A&A 435, 743-752 (2005)
Thermal and non-thermal energies of solar flaresP. Saint-Hilaire1, 2 and A. O. Benz1
1 Institute of Astronomy, ETH Zentrum SEC, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
2 Paul Scherrer Institute, 5232 Villigen PSI, Switzerland
(Received 27 August 2004 / Accepted 4 February 2005)
The energy of the thermal flare plasma and the kinetic energy of the non-thermal electrons in 14 hard X-ray peaks from 9 medium-sized solar flares have been determined from RHESSI observations. The emissions have been carefully separated in the spectrum. The turnover or cutoff in the low-energy distribution of electrons has been studied by simulation and fitting, yielding a reliable lower limit to the non-thermal energy. It remains the largest contribution to the error budget. Other effects, such as albedo, non-uniform target ionization, hot target, and cross-sections on the spectrum have been studied. The errors of the thermal energy are about equally as large. They are due to the estimate of the flare volume, the assumption of the filling factor, and energy losses. Within a flare, the non-thermal/thermal ratio increases with accumulation time, as expected from loss of thermal energy due to radiative cooling or heat conduction. Our analysis suggests that the thermal and non-thermal energies are of the same magnitude. This surprising result may be interpreted by an efficient conversion of non-thermal energy to hot flare plasma.
Key words: acceleration of particles -- Sun: flares -- Sun: X-rays, gamma rays
© ESO 2005