Harry and Nick talk about the interior of the Sun and its magnetic field reversals


The magnetic field on the Sun at the last solar minimum in 2008 and at the current solar maximum. Courtesy Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory

Kathleen asked:

Thanks for the page harry Reports !! I was wondering if this two year delay is relatively new? the article said last reversal was delayed 2 year. i was curious about the north hemisphere explosion and collapse of the sun Jan 2012 which a lot of net chatter mentioned O Manuel’s Iron Sun theory. That was when the Earth’s magnetic NP seems to get wanderlust and go East.

Almost as if it had become unleashed. I thought about this and it seems that the north hemisphere collapse of the sun was an indication of its loss of magnetic control. Through out all this the south hemisphere showed no change. I suspect this early collapse of n hemisphere of the sun is the result of the 2 year delay in solar magnetic reversals.

Looking forward to more info


Answer from Nick:

It is wonderful to get such enthusiasm as in Kathleen’s question. At the same time both Harry and I struggled a little to quite understand what was meant.

Kathleen refers to a theory by Dr Oliver Manuel that the Sun is largely made of iron and that the solar system formed in a supernova explosion. This theory is not taken seriously by solar physicists and is in complete contradiction to current understanding. This is that the Sun is mainly made of hydrogen and helium with only a tiny amount of heavier elements such as iron. These heavier elements came from the contribution of exploding stars to the gas between stars before the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

There is a huge amount of observations available on the Sun, especially in recent years from satellites that allow its interior to be probed with vibrations just as geologists study the interior of the Earth through seismology. There will be more on this on my forthcoming report on the solar physics conference that I attended recently at Palm Cove in Queensland. Although there are many details that scientists do not as yet know about the Sun, the observations agree with the current understanding of its structure and not with the idea of an iron interior.

Answer from Harry:

Kathleen asks two main questions: First, is it unusual that northern sunspot activity and southern activity can be out of synch? The answer is No, it’s not unusual. They are still two years out of synchronicity at present. This was also the case for at least the last four solar cycles. In fact, it’s interesting to muse on what keep the cycles in-synch?

Second: The polarity of the North and South magnetic poles of the sun are going to REVERSE quite soon (within next 12 months) – as happens every solar maximum. The process is messy and seems well advanced at present. We can’t call that a ‘collapse’ though – the reversal is fairly well understood. It doesn’t cause a reversal of Earth’s poles – which would be a BIG problem on Earth. Magnetic poles do wander around around – but that doesn’t mean Earth’s poles are about to reverse any time soon.

Harry Roberts is a Sun and Moon observer, a regular contributor to the Sydney Observatory blog and a member of the Sydney City Skywatchers.

I hope all this helps Kathleen. Please keep up your enthusiasm, but at the same time do not believe everything that you read on the web!

Nick Lomb

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