Response of the photospheric magnetic field to the X2.2 flare on 2011 February 15

Shuo Wang, Chang Liu, Rui Liu, Na Deng, Yang Liu, Haimin Wang

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135 Scopus citations


It is well known that the long-term evolution of the photospheric magnetic field plays an important role in building up free energy to power solar eruptions. Observations, despite being controversial, have also revealed a rapid and permanent variation of the photospheric magnetic field in response to the coronal magnetic field restructuring during the eruption. The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager instrument (HMI) on board the newly launched Solar Dynamics Observatory produces seeing-free full-disk vector magnetograms at consistently high resolution and high cadence, which finally makes possible an unambiguous and comprehensive study of this important back-reaction process. In this study, we present a near disk-center, GOES-class X2.2 flare, which occurred in NOAA AR 11158 on 2011 February 15. Using the magnetic field measurements made by HMI, we obtained the first solid evidence of a rapid (in about 30minutes) and irreversible enhancement in the horizontal magnetic field at the flaring magnetic polarity inversion line (PIL) by a magnitude of 30%. It is also shown that the photospheric field becomes more sheared and more inclined. This field evolution is unequivocally associated with the flare occurrence in this sigmoidal active region, with the enhancement area located in between the two chromospheric flare ribbons and the initial conjugate hard X-ray footpoints. These results strongly corroborate our previous conjecture that the photospheric magnetic field near the PIL must become more horizontal after eruptions, which could be related to the newly formed low-lying fields resulting from the tether-cutting reconnection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL17
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Sun: Activity
  • Sun: Coronal mass ejections (CMEs)
  • Sun: Flares
  • Sun: Surface magnetism
  • Sun: X-rays, gamma rays


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