Researchers have detected a mysterious set of waves coming out of the Sun that, inexplicably, appears to travel three times faster than earlier predicted. The researchers think these waves could help them understand the interiors of the Sun, which is usually not observed even by space-based telescopes. Described as a “true mystery”, these waves were discovered when the researchers studied 25 years of data gathered on the Sun from both space and Earth. These high-frequency retrograde (HFR) waves appear as swirls or vortices on the solar surface and move in the opposite direction of the Sun’s rotation.
The most surprising aspect of the research, a collaboration between New York University and the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), was that these waves moved at three times the speed established by current theory. This leads researchers to believe that there could be additional physical processes at work that are yet to be understood.
Studying these waves is also important to know what’s going on inside the interior regions of the sun. The interiors of the Sun and stars cannot be imaged by conventional instruments, such as optical or X-ray telescopes. So, scientists rely on interpreting the surface waves. These new HFR waves may be an important puzzle in our understanding of stars.
However, the researchers are currently focussing on understanding what caused these waves to move so fast. Some possible explanations include interactions between other well-known waves and magnetism, gravity or convection.
“The as-yet-undetermined nature of these waves promises novel physics and fresh insight into solar dynamics,” the researchers wrote in their study published in Nature Astronomy journal.
“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, in a statement and added that it had the ability to provide an insight into the Sun’s otherwise “unobservable interior”.
Scientists hope to understand the impact of the Sun on Earth and other planets in the solar system by studying the waves.