Sunspot splitting triggering an eruptive flare⋆
1 Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), an der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
2 Yunnan Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 650011 Kunming, PR China
3 Institute of Physics and Astronomy, University of Potsdam, 14476 Potsdam, Germany
4 Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking RH5 6NT, UK
Received: 15 January 2013
Accepted: 16 November 2013
Aims. We investigate how the splitting of the leading sunspot and associated flux emergence and cancellation in active region NOAA 11515 caused an eruptive M5.6 flare on 2012 July 2.
Methods. Continuum intensity, line-of-sight magnetogram, and dopplergram data of the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager were employed to analyse the photospheric evolution. Filtergrams in Hα and He i 10830 Å of the Chromospheric Telescope at the Observatorio del Teide, Tenerife, track the evolution of the flare. The corresponding coronal conditions were derived from 171 Å and 304 Å images of the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly. Local correlation tracking was utilized to determine shear flows.
Results. Emerging flux formed a neutral line ahead of the leading sunspot and new satellite spots. The sunspot splitting caused a long-lasting flow towards this neutral line, where a filament formed. Further flux emergence, partly of mixed polarity, as well as episodes of flux cancellation occurred repeatedly at the neutral line. Following a nearby C-class precursor flare with signs of interaction with the filament, the filament erupted nearly simultaneously with the onset of the M5.6 flare and evolved into a coronal mass ejection. The sunspot stretched without forming a light bridge, splitting unusually fast (within about a day, complete ≈6 h after the eruption) in two nearly equal parts. The front part separated strongly from the active region to approach the neighbouring active region where all its coronal magnetic connections were rooted. It also rotated rapidly (by 4.9° h-1) and caused significant shear flows at its edge.
Conclusions. The eruption resulted from a complex sequence of processes in the (sub-)photosphere and corona. The persistent flows towards the neutral line likely caused the formation of a flux rope that held the filament. These flows, their associated flux cancellation, the emerging flux, and the precursor flare all contributed to the destabilization of the flux rope. We interpret the sunspot splitting as the separation of two flux bundles differently rooted in the convection zone and only temporarily joined in the spot. This explains the rotation as the continued rise of the separating flux, and it implies that at least this part of the sunspot was still connected to its roots deep in the convection zone.
Key words: Sun: flares / sunspots / Sun: photosphere / Sun: chromosphere / techniques: photometric
Movie available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2014