EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 498, Number 3, May II 2009
Page(s) 901 - 907
Section The Sun
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/200811309
Published online 25 March 2009
A&A 498, 901-907 (2009)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/200811309

Evolution of an eruptive flare loop system

P. Romano1, F. Zuccarello2, L. Fletcher3, F. Rubio da Costa2, 3, H. M. Bain3, and L. Contarino2

1  INAF - Osservatorio Astrofisico di Catania, via S. Sofia 78, 95123 Catania, Italy
    e-mail: prom@oact.inaf.it
2  Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia - Sezione Astrofisica, Università di Catania, via S. Sofia 78, 95123 Catania, Italy
3  Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK

Received 7 November 2008 / Accepted 13 March 2009

Context. Flares, eruptive prominences and coronal mass ejections are phenomena where magnetic reconnection plays an important role. However, the location and the rate of the reconnection, as well as the mechanisms of particle interaction with ambient and chromospheric plasma are still unclear.
Aims. In order to contribute to the comprehension of the above mentioned processes we studied the evolution of the eruptive flare loop system in an active region where a flare, a prominence eruption and a CME occurred on August 24, 2002.
Methods. We measured the rate of expansion of the flare loop arcade using TRACE 195 Å images and determined the rising velocity and the evolution of the low and high energy hard X-ray sources using RHESSI data. We also fitted HXR spectra and considered the radio emission at 17 and 34 GHZ.
Results. We observed that the top of the eruptive flare loop system initially rises with a linear behavior and then, after 120 mn from the start of the event registered by GOES at 1–8 Å, it slows down. We also observed that the heating source (low energy X-ray) rises faster than the top of the loops at 195 Å and that the high energy X-ray emission (30–40 keV) changes in time, changing from footpoint emission at the very onset of the flare to being coincident during the flare peak with the whole flare loop arcade.
Conclusions. The evolution of the loop system and of the X-ray sources allowed us to interpret this event in the framework of the Lin & Forbes model (2000), where the absolute rate of reconnection decreases when the current sheet is located at an altitude where the Alfvén speed decreases with height. We estimated that the lower limit for the altitude of the current sheet is $6 \times 10^{4}$ km. Moreover, we interpreted the unusual variation of the high energy HXR emission as a manifestation of the non thermal coronal thick-target process which appears during the flare in a manner consistent with the inferred increase in coronal column density.

Key words: Sun: activity -- Sun: flares -- Sun: magnetic fields

© ESO 2009