Long-term trends of magnetic bright points
I. Number of magnetic bright points at disc centre
IGAM/Institute of Physics, University of Graz, Universitätsplatz
2 Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Apdo. de Correos 3004, 18080 Granada, Spain
3 Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Toulouse et Tarbes, UMR 5572, CNRS et Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse 3, 57 avenue d’Azereix, 65000 Tarbes, France
4 Astronomical Insitute, Slovak Academy of Sciences, 05960 Tatranska Lomnica, Slovakia
5 Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Fričova 298, 25165 Ondřejov, Czech Republic
Received: 19 February 2015
Accepted: 1 October 2015
Context. The Sun shows an activity cycle that is caused by its varying global magnetic field. During a solar cycle, sunspots, i.e. extended regions of strong magnetic fields, occur in activity belts that are slowly migrating from middle to lower latitudes, finally arriving close to the equator during the cycle maximum phase. While this and other facts about the strong extended magnetic fields have been well known for centuries, much less is known about the solar cycle evolution of small-scale magnetic fields. Thus the question arises if similar principles exist for small-scale magnetic fields.
Aims. To address this question, we study magnetic bright points (MBPs) as proxies for such small-scale, kG solar magnetic fields. This study is based on a homogeneous data set that covers a period of eight years. The number of detected MBPs versus time is analysed to find out if there is an activity cycle for these magnetic features too and, if so, how it is related to the sunspot cycle.
Methods. An automated MBP identification algorithm was applied to the synoptic Hinode/SOT G-band data over the period November 2006 to August 2014, i.e. covering the decreasing phase of Cycle 23 and the rise, maximum, and early decrease of Cycle 24. This data set includes, at the moment of investigation, a total of 4162 images, with about 2.9 million single MBP detections.
Results. After a careful preselection and monthly median filtering of the data, the investigation revealed that the number of MBPs close to the equator is coupled to the global solar cycle but shifted in time by about 2.5 yr. Furthermore, the instantaneous number of detected MBPs depends on the hemisphere, with one hemisphere being more prominent, i.e. showing a higher number of MBPs. After the end of Cycle 23 and at the starting point of Cycle 24, the more active hemisphere changed from south to north. Clear peaks in the detected number of MBPs are found at latitudes of about ±7°, in congruence with the positions of the sunspot belts at the end of the solar cycle.
Conclusions. These findings suggest that there is indeed a coupling between the activity of MBPs close to the equator with the global magnetic field. The results also indicate that a significant fraction of the magnetic flux that is visible as MBPs close to the equator originates from the sunspot activity belts. However, even during the minimum of MBP activity, a percentage as large as 60% of the maximum number of detected MBPs has been observed, which may be related to solar surface dynamo action.
Key words: Sun: magnetic fields / Sun: photosphere / Sun: activity / techniques: high angular resolution / methods: observational
© ESO, 2015