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Nature. 2004 Jul 15;430(6997):326-9.

A substantial amount of hidden magnetic energy in the quiet Sun.

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  • 1Instituto de Astrof√≠sica de Canarias, E-38205 La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain.


Deciphering and understanding the small-scale magnetic activity of the quiet solar photosphere should help to solve many of the key problems of solar and stellar physics, such as the magnetic coupling to the outer atmosphere and the coronal heating. At present, we can see only approximately 1 per cent of the complex magnetism of the quiet Sun, which highlights the need to develop a reliable way to investigate the remaining 99 per cent. Here we report three-dimensional radiative transfer modelling of scattering polarization in atomic and molecular lines that indicates the presence of hidden, mixed-polarity fields on subresolution scales. Combining this modelling with recent observational data, we find a ubiquitous tangled magnetic field with an average strength of approximately 130 G, which is much stronger in the intergranular regions of solar surface convection than in the granular regions. So the average magnetic energy density in the quiet solar photosphere is at least two orders of magnitude greater than that derived from simplistic one-dimensional investigations, and sufficient to balance radiative energy losses from the solar chromosphere.

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