Mysterious vortex waves discovered in the Sun hint at new solar physics

(ORDO NEWS) — A new type of high-frequency acoustic waves propagating on the Sun has been discovered. Waves appear on the surface of the Sun as a pattern of swirling vortices moving against the rotation of the Sun.

The problem is that these high frequency waves of retrograde vortex activity seem to be moving three times faster than theory predicts, and solar physicists have been unable to determine the cause of this.

According to them, this discovery suggests that there is a new physics of the Sun that has yet to be discovered, and also provides new insight into the internal properties and activity of the Sun.

Although we can’t look inside the Sun, stars are remarkable in that their internal processes can often be inferred from surface activity.

In particular, acoustic waves can tell us a lot. They are generated near the surface and then reflected, partially or completely, inward, where they resonate, creating acoustic vibrations. Solar scientists study these vibrations to learn about the inner workings of the Sun.

A team of scientists led by solar physicist Chris Hanson of New York University Abu Dhabi studied and analyzed such data using 24 years of observations from the ground based Global Oscillation Network Group and 10 years of observations from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager spacecraft.

In the resulting data, the researchers found a very consistent signal, which, according to their analysis, indicates the presence of previously unseen waves.

They formed on the surface of the Sun a pattern of vortices with antisymmetry between the north and south poles, moving against the solar rotation.

However, the fact that these waves are moving three times faster than expected is puzzling. The research team considered several options for what is happening.

First, the Coriolis force – the way a spinning spherical object’s equator moves faster than its poles excites vortex waves, which we know can happen on Earth.

Further, there are three mechanisms that can influence and change waves: magnetism, gravity, or convection. However, none of them can explain the observational data.

“If the high-frequency retrograde waves could be explained by any of these three processes, then the find would answer some of the open questions we still have about the Sun,” says Hanson.

“However, these new waves do not seem to be the result of these processes, and this is interesting because it leads to a whole new set of questions.”

According to the researchers, this suggests that our models of the Sun are missing or poorly limited information that can be filled by solving this puzzle.

This also applies to the closer home. Scientists have discovered high-frequency waves in the ocean that travel four times as high as theory predicts and have proved very difficult to explain. A joint study of both phenomena can help unravel their mystery.

“The very existence of high-frequency retrograde modes and their origins is a real mystery and may hint at the exciting physics in the game,” says physicist Shrawan Hanasoge of New York University Abu Dhabi.

“This could shed light on the otherwise unobservable interior of the Sun.”

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