Plasma Astrophysics and Cosmology

Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall" tells the story of a civilization on a planet with six suns, where night comes only once every 2,049 years. Scholars of that world have uncovered traces of at least nine previous cultures, all of which reached a height comparable to their own and then vanished suddenly.

Because of their viewing handicap, those scientists' cosmology is faulty. At their most creative, they can only imagine that their universe consists of perhaps a few dozen "stars"—mysterious lights that eccentric cultists are forever talking about. When night does fall and myriad stars shine forth, their cosmology, and indeed the philosophical basis of their society, crumbles.

Until recently our own vie of the universe also was handicapped, limited to information derive from the narrow range of wavelengths that make up visible light. About the middle of this century our spectral window expanded to include infrared and radio radiation Then beginning in the 1960's, space research opened up the ultraviolet, X-ray, and gamma-ray regions of the spectrum as well. Today only very long-wavelength celestial radio waves remain unknown to us. They are blocked by the magnetosphere, a protective cocoon the envelops Earth.

Most of the radiation in the spectrum comes from plasma and much of it is in the form of 'synchrotron radiation'.

From the mind of Hannes Alfvén sprang forth the idea of a cosmology in the plasma universe based upon synchrotron radiation.

Further Reading