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iSGTW Image of the week - Solar magnetic fields

Image of the week - Solar magnetic fields


A simulation of the 3D magnetohydrodynamics at play in the outer third of a star. Each "hair" represents a magnetic field line embedded in the stellar plasma flow. Near the equator, the convective flows tend to align with the axis of rotation; in higher latitudes the convection is more cyclonic.
Image produced using VAPOR

Complicated by wild convection occurring in the outer third of a star's plasma, and by rotation that twists a star's magnetic field into a spiral, stellar magnetohydrodynamics really is as complex as it sounds.

Magnetohydrodynamics is the study of motion and magnetism in conducting fluids such as plasmas, liquid metals and seawater.

The "hydro" bit refers to fluids, the "dynamics" bit means movement, and the "magneto" part comes into play because magnetic fields induce currents in moving conductive fluids, and are themselves amplified by the fluids' motions.

So when the moving conductive fluid you're discussing is an enormous ball of turbulent, spinning stellar plasma, things can really start to get interesting.

A team of scientists at the University of Colorado are using grid power to visualize the magnetohydrodynamics at work in stars.

Understanding this phenomenon is essential to our understanding of the solar magentic dynamo, which in turn results in solar flares, sun spots and the solar wind.

The visualization was conducted over the TeraGrid using VAPOR-the Visualization and Analysis Platform for Ocean, Atmosphere and Solar Researchers.

The VAPOR software was developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Scientific Computing Division in collaboration with U.C. Davis and Ohio State University, all in the U.S.

VAPOR is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

- Cristy Burne, iSGTW

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