In the new model, a thin layer of magnetic flux and plasma, or free-floating electrons, moves at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. The difference in speed between the flows creates twists of magnetism, known as magnetic helicity, that are similar to what happens in some fusion reactor concepts. Every 11 years, the Sun grows this layer until it's too big to be stable, and then it sloughs off. Its departure exposes the lower layer of plasma moving in the opposite direction with a flipped magnetic field.
When the circuits in both hemispheres are moving at the same speed, more sunspots appear. When the circuits are different speeds, there is less sunspot activity. That mismatch may have happened during the decades of little sunspot activity known as the "Maunder Minimum.” If the two hemispheres rotate at different speeds, then the sunspots near the equator won't match up, and the whole thing will die.
Scientists had previously thought that a sunspot was generated down at 30 percent of the depth of the Sun, and then came up in a twisted rope of plasma that pops out. Instead, the model shows that the sunspots are in "super granules" that form within the thin, subsurface layer of plasma that the study calculates to be roughly 100 to 300 miles (150 to 450 kilometres) thick, or a mere fraction of the sun's 430,000-mile radius.
Other properties explained by the theory include flow inside the Sun, the twisting action that leads to sunspots and the total magnetic structure of the Sun. The paper is likely to provoke intense discussion.
Credit for Image at Top: Credit: © astrobobo / Adobe Stock