Recent research by Professor Valentina Zharkova (Northumbria University) and colleagues has shed new light on the inner workings of the Sun. If correct, this new discovery means that future solar cycles and variations in the Sun’s activity can be predicted more accurately.
The research suggests that the next three solar cycles will see solar activity reduce significantly into the middle of the century, producing conditions similar to those last seen in the 1600s – during the Maunder Minimum. This may have implications for temperatures here on Earth. Future solar cycles will serve as a test of the astrophysicists’ work, but some climate scientists have not welcomed the research and even tried to suppress the new findings.
To most of us the sun seems unchanging. But if you observe its surface, it is seething with vast explosions and ejections. This activity has its origin in intense magnetic fields generated by swirling currents in the sun’s outer layer – scientists call it the solar dynamo.
It produces the well-known 11-year solar cycle which can be seen as sunspots come and go on the sun’s surface.
But models of the solar dynamo have only been partially successful in predicting the solar cycle – and that might be because a vital component is missing.
After studying full-disc images of the sun’s magnetic field, Professor Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University and colleagues, discovered that the sun’s dynamo is actually made of two components – coming from different depths inside the sun.
The interaction between these two magnetic waves either amplifies solar activity or damps it down. Professor Zharkova’s observations suggest we are due for a prolonged period of low solar activity.