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  1. Abstract

    Solar active regions (ARs) contain a broad range of temperatures, with the thermal plasma distribution often observed to peak in the few millions of kelvin. Differential emission measure (DEM) analysis can allow instruments with diverse temperature responses to be used in concert to estimate this distribution. Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope ARray (NuSTAR) hard X-ray (HXR) observations are uniquely sensitive to the highest-temperature components of the corona, and thus extremely powerful for examining signatures of reconnection-driven heating. Here, we use NuSTAR diagnostics in combination with extreme-ultraviolet and soft X-ray observations (from the Solar Dynamics Observatory/Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and Hinode/X-Ray Telescope) to construct DEMs over 170 distinct time intervals during a 5 hr observation of an alternately flaring and quiet active region (NOAA designation AR 12712). This represents the first HXR study to examine the time evolution of the distribution of thermal plasma in an AR. During microflares, we find that the initial microflare-associated plasma heating is predominantly heating of material that is already relatively hot, followed later on by broader heating of initially cooler material. During quiescent times, we show that the amount of extremely hot (>10 MK) material in this region is significantly (∼2–4 orders of magnitude) less than that found in the quiescent AR observed in HXRs by FOXSI-2. This result implies there can be radically different high-temperature thermal distributions in different ARs, and strongly motivates future HXR DEM studies covering a large number of these regions.

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  2. Context. Solar nanoflares are small impulsive events releasing magnetic energy in the corona. If nanoflares follow the same physics as their larger counterparts, they should emit hard X-rays (HXRs) but with a rather faint intensity. A copious and continuous presence of nanoflares would result in a sustained HXR emission. These nanoflares could deliver enormous amounts of energy into the solar corona, possibly accounting for its high temperatures. To date, there has not been any direct observation of such persistent HXRs from the quiescent Sun. However, the quiet-Sun HXR emission was constrained in 2010 using almost 12 days of quiescent solar off-pointing observations by the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI). These observations set 2 σ upper limits at 3.4 × 10 −2 photons s −1 cm −2 keV −1 and 9.5 × 10 −4 photons s −1 cm −2 keV −1 for the 3–6 keV and 6–12 keV energy ranges, respectively. Aims. Observing faint HXR emission is challenging because it demands high sensitivity and dynamic range instruments. The Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager (FOXSI) sounding rocket experiment excels in these two attributes when compared with RHESSI. FOXSI completed its second and third successful flights (FOXSI-2 and -3) on December 11, 2014, and September 7, 2018, respectively. This paper aims to constrain the quiet-Sun emission in the 5–10 keV energy range using FOXSI-2 and -3 observations. Methods. To fully characterize the sensitivity of FOXSI, we assessed ghost ray backgrounds generated by sources outside of the field of view via a ray-tracing algorithm. We used a Bayesian approach to provide upper thresholds of quiet-Sun HXR emission and probability distributions for the expected flux when a quiet-Sun HXR source is assumed to exist. Results. We found a FOXSI-2 upper limit of 4.5 × 10 −2 photons s −1 cm −2 keV −1 with a 2 σ confidence level in the 5–10 keV energy range. This limit is the first-ever quiet-Sun upper threshold in HXR reported using ∼1 min observations during a period of high solar activity. RHESSI was unable to measure the quiet-Sun emission during active times due to its limited dynamic range. During the FOXSI-3 flight, the Sun exhibited a fairly quiet configuration, displaying only one aged nonflaring active region. Using the entire ∼6.5 min of FOXSI-3 data, we report a 2 σ upper limit of ∼10 −4 photons s −1 cm −2 keV −1 for the 5–10 keV energy range. Conclusions. The FOXSI-3 upper limits on quiet-Sun emission are similar to that previously reported, but FOXSI-3 achieved these results with only 5 min of observations or about 1/2600 less time than RHESSI. A possible future spacecraft using hard X-ray focusing optics like those in the FOXSI concept would allow enough observation time to constrain the current HXR quiet-Sun limits further, or perhaps even make direct detections. This is the first report of quiet-Sun HXR limits from FOXSI and the first science paper using FOXSI-3 observations. 
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  3. ABSTRACT We investigate the spatial, temporal, and spectral properties of 10 microflares from AR12721 on 2018 September 9 and 10 observed in X-rays using the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope ARray and the Solar Dynamic Observatory’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager. We find GOES sub-A class equivalent microflare energies of 1026–1028 erg reaching temperatures up to 10 MK with consistent quiescent or hot active region (AR) core plasma temperatures of 3–4 MK. One microflare (SOL2018-09-09T10:33), with an equivalent GOES class of A0.1, has non-thermal hard X-ray emission during its impulsive phase (of non-thermal power ∼7 × 1024 erg s−1) making it one of the faintest X-ray microflares to have direct evidence for accelerated electrons. In 4 of the 10 microflares, we find that the X-ray time profile matches fainter and more transient sources in the extreme-ultraviolet, highlighting the need for observations sensitive to only the hottest material that reaches temperatures higher than those of the AR core (>5 MK). Evidence for corresponding photospheric magnetic flux cancellation/emergence present at the footpoints of eight microflares is also observed. 
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