The Frontier between Small-scale Bipoles and Ephemeral Regions in the Solar Photosphere: Emergence and Decay of an Intermediate-scale Bipole Observed with SUNRISE/IMaX
We report on the photospheric evolution of an intermediate-scale (≈4 Mm footpoint separation) magnetic bipole, from emergence to decay, observed in the quiet Sun at high spatial (0farcs3) and temporal (33 s) resolution. The observations were acquired by the Imaging Magnetograph Experiment imaging magnetograph during the first science flight of the SUNRISE balloon-borne solar observatory. The bipole flux content is 6 × 1017 Mx, representing a structure bridging the gap between granular scale bipoles and the smaller ephemeral regions. Footpoints separate at a speed of 3.5 km s-1 and reach a maximum distance of 4.5 Mm before the field dissolves. The evolution of the bipole is revealed to be very dynamic: we found a proper motion of the bipole axis and detected a change of the azimuth angle of 90° in 300 s, which may indicate the presence of some writhe in the emerging structure. The overall morphology and behavior are in agreement with previous analyses of bipolar structures emerging at the granular scale, but we also found several similarities with emerging flux structures at larger scales. The flux growth rate is 2.6 × 1015 Mx s-1, while the mean decay rate is one order of magnitude smaller. We describe in some detail the decay phase of the bipole footpoints that includes break up into smaller structures, and interaction with preexisting fields leading to cancellation, but it appears to be dominated by an as-yet unidentified diffusive process that removes most of the flux with an exponential flux decay curve. The diffusion constant (8 × 102 km2 s-1) associated with this decay is similar to the values used to describe the large-scale diffusion in flux transport models.