Solar Physics

, Volume 205, Issue 1, pp 63–92 | Cite as

The Orientational Relaxation of Bipolar Active Regions

  • Dana Longcope
  • Arnab Rai Choudhuri


In the mean, bipolar active regions are oriented nearly toroidally, according to Hale's polarity law, with a latitude-dependent tilt known as Joy's Law. The tilt angles of individual active regions deviate from this mean behavior and change over time. It has been found that on average the change is toward the mean angle at a rate characteristic of 4.37 days (Howard, 1996). We show that this orientational relaxation is consistent with the standard model of flux tube emergence from a deep dynamo layer. Under this scenario Joy's law results from the Coriolis effect on the rising flux tube (D'Silva and Choudhuri, 1993), and departures from it result from turbulent buffeting of the tubes (Longcope and Fisher, 1996). We show that relaxation toward Joy's angle occurs because the turbulent perturbations relax on shorter time scales than the perturbations from the Coriolis force. The turbulent perturbations relax more rapidly because they are localized to the topmost portion of the convection zone while the Coriolis perturbations are more widely distributed. If a fully-developed active region remains connected to the strong toroidal magnetic field at the base of the convection zone, its tilt will eventually disappear, leaving it aligned perfectly toroidally. On the other hand, if the flux becomes disconnected from the toroidal field the bipole will assume a tilt indicative of the location of disconnection. We compare models which are connected and disconnected from the toroidal field. Only those disconnected at points very deep in the convection zone are consistent with observed time scale of orientational relaxation.


Flux Tube Convection Zone Toroidal Field Toroidal Magnetic Field Orientational Relaxation 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dana Longcope
    • 1
  • Arnab Rai Choudhuri
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsMontana State UniversityBozemanU.S.A
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

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