High-resolution imaging and near-infrared spectroscopy of penumbral decay

Verma, M.; Denker, C.; Balthasar, H.; Kuckein, C.; Rezaei, R.; Sobotka, M.; Deng, N.; Wang, H.; Tritschler, A.; Collados, M. et al.
Bibliographical reference

Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 614, id.A2, 14 pp.

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Aims: Combining high-resolution spectropolarimetric and imaging data is key to understanding the decay process of sunspots as it allows us to scrutinize the velocity and magnetic fields of sunspots and their surroundings. Methods: Active region NOAA 12597 was observed on 2016 September 24 with the 1.5-meter GREGOR solar telescope using high-spatial-resolution imaging as well as imaging spectroscopy and near-infrared (NIR) spectropolarimetry. Horizontal proper motions were estimated with local correlation tracking, whereas line-of-sight (LOS) velocities were computed with spectral line fitting methods. The magnetic field properties were inferred with the "Stokes Inversions based on Response functions" (SIR) code for the Si I and Ca I NIR lines. Results: At the time of the GREGOR observations, the leading sunspot had two light bridges indicating the onset of its decay. One of the light bridges disappeared, and an elongated, dark umbral core at its edge appeared in a decaying penumbral sector facing the newly emerging flux. The flow and magnetic field properties of this penumbral sector exhibited weak Evershed flow, moat flow, and horizontal magnetic field. The penumbral gap adjacent to the elongated umbral core and the penumbra in that penumbral sector displayed LOS velocities similar to granulation. The separating polarities of a new flux system interacted with the leading and central part of the already established active region. As a consequence, the leading spot rotated 55° clockwise over 12 h. Conclusions: In the high-resolution observations of a decaying sunspot, the penumbral filaments facing the flux emergence site contained a darkened area resembling an umbral core filled with umbral dots. This umbral core had velocity and magnetic field properties similar to the sunspot umbra. This implies that the horizontal magnetic fields in the decaying penumbra became vertical as observed in flare-induced rapid penumbral decay, but on a very different time-scale.
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