Impact of opacity effects on chromospheric oscillations inferred from NLTE inversions

Felipe, T.; Socas-Navarro, H.
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Astronomy and Astrophysics

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Context. Spectropolarimetric inversions are a fundamental tool for diagnosing the solar atmosphere. Chromospheric inferences rely on the interpretation of spectral lines that are formed under nonlocal thermodynamic equilibrium (NLTE) conditions. In the presence of oscillations, changes in the opacity impact the response height of the spectral lines and hinder the determination of the real properties of the fluctuations.
Aims: We aim to explore the relationship between the chromospheric oscillations inferred by NLTE inversion codes and the intrinsic fluctuations in velocity and temperature produced by the waves.
Methods: We computed numerical simulations of wave propagation in a sunspot umbra with the code MANCHA. We used the NLTE synthesis and inversion code NICOLE to compute spectropolarimetric Ca II 8542 Å line profiles for the atmospheric models obtained as the output from the simulations. We then inverted the synthetic profiles and compared the inferences from the inversions with the known atmospheres from the simulations.
Results: NLTE inversions of the Ca II 8542 Å line capture low-frequency oscillations, including those in the main band of chromospheric oscillations around 6 mHz. In contrast, waves with frequencies above 9 mHz are poorly characterized by the inversion results. Velocity oscillations at those higher frequencies exhibit clear signs of opacity fluctuations; namely the power of the signal at constant optical depth greatly departs from the power of the oscillations at constant geometrical height. The main response of the line to velocity fluctuations comes from low chromospheric heights, whereas the response to temperature shows sudden jumps between the high photosphere and the low chromosphere. This strong variation in the height where the line is sensitive to temperature is revealed as a strong oscillatory power in the inferred fluctuations, which is much stronger than the actual power from the intrinsic temperature oscillations.
Conclusions: Our results validate the use of NLTE inversions to study chromospheric oscillations with frequencies below ∼9 mHz. However, the interpretation of higher-frequency oscillations and the power of temperature oscillations must be addressed with care, as these exhibit signatures of opacity oscillations.
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