Long-term variability of the sun in the context of solar-analog stars
Egeland, Ricky Alan
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The Sun is the best observed object in astrophysics, but despite this distinction the nature of its well-ordered generation of magnetic field in 11-year activity cycles remains a mystery. In this work, we place the solar cycle in a broader context by examining the long-term variability of solar analog stars within 5% of the solar effective temperature, but varied in rotation rate and metallicity. Emission in the Fraunhofer H & K line cores from singly-ionized calcium in the lower chromosphere is due to magnetic heating, and is a proven proxy for magnetic flux on the Sun. We use Ca H & K observations from the Mount Wilson Observatory HK project, the Lowell Observatory Solar Stellar Spectrograph, and other sources to construct composite activity time series of over 100 years in length for the Sun and up to 50 years for 26 nearby solar analogs. Archival Ca H & K observations of reflected sunlight from the Moon using the Mount Wilson instrument allow us to properly calibrate the solar time series to the S-index scale used in stellar studies. We find the mean solar S-index to be 5-9% lower than previously estimated, and the amplitude of activity to be small compared to active stars in our sample. A detailed look at the young solar analog HD 30495, which rotates 2.3 times faster than the Sun, reveals a large amplitude ~12-year activity cycle and an intermittent short-period variation of 1.7 years, comparable to the solar variability time scales despite its faster rotation. Finally, time series analyses of the solar analog ensemble and a quantitative analysis of results from the literature indicate that truly Sun-like cyclic variability is rare, and that the amplitude of activity over both long and short timescales is linearly proportional to the mean activity. We conclude that the physical conditions conducive to a quasi-periodic magnetic activity cycle like the Sun's are rare in stars of approximately the solar mass, and that the proper conditions may be restricted to a relatively narrow range of rotation rates.