Formation of the Lyman continuum during solar flares

Shaun A. McLaughlin, Ryan O. Milligan, Graham S. Kerr, Aaron J. Monson, Paulo J. A. Simões, Mihalis Mathioudakis

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The Lyman continuum (LyC; <911.12 Å) forms at the top of the chromosphere in the quiet Sun, making LyC a powerful tool for probing the chromospheric plasma during solar flares. To understand the effects of nonthermal energy deposition in the chromosphere during flares, we analyzed LyC profiles from a grid of field-aligned radiative-hydrodynamic models generated using the RADYN code as part of the F-CHROMA project. The spectral response of LyC, the temporal evolution of the departure coefficient of hydrogen, b1, and the color temperature, Tc, in response to a range of nonthermal electron distribution functions, were investigated. The LyC intensity was seen to increase by 4–5.5 orders of magnitude during solar flares, responding most strongly to the nonthermal electron flux of the beam. Generally, b1 decreased from 102–103 to closer to unity during solar flares, indicating a stronger coupling to local conditions, while Tc increased from 8–9 to 10–16 kK. Tc was found to be approximately equal to the electron temperature of the plasma when b1 was at a minimum. Both optically thick and optically thin components of LyC were found to be in agreement with the interpretation of recent observations. The optically thick layer forms deeper in the chromosphere during a flare compared to quiescent periods, whereas the optically thin layers form at higher altitudes due to chromospheric evaporation, in low-temperature, high-density regions propagating upward. We put these results in the context of current and future missions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number186
Number of pages15
JournalThe Astrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2023


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