Quasi-Periodic Energy Release in a Three-Ribbon Solar Flare

Ivan Zimovets, Ivan Sharykin, Ivan Myshyakov

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6 Scopus citations


Quasi-periodic pulsations (QPPs) are found in solar flares of various magnetic morphologies, e.g. in two-ribbon or circular-ribbon flares, and the mechanisms of their generation are not yet clear. Here we present the first detailed analysis of QPPs (with a period P= 54 ± 13 seconds) found in the Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) observations of a relatively rare three-ribbon M1.1 class flare that occurred on 5 July 2012 (SOL2012-07-05T06:49). QPPs are manifested in the temporal profiles of temperature [T] and emission measure [EM] of “super-hot” (Ts≈ 30 – 50 MK) plasma but are almost invisible in the profiles of “hot” (Th≈ 15 – 20 MK) plasma parameters when approximating X-ray spectra of the flare with the bremsstrahlung spectrum of a two-temperature thermal (Maxwellian) plasma. In addition, QPPs with a similar period are found in the temporal profiles of the flux and spectral index of nonthermal electrons if the observed X-ray spectra are approximated by a combination of the bremsstrahlung spectra of a single-temperature plasma and nonthermal electrons with a power-law energy distribution. QPPs are not well expressed in the X-ray flux according to RHESSI and GOES data, or in radio data. The QPPs are accompanied by apparent systematic movement of a single X-ray source at a low speed of 34 ± 21 km s−1 along the central flare ribbon over a narrow (< 5 Mm) “tongue” of negative magnetic polarity, elongated (≈ 20 Mm) between two areas of positive polarity. The results of magnetic extrapolation in the nonlinear force-free field (NLFFF) approximation show that the X-ray source could move along curved and twisted field lines between two sheared flare arcades. It is worth noting that in the homologous three-ribbon M6.1 flare (SOL2012-07-05T11:39), which occurred in the same region about five hours later, the X-ray sources moved much less systematically and did not produce similar QPPs. We interpret the observed QPPs as a result of successive episodes of energy release in different spatial locations. In each pulsation, ≈(1 – 4)× 10 29 erg is released in the form of thermal energy of hot and super-hot plasmas (or accelerated electrons), which is comparable with the energy of a microflare. The total kinetic energy released during all QPPs is ≈(0.7 – 3.5)× 10 30 erg, which is about an order of magnitude less than the free magnetic energy ≈ 1.56 × 10 31 erg released in the flare region. We discuss possible propagating triggers of the quasi-periodic energy release (slow magnetoacoustic waves, asymmetric rise of curved/twisted field lines, flapping oscillations, and thermal instability in a reconnecting current sheet) and argue that the current state of available mechanisms and observations does not allow us to reach an unambiguous conclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number188
JournalSolar Physics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Flares, dynamics
  • Flares, relation to magnetic field
  • Flares, waves
  • Heating, in flares
  • X-ray bursts, association with flares


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