Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Dynamo action in cosmic bodies

  • 30 Accesses

  • 3 Citations


This paper is largely a reply to Cowling's review of the present status of cosmic dynamo theory and its alternatives of primordial or fossil field models. Central is the question of turbulent diffusion, without which plasma dynamos will not work but primordial magnetic fields are retained. Turbulence does not shred or divide fields into small-scale elements as claimed; instead it creates these elements in addition to the large-scale field which remains after Ohmic diffusion has destroyed the small fields. The significance of the existence of a terrestrial dynamo is stressed and various objections to the existence of a solar-type dynamo are discussed, including the steady divergence of theory and observational evidence over a quarter century. Cowling's criticisms of the primordial field theory are discussed; these include turbulent diffusion, the timing of the solar magnetic cycle, and the importance attached to observations in active and quiet magnetic regions.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Babcock, H. W.: 1961,Astrophys. J. 133, 572.

  2. Cowling, T. G.: 1981,Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 19, 115.

  3. Dicke, R. H.: 1978,Nature 276, 676.

  4. Dicke, R. H.: 1979,Nature 280, 24.

  5. Duvall, T. L.: 1979,Solar Phys. 63, 3.

  6. Elsässer, W. M.: 1956,Rev. Mod. Phys. 28, 135.

  7. Galloway, D. J. and Weiss, N. O.: 1980,Astrophys. J. 243, 945.

  8. Gilman, P. A.: 1981, inCool Stars, Stellar Systems and the Sun, Second Cambridge Workshop, Centre for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.

  9. Gilman, P. A. and Miller, J.: 1981,Astrophys. J. Suppl. 46, 211.

  10. Gubbins, D.: 1974,Rev. Geophys. Space Phys. 12, 137.

  11. Kiepenheuer, K. O.: 1953, in G. P. Kuiper (ed.),The Sun, Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago.

  12. Knoblock, E. and Rosner, R.: 1981,Astrophys. J. 247, 300.

  13. Krause, F.: 1976, in V. Bumba and J. Kleczek (eds.), ‘Basic Mechanisms of Solar Activity’,IAU Symp. 71, 305.

  14. Krause, F. and Rädler, K.-H.: 1980,Mean Field Magnetohydrodynamics and Dynamo Theory, Pergamon Press, Oxford.

  15. Layzer, D., Rosner, R. and Doyle, H. T.: 1979,Astrophys. J. 229, 1126.

  16. Leighton, R. B.: 1964,Astrophys. J. 140, 1547.

  17. Leighton, R. B.: 1969,Astrophys. J. 156, 1.

  18. Parker, E. N.: 1970,Ann. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 8, 1.

  19. Parker, E. N.: 1973,Astrophys. Space Sci. 22, 279.

  20. Parker, E. N.: 1975,Astrophys. J. 202, 523.

  21. Parker, E. N.: 1979,Cosmic Magnetic Fields, Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford.

  22. Piddington, J. H.: 1971,Solar Phys. 21, 4.

  23. Piddington, J. H.: 1973,Solar Phys. 22, 3.

  24. Piddington, J. H.: 1975a,Astrophys. Space Sci. 34, 347.

  25. Piddington, J. H.: 1975b,Astrophys. Space Sci. 38, 157.

  26. Piddington, J. H.: 1976, in V. Bumba and J. Kleczek (eds.), ‘Basic Mechanisms of Solar Activity’,IAU Symp. 71, 389.

  27. Piddington, J. H.: 1977a,Astrophys. Space Sci. 47, 237.

  28. Piddington, J. H.: 1977b,Astrophys. Space Sci. 47, 319.

  29. Piddington, J. H.: 1978,Astrophys. Space Sci. 55, 401.

  30. Piddington, J. H.: 1979,Astrophys. J. 233, 727.

  31. Piddington, J. H.: 1981a,Cosmic Electrodynamics, R. E. Krieger, Malabar, Florida.

  32. Piddington, J. H.: 1981b,Astrophys. J. 247, 293.

  33. Piddington, J. H.: 1981c,Astrophys. Space Sci. 75, 273.

  34. Piddington, J. H.: 1981d,Astrophys. Space Sci. 80, 457.

  35. Rädler, K.-H.: 1976, in V. Bumba and J. Kleczek (eds.), ‘Basic Mechanisms of Solar Activity’,IAU Symp 71, 323.

  36. Russell, H. N., Dugan, R. S., and Stewart, J. Q.: 1926,Astronomy, Vol. 1 Gunn, Boston.

  37. Stix, M.: 1974,Astron. Astrophys. 37, 121.

  38. Stix, M.: 1976, in V. Bumba and J. Kleczek (eds.), ‘Basic Mechanisms of Solar Activity’,IAU Symp. 71, 367.

  39. Stix, M.: 1981,Solar Phys. 74, 79.

  40. Waldmeier, M.: 1939,Astron. Mitt. Zürich 14, No. 138, 439, 470.

  41. Weiss, N. O.: 1966,Proc. Roy. Soc. A 293, 310.

Download references

Author information

Additional information

Since this paper was communicated, a personal communication from Professor Cowling has partially resolved the difference of opinion about turbulent diffusion and its effects. This is discussed in a letter to the Editor, at the end of this volume, p. 477.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Piddington, J.H. Dynamo action in cosmic bodies. Astrophys Space Sci 87, 89–104 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00648910

Download citation


  • Field Model
  • Turbulent Diffusion
  • Observational Evidence
  • Quarter Century
  • Magnetic Region