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No. 40: Jul-Aug 1985

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Planets as sun-triggered lasers

Apparently both the earth and Jupiter emit radio energy when triggered by bursts of radio waves arriving from the sun. The outer atmospheres of these planets act like radio lasers, which store radio energy and then release it suddenly when stimulated by weaker solar signals. The earth's laser operates between frequencies of 50 and 600 kilohertz. Its emissions are known as the "auroral kilometric radiation" or AKR. While some of these terrestrial emissions are spontaneous, others are stimulated by Type-III solar radio bursts. The newly discovered Jovian laser operates at hectometric wavelengths and is also triggered by the solar radio bursts.

(Calvert, W.; "Triggered Jovian Radio Emissions," Geophysical Research Letters, 12:179, 1985.)

Comment. Earth and Jupiter thus act like radio transponders, releasing large bursts in response to small solar stimuli. The role of electricity in the history of the solar system is only beginning to be appreciated. Of course, the radio lasers mentioned above are not very powerful, but what might have occurred during the formative stages of the solar system? Could electromagnetic forces have been more important then than they are now? In this regard, note that electrical forces seem to be strongly involved in the dynamics of Saturn's rings. And Saturn's rings themselves may resemble a miniature solar system in the accretion phase.

From Science Frontiers #40, JUL-AUG 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss