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New vortical Sun waves detected with unexplained speed

  • Published
    28th Mar, 2022

Researchers from New York University, Abu Dhabi and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research have discovered a set of new vorticity (spinning) waves coming from the Sun that move much faster than can be predicted with existing theories.


About the new waves:

  • The high-frequency retrograde (HFR) waves detected after 25 analysing 25 years of space and ground-based data moves in the opposite direction of the Sun’s rotation and appears as a pattern of vortices (fluid-like revolving motions) on the surface of the Sun and move at three times the speed predicted by current theory.
  • The unknown nature of these HFR waves makes it difficult to interpret and place them within the current context of solar dynamics and makes them difficult to explain.
  • The researchers tested three hypotheses that try to explain the waves:
  • that they are caused by magnetic fields within the sun;
  • that they come from gravity waves in the sun; and
  • That they occur due to the compression of plasma.

But none of the three hypotheses held up well against the data on the HFR waves.

  • But curiously enough, the behaviour of these waves is very similar to a type of wave found in Earth’s oceans known as Rossby Waves, which also travel much quicker than researchers can explain.
  • These waves move in the opposite direction to the rotation of the sun, three times faster than what should be allowed by hydrodynamics alone.

About Rossby wave:

  • Rossby waves, also known as planetary waves, naturally occur in rotating fluids.
  • Within the Earth's ocean and atmosphere, these waves form as a result of the rotation of the planet.
  • Within the Earth's ocean and atmosphere, these planetary waves play a significant role in shaping weather. 
  • In planetary atmospheres, they are due to the variation in the Coriolis Effect (When temperature contrast is low, speed of jet stream is low, and Coriolis force is weak leading to meandering) with latitude.
  • Rossby waves are formed when polar air moves toward the Equator while tropical air is moving poleward.
  • The existence of these waves explains the low-pressure cells (cyclones) and high-pressure cells (anticyclones).

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