Soft X-ray emission in kink-unstable coronal loops

Abstract : Context. Solar flares are associated with intense soft X-ray emission generated by the hot flaring plasma in coronal magnetic loops. Kink-unstable twisted flux-ropes provide a source of magnetic energy that can be released impulsively and may account for the heating of the plasma in flares. Aims. We investigate the temporal, spectral, and spatial evolution of the properties of the thermal continuum X-ray emission produced in such kink-unstable magnetic flux-ropes and discuss the results of the simulations with respect to solar flare observations. Methods. We computed the temporal evolution of the thermal X-ray emission in kink-unstable coronal loops based on a series of magnetohydrodynamical numerical simulations. The numerical setup consisted of a highly twisted loop embedded in a region of uniform and untwisted background coronal magnetic field. We let the kink instability develop, computed the evolution of the plasma properties in the loop (density, temperature) without accounting for mass exchange with the chromosphere. We then deduced the X-ray emission properties of the plasma during the whole flaring episode. Results. During the initial (linear) phase of the instability, plasma heating is mostly adiabatic (as a result of compression). Ohmic diffusion takes over as the instability saturates, leading to strong and impulsive heating (up to more than 20 MK), to a quick enhancement of X-ray emission, and to the hardening of the thermal X-ray spectrum. The temperature distribution of the plasma becomes broad, with the emission measure depending strongly on temperature. Significant emission measures arise for plasma at temperatures higher than 9 MK. The magnetic flux-rope then relaxes progressively towards a lower energy state as it reconnects with the background flux. The loop plasma suffers smaller sporadic heating events, but cools down globally by thermal conduction. The total thermal X-ray emission slowly fades away during this phase, and the high-temperature component of the emission measure distribution converges to the power-law distribution EM ∝ T-4.2. The twist deduced directly from the X-ray emission patterns is considerably lower than the highest magnetic twist in the simulated flux-ropes.
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R. F. Pinto, N. Vilmer, A. S. Brun. Soft X-ray emission in kink-unstable coronal loops. Astronomy and Astrophysics - A&A, EDP Sciences, 2015, 576, pp.A37. ⟨10.1051/0004-6361/201323358⟩. ⟨cea-01300536⟩

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