Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chapter 1 - The Begining - From Blue Giant to Blue Marble

Before I explain the entirety of my theory I would like to give you (the reader), an opportunity to guess at it. I will help by providing you with the key piece of information that validates my theory. If you have faith in your (personal) scientific methodology and are driven by curiosity, you should be able to derive the theory all by yourself! This won't be easy, but I feel that you should be given a chance to show off your intellect.

All you have to do is take the information that I give you, and use induction (going from the specific to the general) to figure out the timeline of events that created the Solar System we see today. You know that you can do this, and I have faith that you can. Are you ready? The answer is . . . Saturn.

SATURN? Why Saturn? What the heck does that have to do with the creation of the Solar System? How could this information possibly lead to a theory of Solar System genesis?

In order to address these questions, let me be a bit more specific. Saturn has some interesting qualities - chief among them is the strange hexagonal "standing wave" in the clouds of its north pole (it stays in one place as the clouds rotate around it. It does look cool! Check out the video loop on under Saturn). Talk about unusual! What the heck could cause this to happen?

Conundrum 1: Saturn's northern clouds -- The clouds rotate around the pole but the hexagonal "ridges" remain.

Figure 2 Hexagonal clouds in Saturn's northern hemisphere

In addition to the northern clouds, another unusual feature of Saturn is its axial tilt. If you were standing above Saturn's North Pole, you would see that the planet rotates around a point that is not quite where you are standing (the North Pole). This is called the axial tilt, as the planet is actually "tilted" from the straight "up and down" position of the poles.

Figure 3 The Earth's axial tilt (or obliquity) and its relation to the rotation axis and plane of orbit.
Conundrum 2: Saturn's axial tilt -- The planet rotates around its axis which does not go through the poles.

Saturn has an axial tilt of 27 degrees, measured from the angle between the rotation axis and the poles - which is quite similar to Earth's 23 degrees of tilt. This means that Saturn has seasons - somewhat like the Earth.

Scientists believe that the Earth's axial tilt was caused by an impact event (The Big Whack) - and this mechanism is probably the best (only) way to create an axial tilt. If we applied this idea to Saturn, there must have been an object that impacted Saturn that caused it to tilt (makes sense). Saturn is a gas giant - it may not even have a solid core, so what is the impact mechanism that made it tilt?

One last thing. Saturn and Jupiter have a 2:1 orbital resonance. This means that for every orbit Saturn makes around the Sun, Jupiter makes two. No other planets have this kind of "symmetry" in their orbits. Most scientists take this to mean that Saturn and Jupiter came close to each other - and after all the pushing and pulling - they settled into these orbits. Saturn must have moved . . .

It's my belief that there is only one answer that addresses all the observations - and once you have it, you can apply induction / regression to discover and hit upon all of my theory. Are you up to the task?

Of course I didn't start there myself . . .

In order to understand The Rampson Theory of Solar System Genesis, you need to understand some background information on how stars form and die. This star making process is continuous i.e. it happened before, it's happening now and it will happen in the future. Here is the basic process:

How to make a star and then blow it up


In order to make a star, you need start with a cloud of gas rich in hydrogen. Each gas particle in the cloud has mass - and thus gravity, so over time this gravity starts to pull the particles together. As this process continues, the center of the gas cloud gets more and more dense. Eventually the particles are as close as they can physically get (they are touching each other) - but gravity continues to (try and) pull them closer. This builds up pressure (and heat) until finally 2 particles are squeezed together into one.

This is fusion - where 2 light-weight particles are forced together to create a single heavier particle plus energy! These 2 particles are typically hydrogen-1 and the heavier particle is helium-2. NOTE: atoms are defined by how many protons they have in their nucleus (called atomic number, signified by the dash and number at the end of the word). Hydrogen only has one proton and is the lightest (in mass) of all elements. For comparison, uranium-92 is very dense and 'heavy" and it has 92 protons per atom. This fusion reaction is what makes stars shine.

This fusion "burning" reaction creates "outward" pressure that counteracts gravity. As long as the star is "shining", it will not "shrink" any further. Stars happily burn (fuse) hydrogen for millions or billions of years (our own Sun has been fusing for 4.7 Gy (billion years) - and is only halfway though its hydrogen supply). But eventually the hydrogen "runs out".

It's not exactly correct to say that a star runs out of hydrogen-1, but the remaining hydrogen is not enough to sustain the fusion reactions. When this fusion stops (or sputters), the star's energy output drops. This energy (outward pressure) was counteracting the gravitational "pull" keeping the particles from getting squeezed even more. When this fusion energy level drops, the star begins to contract as gravity overwhelms all. The star contracts and the pressure (and temperature) goes up again. This continues until fusion begins with this next lightest element (helium-2). The star now starts to "burn" (fuse) helium-2 (with hydrogen-1) to create lithium-3 (and through the "triple-alpha-process" where three helium-2 atoms are combined to create one carbon-6 atom).

Conundrum 3: The scarcity of beryllium-4 and boron-5

The triple-alpha-process "skips over" these 2 "products" - so what process does create them (actually fusing 2 helium-2 atoms to create a beryllium-4 atom is possible but unstable, with the beryllium-4 atom decaying soon afterward)?

This helium-2 fusion phase doesn't last for millions of years - more like a hundred. When the helium-2 runs out, gravity squeezes particles closer together and pressure and temperature go up - and the next heavier particle gets burned (fused). If the star's starting mass is high enough, this process continues until you create nickel-28. Nickel has the highest "bonding energy" - you cannot use fusion to make anything heavier (nickel radioactively decays to iron-26). What you end up with, at the end of this process is a star with (onion) "layers" of different material (lighter on the outside to heavier near the core).

Figure 4 The onion-like layers of a massive, evolved star just prior to core collapse. (Not to scale.)
Eventually gravity squeezes the core of the star into a material called electron degenerate matter.
Degenerate matter is matter which has such very high density that the dominant contribution to its pressure rises from the Pauli Exclusion Principle. The pressure maintained by a body of degenerate matter is called the degeneracy pressure, and arises because the Pauli principle forbids the constituent particles to occupy identical quantum states. Any attempt to force them close enough together that they are not clearly separated by position must place them in different energy levels. Therefore, reducing the volume requires forcing many of the particles into higher-energy quantum states. This requires additional compression force, and is manifest as a resisting pressure. - Wikipedia
Suffice to say that electron degenerate matter has atoms squeezed so close together that electrons cannot jump between orbitals (they are "stuck").

Usually when you increase temperature, particles tend to get more energetic (like boiling water) - i.e. they start moving around, but when you increase the temperature on electron degenerate matter - nothing happens. The heat is trapped and cannot radiate out in any way. Over time, this traps a tremendous amount of heat in the electron degenerate matter.

The star continues to fuse more and more "heavy" (massive) elements into electron degenerate matter, and eventually fusion stops. If the star's core is not sufficiently massive to collapse, the star will eject the gas "envelope" into what is called a planetary nebula, and the core becomes a white dwarf star.

If the star is sufficiently massive, then the core will eventually exceed the Chandrasekhar limit (1.38 solar masses - The Sun = 1 solar mass), at which point this (electron degeneracy pressure) mechanism catastrophically fails. The forces holding atomic nuclei apart in the innermost layer of the core suddenly give way, the core implodes due to its own mass, and no further fusion process can ignite or prevent collapse this time.

The core collapses in on itself with velocities reaching 70,000 km/s (0.23c), resulting in a rapid increase in temperature and density. Electrons and protons merge via electron capture - producing neutrons. The inner core eventually reaches  (typically) 30 km in diameter and a density comparable to that of an atomic nucleus - and further collapse is abruptly stopped by (nuclear) strong force interactions and by (neutron) degeneracy pressure.

This abrupt stop causes a shock wave that propagates outward from the core. This shock wave then transfers energy (by a not well understood process), to the outer layers of the star which then explode in a supernova. When the progenitor star is below about 20 solar masses (depending on the strength of the explosion and the amount of material that falls back), the degenerate remnant of a core collapse is a neutron star. Above this mass the remnant collapses to form a black hole.

Figure 5 Within a massive, evolved star (a) the onion-layered shells of elements undergo fusion, forming an iron core (b) that reaches Chandrasekhar-mass and starts to collapse. The inner part of the core is compressed into neutrons (c), causing infalling material to bounce (d) and form an outward-propagating shock front (red). The shock starts to stall (e), but it is re-invigorated by a process that may include neutrino interaction. The surrounding material is blasted away (f), leaving only a degenerate remnant.

The remnant of a supernova explosion consists of a compact object and a rapidly expanding shock wave of material. This cloud of material sweeps up the surrounding interstellar medium during a free expansion phase, which can last for up to two centuries. The wave then gradually undergoes a period of adiabatic expansion, and will slowly cool and mix with the surrounding interstellar medium over a period of about 10,000 years.

In standard Astronomy, the Big Bang produced hydrogen, helium, and traces of lithium, while all heavier elements are synthesized in stars and supernovae. Supernovae tend to enrich the surrounding interstellar medium with metals, which for astronomers means all of the elements other than hydrogen and helium (and is a different definition than that used in chemistry).

Figure 6 Supernova remnant N 63A lies within a clumpy region of gas and dust in the Large Magellanic Cloud. NASA image.

These injected elements ultimately enrich the molecular clouds that are the sites of star formation. Thus, each stellar generation has a slightly different composition, going from an almost pure mixture of hydrogen and helium to a more metal-rich composition. Supernovae are the dominant mechanism (but not the only one) for distributing these heavier elements, which are formed in a star during its period of nuclear fusion, throughout space. The different abundances of elements in the material that forms a star have important influences on the star's life, and may decisively influence the possibility of having planets orbiting it.

The kinetic energy of an expanding supernova remnant can trigger star formation due to compression of nearby, dense molecular clouds in space. The increase in turbulent pressure can also prevent star formation if the cloud is unable to lose the excess energy.

Evidence from daughter products of short-lived radioactive isotopes shows that a nearby supernova helped determine the composition of the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago, and may even have triggered the formation of this system. Supernova production of heavy elements over astronomic periods of time ultimately made the chemistry of life on Earth possible.

NOTE: Most of the preceding information was taken from Wikipedia.



How the Universe came into being


Let me introduce what I call the Current Scientific Belief (CSB). This acronym represents the most current theories that the majority of the scientific community believe are true (Conventional Wisdom?). This is what I will use to "define" the base from which my theories will diverge.

The CSB is that an infinitesimally small (and dense, and hot) "dot" of matter exploded and created the Universe. This was called The Big Bang and it happened around 13.7 Gya (billion years ago - depending on the value of the Hubble Constant - which varies). The explosion created hydrogen-1 and helium-2 (and some lithium-3) molecules in a huge gas cloud - which quickly expanded and (~1 billion years later) cooled and "condensed" into huge (Hypergiant) stars the size of galaxies (Generation I stars). These stars exploded into supernovas (a couple of billion years later ~11 Gya), leaving behind massive black holes and a variety of elements (still mostly hydrogen-1 and helium-2) in a "gas". The black holes captured this "gas" with their tremendous gravity. As the gas was pulled toward the black hole it heated up and started orbiting (moving around the black hole) faster and faster. This was the genesis of galaxies.

This gas coalesced into stars - mostly blue giants. One of these was the progenitor of our Solar System.

Figure 7 A "standard" sized Blue Giant star compared with our own Sun

9 Gya (billion years ago), this blue giant (call it King) exploded in a supernova, spreading "star stuff" (as Carl Sagan put it) - into a dust cloud called a protoplanetary disk (also called a proplyd).

NOTE: This "star stuff" actually consists of atoms/molecules of different elements - such as iron and calcium, but most of it is hydrogen and helium.

Figure 8 A proplyd in the Orion Nebula

This type of supernova (a type II core-collapse) always creates either a neutron star or a black hole - depending on the starting mass of the star. Assuming that King was below the threshold of mass to generate a black hole (i.e. less than 20 solar masses - 20 Suns) - then there must have been a neutron star created from the supernova of King (call it Spider). Most of these neutron stars are "expelled" from the galaxy, as the force of a supernova can really get a star moving! This is assumed to have happened for Spider.

Figure 9 A Neutron star cross- section (
The proplyd (aka dust cloud) eventually "collapsed" i.e. gravity pulled the dust (molecules) closer and closer together. As the proplyd collapsed, the dust started to orbit the center and move faster and faster (this is like the spinning ice skater pulling in their arms and moving faster). Eventually the dust in the center coalesced into the Sun, and the rest of the dust coalesced into planets. Viola, we now have the Solar System!

This Solar System model should create planets that move faster in their orbit the further you get to the Sun - which is exactly what we see today. The speed (velocity) of the planet Mercury is about 50 km/s while the velocity of Pluto is about 4500 km/s. The speed of the Sun's rotation is about 700 km/h, which is (much) slower than theory predicts.

Conundrum 4: The Sun's angular momentum is too slow
The Sun should be moving (rotating) faster - but it doesn't.

Because of the way a star forms ("onion") layers of different materials before it supernovas, the lightest elements (near the outer edge of the star) tend to "fly" out the furthest, while the heavy elements (near the center) tend to not be blasted too far away. This means that you form light element planets further out (like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) while closer to the center you get "terrestrial" planets made of heavy elements (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars).

Conundrum 5: Not a smooth mass distribution in the Solar System

The Sun is made up of light elements - yet it is at the center of the Solar System. The Kuiper Belt (of which Pluto is a member) is made up of relatively heavy (massive) elements even though it is far away from the center.

This means that this simple model doesn't explain all of the features that we see in today's Solar System. So we need to modify this . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment

Active Site!

Welcome! My first book is a labor of love and a product of my personal challenge to solve The World's Most Intractable Problems. From B...