Friday, February 12, 2016

The Fourth State of Matter

NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of planetary nebula NGC 2818:
red = nitrogen, green = hydrogen, and blue = oxygen (HERE)
"The whole of space is filled with electrons and flying electric ions of all kinds. We have assumed that each stellar system in evolution throws off electric corpuscles into space. It does not seem unreasonable therefore to think that the greater part of the material masses in the universe is found, not in the solar systems or nebulae, but in "empty" space." | Kristian Birkeland (1913) | see also HERE 

99.9 percent of the Universe is made up of plasma. The magnetosphere provides a barrier between our planet and particles continually given off by the Sun’s corona called the 'solar wind'. These particles constitute a plasma – a mixture of electrons (negatively charged) and ions (atoms that have lost electrons, resulting in a positive electric charge). Plasma is not a gas, liquid, or solid – it is the fourth state of matter [...] The Sun is composed of plasma, fire is plasma." | NASA 1999