High-resolution observations of flare precursors in the low solar atmosphere

Haimin Wang, Chang Liu, Kwangsu Ahn, Yan Xu, Ju Jing, Na Deng, Nengyi Huang, Rui Liu, Kanya Kusano, Gregory Fleishman, Dale Gary, Wenda Cao

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78 Scopus citations


Solar flares are generally believed to be powered by free magnetic energy stored in the corona 1, but the build up of coronal energy alone may be insufficient to trigger the flare to occur 2. The flare onset mechanism is a critical but poorly understood problem, insights into which could be gained from small-scale energy releases known as precursors. These precursors are observed as small pre-flare brightenings in various wavelengths 3-13 and also from certain small-scale magnetic configurations such as opposite-polarity fluxes 14-16, where the magnetic orientation of small bipoles is opposite to that of the ambient main polarities. However, high-resolution observations of flare precursors together with the associated photospheric magnetic field dynamics are lacking. Here we study precursors of a flare using the unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution of the 1.6-m New Solar Telescope, complemented by new microwave data. Two episodes of precursor brightenings are initiated at a small-scale magnetic channel 17-20 (a form of opposite-polarity flux) with multiple polarity inversions and enhanced magnetic fluxes and currents, lying near the footpoints of sheared magnetic loops. Microwave spectra corroborate that these precursor emissions originate in the atmosphere. These results provide evidence of low-atmospheric small-scale energy release, possibly linked to the onset of the main flare.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number0085
JournalNature Astronomy
StatePublished - Mar 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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