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Title: Origin of spatial variations of scattering polarization in the wings of the Ca I 4227 Å line
Authors: Sampoorna, M
Stenflo, J. O
Nagendra, K. N
Bianda, M
Ramelli, R
Anusha, L. S
Keywords: Line: Formation;Magnetic Fields;Polarization;Scattering;Sun: Atmosphere
Issue Date: 10-Jul-2009
Publisher: The American Astronomical Society
Citation: The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 699, No. 2, pp. 1650 - 1659
Abstract: Polarization that is produced by coherent scattering can be modified by magnetic fields via the Hanle effect. This has opened a window to explorations of solar magnetism in parameter domains not accessible to the Zeeman effect. According to standard theory the Hanle effect should only be operating in the Doppler core of spectral lines but not in the wings. In contrast, our observations of the scattering polarization in the Ca I 4227 Å line reveal the existence of spatial variations of the scattering polarization throughout the far line wings. This raises the question whether the observed spatial variations in wing polarization have a magnetic or nonmagnetic origin. A magnetic origin may be possible if elastic collisions are able to cause sufficient frequency redistribution to make the Hanle effect effective in the wings without causing excessive collisional depolarization, as suggested by recent theories for partial frequency redistribution (PRD) with coherent scattering in magnetic fields. To model the wing polarization we bypass the problem of solving the full polarized radiative transfer equations and instead apply an extended version of the technique based on the "last scattering approximation." It assumes that the polarization of the emergent radiation is determined by the anisotropy of the incident radiation field at the last scattering event. We determine this anisotropy from the observed limb darkening as a function of wavelength throughout the spectral line. The empirical anisotropy profile is used together with the single-scattering redistribution matrix, which contains all the PRD, collisional, and magnetic field effects. The model further contains a continuum opacity parameter, which increasingly dilutes the polarized line photons as we move away from the line center, and a continuum polarization parameter that represents the observed polarization level far from the line. This model is highly successful in reproducing the observed Stokes Q/I polarization (linear polarization parallel to the nearest solar limb), including the location of the wing polarization maxima and the minima around the Doppler core, but it fails to reproduce the observed spatial variations of the wing polarization in terms of magnetic field effects with frequency redistribution. This null result points in the direction of a nonmagnetic origin in terms of local inhomogeneities (varying collisional depolarization, radiation-field anisotropies, and deviations from a plane-parallel atmospheric stratification).
ISSN: 0004-637X
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