A Conceptual Model

of Interstellar Space


Modern astronomers claim that the only forces capable of forming and driving the galaxies that make up the universe are gravitational and magnetic fields. In order to judge whether this or any alternative explanations are reasonable, we have to be able to visualize the relative sizes of stars and the distances between them.

In order to do this, we need a scale model that humans can relate to. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for us to relate conceptually to how far something is from us when we are told its distance is, say 14 light years. We know that is a long way - but HOW long?

Burnham's Model

In his "Celestial Handbook", Robert Burnham, Jr. presents a model that offers us a way to get an intuitive feel for some of these tremendous distances. The distance from the Sun to Earth is called an Astronomical Unit (AU); it is approximately 93 million miles. The model is based on the coincidental fact that the number of inches in a statute mile is approximately equal to the number of astronomical units in one light year. So, in our model, we sketch the orbit of the Earth around the Sun as a circle, two inches in diameter.  That sets the scale of the model.  One light year is one mile in the model.

The Sun is approximately 880,000 miles in diameter.  In the model that scales to 880,000 / 93,000,000 = 0.009 inches; (Approximately 1/100 of an inch in diameter).  A very fine pencil point is needed to place it at the center of the (one inch radius) circle that represents the Earth's orbit.

In this model, Pluto is an invisibly small speck approximately three and a half feet from the Sun. All the other planets follow almost circular paths inside of this 3.5 foot orbit. If a person is quite tall, he or she may just be able to spread their hands far enough apart to encompass the orbit of this outer planet. That is the size of our model of our solar system. We can just about hold it in our extended arms.

The plasma sphere that contains the Sun, all planets, moons, and comets (called the heliosphere) is about 20 feet in diameter - centered on the pinpoint Sun.

The nearest star to us is over four light-years away.
In our model, a light year is scaled down to one mile.  So the nearest star to us is four and a half MILES away in our model. So when we model our Sun and the nearest star to us, we have two specks of dust, each 1/100 inch in diameter, four and a half miles apart from one another.  And this is in a moderately densely packed arm of our galaxy!

To quote Burnham, "All the stars are, on the average, as far from each other as the nearest ones are from us.  Imagine, then, several hundred billion stars scattered throughout space, each one another Sun, each one separated by a distance of several light years (several miles in our model) from its nearest neighbor. Comprehend, if you can, the almost terrifying isolation of any one star in space" because each star is the size of a speck of dust, about 1/100 inch in diameter - and is miles from its nearest neighbor.

When viewing a photographic image of a galaxy or globular star cluster, we must remember that the stars that make up those objects are not as close together as they appear. A bright star will "bloom" on a photographic plate or CCD chip. Remember the two specks of dust, miles apart.

Even in our model, the collection of stars that makes up our Milky Way galaxy is about one hundred thousand miles in diameter. This is surrounded by many hundreds of thousand of miles of empty space, before we get to the next galaxy. And on a larger scale, we find that galaxies seem to be found in groups - galaxy clusters.  On this gigantic scale even our model fails to give us an intuitive feeling for the vastness of those distances.

Because the stars are so small relative to their separation, they have only an extremely small gravitational pull on each other.  However, it is now well known that the entire volume of our galaxy is permeated by plasma - huge diffuse clouds of ionized particles. These electrically charged particles are not relatively far from each other.  And they respond to the extremely strong Maxwell / Lorentz electromagnetic forces (36 powers of 10 stronger than gravity). It is becoming clear that galaxies are not held together by gravity, but, rather, by dynamic electromagnetic forces.

Gravitational Lensing

As an application of the insight afforded by Burnham's model let us consider the oft proclaimed phenomenon known as gravitational lensing.  If a far distant object lines up precisely with Earth and an intermediate object that has enough mass, Einstein's theory of relativity suggests that the light from the farther object will be bent - producing multiple images of that distant object when it is observed from Earth.  Gravitational lensing is now a standard explanation used by mainstream astronomy to discredit any observations of quasar pairs situated very near their parent galaxies.  We are told that any images of this sort are "mirages" due to gravitational lensing.  Once this explanation is accepted by a gullible public, the way is cleared for its continued use, no matter how improbable its repeated occurrence is.

An image of the The "Einstein Cross" is shown below. NASA claims that the four small quasi-stellar objects (QSOs) flanking the central bright core of the galaxy represent only a single quasar located in the far distance directly behind the center of the galaxy - they tell us that we are not seeing four separate quasars - this is only a "mirage".  The reason for their conclusion that the four small quasar images are in the deep background is that they have a vastly greater redshift value than does the central galaxy.

Spectral analysis of the region between the quasars indicates they are connected to the galaxy by streams of hydrogen gas (plasma). This plasma has the same extremely high redshift value as do the quasars.  So, what we actually have are four newly formed quasars symmetrically positioned around the active nucleus of a barred spiral galaxy.  There is no mirage.  No relativistic magic is needed to explain what we see happening in front of our eyes.

Most important is the fact that for a foreground galaxy to gravitationally 'lens' a background QSO, the mass of the galaxy would have to act as if it were concentrated at the galaxy's center. We know from the difficulties associated with galactic rotation profiles that this does not occur.

But what is ignored by astrophysicists is the statistical improbability of this line-up happening in the first place, let alone over and over again.

For example, astronomers recently announced they were going to look for gravitational lensing effects that might be occurring in the closely packed globular cluster, M 22.  For such a gravitational lensing effect to be visible on Earth, two stars in the cluster and the Earth must line up - all three objects - on the same precise straight line.  Let us calculate the probability of that happening with any two stars in M 22.

M 22 contains on the order of 500,000 stars and is approximately 50 light-years in diameter.  Therefore, stars in the center of M22 are separated by distances in the order of 0.5 light year.  (1/2 mile in Burnham's model.)   Assume that stars in the M 22 cluster are of the same general size as our Sun, a medium sized star, 880,000 miles in diameter (1/100 inch in the model).  Put such a star at the center of one face of a cube that is 0.5 LY along each edge.  Assume that Earth lies an infinite distance away on a line which is perpendicular to that face of the cube and which passes through the centered star.

First, ask the question, what is the probability, p, that another star lies directly on that line, at the center of the opposite face of the cube?  Considering the average diameter of the typical star, there are approximately 10^13 non-overlapping possible star positions on that opposite face.  So the answer to our question is: "One out of 10^13".  p = 10^ -13.

We have to remember that the center of the cluster is 50 LY (100 such cubes) deep.  The probability that we will NOT get a match with a star in any of those deeper cubes is (1-p)^100.  The first two terms of the expansion of this expression are 1 - 100p.  So, (as an approximation) the probability that we WILL get a match is approximately the first probability multiplied by 100:   100p = 10^-11.

But there are 100x100 = 10^4 other lines of cubes that make up the visible face of M 22.  So, we must multiply by 10^4.  This yields an overall approximate probability of  10^ -11 x 10^4 = 10^ -7 which is one in ten million.  This answer is, of course, an approximation.  But it does reveal the futility of looking for gravitational lensing in M 22.

This means that if astronomers see anything 'mysterious' in M 22, they cannot, with any credibility, point to "gravitational lensing" as being the cause.  And, if this is so in a dense cluster like M22, it is even less likely when discussing galaxies and supposedly far distant quasars - like the Einstein Cross.

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The Electric Sky (Mikamar Pub.)