Tuesday 08 January 2019
to 16:00 at
Illa R. Losada (Stockholm University, Dept. of Astronomy, and Nordita)
Sunspots stand out on the visible solar surface. They appear as dark structures evolving and changing over time. They host energetic and violent events, like coronal mass ejections and flares, and concentrate strong magnetic fields. Hundreds of years of studies provide a record of sunspot cycles, as reported by the well-known butterfly diagram, as well as some of their general observational properties, such as size, maximum field strength, and lifetime. However, we lack a general theory that explains how the magnetic field cluster in the spots and how it evolves over time.
This thesis studies the negative effective magnetic pressure instability (NEMPI) as a mechanism able to form such magnetic flux concentrations and thus magnetic spots. A weak magnetic field suppresses the turbulence locally and reduces the turbulent pressure. The resulting contraction concentrates the field further, which reduces the turbulent pressure even more, and so on. We study the conditions where NEMPI is excited, trying to reproduce some of the complexities of the solar environment. We focus on the effects of rotation, the change of stratification, and the influence of a simplified corona. We solve the magnetohydrodynamic equations using both direct numerical simulations and mean-field simulations of strongly stratified turbulence in a weak magnetic field.
Even slow rotation with a Coriolis number of 0.01 can suppress the instability. Higher values of rotation lead to dynamo action, increasing the magnetic field in a new coupled dynamo-NEMPI system. In the solar case, the dependence of NEMPI on rotation constrains the depth where the instability can operate: since the Coriolis number is very small in the uppermost layers of the Sun, NEMPI can only be a shallow phenomenon. Changing the type of stratification from isothermal to polytropic pushes the instability further to the upper parts of the computational domain. Unlike the isothermal case, in the polytropic cases the density scale height is no longer constant, but the stratification decreases deeper down, making it increasingly difficult for NEMPI to operate.
A corona changes dramatically the semblance of flux concentrations. A bipolar region is formed, instead of a single spot. It develops at the interface between the turbulent and the non-turbulent layers, forming a loop-like structure in the coronal layer. The bipoles move apart and finally decay and disappear. We study the structure in a wide range of parameters and test the physical conditions of its appearance. Higher stratification and imposed field strength intensify the magnetic structures, which reach even equipartition values, until a plateau and subsequent decrease occur. The increase of the domain size strengthens the maximum magnetic field and gives more coherence to the spots, keeping their sizes. We measure a strong large-scale downward and converging flows associated with the concentration of flux. Finally, we also include rotation in the two-layer model, confirming the previous results: slow rotation suppresses the formation of bipolar regions. A stronger imposed magnetic field alleviates the suppression somewhat and strengthens the structures.
These studies demonstrate the viability of NEMPI to form magnetic flux concentrations in both monopolar and bipolar structures. We find that NEMPI can only develop in the uppermost layers, where the local Coriolis number is small and the stratification strong.