The relative timing of supra-arcade downflows in solar flares
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accepted: 11 August 2007
Context. Supra-arcade downflows (generally dark, sunward-propagating features located above the bright arcade of loops in some solar flares) have been reported mostly during the decay phase, although some have also been reported during the rise phase of solar flares.
Aims. We investigate, from a statistical point of view, the timing of supra-arcade downflows during the solar flare process, and thus determine the possible relation of supra-arcade downflows to the primary or secondary energy release in a flare.
Methods. Yohkoh Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT) imaging data are examined to produce a list of supra-arcade downflow candidates. In many of our events supra-arcade downflows are not directly observed. However, the events do show laterally moving (or “waving”) bright rays in the supra-arcade fan of coronal rays which we interpret as due to dark supra-arcade downflows. The events are analysed in detail to determine whether the supra-arcade downflows (or the proxy waving coronal rays) occur during a) the rise and/or decay phases of the soft X-ray flare and b) the flare hard X-ray bursts. It is also investigated whether the supra-arcade downflows events show prior eruptive signatures as seen in SXT, other space-based coronal data, or reported in ground-based Hα images.
Results. A substantial majority of supra-arcade downflow events show downflows which start during the soft X-ray flare rise phase (73%), occur during hard X-ray bursts (90%), and have prior eruptive signatures associated with them (73%). However, we find a single event (2% of the total) which clearly and unambiguously showed supra-arcade downflows starting during the soft X-ray flare decay phase.
Conclusions. Since the majority of supra-arcade downflows occur during the rise phase of the soft X-ray flare and the time of hard X-ray bursts, and have prior eruptive signatures this suggests that they are related to the main flare energy release process. Furthermore, the suggested association of supra-arcade downflows with recently reconnected magnetic field lines means they may indeed be considered as evidence for a magnetic reconnection process. The single supra-arcade downflow event which unambiguously started during the decay phase of the flare occurred during hard X-ray bursts and thus appears to be related to late energy release.
Key words: Sun: corona / Sun: coronal mass ejections (CMEs) / Sun: flares / Sun: magnetic fields / Sun: X-rays, gamma rays / magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
© ESO, 2007