NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory makes a stunning portrayal of the Sun’s magnetic field

From the cool stuff department and NASA Goddard, comes this.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) scientists used their computer models to generate a view of the Sun’s magnetic field on August 10 17, 2018. As seen above.

About one year ago the magnetic looked like this, captured on 8/26/17:

The bright active region right at the central area of the Sun clearly shows a concentration of field lines, as well as the small active region at the Sun’s right edge, but to a lesser extent. Magnetism drives the dynamic activity near the Sun’s surface.

SDO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Its Atmosphere Imaging Assembly was built by the Lockheed Martin Solar Astrophysics Laboratory (LMSAL), Palo Alto, California.

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory


Note: the original press release from NASA Goddard contained an error, identifying an image taken on 8/26/2017 as being on 8/10/2018. Dr. Leif Svalgaard spotted the error and left a comment, and I’ve edited the post to include both the current image as well as the image originally supplied by NASA in the press release. – Anthony

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55 thoughts on “NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory makes a stunning portrayal of the Sun’s magnetic field

  1. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) scientists used their computer models to generate a view of the Sun’s magnetic field on August 10, 2018

    Except that the image is from 2017/8/26.

      • You can clearly see the ‘arcade’ of field lines stretching across the solar surface. At this point [near minimum] in the solar cycle these arcades [overlying solar sector boundaries] are mostly East-West oriented. Way back in 1974 we first did that kind of modeling and the arcades for a time at a solar maximum in 1969 were North-South. All related to the warp or inclination of the Heliospheric Current Sheet:
        http://www.leif.org/research/Coronal%20Structure%20at%20Sector%20Boundary.pdf

        • Thanks Dr. S.
          Overlying ‘solar sector boundaries,’ interesting.
          During solar minimum this CH could be around for 2 years, Spaceweather.com reports and links to a study. Is the current pictured CH positive or negative. (until today I didn’t know that they even had a polarity lol)

          Sorry for the length Anthony, but this was too good of a primer for the new minimum.

          “”Coronal holes are a primary form of space weather during solar minimum–that is, now. Studies show that coronal holes not only open more frequently, but also last longer when sunspots are absent. During the last solar minimum in 2007-2009, one coronal hole stayed open for 27 consecutive solar rotations. As the sun slowly turned on its axis, that hole fire-hosed Earth with a stream of solar wind almost once a month for nearly two years. For comparison, this coronal hole has only been around twice. It is a youngster.””

          Low-Latitude Coronal Holes at the Minimum of the 23rd Solar
          Cycle 2.8.2010
          Low and mid-latitude coronal holes (CHs) observed on the Sun during the
          current solar activity minimum (from September 21, 2006, Carrington rotation
          (CR) 2048, until June 26, 2009 (CR 2084)) were analyzed using SOHO/EIT and
          STEREO-A SECCHI EUVI data. From both the observations and Potential
          Field Source Surface (PFSS) modeling, we find that the area occupied by CHs
          inside a belt of ±40◦ around the solar equator is larger in the current 2007 solar
          minimum relative to the similar phase of the previous 1996 solar minimum. The
          enhanced CH area is related to a recurrent appearance of five persistent CHs,
          which survived during 7-27 solar rotations. Three of the CHs are of positive
          magnetic polarity and two are negative. The most long-lived CH was being
          formed during 2 days and existed for 27 rotations. This CH was associated
          with fast solar wind at 1 AU of approximately 620±40 km s−1. The 3D MHD
          modeling for this time period shows an open field structure above this CH.
          We conclude that the global magnetic field of the Sun possessed a multi-pole
          structure during this time period. Calculation of the harmonic power spectrum
          of the solar magnetic field demonstrates a greater prevalence of multi-pole
          components over the dipole component in the 2007 solar minimum compared
          to the 1996 solar minimum. The unusual large separation between the dipole
          and multi-pole components is due to the very low magnitude of the dipole
          component, which is three times lower than that in the previous 1996 solar
          minimum.

          https://arxiv.org/pdf/1806.02806.pdf

          Pondering the draping of the Interstellar Magnetic Field over the Heliosphere’s polar region and the flows of TeV Galactic Cosmic Rays. (and some other lower but high eV GCR that are not swept away.)

          • Is the current pictured CH positive or negative. (until today I didn’t know that they even had a polarity lol)
            Negative, of course. It is on its way to the negative south pole.

            The rest of your comment is irrelevant. At least, I can’t see why it was made. What is your point?
            The interstellar magnetic field is irrelevant because [as you have been told a gazillion times[ the solar wind is supersonic.

          • Point:
            Great image depicting configuration of solar magnetic field lines during the beginning of the solar minimum phase and the absence of the same field lines in coronal holes.
            Article describes past solar minimum, longevity of coronal holes and a weak polar fields by comparison to past minimums.

            “”The unusual large separation between the dipole and multi-pole components is due to the very low magnitude of the dipole component, which is three times lower than that in the previous 1996 solar minimum””

            Weak solar polar fields affect GCR flowing through the solar system. Interstellar Magnetic Fields ‘wrap’ around the system.
            All energy levels of GCR gyrate around Interstellar Magnetic Fields.
            Lower solar polar fields and activity, more Interstellar Magnetic Field wrapping, more GCRs enter system.
            Higher level GCR less data and known effects at boundary and inside system.
            Last solar minimum saw “space age record” record high GCR.
            May be seeing Interstellar wind direction coming from edge of Loop I super bubble and its high energy particles.
            Varying levels of Interstellar Magnetic Field strength.

            Have a good day Dr. S. and thanks for the reply.
            Negative CH because it is on its way to the South solar pole.
            Ok, my sticky point.
            “””(three times lower than that in the 1996
            solar minimum) magnitude of the dipole component.”””

          • three times lower than that in the 1996 solar minimum) magnitude of the dipole component.
            No. In 1996 the dipole was about 200 uT, in 2008 about 110 uT, and now about 130 uT.

          • Comparing apples to apples sometimes needs clarification.

            Page 7
            “”We used the harmonic coefficients calculated at the
            Wilcox Solar Observatory (http : //wso.stanford.edu/forms/prgs.html) for CRs 2045 –2085 to examine the dipole and multi-pole components during the 1996 and 2007 minima
            (Figure 5). From these plots, the difference between the dipole and multi-pole components is larger during the 2007 solar minimum as compared to the similar phase of the 1996 solar minimum and it may be chiefly attributed to weakening of the dipole component during
            the 2007 solar minimum. In particular, when comparing data for CRs 1900 – 1909 and CRs 2048-2057 (similar solar cycle phase), one can see that the dipole component decreased nearly threefold, whereas the sum of all multi-poles decreased only by about 30%. It is also
            interesting that there is a slight decline in both dipole and multi-pole components during the 2007 solar minimum, which was not the case for the preceding 1996 solar minimum.””
            Figure 5 is located on page 8.
            https://arxiv.org/pdf/1002.1685.pdf

            For fun Edit, like something sitting on the beach ball (heliosphere) compressing its field.
            For fun Edit 2, Interstellar Fields pile up for around 50 years and then…uh hmm.

            Off topic…
            Article below puts the solar system inside the rim of the Loop I super bubble. Rims, wonder with what periodicity the solar system hits rims. 100 year periodicity could be fun.

            Effect of Supernovae on the Local Interstellar
            Material 18 Jan. 2018
            Priscilla Frisch and Vikram V. Dwarkadas
            “””This review discusses the configuration of massive stars in Gould’s Belt that spawn nearby supernovae (Section 2), bubble formation (Section 3.1), the location of the Sun inside a superbubble rim (Section 3.4) that merges into the low density Local Bubble cavity (Section 3.3), the Orion superbubble (Section 3.6), short-lived radioisotope clocks of recent nearby supernova found in geological and astrophysical
            data (Section 4), and the impact of supernovae on the heliosphere (Section 5).”””
            https://arxiv.org/pdf/1801.06223.pdf

            Have a good day. Someone has to get some work done today.

          • like something sitting on the beach ball (heliosphere) compressing its field.
            Because the solar wind is supersonic, nothing outside of the heliosphere can influence the sun’s magnetic field. As usual, your comment is irrelevant.

          • Yes. Influences in the solar wind are mediated by its magnetic field. In a plasma, the magnetic field changes propagates with the so-called Alfven Speed [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfv%C3%A9n_wave]. The solar wind plasma moves away from the sun at about 10 times the Alfven speed [near the Earth], which is 10 times faster than a magnetic perturbation could move upstream towards the Sun.

          • Not totally irrelevant Dr. S.
            The studies of Interstellar space surrounding the heliosphere are extremely important.
            Perhaps, during this solar minimum period, the Voyager 2, will just be ‘shrunk’ out of the heliopshere. Wouldn’t that be a hoot? toot toot

          • It is important for the study of the outer heliosphere and the interstellar medium, but is totally irrelevant for the study of solar activity and magnetism. As you have been told so many times.

      • Thanks Leif, That was my first thought- “that’s not today, is it?”
        Too bad LMSAL doesn’t have https so your posted image would show.

    • I was hoping you’d chime in Dr. Svalgaard. It must be an exciting time to be a Solar Scientist. I’d be interested in your thoughts on the Parker probe mission.

    • Translating from English
      “NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) scientists used their computer models to generate a view of the Sun’s magnetic field on August 10, 2018.”
      to an obscure Balkan dialect and back to English:
      “NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) scientists used their computer models on August 10, 2018 to generate a view of the Sun’s magnetic field.”/sc

  2. Two different pictures of the magnetic field. About one year between. To my eye todays picture looks a little more diffuse. Guess it should be near a sunspot minimum? How do experts interpret it?

  3. Yes.
    We are back with the sun to where we were 43 years ago. Amazing that I do remember where I was that time. Quite exactly.

    • The solar magnetic field images back then, now, and every time in between shows the same general features. Nothing special about 43 years ago. Except, perhaps, that we knew already back then what the features were.

      • What was written in 1975 gives an interesting retrospective:
        “The central fact is that, after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the Earth seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century.”
        “….But they are almost unanimous in the view….”, 97% consensus opinion you might say.
        Read more:
        https://www.scribd.com/doc/225798861/Newsweek-s-Global-Cooling-Article-From-April-28-1975
        How wrong they were then, and how wrong they are now.
        I remember it well, New Scientist and Scientific American were at it too. I never took it seriously then, and I don’t take seriously current nonsense of the impending global doomsday.

  4. This kind of stuff and the solar wind environment were what NASA/GISS was originally meant to study. Sadly James Hanson realized there was more career and fame to be made as a climate carnival barker.

    • Hanson got some motivation from a certain politician/snake oil salesman with a degree in divinity, no?

  5. Top image is from the post. Bottom “app” image is from 30 minutes ago. The upper middle chart is the USAF 45day F10.7cm and Ap daily forecast from yesterday, which is expecting Ap to go up to 15 from the center facing coronal hole. The recent cross polar cap potential activity from the past three days solar wind activity is in the second middle chart. The resulting 3 days of geomagnetic Kp index is in the third chart on the right, showing geomagnetic activity induced by the solar wind CPCP interaction.

    https://s20.postimg.cc/d5jnbvazx/Mid-_Aug_Coronal_Activity.jpg

    Some of the science discoveries underpinning the data shown were by Leif Svalgaard (& co).

    • BallBounces said:

      The sun? I thought this site dealt with things related to earth’s climate…

      Are you suggesting the sun is not a thing related to earth’s climate?

  6. It would be even better if we could image the far side simultaneously and construct a 3D model which could be viewed from any angle. Seems STEREO-A could supply most of the data.

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