Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Neptune Hot Spot!

Way back at the 2005 AGU Meeting, someone suggested that Enceladus' polar "hot spot" could be repeated in other worlds, even Saturn herself. Just this June 15, this blog reported that Tethys and Dione are hot too, as predicted. Using the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope in Chile, astronomers have discovered yet another "hot spot." Neptune's South Pole is markedly warmer than the rest of the planet.

The upper left image was taken at a wavelength of about 17.6 microns, and shows temperatures in the troposphere. The South Pole is warmer than the rest of the surface by 10 degrees Celsius. Saturn's hot spot is also most visible at 17.6 microns. Lower two images, taken 6.3 hours apart, show temperatures in the stratosphere. Here the hottest area rotates around the pole. The ESO Press Release attributes this heating to the Sun.

When a significant discovery is made, observers will often come up with a half-baked explanation. If premature conclusions are not examined critically, they might find their way into textbooks. As on Saturn, the Uranus hot spot is concentrated within a few degrees of the pole. If the Sun caused polar hot spots, Earth's warmest region would be the poles not the tropics. Polar hot spots on Enceladus have no relation to the Sun. Analogs from other worlds hint that the heat source probably comes from within.

Neptune's upper atmosphere contains methane, which causes the planet to appear blue. However, most of the atmosphere is hydrogen and helium. Methane's freezing point is -182.5 degrees C, but Neptune's atmosphere has a temperature of -200 degrees. How CH4 can exist in the atmosphere, where it should be frozen into liquid, has been a mystery. The hot spot provides a mechanism to transport methane from a warmer interior. Methane issues from deep within Earth--recently astronomers have found that Titan also creates methane. Production of hydrocarbons also requires an internal source of heat.

Astronomers have never adequately explained how planets began forming at all. Since Pierre Laplace, we have used the theory that the Solar System collapsed from a gaseous nebula. However, gas particles colliding at orbital speed will not stick together unless those particles have the mass of mountains. Something else is needed to start planet formation, internal heat and magnetic fields.

Most physicists believe that the Big Bang created billions of tiny Black Holes. These typically had the mass of mountains in a volume smaller than a proton. If a few of these tiny holes collided with a gas cloud, their gravity would gather material around them. The Black Holes were too tiny to suck everything up, but the small amount they did eat gave off radiation which opposed gravity's inward pull. Eventually the Sun was orbited by many balls of rock and gas with warm cores, the beginnings of planets.

The Black Holes are still there, hidden within planetary cores. The tiny amount of matter that they consume is far less than the planets gain through meteor collisions. This small diet, converted into heat, would produce internal heat. Some of the Black Holes rotate, dragging some of the core with them. This rotation could power the dynamo of a magnetic field.

Like most of the planets, Uranus rotates anti-clockwise as seen from the North. Radiation from the core would turn gas into electrons and positively charged ions. A magnetic field is formed with the "positive" pole in the South. A Black Hole's magnetic field drives charged particles into polar jets. The Northern jet is composed of electrons which are absorbed by the atmosphere. The Southern jet is composed of heavier ions which penetrate the atmosphere to warm the South Pole.

Neptune's hot spot adds to similiar discoveries on Saturn and moons like Enceladus. Discovery of internal heat on many worlds hints at something hidden within. Heat from a Black Hole may be the origin of earthquakes, volcanoes, our islands and continents. A magnetic field guides compass needles and protects life from the radiation of Space. The possible role of Black Holes connects cosmology with the planet we live on. There is far more within planets than meets the eye.

More Space news at the new Carnival of Space.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Louise, you said "... Like most of the planets, Uranus rotates anti-clockwise as seen from the North ... As within Earth, a magnetic field is formed with the "positive" pole in the South ...".

That puzzles me, because William Kaufmann, in his astronomy text-book Universe (4th ed Freeman 1994) says on page 281 "... the magnetic fields of all four Jovian planets are oriented opposite to that of Earth. ...".
What is going on there?

Tony Smith

5:03 PM  
Blogger Kea said...

Astronomers have never adequately explained how planets began forming at all.

I went to an excellent seminar today by an astronomer working on extrasolar planet detection using microlensing and transit and doppler shift methods. He spent a little time covering theories of planet formation and concluded this with the statement that theory needed some miracle to deal with the idea that Jupiters formed at distant orbits and then migrated closer to the parent star. Between 5% and 25% (depending on metalicity) of stars are observed to have such planets!

Thanks for another interesting post.

5:59 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Whoops Tony, that came out unclear. The field is like Earth's, not the orientation. Earth's pole has changed direction from time to time. Just fixed that.

For Kea: Discovery of "hot Jupiters" requires a miracle (or a Black hole) to explain! Lectures by planet hunters are quite interesting, as are your posts.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining about the poles.
As you say, "... Earth's pole has changed direction from time to time ...", and the Sun's magnetic poles nowadays seem to change in 22-year cycles.
Do we know whether the Jovian planets also change polarity, or maybe we have not been observing them long enough ?

Does your model, with "... Black Hole's magnetic field driv[ing] charged particles into polar jets. The Northern jet is composed of electrons which are absorbed by the atmosphere. The Southern jet is composed of heavier ions which penetrate the atmosphere to warm the South ...",
explain how such pole shifts take place ?

The electromagnetic character of your Black Holes is very interesting, especially in relation to such work as astro-ph/9911166 in which Kohji Tomisaka discussed the problem of transfer of angular momentum to the planets of our Solar System by toroidal magnetic fields.
Similar models have been described by Anthony Peratt in his 1992 book Physics of the Plasma Universe, which contains a diagram of the Birkeland currents flowing between Jupiter and Io ( see ).

Tony Smith

7:42 PM  
Blogger tristan said...

Hello, Louise.
This notion of planets forming by accretion around micro-black holes is a fun one! I suppose that the rate of evaporation of the hole would have to be less than the rate of infall of matter. A naked micro-black hole would be subject to complete evaporation by radiation. I have no idea what the time scale would be, though, so there could still be some naked singularities floating about.

Nonetheless, I can see some justification for the notion that gases may congeal into dust if cold enough. Crystallization of identical atoms, and covalent bonding of atoms which strike each other are possible mechanisms for accumulation. I agree that gravitational attractions between atoms is not sufficient to explain accretion, but these other mechanisms could do it. The solar system's vast supply of tiny meteorites, each of which accumulated somehow, suggests a mechanism other than micro-holes. In a large field of tiny meteorites, I would expect them to begin accretion spontaneously.

Of course, both processes could be present. If tiny black holes were present then they would certainly accelerate accretion. When two black-hole-created objects merged, their holes would immediately fall together, and a natural selection phase would consolidate most protoplanets into a small total number.

Fun mind candy! Thanks

9:05 PM  
Blogger alex kaplan said...

Amazing pictures

12:28 AM  
Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Louise, thank you for a very interesting post. Planetary physics is becoming very interesting. I attach my own strongly TGD centered comments.

1. About planetary black holes.

*I visualize planet as a toruslike structure of dark matter condensed around gravitational Bohr orbit (hbar_gr= GMm/v_0, v_0= 2^-11 favored value) around which visible matter condenses.

*In TGD Universe even hadrons would contain blackhole like part consisting of matter without any electro-weak interactions: the "black" part of hadron would correspond for the hadronic strings of seventies forgotten as QCD was decided to describe all about hadrons. Only about 25 per cent of proton mass can be assigned to quarks. The presence of exotic ("super-canonical") matter solves also the spin puzzle of proton.

*For neutron stars nuclear strings containing this supercanonical matter would fuse to single very long and tangled string and blackhole would be same structure but with radius equal to Scwartschild radius.

2. Why hot spots seem to be at poles?

TGD based model for astrophysical objects associates with a stationary object (for which gravitational momentum is by definition locally conserved) a stringlike object (magnetic flux tube) going through magnetic poles. This would suggests that possible hot spots are at poles and that they relate to the transfer of dark matter along magnetic body from or to the poles. Could dark matter particles transforming to ordinary matter by de-coherence and colliding with ordinary matter induce the heating?

3. Does ordinary thermodynamics allow generation of hot spots?

Only week ago I wrote about special features of thermodynamics in TGD universe following from zero energy ontology.

The possibility of generating temperature gradients by formation of hot spots is the basic distinction from the ordinary thermodynamics and would allow to avoid the eventual heat death predicted by ordinary thermodynamics.

*System can send precisely targeted negative energy signals to a system characterized by longer scale and higher level of dark matter hierarchy and in this manner gain energy and raise its temperature too. This "remote metabolism" defines the basic metabolic mechanism in TGD inspired quantum biology.

*System at higher level of dark matter hierarchy can also send precisely targeted positive energy signals to a system at lower level. Both mechanism generate hot spots.

Dark matter hierarchy makes entire universe living and metabolizing fractal. Hence one might see even the generation of planetary hot spots as a part of planetary self organization.

4:33 PM  
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