I. A consequence of flux emergence ⋆
School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Fife, KY16 9SS, UK
Received: 11 May 2015
Accepted: 2 August 2015
Context. Solar eruptions and high flare activity often accompany the rapid rotation of sunspots. The study of sunspot rotation and the mechanisms driving this motion are therefore key to our understanding of how the solar atmosphere attains the conditions necessary for large energy release.
Aims. We aim to demonstrate and investigate the rotation of sunspots in a 3D numerical experiment of the emergence of a magnetic flux tube as it rises through the solar interior and emerges into the atmosphere. Furthermore, we seek to show that the sub-photospheric twist stored in the interior is injected into the solar atmosphere by means of a definitive rotation of the sunspots.
Methods. A numerical experiment is performed to solve the 3D resistive magnetohydrodynamic equations using a Lagrangian-Remap code. We track the emergence of a toroidal flux tube as it rises through the solar interior and emerges into the atmosphere investigating various quantities related to both the magnetic field and plasma.
Results. Through detailed analysis of the numerical experiment, we find clear evidence that the photospheric footprints or sunspots of the flux tube undergo a rotation. Significant vertical vortical motions are found to develop within the two polarity sources after the field emerges. These rotational motions are found to leave the interior portion of the field untwisted and twist up the atmospheric portion of the field. This is shown by our analysis of the relative magnetic helicity as a significant portion of the interior helicity is transported to the atmosphere. In addition, there is a substantial transport of magnetic energy to the atmosphere. Rotation angles are also calculated by tracing selected fieldlines; the fieldlines threading through the sunspot are found to rotate through angles of up to 353° over the course of the experiment. We explain the rotation by an unbalanced torque produced by the magnetic tension force, rather than an apparent effect.
Key words: magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) / Sun: magnetic fields / sunspots / methods: numerical
The movies associated to Figs. 3, 5, and 11 are available in electronic form at http://www.aanda.org
© ESO, 2015