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Direct evidence that twisted flux tube emergence creates solar active regions

MacTaggart, D. and Prior, C. and Raphaldini, B. and Romano, P. and Guglielmino, S. L. (2021) 'Direct evidence that twisted flux tube emergence creates solar active regions.', Nature Communications, 12 (1).


The magnetic nature of the formation of solar active regions lies at the heart of understanding solar activity and, in particular, solar eruptions. A widespread model, used in many theoretical studies, simulations and the interpretation of observations, is that the basic structure of an active region is created by the emergence of a large tube of pre-twisted magnetic field. Despite plausible reasons and the availability of various proxies suggesting the accuracy of this model, there has not yet been a methodology that can clearly and directly identify the emergence of large pre-twisted magnetic flux tubes. Here, we present a clear signature of the emergence of pre-twisted magnetic flux tubes by investigating a robust topological quantity, called magnetic winding, in solar observations. This quantity detects the emerging magnetic topology despite the significant deformation experienced by the emerging magnetic field. Magnetic winding complements existing measures, such as magnetic helicity, by providing distinct information about field line topology, thus allowing for the direct identification of emerging twisted magnetic flux tubes.

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Publisher statement:Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit
Date accepted:28 October 2021
Date deposited:01 February 2022
Date of first online publication:16 November 2021
Date first made open access:01 February 2022

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