, Volume 122, Issue 1, pp 53-89

Propagation and absorption of electron-cyclotron maser radiation during solar flares

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Abstract

The electron-cyclotron maser is believed to be the source of microwave spike bursts often observed during solar and stellar flares. Partial absorption of this radiation as it propagates through the corona can produce plasma heating and soft X-ray emission over an extended region. In this paper, the propagation and absorption of the maser radiation during solar flares are examined through linear theory and electro-magnetic particle simulations. It is shown using linear theory that strong absorption of the radiation should occur as it propagates towards the second harmonic layer where the magnetic field is half as strong as in the emission region. Only radiation propagating nearly parallel to the magnetic field in a low-temperature plasma may be able to escape under certain, limited conditions. Finite temperature effects can cause radiation propagating nearly perpendicular to the magnetic field to refract, causing enhanced absorption. Particle simulations are then used to evaluate the nonlinear response of the plasma as the maser radiation propagates through the absorption layer. It is shown that some of the maser radiation is able to escape through a process of absorption below the second harmonic of the local gyrofrequency and re-emission above it. The fraction able to escape is much higher than that predicted by linear theory, although the amount of escaping energy is only a small fraction of the incident energy. The bulk of incident energy goes into the perpendicular heating of the ambient electrons, with the rate of energy absorption showing no signs of leveling off during the simulations. This indicates that the absorption layer does not become optically thin after continuous heating by the maser radiation. A few electrons are accelerated to several tens of keVs as a result of the heating.