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3.3 Intermediate thin-thick target coronal sources

The observation of Masuda et al. (1994) suggests a model that consists of four basic elements: a particle accelerator above the top of a magnetic loop (consistently imagined at the peak of a cusp), a coronal source visible in SXR and HXR, collision-less propagation of particles along the magnetic loop and HXR-footpoints in the chromosphere. Wheatland and Melrose (1995) developed a simple model that has been used and investigated further (e.g., Metcalf and Alexander, 1999Fletcher and Martens, 1998). The thermal coronal source acts as an intermediate thin-thick target on electrons depending on energy (thick target for lower energetic electrons, thin target on higher energies). This model is known as intermediate thin-thick target, or ITTT model. The ITTT model features a dense coronal source into which a beam of electrons with a power-law energy distribution is injected. Some high-energy electrons then leave the dense region and precipitate down to the chromosphere. The coronal region acts as a thick target on particles with energy lower than a critical energy Ec and as thin target on electrons with energy >Ec. This results in a characteristic hard X-ray spectrum showing a broken power-law as well as soft X-ray emission due to collisional heating of the coronal region. The altered electron beam reaches the chromosphere, causing thick target emission in the footpoints of the magnetic loop. Battaglia and Benz (2007) have tested the ITTT model in a series of flares using RHESSI data. The results indicate that such a simple model cannot account for all of the observed relations between the non-thermal spectra of coronal and footpoint sources. Including non-collisional energy loss of the electrons in the flare loop due to an electric field can solve most of the inconsistencies.

The simple ITTT model shows that the standard flare geometry is consistent with current observations. The remaining inconsistencies concern the coronal source. Its non-thermal component was found less bright than the footpoints would predict according the ITTT model (Battaglia and Benz, 2008). A possible remedy is acceleration within the thermal coronal source. Jiang et al. (2006Jump To The Next Citation Point) argue that thermal conductivity in the coronal source is reduced by wave turbulence to interpret the soft X-ray emission. Turbulence would also scatter non-thermal particles or even accelerate them.

It is proper to conclude that the coronal X-ray source is not understood.


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