Solar REU Program:
 Title: Observational Signatures of Asymmetric Magnetic Reconnection in Post-Flare Loops

Type of Project: Data analysis

Skills/Interest Required: Interest in plasma astrophysics or the numerical modeling of plasmas. Some knowledge of intermediate electromagnetism and/or fluid mechanics is required. The data analysis will be performed primarily using IDL.

Mentors: Dr. Nick Murphy and Dr. Mari Paz Miralles




Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in the solar corona. Reconnection occurs when the magnetic field lines of a highly conducting plasma are broken and rejoined, thus changing the magnetic connectivity of the system. This process is responsible for explosive energy release and particle acceleration during solar flares. Recent simulations of line-tied asymmetric reconnection predict observational signatures during solar eruptions [1]. In particular, the post-flare loop structure is skewed into a characteristic candle flame shape, and more hard X-ray emission will occur on the side with the weaker magnetic field.


The goal of this project will be to characterize the observational signatures of asymmetric magnetic reconnection in post-flare loops and compare to the results predicted by the numerical simulations. To accomplish this goal, we will (A) look at flare events near the solar limb to characterize the distortion of post-flare loops; (B) look at motion and relative brightness of each of the loop footpoints. For these two tasks we will analyze recent solar eruptive event images from Hinode/XRT, SDO/AIA, STEREO/EUVI, SOHO/MDI, and SDO/HMI.

Figure: X-ray observation of candle flame loops near the solar limb

[1] Murphy, N. A., Miralles, M. P. et al. 2011, ApJ, in preparation


Section Photo