So for a while, I'm going repost and polish up some of the items that I contributed to the recently invigorated "Electric Comet" thread over at the International Skeptics Forum. That thread was rather quiet for a while as it topped 100 pages long, but has been continued in a new thread.
In response to my noting that astronomers and space physicists DO consider electric fields in space (see 365 Days of Astronomy: The Electric Universe) there was one of the claims by the participant Haig which I had not seen before:
Gee Tom, sounds like your trying to re-write Electromagnetism Space Science history.My original response to this claim is here (ISF), but in this post I'll fill in more of the details.
A major catalyst for independent re-consideration of electricity and magnetism in space came in 1950, with the publication of Immanuel Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision.
Mainstream at that time denied Electromagnetism in Space or ANY need for it.
I have loads of papers exploring cosmic electrical phenomena prior to the publication of Worlds in Collision in 1950, so Haig's statement is demonstrably false.
The big jump in the study of electrical phenomena in space was the advent of space flight. With the early high-altitude sub-orbital rockets like Aerobee (Wikipedia) and Viking (Wikipedia), came the prospect that we could do actual measurements of particles and fields in space. The success of the scientific community in contributing technologies for the Allied win of World War II combined with the competition of the coming Cold War made nations around the world expand their efforts to understand the space environment, especially the space near Earth, which could become the next High Frontier.
But even prior to this, researchers looked for evidence of electric and magnetic fields in space. For a number of years, the difficulty was that most of our knowledge of the space environment came via light, which meant that the most direct measurements of distant magnetic and electric fields came via the Zeeman effect (Wikipedia) and the Stark effect (Wikipedia) which affected spectral lines emitted by atoms in the respective fields.
After setting up geomagnetic observatories around the Earth in the early 1840s with Weber, Carl Gauss (Wikipedia, Phy6) recognized that most of the geomagnetic field was internal, but some components could be from electric currents high in Earth's atmosphere.
This is just a subset of the papers that I have found, in English, and read, related to electric fields in space, prior to the publication of Worlds In Collision. In this list, I've not included Birkeland or Alfven's work, though I have referenced those who made use of their work, such as Carl Stormer. This illustrates how these studies were far from limited to researchers promoted by Electric Universe supporters. I've added comments to some of these entries.
- G. E. Hale. A Sun-Spot Hypothesis. Proceedings of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 24:226–227, October 1912. doi: 10.1086/122166. Hale speculates that sunspots might have a magnetic structure similar to Birkeland's auroral model, mentioning Birkeland by name. Birkeland's work was known and appreciated by astronomers in the U.S. G.E. Hale was responsible for setting up many observatories in the U.S. (Wikipedia).
- G. E. Hale. The Zeeman and Stark Effects. Proceedings of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 26:146, June 1914. doi: 10.1086/122319. An interesting quote from the paper: "The important discovery by Stark of the effect of an electric field on radiation is one of the greatest interest to the physicist and may prove of equal value to the astronomer."
- G. E. Hale and H. D. Babcock. An attempt to measure the free electricity in the sun’s atmosphere. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1(3):123–127, March 1915.
- C. Stormer. Corpuscular Theory of the Aurora Borealis. Journal of Geophysical Research, 22:23–34, 1917.
- V. M. Slipher. The spectrum of Lightning. Lowell Observatory Bulletin, 3:55–58, 1917. Sometimes when the weather doesn't cooperate for your astronomical spectroscopy, serendipity may provide other observations where specialized observatory equipment can contribute. This is the same V.M. Slipher who did many of the redshifts of extragalactic nebulae which established the cosmic expansion (Wikipedia).
- H. Spencer Jones. The corpuscular theory of the aurora borealis. The Observatory, 41:92–94, February 1918. Mentions the work of Herbert Goldstein (1881) who was among the first to suggest the Sun sends electrical rays into space.
- A. Pannekoek. Ionization in stellar atmospheres (Errata: 2 24). Bulletin of the Astronomical Institutes of the Netherlands, 1:107–118, July 1922.
- S. Rosseland. Electrical state of a star. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 84:720–728, June 1924.
- H. Benioff. The Present Status of the Electrical Theory of Comet Forms. Proceedings of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, 36:200–203, August 1924. This paper might be considered as the final stake through the heart of the idea that comets were 'electric discharges'.
- O. Struve. The Stark Effect in Stellar Spectra. Astrophysical Journal, 69:173–195, April 1929. doi: 10.1086/143174.
- V. C. A. Ferraro. A note on the possible emission of electric currents from the sun. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 91:174–184, November 1930.
- C. Stormer. Twenty-Five Years’ Work on the Polar Aurora. Journal of Geophysical Research, 35:193–208, 1930. doi: 10.1029/TE035i004p00193.
- R. Gunn. The Electrical State of the Sun. Physical Review, 37:983–989, April 1931. doi: 10.1103/Phys- Rev.37.983.
- T. G. Cowling. The electrical conductivity of an ionised gas in the presence of a magnetic field. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 93:90–98, November 1932.
- R. Wildt. Note on stellar ionization and electric fields. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 97:225–231, January 1937.
- R. V. D. R. Woolley. The Stark effect in stellar spectra. The Observatory, 60:235–239, September 1937.
- L. I. Schiff. A Question in General Relativity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 25: 391–395, July 1939. Don't let the title fool you, it actually an examination of the proper way to compute the electric field created by a rotating magnetic dipole by transforming to a rotating reference frame!
- L. Davis. Stellar Electromagnetic Fields. Physical Review, 72:632–633, October 1947. doi: 10.1103/Phys- Rev.72.632. Another analysis of the electric fields that would be generated by a rotating star with a magnetic field.
- R. H. Woodward. a Tentative Model of the Sun. Journal of Geophysical Research, 54:387–396, December 1949. doi: 10.1029/JZ054i004p00387.
- V. C. A. Ferraro and H. W. Unthank. On the Solar Electric Field Engendered by the Rotation of the Sun in its Magnetic Field. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 109:462–470, 1949.
Electric Universe (EU) advocates continue to deny this long history of the legitimate study of electric fields in space, attempting to rewrite the history. Many of these earlier works ruled out EU claims that comets/planets/stars/galaxies/whatever derive their energy output by electrical means from some still unknown generator. This makes it easy for EU advocates to claim any modern day mention of electric fields in the space science and astronomy community is evidence of their specific claims. It's rather like a psychic claiming there will be a major earthquake or major celebrity death in the coming year. It's only a surprise to people who don't pay attention to the number of large earthquakes and celebrity deaths occur every year!
Electric Universe supporters continue their track record of poor scholarship, in additional to supporting a 'theory' that has yet to generate useful predictions for planning space missions (see Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists'...).