The Acceleration and Release of Relativistic Electrons by Coronal Mass Ejections

George Simnett, EC Roelof, DK Haggerty

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We have examined transient coronal activity observed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)/Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph Experiment (LASCO) around the release time of beams of near-relativistic electrons (similar to40-300 keV) observed by the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE)/Electron, Proton, and Alpha Monitor (EPAM) at 1 AU. The electron beams are strongly associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) emitted from near the Sun's western limb, although the converse is not true; many more west hemisphere CMEs are seen by LASCO than are relativistic electron beams seen by ACE/EPAM. However, when they are present, strong beams of electrons may be used to infer reliably the actual solar release time as they propagate scatter free. Fifty-two electron beams were observed from 1997 September to 2000 September at times of LASCO observations. Of these, there were 47 observations of an associated coronal transient, of which 33 were "classical" CMEs, as distinct from blobs and jets. We were able to extrapolate the height-time plot back to a nominal 1 R., to estimate a CME launch time. All but two of the CMEs were seen in projection off the west solar limb. For 37 events there was an associated soft X-ray event, the majority of which were from western active regions. All electron events were accompanied by decametric type III emission consistent with electron beams having exciter energies of around a few keV. The near-relativistic electron injection time was typically delayed by 20 minutes from the CME launch time and greater than similar to10 minutes after the onset of the electromagnetic radio and X-ray signatures of the are (when present). Therefore, the near-relativistic electrons that must be present to produce the chromospheric electromagnetic emission do not escape promptly (at least at detectable intensities). The radial distance of most CMEs at the electron release time was between 1.5 and 3.5 R.. Both the peak electron intensity and the spectral hardness of the electrons were positively correlated with the CME speed, a signature of shock acceleration. We therefore suggest that most of the near-relativistic electrons seen by ACE/EPAM are accelerated by the shock driven by the coronal transient and are released at a radial distance around 2-3 R..
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)854-862
Number of pages9
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2002


  • Sun : corona
  • acceleration of particles
  • Sun : particle emission
  • Sun : coronal mass ejections ( CMEs)


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