New solar physics? Mysterious vortex waves discovered on the Sun travelling faster than expected
The high-frequency retrograde (HFR) waves, which move in the opposite direction of the Sun’s rotation, appear as a pattern of vortices (swirling motions) on the surface of the Sun and move at three times the speed established by current theory
Physicists believe that the discovery of mysterious vortex waves suggests that there is new solar physics to be uncovered.
They have said that these new set of waves in the Sun, unexpectedly, appear to travel much faster than predicted by theory.
The research, published in Nature Astronomy, details how scientists from NYU Abu Dhabi’s (NYUAD) Centre for Space Science analysed 25 years of space and ground-based data to detect these waves.
The high-frequency retrograde (HFR) waves, which move in the opposite direction of the Sun’s rotation, appear as a pattern of vortices (swirling motions) on the surface of the Sun and move at three times the speed established by current theory.
The interior of the Sun and stars cannot be imaged by conventional astronomy, for example, optical and x-ray, and scientists rely on interpreting the surface signatures of a variety of waves to image the interiors. These new HFR waves may yet be an important puzzle piece in our understanding of stars.
Complex interactions between other well-known waves and magnetism, gravity, or convection could drive the HFR waves at this speed.
"If the high-frequency retrograde waves could be attributed to any of these three processes, then the finding would have answered some open questions we still have about the Sun," says lead author Chris Hanson.
"However, these new waves don't appear to be a result of these processes, and that's exciting because it leads to a whole new set of questions."
By studying the Sun’s interior dynamics, through the use of waves, scientists can better appreciate the Sun's potential impact on the Earth and other planets in our solar system.
“The very existence of HFR modes and their origin is a true mystery and may allude to exciting physics at play,” said Shravan Hanasoge, a co-author of the paper.
“It has the potential to shed insight on the otherwise unobservable interior of the Sun.”
(With inputs from agencies)