Scientific Research - Intriguing Topics


Sun's Rotation
Sun's Tilt
Jupiter's Moons
Globular Clusters
Supernova 1987a Illogic
Black Holes and Confirming by Gravitational Lensing
Problems with Black holes and Companion Stars
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Sun's Rotation and Conservation of Angular Momentum

Every year, the Sun's nuclear fusion process converts quite a bit of its mass to energy which is radiated away. Each second, over 4 million tons "disappears" in this way (actually 4.3 * 109 kg/sec). In a year, that is 1.35 * 1017 kg. In the five billion years that the Sun has probably existed, it should therefore have lost about 7 * 1026 kg of its mass in this way.

If our conventional ideas of Physics apply, then conservation of angular momentum should apply. This seems to necessitate that the Sun should be rotating faster now, because of the reduced mass. Precise radar ranging of the East and West limbs of the Sun's disk over a period of years might confirm this effect.

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However, the effect would be quite small. Even though that is an enormous amount of mass that has disappeared, the total mass of the Sun is around 2 * 1030 kg. Therefore, the total loss is only around 1/30 of one percent of the Sun's mass (over that five billion years!) (For Jeopardy, the total amount of the Sun which has already disappeared due to nuclear fusion is therefore about equal to 100 times the entire mass of the Earth!)

There could be an alternate possibility. If mass just disappears, that it is annihilated in the process of changing into energy, does conservation of angular momentum still hold? If it does, then the consideration mentioned above applies. But, if it does NOT hold, then the rotation rate of the Sun would not have to increase, but there would be a variety of new intriguing consequences!

Assuming that black holes actually exist in the Universe, then similar aspects of logic need to be applied. As material is falling into such a gravity well, is angular momentum still preserved? Whether this answer is positive or negative, the implications are extremely important.

Extremely precise determination of the Sun's rotation rate could identify which is really the case. Unfortunately, the precision necessary is currently many magnitudes better than our present methods allow.


The Tilt of the Sun's Rotational Axis

All theories regarding the formation of the Solar System take note of the fact that nearly everything in the System is rotating and revolving in the same direction. Assumptions are made from this to suggest an initial swirling mass of some sort that condensed out into the planets, moons, etc. That idea sounds good at first, but there is a tremendous inconsistency that cannot be explained easily. The Sun's rotational axis is tilted at about 7 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic (and generally the planets). Since the Sun constitutes the vast majority of the mass of the Solar System, this is a real problem to deal with.

Trying to theorize some mechanism of causing such a tilt AFTER the planets were formed is especially tricky. Tilting such a large rotating mass requires a TORQUE and not just a FORCE. The Sun's great mass acts like a gyroscope and thereby maintains its rotational axis direction. If some massive intruder star or other object had passed through the Solar System, it would have had to have passed REALLY close to the Sun to create such a torque. In the process, it would have ALSO created huge effects of force on both the Sun and all the individual planets. Their orbits would have been seriously disrupted. The fact that we see rather circular orbits now, suggests otherwise. And the apparent necessary long-term climatic stability on Earth for life to develop, also suggests that an intruder theory is extremely improbable.

The tilt of the rotation of the Sun would seem instrumental in understanding the origin of the Solar System. Once a theory can provide for explanation of it, we will probably be much closer to an understanding of the subject.

I composed a separate presentation on a principle of gravitational resonance analysis a couple years after presenting this section. It is at: Origin of the Earth New Theory Regarding the Formation of the Earth.


Mutual Perturbations of the Four Great Moons of Jupiter

In 1996, I chose to try to calculate the very rare event of an eclipse of one of these four Galilean moons by another of them. It was necessary to predict each of their locations extremely precisely. I found that current gravitational theory just doesn't have a good clue about how to do that. The equations that exist to predict their paths are entirely based on empirical observations. There are hundreds of terms, many of which have dependences on the periods of the other moons' orbits, but they also have constant factors which come exclusively from empirical observation. Current Gravitational theory can explain a pitiful portion of all the dynamics going on there.

Additional, precise study of the motions and mutual perturbations of the Galilean satellites should greatly increase our understanding of basic gravitational theory.

As an aside on this topic, even a much simpler system has many behaviors that are not understood. Our own Earth-Moon system is VERY complex. When President Kennedy first announced that the United States was going to put a man on the Moon, scientists were concerned, because they couldn't predict precisely enough exactly where the Moon would be! A HUGE effort was put forth to accomplish that goal. By 1969, when the moon landings actually occurred, the calculations were not yet complete! (They still aren't!) (But they were accurate to within a few inches, which was good enough) The calculations which presently best describe the motion of the Moon involves hundreds of thousands of terms. Theory is FAR behind in actually understanding the sources of many of those terms.

It would be nice to think that there was some elegantly simple way of presenting all this so that the empirically observed results could be predicted from theory. There doesn't presently seem any way to accomplish this. The resolution may require some entirely new insight, such as Newton realizing that he needed to invent Calculus to solve the problems he faced three centuries ago.

A possible area to investigate more precisely and thoroughly, is the behavior of the Trojan asteroids. Our present Gravitational theory is pretty good at describing and understanding TWO-body gravitational interactions, but THREE-body (or more) are presently generally beyond our theoretical expertise. One of the few exceptions is the behavior of those Trojan asteroids. They orbit the Sun in meta-stable orbits which have effectively the same radius as Jupiter's orbit, but they permanently remain 60 degrees ahead of or behind that planet as they orbit the Sun. There are several large Trojan asteroids in each of these two groups. Several questions come to mind. How do they move within their little groups? Do the orbit each other? Do they sometimes crash into each other? What is the path of the center of mass of each of the two groups? Does that point orbit the Sun at EXACTLY the same radius as Jupiter does? Does that point experience any resonance )or ringing) phenomena? I have some preliminary thoughts where there should be small resonances that occur with periods of odd-fraction integers (1/7, 1/9 etc) of Jupiter's period. Much more research is necessary in these areas, and they might contribute toward a more complete theory for Gravitation.

I composed a separate presentation on a principle of gravitational analysis and forced resonance a couple years after presenting this section. It is at: Perturbation Theory. A section of that presentation discusses the situation of Jupiter's Galilean Moons.


Globular Star Cluster Mysteries

The Globular star clusters, which are outside of but near our Milky Way Galaxy, involve a number of logical mysteries.

Because of the spectrums of the stars which are components of them, Globular clusters are thought to be EXTREMELY old, as much as 10-15 billion years! The constituent stars appear to have very similar spectra, which suggests that they are all very similar to each other, which implies that they were formed in the same burst of star formation (however that actually comes about!). These facts in themselves do not present any compelling mysteries to me.

However, there are two different circumstances in their environments that DO seem to have quite illogical consequences.

Globular Clusters Complex Internal Dynamics and Perturbations

First, some of these Globular clusters appear to have hundreds of thousands or even millions of individual stars, ALL within a spherical volume that has an apparent diameter of only 10 light years. In the vicinity of the Sun, there is believed to be an average of about 0.0014 solar mass of stars per cubic light year. In a Globular cluster of a million stars in the volume mentioned above, that mass density averages about 2000 per cubic light year, more than a million times higher than in our own nearby environment!

Physicists sometimes speculate on the Solar System being formed by the gravitationally disruptive effect of a nearby passage of some other star 5 billion years ago. What if our Sun was in an environment where there were a million times as many stars per unit volume? How much gravitational disruption would THAT cause?

The point being made here is that in Globular clusters, our present understanding of the dynamics involved, suggest to us that such an environment is EXTREMELY unstable gravitationally. As inner stars revolve more rapidly than those at a greater radius from the cluster's center point, perturbations must necessarily occur in both the inner star's path and in the outer star's path. With a million stars EACH causing perturbations in EVERY OTHER one of them, each time two of them orbit on the same side of the cluster, the number of perturbative resonances created seems nearly infinite! Logically, this CANNOT be happening in an environment for very long, before causing regular collisions between constituent stars. Clearly, in such an environment, in short order, there would only be a FEW remaining (massive) stars. But, the spectra evidence has suggested to us that they have all been in that environment for as long as 15 billion years! Something is obviously wrong here, either in our understanding of Gravitation or in our determination of the facts that exist in Globular clusters.

Globular Clusters Penetrating the Galactic Plane

The second problem is different but similar. Globular clusters are thought to be in a halo around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, with the ones that we can see being generally above or below the Galactic plane. Science presently believes that the hundred or so Globular clusters are each around 10,000 light years from the center of the Galaxy. (We are farther from the Galaxy Core than that.)

The Galaxy is definitely much more massive than any of the Globular clusters. This implies that the Globulars MUST orbit around the center point of our Galaxy. THIS implies that they must regularly PASS THROUGH the Galactic plane twice on every orbit. Their close in location implies that these passages must occur every few million years. It is easy to calculate that.

This all means that a Globular cluster that is allegedly 15 billion years old, has somehow passed through the Galaxy many thousands of times during its lifetime. However, the Galaxy is made up of hundreds of billions of stars. At the radius that the Globulars would have to pass through the Galactic plane (relatively near the Galactic Core, where there are the most stars), there MUST be MANY Galactic stars.

As a neatly organized Globular cluster (however that could have come about and been maintained, considering the multitude of internal perturbations mentioned above) penetrated the Galactic plane, there would NECESSARILY be a substantial number of close interactions between Globular cluster member stars and star from the Galaxy itself.

In addition, there would be tidal forces at work distorting the overall shape of the Globular, as dynamic analysis easily shows. THIS effect alone would create resonances in the Globulars where they would oscillate as a prolate spheroid along their orbital path, and they would therefore be seldom actually spherical.

The effects, then, of a Globular cluster passing through the Galactic plane, would be many. The overall shape of the Globular would become an oscillating prolate spheroid. Some of the constituent stars would be gravitationally perturbed by close passes with Galactic stars, such that they either later crash into other Globular stars, or they attain escape velocity to leave the Globular entirely. The gravitational effects would work the other way, as well. There would certainly be a few Galactic stars that would become incorporated into the Globular cluster.

Keeping in mind that this whole scenario MUST have occurred THOUSANDS OF TIMES during the existence of the Globular, it becomes clear that our understanding of the situation is sadly lacking!

Extremely careful and thorough study of a few Globular clusters is definitely called for. Analysis of individual star locations may be valuable, in looking for whatever symmetries might (or must) exist. Spectral velocity analysis of many of the constituent stars would be valuable in trying to understand more of the internal dynamics of the Globular environment. As a first step, it would be useful to determine whether Keplerian logic applies as to radial distances and orbital velocities. As a second step, it would clearly be valuable to see if there are regional (or individual) velocity resonances (which must CERTAINLY exist). Once this additional empirical evidence is gathered, it may be possible to analyze and better understand the dynamics of Globular clusters, and therefore gain a better understanding of Gravitational theory.

I composed a separate presentation on Globulars a couple years after presenting this section. It is at: Globular Clusters Must Regularly Pass Through the Galaxy Plane


Supernova 1987a

I recently saw an older PBS educational program regarding the 1987a supernova. On Feb. 24, 1987, a worker at the Las Campanas Observatory looked up at the Large Magellanic Cloud and saw a bright star that he had not seen before. A few hours later, a researcher there took a photograph which also showed it, and he was quickly able to confirm it because he had just taken another photo the night before! This was the first (relatively) nearby supernova that had been seen in nearly four hundred years!

Word immediately got out about it and astronomers all around the world soon started to look at it and study it. One Astrophysics prediction (from theory) was that a very large number of very tiny particles called neutrinos should have been created when the supernova occurred. For many years, there had been two large experiments running that attempted to capture neutrinos, particles that are incredibly difficult to detect!

Neutrinos are thought to be created at the center of the Sun and other stars, as a by-product of the nuclear fusion reactions that occur there. Neutrinos do not have any electrical charge or magnetic effects, and virtually no mass, so they are able to simply pass completely through almost anything without any trouble! Neutrinos are thought to easily pass completely through the Earth as easily as sound goes across a room! And theories suggest that the Sun should be creating unbelievable numbers of them. I have seen some comments by Physicists which suggest that a thousand neutrinos pass through the opening in your eye every second! (There is currently no actual way to confirm or deny that claim!)

Because of all this, experiments must be incredibly sensitive. And extremely sensitive experiments tend to get triggered by all kinds of things that are not of interest. So these experiments are done down at the bottom of extremely deep mines, to minimize any other particle or effect triggering the detector.

OK. On that evening, there seem to be two different stories that travel around in Physics circles. Some extremely reliable people, such as David Schramm, said that unfortunately, both of those experiments happened to be shut down for maintenance at the exact time of the supernova. Other Physicists have big smiles when they describe that a total of 17 "events" were recorded between the two experiments.

In any case, I have long been confused by something. All the popular theories say that neutrinos escape the Sun almost immediately (not being blocked or delayed by any interactions), but the photons (light) which are also created in the fusion reactions and which provide the light and heat of the Sun and every other star, take a million years before exiting from the surface. This is another theoretical conclusion, based on the photons having to interact with an enormous number of atoms and other particles in the Sun on the way out, which also has the effect of a "radiation pressure" which acts to push the upper layers upward to keep the Sun from collapsing due to gravitational effects.

Now, if photons (light) takes a million years to get to the surface, before being emitted by the star (or the supernova), and the neutrinos that had been produced by the same nuclear reactions at the same instant are able to escape immediately, it seems like a very incorrect assumption had been made! Regarding supernova 1987a, shouldn't the neutrinos have gotten to us maybe a million years earlier than the visible photons? The claim about the simultaneous viewing of the optical supernova and a statistical overcount of detected neutrinos seems really weak! The simultaneity seems to assume an instantaneous emission of the photons, which seems to disagree with accepted theory. Something seems to be very wrong with the thinking!

By the way, an overcount of neutrinos is ONLY a mathematical statistical calculation! So few neutrinos are ever even detected in the several experiments, that the actual numbers are often on the order of one per week. To then claim that there was some enormous overcount, which happened to exactly match up with when the 1987a supernova was observed, requires a LOT of assumptions which are each rather weak!


Black Hole Binary Companions and Gravitational Lensing

Everyone talks about black holes, and there is the common attitude that they are everywhere! But no evidence of one has ever yet been found! A method which Astrophysicists think is one of the best possible ways of confirming the existence of one has to do with assuming that a lot of black holes are gravitationally involved as a double star. The reasoning is based on the fact that a very large proportion of stars that we can see turn out to be double stars (often only confirmed by slight spectroscopic shifts in the spectral lines, as the stars are so far away from us that we cannot see them as separate stars).

If a black hole is one member of such a binary system, only the other star would actually be visible to us. The reason for the term black hole is because the gravitation of a super-massive and extremely small object (whether it was a star or not) is theoretically thought to be so strong that even light, the fastest thing in the Universe, cannot escape! Whether or not a black hole was creating light or any other energy, it could never escape, so it could never then travel across space to get to us. So a black hole could never be seen, it would never emit radio waves, or X-rays, or cosmic rays, or anything!

A "black hole" would therefore be a good description, appearing absolutely black! But, since it would still have mass inside, it must therefore have gravitational effects, just like everything else in the Universe. And Newton showed us that the gravitational attraction only depends on how much mass there is (a LOT in the case of a black hole) and the distance away from that mass. Since a black hole is thought to be really tiny, it would be possible for space debris to pass very close to it, and then be pretty much "sucked in" to the black hole, due to the great mass and small distance. This is where the hole part of the description comes in. Many people imagine black holes as giant vacuum cleaners, sucking in everything near it!

However, since it would have relatively conventional gravitational effects, yes, it seems possible that it could wind up as one member of a double star.

Now, if this were true, I would think there should be a standard gravitational lensing effect around the black hole. Around 1913, Einstein predicted that light passing nearby any massive object, such as a star or the Sun, should be very slightly deflected toward the mass, just as though gravitational attracting was acting. Since photons of light have no (rest) mass, this should be impossible. However, people trusted Einstein so much that they arranged an expedition to see a solar eclipse in a difficult region in the Far East, because during a solar eclipse, the Sun's light is blocked and some stars are briefly visible during the daytime. There was a relatively bright star that happened to be almost directly behind the Sun on that day, and so its light would have to pass very close to the Sun on its way to us. The expedition confirmed that the star appeared as though it was slightly moved from where it was supposed to be, nearly exactly the distance Einstein had predicted.

For a number of years, some Astrophysicists have claimed that a few patterns of seemingly identical stars (which appear very close together), or even groups of four stars in a relatively square pattern, are actually just a single star, with an (invisible) black hole between us and them. They claim that the light which would have passed on opposite sides of the black hole were "lensed" toward each other as described above, and they claim THAT is a proof of the existence of a black hole. There seems to be a logical error involved here, because such an effect should actually create an entire ring of light around the location of the black hole, or at most, only two deflected light beams which would actually get to us. Standard optics tells us that. So, when they claim that groups of four images show this, they are REALLY making major assumptions. Especially since the favorite example does not even involve symmetrically positioned images!

But, more specifically here, if a black hole was orbiting with another star as part of a binary star, the lensing effect should certainly still exist. As the black hole would cross in front of any distant star, the image of that object should be shifted around, a wiggle, in a manner where first a deflection in one direction would happen, soon followed by a deflection in the opposite direction.


Black Hole Binary Companions and Escape Velocity

In the binary black-hole scenario described above, it is always described that material from the visible star will "automatically" be drawn into the black hole. The premise is that the gravitational effect of the extremely massive black hole would be so strong as to rip the other star apart. This argument is used to explain an otherwise unexplained phenomenon involving an extremely narrow beam of high power energy (photons). The premise is that a continuous stream of material from a visible star gets pulled up (always shown by very pretty graphics!) which then joins an "accretion disk" of material which is waiting its turn to get sucked into the black hole.

That seems like really weak logic, as material of that visible companion star has to first achieve escape velocity from it before being available to go toward the black hole. The logic seems to have problems, because it is extremely difficult to get anything to achieve escape velocity from a large astronomical body. We humans have only accomplished that a couple dozen times so far, with extremely powerful rockets to get a rather small spacecraft free of the Earth's gravity. The Sun has around 28 times as strong a surface gravity as the Earth, and so its escape velocity is far higher.

Now, if the companion star and black hole are in relatively stable orbits, they are many million miles apart. There is no reason that they would do anything other than simply orbit each other, without the one being destroyed in the process.

Now, it might be possible to create such tidal forces in the companion star to cause some of the material to achieve escape velocity, but the reality is that the two objects must be nearly touching for this to be possible. The companion star would then not be spherical but extremely distorted into a thin tapered cylinder shape. Such a companion star would seem to be in the way of the alleged accretion disk. The whole logic seems to have many problems, each due to a variety of assumptions which seem to be rather weak.

I realize that people want to make arguments for black holes, but such arguments seem very weak! The proponents of black holes should come up with premises which are actually logically credible!


This presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1998. Additions are made to it from time to time!

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago