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Lyndsay Fletcher   Submitted: 2008-02-12 05:06

In this paper, we investigate the energy spectra produced by a simple test particle X-point model of a solar flare for different configurations of the initial electromagnetic field. We find that once the reconnection electric field is larger than 1 Vm-1 the particle distribution transits from a heated one to a partially accelerated one. As we close the separatrices of the X-point and the angle in the inflow direction widens we find that more particles are accelerated out of the thermal distribution and this power law component extends to lower energies. When we introduce a guiding magnetic field component we find that more particles are energised, but only up to a maximum energy dictated primarily by the reconnection electric field. Despite being able to accelerate particles to observable energies and demonstrate behaviour in the energy spectra that is consistent with observations, this single X-line model can only deliver the number fluxes required for microflares.

Authors: Hannah, Iain G., Fletcher, Lyndsay
Projects: None

Publication Status: Published in Solar Physics
Last Modified: 2008-02-12 11:10
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Lyndsay Fletcher   Submitted: 2008-02-12 05:02

A test-particle approach is used to study the collisionless response of protons to cold plasma fast Alfvén waves propagating in a nonuniform magnetic field: specifically, a two-dimensional X-point field. The field perturbations associated with the waves, which are assumed to be azimuthally symmetric and invariant in the direction orthogonal to the X-point plane, are exact solutions of the linearized ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equations. The protons are initially Maxwellian, at temperatures that are consistent with the cold plasma approximation. Two kinds of wave solution are invoked: global perturbations, with inward- and outward-propagating components; and localized purely inward-propagating waves, the wave electric field E having a preferred direction. In both cases the protons are effectively heated in the direction parallel to the magnetic field, although the parallel velocity distribution is generally non-Maxwellian and some protons are accelerated to highly suprathermal energies. This heating and acceleration can be attributed to the fact that protons undergoing EXB drifts due to the presence of the wave are subject to a force in the direction parallel to B. The localized wave solution produces more effective proton heating than the global solution, and successive wave pulses have a synergistic effect. This process, which could play a role in both solar coronal heating and late-phase heating in solar flares, is effective for all ion species, but it has a negligible direct effect on electrons. However, both electrons and heavy ions would be expected to acquire a temperature comparable to that of the protons on collisional timescales.

Authors: McKay, R. J., McClements, K. G., Fletcher, L.
Projects: None

Publication Status: Published in Ap.J.
Last Modified: 2008-02-12 11:10
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Lyndsay Fletcher   Submitted: 2008-02-12 05:02

A test-particle approach is used to study the collisionless response of protons to cold plasma fast Alfvén waves propagating in a nonuniform magnetic field: specifically, a two-dimensional X-point field. The field perturbations associated with the waves, which are assumed to be azimuthally symmetric and invariant in the direction orthogonal to the X-point plane, are exact solutions of the linearized ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) equations. The protons are initially Maxwellian, at temperatures that are consistent with the cold plasma approximation. Two kinds of wave solution are invoked: global perturbations, with inward- and outward-propagating components; and localized purely inward-propagating waves, the wave electric field E having a preferred direction. In both cases the protons are effectively heated in the direction parallel to the magnetic field, although the parallel velocity distribution is generally non-Maxwellian and some protons are accelerated to highly suprathermal energies. This heating and acceleration can be attributed to the fact that protons undergoing EXB drifts due to the presence of the wave are subject to a force in the direction parallel to B. The localized wave solution produces more effective proton heating than the global solution, and successive wave pulses have a synergistic effect. This process, which could play a role in both solar coronal heating and late-phase heating in solar flares, is effective for all ion species, but it has a negligible direct effect on electrons. However, both electrons and heavy ions would be expected to acquire a temperature comparable to that of the protons on collisional timescales.

Authors: McKay, R. J., McClements, K. G., Fletcher, L.
Projects:

Publication Status: Published in Ap.J.
Last Modified: 2008-02-12 11:14
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Lyndsay Fletcher   Submitted: 2008-02-12 04:59

The impulsive phase of a solar flare marks the epoch of rapid conversion of energy stored in the pre-flare coronal magnetic field. Hard X-ray observations imply that a substantial fraction of flare energy released during the impulsive phase is converted to the kinetic energy of mildly relativistic electrons (10-100 keV). The liberation of the magnetic free energy can occur as the coronal magnetic field reconfigures and relaxes following reconnection. We investigate a scenario in which products of the reconfiguration - large-scale Alfvén wave pulses - transport the energy and magnetic-field changes rapidly through the corona to the lower atmosphere. This offers two possibilities for electron acceleration. Firstly, in a coronal plasma with beta < m_e/m_p, the waves propagate as inertial Alfvén waves. In the presence of strong spatial gradients, these generate field-aligned electric fields that can accelerate electrons to energies on the order of 10 keV and above, including by repeated interactions between electrons and wavefronts. Secondly, when they reflect and mode-convert in the chromosphere, a cascade to high wavenumbers may develop. This will also accelerate electrons by turbulence, in a medium with a locally high electron number density. This concept, which bridges MHD-based and particle-based views of a flare, provides an interpretation of the recently-observed rapid variations of the line-of-sight component of the photospheric magnetic field across the flare impulsive phase, and offers solutions to some perplexing flare problems, such as the flare ''number problem'' of finding and resupplying sufficient electrons to explain the impulsive-phase hard X-ray emission.

Authors: Fletcher, L., Hudson, H. S.
Projects: None

Publication Status: ApJ (in press)
Last Modified: 2008-02-12 11:09
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Lyndsay Fletcher   Submitted: 2008-02-12 04:53

Context: Supra-arcade downflows (generally dark, sunward-propagating features located above the bright arcade of loops in some solar flares) have been reported mostly during the decay phase, although some have also been reported during the rise phase of solar flares. Aims: We investigate, from a statistical point of view, the timing of supra-arcade downflows during the solar flare process, and thus determine the possible relation of supra-arcade downflows to the primary or secondary energy release in a flare. Methods: Yohkoh Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT) imaging data are examined to produce a list of supra-arcade downflow candidates. In many of our events supra-arcade downflows are not directly observed. However, the events do show laterally moving (or "waving") bright rays in the supra-arcade fan of coronal rays which we interpret as due to dark supra-arcade downflows. The events are analysed in detail to determine whether the supra-arcade downflows (or the proxy waving coronal rays) occur during a) the rise and/or decay phases of the soft X-ray flare and b) the flare hard X-ray bursts. It is also investigated whether the supra-arcade downflows events show prior eruptive signatures as seen in SXT, other space-based coronal data, or reported in ground-based Hα images. Results: A substantial majority of supra-arcade downflow events show downflows which start during the soft X-ray flare rise phase (73%), occur during hard X-ray bursts (90%), and have prior eruptive signatures associated with them (73%). However, we find a single event (2% of the total) which clearly and unambiguously showed supra-arcade downflows starting during the soft X-ray flare decay phase. Conclusions: Since the majority of supra-arcade downflows occur during the rise phase of the soft X-ray flare and the time of hard X-ray bursts, and have prior eruptive signatures this suggests that they are related to the main flare energy release process. Furthermore, the suggested association of supra-arcade downflows with recently reconnected magnetic field lines means they may indeed be considered as evidence for a magnetic reconnection process. The single supra-arcade downflow event which unambiguously started during the decay phase of the flare occurred during hard X-ray bursts and thus appears to be related to late energy release.

Authors: J. I. Khan, H. M. Bain, L. Fletcher
Projects: Yohkoh-HXT,Yohkoh-SXT

Publication Status: Published in A&A
Last Modified: 2008-02-12 11:09
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Lyndsay Fletcher   Submitted: 2008-02-12 04:50

n this paper we investigate the formation of the white-light (WL) continuum during solar flares and its relationship to energy deposition by electron beams inferred from hard X-ray emission. We analyze nine flares spanning GOES classifications from C4.8 to M9.1, seven of which show clear cospatial RHESSI hard X-ray and TRACE WL footpoints. We characterize the TRACE WL/UV continuum energy under two simplifying assumptions: (1) a blackbody function, or (2) a Paschen-Balmer continuum model. These set limits on the energy in the continuum, which we compare with that provided by flare electrons under the usual collisional thick-target assumptions. We find that the power required by the white-light luminosity enhancement is comparable to the electron beam power required to produce the HXR emission only if the low-energy cutoff to the spectrum is less than 25 keV. The bulk of the energy required to power the white-light flare (WLF) therefore resides at these low energies. Since such low-energy electrons cannot penetrate deep into a collisional thick target, this implies that the continuum enhancement is due to processes occurring at moderate depths in the chromosphere.

Authors: L. Fletcher, I. G. Hannah, H. S. Hudson & T. R. Metcalf
Projects: None

Publication Status: Published in Ap.J.
Last Modified: 2008-02-12 11:09
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Lyndsay Fletcher   Submitted: 2008-02-12 04:49

n this paper we investigate the formation of the white-light (WL) continuum during solar flares and its relationship to energy deposition by electron beams inferred from hard X-ray emission. We analyze nine flares spanning GOES classifications from C4.8 to M9.1, seven of which show clear cospatial RHESSI hard X-ray and TRACE WL footpoints. We characterize the TRACE WL/UV continuum energy under two simplifying assumptions: (1) a blackbody function, or (2) a Paschen-Balmer continuum model. These set limits on the energy in the continuum, which we compare with that provided by flare electrons under the usual collisional thick-target assumptions. We find that the power required by the white-light luminosity enhancement is comparable to the electron beam power required to produce the HXR emission only if the low-energy cutoff to the spectrum is less than 25 keV. The bulk of the energy required to power the white-light flare (WLF) therefore resides at these low energies. Since such low-energy electrons cannot penetrate deep into a collisional thick target, this implies that the continuum enhancement is due to processes occurring at moderate depths in the chromosphere.

Authors: L. Fletcher, I. G. Hannah, H. S. Hudson & T. R. Metcalf
Projects: None

Publication Status: Published
Last Modified: 2008-02-12 04:49
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