Thermal and non-thermal emission from reconnecting twisted coronal loops
1 LESIA, Observatoire Paris, CNRS, UPMC, Université Paris-Diderot, 5 place Jules Janssen, 92195 Meudon, France
2 IRAP, Université de Toulouse, UPS-OMP, CNRS, 9 Av. Colonel Roche, BP 44346, 31028 Toulouse Cedex 4, France
3 Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
Received: 29 May 2015
Accepted: 9 December 2015
Context. Twisted magnetic fields should be ubiquitous in the solar corona, particularly in flare-producing active regions where the magnetic fields are strongly non-potential. The magnetic energy contained in such twisted fields can be released during solar flares and other explosive phenomena. It has recently been shown that reconnection in helical magnetic coronal loops results in plasma heating and particle acceleration distributed within a large volume, including the lower coronal and chromospheric sections of the loops. Hence, the magnetic reconnection and particle acceleration scenario involving magnetic helicity can be a viable alternative to the standard flare model, where particles are accelerated only in a small volume located in the upper corona.
Aims. The key goal of this study is to investigate the links and observational signatures of plasma heating and particle acceleration in kink-unstable twisted coronal loops.
Methods. We used a combination of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulations and test-particle methods. These simulations describe the development of kink instability and magnetic reconnection in twisted coronal loops using resistive compressible MHD and incorporate atmospheric stratification and large-scale loop curvature. The resulting distributions of hot plasma let us estimate thermal X-ray emission intensities. With the electric and magnetic fields we obtained, we calculated electron trajectories using the guiding-centre approximation. These trajectories combined with the MHD plasma density distributions let us deduce synthetic hard X-ray bremsstrahlung intensities.
Results. Our simulations emphasise that the geometry of the emission patterns produced by hot plasma in flaring twisted coronal loops can differ from the actual geometry of the underlying magnetic fields. In particular, the twist angles revealed by the emission threads (soft X-ray thermal emission; SXR) are consistently lower than the field-line twist present at the onset of the kink instability. Hard X-ray (HXR) emission that is due to the interaction of energetic electrons with the stratified background is concentrated at the loop foot-points in these simulations, even though the electrons are accelerated everywhere within the coronal volume of the loop. The maximum of the HXR emission consistently precedes that of SXR emission, with the HXR light curve being approximately proportional to the temporal derivative of the SXR light curve.
Key words: Sun: corona / Sun: magnetic fields / magnetic reconnection / acceleration of particles / Sun: X-rays, gamma rays / Sun: flares
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