Sunspot rotation : I. A consequence of flux emergence
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Context. Solar eruptions and high flare activity often accompany the rapid rotation of sunspots. The study of sunspot rotation and the mechanisms driving this motion are therefore key to our understanding of how the solar atmosphere attains the conditions necessary for large energy release. Aims. We aim to demonstrate and investigate the rotation of sunspots in a 3D numerical experiment of the emergence of a magnetic flux tube as it rises through the solar interior and emerges into the atmosphere. Furthermore, we seek to show that the sub-photospheric twist stored in the interior is injected into the solar atmosphere by means of a definitive rotation of the sunspots. Methods. A numerical experiment is performed to solve the 3D resistive magnetohydrodynamic equations using a Lagrangian-Remap code. We track the emergence of a toroidal flux tube as it rises through the solar interior and emerges into the atmosphere investigating various quantities related to both the magnetic field and plasma. Results. Through detailed analysis of the numerical experiment, we find clear evidence that the photospheric footprints or sunspots of the flux tube undergo a rotation. Significant vertical vortical motions are found to develop within the two polarity sources after the field emerges. These rotational motions are found to leave the interior portion of the field untwisted and twist up the atmospheric portion of the field. This is shown by our analysis of the relative magnetic helicity as a significant portion of the interior helicity is transported to the atmosphere. In addition, there is a substantial transport of magnetic energy to the atmosphere. Rotation angles are also calculated by tracing selected fieldlines; the fieldlines threading through the sunspot are found to rotate through angles of up to 353º over the course of the experiment. We explain the rotation by an unbalanced torque produced by the magnetic tension force, rather than an apparent effect.
Sturrock , Z , Hood , A W , Archontis , V & McNeill , C 2015 , ' Sunspot rotation : I. A consequence of flux emergence ' , Astronomy & Astrophysics , vol. 582 , A76 , pp. 1-14 . https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201526521
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Reproduced with permission from Astronomy & Astrophysics, © ESO
DescriptionZS acknowledges the financial support of the Carnegie Trust for Scotland and CMM the support of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This work used the DIRAC 1, UKMHD Consortium machine at the University of St Andrews and the DiRAC Data Centric system at Durham University, operated by the Institute for Computational Cosmology on behalf of the STFC DiRAC HPC Facility (www.dirac.ac.uk). This equipment was funded by BIS National E-infrastructure capital grant ST/K00042X/1, STFC capital grant ST/H008519/1, and STFC DiRAC Operations grant ST/K003267/1 and Durham University. DiRAC is part of the National E-Infrastructure.
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