Stellar winds may electrify exoplanets

Jun 05, 2013

(Phys.org) —The strangest class of exoplanets found to date might be even stranger than astronomers have thought. A new model suggests that they are partially heated by electric currents linked to their host stars. Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) astronomer Dr. Derek Buzasi has proposed a model in which electric currents arising from the interaction between the planet's magnetic field and the hot charged wind from the star flow through the interior of the planet, heating it like an electric toaster.

Many of the planets found by the are of a type known as "hot Jupiters." While about the same size as Jupiter in our own solar system, these are located much closer to their host stars than even Mercury is to our Sun, meaning that their atmospheres are heated to temperatures of thousands of degrees.

One problem scientists have had in understanding the hot Jupiters is that many are inflated to sizes even larger than expected for planets so close to their stars. Explanations for the "puffiness" of these exoplanets generally involve some kind of extra heating for the planet. Proposed sources for the extra heat have included tides and interactions between the high-speed winds and magnetic fields expected on these planets, but none of these models successfully explains the observation that more magnetically active stars tend to have puffier hot Jupiters orbiting around them.

"This kind of electric heating doesn't happen very effectively on planets in our solar system because their outer atmospheres are cold and don't very well," says Buzasi. "But heat up the atmosphere by moving the planet closer to its star and now very large currents can flow, which delivers extra heat to the deep interior of the planet—just where we need it." More magnetically active stars have more energetic winds and would provide larger currents and more heat to their planets.

The currents start in the , the area where the meets the planetary , and enter the planet near its north and south poles. This so-called "global electric circuit" exists on Earth as well, but the currents involved are only a few thousand amps at 100,000 volts or less. On the , currents can amount to billions of amps at voltages of millions of volts.

"It is believed that these hot Jupiter planets formed farther out and migrated inwards later, but we don't yet fully understand the details of the migration mechanism. The better we can model how these planets are built, the better we can understand how solar systems form. That in turn, would help astronomers understand why our solar system is different from most, and how it got that way."

This work is being presented today at the 222nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Explore further: Exomoons Could Be Abundant Sources Of Habitability

Provided by Florida Gulf Coast University

4.5 /5 (11 votes)

Related Stories

Highly inflated Jupiters

Dec 10, 2012

There are currently 851 confirmed extra-solar planets. Of these, 289 were detected because their orbits (as seen from Earth) take them across the face of their host star, dimming the star's light in a transit ...

How common are earths around small stars?

Jun 03, 2013

(Phys.org) —The Kepler mission has revolutionized the study of exoplanet statistics by increasing the number of known extrasolar planets and planet candidates by a factor of five, and by discovering systems ...

Big weather on hot Jupiters

May 27, 2013

Among the hundreds of new planets discovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft are a class of exotic worlds known as "hot Jupiters." Unlike the giant planets of our own solar system, which remain at a safe distance ...

Spitzer telescope puts planets in a petri dish

May 06, 2013

(Phys.org) —Our galaxy is teeming with a wild variety of planets. In addition to our solar system's eight near-and-dear planets, there are more than 800 so-called exoplanets known to circle stars beyond ...

X-Ray observations of an extrasolar planetary system

Oct 22, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The majority of extra-solar planets (about 278 of them) are more massive than Jupiter. About 20% of this majority group orbit their stars at a distances of less than one-tenth of an astronomical ...

Recommended for you

Exomoons Could Be Abundant Sources Of Habitability

21 hours ago

With about 4,000 planet candidates from the Kepler Space Telescope data to analyze so far, astronomers are busy trying to figure out questions about habitability. What size planet could host life? How far ...

Partial solar eclipse over the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 23

Oct 17, 2014

People in most of the continental United States will be in the shadow of the Moon on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 23, as a partial solar eclipse sweeps across the Earth. For people looking through sun-safe filters, from Los Angeles, ...

A newborn supernova every night

Oct 17, 2014

Thanks to a $9 million grant from the National Science Foundation and matching funds from the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) collaboration, a new camera is being built at Caltech's Palomar Observatory that ...

User comments : 23

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

thermodynamics
5 / 5 (9) Jun 05, 2013
Oh, geezzzeee. Here comes Cantdrive85 to use this as confirmation of his electric universe. Get ready for the onslaught.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (19) Jun 05, 2013
Denial is not a river in Egypt.

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
― Plato

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."
― Benjamin Franklin

"Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think."
― Thomas A. Edison

"I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday."
― Abraham Lincoln

You can continue to choose ignorance at your own peril...
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.5 / 5 (16) Jun 05, 2013
Physoorg must have inadvertently left this part out:

"And before anyone attempts to suggest this process supports the alternative "electric universe" (EU) theory… um, no.

"No, nothing EU-like at all in my model," Dr. Buzasi told Universe Today in an email. "I just look at how the field aligned currents that we see in the terrestrial magnetosphere/ionosphere act in a hot Jupiter environment, and it turns out that a significant fraction of the resulting circuit closes inside the planet (in the outer 10% of the radius, mostly) where it deposits a meaningful amount of heat."

'Sucker born every minute." p t barnum
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (19) Jun 05, 2013
"The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see."
― Ayn Rand

"The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about."
Wayne Dyer
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.5 / 5 (16) Jun 05, 2013
"The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see."
― Ayn Rand
"No, nothing EU-like at all in my model," Dr. Buzasi told Universe Today in an email.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (19) Jun 05, 2013
"The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about."
Wayne Dyer

HeloMenelo
1.3 / 5 (12) Jun 05, 2013
100 000 volts 1000s of amps !

Now.... why can we not tap into this ?

O..... wait, if at all possible, it would would probably be advertised not to be possible right, free electricity. I'm sure i've read somewhere in the past about someone asking why we cannot tap into the magnetosphere.

Anyway, if these huge currents enter the earth, then why can it not be examined more precisely and utilized ?

How can these huge voltages be delivered without us on earth being able to notice it and perhaps utilize it. (or perhaps we shouldn't mess with tapping on to the earths power source ?) Perhaps it's charging the core or something, i bet it won't be pretty if our "battery" gets underfed :D :D ??
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (13) Jun 05, 2013
"The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don't know anything about."
Wayne Dyer
So I take it you dont think the author knows what he is talking about? As I was quoting him you know?

"People who use other peoples quotes to express themselves usually dont have much to say themselves." -otto
cantdrive85
1.2 / 5 (17) Jun 05, 2013
I have no problem deferring to those who are wiser than myself.

Does this guy know what he is talking about claiming his hypothesis on this planetary circuit, it's readily apparent he does not. Circuits don't work in the way he claims them to, to argue otherwise ignores a 100 years of plasma and circuit research.
"Students using astrophysical textbooks remain essentially ignorant of even the existence of plasma concepts, despite the fact that some of them have been known for half a century. The conclusion is that astrophysics is too important to be left in the hands of astrophysicists who have gotten their main knowledge from these textbooks. Earthbound and space telescope data must be treated by scientists who are familiar with laboratory and magnetospheric physics and circuit theory, and of course with modern plasma theory." Hannes Alfvén
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.5 / 5 (13) Jun 05, 2013
I have no problem deferring to those who are wiser than myself
I suspect that would be lots and lots of people, yes?
Does this guy know what he is talking about claiming his hypothesis on this planetary circuit, it's readily apparent he does not. Circuits don't work in the way he claims them to, to argue otherwise ignores a 100 years of plasma and circuit research
I also suspect that you read little more than

"The strangest class of exoplanets found to date might be even stranger than astronomers have thought. A new model suggests that they are partially heated by electric currents linked to their host stars."

-A premise you obviously accept on face value, because it fits your preconceptions. But you reject further conclusions from this scientist because they dont.

So why accept his first conclusion if you have no respect for his acumen? Maybe the heating is due to massive amounts of yeast or something.
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (3) Jun 05, 2013
Now.... why can we not tap into this ?


Many years ago, I wondered about the possibility of tapping into the ionospheric charge using a pulsed argon laser to create an ionized 'wire'. The costs would probably be more than the value of the power, safety (e.g. to aircraft) would be a serious concern and people would worry about the effects on the weather.

How can these huge voltages be delivered without us on earth being able to notice it ..


I'm sure you do notice, they are called "lightning storms".
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jun 06, 2013
I wondered about the possibility of tapping into the ionospheric charge using a pulsed argon laser to create an ionized 'wire'.

People have been positing similar systems for lightning protection (e.g. around cities to preemptively earth lightning by firing lasers into oncoming thunderstorms). Calculating the average damage/insurance costs of a thunderstorm vs. upkeep of such a system doesn't seem to be worth it just yet.

The power of a lightning bolt is large, but the total energy isn't all that great (one lightning bolt is a hunderd 100W lightbulbs for a year...which may sound impressive, but you have to figure that the area you're shooting at is effectively 'mined out' for some time - and you certainly won't be able to harness all of that power with 100% efficiency (lot's of it gets lost in the light/sound-effects)

You'd need to harvest a lightning strike 100% efficiently every second to replace a 1GW plant.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (16) Jun 07, 2013
-A premise you obviously accept on face value, because it fits your preconceptions. But you reject further conclusions from this scientist because they dont.


Not because it fits my "preconceptions", but because it matches observations within our own solar system. The only difference with this particular system is the current density of the currents is so great that the conclusion is unavoidable.

I reject the further conclusions because there is no evidence of such, nor does that presumption match any legit model of planetary circuits.

cantdrive85
1.3 / 5 (15) Jun 07, 2013

Now.... why can we not tap into this ?


That was Tesla's goal at Wardenclyffe, and because of his success at Colorado Springs he believed it was a foregone conclusion. But what good would unlimited free energy do for the energy producer/fossil fuel control paradigm that was being established at the time?

Tesla made the following comments during a speech before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers:

"Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point in the universe. This idea is not novel... We find it in the delightful myth of Antheus, who derives power from the earth; we find it among the subtle speculations of one of your splendid mathematicians... Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic.? If static our hopes are in vain; if kinetic - and this we know it is, for certain - then it is a mere question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature."
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (15) Jun 07, 2013


How can these huge voltages be delivered without us on earth being able to notice it ..


I'm sure you do notice, they are called "lightning storms".


That's a refreshing admission, and quite right. But that leads to many questions. Such as, is it the electric currents that create the weather? Do the clouds form due to the additional charged particles that bleed into the atmosphere, is this where the charge separation arises? How much does this mechanism heat the Earth and could this be another (unaccounted for) variable in the climate change discussion? Does this mechanism explain why the gas giants have such active weather patterns and high wind speeds so far the from heat of the Sun?
Does this explain the electrically active dust devils that reach so high into the Martian atmosphere and does this provide for the charge separation that enables the planet wide dust storms that occur there? Is this why Venus is so hot, rather than a runaway GH effect? And on and on...
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (5) Jun 07, 2013
Such as, is it the electric currents that create the weather?


No, the other way round.

Do the clouds form due to the additional charged particles that bleed into the atmosphere,is this where the charge separation arises?


No, the charge is formed by friction between air masses like rubbing a balloon.

How much does this mechanism heat the Earth


Not at all, it is atmospheric and energy is conserved.

Does this mechanism explain why the gas giants have such active weather patterns and high wind speeds so far the from heat of the Sun?


Not ours, but see the article.

Does this explain the electrically active dust devils that reach so high into the Martian atmosphere ..


Again, it is the other way round but the Martian atmosphere is very dry so a better insulator.

Is this why Venus is so hot, rather than a runaway GH effect?


No, energy is conserved.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (12) Jun 07, 2013


How can these huge voltages be delivered without us on earth being able to notice it ..


I'm sure you do notice, they are called "lightning storms".

But I thought the energy is conserved, which is it?
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (4) Jun 07, 2013
How can these huge voltages be delivered without us on earth being able to notice it ..


I'm sure you do notice, they are called "lightning storms".


But I thought the energy is conserved, which is it?


Energy in air movement builds up the charge, and it discharges back as heat into the atmosphere, the total energy is conserved in the process.
HannesAlfven
1.3 / 5 (14) Jun 08, 2013
Re: "No, nothing EU-like at all in my model," Dr. Buzasi told Universe Today in an email.

This seems to miss the point. The topic of "electric joule heating" is not, per se, an EU concept. But, it would seem to follow from the EU idea, and it also poses a serious problem for advocates of AGW, as well, for if people actually read the papers on this subject, they'll observe suggestions that we've not even taken the data necessary to fully understand the degree to which electric joule heating occurs on our own planets. So, the real controversy here is that the author of this particular paper has nevertheless decided to come to this conclusion that electric joule heating does not occur in our solar system even though the suggestion has been made that the data was never actually taken.
HannesAlfven
1.3 / 5 (14) Jun 08, 2013
And, by the way, anything-but-EU is not an actual philosophy. The philosophy which guides conventional thought today in the sciences is that of the mechanistic worldview. We see it at play in ...

astrophysics (preference for fluid dynamics models for plasmas over more realistic laboratory models);

cell biology (the refusal to question the pumps-and-channel hypothesis even though the cell cytoplasm is known to be a gel which comes with an ability to create its own ionic gradients);

systems biology (where the role of bacterial colonies is routinely ignored, and the body is treated as a biochemical machine);

astronomy (where magnetic fields are assumed to have metaphysical Big Bang origins rather than simply being the result of large-scale cosmic electrical currents);

planetary sciences (where rilles which defy gravity by going both down AND UP mountain ridges are assumed to result from crustal displacements);

cometary sciences (where sublimation can generate a coma as big as sun)
HannesAlfven
1.3 / 5 (14) Jun 08, 2013
It's fine if people want to hold to their right to refuse to question their own worldview. Nobody can take that away from them.

But, they cannot point to critical thinking to justify it, because questioning worldviews (philosophies which do not ask questions) and the assumptions that follow from them, is actually an essential component to the public's view of what a "scientific attitude" is. The public imagines that scientists go out of their way to keep an open mind on such questions, so those who would convince others to refuse to question worldviews & assumptions in science should not try to point to science to justify that purpose, as philosophers will simply respond by pointing to the unresolvable problem of unconceived alternatives.

The scientific attitude is pretty much all that holds back the psychological and sociological forces which push & pull at scientists when they make inferences, so if you take that away, then science becomes an expression of human desire(s).
HannesAlfven
1.3 / 5 (14) Jun 08, 2013
See "Possible reasons for underestimating Joule heating in global models: E-field variability, spatial resolution and vertical velocity", where it states:

"It is thought that many coupled ionosphere-thermosphere models underestimate Joule heating because the spatial and temporal variability of the ionospheric electric field is not totally captured within global models ... During a typical [solar] storm, more than half of the energy is deposited through Joule heating ...

While Joule heating has been investigated utilizing measurements obtained by satellites ... and ground-based radars, ... IT IS CURRENTLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR OBSERVATIONS TO GIVE A PRECISE SPECIFICATION OF GLOBAL JOULE HEATING DUE TO THE DIFFICULTY OF OBSERVING CONDUCTIVITY, ELECTRIC FIELD AND NEUTRAL WIND SIMULTANEOUSLY AT ALL LOCATIONS."

That would seem to undermine the current author's confident statement that "This kind of electric heating doesn't happen very effectively on planets in our solar system ..."
Fleetfoot
5 / 5 (2) Jun 09, 2013
Re: "No, nothing EU-like at all in my model," Dr. Buzasi told Universe Today in an email.

This seems to miss the point. The topic of "electric joule heating" is not, per se, an EU concept.


YOU seem to miss the point, he was being interviewed about HIS paper, not some crank idea that will try to hijack it.