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Plasma Flow Near Sun’s Surface Explains Sunspots, Other Solar Phenomena

21 Sep 2019, 18:33 UTC
Plasma Flow Near Sun’s Surface Explains Sunspots, Other Solar Phenomena
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For 400 years people have tracked sunspots, the dark patches that appear for weeks at a time on the sun's surface. They have observed but been unable to explain why the number of spots peaks every 11 years.A University of Washington study published this month in the journal Physics of Plasmas proposes a model of plasma motion that would explain the 11-year sunspot cycle and several other previously mysterious properties of the sun."Our model is completely different from a normal picture of the sun," said first author Thomas Jarboe, a UW professor of aeronautics and astronautics. "I really think we're the first people that are telling you the nature and source of solar magnetic phenomena -- how the sun works."The authors created a model based on their previous work with fusion energy research. The model shows that a thin layer beneath the sun's surface is key to many of the features we see from Earth, like sunspots, magnetic reversals and solar flow, and is backed up by comparisons with observations of the sun."The observational data are key to confirming our picture of how the sun functions," Jarboe said.In the new model, a thin layer of magnetic flux and plasma, or ...

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