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Variability of the solar spectral irradiance and energetic particles

  • Adriana Silva-Válio (a1)

Abstract

The total spectral irradiance of the Sun is seen to vary on many time scales. Three timescales are more prominent: (1) the longest one of about 11 years; (2) an intermediate timescale of the order of a few weeks; and (3) the shortest variation from hours to seconds. Every 11 years, the total solar irradiance periodically shows intervals of great activity and periods of almost no activity. The peak to peak variability, however, is less than 0.1%. This periodic variation of 11 years is called the solar cycle, which main tracer are sunspots. During times of maximum activity, there are many sunspots on the surface of the Sun, whereas during minimum there may be none. Sunspots are dark, and therefore cool, regions of enhanced magnetic fields of about a few hundred Gauss, that usually appear in groups on the solar photosphere. Basically, the solar cycle is regulated by the magnetic dynamo acting below the solar surface. Right now, the Sun is going through a time of minimum activity. The sunspot lifetime is of the order of one to two weeks, and are thus responsible for the intermediate variability timescale. The magnetic loops seen in ultraviolet and X-ray images have their footpoints anchored on sunspots. The most energetic phenomena of solar activity are flares and coronal mass ejections. Flares are large explosions that occur on the solar atmosphere and may last from a few seconds to hours. A solar flare is caused by a sudden, and yet unpredicted, energy release high above the magnetic loops. This magnetic energy is then used into particle acceleration and heating of the surrounding atmosphere. Both the energetic particles and the hot gas produce emission throughout the whole electromagnetic spectrum, from the very energetic gamma-rays all the way to long radio waves. From the observation of the emission produced during flares it is possible to infer the energetic particles spectra and thus have a clue on the acceleration mechanism that produced these particles. The recent findings of flare observations at gamma-rays by the RHESSI satellite and at high radio frequencies by the Solar Submillimeter Telescope are presented and discussed.

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References

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