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Vortex flow in the solar photosphere


Convective flow fields in the solar atmosphere play a key role in the concentration and dispersal of magnetic flux1, but because the individual flow elements—the solar granules—are a few arcsec or less in size, studies of their motions have been limited by the distortion and blurring of the Earth's atmosphere ('seeing'). We report here a very high-quality series of granulation images taken at the new Swedish Solar Observatory on La Palma (Canary Islands) which have permitted flow measurements at the sub-arcsec level. These movies show a vortex structure which visibly dominates the motion of the granules in its neighbourhood and persists for the 1.5 h duration of the movie. If such vortices are a common feature of the solar convective zone, they may provide an important mechanism for the heating of stellar chromospheres and coronae by twisting the footprints of magnetic flux tubes.

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Brandt, P., Scharmert, G., Ferguson, S. et al. Vortex flow in the solar photosphere. Nature 335, 238–240 (1988).

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