Long-period oscillations control the Sun’s differential rotation | Science & Technology

The Sun’s differential rotation pattern has puzzled scientists for decades: while the poles rotate with a period of approximately 34 days, mid-latitudes rotate faster and the equatorial region requires only approximately 24 days for a full rotation. In addition, in past years advances in helioseismology, i.e. probing the solar interior with the help of solar acoustic waves, have established that this rotational profile is nearly constant throughout the entire convection zone. This layer of the Sun stretches from a depth of approximately 200,000 kilometers to the visible solar surface and is home to violent upheavals of hot plasma which play a crucial role in driving solar magnetism and activity.

While theoreticaThe interior of the Sun does not rotate at the same rate at all latitudes. The physical origin of this differential rotation is not fully understood. A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany has made a ground-breaking discovery. As the team reports today in the journal Science Advances, the long-period solar oscillations discovered by MPS scientists in 2021 play a crucial role in controlling the Sun’s rotational pattern. The long-period oscillations are analogous to the baroclinically unstable waves in Earth’s atmosphere that shape the weather. In the Sun, these oscillations carry heat from the slightly hotter poles to the slightly cooler equator. To obtain their new results, the scientists interpreted observations from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory using cutting-edge numerical simulations of the solar interior. They found that the difference in temperature between the poles and the equator is about seven degrees.

l models have long postulated a slight temperature difference between solar poles and equator to maintain the Sun’s rotational pattern, it has proven notoriously difficult to measure. After all, observations have to “look through” the background of the Sun’s deep interior which measures up…

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