Properties of Energetic Ions in the Solar Atmosphere from γ-Ray and Neutron Observations
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- Vilmer, N., MacKinnon, A.L. & Hurford, G.J. Space Sci Rev (2011) 159: 167. doi:10.1007/s11214-010-9728-x
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Gamma-rays and neutrons are the only sources of information on energetic ions present during solar flares and on properties of these ions when they interact in the solar atmosphere. The production of γ-rays and neutrons results from convolution of the nuclear cross-sections with the ion distribution functions in the atmosphere. The observed γ-ray and neutron fluxes thus provide useful diagnostics for the properties of energetic ions, yielding strong constraints on acceleration mechanisms as well as properties of the interaction sites. The problem of ion transport between the accelerating and interaction sites must also be addressed to infer as much information as possible on the properties of the primary ion accelerator. In the last couple of decades, both theoretical and observational developments have led to substantial progress in understanding the origin of solar γ-rays and neutrons. This chapter reviews recent developments in the study of solar γ-rays and of solar neutrons at the time of the RHESSI era. The unprecedented quality of the RHESSI data reveals γ-ray line shapes for the first time and provides γ-ray images. Our previous understanding of the properties of energetic ions based on measurements from the former solar cycles is also summarized. The new results—obtained owing both to the gain in spectral resolution (both with RHESSI and with the non solar-dedicated INTEGRAL/SPI instrument) and to the pioneering imaging technique in the γ-ray domain—are presented in the context of this previous knowledge. Still open questions are emphasized in the last section of the chapter and future perspectives on this field are briefly discussed.