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Hot flow anomalies – surprising explosions on Venus caused by space weather


A recent study, appearing online in the Journal of Geophysical Research on February 29, 2012, has found clear evidence on Venus for a type of space weather outburst quite common at Earth, called a hot flow anomaly. These anomalies, also known as HFAs, cause a temporary reversal of the solar wind that normally moves past a planet. An HFA surge causes the material to flood backward, says David Sibeck, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who studies HFAs at Earth and is a co-author on the paper.

“Hot flow anomalies average one a day near Earth,” says Goddard scientist Glyn Collinson and the first author on the new paper. “They’ve been seen at Saturn, they may have been seen at Mars, and now we’re seeing them at Venus. But at Venus, since there’s no protective magnetic field, the explosion happens right above the surface of the planet.”

Explosions on Venus

The search for this kind of space weather on Venus began in 2009 when NASA’s Messenger satellite, which is actually a mission to study Mercury, spotted what may well have been an HFA at Venus. But Messenger’s instruments could only measure a suggestive magnetic signature, not detect the temperature of the material inside, a necessary measurement to confirm the heat of a “hot” flow anomaly. For further evidence, Collinson turned to a European Space Agency spacecraft called Venus Express. Venus Express was not designed to study space weather phenomena per se, but it does have instruments that can detect magnetic fields and the charged particles, or plasma, that make up the solar wind. Collinson began to search for the telltale signatures of an HFA through a few days worth of data.

“That may not sound like much,” he says. “But a day on Venus is 243 Earth days.”

They are an amazing phenomenon,” says David Sibeck. “Hot flow anomalies release so much energy that the solar wind is deflected, and can even move back toward the sun. That’s a lot of energy when you consider that the solar wind is supersonic – traveling faster than the speed of sound – and the HFA is strong enough to make it turn around.

In the grand scheme of the solar system, Venus and Earth are almost the same distance from the sun. Yet the planets differ dramatically: Venus is some 100 times hotter than Earth and its days more than 200 times longer.  There’s another difference, too. Earth has a magnetic field and Venus does not – a crucial distinction when assessing the effects of the sun on each planet.

As the solar wind rushes outward from the sun at nearly a million miles per hour, it is stopped about 44,000 miles away from Earth when it collides with the giant magnetic envelope that surrounds the planet called the magnetosphere. Most of the solar wind flows around the magnetosphere, but in certain circumstances it can enter the magnetosphere to create a variety of dynamic space weather effects on Earth. Venus has no such protective shield, but it is still an immovable rock surrounded by an atmosphere that disrupts and interacts with the solar wind, causing interesting space weather effects.

What’s causing hot flow anomalies

HFAs are caused by discontinuities in the solar wind, the million-mph flow of charged particles that streams from the sun. Sometimes these discontinuities — areas where the wind’s magnetic fields change direction sharply and abruptly — align with the wind’s flow. In this case, they remain in contact with the bow shock, the place where the solar wind slows down quickly and diverts around a planet or other large body.

If such a discontinuity travels slowly across the bow shock, it traps lots of solar particles, collecting pools of super-hot plasma that can expand to be as big as Earth.

By taking the Venus Express data and comparing it to the known physics at Earth, the scientists painted a possible picture of how an HFA forms at Venus. The moving solar wind with its attendant magnetic fields harbors discontinuities, areas where the magnetic fields change direction, sharply and abruptly. Sometimes these discontinuities align with the flow of the solar wind, so they remain in contact with what’s called the bow shock – the place where the supersonic solar wind slows down abruptly and diverts around the planet. If such a discontinuity travels slowly across the bow shock it allows time to trap particles, collecting pools of 10 million degree plasma that can expand to be as big as Earth.

“These plasma particles are trapped in place,” says Sibeck. “They make a big puddle that gets bigger and bigger, sending out its own shock waves. Everything downstream from that bubble is going to be different than what’s upstream.”

Those downstream disturbances are what make HFAs interesting. These eruptions create global disturbances far beyond the mere local disruption of a hot plasma explosion. These eruptions of solar material can compress the entire magnetosphere around Earth for minutes at a time, shaking the particles along magnetic lines and causing them to fall into Earth’s atmosphere near the magnetic poles to create dayside aurora.

Understanding what the HFAs do in the non-magnetized Venusian environment, of course, would require direct observations that the current data sets from Venus Express do not provide. However Collinson and his colleagues have made some educated guesses. “At Earth, HFAs have a big effect, but don’t necessarily rule the roost,” says Collinson. “But at Venus, since the HFA happens right up next to the planet, it is going to have a more dramatic effect on the system.”

Sources: www.nasa.govwww.space.com


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  1. Why was Mathis even mentioned here at all? Does Joaquim believe there’s some connection between the articles and his theories?
    Also, everywhere you see attacks on Mathis like this one, they never focus on his most important, crucial papers. What about his charge recycling model and all his predictions regarding atomic structures? He seems to get it right every time! I have never seen anyone truly demonstrate where his atomic model fails at all, nor how his charge recycling model must be wrong. Notice that the value of pi doesn’t even come up in most of these theories, so EVEN IF pi=4 (on kinematic situations), that is not an argument against most of his work. But he does find that the moon is actually at a point of equilibrium, a new lagrangian if you will – the math shows the moon is EXPECTED to be exactly where it is and nowhere else. To find that out, he uses (if I’m not mistaken, it’s been a long time since I last read it) pi=4 AND recycled charge (massive photons) both from the earth and moon. Debunk that, show that his calculations are mistaken and that the moon could be anywhere else and that the numbers are pushed. Or debunk anything throughly, not just claim he’s wrong, pick a series of papers where he develops a theory, like his atomic model papers, or his gravity+charge papers, where he cites articles, uses real data, does actual math and makes real predictions, and attack THAT, not one paragraph of one paper as if that would destroy his entire work. That’s unethical and unscientific. I’m very much in favor of these debates and oppositions, I think the discussion is utterly necessary, but you really need to be more scientific and thorough, please do some real, thorough analysis, and publish it online for us to see. When you do, send me an e-mail, because I’m really interested: altgnostic@gmail.com

    1. If you’ve been reading the comments, you’d realize Kate Sisco first referenced Mathis here.
      Mathis’ crackpot theories have been debunked numerous times and his ineptitude in higher math has been specifically laid out in several articles.

      His misguided theorizing about the sun was revealed in the following:


      Mathis just wants to contest any established belief whether or not he has a reason, or even any clear idea of what he is talking about. Mathis is really all about attacking establishments and he has little concern for learning, for science or for improving anything. Otherwise he’d set about testing his ideas so that, if any of them are verified, humankind can reap the benefits. He would be famous overnight.
      Instead, Mathis hides in his New Mexico hovel, sitting in his gym shorts typing out verbose garbage on a personal website; a sloppy, lazy amateur taking on the world because it is easier than doing the work it takes to actually learn about it.

      Mathis himself makes much use of ad hominem attacks in his essays, so don’t pretend that some crime is being committed when his own method is being turned on him.

      And don’t pretend Mathis’ critics don’t specifically debunk his ideas. Many of the theories in his “papers” have been analyzed and found to be the result of his bad math, his bad reasoning, his misunderstanding or his faulty reading comprehension.

      Mathis is just a crank. He’ll always be a crank. Sorry if that isn’t what you want to hear but your wishful thinking won’t change the well deserved obscurity for which Mathis is destined.

      If his ideas had any merit they would have support from actual scientists.
      They don’t.
      The reason is that Mathis is wrong, plain and simple.

  2. Miles Mathis is a woolgatherer and not a scientist. He hasn’t done the hard work it takes to become competent in any field much less science. His articles typically have very little grounding in accepted research and consist wholly of his unsupported musings. He never cites any peer reviewed studies but only refers to his own previous ideas. He calls himself” the new Leonardo”, claims to have reformulated and corrected the calculus, claims to have discovered that p=4, and declares that all geometry and mathematics since Euclid is incorrect and on and on. Such a pathological absence of humility should be taken as a warning. If the calculation of pi does a number on his head you can bet he is no more astute on other matters. His skewed notions were regularly picked apart on internet forums until about three years ago and now Mathis is mostly ignored and the publication of his two vanity published books have done nothing to stop his slide. Sales are dismal and even Amazon has his books listed in the “crank” category. It seems that he is getting his comeuppance after more than a decade of his bitter attacks on all scientists and all mathematicians in his articles.
    Please do not be misled by this person. Read papers by real scientists.

    1. Dear joaquin hermon:

      Mathis says Pi = 4 IF, and only IF you are dealing with orbital vectors of velocity.

      Are you a practising ad-hominist because that’s how you come across?

      For those interested see

      1. Mathis claims that pi only equals 4 in kinematic situations, such as orbits. For static situations, Mathis contends that pi is still 3.14.

        Here is a simple experiment that anyone can preform. Take a phonograph turntable and toggle it on and off, and see if you can get pi to change from one value to the other.

        Mathis is a crackpot!

      2. Despite what Mathis says, he uses a plain circle to derive pi=4 , check his paper if you don’t believe it or have forgotten, and avoids using an actual orbit to calculate anything. He does not find points on an ellipse or on any orbital configuration whatever using pi=4. He derives pi in 2 dimensions with a fixed radius and comes up with a stairstep approximation on a section of two-dimensional circle which he claims, illogically, works as 4 for pi in orbital mechanics in 3 dimensions and in which radiuses aren’t constant. Utter nonsense erupting from a flawed initial concept.
        Do not get led down the path of delusion by this puffed up ballet dancer turned amateur researcher Mathis with a messianic complex and who tries to strongarm his convoluted theories by plastering them all over the search spaces of the internet. He hasn’t proposed a single experiment to support his ideas and says he has no interest in doing so but only wants to write more “papers”. Big honking red flag. Real scientists want their ideas tested so they can learn from the results. Pretenders like Mathis avoid testing because they know they’re wrong and don’t want to see the proof of it.

  3. All heliospheres embedded in Fluff are being compressed; the gases are being heated and expanding. This in turn forces any heliospheres embedded in the Fluff to be compressed and also heated.

    This body would be known to us as G1.9. It would have steadily been losing energy each incurrance and probably only recently lost the outside pressure holding the quantum gas inside.,which would explain the recent gas cloud seen since 1984 around G1.9. If so, then it is no longer George Gammow’s dense nuclear matter but a degraded quantum known as a neutrino and is shedding neutrinos heavily while inside Sol’s system. Science has identified a belt of anti neutrinos around the Earth. Since G1.9 is probably anti matter, it is being repulsed from Centauri to Sol, and once inside the ORT shell, is repulsed by Sol. This is the ‘orbit’ of G1.9.
    Historically, the Earth has experienced catastrophe due to this that left the earth esposed to cosmic rays and core expansion; as the body is losing energy, it may not this appearance compress the heliosphere past Earth. And if mythology is correct, we may expect G1.9 to be repulsed back through the ORT shell by 2013 but then the rebounding heliosphere will include massively heated gas planets which will affect all of Sol’s planetary bodies.

    Miles Mathis proposes that photons and their spins under lie the E/M field. His papers are on line and worth reading.

  4. Ive watched Venus all my life, but for the past 3 years it seems like its getting bigger, brighter and closer, to the point of questioning whether its Venus Im seeing or if so, wtf is going on with it..just last night, my sister who is more of the “down to earth” type, comes all excited, running in my room, saying; come look, tell me what it is, its huge and bright and I swear it was moving up and down!!” ..so I looked out the window, and said, oh, thats supposedly Venus, right above it to the side, thats Jupiter..suddenly she shouts out” thats not Venus, no way! IT cant be!! haha

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