The mysteries of sunspots and solar magnetic fields have been investigated in NASA supercomputing simulations


Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The Sun is much more than just a source of light for Earth – it is a dynamic and complex star, whose storms, flares and motion constantly change it. Magnetic fields control most of the solar activity we can observe, but how they do this is still not well understood. New findings based on simulations from NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley paint a more complete picture of one of the sun’s most remarkable magnetically driven features — the cycle of sunspot formation known as the “torsional oscillation.” ”

A computational analysis of data about the sun’s structure and dynamics from two NASA spacecraft has revealed that the strength of these torsional oscillations, which are driven by magnetic fields deep in the sun’s interior, continues to decrease. This indicates that the current sunspot The cycle may be weaker than the previous cycle, and the long-term trend of declining magnetic fields of the Sun is likely to continue. Such changes in the Sun’s interior could have implications for space weather and Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

The sunspot cycle begins when a sunspot begins to form at about 30 degrees latitude on the Sun’s surface. Then the formation zone begins to migrate towards the equator. At its zenith, the sun is cosmopolitan magnetic field it contains polar regions Inverted – As if there were a positive and negative end of a magnet at each of the sun’s poles, and they were swapped. These 22-year variations are caused by dynamo processes inside the Sun.

This simulation shows zonal flow patterns within the Sun. The acceleration of the flow is shown in red, and the slowing down in blue. The inset shows the lower part of the convective region. Studying these outflows deep in the Sun’s interior through helioscience data analysis and numerical simulations helps to understand the processes of magnetic field generation and the origin of solar magnetic cycles. Credit: Alexander Kosovichev/New Jersey Institute of Technology; Tim Sandstrom/NASA Ames

Dynamo is when a fluid or plasma is rotated, convectively transported, and electrically connected to maintain a magnetic field. These deep magnetic fields are hidden, not directly observable, but their traces can be seen in variations of the solar rotation, creating a periodic pattern of migratory flows through the regions – torsional oscillations. In some regions, this rotation is speeded up or slowed down, while in others it remains constant.

This analysis used data from two NASA missions, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Stanford’s Joint Science Operations Center processed 22 years’ worth of observations from both missions — more than five petabytes in all. NASA’s supercomputing facilities handled flow analysis, numerical modeling and visualization that gave scientists a better look at this complex pattern.

Going forward, improvements to data accuracy, data analysis techniques, and model simulations will help combine models of the Sun’s magnetic fields with models of sunspot activity, enhancing understanding of how these processes affect the Sun’s deep interior. What happens to the sun, including the processes that take place beneath its surface, affects space weather, which affects the entire solar system, including Earth. The more we know about the star that lights up our home, the better we can understand its impact on our planet.

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