A new look at sunspot formation using theory and observations

I. R. Losada, J. Warnecke, K. Glogowski, M. Roth, A. Brandenburg, N. Kleeorin, I. Rogachevskii

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Sunspots are of basic interest in the study of the Sun. Their relevance ranges from them being an activity indicator of magnetic fields to being the place where coronal mass ejections and flares erupt. They are therefore also an important ingredient of space weather. Their formation, however, is still an unresolved problem in solar physics. Observations utilize just 2D surface information near the spot, but it is debatable how to infer deep structures and properties from local helioseismology. For a long time, it was believed that flux tubes rising from the bottom of the convection zone are the origin of the bipolar sunspot structure seen on the solar surface. However, this theory has been challenged, in particular recently by new surface observation, helioseismic inversions, and numerical models of convective dynamos. In this article we discuss another theoretical approach to the formation of sunspots: the negative effective magnetic pressure instability. This is a large-scale instability, in which the total (kinetic plus magnetic) turbulent pressure can be suppressed in the presence of a weak large-scale magnetic field, leading to a converging downflow, which eventually concentrates the magnetic field within it. Numerical simulations of forced stratified turbulence have been able to produce strong superequipartition flux concentrations, similar to sunspots at the solar surface. In this framework, sunspots would only form close to the surface due to the instability constraints on stratification and rotation. Additionally, we present some ideas from local helioseismology, where we plan to use the Hankel analysis to study the pre-emergence phase of a sunspot and to constrain its deep structure and formation mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-59
Number of pages14
JournalProceedings of the International Astronomical Union
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Helioseismology
  • Sun: Magnetic fields
  • Sun: Sunspots
  • Turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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