SDO mission untangles motion inside the Sun
Using an instrument on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, called the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager, or HMI, scientists have overturned previous notions of how the sun’s writhing insides move from equator to pole and back again, a key part of understanding how the dynamo works. Modeling this system also lies at the heart of improving predictions of the intensity of the next solar cycle.
Using SDO, scientists see a performance of explosions and fountains on the solar surface. Shots of solar material leap into the air. Dark blemishes called sunspots grow, combine and disappear as they travel across the sun's face. Bright loops of charged particles – captured by magnetic fields dancing around the sun – hover in the atmosphere. This dynamic display is all powered by a complex, ever-changing magnetic current inside the sun known as the dynamo. This magnetic system flips approximately every 11 years, with magnetic north and magnetic south switching poles. This process is an integral part of the sun’s progression toward a pinnacle of solar activity, known as solar maximum.