Observational evidence for return currents in solar flare loops
Institute of Astronomy, ETH Zurich, 8093 Zurich, Switzerland
Accepted: 6 May 2008
Context. The common flare scenario comprises an acceleration site in the corona and particle transport to the chromosphere. Using satellites available to date it has become possible to distinguish between the two processes of acceleration and transport, and study the particle propagation in flare loops in detail, as well as complete comparisons with theoretical predictions.
Aims. We complete a quantitative comparison between flare hard X-ray spectra observed by RHESSI and theoretical predictions. This enables acceleration to be distinguished from transport and the nature of transport effects to be explored.
Methods. Data acquired by the RHESSI satellite were analyzed using full sun spectroscopy as well as imaging spectroscopy methods. Coronal source and footpoint spectra of well observed limb events were analyzed and quantitatively compared to theoretical predictions. New concepts are introduced to existing models to resolve discrepancies between observations and predictions.
Results. The standard thin-thick target solar flare model cannot explain the observations of all events. In the events presented here, propagation effects in the form of non-collisional energy loss are of importance to explain the observations. We demonstrate that those energy losses can be interpreted in terms of an electric field in the flare loop. One event seems consistent with particle propagation or acceleration in lower than average density in the coronal source.
Conclusions. We find observational evidence for an electric field in flare loops caused by return currents.
Key words: Sun: flares / Sun: X-rays, gamma rays / acceleration of particles
© ESO, 2008