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Sunspots From Supercomputers

by AMNH on


Astronomers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research's High Altitude Observatory have developed the first high-resolution computer model of a sunspot. The simulated sunspot allows scientists to better understand these mysterious solar phenomena. This model was also featured in AMNH's new Space Show, Journey to the Stars.

Sunspot Simulation
The interface between a sunspot's umbra (dark center) and penumbra (lighter outer region) shows a complex structure with narrow, almost horizontal (lighter to white) filaments embedded in a background having a more vertical (darker to black) magnetic field. Farther out, extended patches of horizontal field dominate. For the first time, NCAR scientists and colleagues have modeled this complex structure in a comprehensive 3D computer simulation, giving scientists their first glimpse below the visible surface to understand the underlying physical processes.
©UCAR, image courtesy Matthias Rempel, NCAR.

The simulations can help scientists decipher the mysterious, subsurface forces in the Sun that cause sunspots. Such work may lead to an improved understanding of variations in solar output and their impacts on Earth.