Plasma Beta Stratification in the Solar Atmosphere: A Possible Explanation for the Penumbra Formation

29 Nov 2017  ·  Bourdin Philippe-A. ·

Plasma beta is an important and fundamental physical quantity in order to understand plasma dynamics, particularly in the context of magnetically active stars, because it tells about the domination of magnetic versus thermodynamic processes on the plasma motion. We estimate the value ranges of plasma beta in different regions within the solar atmosphere and we describe a possible mechanism that helps forming a penumbra... For that we evaluate data from a 3D magnetohydrodynamic model of the solar corona above a magnetically active region. We compare our results with previously established data that is based on magnetic field extrapolations and that was matched for some observations. Our model data suggest that plasma beta in the photosphere should be considered to be larger than unity outside of sunspots. However, in the corona we also find that the beta value range reaches lower than previously thought, which coincides with a recent observation. We present an idea based on a gravity-driven process in a high-beta regime that might be responsible for the formation of the penumbra around sunspot umbra, where the vertical field strength reaches a given threshold. This process would also explain counter-Evershed flows. Regarding the thermal and magnetic pressure within the mixed-polarity solar atmosphere, including non-vertical magnetic field and quiet regions, plasma beta may reach unity at practically any height from the photosphere to the outer corona. read more

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Solar and Stellar Astrophysics