. 24/7 Space News .
Small force, big effect: How the planets could influence the sun
by Staff Writers
Dubendorf, Switzerland (SPX) Aug 06, 2021

The highly simplified representation schematically illustrates the occurrence of grand minima - periods of low solar activity - at intervals of about 200 years. In reality, the fluctuations in solar activity are much more irregular and overlaid with many other cycles. Full size image

A new theory supports the controversial hypothesis that the planets affect solar activity. It puts forward a mechanism by which the very small influence of the planets could exert its rhythm on such a large system as the Sun. If the theory is confirmed, it could possibly be used to predict solar activity more accurately. This would be of great interest, as large solar flares can cripple electronic infrastructure.

In 2012, Eawag and ETH researcher Professor Jurg Beer published the hypothesis that the planets could influence the activity of the Sun. Together with researchers from Spain and Australia, he had reconstructed the cycles of solar activity for the last 10,000 years with the help of beryllium data from ice cores and compared them with the movement of the planets around the Sun.

The correlation was astounding. Solar activity and planetary motion have similar rhythms, thereby suggesting a relationship. This raised hopes of being able to predict the cyclical fluctuations in solar activity based on the known planetary motions. This would be of great interest, because in times of great solar activity, large solar eruptions occur more frequently, which can paralyse power grids as well as communication and navigation satellites.

New explanation for a controversial hypothesis
However, Beer's hypothesis is highly controversial in the scientific community. Many researchers are convinced that the influence of the planets is far too small to have a demonstrable effect on solar activity. But now Carlo Albert, head of Eawag's Mathematical Methods in Environmental Research group, together with research colleagues from Switzerland and Spain, has found an explanation of how the tiny effect of the planets could nevertheless influence the activity of the much larger Sun: stochastic resonance. Under certain conditions, the phenomenon can amplify weak, mostly periodic signals in such a way that they have significant consequences.

So what does this mean for the Sun and the influence of the planets? Solar activity has a clear 11-year cycle. This is known and undisputed. However, there are other cycles.

"With simple mathematical models, we were able to show that the Sun basically has two stable states of activity in the 11-year cycle: an active state with large amplitude and high solar activity, and a quieter state with small amplitude and lower solar activity," Albert explains.

Scientists refer to this as a bistable system. "We assume that the Sun jumps back and forth between these two states due to turbulences in its interior." Since the turbulences are random, one would expect these changes to happen completely irregularly and unpredictably.

Planets set the pace
"However, the measurement data we have on solar activity suggest that the change of states does not happen purely at random, but often has a rhythm of around 200 years," says Albert. So that would be a further 200-year cycle superimposed on the 11-year cycle. Jurg Beer and his colleagues had suspected the influence of the planets as the cause of this additional rhythm. But this influence is extremely small. Albert and his colleagues have now found a possibility in which this influence could be increased.

Under suitable conditions, noise in a bistable system can massively amplify the influence of a periodic driver - this is called stochastic resonance. The turbulences inside the Sun (the noise) would then amplify the weak influence of the planets (the periodic driver). The planets would thus exert their beat on the Sun's random jumping back and forth between the two states of activity and influence the rhythm of solar activity.

The researchers have now published this new theory on a possible mechanism in the renowned scientific journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. In a next step, they will now investigate to what extent this can be used to calculate observations of solar activity over the past centuries. This would corroborate the theory and also enable a further step, namely the prediction of solar activity for the coming decades and centuries.

Are we observing a transition to a phase of weak solar activity?
Such a forecast would be of great interest. After all, as far as solar activity is concerned, we are currently experiencing an exciting time. "According to Jurg Beer's hypothesis, which is now supported by our theory, we are at the end of an active phase with a large amplitude of the 11-year cycle. We should slowly be heading for a calmer phase," says Albert.

Such phases are also called grand minima. And there are indeed signs that the 11-year cycle is weakening. "At the moment, I'm observing every few days how solar activity is developing," says Albert. "However, it will be several years before we know for sure whether the Sun is really in a new grand minimum."

The development of solar activity is particularly interesting because the last occurrence of a grand minimum about 400 years ago is associated with the Little Ice Age in large parts of Europe, even if this connection has not yet been clearly proven.

"Due to climate change, a slowdown in solar activity would of course be desirable," says Albert. "Unfortunately, if it actually occurs, it will hardly be able to compensate for human-caused warming, but at best will only be able to temporarily slow it down a little. So there is still no way around radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Research Report: Can Stochastic Resonance Explain Recurrence of Grand Minima?

Related Links
Project of the Swiss Data Science Center
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Astronomers show how planets form in binary systems without getting crushed
Cambridge UK (SPX) Jul 28, 2021
Astronomers have developed the most realistic model to date of planet formation in binary star systems. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute for Extra-terrestrial Physics, have shown how exoplanets in binary star systems - such as the 'Tatooine' planets spotted by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope - came into being without being destroyed in their chaotic birth environment. They studied a type of binary system where the smaller companion star orbits the ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Boeing delays key uncrewed test flight to ISS

Nauka Module incident caused by software failure

Russia to stop using ISS by 2028, create own National Space Station

ISSRDC to highlight opportunities within biomanufacturing in space

Finding the cause of a fatal problem in rocket engine combustors

Rocket tanks of carbon fibre reinforced plastic proven possible

US watchdog upholds SpaceX's Moon lander contract

NASA performs field test of 3D imaging system for descent and landing

Aviation Week awards NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter with laureate

North-By-Northwest for Ingenuity's 11th Flight

Science in motion for ExoMars twin rover

Earthly rocks point way to water hidden on Mars

Shanxi company helps astronauts keep fit in space

China's space propaganda blitz endures at slick new planetarium

How Chinese astronauts stay healthy in space

China's five-star red flag flies proudly on red planet

Next batch of OneWeb satellites set to launch August 20

Iridium granted trio of regulatory approvals in Japan

Inmarsat unveils the communications network of the future

Space company in search for professionals

Experiment bound for Space Station turns down the heat

DARPA selects research teams to enable quantum shift in spectrum sensing

End tax breaks for gaming firms, says Chinese state media

The truth about space traffic management

Small force, big effect: How the planets could influence the sun

Astronomers show how planets form in binary systems without getting crushed

Galileo Project to search for ET artifacts in galactic space

From the sun to the stars: A journey of exoplanet discovery begins

Hubble finds first evidence of water vapor on Ganymede

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for the Europa Clipper Mission

Juno tunes into Jovian radio triggered by Jupiter's volcanic moon Io

Ride with Juno as it flies past Jupiter and Ganymede

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.