Vol. 9 (2012) > lrsp-2012-4

doi: 10.12942/lrsp-2012-4
Living Rev. Solar Phys. 9 (2012), 4

Solar Surface Magneto-Convection

1 Physics and Astronomy Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, U.S.A.

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Article Abstract

We review the properties of solar magneto-convection in the top half of the convection zones scale heights (from 20 Mm below the visible surface to the surface, and then through the photosphere to the temperature minimum). Convection is a highly non-linear and non-local process, so it is best studied by numerical simulations. We focus on simulations that include sufficient detailed physics so that their results can be quantitatively compared with observations. The solar surface is covered with magnetic features with spatial sizes ranging from unobservably small to hundreds of megameters. Three orders of magnitude more magnetic flux emerges in the quiet Sun than emerges in active regions. In this review we focus mainly on the properties of the quiet Sun magnetic field. The Sun’s magnetic field is produced by dynamo action throughout the convection zone, primarily by stretching and twisting in the turbulent downflows. Diverging convective upflows and magnetic buoyancy carry magnetic flux toward the surface and sweep the field into the surrounding downflow lanes where the field is dragged downward. The result is a hierarchy of undulating magnetic Ω- and U-loops of different sizes. New magnetic flux first appears at the surface in a mixed polarity random pattern and then collects into isolated unipolar regions due to underlying larger scale magnetic structures. Rising magnetic structures are not coherent, but develop a filamentary structure. Emerging magnetic flux alters the convection properties, producing larger, darker granules. Strong field concentrations inhibit transverse plasma motions and, as a result, reduce convective heat transport toward the surface which cools. Being cooler, these magnetic field concentrations have a shorter scale height and become evacuated. The field becomes further compressed and can reach strengths in balance with the surrounding gas pressure. Because of their small internal density, photons escape from deeper in the atmosphere. Narrow evacuated field concentrations get heated from their hot sidewalls and become brighter than their surroundings. Wider magnetic concentrations are not heated so they become darker, forming pores and sunspots.

Keywords: Flux emergence, Convection, Sunspots, Dynamo, Magnetic fields, Pores

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Article Citation

Since a Living Reviews in Solar Physics article may evolve over time, please cite the access <date>, which uniquely identifies the version of the article you are referring to:

Robert F. Stein,
"Solar Surface Magneto-Convection",
Living Rev. Solar Phys. 9,  (2012),  4. URL (cited on <date>):

Article History

ORIGINAL http://www.livingreviews.org/lrsp-2012-4
Title Solar Surface Magneto-Convection
Author Robert F. Stein
Date accepted 31 May 2012, published 19 July 2012
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