Numerical simulations of sunspot rotation driven by magnetic flux emergence
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Magnetic flux continually emerges from the Sun, rising through the solar interior, emerging at the photosphere in the form of sunspots and expanding into the atmosphere. Observations of sunspot rotations have been reported for over a century and are often accompanied by solar eruptions and flaring activity. In this thesis, we present 3D numerical simulations of the emergence of twisted flux tubes from the uppermost layers of the solar interior, examining the rotational movements of sunspots in the photospheric plane. The basic experiment introduces the mechanism and characteristics of sunspot rotation by a clear calculation of rotation angle, vorticity, magnetic helicity and energy, whereby we find an untwisting of the interior portion of the field, accompanied by an injection of twist into the atmospheric field. We extend this model by altering the initial field strength and twist of the sub-photospheric tube. This comparison reveals the rotation angle, helicity and current show a direct dependence on field strength. An increase in field strength increases the rotation angle, the length of fieldlines extending into the atmosphere, and the magnetic energy transported to the atmosphere. The fieldline length is crucial as we predict the twist per unit length equilibrates to a lower value on longer fieldlines, and hence possesses a larger rotation angle. No such direct dependence is found when varying the twist but there is a clear ordering in rotation angle, helicity, and energy, with more highly twisted tubes undergoing larger rotation angles. We believe the final angle of rotation is reached when the system achieves a constant degree of twist along the length of fieldlines. By extrapolating the size of the modelled active region, we find rotation angles and rates comparable with those observed. In addition, we explore sunspot rotation caused by sub-photospheric velocities twisting the footpoints of flux tubes.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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