MAY 07, 2018 04:46 PM PDT

Scientists Confirm Existence of Solar Rossby Waves

Another day, another discovery. Researchers from both the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) and University of Göttingen say that they’ve discovered Rossby waves residing on the Sun’s surface.

This diagram depicts the size and rotation of the solar Rossby waves discovered in the study.

Image Credit: MPS/NASA/HormesDesign

The findings, published in the journal Nature Astronomy this week, were made possible by six years’ worth of observations made with the Heliospheric and Magnetic Imager (HMI) onboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

The researchers refer to the Sun-centric counterparts as ‘solar Rossby waves,’ but we still know very little about them and how they might influence the Sun.

"Solar Rossby waves have very small amplitudes, and periods of several months, thus they are extremely difficult to detect," said Prof. Dr. Laurent Gizon, a co-author of the study.

Related: Solar tornadoes don't actually spin like tornadoes

Scientists have long known about Rossby waves here on Earth and on some other planets in the solar system. While they've theorized about their existence on the Sun for decades, they hadn't proven their existence until now.

Rossby waves can influence weather conditions on planets, but scientists aren't entirely sure how they impact the Sun. On theory is that they might drive significant amounts of kinetic energy.

With HMI, the researchers analyzed the solar Rossby waves more closely. Granules on the solar surface spanned up to 1,500 kilometers across and served as indicators for the underlying, supermassive waves that penetrated up to 20,000 kilometers into the Sun’s interior.

"All in all, we find large-scale waves of vorticity on the Sun that move in the direction opposite to rotation. That these waves are only seen in the equatorial regions is completely unexpected", Gizon added.

"Solar Rossby waves are gigantic in size, with wavelengths comparable to the solar radius."

Related: 'Maunder Minimum'-like solar behavior expected within the next few decades

While the discovery in and of itself is remarkable, future research into solar Rossby waves may shed light on their purpose and how they impact the Sun’s internal dynamics, among other things.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
SEP 05, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 05, 2018
What Would We Even Do If We Found Aliens?
Space agencies like NASA and the European Space Agency are exceptionally busy searching our solar system for evidence of otherworldly life, but do we know...
OCT 01, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 01, 2018
New Horizons Team Rehearses for Upcoming Ultima Thule Flyby
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made history when it became the first spacecraft to fly past Pluto and capture stunning images of its surface in 2015....
OCT 15, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 15, 2018
Picking a Landing Site On Mars is No Easy Task
When space agencies like NASA send landers and rovers to other places in the solar system to explore, one of the most challenging questions they’re c...
OCT 22, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 22, 2018
Watch NASA's IOP/SS Deluge System Spew 450,000 Gallons of Water in Just 60 Seconds
NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System (SLS) rocket received a ton of hype in recent memory, and for a good reason; it’s set to surpass the legend...
NOV 03, 2018
Earth & The Environment
NOV 03, 2018
The battle of the scientists vs. Hawaiin conservationists, featuring: a telescope
The controversy between Hawaiian conservationists and scientists intensifies with the Supreme Court’s recent approval of the 18-story Thirty Meter Te...
NOV 04, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 04, 2018
These Planets Have More Extreme Weather Than Earth
You might think that the weather can get nasty here on Earth, but it pales in comparison to the weather on other planets in the solar system. The weather c...
Loading Comments...