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The Free Energy of NOAA Solar Active Region AR 11029
Gilchrist, S. A.; Wheatland, M. S.; Leka, K. D.
AA(Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics, The University of Sydney), AB(Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics, The University of Sydney), AC(CoRA Division, NorthWest Research Associates)
Solar Physics, Volume 276, Issue 1-2, pp. 133-160 (SoPh Homepage)
Publication Date:
Active regions, Corona, Magnetic fields
Abstract Copyright:
(c) 2012: Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Bibliographic Code:


The NOAA active region (AR) 11029 was a small but highly active sunspot region which produced 73 GOES soft X-ray flares during its transit of the disk in late October 2009. The flares appear to show a departure from the well-known power law frequency-size distribution. Specifically, too few GOES C-class and no M-class flares were observed by comparison with a power law distribution (Wheatland, Astrophys. J. 710, 1324, 2010). This was conjectured to be due to the region having insufficient magnetic energy to power the missing large events. We construct nonlinear force-free extrapolations of the coronal magnetic field of AR 11029 using data taken on 24 October by the SOLIS Vector SpectroMagnetograph (SOLIS/VSM) and data taken on 27 October by the Hinode Solar Optical Telescope SpectroPolarimeter ( Hinode/SP). Force-free modeling with photospheric magnetogram data encounters problems, because the magnetogram data are inconsistent with a force-free model. We employ a recently developed ``self-consistency'' procedure which addresses this problem and accommodates uncertainties in the boundary data (Wheatland and Régnier, Astrophys. J. 700, L88, 2009). We calculate the total energy and free energy of the self-consistent solution, which provides a model for the coronal magnetic field of the active region. The free energy of the region was found to be ≈ 4×1029 erg on 24 October and ≈ 7×1031 erg on 27 October. An order of magnitude scaling between RHESSI non-thermal energy and GOES peak X-ray flux is established from a sample of flares from the literature and is used to estimate flare energies from the observed GOES peak X-ray flux. Based on the scaling, we conclude that the estimated free energy of AR 11029 on 27 October when the flaring rate peaked was sufficient to power M-class or X-class flares; hence, the modeling does not appear to support the hypothesis that the absence of large flares is due to the region having limited energy.
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