2.1 Solar convection

To better appreciate the following discussions, we find it useful to start this section with a brief, non-exhaustive recap of the general properties of solar convection. Readers interested in various specific aspects of solar convection such as deep convection or the fine structure of granulation will find much more exhaustive accounts on these matters in the reviews by Miesch (2005Jump To The Next Citation Point) and Nordlund et al. (2009Jump To The Next Citation Point).

The outer layers of the Sun, 30% in radius, 2% in mass, are strongly stratified: the density ratio between the visible surface and the 0.3R ⊙ depth is close to 106 (see Stix, 2004). This region is unstable with respect to thermal convection and is hence referred to as the solar convection zone (SCZ). The solar luminosity is mostly transported by fluid motions driven by thermal buoyancy in the SCZ: physically, the strongly non-adiabatic cooling of the surface layers, like the top cold plate of a convection experiment, imposes a strong negative entropy gradient below the surface, where the heat flux coming from the solar interior cannot be evacuated by microscopic heat diffusion alone. This entropy gradient gets smaller at larger depth as a consequence of the efficiency of convective mixing, but remains negative down to ∼ 0.3R ⊙, where it changes sign and becomes stable against convection.

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