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The sun may have a dual personality, suggest simulations

 Sunspots on dual personality, simulations suggest
Sunspots appear on the surface of Earth's sun. Credit: NASA / SDO

Researchers at CU Boulder have discovered hints that humanity's favorite star may have a dual personality, with intriguing discrepancies in its magnetic fields that could hold the sun's own "internal clock."

Physicists Loren Matilsky and Yuri Toomre developed a computer simulation of the sun's interior as a means of capturing the inner roiling turmoil of the star. In the process, the team spotted something unexpected: On rare occasions, the sun's internal dynamics may be out of their normal routines and switch to an alternate state — bit like a superhero trading cape and cowl for civilian clothes.

findings are only preliminary, Matilsky said, they can line up with real observations of the sun dating back to the 1

9th century.

He added that the existence of such a solar alternative could provide physicists with new processes to the processes that govern the sun's internal clock — a cycle in which the sun switches from periods of high activity to low activity about once every 11 years.

more violent than others, "said Matilsky, a graduate student at JILA. "Our ultimate goal is to map what we're seeing in the model to the sun's surface so that we can make predictions."

He will present the team's findings at a press briefing today at the 234th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St. Louis.

The study takes a deep look at a phenomenon that scientists call the solar "dynamo," essentially a concentration of the star's magnetic energy. This dynamo is formed by the spinning and twisting of the hot gases inside the sun and can have big impacts – an especially active solar dynamo can generate large numbers of sunspots and solar flares, or globs or energy that blast out from the surface. ] But that dynamo isn't easy to study, Matilsky said. That's because it mainly forms and evolves within the sun's interior, out of range of most scientific instruments.

" the sun's internal magnetism and few steps removed from real observations, "he said.

 Computer simulations of the sun's dynamo over several hundred years. During "normal" solar cycles (top), which alternates formally into the sun's northern and southern hemispheres and moves steadily toward the equator, before resetting. In the "alternate" cycle (bottom), that alternatives form in one hemisphere over the other and then wanders for several years. Credit: Loren Matilsky / Yuri Toomre
<p> To get around that limitation, many solar physicists use massive supercomputers to try out what's occurring inside the sun. </p>
<p> of boiling water. "</p>
<p> And, he said, this model delivered some interesting results. When the researchers ran their simulation, they first found that the solar dynamo formed the north and south of the sun's equator. Following a regular cycle, that dynamo moved toward the equator and stopped, then reset in close agreement with actual observations of the sun. </p>
<p> But that regular churn wasn't the whole picture. Roughly twice every 100 years, the simulated sun did something different. </p>
<p> In those strange cases, the solar dynamo didn't follow that same cycle, instead, clustered in one hemisphere over the other. </p>
<p> "That additional dynamo cycle would kind of wander, "Matilsky said." It would stay in one hemisphere over a few cycles, then move into the other one. Eventually, the solar generator would return to its original state. "</p>
<p> That pattern could be a fluke of the model, Matilsky said, but it might also be real, and previously unknown, behavior of the solar dynamo. He added that astronomers have, on rare occasions, seen sun spots in one hemisphere of more than the other, an observation that matches the CU Boulder team's findings. </p>
<p> Matilsky said that the group will need to develop its model further to see if the dual dynamo pans out. But he said that the team's results could be one day, help explain the cause of the peaks and dips in the sun's activity – patterns that have huge implications for climate and technological societies on Earth. </p><div>
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"It gives us clues to how the sun might shut off its dynamo and turn itself back on again, "he said.

Study corroborates the influence of planetary tidal forces on solar activity

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University of Colorado at Boulder

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                                                 The sun may have a dual personality, simulation suggest (2019, June 12)
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