Mean-field and direct numerical simulations of magnetic flux concentrations from vertical field

A. Brandenburg, O. Gressel, S. Jabbari, N. Kleeorin, I. Rogachevskii

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Context. Strongly stratified hydromagnetic turbulence has previously been found to produce magnetic flux concentrations if the domain is large enough compared with the size of turbulent eddies. Mean-field simulations (MFS) using parameterizations of the Reynolds and Maxwell stresses show a large-scale negative effective magnetic pressure instability and have been able to reproduce many aspects of direct numerical simulations (DNS) regarding growth rate, shape of the resulting magnetic structures, and their height as a function of magnetic field strength. Unlike the case of an imposed horizontal field, for a vertical one, magnetic flux concentrations of equipartition strength with the turbulence can be reached, resulting in magnetic spots that are reminiscent of sunspots. Aims. We determine under what conditions magnetic flux concentrations with vertical field occur and what their internal structure is. Methods. We use a combination of MFS, DNS, and implicit large-eddy simulations (ILES) to characterize the resulting magnetic flux concentrations in forced isothermal turbulence with an imposed vertical magnetic field. Results. Using DNS, we confirm earlier results that in the kinematic stage of the large-scale instability the horizontal wavelength of structures is about 10 times the density scale height. At later times, even larger structures are being produced in a fashion similar to inverse spectral transfer in helically driven turbulence. Using ILES, we find that magnetic flux concentrations occur for Mach numbers between 0.1 and 0.7. They occur also for weaker stratification and larger turbulent eddies if the domain is wide enough. Using MFS, the size and aspect ratio of magnetic structures are determined as functions of two input parameters characterizing the parameterization of the effective magnetic pressure. DNS, ILES, and MFS show magnetic flux tubes with mean-field energies comparable to the turbulent kinetic energy. These tubes can reach a length of about eight density scale heights. Despite being ≤1% equipartition strength, it is important that their lower part is included within the computational domain to achieve the full strength of the instability. Conclusions. The resulting vertical magnetic flux tubes are being confined by downflows along the tubes and corresponding inflow from the sides, which keep the field concentrated. Application to sunspots remains a viable possibility.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA53
Number of pages15
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Hydrodynamics
  • Magnetic fields
  • Sun: magnetic fields
  • Sunspots
  • Turbulence

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