A Zome Torus, Before and After Adding Dodecahedra, As a Model for a Pulsar’s Accretion Disk and Radiation Jets

zome torus

I’ve been using Zometools, available at http://www.zometool.com, to build interesting geometrical shapes since long before I started this blog. I recently found this: a 2011 photograph of myself, holding a twisting Zome torus. While I don’t remember who was holding the camera, I do remember that the torus is made of adjacent parallelopipeds.

After building this torus, I imagined it as an accretion disk surrounding a neutron star — and now I am imagining it as a neutron star on the verge of gaining enough mass, from the accretion disk, to become a black hole. Such an object would emit intense jets of high-energy radiation in opposite directions, along the rotational axis of this neutron star. These jets of radiation are perpendicular to the plane in which the rotation takes place, and these two opposite directions are made visible in this manner, below, as two dodecahedra pointing out, on opposite sides of the torus — at least if my model is held at just the right angle, relative to the direction the camera is pointing, as shown below, to create an illusion of perpendicularity. The two photographs were taken on the same day. 

zome torus with dodecahedra 2011

In reality, of course, these jets of radiation would be much narrower than this photograph suggests, and the accretion disk would be flatter and wider. When one of the radiation jets from such neutron stars just happens to periodically point at us, often at thousands of times per second, we call such rapidly-rotating objects pulsars. Fortunately for us, there are no pulsars near Earth.

It would take an extremely long time for a black hole to form, from a neutron star, in this manner. This is because most of the incoming mass and energy (mostly mass, from the accretion disk) leaves this thermodynamic system as outgoing mass and energy (mostly energy, in the radiation jets), mass and energy being equivalent via the most famous formula in all of science: E = mc².

On Binary Planets, and Binary Polyhedra

Faceted Augmented Icosa

This image of binary polyhedra of unequal size was, obviously, inspired by the double dwarf planet at the center of the Pluto / Charon system. The outer satellites also orbit Pluto and Charon’s common center of mass, or barycenter, which lies above Pluto’s surface. In the similar case of the Earth / Moon system, the barycenter stays within the interior of the larger body, the Earth.

I know of one other quasi-binary system in this solar system which involves a barycenter outside the larger body, but it isn’t one many would expect: it’s the Sun / Jupiter system. Both orbit their barycenter (or that of the whole solar system, more properly, but they are pretty much in the same place), Jupiter doing so at an average orbital radius of 5.2 AU — and the Sun doing so, staying opposite Jupiter, with an orbital radius which is slightly larger than the visible Sun itself. The Sun, therefore, orbits a point outside itself which is the gravitational center of the entire solar system.

Why don’t we notice this “wobble” in the Sun’s motion? Well, orbiting binary objects orbit their barycenters with equal orbital periods, as seen in the image above, where the orbital period of both the large, tightly-orbiting rhombicosidodecahedron, and the small, large-orbit icosahedron, is precisely eight seconds. In the case of the Sun / Jupiter system, the sun completes one complete Jupiter-induced wobble, in a tight ellipse, with their barycenter at one focus, but with an orbital period of one jovian year, which is just under twelve Earth years. If the Jovian-induced solar wobble were faster, it would be much more noticeable.

[Image credit: the picture of the orbiting polyhedra above was made with software called Stella 4d, available at this website.]

An Image, from Outside All of the Numerous Event Horizons Inside the Universe, During the Early Black Hole Era

late universe

This image shows exactly what most of the universe will look like — on a 1:1 scale, or many other scales — as soon as the long Black Hole Era has begun, so this is the view, sometime after 1040 years have passed since the Big Bang. This is such a long time that it means essentially the same thing as “1040 years from now,” the mere ~1010 years between the beginning of time, and now, fading into insignificance by comparison, not even close to a visible slice of a city-wide pie chart.

This isn’t just after the last star has stopped burning, but also after the last stellar remnant (such as white dwarfs and neutron stars), other than black holes, is gone, which takes many orders of magnitude more time. What is left, in the dark, by this point? A few photons (mostly radio waves), as well as some electrons and positrons — and lots — lots — of neutrinos and antineutrinos. There are also absurd numbers of black holes; their mass dominates the mass of the universe during this time, but slowly diminishes via Hawking radiation, with this decay happening glacially for large black holes, and rapidly for small ones, culminating in a micro-black-hole’s final explosion. Will there be any baryonic matter at all? The unanswered question of the long-term stability of the proton creates uncertainty here, but there will, at minimum, be at least be some protons and neutrons generated, each time a micro-black-hole explodes itself away.

Things stay like this until the last black hole in the cosmos finally evaporates away, perhaps a googol years from now. That isn’t the end of time, but it does make things less interesting, subtracting black holes, and their Hawking radiation, from the mix. It’s still dark, but now even the last of the flashes from a tiny, evaporating black hole has stopped interrupting the darkness, so then, after that . . . nothing does. The universe continues to expand, forever, but the bigger it becomes, the less likely anything complex, and therefore interesting, could possibly have survived the eons intact.

For more on the late stages of the universe, please visit this Wikipedea article, upon which some of the above draws, and the sources cited there.

A Graph Showing Approximate Mass-Boundaries Between Planets, Brown Dwarfs, and Red Dwarf Stars

planet and brown dwarfs and red dwarf stars


I found the data for this graph from a variety of Internet sources, and it is based on a mixture of observational data, as well as theoretical work, produced by astronomers and astrophysicists. The mass-cutoff boundaries I used are approximate, and likely to be somewhat “fuzzy” as well, for other factors, such as chemical composition, age, and temperature (not mass alone), also play a role in the determination of category for individual objects in space.

Also, the mass range for red dwarf stars goes much higher than the top of this graph, as implied by the thick black arrows at the top of the chart. The most massive red dwarfs have approximately 50% of the mass of the Sun, or about 520 Jovian masses.

Proposed Mechanisms for New and Different Types of Novae

Theoretical New Type of Nova

The picture above shows a proposed model for the production of a sudden increase in the brightness of a star — or rather, what is apparently a single star, optically, but would actually be a suddenly-produced binary stellar system.

The yellow object is a star, the system’s primary, and it has high mass (at least a few solar masses), when its mass is compared to those of the brown dwarfs in the two highly elliptical orbits shown in blue. These brown dwarfs aren’t quite stars, lacking enough mass to fuse hydrogen-1, which requires 75 to 80 Jupiter masses, but one of them (the larger one) is close to that limit. The smaller brown dwarf has perhaps half the mass of the larger brown dwarf. Their high orbital eccentricities give them very long orbital periods, on the order or 100,000 years. In a very small fraction of orbits, both brown dwarfs will be near perihelion (closest point to the primary) at the same time, and, during those rare periods, the two brown dwarfs become much closer to each other than they are to the primary.

When the two brown dwarfs become close enough to each other, matter from the smaller one could be drawn, by gravity, into the larger brown dwarf, increasing its mass, at the expense of its smaller sibling. At some point, in such a system, the larger brown dwarf’s mass could then reach the threshold to begin fusing hydrogen-1, and “turn on” as a true star — a red dwarf. From Earth, this red dwarf would not be distinguishable from the system’s most massive star, shown in yellow, until much later, when the two moved further apart. There would, however, be a sudden increase in luminosity from the system as a whole. Unlike other types of novae, this increase in luminosity would not fade away quickly, for red dwarfs have very long lifespans. This would enable them, upon discovery, to be distinguished from other single-brightening stellar events. Confirmation could then come from resolution of the new red dwarf component, as it recedes from the primary, making detection easier.

For a variation on this mechanism, the primary star could be somewhat more massive, and the two large brown dwarfs could be replaced by two large red dwarf stars. The larger red dwarf could draw matter from the smaller one, until the larger red dwarf became large enough to cross a higher mass threshold, and brighten substantially, with its color suddenly changing to orange or yellow.

A problem for this model:  no such events are known to have happened. If they do happen, a likely explanation for their rarity is the likelihood that such orbits would be unstable, in a large fraction of similar cases, preventing the stellar-brightening event from having time to happen — in all but a few cases, none of which humans have (yet) both seen, and understood. If one of these things goes off nearby, though, we will learn about it quickly, for it will make itself known.

For another possible mechanism, there is another option:  remove the primary altogether, and let the two objects of near-threshold mass orbit their common center of mass directly. They could then create a new star, or brighter star, by the mechanism described, one which might even produce a detectable accretion disk. A actual merger of the two brown dwarfs, or red dwarf stars, would be a variation of this idea, and would presumably be more likely if the two objects had masses very close to each other, so that neither would have an advantage in the gravitational tug-of-war.