Mapping Accelerated Electrons Throughout a Solar Flare
Students from St Marys School (Newcastle), Morgan Stores and Shannon Killey
Solar flares are giant explosions on the Sun's surface which release huge amounts of energy. These flares form new coronal loops, which are immense loops of magnetic field lines that extend into the Sun's corona. Hot plasma fills the loops allowing us to see them. The energy released during solar flares can heat plasma in the Sun's atmosphere and accelerate electrons, forcing them to travel down the coronal loops into the Sun. The properties (e.g., temperature, density, velocity) of the accelerated electrons can be determined by looking at spectral lines of the plasma. But where are these particles accelerated?
In this project we used spectral line data from spacecraft (Hinode/EIS) to create a map of where the electrons are accelerated. The data produces an image of the flare and for each pixel in the image, we study the spectral lines of two different ions. From the width of the spectral lines we obtain information about the motion of the plasma and calculate the velocity of accelerated electrons in the solar flare. Doing this for each pixel in the image allows us to create a map of the accelerated particles.
The created maps showed that the accelerated electrons can be found throughout the entire flare. Electrons with the highest velocity were found at the top of the coronal loop and decreased down the loop.