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The Maximum Free Magnetic Energy Allowed in a Solar Active RegionTwo whole-active-region magnetic quantities that can be measured from a line-of-sight magnetogram are (sup L) WL(sub SG), a gauge of the total free energy in an active region's magnetic field, and sup L(sub theta), a measure of the active region's total magnetic flux. From these two quantities measured from 1865 SOHO/MDI magnetograms that tracked 44 sunspot active regions across the 0.5 R(sub Sun) central disk, together with each active region's observed production of CMEs, X flares, and M flares, Falconer et al (2009, ApJ, submitted) found that (1) active regions have a maximum attainable free magnetic energy that increases with the magnetic size (sup L) (sub theta) of the active region, (2) in (Log (sup L)WL(sub SG), Log(sup L) theta) space, CME/flare-productive active regions are concentrated in a straight-line main sequence along which the free magnetic energy is near its upper limit, and (3) X and M flares are restricted to large active regions. Here, from (a) these results, (b) the observation that even the greatest X flares produce at most only subtle changes in active region magnetograms, and (c) measurements from MSFC vector magnetograms and from MDI line-of-sight magnetograms showing that practically all sunspot active regions have nearly the same area-averaged magnetic field strength: =- theta/A approximately equal to 300 G, where theta is the active region's total photospheric flux of field stronger than 100 G and A is the area of that flux, we infer that (1) the maximum allowed ratio of an active region's free magnetic energy to its potential-field energy is ~1, and (2) any one CME/flare eruption releases no more than a small fraction (less than ~10%) of the active region's free magnetic energy. This work was funded by NASA's Heliophysics Division and NSF's Division of Atmospheric Sciences.
Document ID
Document Type
Moore, Ronald L. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Falconer, David A. (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
June 14, 2009
Subject Category
Solar Physics
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society(Boulder, CO)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.