Solar magnetic fields as revealed by Stokes polarimetry

  • J. O. Stenflo


Observational astrophysics started when spectroscopy could be applied to astronomy. Similarly, observational work on stellar magnetic fields became possible with the application of spectro-polarimetry. In recent decades there have been dramatic advances in the observational tools for spectro-polarimetry. The four Stokes parameters that provide a complete representation of partially polarized light can now be simultaneously imaged with megapixel array detectors with high polarimetric precision (10−5 in the degree of polarization). This has led to new insights about the nature and properties of the magnetic field, and has helped pave the way for the use of the Hanle effect as a diagnostic tool beside the Zeeman effect. The magnetic structuring continues on scales orders of magnitudes smaller than the resolved ones, but various types of spectro-polarimetric signatures can be identified, which let us determine the field strengths and angular distributions of the field vectors in the spatially unresolved domain. Here we review the observational properties of the magnetic field, from the global patterns to the smallest scales at the magnetic diffusion limit, and relate them to the global and local dynamos.


Sun: atmosphere Magnetic fields Polarization Dynamo Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of AstronomyETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Istituto Ricerche Solari LocarnoLocarno MontiSwitzerland

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