EDP Sciences
Free Access
Volume 398, Number 2, February I 2003
Page(s) 743 - 761
Section Diffuse matter in space
DOI https://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20021628
Published online 21 January 2003

A&A 398, 743-761 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20021628

Spectroscopic characteristics of polar plumes

G. Del Zanna1, B. J. I. Bromage2 and H. E. Mason1

1  Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, UK
2  Centre for Astrophysics, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

(Received 14 August 2002 / Accepted 5 November 2002 )

Extreme ultraviolet observations of plumes in polar coronal holes are presented and their spectroscopic signatures discussed. The study focuses on the base of plumes seen on the disk of the Sun with the Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer (CDS) on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite. Spectroscopic diagnostic techniques are applied to characterise the plumes in terms of density, temperature, emission measure and element abundance. Attention is drawn to the particular limitations of some of the techniques when applied to plume structures. In particular, we revisit the Widing & Feldman (1992) findings of a plume having a large first ionization potential (FIP) effect of 10, showing that instead the Skylab data are consistent with no FIP effect. We present for the first time CDS-GIS (grazing incidence spectrometer) observations of a plume. These observations have been used to confirm the results obtained from normal incidence (NIS) observations. We find that polar plumes exhibit the same characteristics as the Elephant's Trunk equatorial plume. The most striking characteristic of the plume bases is that they are near-isothermal with a peak emission measure at transition region temperatures $\simeq 8 \times 10^5$ K. At these temperatures, plumes have averaged densities $N{\rm _{e}} \simeq 1.2 \times 10^{9}$ cm -3, about twice the value of the surrounding coronal hole region. Element abundances in the plumes are found to be close to photospheric, with the exception of neon which appears to be depleted by 0.2 dex relative to oxygen. The absence of a significant FIP effect in plumes is consistent with fast solar wind plasma, although it is not sufficient to prove a link between the two. Finally, we present a comparison between GIS spectra and the SOHO EIT (EUV Imaging Telescope) broad-band images, showing that temperatures derived from the EIT ratio technique are largely overestimated, for plumes and coronal holes. This is partly due to the fact that the so called "Fe XII 195 Å" and "Fe XV 284 Å" filters are not isothermal, and in coronal holes and plumes lower-temperature lines dominate the EIT signal.

Key words: Sun: corona -- techniques: spectroscopic -- Sun: transition region -- Sun: abundances

Offprint request: G. Del Zanna, G.Del-Zanna@damtp.cam.ac.uk

© ESO 2003

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