The mystery that is our very own star, the sun, is slowly being revealed by NASA. It lies so near yet our understanding of it is still rudimentary.
Many mysteries are not that far away from us. While our sun provides energy to all living things on earth, exactly how it creates those fiery flares and corona storms not to mention fancy aurora is hardly understood by scientists.
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The biggest puzzle is how so much heat is generated by the sun. However, with the help of computer simulations, models have been made that help us visualize the sun and its functions.
The mysteries are slowly beginning to seek a resolution of sorts. At the center of the debate is the magnetic field of the sun. It is responsible for the heating of the corona.
Rather like the heating filaments in the heaters in our homes, the sun’s magnetic field lines arise and reach high into the corona to heat it up to millions of degrees. These form the core of the heating mechanism on the surface of the sun.
The field lines are subject to change and variability. They rise and fall in accordance with the sun’s 11 year cycle. The internal engine of the sun becomes rather hectic over the 11 year period.
The reason behind this is not known. The activity of the sun increases throughout this time until it reaches what is termed a solar maximum. This leads to higher magnetic activity and sunspots.
These even have an effect on our own planet. Thus the sun is of increasing interest to astronomers. Since our current postmodern civilization is heavily dependent upon communications technology, we have to exercise precaution.
Were the sun to release some powerful energy particles in our direction, the result would be neutralized satellites and blocked grid stations. This would wreak havoc with our daily lives.
This has already happened although in limited areas and so we have to be extremely careful. Entire metropolitan areas can go dark. Even Facebook could face a certain power shutdown.
The sun’s magnetism lies behind it all. How it is created in the first place remains a mystery. NASA is busy trying to reveal more and more about the sun via its solar observatories.
Computer models are necessary to interpret the results that come in from these observatories. In a recent video clip (watch below) by NASA, the potential field source surface is shown. This charts the evolution of the sun’s magnetic field.