Indian researchers reveal details about what happens when the Sun is asleep
Researchers from the Indian Space Science Center of Excellence at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), have revealed what happens when activity on the Sun completely disappears, i.e. when it is asleep.
The findings were published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and show how the star recovers its energy to burst with life and precipitate in dangerous flares throughout the Solar System.
The study also explains that, when the Sun is fast asleep, there is agitation in the polar and interior regions of the star.
The researchers found that the Sun’s internal dynamo mechanism that sustains the solar cycle is still hard at work during these quiet periods.
When does the sun sleep?
As India Today explains, the Sun sleeps in a period known as the grand minimum, which is characterized by significant reductions in solar radiation, particle production, and when its activity has been at its lowest point without sunspots.
Astronomers have found that the increase and decrease in the number of sunspots observed on the star’s surface stopped abruptly between the years 1645-1715.
Computer simulations of the Sun’s magnetic cycle show that the magnetic dynamo remains operational inside the star during periods of extreme quiescence known as grand solar minima.
There is little information on activity in the polar and interior regions. It’s widely believed that the Sun’s large-scale magnetic cycle shuts down during these phases, but the new study points to the fact that it doesn’t mean the complete shutdown of activity.
The study reveals that the magnetic fields in the Sun’s interior remain quite active during these apparently quiescent phases. Magnetic activity persists in the form of weak cycles in the convection zone that is incapable of producing sunspots.
The team also demonstrated the incessant churning motion of plasma in the solar convection zone that acts like a clock, driving weak magnetic cycles within the Sun during what were thought to be phases of extreme quiescence.
The study is set to help future planned missions to study the Sun, with a focus on the interior and polar regions that have remained enigmatic to astronomers.