It is well recognized that the phenomenon of depolarization (the conversion of polarized radio emission into unpolarized emission) of microwaves over solar active regions can be used to infer the coronal electron density once the coronal magnetic field is known. In this paper we explore this technique using an active region for which we have excellent radio data showing depolarization at two frequencies, and for which we have an excellent magnetic field model which has been tested against observations. We show that this technique for obtaining coronal densities is very sensitive to a number of factors. When Cohen's (1960) theory where depolarization is due to magnetic field rotation alone is used, the result is particularly sensitive to the location of the surface on which the magnetic field is orthogonal to the line of sight. Depending on whether we take into account the presence of electric currents in the photosphere or not, their extrapolation into the corona can result in very different heights being deduced for the location of the depolarization strip, and this changes the density which is then deduced from the depolarization condition. Such extreme sensitivity to the magnetic field model requires that field extrapolations be able to accurately predict the polarity of magnetic fields up to coronal heights as high as ∼ 105 km in order to exploit depolarization as a density diagnostic.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science