled in just a few minutes, providing a brief but significant conduit for solar wind energy. Other ropes quickly followed: 'They seem to occur all the time,' says Sibeck."

Magnetic "ropes"?


This expression begs the question of how the fluid dynamics envisioned by NASA can explain a "rope-like" structure that twists and changes dynamically, and extends all the way from Earth back to the Sun. NASA scientists often use the phrase "flux ropes" to describe these twisted filamentary pathways traversed by charged particles.


But to electrical engineers, such terminology reveals a deep confusion among astronomers struggling to comprehend unexpected electrical activity.


Professor Donald E Scott, author of The Electric Sky, says,

"Ropes, of course, have beginnings and ends. Magnetic fields do not. So this use of language from NASA fails to explain anything, and is conceptually wrong as well as misleading."

(For a synopsis of Prof. Scott's highly acclaimed book, see here)

The "ropes" to which the investigators refer are commonly described in plasma science as electrical "Birkeland currents," named after the aforementioned Kristian Birkeland.


The rope-like structure is not just a curiosity; it is the structure taken by current flow due to the long-range attraction and short-range repulsion between current filaments.


The "twisted magnetic fields" are simply the signature of the electric current flow. In plasma cosmology, these entwined plasma filaments act as transmission lines carrying "field-aligned" currents across interplanetary and interstellar space.

A layperson reading the NASA report might believe that the observation of these "ropes" is news - as if they had never been seen before. But Birkeland currents have been the object of plasma research for more than a century.


The term describes an electric current in a space plasma. It is this function of plasma filaments that inspires Electric Universe proponents to assert,

"There are no isolated islands in space!"

However, the term "Birkeland current" has never been included in the mainstream astronomical lexicon. Only in recent years have astronomers begrudgingly entertained the concept when evidence has allowed for no alternative.

The NASA report continues,

"The mission is only beginning but THEMIS is already surprising us," says Vassilis Angelopoulos the mission's principal investigator at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The surprises for investigators began in March, when,

"a substorm erupted over Alaska and Canada, producing vivid auroras for more than two hours."

The report reads:

"Right away the substorm surprised investigators: ‘The auroras surged westward twice as fast as anyone thought possible, crossing 15 degrees of longitude in less than one minute,' says Angelopoulos.

The storm had traversed an entire polar time zone in 60 seconds flat!

"Also, 'the display was surprisingly bursty.' Photographs taken by ground cameras and NASA's Polar satellite (also supporting the THEMIS mission) revealed a series of staccato outbursts each lasting 10 minutes or so. 'Some of the bursts died out while others reinforced each other and went on to become major events.'"

The energy of this two-hour outburst - five hundred thousand billion Joules - is roughly the energetic equivalent of a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In trying to discern "where does all that energy come from?"


NASA is left groping for explanations.

The language used by the investigators reveals their determination to avoid describing obviously electrical displays in terms of electrical circuitry. Rather, they cling to ideas of mechanical "collisions" between magnetic structures - without explaining how these structures can be magnetic in the absence of electricity - somehow generating the observed energies.


The NASA report describes the "magnetic ropes" (electrical Birkeland currents) observed by THEMIS as,

"twisted bundle(s) of magnetic fields organized much like the twisted hemp of a mariner's rope."

This description is colorful and poetic, but does it amount to a scientific explanation? Left unanswered is, how are the ropes created, and why do they twist?

The report continues,

"Spacecraft have detected hints of these ropes before, but a single spacecraft is insufficient to map their 3D structure. THEMIS's five satellites were able to perform the feat.



"THEMIS has also observed a number of relatively small explosions in Earth's magnetic bow shock.

'The bow shock is like the bow wave in front of a boat,' explains Sibeck. 'It is where the solar wind first feels the effects of Earth's magnetic field.'

When a knot of magnetism within the solar wind hits the bow shock--'Bang!' he says. 'We get an explosion.'"

Using such language to describe the electrical currents and powerful discharges from solar energy replaces the language of advanced plasma science with the mechanical language of wind and water.


Nowhere does the report mention the explosive potentials of the "double-layer," a structure common to all plasma sheaths - the cellular strictures, such as Earth’s magnetosphere, around charged objects in a plasma.

A double-layer consists of two parallel layers of opposite electrical charge. A catastrophic rise in voltage across the structure may result when flow is cut off. This causes the double-layer to "explode" - as observed when a circuit breaker is opened incorrectly. The explosions THEMIS has observed are the predictable effects of instabilities in the interface of Earth’s plasma sheath, and the out-flowing charged particles of the solar wind.

Clarity can be gained on many space phenomena, including unpredictable outbursts of comets, supernovae, and coronal mass ejections, if astronomers will consider the well-documented dynamics of electrical double-layer explosions.


The irony here is that by clinging to gravity-only dogma ("no electricity in space"!) - a dogma codified before we had the tools of modern plasma science - mainstream astronomy has obstructed the path of scientific progress pioneered by Kristian Birkeland a century ago.

"It seems to be a natural consequence of our points of view to assume that the whole of space is filled with electrons and flying electric ions of all kinds."

Kristian Birkeland