Coronal Heating as Determined by the Solar Flare Frequency Distribution Obtained by Aggregating Case Studies

James Paul Mason, Alexandra Werth, Colin G. West, Allison Youngblood, Donald L. Woodraska, Courtney L. Peck, Arvind J. Aradhya, Yijian Cai, David Chaparro, James W. Erikson, Koushik Ganesan, T. R. Geerdts, Thi D. Hoang, Thomas M. Horning, Yan Jin, Haixin Liu, Noah Lordi, Zheng Luo, Thanmay S. Menon, Josephine C. MeyerEmma E. Nelson, Kristin A. Oliver, Jorge L. Ramirez Ortiz, Andrew Osborne, Alyx Patterson, Nick Pellatz, John Pitten, Nanako Shitara, Daniel Steckhahn, Aseem Visal, Hongda Wang, Chaoran Wang, Evan Wickenden, John Wilson, Mengyu Wu, Nikolay Yegovtsev, Ingrid H. Zimmermann, James Holland Aaron, Jumana T. Abdullah, Jonathan M. Abrams, Riley Abrashoff, Andres B. Acevedo, Iker Acha, Daniela M. Meza Acosta, Megan M. Adam, Dante Q. Adams, Kalvyn N. Adams, Elena R. Adams, Zainab A. Akbar, Ushmi H. Akruwala, Adel Al-Ghazwi, Batool H. Alabbas, Areej A. Alawadhi, Yazeed A. Alharbi, Mohammed S. Alahmed, Mohammed A. Albakr, Yusef J. Albalushi, Jonathan Albaum, Ahmed Aldhamen, Nolan Ales, Mohammad Alesmail, Abdulelah Alhabeeb, Dania Alhamli, Isehaq Alhuseini, Suhail Alkaabi, Tameem Alkhezzi, Mohamed Alkubaisi, Nasser Allanqawi, Martin Allsbrook, Yousef A. Almohsen, Justin Thomas Almquist, Teeb Alnaji, Yousef A. Alnasrallah, Nicholas Alonzi, Meshal Alosaimi, Emeen Alqabani, Mohammad Alrubaie, Reema A. Alsinan, Ava L. Altenbern, Abdullah Altokhais, Saleh A. Alyami, Federico Ameijenda, Hamzi Amer, Meggan Amos, Hunter J. Anderson, Carter Andrew, Jesse C. Andringa, Abigail Angwin, Gabreece Van Anne, Andrew Aramians, Camila Villamil Arango, Jack W. Archibald, Brian A. Arias-Robles, Maryam Aryan, Kevin Ash, Justin Astalos, N. S. Atchley-Rivers, Dakota N. Augenstein, Bryce W. Austin, Abhinav Avula, Matthew C. Aycock, Abdulrahman A. Baflah, Sahana Balaji, Brian Balajonda, Leo M. Balcer, James O. Baldwin, David J. Banda, Titus Bard, Abby Barmore, Grant M. Barnes, Logan D.W. Barnhart, Kevin M. Barone, Jessica L. Bartman, Claire Bassel, Catalina S. Bastias, Batchimeg Bat-Ulzii, Jasleen Batra, Lexi Battist, Joshua Bay, Simone Beach, Sara Beard, Quinn I. Beato, Ryan Beattie, Thomas Beatty, Tristan De La Beaujardiere, Jacob N. Beauprez, M. G. Beck, Lily Beck, Simone E. Becker, Braden Behr, Timothy A. Behrer, Joshua Beijer, Brennan J. Belei, Annelene L. Belknap, Aislyn Bell, Caden Bence, Evan Benke, Naomi Berhanu, Zachary D. Berriman-Rozen, Chrisanna Bertuccio, Owen A. Berv, Blaine B. Biediger, Samuel J. Biehle, Brennen Billig, Jacob Billingsley, Jayce A. Billman, Connor J. Biron, Gabrielle E. Bisacca, Cassidy A. Blake, Guillermo Blandon, Olivia Blevins, Ethan Blouin, Michal Bodzianowski, Taylor A. Boeyink, Matthew Bondar, Lauren Bone, Alberto Espinosa De Los Monteros Bonilla, William T. Borelli, Luke R. Borgerding, Troy Bowen, Christine Boyer, Aidan Boyer, Aidan P. Boyle, Tom Boyne, Donovan Branch, Ariana E. Brecl, David J. Brennan, Alexander J. Brimhall, Jennifer L. 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Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Flare frequency distributions represent a key approach to addressing one of the largest problems in solar and stellar physics: determining the mechanism that counterintuitively heats coronae to temperatures that are orders of magnitude hotter than the corresponding photospheres. It is widely accepted that the magnetic field is responsible for the heating, but there are two competing mechanisms that could explain it: nanoflares or Alfvén waves. To date, neither can be directly observed. Nanoflares are, by definition, extremely small, but their aggregate energy release could represent a substantial heating mechanism, presuming they are sufficiently abundant. One way to test this presumption is via the flare frequency distribution, which describes how often flares of various energies occur. If the slope of the power law fitting the flare frequency distribution is above a critical threshold, α = 2 as established in prior literature, then there should be a sufficient abundance of nanoflares to explain coronal heating. We performed >600 case studies of solar flares, made possible by an unprecedented number of data analysts via three semesters of an undergraduate physics laboratory course. This allowed us to include two crucial, but nontrivial, analysis methods: preflare baseline subtraction and computation of the flare energy, which requires determining flare start and stop times. We aggregated the results of these analyses into a statistical study to determine that α = 1.63 ± 0.03. This is below the critical threshold, suggesting that Alfvén waves are an important driver of coronal heating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume948
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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