Quasar Plasma


Quasars are vast explosions, lasting millions of years, that occur in the centers of galaxies. They emit huge beams of energy, in only one direction at a time. (Smaller quasars are called “active galactic nuclei” or AGN.) While the most popular explanation for quasars is that they are giant black holes, their phenomena are duplicated on a much smaller scale by Herbig-Haro objects, which form as a stage in the birth of ordinary stars, so can’t involve black holes. In the 1980’s Eric Lerner, now LPPF’s Chief Scientist, published papers using the plasmoids formed in a dense plasma focus as an electromagnetic model for quasars. In this model, the quasars formed as a result of current converging at the center of a galaxy, much as in the laboratory, plasmoid form as the currents in a plasma focus converge. The theory allowed Lerner to make quantitative prediction about the behavior of plasma focus devices that led to the development of the current Focus Fusion research.


In April, 2019, a team of researchers claimed that new images they calculate from radio observations proved that the object at the center of galaxy M87 was a black hole. But Lerner, in a video series, raises the question “Is It Really a Black Hole?”


In this video series, LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric J. Lerner asks if the M87 image widely publicized in April, 2019 is really a black hole. In the first section, Lerner defines a black hole as a condensed object with an event horizon no light can escape form and a central infinite-density singularity. By this definition, no cosmologist really believes black holes actually exist, because they take an infinite time to make. As J. Robert Oppenheimer and H. Snyder wrote back in 1939, (Physical Review Letters, v. 56, no.5, p.455, September, 1939, ON CONTINUED GRAVITATIONAL CONTRACTION J. R. Oppenheimer and H. Snyder) “an external observer sees the star asymptotically shrinking to its gravitational radius.” But such an asymptotic black hole, or “almost black hole” would look very much like the hypothetical real black hole. So is M87 an “almost black hole?”


For Einstein’s own opinion on black holes, see our earlier video: “Einstein Said There Are no Black Holes


In part 2 of the “Is it Really a Black Hole Series”, LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric J. Lerner explains that any condensed object like the one at the center of M87 must have lost most of its angular momentum for it to collapse in radius. Only electromagnetic forces can remove this angular momentum. The object spinning in the magnetic field produced by its own currents, produced larger and large electrical fields, currents and magnetic fields. The same forces that generate the currents slow the spin down, removing angular momentum and energy from the object, allowing it to contract. As the magnetic fields and the current start to align with each other, the force slowing down the object decrease, reaching a final point with gravitational, centrifugal and magnetic forces balanced.


For a highly technical discussion of the role of magnetic fields in the formation of our own solar system, the same process at work in objects like M87, see this pioneering work for NASA by Hannes Alfven and Gustaf Arrhenius.


In part 3 of the “Is it Really a Black Hole Series”, LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric J. Lerner shows that the M87 image could have been created by a plasmoid, not an “almost black hole”. A plasmoid is a magnetically-confined plasma object, which has been widely studied in the laboratory, in the Sun’s atmosphere, in the solar system and elsewhere in space.


Here’s a good technical paper about solar plasmoids and here is one about the role of plasmoids in the formation of stars like our sun.


A plasmoid with matter in it moving close to the speed of light would look very much like the M87 image if its axis was pointed close to our line of sight. Observations indicate that M87’s axis is indeed pointed to within about 15 degrees of us. See for example this paper.


But a plasmoid seen from the side, 90 degrees from its axis, would look very different, like a crescent moon. The object at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A* or Sgr A* is viewed from the side. So far, astronomers have observed no hint of the “black hole shadow”, the doughnut shape they expected to see. For example, the images on p.11 of this paper from November, 2018, show no shadow at all. (No crescent either.) So, if, as everyone thinks, Sgr A* and M87 are similar objects, although at very different scales, the M87 image could be either an “almost black hole” or a plasmoid.


Could an “almost black hole” (ABH) and a plasmoid co-exist in the same object? Perhaps—if the ABH was much smaller than the plasmoid. A large one would disrupt the flow of current through the center of the plasmoid. A plasmoid with about equally-powerful gravitational and magnetic fields, rotating at perhaps one third to two-thirds the speed of light is the most probable configuration, but more detailed calculations and observations are needed for certainty.


In part 4 of the “Is it Really a Black Hole Series”, LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric J. Lerner explains that most astrophysicists don’t consider the possibility that condensed objects can be plasmoids, with magnetic fields comparable to our greater than their gravitational fields, because they are using a wrong approximation to calculate plasma behavior. That approximation, called “magnetohydrodynamics” or MHD, was invented by plasma physics pioneer Hannes Alfven, who won the Physics Nobel Prize in 1970 for his work. Alfven repeatedly warned astrophysicists that the approximation was only valid in certain conditions, with dense plasma like those in the sun. When his warnings were not heeded, he repeated them strongly in his Nobel address, (a clear, non-technical presentation), saying that many basic concepts used by astrophysicists “are not applicable to the conditions prevailing in the cosmos…it is only the plasma itself that does not ‘understand’ how beautiful the theories are and absolutely refuses to obey them.” (See p. 3-4 of PDF, with a simple table comparing wrong and right approaches.) For a fuller and more technical discussion, see p.15-17 of Alfven’s 1986 paper. MHD theory can’t explain the focused beams of energy that emerge from compact objects such as quasars and Herbig-Haro objects, which are ordinary stars in the early stages of formation. These beams are routinely observed produced by plasmoids in our laboratory experiments, explained by correct plasma theory.


What does it matter what M87 really is? In part 5 of the “Is it Really a Black Hole Series”, LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric J. Lerner points out that discoveries in astrophysics can have profound impacts here on earth. The process of nuclear fusion was discovered by studying the sun, whose energy source is fusion. Potentially, fusion can solve humanity’s energy problems. In the 1980’s Lerner, studying both quasars, the astrophysical phenomena produced by objects like M87, and a fusion device called the dense plasma focus, wondered if the device could be used as a model for quasars. The device produced plasmoids and concentrated beams with magnetic fields alone—no gravity needed. In published papers, Lerner showed that indeed a quantitative theory linking the two phenomena made predictions that were verified both in the lab and in astrophysical observations. That led to improvements in the theory of the plasma focus, patented inventions, and steps towards achieving useful fusion energy. So a correct view of objects like M87 can lead to energy breakthroughs on earth.