Carrington rotation

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The Carrington rotation of the Sun is a system for comparing locations on the Sun over a period of time, allowing the following of sunspot groups or reappearance of eruptions at a later time.

Because the Solar rotation is variable with latitude, depth and time, any such system is necessarily arbitrary and only makes comparison meaningful over moderate periods of time. Differential rotation is when different latitudes rotate at different rates and applies to all fluid bodies including all stars and the surface of gas giant planets. Solar rotation is arbitrarily taken to be 27.2753 days for the purpose of Carrington rotations. Each rotation of the Sun under this scheme is given a unique number called the Carrington Rotation Number, starting from November 9, 1853. (The Bartels Rotation Number[1] is a similar numbering scheme that uses a period of exactly 27 days and starts from February 8, 1832.)

The heliographic longitude of a solar feature conventionally refers to its angular distance relative to the central meridian, i.e. that which the Sun-Earth line defines. The "Carrington longitude" of the same feature refers it to an arbitrary fixed reference point of an imagined rigid rotation, as defined originally by Carrington.

Richard Christopher Carrington determined the solar rotation rate from low latitude sunspots in the 1850s and arrived at 25.38 days for the sidereal rotation period. Sidereal rotation is measured relative to the stars, but because the Earth is orbiting the Sun, we see this period as 27.2753 days.

It is possible to construct a diagram with the longitude of sunspots horizontally and time vertically. The longitude is measured by the time of crossing the central meridian and based on the Carrington rotations. In each rotation, plotted under the preceding ones, most sunspots or other phenomena will reappear directly below the same phenomenon on the previous rotation. There may be slight drifts left or right over longer periods of time.

The Bartels "musical diagram" or the Condegram spiral plot are other techniques for expressing the approximate 27 day periodicity of various phenomena originating at the solar surface.

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  1. ^ Bartels, J. (1934), "Twenty-Seven Day Recurrences in Terrestrial-Magnetic and Solar Activity, 1923-1933", Terrestrial Magnetism and Atmospheric Electricity 39 (3): 201–202a, Bibcode:1934TeMAE..39..201B, doi:10.1029/TE039i003p00201 

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