Volume 527, March 2011
|Number of page(s)||10|
|Published online||21 January 2011|
Inferring the magnetic field vector in the quiet Sun
I. Photon noise and selection criteria
Kiepenheuer-Institut für Sonnenphysik,
2 Max-Planck Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Max-Planck Str. 2, 37191 Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany
Received: 24 August 2010
Accepted: 23 November 2010
In the past, spectropolarimetric data from Hinode/SP were employed to infer the distribution of the magnetic field vector in the quiet Sun. While some authors found predominantly horizontal magnetic fields, others favor an isotropic distribution. We investigate whether it is actually possible to accurately retrieve the magnetic field vector in regions with very low polarization signals (e.g. internetwork), employing the FeI line pair at 6300 Å. We first perform inversions of the Stokes vector observed with Hinode/SP in the quiet Sun at disk center in order to confirm the distributions retrieved by other authors. We then carry out several Monte-Carlo simulations with synthetic data, with which we show that the observed distribution of the magnetic field vector can be explained in terms of purely vertical (γ = 0°) and weak fields ( G), which are misinterpreted by the analysis technique (Stokes inversion code) as being horizontal (γ ≈ 90°) and stronger ( G), owing to the effect of the photon noise. This challenges the correctness of previous results, which presented the distributions for the magnetic field vector peaking at γ = 90° and G. We propose that an accurate determination of the magnetic field vector can be achieved by decreasing the photon noise to a point where most of the observed profiles posses Stokes Q or U profiles that are above the noise level. Unfortunately, for noise levels as low as 2.8 × 10-4, only 30 % of the observed region with Hinode/SP have sufficiently strong Q or U signals, implying that the magnetic field vector remains unknown in the rest of the internetwork.
Key words: magnetic fields / Sun: photosphere / Sun: surface magnetism
© ESO, 2011
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