Validation of time-distance helioseismology by use of realistic simulations of solar convection

Junwei Zhao, Dali Georgobiani, Alexander G. Kosovichev, David Benson, Robert F. Stein, Å K.E. Nordlund

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51 Scopus citations


Recent progress in realistic simulations of solar convection have given us an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate the robustness of solar interior structures and dynamics obtained by methods of local helioseismology. We present results of testing the time-distance method using realistic simulations. By computing acoustic wave propagation time and distance relations for different depths of the simulated data, we confirm that acoustic waves propagate into the interior and then turn back to the photosphere. This demonstrates that in numerical simulations properties of acoustic waves (p-modes) are similar to the solar conditions, and that these properties can be analyzed by the time-distance technique. For surface gravity waves (f-modes), we calculate perturbations of their travel times caused by localized downdrafts and demonstrate that the spatial pattern of these perturbations (representing so-called sensitivity kernels) is similar to the patterns obtained from the real Sun, displaying characteristic hyperbolic structures. We then test time-distance measurements and inversions by calculating acoustic travel times from a sequence of vertical velocities at the photosphere of the simulated data and inferring mean three-dimensional flow fields by performing inversion based on the ray approximation. The inverted horizontal flow fields agree very well with the simulated data in subsurface areas up to 3 Mm deep, but differ in deeper areas. Due to the cross talk effects between the horizontal divergence and downward flows, the inverted vertical velocities are significantly different from the mean convection velocities of the simulation data set. These initial tests provide important validation of time-distance helioseismology measurements of supergranular-scale convection, illustrate limitations of this technique, and provide guidance for future improvements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-857
Number of pages10
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Apr 10 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Convection
  • Sun: helioseismology
  • Sun: oscillations


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