Monday, May 5, 2008

Oliver Manuel and the iron sun

Professor Oliver Manuel with graduate student Erin Miller after their trip to the 2002 Sigma Xi conference at Galveston, Texas

Science Models and a Radical Approach to the Formation of the Solar System

I have been considering the following for some time principally to illustrate that despite an abundance of empirical evidence a proposed model of a particular hypothesis can still fall short of wide acceptance. A lot of radical models of scientific investigation fail to meet the requirements of sound science and are usually attributed to unqualified individuals and just plain “bad science”. Anyone can say anything and throw in a few formulas and empirical data--twisted and construed in bizarre structures to make some bold controversial postulate. The particular case that I have in mind stems from a reputable individual of strong academic background and an abundance of hard-core scientific data to analyze.

The particular case is one that concerns Oliver Manuel and his bold cosmological statement that our solar system is a product of just one star and not many stars: More heterogeneous and homogeneous. This stance is derived from meteorite data--spectrographic analysis of element isotopes. His data extrapolation yielded an odd idea that the standard concept of the sun is outdated and that it should embrace the new idea that the center most part of the sun is “iron”-based and not “hydrogen”-based. In a nut shell his model states that some 4.5 billion years ago the solar system was the by-product of a super nova and that the sun is the core remnant of the stellar explosion. That is totally different from the standard accepted position that our solar system was more likely formed from condensing gas clouds.

His position was spawned by his data collected regarding various element’s isotopes mixed with known data regarding the earth’s distribution of isotropic elements and their abundance compared to meteoric analysis and some strange hypothetical conjectures of Jupiter’s atmosphere. Further thought concluded that the planets closer to the sun are the heavy rocky debris [iron rich goodies]--including the sun’s core. Okay, this rocks the boat a bit in that the accepted model for many years has drawn the conclusion that the sun is mostly a hydrogen ball undergoing regular fusion--hydrogen to helium and huge quantities of released energy. Manuel believes that the surface is chiefly composed of hydrogen and the core is composed of heavier elements such as iron and the layered representation is a function of an elements mass. There is a problem here in that the energy required to change iron to hydrogen [and thus float to the surface] would be greater than the energy released. The situation becomes exasperated when Manuel claims some odd physics of neutrons and protons.

Ironically, some of Manual’s earlier data collection regarding isotope concentrations has yielded a position by many that the solar system is a composition of multiple supernova--heterogeneous. Nevertheless, the model that Oliver Manuel has proposed is radical and yet scientific. Consensus among his peers is that Manuel is not a crackpot though he does irritate many and his scientific methodology is sound. Models are models and are subject to modification and rejection. In this case, modification may be more the norm than outright rejection.

"An iconoclastic theory of the solar system's origin shows how science tests
its truisms"


Solana Pyne

Discover Magazine

March 2002

In the late 1960s, chemist Oliver Manuel made a small but staggering discovery about meteorites. He noticed that the abundances of certain elements in meteorites were distinctly different from those in the Earth and much of the solar system. This observation spurred research showing that our solar system probably formed from material generated in many different stars. For Manuel, it also spawned a radical theory about the origins of our solar system, which he has doggedly pursued for forty years. Nearly all astronomers agree that the Sun and the rest of the planets formed from an amorphous cloud of gas and dust 4.6 billion years ago. But Manuel argues, based on his compositional data, that the solar system was created by a dramatic stellar explosion--a supernova--and that the iron-encased remnant of the progenitor star still sits at the center of the Sun. Manuel fits a popular stereotype, the lone dissenter promoting a new idea that flies in the face of the scientific establishment. In the real world, some of these theories eventually have been proven right but vastly more have been proven wrong. Manuel is under no illusions about the popularity of his idea. "Ninety-nine percent of the field will tell you it's junk science," he says. The evidence weighs in heavily against him. If he's right, however, we need to completely rethink how planetary systems form. Even if he's wrong, some scientists say, at least he has made people think. Astrophysicists don't deny the validity of Manuel's original meteorite data. "It was a good observation," says cosmochemist Frank Podosek of Washington University. "This was something we hadn't observed before. It was a fruitful thing to notice, but he picked it up and ran with it very much farther than the basis could justify." To support his theory, Manuel pieced together bits of information from history, astronomy, biology and physics. He founded his theory on isotopes, variants of an element that have different atomic weights but the same basic chemical properties. On Earth, isotopes have consistent, well-known relative abundances. Manuel cited unusual mixes of isotopes in meteorites and possibly in the atmosphere of Jupiter as evidence that those objects formed from the outer layers of a supernova, where such strange isotope ratios would be the norm. The inner planets, made from rocky debris, formed from heavy elements in the inner part of the supernova, he says, where more familiar isotope concentrations prevailed. And the Sun, which Manuel argues is iron-rich, formed around a neutron star, the collapsed remnant of the exploded star. "This is not a news flash," he says. "This is my conclusion from 42 years of measuring the abundance of isotopes." Manuel's insistence both infuriates and amuses others in the field. Scientists who know him talk about him in a tone that is both weary and indulgent, as they would describe an eccentric relative. "I happen to like Oliver," says Donald Burnett, professor of geochemistry at the California Institute of Technology. "I don't agree with anything he says, but I find him a colorful character." There is one widely accepted element in Manuel's scenario. In the universe, many elements heavier than iron are thought to have been forged in supernovae. But the evidence increasingly seems to rule out Manuel's supernova-genesis theory. At the start of the 20th century, many scientists believed the Sun was made mostly of iron. Manuel cites the historical support for an iron-rich Sun as evidence for his theory. "A high iron content for the Sun is not revolutionary but is actually quite compatible with the history of solar research," he says. But in 1925, astronomer Cecelia Payne analyzed the light of our star and proposed that the Sun was most likely a burning ball of hydrogen. By the late thirties, the case was nearly settled. The surface of the Sun has been proven to be mostly hydrogen, and many subsequent studies have led to extremely detailed models of the hydrogen fusion reactions that power our star. "We can make an explicit model of the Sun, putting its mass and brightness into the computer, along with the laws of physics and that then produces right amount of Sunshine and brightness," says Sallie Baliunas, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. These models also explain the various stages of stellar evolution that astronomers can observe. And the principles of hydrogen fusion are well established, both in the laboratory and in the detonations of hydrogen bombs. According to theory and experiment, light hydrogen atoms in the Sun fuse together to form helium atoms, releasing bursts of energy in the process. All of the evidence points to our Sun being made primarily of hydrogen. Manuel argues that the surface is made up mostly of hydrogen only because elements in the Sun separate according to mass. Hydrogen, the lightest element, floats to the surface, while heavier elements huddle below. But his theory creates another problem: If the Sun isn't made of hydrogen, how does it generate its energy? Fusing a heavy and stable element like iron consumes more energy than it releases. In his theory, Manuel relies the neutron star at the center to make up for energy lost when hydrogen is taken out of the picture. The neutrons that make up the star have higher energy than free neutrons, he says, so a neutron escaping from the star releases energy. The free neutron then decays into a proton as it migrates toward the surface, again releasing energy. The proton, which is a hydrogen atom minus an electron, fuses to form helium and releases even more energy. He supposes that some of the decayed neutrons stick around as protons and account for the abundance of hydrogen on the surface of the Sun and in the solar wind. Manuel's colleagues are skeptical about this elaborate and unproven explanation. Many scientists also find it improbable that our solar system could have formed quickly from the debris of a supernova. They have only found one system in which planets formed around a neutron star, and it looks nothing like our solar system. On the other hand, astronomers have spotted innumerable stars forming out of clouds of gas and dust and find strong indications that planets are forming around these protostars. Finally, there is persuasive evidence that our solar system contains the remains of many different supernovae. Ironically, Manuel's own discovery contributed to this understanding. Chemists have traced the strange isotopic concentrations Manuel first observed to individual grains within meteorites. The proportions of each isotope vary from grain to grain. If the solar system formed from a single supernova, all the grains should have roughly the same abundances of isotopes. Since they don't, most scientists view the isotopes in a particular grain as a clue to its origin, and, hence, as evidence that meteorites, and most other bodies in the solar system, are made of heterogeneous material derived from many stars. That makes Manuel's theory look less likely than ever. "Fifteen years ago, I would have kept a question mark in my mind," said cosmochemist Roy Lewis, of the Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago. "I would have said well he's almost certainly wrong but by golly if he turns out to be right, won't that be interesting." Although most scientists don't believe Manuel's theory, they all acknowledge that outlandish hypotheses have been proven correct in the past. It seems especially unlikely in Manuel's case, however. In addition to citing the contradictory evidence, many scientists also dismiss the iron-Sun theory on the grounds of simplicity. Most observations of our solar system can be explained by fairly common processes, so why evoke rare and complicated explanations? Still, some scientists see fringe theorists like Manuel as an asset, as they make people reassess long-held theories. "Manuel is a little off the wall," Lewis says. "But science is filled with people a little off the wall. Our great strength is to allow them to express their views." Manuel's views got an airing again at the January meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC, where once again they received little notice. Meanwhile, Manuel continues to argue his theory with an air of implacable certainty, believing that solar physics is on the verge of a revolution. He talks as though scientists need only to come to their senses and reassess the data. "I'm not trying to refute the professional careers of the scientists whose shoulders I'm standing on," Manuel says. "My work depends on their evidence. It's just a different interpretation."

[Partial] RESUME

Oliver K. Manuel

Professor of Nuclear Chemistry

University of Missouri-Rolla


1964 - NSF Post-doctoral Fellow, Physics, University of California, Berkeley
1964 - Ph.D., Nuclear Chemistry, University of Arkansas, FayettevilleArkansas
(some research done in Prof. John Reynolds' laboratory at UC-Berkeley)
1959 - B.S., Chemistry, Kansas State College, Pittsburg, Kansas


2000-present - Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri-Rolla
1999-2000 - Interim Chairman of Chemistry, UM-Rolla
1982-1996 - Chairman of Chemistry, UM-Rolla
1982-1983 - Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, India
1979-1980 - U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO
1973-2000 - Professor of Chemistry, UM-Rolla
1967-1973 - Associate Professor of Chemistry, UM-Rolla
1964-1967 - Assistant Professor of Chemistry, UM-Rolla


2002 – Plenary Lecture, Third International Conference on Beyond Standard
Model Physics - BEYOND 2002 in Oulu, FINLAND

1999 – Co-chaired ACS Symposium (with Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg) - "The Origin of Elements in the Solar System: Implications of Post-1957 Observations"

1983 - Fulbright Award, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Bombay, India

1980 - Plenary Lecture, 8th National Symposium on Isotope Geochemistry, Vernadsky Institute Geochemistry & Analytical Chemistry, Moscow, USSR

1979 - Special Recognition as Principal Investigator in NASA's Lunar Program

1968 - Outstanding Research award, UM-Rolla Alumni Association

1964 – National Science Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship


Author of more than 100 scientific papers, including book reviews, chapters in books, and research papers published in peer-reviewed literature and presented at science conferences in the United States, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, the USSR and Wales.


Alpha Chi Sigma honorary chemical society, the American Association for the Advance­ment of Science, the American Astronomical Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the Council for Chemical Research, the Fulbright Society, the Geochemical Society of Japan, the Meteoritical Society, the Missouri Academy of Science, Nature, and the Sigma Xi honorary research society.

The following are original papers [solo and with colleagues] online and listed alphabetically:

Abundances of Hydrogen and Helium Isotopes in Jupiter

An Iron-Rich Sun and Its Source of Energy

Attraction and Repulsion of Nucleons: Sources of Stellar Energy

Composition of the Solar Interior: Information from Isotope Ratios

Compositional Variations in Asteroids: A Record of the Early Solar System

Is There a Deficit of Solar Neutrinos?

Isotopes Tell Sun’s Origin and Operation

Isotopic Ratios: The Key to Elemental Abundances and Nuclear Reactions in the Sun

Neutron Repulsion Confirmed As Energy Source

Noble Gas Anomalies and Synthesis the the Chemical Elements

Nuclear Clustering and Interactions Between Nucleons

Nuclear Systematics: I. Solar Abundance of the Elements

Nuclear Systematics: II. The Cradle of the Nuclides

Nuclear Systematics: III. Source of Solar Luminosity

Nuclear systematics: Part IV. Neutron-capture cross sections and solar abundance

Observational Confirmation of the Sun's CNO Cycle

On the Cosmic Nuclear Cycle and the Similarity of Nuclei and Stars

Origin of Elements in the Solar System

Solar Abundances of the Elements

Solar Abundance of Elements from Neutron-Capture Cross Sections

Solar Energy, Wind, Eruptions, Magnetic Fields, Neutrinos, and Planetary Material: Surface Evidence of an Iron-Rich Solar Interior and a Neutron-Rich Solar Core

Strange Xenon, Extinct Superheavy Elements, and the Solar Neutrino Puzzle

Strange Xenon in Jupiter

Superfluidity in the Solar Interior: Implications for Solar Eruptions and Climate

The Need to Measure Low-Energy Antineutrinos...from the Sun

The Neon Alphabet Game

The Noble Gas Record of the Terrestrial Planets

The Nuclear Cycle that Powers the Stars: Fusion, Gravitational Collapse, and Dissociation

The Oxygen to Carbon Ratio in the Solar Interior: Information from Nuclear Reaction Cross-Sections

The Standard Solar Model vs. Experimental Observations

The Structure of the Solar Core

The Sun is a Plasma Diffuser that Sorts Atoms by Mass

The Sun's Origin and Composition: Implications from Meteorite Studies

The Sun's Origin, Composition and Source of Energy

The Xenon Record of Extinct Radioactivities in the Earth

Why the Model of a Hydrogen-filled Sun is Obsolete

Xenon in Carbonaceous Chondrites

As an ammendment to this revolutionary hypothesis consider a recent discovery of "hydrogen-deficient stars"...

From Nature [November 20th 2007]:

"We report the discovery of a new class of hydrogen-deficient stars: white dwarfs with an atmosphere primarily composed of carbon, with little or no trace of hydrogen or helium. Our analysis shows that the atmospheric parameters found for these stars do not fit satisfactorily in any of the currently known theories of post-asymptotic giant branch (AGB) evolution, although these objects might be the cooler counter-part of the unique and extensively studied PG 1159 star H1504+65. These stars, together with H1504+65, might thus form a new evolutionary post-AGB sequence."

"Hot DQ White Dwarf Stars: A New Challenge to Stellar Evolution"

From correspondence with Dr. Manuel who wrote:

"Many of our papers since 1983 have shown that mass
separation in the Sun covers its surface with a
surface layer that is 91% H and 9% He, the lightest of
all elements and the next lightest one."

"Now the US Department of Energy must find the energy
source that heats carbon stars to 18,000-23,000 K and
neutron stars to 700,000 K, in the absence of any
hydrogen to act as fuel for H-fusion.

Other papers since 2000 show that repulsive
interactions between neutrons generate the luminosity,
neutrinos, and SW-hydrogen that is measured coming
from the Sun."

"Attraction and Repulsion of Nucleons: Sources of Stellar Energy"

"Nuclear Systematics: III. Source of Solar Luminosity"

"The Sun's Origin and Composition: Implications from Meteorite Studies"

"Neutron Repulsion Confirmed As Energy Source "

"Superfluidity in the Solar Interior: Implications for Solar Eruptions and Climate"

"The Sun is a Plasma Diffuser that Sorts Atoms by Mass"

More [November 30th, 2007]...

"Last weeks news was a report of observational evidence
that other sort elements by mass. See second page of
attached pdf file of paper from Nature 450 (22 Nov

Measurements of isotopes in the solar wind and of
s-products in the photosphere both show that the Sun
sorts elements by mass."

"Nuclear Systematics: Part IV. Neutron-capture Cross Sections and Solar Abundance"

"Today's news is a report that an embryonic star has
axial, bipolar jets:"

Jet Propulsion Laboratory...Spitzer Space release:

"Embryonic Star Captured with Jets Flaring"

"Interestingly, we have reason to believe that an
object with axial, bipolar jets was also the embryonic
form of the Sun."

NASA is planning a probe to the Sun scheduled for launch in 2015 in association with John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory and managed by Andrew Dantzler. The Solar Probe may confirm or deny recent experimental [Oliver Manuel and colleagues] challenging three current positions: The Sun is made of Hydrogen, hydrogen fusion powers the Sun, and that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, not the cycles of solar activity induced by the ever-changing positions of the planets, cause global climate change.

Submitted to Nova Science Publishers for publication in Supernova Research late 2007...

"Fingerprints of a Local Supernova"

"NASA Calls on APL to Send a Probe to the Sun"


M. Buckley

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

May 1st, 2008

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory is sending a spacecraft closer to the sun than any probe has ever gone – and what it finds could revolutionize what we know about our star and the solar wind that influences everything in our solar system.

NASA has tapped APL to develop the ambitious Solar Probe mission, which will study the streams of charged particles the sun hurls into space from a vantage point within the sun’s corona – its outer atmosphere – where the processes that heat the corona and produce solar wind occur. At closest approach Solar Probe would zip past the sun at 125 miles per second, protected by a carbon-composite heat shield that must withstand up to 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit and survive blasts of radiation and energized dust at levels not experienced by any previous spacecraft.

Experts in the U.S. and abroad have grappled with this mission concept for more than 30 years, running into seemingly insurmountable technology and budgetary limitations. But in February an APL-led team completed a Solar Probe engineering and mission design study at NASA’s request, detailing just how the robotic mission could be accomplished. The study team used an APL-led 2005 study as its baseline, but then significantly altered the concept to meet challenging cost and technical conditions provided by NASA.

"We knew we were on the right track,"
says Andrew Dantzler, Solar Probe project manager at APL. "Now we’ve put it all together in an innovative package; the technology is within reach, the concept is feasible and the entire mission can be done for less than $750 million [in fiscal 2007 dollars], or about the cost of a medium-class planetary mission. NASA decided it was time."

APL will design and build the spacecraft, on a schedule to launch in 2015. The compact, solar-powered probe would weigh about 1,000 pounds; preliminary designs include a 9-foot-diameter, 6-inch-thick, carbon-foam-filled solar shield atop the spacecraft body. Two sets of solar arrays would retract or extend as the spacecraft swings toward or away from the sun during several loops around the inner solar system, making sure the panels stay at proper temperatures and power levels. At its closest passes the spacecraft must survive solar intensity more than 500 times what spacecraft experience while orbiting Earth.

Solar Probe will use seven Venus flybys over nearly seven years to gradually shrink its orbit around the sun, coming as close as 4.1 million miles (6.6 million kilometers) to the sun, well within the orbit of Mercury and about eight times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

Solar Probe will employ a combination of in-place and remote measurements to achieve the mission’s primary scientific goals: determine the structure and dynamics of the magnetic fields at the sources of solar wind; trace the flow of energy that heats the corona and accelerates the solar wind; determine what mechanisms accelerate and transport energetic particles; and explore dusty plasma near the sun and its influence on solar wind and energetic particle formation. Details will be spelled out in a Solar Probe Science and Technology Definition Team study that NASA will release later this year. NASA will also release a separate Announcement of Opportunity for the spacecraft’s science payload.

"Solar Probe is a true mission of exploration," says Dr. Robert Decker, Solar Probe project scientist at APL. "For example, the spacecraft will go close enough to the sun to watch the solar wind speed up from subsonic to supersonic, and it will fly though the birthplace of the highest energy solar particles. And, as with all missions of discovery, Solar Probe is likely to raise more questions than it answers."

APL's experience in developing spacecraft to study the sun-Earth relationship – or to work near the sun – includes ACE, which recently marked its 10th year of sampling energetic particles between Earth and the sun; TIMED, currently examining solar effects on Earth's upper atmosphere; the twin STEREO probes, which have snapped the first 3-D images of explosive solar events called coronal mass ejections; and the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, which will examine the regions of energetic particles trapped by Earth's magnetic field.

Solar Probe will be fortified with heat-resistant technologies developed for APL's MESSENGER spacecraft, which completed its first flyby of Mercury in January and will begin orbiting that planet in 2011. Solar Probe's solar shield concept was partially influenced by designs of MESSENGER’s sunshade.

Solar Probe is part of NASA's Living with a Star Program, designed to learn more about the sun and its effects on planetary systems and human activities. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages the program for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington.

If you wish to contact Dr. Manuel for comments, questions, or discussion...

Dr. Oliver Manuel

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