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Astron. Astrophys. 325, 305-317

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Quasi-separatrix layers in solar flares

II. Observed magnetic configurations

P. Démoulin1, L.G. Bagalá2, C.H. Mandrini2, J.C. Hénoux1, and M.G. Rovira2

1Observatoire de Paris, DASOP, URA2080 (CNRS), F-92195 Meudon Cedex, France
2Instituto de Astronomía y Física del Espacio, IAFE, CC.67, Suc.28, 1428 Buenos Aires, Argentina*

Received 17 September 1996 / Accepted 2 December 1996


We show that the location of HFORMULA or OV flare brightenings is related to the properties of the field-line linkage of the underlying magnetic region. The coronal magnetic field is extrapolated from the observed photospheric field assuming a linear force-free field configuration in order to determine the regions of rapid change in field-line linkage, called "quasi-separatrix layers" or QSLs. They are open layers that behave physically like separatrices: breakdown of ideal magnetohydrodynamics and release of free magnetic-energy may occur at these locations when their thickness is small enough. A feature common to all the flaring regions studied is found to be the presence of QSLs where HFORMULA flare kernels are observed. The brightenings are along restricted regions of very thin QSLs; an upper bound of their thickness is 1 Mm but it is several order of magnitude smaller in most of the cases. These places coincide in general with zones where the longitudinal field component is greater than 100 G. These results allow us to constrain present models of solar flares and localise where a break-down of ideal MHD can occur. The studied flares are found to be fed in general by only one electric current loop, but they imply the interaction of two magnetic bipoles. The extrapolated coronal field lines involved in the process have their photospheric footpoints located at both sides of QSLs, as expected in recent 3D magnetic reconnection models.

Key words: Magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) - Sun: flares - Sun: magnetic fields

*Member of the Carrera del Investigador Científico, CONICET

Send offprint requests to: P. Démoulin

© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 1997