Using hard X-ray observations from the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), we investigate the reliability of spectral hardening during solar flares as an indicator of related solar energetic particle (SEP) events at Earth. All RHESSI data are analyzed, from 2002 February through the end of Solar Cycle 23, thereby expanding upon recent work on a smaller sample of flares. Previous investigations have found very high success when associating soft-hard-harder (SHH) spectral behavior with energetic proton events, and confirmation of this link would suggest a correlation between electron acceleration in solar flares and SEPs seen in interplanetary space. In agreement with these past findings, we find that of 37 magnetically well-connected flares (W30-W90), 12 of 18 flares with SHH behavior produced SEP events and none of 19 flares without SHH behavior produced SEPs. This demonstrates a statistically significant dependence of SHH and SEP observations, a link that is unexplained in the standard scenario of SEP acceleration at the shock front of coronal mass ejections and encourages further investigation of the mechanisms which could be responsible.
Authors: James A. Grayson, Säm Krucker, and R. P. Lin