Huge Waves on the Sun Observed by NYU Abu Dhabi Solar Physicist

The oscillations will help to establish novel ways to probe the Sun’s interior and obtain information about its inner structure and dynamics

Press Release

A team of solar physicists led by NYU Abu Dhabi Co-Principal Investigator of the Center for Space Science Laurent Gizon, has revealed huge swirling waves moving on the solar surface, which extend 125,000 miles below the surface of the Sun.  

Gizon, on behalf of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) and the University of Göttingen in Germany, made the discovery, along with a team of scientists, after a decade of observations from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.  The study has led to the discovery of global oscillations of the Sun, comparable to the 27-day solar rotation period. The oscillations manifest themselves at the solar surface as swirling motions with speeds of around three miles per hour.

In the 1960’s the Sun’s high musical notes were discovered. These 5-minute oscillations have been observed continuously by ground-based telescopes and space observatories since the mid 1990’s and have been used very successfully by helioseismologists to learn about the internal structure and dynamics of the star; this is similar to how seismologists can learn about the interior of the Earth by studying earthquakes. In addition to the 5-minute waves, much longer-period oscillations were predicted to exist in stars more than 40 years ago but had not been identified on the Sun until now.


“The discovery of a new type of solar oscillations is exciting as it allows us to infer properties, such as the strength of the convective driving, which ultimately control the solar dynamo.”

Laurent Gizon

The solar dynamo is thought to be responsible for the features and eruptions on the Sun’s surface which vary in intensity over the 11-year cycle of solar activity.

The oscillations will help establish novel ways to probe the Sun’s interior and obtain information about the star’s inner structure and dynamics. The scientists have described their findings in the latest edition of the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.