Home Thermal vs. Nonthermal Radiation

Two categories of light

"Light" or electromagnetic radiation can be categorized into two major groups: "thermal" and "nonthermal" radiation. There are many objects visible in space from our little corner of the universe here on earth. We can see: our sun, our moon, our solar system's planets, comets, interstellar gas and dust, stars within our Milky Way Galaxy, other galaxies, white dwarf stars, neutron stars, novas, supernovas, pulsars, radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies, BL Lacertae objects, quasars, (possibly) black holes, Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs), and many other objects.
We only "see" these objects because of the light they send to us through space (or, in a few instances because of how they block the light.) This light can be analyzed by looking at its spectra. This process is called spectroscopy.
Most light, from common objects like our sun and the majority of stars, is what is called "thermal." If you add up all of the light that you see during a normal day and then categorize it -- thermal versus nonthermal -- almost 100 percent, if not 100 percent, would be thermal radiation. In general thermal radiation is very well understood and is produced by electrons changing positions in their orbital shells around atoms.
Thermal light is categorized as having certain wavelengths and frequencies that can be charted as having a continuous spectrum. The chart of this spectrum has a special shape and is referred to as "blackbody radiation" or "thermal radiation."

Blackbody Radiation

In essence the light produced from objects that make blackbody radiation comes from the electrons in atoms. As the electrons move from one orbit to another in an atom, they produce photons. This process is very well understood by scientists. The development of Quantum Physics started as a result of scientists efforts to explain Blackbody Radiation.

Nonthermal Radiation

Some of the more unusual objects in space such as supernovas, pulsars, radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies, BL Lacertae objects, GRBs, and others, produce copious amounts of photons that can not be described as "blackbody radiation" or "thermal radiation." These photons almost certainly were not made by electrons changing their orbit. This process is not as well understood by scientists, and what is known may be incomplete.
Scientists know of two techniques that can be used to create nonthermal radiation: the Synchrotron Process and the Inverse Compton Process. The Ball-of-Light Particle Model describes a new -- third -- process that can produce nonthermal radiation. This particle model describes "elementary" particles as: standing, spherical waves of electric, magnetic, and gravitational fields -- in essence as balls of light. According to this particle model, when these "elementary" particles decay, they create nonthermal radiation. The Ball-of-Light Particle Model also predicts nonthermal radiation can be created by the electromagnetic fields on the surface of a ball-of-light.
To summarize: thermal radiation comes just from electrons moving within atoms; nonthermal radiation comes from any surface or the decay of a ball-of-light.
It is important to understand, in the Ball-of-Light Particle Model, "elementary" particles are not necessarily small. Theoretically, the only limit to the size of such a particle involves all of the energy in the universe. To be more explicit, the sum of all energy that comprises the universe today may have existed as one extremely large "elementary" particle; the cores of objects that produce nonthermal radiation -- such as a quasar -- may be smaller, but still are very large "elementary" particles. Other examples include the cores of: all stars, white dwarf stars, neutron stars, novas, supernovas, pulsars, radio galaxies, Seyfert galaxies, BL Lacertae objects, black holes, and GRBs.

The Ball-of-Light Particle Model predicts the core of our sun and the cores of "normal" stars are also similar single, large, elementary particles rather than a conglomeration of plasma or something else called "degenerate" matter.
Proving or disproving this theory should be relatively easy. It should be possible to make in a vacuum in a laboratory here on earth standing, spherical waves of electric, magnetic and gravitational energy, then watch these particles decay, and analyze their spectra to see if they give off thermal or nonthermal radiation. If a decaying ball-of-light gives off nonthermal radiation, then this would support the Ball-of-Light Particle Model.
If energy can form standing waves in such a manner as described here, then this new, more elementary method, of producing nonthermal radiation should have tremendous implications for physics, astrophysics and astronomy.

Synchrotron Radiation

When electrons are accelerated or decelerated in a magnetic field, then they give off radiation known as synchrotron radiation -- when decelerating, it is sometimes called braking radiation or "Bremsstrahlung" radiation.

Synchrotron Radiation from Pulsars?

If pulsars create their radiation using the synchrotron method, then the pulsar would need a massive magnetic field, and a continuous supply -- lasting billions of years -- of very high energy electrons. It might be possible to create a situation in space where these unusual conditions are met. However, there appear to be pulsars spread throughout the universe and they appear to be fairly common. It is unlikely that such an unusual process would be the source of energy for an apparently common object.

The Ball-of-Light Particle Model predicts pulsars are balls-of-light that have a massive electromagnetic wave sweeping across them. It predicts they do not make their radiation using the synchrotron method.

Nonthermal Radiation from Pulsars

"We must admit at the outset that we have a very poor understanding of the processes by which pulsars radiate."

F. G. Smith
Pulsars, W. H. Freeman & Co.
San Francisco, 1977, page 171

"It is clear that the observed continuous energy distribution does not accord with any model in which the radiation is emitted thermally from a hot gas." "There are only two processes that appear to be possible in this situation. They are synchrotron emission and emission by the inverse Compton process."

M. and G. Burbidge
Quasi-Stellar Objects, W. H. Freeman & Co.
San Francisco, 1967, page 52

It is assumed that the energy source for pulsars is synchrotron radiation because, up until now, there has been no other alternatives to creating nonthermal radiation. The argument goes something like this: pulsars exist, pulsars produce nonthermal radiation, scientists don't have an alternative for creating nonthermal radiation in Pulsars other than synchrotron radiation, therefore pulsars must be theoretically modeled using synchrotron radiation.
Synchrotron radiation is polarized. It has been argued that since the radiation from pulsars is polarized, this proves that pulsars use synchrotron radiation. (This is not a valid argument.)
Some of the problems with these arguments are: we do not know everything; there might be some other process that generates the pulsar's energy, another process might also create polarized radiation.
One of the cornerstones of the Ball-of-Light Particle Model is elementary particles are built up from oppositely polarized photons. When the matter is converted to energy, it is a natural result that the radiation would be polarized. Thus, since light from pulsars is polarized, this also supports the Ball-of-Light Particle Model.
The Ball-of-Light Particle Model easily explains pulsars in a new manner:

Graphic from page 289

Nonthermal Radiation from Radio Galaxies

Radio galaxies such as 3C 449 produce tremendous amounts of nonthermal radiation. Current astrophysical theory can not explain this radiation with the synchrotron radiation explanation. The arms of huge radio galaxies like 3C449 can be 100 million light years long. But at best, synchrotron radiation could only work out to about 10 million light years. After that, the electrons would have decelerated to the point where they do not radiate any more. Furthermore, as many reports indicate, it is common at the ends of a radio galaxy's arms for the radiation to brighten!
The Ball-of-Light Particle Model easily explains all characteristics of radio galaxies:

Radio Galaxy 3C 449

(The central ball-of-light is ejecting smaller balls-of-light off two opposite poles. As the ejected balls-of-light fly away from the central core they undergo a "fizzle" decay mode. When they slow down sufficiently, they become less stable and decay explosively in the outer lobes. This explains how the energy is transported to the lobes from the core and many other details.)