Structure and evolution of supergranulation from local helioseismology

Johann Hirzberger, Laurent Gizon, Sami K. Solanki, Thomas L. Duvall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Supergranulation is visible at the solar surface as a cellular pattern of horizontal outflows. Although it does not show a distinct intensity pattern, it manifests itself indirectly in, for example, the chromospheric network. Previous studies have reported significant differences in the inferred basic parameters of the supergranulation phenomenon. Here we study the structure and temporal evolution of a large sample of supergranules, measured by using local helioseismology and SOHO/MDI data from the year 2000 at solar activity minimum. Local helioseismology with f modes provides maps of the horizontal divergence of the flow velocity at a depth of about 1 Mm. From these divergence maps supergranular cells were identified by using Fourier segmentation procedures in two dimensions and in three dimensions (two spatial dimensions plus time). The maps that we analyzed contain more than 105 supergranular cells and more than 103 lifetime histories, which makes possible a detailed analysis with high statistical significance. We find that the supergranular cells have a mean diameter of 27.1 Mm. The mean lifetime is estimated to be 1.6 days from the measured distribution of lifetimes (three-dimensional segmentation), with a clear tendency for larger cells to live longer than smaller ones. The pair and mark correlation functions do not show pronounced features on scales larger than the typical cell size, which suggests purely random cell positions. The temporal histories of supergranular cells indicate a smooth evolution from their emergence and growth in the first half of their lives to their decay in the second half of their lives (unlike exploding granules, which reach their maximum size just before they fragment).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-437
Number of pages21
JournalSolar Physics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Helioseismology
  • Sun: photosphere
  • Sun: supergranulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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