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Astron. Astrophys. 348, 621-626 (1999)

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Fine structure in sunspots

III. Penumbral grains

M. Sobotka 1, P.N. Brandt 2 and G.W. Simon 3

1 Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, CZ-25165 Ondejov, Czech Republic
2 Kiepenheuer-Institut, D-79104 Freiburg, Germany
3 Air Force Research Laboratory and National Solar Observatory, Sunspot, NM 88349, USA

Received 26 February 1999 / Accepted 7 June 1999


The properties of penumbral grains (PGs) in a medium-size sunspot are studied from a 4.5 hour observation series acquired on 5 June 1993 at the Swedish Vacuum Solar Telescope, La Palma. The application of an image segmentation procedure and a feature tracking algorithm on a movie of 360 frames yields proper motions, intensities, and lifetimes for a set of 469 PGs. Almost 3/4 of the PGs move toward the umbra and more than 1/4 toward the photosphere. There appears to be a dividing line (DL) in the penumbra, approximately 0.7 of the distance from the umbra to the photosphere, such that most PGs outside this line move toward the photosphere, and those inside move toward the umbra. For inward moving PGs we find a typical proper motion speed of 0.4 km s-1 and a median lifetime of 29 minutes, for outward moving ones 0.5 km s-1 and 22 minutes. The average speed of inward moving PGs increases with distance from the umbra with a maximum near the DL. Outward moving PGs have maximum speed near the outer penumbral boundary. The measured instantaneous velocities of individual PGs show only partial agreement with theoretical model predictions. We find much shorter lifetimes than earlier authors, and no pronounced dependence of lifetime on position in the penumbra. We discuss possible reasons for the disagreement with previous results.

Key words: Sun: sunspots – convection

Send offprint requests to: M. Sobotka (msobotka@asu.cas.cz)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1999

Online publication: July 26, 1999