Is the Current Lack of Solar Activity Only Skin Deep?

Anne-Marie Broomhall, William Chaplin, Yvonne Elsworth, ST Fletcher, R New

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


The Sun is a variable star whose magnetic activity and total irradiance vary on a timescale of approximately 11 years. The current activity minimum has attracted considerable interest because of its unusual duration and depth. This raises the question: what might be happening beneath the surface where the magnetic activity ultimately originates? The surface activity can be linked to the conditions in the solar interior by the observation and analysis of the frequencies of the Sun's natural seismic modes of oscillation-the p modes. These seismic frequencies respond to changes in activity and are probes of conditions within the Sun. The Birmingham Solar-Oscillations Network (BiSON) has made measurements of p-mode frequencies over the last three solar activity cycles, and so is in a unique position to explore the current unusual and extended solar minimum. We show that the BiSON data reveal significant variations of the p-mode frequencies during the current minimum. This is in marked contrast to the surface activity observations, which show little variation over the same period. The level of the minimum is significantly deeper in the p-mode frequencies than in the surface observations. We observe a quasi-biennial signal in the p-mode frequencies, which has not previously been observed at mid-and low-activity levels. The stark differences in the behavior of the frequencies and the surface activity measures point to activity-related processes occurring in the solar interior, which are yet to reach the surface, where they may be attenuated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L162-L165
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009


  • Sun: oscillations
  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: helioseismology
  • methods: data analysis


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