How the sun gets its spots

Jan 07, 2011 by Lily Whiteman
One of the leading researchers studying the sun reveals the origins and lifecycles of sunspots. This high-resolution image of a sunspot was taken at the Sacramento Peak Observatory of the National Solar Observatory in New Mexico. The direction of the fringes around the sunspot indicate the direction of the sun's magnetic field. Credit: National Solar Observatory

Sunspots are huge, dark, irregularly shaped--and yet, temporary--areas of intense magnetism on the sun that expand and contract as they move.

The diameters of are frequently on the order of 50,000 miles," said Frank Hill of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Solar Observatory. "By contrast, the Earth's diameter at the is about 8,000 miles. The intense magnetism of sunspots usually reaches about 3,000 Gauss. [The more intense a body's is, the higher its Gauss number.] By contrast, refrigerator magnets average about 5 Gauss, the sun averages about 1.0 Gauss, and the Earth averages about .50 Gauss."

Most of the sun's surface is covered by convection cells--roiling and boiling gases that bring heat up to the sun's surface from the furnace in its core via convection. However, the intense magnetism of sunspots inhibits convection and the associated heat transport to them. Therefore, their temperatures range from about 5,000 to 7,600 degrees Fahrenheit (F), cooler than their surroundings, which hover around 10,000 degrees F.

It is only because of the "coolness" of sunspots that they appear black relative to their surroundings; if sunspots could be separated from their surroundings, they would appear brighter than electric arcs.

Sunspots are cyclic. The number of sunspots increases and decreases over a period of approximately 11 years. During solar maximums, when sunspot activity is high, areas near sunspot clusters experience particularly frequent explosive activity, such as Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), massive blasts of highly charged particles and gases hurled from the sun. CMEs can pose serious threats to people because they may damage satellites, increase the of astronauts, disrupt communication and navigation systems, and knock out and other high-tech systems.

During solar minimums, when sunspot activity is low, CMEs occur less frequently than they do during maximums. Nevertheless, solar minimums are not necessarily CME-free periods; large CMEs have occurred during solar minimums.

"During the solar cycle, slow (20 to 30 mile per hour) flows of plasmas, known as jet streams, move from east to west across the sun and slowly south from the solar north pole and slowly north from the south pole to the equator," Hill said.

Jet streams reach depths of about 65,000 miles below the sun's surface. "Sunspots and the jet stream are closely associated with one another in terms of location and behavior," adds Hill. Sunspots initially appear during a solar cycle when the center of the jet stream reaches a latitude of about 25 degrees. Also, sunspots are born above the jet stream and reach deep inside the sun into the stream.

At the beginning of any given sunspot cycle, sunspots are usually born in clusters at high latitudes. But by the end of the cycle, the birthplace of sunspots has--like the jet stream--usually moved to the equator.

During the current sunspot cycle, the jet stream took a year and a half longer to reach a latitude of 25 degrees than during the previous cycle. Likewise, the solar minimum between the previous and current cycle lasted 1.5 years longer than the previous minimum. This observation suggests that "scientists might be able to use the jet stream to predict the timing of sunspot cycles," Hill said. "Nevertheless, we don't know yet whether the jet stream causes sunspots or sunspots cause the jet stream."

How can scientists possibly determine what's happening in the sun's depths from our vantage 93 million miles away? They observe the speed of waves travelling through the sun, which manifest on the sun's surface as observable up-and-down oscillations of gases. From those oscillations, scientists can deduce the temperatures, composition and movement of materials inside the sun.

The technique of "seeing" inside the by observing its oscillations--known as helioseismology--is analogous to techniques used in Earth seismology to "see" inside our planet by measuring how long it takes earthquake-generated waves to travel through the interior and reach the Earth's surface.

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User comments : 7

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omatumr
1 / 5 (7) Jan 07, 2011
The Sun's magnetic fields are " deep-seated remnants of very ancient origin. These could have been generated from . . . a) Bose-Einstein condensation of iron-rich, zero-spin material into a rotating, superfluid, superconductor surrounding the solar core and/or b) superfluidity and quantized vortices in nucleon-paired Fermions at the core." [See: "Superfluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate," Journal of Fusion Energy 21 (2002) 193-198].

I.e., from the Sun's a.) iron-rich mantle or b.) the neutron star at the Sun's core.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Ethelred
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 07, 2011
Or it could be from churning plasma. Especially since there is no evidence, even in your papers, to support either of two statements. The Sun is too small to have a neutron core and it has not iron rich mantle.

It does have a LOT of hydrogen.

Ethelred
ennui27
3 / 5 (4) Jan 07, 2011
Or it could be from churning plasma. Especially since there is no evidence, even in your papers, to support either of two statements. The Sun is too small to have a neutron core and it has not iron rich mantle.

It does have a LOT of hydrogen.

Ethelred


I agree .... I thought it took a supermassive sun to create the heavier atoms such as iron.
omatumr
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 08, 2011
Observations are dumbfounding for those who ignore experimental evidence [1] of powerful repulsive interactions between neutrons.

"We were dumbfounded," said Roger Blandford, who directs the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, jointly located at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University [2].

1. "Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source",
Journal of Fusion Energy 20, 197-201 (2003).

2. Phys Org news item: Fermi's Large Area Telescope sees surprising flares in Crab Nebula (Astronomy 6 Jan 2011)

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Ethelred
5 / 5 (5) Jan 08, 2011
Observations are dumbfounding for those who ignore experimental evidence [1] of powerful repulsive interactions between neutrons.
What experimental evidence. You have proof that atoms need MORE neutrons as the mass goes up. IF neutrons were repelling each other then the neutrons would make the atoms LESS stable instead of more stable. Which I have pointed out many times and you have pretended it never happened. Which is what Cranks do.

We were dumbfounded," said Roger Blandford,
Sure is interesting that it was FLARES that he was referring to. So why did try to make it look like he supported you when he did not?

Ethelred
beelize54
1 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2011
..we don't know yet whether the jet stream causes sunspots or sunspots cause the jet stream..
This question is easy to answer, because the periodicity of solar cycle is apparently caused with periodicity of Jupiter planet, which is switching the direction of Solar plasma with Coriollis force. The sunspots are driven with transport of solar plasma to surface, after then.
PS3
not rated yet Jan 10, 2011
Maybe they could take many photos over time of the spots and build a photo showing what is really inside.

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