Temporal variations of X-ray solar flare loops: Length, corpulence, position, temperature, plasma pressure, and spectra

Natasha L S Jeffrey*, Eduard P. Kontar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The spatial and spectral properties of three solar flare coronal X-ray loops are studied before, during, and after the peak X-ray emission. Using observations from the Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI), we deduce the temporal changes in emitting X-ray length, corpulence, volume, position, number density, and thermal pressure. We observe a decrease in the loop length, width, and volume before the X-ray peak, and an increasing number density and thermal pressure. After the X-ray peak, volume increases and loop corpulence grows due to increasing width. The volume variations are more pronounced than the position variations, often known as magnetic field line contraction. We believe this is the first dedicated study examining the temporal evolution of X-ray loop lengths and widths. Collectively, the observations also show for the first time three temporal phases given by peaks in temperature, X-ray emission, and thermal pressure, with the minimum volume coinciding with the X-ray peak. Although the volume of the flaring plasma decreases before the peak in X-ray emission, the relationship between temperature and volume does not support simple compressive heating in a collapsing magnetic trap model. Within a low β plasma, shrinking loop widths perpendicular to the guiding field can be explained by squeezing the magnetic field threading the region. Plasma heating leads to chromospheric evaporation and growing number density. This produces increasing thermal pressure and decreasing loop lengths as electrons interact at shorter distances and we believe after the X-ray peak, the increasing loop corpulence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number75
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Early online date11 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


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