Planetary-Solar theory: A brief history

Posted: January 10, 2010 by tallbloke in solar system dynamics
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1) Introduction

The ancient Greeks speculated about their Kosmos in terms recognisable as scientific today. Pre-Socratic thinker Thales believed water was the fundamental substance from which all else proceeded. Demokritus first proposed all matter was constucted of irreducably small particles called atoms. Today we know that the simplest expression of matter, the Hydrogen atom, is readily oxidised to form water, releasing a large dose of energy in the process. Hydrogen permeates the universe, in it’s preferred state as a hydrogen molecule, it is invisible to our telescopes and our other means of  spectral detection.

Other Greek thinkers considered the motion of the heavenly bodies, planets, stars, comets and our Sun. The first to propose that the Earth moved round the Sun rather than believing in an Earth centred Kosmos was Aristarchus of Samos. Using geometrical  mathematics, he calculated the relative sizes of the Sun and Moon, and reasoned that because the Sun was the biggest body in the Kosmos, and the only self luminous body, it must be at the centre of the part of the  Greek Kosmos we now call the solar system.

But science makes many twists and turns on the path to knowledge, and the needs of navigators and astronomers for a quantifiable and predictive calculation system led to the adoption of the Earth centred system of Ptolemy, with it’s unphysical epicycles grafted into the theory to explain the apparent retrograde motion of planets at various times. This view was to dominate late classical and medieval thought for 1300 years due to the suppression of other ideas by the gatekeepers of knowledge. A theme we will be forced to return to later.

Eventually, Nikolaus Copernicus restored the Sun to it’s rightful place and his work was championed by Galileo Galilei, despite being placed under house arrest and having his telescope confiscated for a time by the guardians of orthodoxy. Galileo also methodically counted sunspots and we still use his observations as part of the sunspot record. Building on the work of  Copernicus, Galileo, and Tycho Brahe, German born Johannes Kepler discovered that the proportions of the orbital distances and the rates of motion of the planets conformed to simple geometrical laws which revealed a harmony and resonance in the solar system as a whole.

Subsequently,  Isaac Newton quantified the concept of gravity, and derived laws of motion describing relationships between mass,  momentum and velocity which we still use today. Newton showed that the sun is engaged in continual motion around the centre of mass of the solar system (i.e. the barycentre or SSB) as a result of the gravitational force exerted by the planets, especially Jupiter and Saturn. He came to this conclusion analytically (not by observation) by working through the consequences of his law of gravitation. His cosmological theory of an isometric universe was superceded by Einstein‘s theory of General Relativity with its application to the concept of curved space-time.

“In 1801, the Astronomer Royal in Britain, Sir William Herschel, discussed the nature of sunspots, their variability, their effect on climate, and the position of the planets as possible causative forces. Although this work was published by the Royal Society, it was “ahead of its time”. Some century-and-a-half later, there was much more information, but not much more light.” -Rhodes Fairbridge-

The field of Solar Physics developed throughout the period, but the sun’s remoteness, and it’s enigmatic variation in activity made hypotheses of it’s nature difficult to validate until the recent development of sophisticated equipment and techniques to measure it’s magnetic field, surface activity and periodic parameters. The currently dominant Babcock-Leighton Dynamo theory of the way the sun generates it’s cyclic activity has seen little competition, despite its difficulties and lacunae.

2) Enter Paul José

In April 1965 Paul D. José, a scientist at the office of Aerospace Research  at Holloway Air Force base in New Mexico published a short paper in The Astronomical Journal (vol.70 No.3) entitled: Sun’s motion and sunspots.

The paper included an intriguing diagram reproduced in part here:

Jose 1965 Diagram of solar motion

The importance of the diagram and the rest of José’s paper will form the first part of the next installment.

To be continued…

  1. Geoff Sharp says:

    Admirable effort…this could be enlightening.

    Jose paper here:

  2. tallbloke says:

    Thanks Geoff, I’ve uploaded a copy and linked it in the article. I’ve been finding out some really interesting stuff on more recently published papers. It will soon be evident that the planetary-solar theory has potentially viable physical mechanism’s to explain the correlations we have found. I have several more installments to write before we get to those, but here’s a primer with some references of interest. pp956-958

  3. Geoff Sharp says:

    The Mackey paper referenced above has some interesting areas. One statement in particular caught my eye.

    The sim hypothesis and SVALGAARD, CLIVER, and KAMIDE (2005)predict precisely this pattern of gradual rise to a very moderate maximum for the emergent Sunspot Cycle No 24.
    According to sim hypothesis , Sunspot Cycles No 25 and 26 will be smaller and weaker than Sunspot Cycle No 24, which will be
    smaller and weaker that Sunspot Cycle No 23, and the earth will enter a little ice age. According to this analysis, as the sun enters
    Sunspot Cycle No 26, the earth’s climate is expected to be much the same as it was during the Dalton Minimum cold period from the 1790s to the 1820s. Subsequent orbits are expected to become more regular. Solar output will increase once the sun leaves the
    chaotic phase of its orbit around the barycentre.

    I would like to know where the “SIM hypothesis” is derived from…is it Mackey’s opinion or perhaps a referenced paper?

    I am not sure I agree with the hypothesis but time will tell I guess. My thoughts are SC24 & SC25 will be the grand minimum cycles with a modest recovery during SC26.

  4. tallbloke says:

    Geoff, I think it’s Mackey’s distillation of what he’s picked up mainly from Landscheidt, Fairbridge and Charvatova.

    For other readers, the SIM stands for solar inertial motion, and is related to the changes in the Sun’s velocity and direction relative to the barycentre of the solar system, the point where all the gravitational masses balance. Isaac Newton held that the sun is in free fall about this point, and so it ‘feels no forces’. The investigations undertaken by recent researchers show that if the sun is not homogenous, then forces will act differentially on material within the sun, and this will induce flows on it’s surface which may explain the quasi-cyclic variations we observe in solar activity. Prominent among these are the ~11 year sunspot cycle and the ~178 year cycles linked to prolonged and deep solar minima like the Maunder minimum of the 1600’s and the Dalton minimum of the early 1800’s. This 178 year period echoes the time it takes for the major outer and inner planets to return to a similar configuration.

    Geoff’s excellent site has much more on this. The link is on the right of the page in the Blog Roll.

  5. Ray Tomes says:

    Fairbridge mentions Herschel, a truly great scientist who contributed in so many ways. I want to add that he was the first interdisciplinary cycles researcher of the modern era. He wanted to show that solar cycles might be related to climate. But there existed no decent temperature records. So he decided that wheat yields would be a good proxy (they didn’t use that word in those days). He couldn’t find wheat yield data but found a history of wheat prices and used those (figuring price is up when yield is low when it is too cold in UK). His results were very clear, and have been confirmed as very accurate asrecently as 2004.

  6. tallbloke says:

    I seem to remember Herschel got some sceptical criticism from other members of the Royal Society at the time, but as you say, he has been vindicated. I’ll work some more info on him into my rewrite, thanks for the reminder.

  7. Hello Tallbloke & commentators

    I was unable to get the above link to Rhodes Fairbridge to open for reasoons beyond me, but am I correct that this link is to Richard Mackey’s (most excellent reviw paper) “Rhodes Fairbridge and the idea that the solar system regulates the Earth’s climate”. I shall assume this to be so and comment further accordingly.

    I have studied Mackey’s paper, in depth and repeatedly, as I have also some of the key papers on which his work is based – Jose, Landscheidt, and of course particularly Fairbridge.

    Fairbridge attributes the expression ‘Solar Inertial Motion’ (SIM), in the context you have been discussing, to Paul Jose’s earlier work done around 1965 or so. Whether others employed this expression in this context even earlier than Jose I cannot say. Likewise, to Jose, the development of the idea of the epitrochoidal 179 year ‘cycle’ whereby the Sun orbits the SSB in its seemingly haphazard manner; ‘dictated’ by the planets mainly the Jovian set.

    Fairbridge further developed understanding of the nature of the SIM phenomena, and as Mackey highlights, he determined by calculation that the SIM resulted in periods where the Earth/Sun separation distance varied by up to 1% (of the standard AU) over and above any of the Milankovich set variances. He recognised the potential for this to impact on Earth climate cycles and undertook further analysis to explore possible linkages; he surmised such impact would be by some combination of gravity, insolation, electromagnetic, or matter (solar wind/cosmic fluxes as I understand it).

    Together with co-researcher Shirley he developed a basis of relationship linking the Sun’s periodicity of ‘closest to the Barycentre’ passes with certain climate cycle periodicities. Landscheidt apparently had drawn somewhat similar relationships based on the Sun’s most distant passes.

    As to a 179 year cycle per se, my study of their analysis suggests this ‘cycle’ relates not to any identified Earth climate cycle as such, rather to the fact that each 179 years the SIM returns to ALMOST the same starting point, ie, the planets or more particularly the Jovians are back to almost precisely (but not quite) the same relative positions, from which the process starts to repeat itself in a new round of SIM circuits about the SSB each of about average Solar Cycle period.

    Some circuits display high periods of angular momentum, or more correctly rate of change of AM, and Fairbridge (and I gather others) believed these periods associate with impacts on the internal and surface dynamics of the Sun which possibly result in varying Solar fluxes in one form or another which in turn impact on Earth climate cycles.

    That’s pretty much my summarised take on the analyses of F, L, J, and a couple of others.

    Of course, I am not a scientist, just a very mature age student and avid reader of the science (and climate change rationalist – read AGW sceptic). But I have developed a very deep respect for what comes over to me as the quite brilliant development work of each of these scientists, building as they have on the work of Newton and other genius’ before them.

    Cheers – Lawrence

  8. Lawrence Wilson says:

    This is a test post only to test the system


  9. tallbloke says:

    Hi Lawrence, yes I gave a link to the Mackay paper in a followup comment above. Thanks for the headsup on the broken link, now fixed with an alternative which also links the Mackay paper.

    If you are trying to embed links in a comment, don’t bother. It’s easier to just put the URL in and let wordpress make a live link ot of it automatically.


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