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Steven Christe   Submitted: 2008-02-05 19:44

The Sun is the most powerful particle accelerator in the solar system, accelerating ions up to tens of GeV and electrons to hundreds of MeV in solar flares and in coronal mass ejections. Solar flares are the most powerful explosions, releasing up to 1032x1033 erg in 102x103 seconds. How the Sun releases this energy and how it rapidly accelerates electrons and ions with high efficiency, and to such high energies, is still not understood. The process of particle acceleration in magnetized plasmas are thought to occur throughout the universe from Earth's magnetosphere to active galactic nuclei and supernova shocks. The Sun is a unique laboratory for studying these processes. Its proximity allows us to observe it with unparalleled sensitivity and spatial resolution and energetic particles can be sampled directly at Earth after escaping the Sun. The Sun can provide the key to understanding acceleration processes and energy release occurring on cosmic scales. In this thesis, we consider weak hard X-ray (HXR) bursts. In chapter 1, an introduction to the subject of solar observations is presented. Chapter 2 introduces the theory of Coulomb interactions whose understanding is necessary to the quantitative analysis of HXRs. In Chapter 3, the main instrument used in this study is described, the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Spectroscopic Solar Imager (RHESSI). A statistical analysis of the largest sample of RHESSI microflares is presented in Chapter 4. RHESSI microflares are found to be similar to large flares and not important to coronal heating. In Chapter 5, a series of HXR bursts associated with Type III radio bursts are analyzed. It is found that they are a signature of the acceleration process. In Chapter 6, we introduce HXR focusing optics and a new instrument, FOXSI, short for the Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager. With its large sensitivity and dynamic range, FOXSI will directly image energetic electron beams as they are accelerated and travel through the corona. FOXSI will be a pathfinder for the next generation of solar HXR observatories.

Authors: Steven Christe
Projects: RHESSI

Publication Status: published
Last Modified: 2008-02-05 19:44
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