Sunspot MHD simulations: subsurface structure and penumbral filament formation

Mayukh Panja

Hosted by Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS), Germany on April 8, 2021


Penumbral filaments do not form naturally in MHD simulations of sunspots. This is typically circumvented by modifying the top boundary: the field is made 2-3 times more horizontal than a potential field configuration. In this talk, I will explore the possibility that penumbral filament formation is governed by the subsurface structure of sunspots. We conducted a series of numerical experiments where we used flux tubes with different initial curvatures to study the effect of the fluting instability on the subsurface structure of spots using the MURaM code. We find that the curvature of a flux tube indeed determines the degree of fluting the flux tube will undergo—the more curved a flux tube is, the more fluted it becomes. In addition, sunspots with strong curvature have strong horizontal fields at the surface and therefore readily form penumbral filaments. The fluted sunspots eventually break up from below, with lightbridges appearing at the surface several hours after fluting commences. We also propose that intruding lightbridges can be used as tracers of the subsurface magnetic field.