Reconciling solar and stellar magnetic cycles with nonlinear dynamo simulations

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Science  14 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6347, pp. 185-187
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal3999

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Is the Sun a solar-type star?

The Sun's activity, including sun-spot activity, varies on an 11-year cycle driven by changes in its magnetic field. Other nearby solar-type stars have their own cycles, but the Sun does not seem to match their behavior. Strugarek et al. used magnetohydrodynamic simulations to show that stellar activity periods should depend on the star's Rossby number, the ratio between the inertial and Coriolis forces. Turning to observations, they found that solar-type stars, including the Sun, follow this relation. The results advance our understanding of how stars generate their magnetic fields and confirm that the Sun is indeed a solar-type star.

Science, this issue p. 185


The magnetic fields of solar-type stars are observed to cycle over decadal periods—11 years in the case of the Sun. The fields originate in the turbulent convective layers of stars and have a complex dependency upon stellar rotation rate. We have performed a set of turbulent global simulations that exhibit magnetic cycles varying systematically with stellar rotation and luminosity. We find that the magnetic cycle period is inversely proportional to the Rossby number, which quantifies the influence of rotation on turbulent convection. The trend relies on a fundamentally nonlinear dynamo process and is compatible with the Sun’s cycle and those of other solar-type stars.

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