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Modeling Solar Flare Hard X-ray Images and Spectra Observed with RHESSI View all abstracts by submitter

Linhui Sui   Submitted: 2005-02-02 11:48

Observations obtained with the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) of a flare on February 20, 2002 indicate a hard X-ray (HXR) coronal source at or near the top of a flare loop (called a HXR looptop source). The existence of the HXR looptop source suggests that magnetic reconnection, which is believed to power flares, occurs above the loop. In order to explain this HXR looptop source, I created a steady-state particle transport model, in which high-energy electrons are continuously injected at the top of a semicircular flare loop. Based on the simulation results, I find that the model predictions are consistent with the RHESSI observations in many respects, but the spectrum of the looptop source obtained from the model is steeper than that from the RHESSI data. This suggests that, instead of being accelerated above the loop as generally believed, the particles might be accelerated in the looptop itself. RHESSI observations of three other homologous flares that occurred between April 14 and 16, 2002, provide strong evidence for the presence of a large-scale current sheet above a flare loop, which is the basis of standard flare models. The most convincing finding is the presence of the temperature distribution of a separate coronal source above the flare loops: the hotter part of the coronal source was located lower in altitude than the cooler part. Together with the fact that the hotter flare loops are higher than the cooler loops, the observations support the existence of a large-scale current sheet between the top of the flare loops and the coronal source above. Blob-like sources along a line above the loop in the decay phase of the April 15, 2002, flare, which are suggestive of magnetic islands initiated by the tearing-mode instability, and the observation of a cusp structure in microwaves, further support the presence of the current sheet. The observations of the three homologous flares reveal two other features which are beyond the predictions of the standard flare models: the downward motion of flare loops in the early impulsive phase of each flare, and an initially stationary coronal source above the loops. These features are believed to be related to the formation and development of a current sheet. In particular, the downward loop motion seems to be a common phenomenon in flares, suggesting the necessity for modifications to the existing standard flare models. Finally, thanks to the broad energy coverage of the RHESSI spectra, a low-energy cutoff of 28~(pm2)~keV in the nonthermal electron distribution was determined for the April 15, 2002, flare. As a result, the energy carried by the nonthermal electrons is found to be comparable to the thermal energy of the flare, but one order of magnitude larger than the kinetic energy of the associated coronal mass ejection. The method used to deduce the electron low-energy cutoff will be useful in the analyses of similar events.

Authors: Linhui Sui
Projects: RHESSI

Publication Status: Doctoral Dissertation (Catholic University of America), 2005, NASA Technical Memorandum (2005-212776)
Last Modified: 2005-02-02 11:48
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