When and where sunspots will emerge can be predicted 1 day in advance

   Jul 10, 2:41 pm

Washington, July 10 (ANI): A team of researchers has found that subtle surface signs can reveal when and where sunspots will emerge on the Sun, at least a day in advance.

Using data from the Global Oscillations Network Group (GONG) and the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), scientists from NorthWest Research Associates (NWRA) and the Max-Planck-Institut fur Sonnensystemforschung (MPS) have found detectable signs of magnetic fields before they emerge at the solar surface to form sunspots.

Statistically significant differences were found between areas that produced groups of sunspots (called active regions) as compared to areas that stayed sunspot-free.

The differences persisted for at least a day prior to the first appearance of an active region.

While these differences are too small to make prediction possible for any single active region, the signals were visible for small and large (future) active regions alike, thus providing insight into a key piece of the sunspot formation process.

Solar active regions are areas on the surface of the Sun with strong concentrations of magnetic field.

One common model for the formation of active regions assumes that bundles of magnetic field are generated deep in the solar interior, become buoyant and rise up to the surface of the Sun.

When a flux bundle passes through the surface, it forms an active region.

This magnetic flux emergence is a fundamental process for the Sun and presumably solar-like stars, yet surprisingly little is known about its nature.

Active regions are the source of many space weather events that can impact Earth, so understanding their formation may ultimately lead to a better understanding of space weather.

The way in which active regions form can also help to determine the nature of the solar dynamo, the ultimate source of magnetic fields in the Sun.

Senior Research Scientist Dr. K. D. Leka summarizes the findings of the NorthWest Research Associates group by saying, "We've shown that careful research using the visible part of the Sun can indeed tell us about what is happening underneath; these results will be a guide for further research, and ultimately improve our understanding of the Sun and all stars."

The study has been published in The Astrophysical Journal. (ANI)

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