Articles

Torsional Oscillations of the Sun

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Science  24 May 1985:
Vol. 228, Issue 4702, pp. 945-952
DOI: 10.1126/science.228.4702.945

Abstract

The sun's differential rotation has a cyclic pattern of change that is tightly correlated with the sunspot, or magnetic activity, cycle. This pattern can be described as a torsional oscillation, in which the solar rotation is periodically sped up or slowed down in certain zones of latitude while elsewhere the rotation remains essentially steady. The zones of anomalous rotation move on the sun in wavelike fashion, keeping pace with and flanking the zones of magnetic activity. It is uncertain whether this torsional oscillation is a globally coherent ringing of the sun or whether it is a local pattern caused by and causing local changes in the magnetic fields. In either case, it may be an important link in the connection between the rotation and the cycle that is widely believed to exist but is not yet understood.