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Astron. Astrophys. 355, 751-758 (2000)

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Electron cyclotron maser emission from double footpoints in solar flares

A.J. Conway 1,2 and A.J. Willes 3

1 Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
2 Now at Department of Physics & Astronomy, The Open University, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK
3 Department of Theoretical Physics and Research Center for Theoretical Astrophysics, School of Physics, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia

Received 4 June 1999 / Accepted 17 January 2000


It is now known from Yohkoh Hard X-ray Telescope observations that double (or even multiple) hard X-ray sources in flares are a common occurrence. These sources, which are positioned at the feet of coronal soft X-ray loops, are synchronised to within 0.1s and have similar spectra, strongly suggesting that they are produced by a single population of electrons accelerated/injected at some point in the loop. As this electron population is reflected from the converging footpoint magnetic fields, it develops a loss cone and an electron-cyclotron maser instability may ensue. The frequency and intensity of such emission depends on the relative strengths and orientations of the footpoint magnetic fields. In this paper, we investigate the case of an almost symmetric loop to assess whether observable maser emission from both footpoints can result. In particular, we relate this theory to existing observations of solar microwave spike bursts which have two distinct frequency bands that are of non-integer ratio and comparable intensities. We conclude that differing footpoint magnetic field inclinations cannot explain the observations (specifically the comparable intensities), but that it is possible for slightly differing footpoint magnetic field strengths to explain the observations. The pros and cons of this `geometric' model are then compared with a previous model of these events, which explained them in terms of the growth and then coalescence of Bernstein waves. We conclude that both interpretations seem plausible given current observations, but present a list of observable features that might be used discriminate between them in flare observations of the next solar maximum.

Key words: masers – Sun: flares – Sun: radio radiation – Sun: corona

Send offprint requests to: A.J. Conway (a.j.conway@open.ac.uk)

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: March 9, 2000