Twisted Flux Tube Emergence Evidenced in Longitudinal Magnetograms: Magnetic Tongues

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Bipolar active regions (ARs) are thought to be formed by twisted flux tubes, as the presence of such twist is theoretically required for a cohesive rise through the whole convective zone. We use longitudinal magnetograms to demonstrate that a clear signature of a global magnetic twist is present, particularly, during the emergence phase when the AR is forming in a much weaker pre-existing magnetic field environment. The twist is characterised by the presence of elongated polarities, called “magnetic tongues”, which originate from the azimuthal magnetic field component. The tongues first extend in size before retracting when the maximum magnetic flux is reached. This implies an apparent rotation of the magnetic bipole. Using a simple half-torus model of an emerging twisted flux tube having a uniform twist profile, we derive how the direction of the polarity inversion line and the elongation of the tongues depend on the global twist in the flux rope. Using a sample of 40 ARs, we verify that the helicity sign, determined from the magnetic polarity distribution pattern, is consistent with the sign derived from the photospheric helicity flux computed from magnetogram time series, as well as from other proxies such as sheared coronal loops, sigmoids, flare ribbons and/or the associated magnetic cloud observed in situ at 1 AU. The evolution of the tongues observed in emerging ARs is also closely similar to the evolution found in recent MHD numerical simulations. We also found that the elongation of the tongue formed by the leading magnetic polarity is significantly larger than that of the following polarity. This newly discovered asymmetry is consistent with an asymmetric Ω-loop emergence, trailing the solar rotation, which was proposed earlier to explain other asymmetries in bipolar ARs.

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Luoni, M.L., Démoulin, P., Mandrini, C.H. et al. Twisted Flux Tube Emergence Evidenced in Longitudinal Magnetograms: Magnetic Tongues. Sol Phys 270, 45 (2011) doi:10.1007/s11207-011-9731-8

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  • Active regions, magnetic fields
  • Corona, structures
  • Helicity, magnetic
  • Helicity, observations