MAY 07, 2018 4:46 PM PDT

Scientists Confirm Existence of Solar Rossby Waves

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

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
NOV 05, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 05, 2019
New Technologies Are Headed for the International Space Station
Space is hard, and for that reason, researchers are always trying to come up with new ways to make it easier. One of the best places for new technologies t...
DEC 03, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 03, 2019
Wanna Venture Outside of the Solar System? Try a "Skyhook"
Rocket engines are expensive to build, and their speed and the distance of travel are also limited by their own weight and the fuel they carry. But there&#...
DEC 18, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
DEC 18, 2019
Physics in Peril? (Part II) - Lost in the "Darkness"
Not many share the same antagonistic view with Sabine Hossenfelder, the physicist who associates the current awkward state of physical science with theoret...
DEC 22, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 22, 2019
How Astronomers Measure Distances to Stars
Extra stellar systems are so far away from our own that we couldn’t even hope of developing a tape measure long enough to determine how far away they...
JAN 05, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 05, 2020
It's Finally the Year of the Mars 2020 Mission
It’s officially 2020, and with that in mind, anyone paying attention to NASA’s launch schedule should know already that the Mars 2020 rover is...
JAN 26, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 26, 2020
Betelgeuse Continues to Dim, But Why?
A nearby red supergiant star by the name of Betelgeuse has long been popular among astronomers, not only because of its massive size and close proximity to...
Loading Comments...