Researchers at CU Boulder have discovered evidence that humanity's favorite star could have a dual personality, with intriguing discrepancies in its magnetic fields that might contain clues to the "internal clock" of the sun.
Physicists Loren Matilsky and Juri Toomre developed a computer simulation of the Sun's interior to capture the star's inner turbulence. The team uncovered something unexpected: in rare cases, the Sun's internal dynamics can jump out of their normal routines and transition to another state, like a superhero swapping cloak and hood for civilian clothing.
The results are only preliminary, Matilsky said, and may be consistent with real 1
The existence of such a solar alter ego could give physicists new clues to the processes that made it possible to regulate the Sun's internal clock – a cycle in which the Sun changes from periods of high activity to periods of low activity approximately every eleven years ,
"We do not know how the cycle period is set for the Sun or why some cycles are more violent than others," said Matilsky, a PhD student at JILA. "Our ultimate goal is to map what we see in the model to the sun's surface so that we can make predictions."
He will present the results of the team today at a press conference at the 234th American Astronomical Meeting Society in St. Louis.
The study deals in detail with a phenomenon that scientists call the solar "dynamo", essentially a concentration of the star's magnetic energy. This dynamo is created by spinning and twisting the hot gases in the sun and can have a big impact – a particularly active solar dynamo can produce a large number of sunspots and solar flares or energy rays emitted from the surface.  But this dynamo is not easy to study, Matilsky said. This is because it forms and develops mainly in the interior of the sun, far beyond the reach of most scientific instruments.
"We can not dive into the interior, which makes the Sun's internal magnetism a few steps away from real observations," he said.
To circumvent this limitation, many solar physicists use massive supercomputers to replicate what is going on in the sun.
Matilsky and Toomre's simulation examine the activity in the outer third of this interior, which Matilsky sees as "a spherical pot" of boiling water. And, he said, this model provided some interesting results: In the simulation, the researchers first noticed that the solar dynamo had formed north and south of the solar equator, and after a regular cycle this dynamo moved towards the equator and stopped Then it was reset in close accordance with the actual observations of the sun, and about every 100 years the simulated sun did otherwise.
In these strange cases, the solar dynamo did not follow the same cycle, but accumulated on one hemisphere over the other
"This extra dynamo bike would somehow wander," Matilsky said, "it would stay in one hemisphere for a few cycles and then transition to the other. Eventually, the solar dynamo would return to its original state. "
This pattern might be a coincidence of the model, Matilsky said, but it may also point to a real and previously unknown behavior of the solar dynamo, adding that in rare cases astronomers seen more sunspots on one hemisphere of the sun than on the other, an observation that matches the results of the CU Boulder team.
Matilsky said the group must develop their model to see if the twin dynamo fails he said that the team's findings one day could help explain the cause of solar activity peaks and dips – patterns that have a huge impact on the climate and technological societies on Earth.
"We exist Indications of how the sun could turn off its dynamo and switch back on, "he said.
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The sun can have a dual personality, as simulations suggest (2019, June 12)
retrieved on June 12, 2019
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