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Magnetic energy release: flares and coronal mass ejections

  • Cristina H. Mandrini (a1)

Abstract

Free energy stored in the magnetic field is the source that powers solar and stellar activity at all temporal and spatial scales. The energy released during transient atmospheric events is contained in current-carrying magnetic fields that have emerged twisted and may be further stressed via motions in the lower atmospheric layers (i.e. loop-footpoint motions). Magnetic reconnection is thought to be the mechanism through which the stored magnetic energy is transformed into kinetic energy of accelerated particles and mass flows, and radiative energy along the whole electromagnetic spectrum. This mechanism works efficiently at scale lengths much below the spatial resolution of even the highest resolution solar instruments; however, it may imply a large-scale restructuring of the magnetic field inferred indirectly from the combined analysis of observations and models of the magnetic field topology. The aftermath of magnetic energy release includes events ranging from nanoflares, which are below our detection limit, to powerful flares, which may be accompanied by the ejection of large amounts of plasma and magnetic field (so called coronal mass ejections, CMEs), depending on the amount of total available free magnetic energy, the magnetic flux density distribution, the magnetic field configuration, etc. We describe key observational signatures of flares and CMEs on the Sun, their magnetic field topology, and discuss how the combined analysis of solar and interplanetary observations can be used to constrain the flare/CME ejection mechanism.

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References

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Magnetic energy release: flares and coronal mass ejections

  • Cristina H. Mandrini (a1)

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