Space Science Reviews

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 3-38

The emission mechanisms for solar radio bursts

  • D. B. MelroseAffiliated withDepartment of Theoretical Physics, University of Sydney

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Emission mechanisms for meter-λ solar radio bursts are reviewed with emphasis on fundamental plasma emission.

The ‘standard’ version of fundamental plasma emission is due to scattering of Langmuir waves into transverse waves by thermal ions. It may be treated semi-quantitatively by analogy with Thomson scattering provided induced scattering is unimportant. A physical interpretation of induced scattering is given and used to derive the transfer equation in a semi-quantitative way. Solutions of the transfer equation are presented and it is emphasized that ‘standard’ fundamental emission with brightness temperatures ≫109 K can be explained only under seemingly exceptional circumstances.

Two alternative fundamental emission mechanisms are discussed: coalescence of Langmuir waves with low-frequency waves and direct conversion due to a density inhomogeneity. It is pointed out for the first time that the coalescence process (actually a related decay process) can lead to amplified transverse waves. The coalescence process saturates when the effective temperature T t of the transverse waves reaches the effective temperature T l of the Langmuir waves. This saturation occurs provided the energy density in the low-frequency waves exceeds a specific value which is about 10-9 of the thermal energy density for emission from the corona at ≈100 MHz. It is suggested that direct emission has been dismissed as a possible alternative without adequate justification.

Second harmonic plasma emission is discussed and compared with fundamental plasma emission. It also saturates at T t T l , and this saturation should occur in the corona roughly for T l ≳ 1015 K. If fundamental plasma emission is attributed to coalescence with low-frequency waves, then for T l ≳ 1015 K the brightness temperatures at the two harmonics should be equal and equal to T l . This offers a natural explanation for the approximate equality of the two brightness temperature often found in type II and type III bursts.

Analytic treatments of gyro-synchrotron emission are reviewed. The application of the mechanism to moving type IV bursts is discussed in view of bursts with ≳ 1010 K at 43 MHz.