Torsional Alfvén resonances as an efficient damping mechanism for non-radial oscillations in red giant stars
Stars are self-gravitating fluids in which pressure, buoyancy, rotation and magnetic fields provide the restoring forces for global modes of oscillation. Pressure and buoyancy energetically dominate, while rotation and magnetism are generally assumed to be weak perturbations and often ignored. However, observations of anomalously weak dipole mode amplitudes in red giant stars suggest that a substantial fraction of these are subject to an additional source of damping localized to their core region, with indirect evidence pointing to the role of a deeply buried magnetic field. It is also known that in many instances, the gravity-mode character of affected modes is preserved, but so far, no effective damping mechanism has been proposed that accommodates this aspect. Here we present such a mechanism, which damps the oscillations of stars harbouring magnetised cores via resonant interactions with standing Alfvén modes of high harmonic index. The damping rates produced by this mechanism are quantitatively on par with those associated with turbulent convection, and in the range required to explain observations, for realistic stellar models and magnetic field strengths. Our results suggest that magnetic fields can provide an efficient means of damping stellar oscillations without needing to disrupt the internal structure of the modes, and lay the groundwork for an extension of the theory of global stellar oscillations that incorporates these effects.