New study has found that large planetary waves that meander through the atmosphere high above Earth’s surface also exist on the Sun.
Just as the large-scale waves that form on Earth, known as Rossby waves, influence local weather patterns, the waves discovered on the Sun may be intimately tied to solar activity, including the formation of sunspots, active regions, and the eruption of solar flares.
The discovery of magnetized Rossby waves on the Sun offers the tantalizing possibility that we can predict space weather much further in advance.
From 2011 to 2014, scientists had the unprecedented opportunity to see the Sun’s entire atmosphere at once. During that time, observations from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), which sits between the Sun and the Earth, were supplemented by measurements from NASA’s Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission, which included two spacecraft orbiting the Sun.
Collectively, the three observatories provided a 360-degree view of the Sun until contact was lost with one of the STEREO spacecraft in 2014.