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[en] One scenario proposed to explain the million degree solar corona is a finely stranded corona where each strand is heated by a rapid pulse. However, such fine structure has neither been resolved through direct imaging observations nor conclusively shown through indirect observations of extended superhot plasma. Recently, it has been shown that the observed difference in the appearance of cool and warm coronal loops (∼1 MK and ∼2-3 MK, respectively)-warm loops appearing 'fuzzier' than cool loops-can be explained by models of loops composed of subarcsecond strands, which are impulsively heated up to ∼10 MK. That work predicts that images of hot coronal loops (∼> 6 MK) should again show fine structure. Here we show that the predicted effect is indeed widely observed in an active region with the Solar Dynamics Observatory, thus supporting a scenario where impulsive heating of fine loop strands plays an important role in powering the active corona.
[en] Coronal bright fronts (CBFs) are large-scale wavefronts that propagate through the solar corona at hundreds of kilometers per second. While their kinematics have been studied in detail, many questions remain regarding the temporal evolution of their amplitude and pulse width. Here, contemporaneous high cadence, multi-thermal observations of the solar corona from the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) and Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft are used to determine the kinematics and expansion rate of a CBF wavefront observed on 2010 August 14. The CBF was found to have a lower initial velocity with weaker deceleration in STEREO observations compared to SDO observations (∼340 km s–1 and –72 m s–2 as opposed to ∼410 km s–1 and –279 m s–2). The CBF kinematics from SDO were found to be highly passband-dependent, with an initial velocity ranging from 379 ± 12 km s–1 to 460 ± 28 km s–1 and acceleration ranging from –128 ± 28 m s–2 to –431 ± 86 m s–2 in the 335 Å and 304 Å passbands, respectively. These kinematics were used to estimate a quiet coronal magnetic field strength range of ∼1-2 G. Significant pulse broadening was also observed, with expansion rates of ∼130 km s–1 (STEREO) and ∼220 km s–1 (SDO). By treating the CBF as a linear superposition of sinusoidal waves within a Gaussian envelope, the resulting dispersion rate of the pulse was found to be ∼8-13 Mm2 s–1. These results are indicative of a fast-mode magnetoacoustic wave pulse propagating through an inhomogeneous medium.
[en] Magnetic reconnection between the open and closed magnetic fields in the corona is believed to play a crucial role in the corona/heliosphere coupling. At large scale, the exchange of open/closed connectivity is expected to occur in pseudo-streamer (PS) structures. However, there is neither clear observational evidence of how such coupling occurs in PSs, nor evidence for how the magnetic reconnection evolves. Using a newly developed technique, we enhance the off-limb magnetic fine structures observed with the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and identify a PS-like feature located close to the northern coronal hole. We first identify that the magnetic topology associated with the observation is a PS, null-point (NP) related topology bounded by the open field. By comparing the magnetic field configuration with the EUV emission regions, we determined that most of the magnetic flux associated with plasma emission are small loops below the PS basic NP and open field bounding the PS topology. In order to interpret the evolution of the PS, we referred to a three-dimensional MHD interchange reconnection modeling the exchange of connectivity between small closed loops and the open field. The observed PS fine structures follow the dynamics of the magnetic field before and after reconnecting at the NP obtained by the interchange model. Moreover, the pattern of the EUV plasma emission is the same as the shape of the expected plasma emission location derived from the simulation. These morphological and dynamical similarities between the PS observations and the results from the simulation strongly suggest that the evolution of the PS, and in particular the opening/closing of the field, occurs via interchange/slipping reconnection at the basic NP of the PS. Besides identifying the mechanism at work in the large-scale coupling between the open and closed fields, our results highlight that interchange reconnection in PSs is a gradual physical process that differs from the impulsive reconnection of the solar-jet model.
[en] Recent high-resolution Atmospheric Imaging Assembly/Solar Dynamics Observatory images show evidence of the development of the Kelvin–Helmholtz (KH) instability, as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) expand in the ambient corona. A large-scale magnetic field mostly tangential to the interface is inferred, both on the CME and on the background sides. However, the magnetic field component along the shear flow is not strong enough to quench the instability. There is also observational evidence that the ambient corona is in a turbulent regime, and therefore the criteria for the development of the instability are a priori expected to differ from the laminar case. To study the evolution of the KH instability with a turbulent background, we perform three-dimensional simulations of the incompressible magnetohydrodynamic equations. The instability is driven by a velocity profile tangential to the CME–corona interface, which we simulate through a hyperbolic tangent profile. The turbulent background is generated by the application of a stationary stirring force. We compute the instability growth rate for different values of the turbulence intensity, and find that the role of turbulence is to attenuate the growth. The fact that KH instability is observed sets an upper limit on the correlation length of the coronal background turbulence
[en] We present an investigation of the polar crown prominence that erupted on 2012 March 12. This prominence is observed at the southeast limb by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)/Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA; end-on view) and displays a quasi-vertical thread structure. A bright U-shaped or horn-like structure is observed surrounding the upper portion of the prominence at 171 Å before the eruption and becomes more prominent during the eruption. The disk view of shows that this long prominence is composed of a series of vertical threads and displays a half-loop-like structure during the eruption. We focus on the magnetic support of the prominence vertical threads by studying the structure and dynamics of the prominence before and during the eruption using observations from SDO and STEREO_B. We also construct a series of magnetic field models (sheared arcade model, twisted flux rope model, and unstable model with hyperbolic flux tube). Various observational characteristics appear to be in favor of the twisted flux rope model. We find that the flux rope supporting the prominence enters the regime of torus instability at the onset of the fast-rise phase, and signatures of reconnection (posteruption arcade, new U-shaped structure, rising blobs) appear about one hour later. During the eruption, AIA observes dark ribbons seen in absorption at 171 Å corresponding to the bright ribbons shown at 304 Å, which might be caused by the erupting filament material falling back along the newly reconfigured magnetic fields. Brightenings at the inner edge of the erupting prominence arcade are also observed in all AIA EUV channels, which might be caused by the heating due to energy released from reconnection below the rising prominence.
[en] The solar cycle and its associated magnetic activity are the main drivers behind changes in the interplanetary environment and Earth's upper atmosphere (commonly referred to as space weather). These changes have a direct impact on the lifetime of space-based assets and can create hazards to astronauts in space. In recent years there has been an effort to develop accurate solar cycle predictions (with aims at predicting the long-term evolution of space weather), leading to nearly a hundred widely spread predictions for the amplitude of solar cycle 24. A major contributor to the disagreement is the lack of direct long-term databases covering different components of the solar magnetic field (toroidal versus poloidal). Here, we use sunspot area and polar faculae measurements spanning a full century (as our toroidal and poloidal field proxies) to study solar cycle propagation, memory, and prediction. Our results substantiate predictions based on the polar magnetic fields, whereas we find sunspot area to be uncorrelated with cycle amplitude unless multiplied by area-weighted average tilt. This suggests that the joint assimilation of tilt and sunspot area is a better choice (with aims to cycle prediction) than sunspot area alone, and adds to the evidence in favor of active region emergence and decay as the main mechanism of poloidal field generation (i.e., the Babcock-Leighton mechanism). Finally, by looking at the correlation between our poloidal and toroidal proxies across multiple cycles, we find solar cycle memory to be limited to only one cycle.
[en] We analyze coordinated Hinode X-ray Telescope (XRT) and Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrometer (EIS) observations of a non-flaring active region to investigate the thermal properties of coronal plasma taking advantage of the complementary diagnostics provided by the two instruments. In particular, we want to explore the presence of hot plasma in non-flaring regions. Independent temperature analyses from the XRT multi-filter data set, and the EIS spectra, including the instrument entire wavelength range, provide a cross-check of the different temperature diagnostics techniques applicable to broadband and spectral data, respectively, and insights into cross-calibration of the two instruments. The emission measure distributions, (EM(T)), we derive from the two data sets have similar width and peak temperature, but show a systematic shift of the absolute values, the EIS (EM(T)) being smaller than the XRT (EM(T)) by approximately a factor two. We explore possible causes of this discrepancy, and we discuss the influence of the assumptions for the plasma element abundances. Specifically, we find that the disagreement between the results from the two instruments is significantly mitigated by assuming chemical composition closer to the solar photospheric composition rather than the often adopted 'coronal' composition. We find that the data do not provide conclusive evidence on the high temperature (log T(K) ∼> 6.5) tail of the plasma temperature distribution, however, suggesting its presence to a level in agreement with recent findings for other non-flaring regions.
[en] Although the Sun's polar magnetic fields are thought to provide important clues for understanding the 11 year sunspot cycle, including the observed variations of its amplitude and period, the current database of high-quality polar field measurements spans relatively few sunspot cycles. In this paper, we address this deficiency by consolidating Mount Wilson Observatory polar faculae data from four data reduction campaigns, validating it through a comparison with facular data counted automatically from Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) intensitygrams, and calibrating it against polar field measurements taken by the Wilcox Solar Observatory and average polar field and total polar flux calculated using MDI line-of-sight magnetograms. Our results show that the consolidated polar facular measurements are in excellent agreement with both polar field and polar flux estimates, making them an ideal proxy to study the evolution of the polar magnetic field. Additionally, we combine this database with sunspot area measurements to study the role of the polar magnetic flux in the evolution of the heliospheric magnetic field (HMF). We find that there is a strong correlation between HMF and polar flux at solar minimum and that, taken together, polar flux and sunspot area are better at explaining the evolution of the HMF during the last century than sunspot area alone.
[en] In this work we introduce a new way of binning sunspot group data with the purpose of better understanding the impact of the solar cycle on sunspot properties and how this defined the characteristics of the extended minimum of cycle 23. Our approach assumes that the statistical properties of sunspots are completely determined by the strength of the underlying large-scale field and have no additional time dependencies. We use the amplitude of the cycle at any given moment (something we refer to as activity level) as a proxy for the strength of this deep-seated magnetic field. We find that the sunspot size distribution is composed of two populations: one population of groups and active regions and a second population of pores and ephemeral regions. When fits are performed at periods of different activity level, only the statistical properties of the former population, the active regions, are found to vary. Finally, we study the relative contribution of each component (small-scale versus large-scale) to solar magnetism. We find that when hemispheres are treated separately, almost every one of the past 12 solar minima reaches a point where the main contribution to magnetism comes from the small-scale component. However, due to asymmetries in cycle phase, this state is very rarely reached by both hemispheres at the same time. From this we infer that even though each hemisphere did reach the magnetic baseline, from a heliospheric point of view the minimum of cycle 23 was not as deep as it could have been
[en] In this work, we take advantage of 11 different sunspot group, sunspot, and active region databases to characterize the area and flux distributions of photospheric magnetic structures. We find that, when taken separately, different databases are better fitted by different distributions (as has been reported previously in the literature). However, we find that all our databases can be reconciled by the simple application of a proportionality constant, and that, in reality, different databases are sampling different parts of a composite distribution. This composite distribution is made up by linear combination of Weibull and log-normal distributions—where a pure Weibull (log-normal) characterizes the distribution of structures with fluxes below (above) 1021Mx (1022Mx). Additionally, we demonstrate that the Weibull distribution shows the expected linear behavior of a power-law distribution (when extended to smaller fluxes), making our results compatible with the results of Parnell et al. We propose that this is evidence of two separate mechanisms giving rise to visible structures on the photosphere: one directly connected to the global component of the dynamo (and the generation of bipolar active regions), and the other with the small-scale component of the dynamo (and the fragmentation of magnetic structures due to their interaction with turbulent convection)