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Why is the night sky dark?

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by Ronald Koster

(http://www.ronaldkoster.net)

Version 1.2, 2002-07-31

1 Introduction

Why is the night sky dark? According to Olbers paradox the night (and day)

sky should be innitely bright. In this article it is considerd how Olber comes to

this remarkable conclusion, and a solution to solve his paradox is proposed. This

is a solution which does not require rejecting any of Olbers basic assumptions

of the universe.

Olbers paradox arises when we make the following assumptions about the

universe:

1. it is an innite Euclidean space;

2. it has innite age;

3. matter is, on average, uniformly distributed through the entire universe;

4. it is static.

We call this a Newtonian Universe.

2 Denitions

2.1 Universal average out-bound energy ow

Consider a small volume element dV at position r in the universe. Let p

out

(r)dV

be the amount of energy per time unit streaming out of this element. Similar,

let p

in

(r)dV be the in-bound energy ow for this element. The net out-bound

energy p

no

dV ow for this element is thus given by

p

no

dV = (p

out

p

in

)dV (1)

Assumption 3 implies that we can dene a universal average net out-bound

energy ow p as follows

p lim

V

1

V

V

(p

out

p

in

)dV (2)

We can deduce several properties for p. From assumption 4 we conclude

d

dt

p = 0 (3)

1

Furthermore it is likely that p is proportional to the universal average mass

density , which we can dene in a similar way. With

universe

(r) being the

actual mass density at position r, this leads to the following two equations

lim

V

1

V

universe

dV (4)

p = k

p

(5)

With k

p

a universal constant dened by (5).

2.2 Universal average attenuation length

Consider particles ying through space. Let P

na

(a + b) be the probability of a

particle not being absorbed (or scattered or decayed) ying a distance a+b. Let

P

na

(a) and P

na

(b) be the probability of that particle not being absorbed ying

the distances a and b of distance a+b. Since P

na

(a) and P

na

(b) are independant

of each other, the following is true

P

na

(a + b) = P

na

(a)P

na

(b) (6)

Furthermore the following is trivial

P

na

(0) = 0 (7)

Assuming space has, on average, uniform attenuation properties (follows from

assumption 3), equations (6) and (7) lead to

P

na

(r) = e

r/

(8)

With P

na

(r) the probability of a particle not being absorbed ying a distance

r. This means a beam of particles, and thus a beam of energy (which consists

of particles too), attenuates over a distance r with a factor e

r/

.

Let

universe

(r) be the actual value of the attenution length at position r.

Similar to the in-bound energy ow and mass density we can dene a universal

average attenuation length as

lim

V

1

V

universe

dV (9)

Again it is likey that is proportional to , thus

= k

(10)

With k

d

dt

= 0 (11)

3 The Paradox

Consider the amount of energy per time unit dP reaching the Earth from volume

element dV at distance r from the center of the Earth. This value is given by

dP = p dV

R

2

4r

2

(12)

2

With R the radius of the Earth. Thus the total amount of energy reaching the

Earth per time unit P is

P = lim

V

V

p

R

2

4r

2

dV (13)

=

0

p

R

2

4r

2

4r

2

dr (14)

= R

2

p

0

dr (15)

= (16)

An innite number. This means that the temperature on Earth should be

innite and the sky should be innitely bright. Clearly this is not true. This is

Olbers paradox.

4 The Solution

In the previuos calculation of the amount of energy per time unit reaching us,

shielding of outer spherical shells by inner shells has not been taken into account.

If we do take this into account, this results in a modication of (12) to

dP = p dV

R

2

4r

2

e

r/

(17)

The energy reaching us from the distant volume element is attenuated with a

factor e

r/

. The total amount of energy reaching the Earth per time unit P

is now given by

P = lim

V

V

p

R

2

4r

2

e

r/

dV (18)

=

0

p

R

2

4r

2

e

r/

4r

2

dr (19)

= R

2

p

0

e

r/

dr (20)

= R

2

p (21)

A nite number. The paradox has been solved!

5 Further Analysis

The energy ux at the Earths surface follows from (21)

=

P

4R

2

(22)

=

1

4

p (23)

Substituting (5) and (10) gives

=

1

4

k

p

k

2

(24)

3

The quantities , k

p

and k

easier determined than k

p

and k

these quantities, we have (using (24)) a way of determining the average mass

density the entire universe! That is, the average mass density of visible mass,

since this equation is concerned with mass that interacts with radiation. Dark

matter (if it exists), which by denition doesnt interact with radiation except

by gravitation, is excluded from this deduction.

6 Gravity Paradox

Similar to Olbers paradox one can consider the gravitional potential energy

a mass will experience at any point in space. The contribution from a volume

element dV at distance r from an arbitrarily chosen point is given by

d =

GdV

r

(25)

Notice: this time includes visible and non-visible mass (dark matter). Thus

the total at any point chosen is

= lim

V

V

GdV

r

(26)

=

0

G4r

2

dr

r

(27)

= G4

0

rdr (28)

=

2

(29)

Innity to the power of 2! An even worse result than Olbers paradox. And

since gravitation can not be shielded, another explanation is needed for this

phenomenon.

The solution is the assumption matter is on average uniformy distributed

through space. That results in the cancelation of gravitional forces, since for

every element dV there is one exact opposit element exercising an exact opposite

force. Equivalently, one can never observe this potential energy, since it is

innite but equal at any point in space. Hence, there is no gradient and thus

no resulting force. And since it is unobservable, it is not relevant. One can

consider it to be zero. A sort of second normalization (the rst one being the

statement that as a result from a mass m equals zero at innite distance from

it).

An odd but maybe satifying solution. However, less convenient than the

one for Olbers paradox. Maybe this strange ininite potential has something

to do with Machs principle? Maybe a more neat nomalization will not race to

innity but will have some remaining eect explaining Machs principle?

7 Conclusion

There is a way of solving Olbers paradox without resorting to rejecting one or

more of Olbers basic assumptions of the universe. For example by stating the

4

universe is nite, has a nite age, etc. A more conventional solution, leaving

the assumptions intact, exists as well. This conventinal solution doesnt require

rejecting any of the assumptions, but it doesnt forbid doing so either.

Unfortunately there is no such solution for the Gravity paradox. There is

another solution however, but much less satisfying.

5

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