Magazine article Science News

Ulysses Finds Surprise at Sun's South Pole

Magazine article Science News

Ulysses Finds Surprise at Sun's South Pole

Article excerpt

A funny thing happened to the Ulysses spacecraft during its recent sojourn below the sun's south pole. Contrary to expectations, the craft saw no signs of a magnetic south pole. Instead, it found that the magnetic field high above the solar surface has about the same intensity at the poles as at the equator.

That finding puzzles scientists, who liken the sun's magnetic field to that of a bar magnet. Iron filings sprinkled around a bar magnet reveal that the magnetic lines of force loop from one end of the bar to the other and are densest, or strongest, at each end. Researchers believe that, in a similar fashion, the looping magnetic field lines of the sun have the highest intensity at the poles.

In fact, observations from Earth indicate that at the solar surface, the outward, or radial component of the magnetic field is strongest in the polar regions. But Ulysses, the first craft to pass over the sun's poles, never ventures closer than about twice the Earthsun distance (SN: 8/6/94, p. …

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