EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 434, Number 2, May I 2005
Page(s) 713 - 724
Section The Sun
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20042096

A&A 434, 713-724 (2005)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20042096

Scattering polarization in strong chromospheric lines

I. Explanation of the triplet peak structure
R. Holzreuter1, D. M. Fluri1 and J. O. Stenflo1, 2

1  Institute of Astronomy, ETH Zentrum, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
2  Faculty of Mathematics & Science, University of Zurich, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland
    e-mail: [holzreuter;fluri;stenflo]@astro.phys.ethz.ch

(Received 30 September 2004 / Accepted 23 December 2004)

Although the triplet polarization structure of the $\ion{Na}{i}$ D2 and $\ion{Ca}{i}$ 4227 Å lines in the second solar spectrum has been known for more than two decades, a clear and consistent explanation has been lacking. Here we show that the qualitative profile shape may be explained in terms of the anisotropy of the radiation field and partial frequency redistribution (PRD) effects. The complicated frequency and depth dependence of the anisotropy can be understood in terms of simple arguments that involve the source function gradient and boundary effects. We show in particular that the triplet peak structure of the polarization profile of $\ion{Na}{i}$ D2 has basically the same origin as for the $\ion{Ca}{i}$ 4227 Å line. Hyperfine structure and lower-level atomic polarization only modify the core polarization without altering the overall qualitative features.

For our calculations we adopt a numerical method that combines the advantages of both the classical formalism with integral source function and the density-matrix formalism. In a first step, a multi-level, PRD-capable MALI code, which solves the statistical equilibrium and the radiative transfer equation self-consistently, computes intensity, opacities and collision rates. Keeping these quantities fixed, we obtain the scattering polarization in a second step by solving the radiative transfer equation for the transitions of interest with the classical formalism, which assumes a two-level atomic model with unpolarized lower level. Quantum interferences and lower-level atomic polarization are included in terms of a wavelength dependent polarizability W2, which is independently obtained with the density-matrix formalism.

Key words: line: formation -- polarization -- radiative transfer -- scattering -- Sun: atmosphere

© ESO 2005