The Magnetic Activity Sunlike Stars

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Science  24 Aug 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4664, pp. 793-800
DOI: 10.1126/science.225.4664.793


Sunspots, flares, and the myriad time-varying "events" observable in the Sun—the only star whose surface we can examine in detail—are testimony that the Sun is a magnetically variable or active star. Its magnetic field, carried into interplanetary space by the solar wind, produces observable changes in Earth's magnetosphere and variations in the flux of galactic cosmic-ray particles incident upon Earth's upper atmosphere. Centuries of observation have enabled solar scientists to recognize that the Sun's magnetism exists and varies in a globally organized pattern that is somehow coupled to the Sun's rotation. Within the past decade O. C. Wilson demonstrated that analogs of solar activity exist and can be studied in many other dwarf stars. From the continuing study, knowledge of the precise rates of rotation of the stars under investigation is being gained for the first time. The results are expected to increase our understanding of the origin of solar activity and stellar activity in general.