Nonlinear force-free field (NLFFF) models are thought to be viable tools for investigating the structure, dynamics and evolution of the coronae of solar active regions. In a series of NLFFF modeling studies, we have found that NLFFF models are successful in application to analytic test cases, and relatively successful when applied to numerically constructed Sun-like test cases, but they are less successful in application to real solar data. Different NLFFF models have been found to have markedly different field line configurations and to provide widely varying estimates of the magnetic free energy in the coronal volume, when applied to solar data. NLFFF models require consistent, forcefree vector magnetic boundary data. However, vector magnetogram observations sampling the photosphere, which is dynamic and contains significant Lorentz and buoyancy forces, do not satisfy this requirement, thus creating several major problems for force-free coronal modeling efforts. In this article, we discuss NLFFF modeling of NOAA Active Region 10953 using Hinode/SOT-SP, Hinode/XRT, STEREO/SECCHI-EUVI, and SOHO/MDI observations, and in the process illustrate the three such issues we judge to be critical to the success of NLFFF modeling: (1) vector magnetic field data covering larger areas are needed so that more electric currents associated with the full active regions of interest are measured, (2) the modeling algorithms need a way to accommodate the various uncertainties in the boundary data, and (3) a more realistic physical model is needed to approximate the photosphere-to-corona interface in order to better transform the forced photospheric magnetograms into adequate approximations of nearly force-free fields at the base of the corona. We make recommendations for future modeling efforts to overcome these as yet unsolved problems.
We report the evolution of magnetic field and its energy in NOAA active region 11158 over 5 days based on a vector magnetogram series from the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) on board the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO ). Fast flux emergence and strong shearing motion led to a quadrupolar sunspot complex that produced several major eruptions, including the first X-class flare of Solar Cycle 24. Extrapolated non-linear force-free coronal fields show substantial electric current and free energy increase during early flux emergence near a low-lying sigmoidal filament with sheared kilogauss field in the filament channel. The computed magnetic free energy reaches a maximum of ∼2.6 × 10 32 erg, about 50% of which is stored below 6 Mm. It decreases by ∼0.3 × 10 32 erg within 1 hour of the X-class flare, which is likely an underestimation of the actual energy loss. During the flare, the photospheric field changed rapidly: horizontal field was enhanced by 28% in the core region, becoming more inclined and more parallel to the polarity inversion line. Such change is consistent with the conjectured coronal field "implosion", and is supported by the coronal loop retraction observed by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA). The extrapolated field becomes more "compact" after the flare, with shorter loops in the core region, probably because of reconnection. The coronal field becomes slightly more sheared in the lowest layer, relaxes faster with height, and is overall less energetic.
We developed a code for the reconstruction of nonlinear force-free and not force-free coronal magnetic fields. The 3D magnetic field is computed numerically with the help of an optimization principle. The force-free and non force-free codes are compiled in one program. The force-free approach needs photospheric vectormagnetograms as input. The non force-free code additional requires the line-of-sight integrated coronal density distribution in combination with a tomographic inversion code. Previously the optimization approach has been used to compute magnetic fields using all six boundaries of a computational box. Here we extend this method and show how the coronal magnetic field can be reconstructed only from the bottom boundary, where the boundary conditions are measured with vector magnetographs. The program is planed for use within the Stereo mission.
We compare six algorithms for the computation of nonlinear force-free (NLFF) magnetic fields (including optimization, magnetofrictional, Grad-Rubin based, and Green's function-based methods) by evaluating their performance in blind tests on analytical force-free-field models for which boundary conditions are specified either for the entire surface area of a cubic volume or for an extended lower boundary only. Figures of merit are used to compare the input vector field to the resulting model fields. Based on these merit functions, we argue that all algorithms yield NLFF fields that agree best with the input field in the lower central region of the volume, where the field and electrical currents are strongest and the effects of boundary conditions weakest. The NLFF vector fields in the outer domains of the volume depend sensitively on the details of the specified boundary conditions; best agreement is found if the field outside of the model volume is incorporated as part of the model boundary, either as potential field boundaries on the side and top surfaces, or as a potential field in a skirt around the main volume of interest. For input field (B) and modeled field (b), the best method included in our study yields an average relative vector error E n = |B − b| / |B| of only 0.02 when all sides are specified and 0.14 for the case where only the lower boundary is specified, while 162 CAROLUS J. SCHRIJVER ET AL. the total energy in the magnetic field is approximated to within 2%. The models converge towards the central, strong input field at speeds that differ by a factor of one million per iteration step. The fastest-converging, best-performing model for these analytical test cases is the Wheatland, Sturrock, and Roumeliotis (2000) optimization algorithm as implemented by Wiegelmann (2004).
Knowledge regarding the coronal magnetic field is important for the understanding of many phenomena, like flares and coronal mass ejections. Because of the low plasma beta in the solar corona, the coronal magnetic field is often assumed to be force-free and we use photospheric vector magnetograph data to extrapolate the magnetic field into the corona with the help of a nonlinear force-free optimization code. Unfortunately, the measurements of the photospheric magnetic field contain inconsistencies and noise. In particular, the transversal components (say B x and B y ) of current vector magnetographs have their uncertainties. Furthermore, the magnetic field in the photosphere is not necessarily force free and often not consistent with the assumption of a force-free field above the magnetogram. We develop a preprocessing procedure to drive the observed nonforce-free data towards suitable boundary conditions for a force-free extrapolation. As a result, we get a data set which is as close as possible to the measured data and consistent with the force-free assumption.
Solar flares and coronal mass ejections are associated with rapid changes in field connectivity and are powered by the partial dissipation of electrical currents in the solar atmosphere. A critical unanswered question is whether the currents involved are induced by the motion of preexisting atmospheric magnetic flux subject to surface plasma flows or whether these currents are associated with the emergence of flux from within the solar convective zone. We address this problem by applying state-of-the-art nonlinear force-free field (NLFFF) modeling to the highest resolution and quality vector-magnetographic data observed by the recently launched Hinode satellite on NOAA AR 10930 around the time of a powerful X3.4 flare. We compute 14 NLFFF models with four different codes and a variety of boundary conditions. We find that the model fields differ markedly in geometry, energy content, and force-freeness. We discuss the relative merits of these models in a general critique of present abilities to model the coronal magnetic field based on surface vector field measurements. For our application in particular, we find a fair agreement of the best-fit model field with the observed coronal configuration, and argue (1) that strong electrical currents emerge together with magnetic flux preceding the flare, (2) that these currents are carried in an ensemble of thin strands, (3) that the global pattern of these currents and of field lines are compatible with a large-scale twisted flux rope topology, and (4) that the $10 32 erg change in energy associated with the coronal electrical currents suffices to power the flare and its associated coronal mass ejection.
We investigate the evolution of NOAA Active Region 11817 during 2013 August 10-12, when it developed a complex field configuration and produced four confined, followed by two eruptive, flares. These C-and-above flares are all associated with a magnetic flux rope (MFR) located along the major polarity inversion line, where shearing and converging photospheric flows are present. Aided by the nonlinear force-free field modeling, we identify the MFR through mapping magnetic connectivities and computing the twist number T w for each individual field line. The MFR is moderately twisted (|T w | < 2) and has a well-defined boundary of high squashing factor Q. We found that the field line with the extremum |T w | is a reliable proxy of the rope axis, and that the MFR's peak |T w | temporarily increases within half an hour before each flare while it decreases after the flare peak for both confined and eruptive flares. This pre-flare increase 9 Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 3, 37077 Göttingen, Germany -2 -in |T w | has little effect on the active region's free magnetic energy or any other parameters derived for the whole region, due to its moderate amount and the MFR's relatively small volume, while its decrease after flares is clearly associated with the stepwise decrease in the whole region's free magnetic energy due to the flare. We suggest that T w may serve as a useful parameter in forewarning the onset of eruption, and therefore, the consequent space weather effects. The helical kink instability is identified as the prime candidate onset mechanism for the considered flares.
The structure and dynamics of the solar corona is dominated by the magnetic field. In most areas in the corona magnetic forces are so dominant that all non-magnetic forces like plasma pressure gradient and gravity can be neglected in the lowest order. This model assumption is called the force-free field assumption, as the Lorentz force vanishes. This can be obtained by either vanishing electric currents (leading to potential fields) or the currents are co-aligned with the magnetic field lines. First we discuss a mathematically simpler approach that the magnetic field and currents are proportional with one global constant, the so-called linear force-free field approximation. In the generic case, however, the relation between magnetic fields and electric currents is nonlinear and analytic solutions have been only found for special cases, like 1D or 2D configurations. For constructing realistic nonlinear force-free coronal magnetic field models in 3D, sophisticated numerical computations are required and boundary conditions must be obtained from measurements of the magnetic field vector in the solar photosphere. This approach is currently of large interests, as accurate measurements of the photospheric field become available from ground-based (for example SOLIS) and space-born (for example Hinode and SDO) instruments. If we can obtain accurate force-free coronal magnetic field models we can calculate the free magnetic energy in the corona, a quantity which is important for the prediction of flares and coronal mass ejections. Knowledge of the 3D structure of magnetic field lines also help us to interpret other coronal observations, e.g., EUV-images of the radiating coronal plasma.
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