Volume 445, Number 2, January II 2006
|Page(s)||703 - 714|
|Published online||16 December 2005|
Active longitudes, nonaxisymmetric dynamos and phase mixing
Institut für Astronomie, ETH Zentrum, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland e-mail: email@example.com
2 Astronomy Division, PO Box 3000, 90014 University of Oulu, Finland
3 School of Mathematics, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
4 Department of Physics, Moscow State University, 119992 Moscow, Russia
5 Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory (Oulu unit), 90014 University of Oulu, Finland
Accepted: 31 August 2005
We discuss the problem of solar active longitudes from the viewpoint of dynamo theory. We start from a recent observational analysis of the problem undertaken by Berdyugina & Usoskin (2003, A&A, 405, 1121) and Usoskin et al. (2005, A&A, 441, 347) who demonstrated from a study of sunspot data that solar active longitudes rotate differentially, with a small but significant asynchrony between northern and southern hemispheres. We suggest two concepts by which the underlying magnetic structure could lead to the observed phenomenology – the true differential rotation of a nonaxisymmetric magnetic structure and a stroboscopic effect. In the latter case, a solid body rotation of nonaxisymmetric magnetic structure is illuminated by an activity wave propagating from middle latitudes to the solar equator, and so mimics a differential rotation. We then discuss several mechanisms which could in principle lead to the excitation of active longitudes. In particular, we consider dynamo excitation of nonaxisymmetric magnetic modes, nonaxisymmetric structures as a manifestation of a relic magnetic field in the solar core, nonaxisymmetric solar hydrodynamics and nonlinear instabilities that lack axial symmetry. We conclude that these mechanisms all provide ways to explain the phenomenology, provided the stroboscopic interpretation is accepted. Of course, a quantitative explanation in the framework of any scenario requires ultimately a detailed numerical simulation. The interpretation of the available observations as a true differential rotation appears to provide a much more severe challenge for theorists. We are unable to suggest a plausible mechanism of this kind; however we can not exclude in principle such an explanation. We relate the phenomenon of solar active longitudes to the information available concerning stellar active longitudes, and also consider evidence from other tracers of solar activity.
Key words: Sun: activity / Sun: magnetic fields / Sun: rotation / stars: magnetic fields / magnetic fields
© ESO, 2005
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