By Adam Goldberg
In a strangely perfect detail about our own Sun in the grand scope of things and the entire known universe, it seems that it is quite an average star. Despite how average our Sun is, it produces so many different phenomena that scientists and independent researchers can really only begin to grasp.
It’s like a nuclear reactor, capable of producing intricate plasma streams deep into outer space, “solar tornadoes,” solar flares, and perhaps even spiritual effects on the people and creatures who populate planet Earth.
Now, a study brought to light by New Scientist seems to insert another interesting layer to this enigmatic onion that is the Sun, the great center of our solar system and life itself.
According to a paper recently published in the Astrophysical Journal, our own Sun “grows” and “shrinks” in a cycle of 11 years, by a width of about 0.6-1.2 miles, or 1 to 2 kilometers. It’s like the Sun “breathes” and sort of wobbles in its size, which makes sense because it is a flaming ball of gas.
Considering the relative, massive size of the Sun, you could call this an extremely gentle, almost unnoticeable “inhale and exhale,” like lungs. The extra width of the Sun at certain moments in this eleven year cycle is merely equal to about 0.00029 percent of the Sun’s radius, at very most.
A team from the University of Cote d’Azur and the New Jersey Institute of Technology managed to observe this almost minute difference, in a similar fashion to other recent studies apparently, by closely examining the streams of plasma that escape the surface of the Sun and then recoil back into it.
These are the notorious, highly energetic ionized gas strands that sometimes splinter off and essentially become solar flares. Strangely enough, the sonic frequencies put out by these plasma waves that roll across our Sun aren’t too much different from actual musical frequencies, observed and enjoyed by normal human ears.
An elaboration of this musical concept was provided by one article:
“Say you’ve got a saxophone, because you fancy some jazz. You play a note, noise comes out, and all’s well. Now, if the tubing inside the saxophone suddenly expanded outwards, the pitch of that note would drop. Squeeze it all in, and the pitch would be higher.”
Depending on the current size of the Sun in that eleven year cycle, the frequencies of waves emanating from it change. They say that scientists on Earth can very accurately measure these differences as well. However they say it took 21 years of observations with a couple varying NASA space telescopes.
So what is the eleven year cycle? As you might have guessed, it is the solar cycle.
Due to what is believed to be complex, magnetic activity deep within the Sun, every 11 years it moves from a violent solar maximum to a less violent but still not all that peaceful solar minimum. Sunspots are dark patches of coiled, intense magnetic activity, and during the minimum they become more rare.
It is actually during the solar minimum in which the Sun expands a little bit.