File:The X-Ray Sun Over 5.5 Years -Hinode XRT-.webm

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Behold five and a half years worth of full-sun observations from XRT. A dramatic illustration of the solar cycle, this movie begins about one year before the first reversed-polarity sunspot ushered in the current cycle on January 8, 2008 ( The solar cycle is a periodic variation in the Sun's activity that is caused by the gradual "tangling" and eventual reversal of its magnetic field. Deep within the interior of our star, a process known as a dynamo produces the magnetic field, which is then embedded in the Sun's plasma. Because the equatorial regions rotate faster than the poles, the field slowly warps until loops of magnetic field lines rise and protrude from the surface (see this helpful animation: These protruding loops dramatically change the structure of the Sun's corona, giving rise to energetic events like flares ( and CMEs (, and this is the change we see unfolding here. The movie ends less than a year from the predicted peak of the coming solar maximum in early to mid 2013, after which the polarity (positive and negative ends) of the Sun's magnetic field will have reversed and the number of active regions in the corona will begin to decrease again.

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Hinode is a Japanese mission developed and launched by ISAS/JAXA, with NAOJ as domestic partner and NASA and STFC (UK) as international partners. It is operated by these agencies in co-operation with ESA and the NSC (Norway).



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