Planets Do Not Influence Solar Activity, Study Finds

September 5, 2013
Image Caption: Dark sunspots at the visible solar surface. Harbouring strong magnetic fields, their coming and going reflects the variations of solar magnetic activity. Image taken with the Swedish Solar Telescope at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (La Palma, Spain)

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

New research in Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A) is correcting errors in one statistical study published in the same journal last yea,r regarding the isotopic records of solar activity.

Last year, astronomers wrote in the journal claiming that there is evidence of planetary influence on solar activity. However, the latest study refutes that claim, saying that they found no evidence of any planetary effect on the Sun.

The Sun consists of violent mass ejections and the acceleration of high-energy particles coming from coronal mass ejections (CME). The violent activity seen on the sun creates space weather, which can disrupt communication satellites orbiting around Earth. For years, astronomers have theorized about how planets could affect the sun by exerting tides, similar to the way that the moon causes Earth’s ocean tides.

“We developed a simple physical model for describing the time-dependent torque exerted by the planets on a non-spherical tachocline and compared the corresponding power spectrum with that of the reconstructed solar activity record,” the authors wrote in the journal last year. “We find an excellent agreement between the long-term cycles in proxies of solar activity and the periodicities in the planetary torque and also that some periodicities remain phase-locked over 9,400 years.”

They had concluded that the long-term solar magnetic activity is modulated by planetary effects, adding that their hypothesis “has important implications for solar physics and the solar-terrestrial connection.”

However, the latest paper published by A&A reports finding technical errors in the statistical tests performed by Abreu et al. The astronomers said that correcting these errors reduces the statistical significance by many orders of magnitude to values consistent with pure coincidence. They said the quasi-periods in the isotope data, brought to light by last year’s study, provide no evidence of planetary effects on solar activity.

“The apparent agreement between the periodicities in records of cosmogenic isotopes as proxies for solar activity and planetary torques is statistically insignificant. There is no evidence for a planetary influence on solar activity,” the new authors wrote in the latest paper.

One thing that is for certain is that the sun is currently in its solar maximum, which is when the activity on the sun is at its peak. The sun goes through 11-year cycles in which its activity ramps up and down. Scientists say that the sun will be reversing its cycle in the next few months, when it undergoes its so-called solar flip. During the solar flip, the sun will reorganize its magnetic fields, reversing its polarity.

Source: Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

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