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Friday, 14 July 2017

Take a 360° spin through the heart of the sun

The insides of stars are a boiling mess. The
turbulent motion of superhot plasma causes
the magnetic field coursing within to cycle
between periods of low and high intensity—
resulting in sunspots and solar flares. But
scientists never knew what controlled the
length of these cycles, which last about 11
years in our own sun. So one team of
astronomers used data from the Gaia space
observatory to simulate the interiors of solar-
type stars, which are similar in mass and age
to our own sun. In particular, they wanted to
answer a burning question: Why do other
solar-type stars have such wildly varying solar
cycles? For example, one such star—known as
Kappa Ceti, in the Cetus constellation—has
cycles that last 5.6 (Earth) years. After
looking at more than 25 magnetic cycles,
researchers found that the length of each
star’s cycle is related to its rotation rate and
brightness , they report today in Science.
Faster spinning, but fainter, stars have longer
cycles. The results may help scientists better
understand solar magnetic fields, and they
should lay to rest one long-standing
uncertainty—that our sun was not a solar-type

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