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The Sun's luminosity over a complete solar cycle


THE Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor (ACRIM I), an instrument carried on NASA's Solar Maximum Mission satellite, measured the Sun's luminosity (total power outflow) from early 1980 to late 19891–5. Here we present the first account of the complete ACRIM I data set, and give evidence confirming our previous suggestion that solar luminosity varies with the 11-year solar cycle6. As previously reported, this slow variation closely follows statistical measures of the distribution of magnetic and photospheric features on the Sun's surface4–8. But there was an exception to this correlation in the form of a remarkable irradiance excess during 1980, at about the time of the sunspot maximum of solar cycle 21. The linkage, over a whole cycle, of luminosity variation to photospheric activity suggests the existence of an unknown physical mechanism other than the thermal diffusion model that explains luminosity deficits due to sunspots. Luminosity models connecting total irradiance to global indicators of solar activity, such as the equivalent width of the 1,083-nm helium line, are consistent with the gross features of the variability, but fail to account for the 1980 irradiance excess.

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Willson, R., Hudson, H. The Sun's luminosity over a complete solar cycle. Nature 351, 42–44 (1991).

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