Rapid change of δ spot structure associated with seven major flares

Chang Liu, N. A. Deng, Yu Liu, David Falconer, Philip R. Goode, Carsten Denker, Haimin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


A large fraction of major flares occur in active regions that exhibit a δ configuration. The formation and disintegration of δ configurations is very important in understanding the evolution of photospheric magnetic fields. In this paper we study the relationship between the change in δ spot structures and associated major flares. We present a new observational result that part of penumbral segments in the outer δ spot structure decay rapidly after major flares; meanwhile, the neighboring umbral cores and/or inner penumbral regions become darker. Using white-light (WL) observations from the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE), we study the short-term evolution of δ spots associated with seven major flares, including six X-class flares and one M-class flare. The rapid changes, which can be identified in the time profiles of WL mean intensity are permanent, not transient, and thus are not due to flare emission. The co-aligned magnetic field observations obtained with the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) show substantial changes in the longitudinal magnetic field associated with the decaying penumbrae and darkened central areas. For two events for which vector magnetograms were available, we find that the transverse field associated with the penumbral decay areas decreased while it increased in the central darkened regions. Both events also show an increase in the magnetic shear after the flares. For all the events, we find that the locations of penumbral decay are related to flare emission and are connected by prominent TRACE postflare loops. To explain these observations, we propose a reconnection picture in which the two components of a δ spot become strongly connected after the flare. The penumbral fields change from a highly inclined to a more vertical configuration, which leads to penumbral decay. The umbral core and inner penumbral region become darker as a result of increasing longitudinal and transverse magnetic field components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-736
Number of pages15
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Mar 20 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: corona
  • Sun: flares
  • Sun: magnetic fields
  • Sunspots


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