Scientists reproduced a gravity field- 1,000 times stronger than Earth’s gravity

The study overcomes the effects of Earth’s gravity, replicating conditions on other planets, stars.

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Solar activity associated with Space Weather can cause fluctuations of electrical currents in space, directly impacting the power grid on Earth and energizing electrons and protons trapped in Earth’s varying magnetic field. These disturbances can cause problems with radio communications, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (such as Global Positioning Systems or GPS), power grids, and satellites.

Scientists’ ability to explore solutions to that problem has been severely constrained up to this point. This is due to the fact that gravity affects laboratory studies conducted on Earth in ways that are very different from conditions in space.

However, a recent study by UCLA physicists may help resolve that problem. They have effectively reproduced the type of gravity on or near stars and other planets inside a glass sphere measuring 3 centimeters in diameter (about 1.2 inches). Their study would be a significant step toward ensuring the safety of astronauts (and their equipment) during space missions and the proper operation of satellites.

They accomplished this by using sound waves to produce a spherical gravitational field and plasma convection. Gas cools as it approaches a body’s surface and then reheats and rises again as it comes to the core. This process results in a fluid current, producing a magnetic current.

Seth Putterman, a UCLA physics professor and the study’s senior author, said“People were so interested in trying to model spherical convection with laboratory experiments that they put an experiment in the space shuttle because they couldn’t get a strong enough central force field on the ground. We showed that our system of microwave-generated sound produced gravity so strong that Earth’s gravity wasn’t a factor. We don’t need to go into space to do these experiments anymore.”

Scientists heated the sulphur gas inside the glass sphere using microwaves to a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The sound waves inside the ball behaved like gravity, preventing the plasma from moving in ways that are similar to the plasma currents in stars. With microwave-generated sound in a spherical flask of hot plasma, scientists achieved a gravity field that is 1,000 times stronger than Earth’s gravity.

Hot gas rises on Earth’s surface because gravity pulls denser, colder gas toward the planet’s core.

The scientists discovered that hot, brilliant gas towards the outside half of the sphere pushed outward and toward the sphere’s boundaries. The turbulence that approximated that seen close to the surface of the Sun was produced by the intense, persistent gravity. Hot gas sinks to the center of the sphere because the acoustic gravity in the inner half of the sphere changes direction and is directed outward. The hottest plasma in the experiment was naturally confined at the center of the sphere by acoustic gravity, just as it is in stars.

Scientists can comprehend and forecast how solar weather affects spacecraft and satellite communications systems if they can regulate and manipulate plasma in ways that parallel solar and planetary convection. For instance, a solar storm last year destroyed 40 SpaceX satellites. Military technology has also had trouble with the phenomenon: for instance, the production of turbulent plasma around hypersonic missiles might obstruct communications between weapons systems.

Journal Reference:

  1. John P. Koulakis, Yotam Ofek, Seth Pree, and Seth Putterman. Thermal Convection in a Central Force Field Mediated by Sound. Physical Review Letters. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.130.034002