Journal. Astronomy & Astrophysics
Abstract. Context. Local correlation tracking of granulation (LCT) is an important method for measuring horizontal flows in the photosphere. This method exhibits a systematic error that looks like a flow converging towards disk center, also known as the shrinking-Sun effect.
Aims. We aim at studying the nature of the shrinking-Sun effect for continuum intensity data and at deriving a simple model that can explain its origin.
Methods. We derived LCT flow maps by running the local correlation tracking code FLCT on tracked and remapped continuum intensity maps provided by the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory. We also computed flow maps from synthetic continuum images generated from STAGGER code simulations of solar surface convection. We investigated the origin of the shrinking-Sun effect by generating an average granule from synthetic data from the simulations.
Results. The LCT flow maps derived from HMI and from the simulations exhibit a shrinking-Sun effect of comparable magnitude. The origin of this effect is related to the apparent asymmetry of granulation originating from radiative transfer effects when observing with a viewing angle inclined from vertical. This causes, in combination with the expansion of the granules, an apparent motion towards disk center.