What do the vibrations of the Sun reveal?
8 August 2022
What do cell phone outages, mysterious signals on undersea communication cables, and small tremors in the Earth all have in common? According to one team of scientists, they are all caused by vibrations from the Sun. Other researchers, however, question this claim, saying that the vibrations may not be leaking from the surface of the Sun in the first place.
Different types of waves, including sound waves called p-modes and waves called g-modes, are generated in the interior of the Sun. G-modes occur when material that has come up from deep within the Sun is pulled down again by gravity, causing wave motion similar to the up and down motion of waves at the ocean surface.
Both waves oscillate very slowly: p-modes oscillate for a few minutes, and g-modes have even longer periods, ranging from minutes to hours.
In the mid-1990s, a team led by David J. Thomson, an engineer, and statistician at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, reported that the solar wind, a stream of charged particles from the Sun, shows fluctuations in the same range of periods as the p- and g-modes. The data came from observations made by the Ulysses spacecraft, which flew into space in 1990 to study the Sun. The researchers believed that the Sun’s oscillations were somehow imprinted on the solar wind, creating regular fluctuations.
Now, Thomson’s team says they have evidence that these modes not only travel through space on the solar wind but also exploit biological phenomena and human technology on Earth.
For example, the voltage of undersea communication cables has unexplained fluctuations with a period characteristic of the p-mode. In addition, seismic observations of the Earth show very long periods in the g-mode range. Cell phone call faults also seem to fluctuate regularly with cycles related to solar oscillations.
Thomson noted that data from the Ulysses probe suggests that these oscillations can last for years at the same frequency, saying, “I can’t think of anything else that generates these frequencies and is as stable as this.”