Wednesday 1 February 2017

First observation of linear polarization in the forbidden [OI] 630.03 nm line

In a new paper (de Wijn, Socas-Navarro & Vitas, 2017, ApJ, 836, 29D) we present the first results of our observations of a sunspot and an active region using the SP/SOT instrument on board the Hinode satellite. The novelty in our observation is a trick that we used to double the standard wavelength range observed by the instrument. Thanks to that, we were able to see the sun not only in the two iron lines at 630.2 nm, but also in four other lines. One of those is particularly interesting: the forbidden ground-based line of neutral oxygen ([OI] 630.03 nm). It is one of only few oxygen lines in the solar spectrum and probably the best diagnostics of the solar oxygen abundance. For the first time ever we observed the linear polarization in this line! As an M2 (magnetic dipole) transition, it is predicted by the theory (Landi degl'Innocenti and Landi, 2004, Section 6.8) that this line produces the linear polarization signal with the opposite sign to the lines produced by E2 transitions. It is also the first time that linear polarization in M2 and nearby E2 lines is measured simultaneously, so that the flip in sign is obvious (see the left-most spectral line in the red circle in the Figure; in linear polarization it has "W" shape, while all other lines in the wavelength range have "M" shapes). This result may bring new light to the ongoing debate on the solar oxygen crisis.


More details of this unique observation will appear soon in a follow-up publication.