"We're at the mercy of the Sun," says Toomre, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "If the Sun is magnetically active, it can blast holes in our communications. Or if the Sun floods us with high-energy particles as flares go off, it would heat our atmosphere significantly. Our civilization might stop if the Sun changed its output by 1 percent either way. You sure would like to know what's operating this machine."
Toomre and his colleagues have used the CRAY C90 at Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to simulate gas movement and energy transfer in the Sun's outer regions. These computations have revealed details about turbulence in these regions that otherwise can't be observed, and they have helped to reconcile observations with theory.
Vertical Velocity in the Convection Zone
This three-dimensional volume from simulations by Toomre and his colleague, post-doctoral research associate Nic Brummell, shows vertical velocity within the convection zone. The relatively calm granular pattern of convection cells at the surface disguises the highly turbulent interior. Dark colors represent cool, downflowing gas, and light areas are warm and upflowing.
Vorticity in the Convection Zone
Researchers: Juri Toomre and Nic Brummell, University of Colorado, Boulder.
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Scientific papers, graphics and video animations related to this research project.
Related research: Turbulent Earth
Projects in Scientific Computing, PSC's annual research report.
References, Acknowledgements & Credits