Active regions on the solar surface are generally thought to originate from a strong toroidal magnetic field generated by a deep seated solar dynamo mechanism operating at the base of the solar convection zone. Thus the magnetic fields need to traverse the entire convection zone before they reach the photosphere to form the observed solar active regions. Understanding this process of active region flux emergence is therefore a crucial component for the study of the solar cycle dynamo. This article reviews studies with regard to the formation and rise of active region scale magnetic flux tubes in the solar convection zone and their emergence into the solar atmosphere as active regions.
Coronal holes are the darkest and least active regions of the Sun, as observed both on the solar disk and above the solar limb. Coronal holes are associated with rapidly expanding open magnetic fields and the acceleration of the high-speed solar wind. This paper reviews measurements of the plasma properties in coronal holes and how these measurements are used to reveal details about the physical processes that heat the solar corona and accelerate the solar wind. It is still unknown to what extent the solar wind is fed by flux tubes that remain open (and are energized by footpoint-driven wave-like fluctuations), and to what extent much of the mass and energy is input intermittently from closed loops into the open-field regions. Evidence for both paradigms is summarized in this paper. Special emphasis is also given to spectroscopic and coronagraphic measurements that allow the highly dynamic non-equilibrium evolution of the plasma to be followed as the asymptotic conditions in interplanetary space are established in the extended corona. For example, the importance of kinetic plasma physics and turbulence in coronal holes has been affirmed by surprising measurements from the UVCS instrument on SOHO that heavy ions are heated to hundreds of times the temperatures of protons and electrons. These observations point to specific kinds of collisionless Alfvén wave damping (i.e., ion cyclotron resonance), but complete theoretical models do not yet exist. Despite our incomplete knowledge of the complex multi-scale plasma physics, however, much progress has been made toward the goal of understanding the mechanisms ultimately responsible for producing the observed properties of coronal holes.
We review the properties of solar convection that are directly observable at the solar surface, and discuss the relevant underlying physics, concentrating mostly on a range of depths from the temperature minimum down to about 20 Mm below the visible solar surface.
The properties of convection at the main energy carrying (granular) scales are tightly constrained by observations, in particular by the detailed shapes of photospheric spectral lines and the topology (time- and length-scales, flow velocities, etc.) of the up- and downflows. Current supercomputer models match these constraints very closely, which lends credence to the models, and allows robust conclusions to be drawn from analysis of the model properties.
At larger scales the properties of the convective velocity field at the solar surface are strongly influenced by constraints from mass conservation, with amplitudes of larger scale horizontal motions decreasing roughly in inverse proportion to the scale of the motion. To a large extent, the apparent presence of distinct (meso- and supergranulation) scales is a result of the folding of this spectrum with the effective "filters" corresponding to various observational techniques. Convective motions on successively larger scales advect patterns created by convection on smaller scales; this includes patterns of magnetic field, which thus have an approximately self-similar structure at scales larger than granulation.
Radiative-hydrodynamical simulations of solar surface convection can be used as 2D/3D time-dependent models of the solar atmosphere to predict the emergent spectrum. In general, the resulting detailed spectral line profiles agree spectacularly well with observations without invoking any micro- and macroturbulence parameters due to the presence of convective velocities and atmosphere inhomogeneities. One of the most noteworthy results has been a significant reduction in recent years in the derived solar C, N, and O abundances with far-reaching consequences, not the least for helioseismology.
Convection in the solar surface layers is also of great importance for helioseismology in other ways; excitation of the wave spectrum occurs primarily in these layers, and convection influences the size of global wave cavity and, hence, the mode frequencies. On local scales convection modulates wave propagation, and supercomputer convection simulations may thus be used to test and calibrate local helioseismic methods.
We also discuss the importance of near solar surface convection for the structure and evolution of magnetic patterns: faculae, pores, and sunspots, and briefly address the question of the importance or not of local dynamo action near the solar surface. Finally, we discuss the importance of near solar surface convection as a driver for chromospheric and coronal heating.
This article surveys the development of observational understanding of the interior rotation of the Sun and its temporal variation over approximately forty years, starting with the 1960s attempts to determine the solar core rotation from oblateness and proceeding through the development of helioseismology to the detailed modern picture of the internal rotation deduced from continuous helioseismic observations during solar cycle 23. After introducing some basic helioseismic concepts, it covers, in turn, the rotation of the core and radiative interior, the “tachocline” shear layer at the base of the convection zone, the differential rotation in the convection zone, the near-surface shear, the pattern of migrating zonal flows known as the torsional oscillation, and the possible temporal variations at the bottom of the convection zone. For each area, the article also briefly explores the relationship between observations and models.