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Unruly Sun Emerges in Solar Observatory's First Results

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Science  12 Jul 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5272, pp. 179-180
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5272.179


Madison, Wisconsin—Watching from the gravitational balance point between Earth and the sun, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory has spied a virtual bacchanalia of twisting magnetic field lines and turbulent gases in the sun's surface layers and atmosphere. As researchers reported at the American Astronomical Society meeting here last month, the sheer level of activity is unexpected for this point in the 11-year cycle of solar activity, when the sun is supposed to be in a lull. And clues gleaned from the commotion could alter scientists' understanding of how the sun generates its magnetic field, heats its million-degree atmosphere, and flings clouds of ionized gas into space.