Small-scale magnetic feature evolution as observed by Hinode/NFI and SOHO/MDI
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The surface (photosphere) of the Sun is threaded throughout by magnetic fields. Groups of magnetic fields form magnetic features (of a wide range of sizes in flux and area) on the surface where the fields are directed into or out of the Sun. The aim of this thesis is to examine in detail the four key processes, emergence, cancellation, fragmentation and coalescence, which determine the behaviour of small-scale magnetic features, in the Sun’s photosphere. I identify features in both Hinode/NFI and SOHO/MDI full-disk to enable these processes to be examined at the currently smallest observable scales and over an entire solar cycle. The emerging event frequency versus flux distribution, for intranetwork emerging regions to active regions, is found to follow a power-law distribution with index -2.50, which spans nearly 7 orders of magnitude in flux (10¹⁶ - 10²³ Mx) and 18 orders of magnitude in frequency. The global rate of flux emergence is found to be 3.9 x 10²⁴ Mx day⁻¹. Since the slope of all emerged fluxes is less than -2 this implies that most of the new flux that is fed into the solar atmosphere is from small-scale emerging events. This single power-law distribution over all emerged fluxes suggest a scale-free dynamo, therefore indicating that in addition to dynamo actions in the tachocline producing sunspots, a turbulent dynamo may act throughout the convection zone. Similarly for cancellations I find a power-law relationship between the frequency of cancellation and the peak flux lost per cancelling event (for events detected in both Hinode/NFI and SOHO/MDI full-disk), with slope -2.10. Again, the process of cancellation appears to be scale free and the slope is less than -2 indicating that numerous small-scale features are cancelling the majority of flux on the Sun. I also estimate the frequency of all surface processes at solar maximum and find, 1.3 x 10⁸, 4.5 x 10⁷, 4.0 x 10⁷ and 3.6 x 10⁶ events per day over the whole surface for emergence, cancellation, fragmentation and coalescence events, respectively. All the surface processes are found to behave in a similar manner over all flux scales. The majority of events for all processes occur in features with flux below 10²º Mx, which highlights the dynamic nature of the magnetic carpet. Using SOHO/MDI full-disk data I investigate the cyclic variation of the 4 key processes throughout cycle 23. It is found that the rate of emerging events, cancellations, fragmentations and coalescences varied in anti-phase with the solar cycle by factors of 3.4, 3.1, 2.4 and 2.2, respectively over the cycle. Not surprisingly, therefore, the number of network features detected throughout the cycle also exhibits an anti-phase variation over the solar cycle by a factor of 1.9. The mean peak flux of tracked small-scale network, fragmenting, coalescing and cancelling features showed in-phase relationships with the solar cycle by factors of 1.4, 1.7, 2.4 and 1.2, respectively. The total flux which is emerged and cancelled by small-scale events, varied in anti-phase with the solar cycle, by factors of 1.9 and 3.2. This is clearly due to the variation in the number of emerging and cancelling events and the fact that the flux of individual emerging events showed no cyclic variation. The results in this thesis show that the large-scale solar cycle plays a complex role in the surface processes features undergo. The fact that the number of ephemeral regions emerging has an anti-phase variation to the solar cycle has a knock-on effect in the number of features which are available to undergo surface processes. Also decaying active regions, during more active periods, contribute more small-scale features, with high flux density, into the network which has an effect on the surface processes. This work has revealed the significant importance of small-scale features in the flux budget through continual emergence and cancellation, plus highlighted how through dynamic surface motions, small-scale features form the fundamental components with which the network is developed.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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