The axes of solar active regions are inclined relative to the east–west direction, with the tilt angle tending to increase with latitude (“Joy’s law”). Observational determinations of Joy’s law have been based either on white-light images of sunspot groups or on magnetograms, where the latter have the advantage of measuring directly the physically relevant quantity (the photospheric field), but the disadvantage of having been recorded routinely only since the mid-1960s. White-light studies employing the historical Mount Wilson (MW) database have yielded tilt angles that are smaller and that increase less steeply with latitude than those obtained from magnetic data. We confirm this effect by comparing sunspot-group tilt angles from the Debrecen Photoheliographic Database with measurements made by Li and Ulrich using MW magnetograms taken during cycles 21–23. Whether white-light or magnetic data are employed, the median tilt angles significantly exceed the mean values, and provide a better characterization of the observed distributions. The discrepancy between the white-light and magnetic results is found to have two main sources. First, a substantial fraction of the white-light “tilt angles” refer to sunspots of the same polarity. Of greater physical significance is that the magnetograph measurements include the contribution of plage areas, which are invisible in white-light images but tend to have greater axial inclinations than the adjacent sunspots. Given the large uncertainties inherent in both the white-light and the magnetic measurements, it remains unclear whether any systematic relationship exists between tilt angle and cycle amplitude during cycles 16–23.
Y. Wang, R. Colaninno, T. Baranyi, et. al.
Tue, 9 Dec 14
Comments: 35 pages, 13 figures, Accepted in ApJ