Proton acceleration at tearing coronal null-point current sheets
School of Science and Engineering, University of Dundee, UK
2 Department of Mathematical Sciences, Durham University, UK
Accepted: 19 December 2018
Context. Non-thermal particle acceleration in the solar corona is thought to constitute a substantial part of the energy budget of explosive events such as solar flares. One well-established mechanism of non-thermal acceleration is directly via fields in current sheets.
Aims. In this paper we study proton acceleration during “spine-fan reconnection” at a 3D magnetic null point. This type of reconnection has recently been implicated in some flares known as circular-ribbon flares. It has also recently been discovered that the reconnecting current sheet may undergo a non-linear tearing-type instability. This tearing leads to the formation of flux ropes and quasi-turbulent dynamics.
Methods. A predictor-corrector test particle code is used to model the trajectories of protons at different stages of sheet tearing: when the sheet is intact, just after the formation of the first major flux rope, and once the non-linear phase of the instability has become more fully developed. The fields for these proton trajectories were taken from snapshots of a 3D magnetohydrodynamics simulation treated as three static field geometries represented by interpolated grids. Acceleration in the intact current sheet is compared to earlier simulations of infinite static current sheets and then used as a control case with which to compare the later snapshots.
Results. Protons are found to be predominantly accelerated along the fan surface, especially in the absence of current sheet tearing. Most of the highest energy protons are accelerated in the main body of the current sheet, along the direction of strongest parallel electric field. A high energy tail is present in the kinetic energy distribution. After tearing commences, this direct acceleration no longer dominates and acceleration in the outflow regions makes a proportionally greater contribution. Sheet tearing appears overall to hinder the acceleration of protons in the fan plane, at least in the absence of time-dependent acceleration mechanisms. Some correlation is found between high energy protons and locations of flux ropes formed by the instability, but the nature of the link remains at present unclear.
Key words: acceleration of particles / magnetic reconnection / magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) / Sun: corona / plasmas / Sun: magnetic fields
© ESO 2018
Open Access article, published by EDP Sciences, under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.