Volume 644, December 2020
|Number of page(s)||15|
|Section||The Sun and the Heliosphere|
|Published online||16 December 2020|
Thermal-nonthermal energy partition in solar flares derived from X-ray, EUV, and bolometric observations
Discussion of recent studies
Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam (AIP), An der Sternwarte 16, 14482 Potsdam, Germany
Accepted: 3 November 2020
Context. In solar flares, energy is released impulsively and is partly converted into thermal energy of hot plasmas and kinetic energy of accelerated nonthermal particles. It is crucial to constrain the partition of these two energy components to understand energy release and transport as well as particle acceleration in solar flares. Despite numerous efforts, no consensus on quantifying this energy balance has yet been reached.
Aims. We aim to understand the reasons for the contradicting results on energy partition obtained by various recent studies. The overarching question we address is whether there is sufficient energy in nonthermal particles to account for the thermal flare component.
Methods. We considered five recent studies that address the thermal-nonthermal energy partition in solar flares. Their results are reviewed, and their methods are compared and discussed in detail.
Results. The main uncertainties in deriving the energy partition are identified as (a) the derivation of the differential emission measure distribution and (b) the role of the conductive energy loss for the thermal component, as well as (c) the determination of the low-energy cutoff for the injected electrons. The bolometric radiated energy, as a proxy for the total energy released in the flare, is a useful independent constraint on both thermal and nonthermal energetics. In most of the cases, the derived energetics are consistent with this constraint. There are indications that the thermal-nonthermal energy partition changes with flare strength: in weak flares, there appears to be a deficit of energetic electrons, while the injected nonthermal energy is sufficient to account for the thermal component in strong flares. This behavior is identified as the main cause of the dissimilar results in the studies we considered. The changing partition has two important consequences: (a) an additional direct (i.e. non-beam) heating mechanism has to be present, and (b) considering that the bolometric emission originates mainly from deeper atmospheric layers, conduction or waves are required as additional energy transport mechanisms.
Key words: Sun: flares / Sun: X-rays / gamma rays / acceleration of particles
© ESO 2020
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