Earth-Like Planetary Waves Spotted In Sun’s Atmosphere For The First Time

Posted: Mar 29 2017, 10:22am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Earth-Like Planetary Waves Spotted in Sun’s Atmosphere for the First Time
Coronal bright points identified in image of the Sun taken by SDO. Credit: Scott McIntosh, NCAR

Just as the large-scale waves influence weather on Earth, the planetary waves of sun could help predict space weather patterns

Giant planetary waves that exist in the upper atmosphere of Earth have also been observed in the atmosphere of the sun. This is the first-ever direct evidence of planetary waves in the Sun’s atmosphere and they has been mainly identified by the observations from Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) – a NASA mission studying solar activity since 2010.

Planetary waves, also known as Rossby waves play an important role in the formation of weather pattern here on Earth. As these large-scale waves influences Earth weather, there is a possibility that planetary waves found on solar surface may also be tied to extreme activity on Sun including solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high speed solar winds and electrically charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Tracking planetary waves of sun can contribute to more accurate and faster space weather forecast and solar activity predictions.

“The discovery of magnetized Rossby waves on the Sun offers the tantalizing possibility that we can predict space weather much further in advance.” Lead author Scott McIntosh, a scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSAR) said in a statement.

On Earth, Rossby waves occur both in the atmosphere high above the Earth and in the depths of oceans. Because Sun is also rotating and is largely made up of plasma that acts like a vast, magnetized ocean, it was long thought that this type of waves should also take place on our neighboring star. But they could not be detected until now. Lack of advanced technology is likely the reason these planet-sized waves were gone undetected.

From 2011 to 2014, researchers had a unique opportunity to see the entire atmosphere of the sun at once when three satellites were studying the sun's atmosphere. By combining the data from all three satellites (SDO and two satellites from STEREO mission), researchers were able to understand more about the interior of the sun and where its magnetic field come from. The analysis further tracked bands of magnetized activity that spread slowly across the Sun—just like the Rossby waves found on Earth.

With this discovery, researchers could predict solar behavior, which is too complex to forecast otherwise.

“The discovery of Rossby-like waves on the Sun could be importnat for the prediction of solar storms, the main drivers of space weather effects on Earth,” said Ilia Roussev from National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. “Bad weather in space can damage or hinder satellite operations and communication or navigation systems, as well as cause power-grid outages leading to tremendous socioeconomic loses.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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