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COMMISSION 10: SOLAR ACTIVITY

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Commission 10 of the International Astronomical Union has more than 650 members who study a wide range of activity phenomena produced by our nearest star, the Sun. Solar activity is intrinsically related to solar magnetic fields and encompasses events from the smallest energy releases (nano- or even picoflares) to the largest eruptions in the Solar System, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which propagate into the Heliosphere reaching the Earth and beyond. Solar activity is manifested in the appearance of sunspot groups or active regions, which are the principal sources of activity phenomena from the emergence of their magnetic flux through their dispersion and decay. The period 2008–2009 saw an unanticipated extended solar cycle minimum and unprecedentedly weak polar-cap and heliospheric field. Associated with that was the 2009 historical maximum in galactic cosmic rays flux since measurements begun in the middle of the 20th Century. Since then Cycle 24 has re-started solar activity producing some spectacular eruptions observed with a fleet of spacecraft and ground-based facilities. In the last triennium major advances in our knowledge and understanding of solar activity were due to continuing success of space missions as SOHO, Hinode, RHESSI and the twin STEREO spacecraft, further enriched by the breathtaking images of the solar atmosphere produced by the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) launched on 11 February 2010 in the framework of NASA's Living with a Star program. In August 2012, at the time of the IAU General Assembly in Beijing when the mandate of this Commission ends, we will be in the unique position to have for the first time a full 3-D view of the Sun and solar activity phenomena provided by the twin STEREO missions about 120 degrees behind and ahead of Earth and other spacecraft around the Earth and ground-based observatories. These new observational insights are continuously posing new questions, inspiring and advancing theoretical analysis and modelling, improving our understanding of the physics underlying magnetic activity phenomena. Commission 10 reports on a vigorously evolving field of research produced by a large community. The number of refereed publications containing ‘Sun’, ‘heliosphere’, or a synonym in their abstracts continued the steady growth seen over the preceding decades, reaching about 2000 in the years 2008–2010, with a total of close to 4000 unique authors. This report, however, has its limitations and it is inherently incomplete, as it was prepared jointly by the members of the Organising Committee of Commission 10 (see the names of the primary contributors to the sections indicated in parentheses) reflecting their fields of expertise and interest. Nevertheless, we believe that it is a representative sample of significant new results obtained during the last triennium in the field of solar activity.

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COMMISSION 10: SOLAR ACTIVITY

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