The high-energy Sun - probing the origins of particle acceleration on our nearest star

S. A. Matthews, H. A.S. Reid*, D. Baker, D. S. Bloomfield, P. K. Browning, A. Calcines, G. Del Zanna, R. Erdelyi, L. Fletcher, I. G. Hannah, N. Jeffrey, L. Klein, S. Krucker, E. Kontar, D. M. Long, A. MacKinnon, G. Mann, M. Mathioudakis, R. Milligan, V. M. NakariakovM. Pesce-Rollins, A. Y. Shih, D. Smith, A. Veronig, N. Vilmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As a frequent and energetic particle accelerator, our Sun provides us with an excellent astrophysical laboratory for understanding the fundamental process of particle acceleration. The exploitation of radiative diagnostics from electrons has shown that acceleration operates on sub-second time scales in a complex magnetic environment, where direct electric fields, wave turbulence, and shock waves all must contribute, although precise details are severely lacking. Ions were assumed to be accelerated in a similar manner to electrons, but γ-ray imaging confirmed that emission sources are spatially separated from X-ray sources, suggesting distinctly different acceleration mechanisms. Current X-ray and γ-ray spectroscopy provides only a basic understanding of accelerated particle spectra and the total energy budgets are therefore poorly constrained. Additionally, the recent detection of relativistic ion signatures lasting many hours, without an electron counterpart, is an enigma. We propose a single platform to directly measure the physical conditions present in the energy release sites and the environment in which the particles propagate and deposit their energy. To address this fundamental issue, we set out a suite of dedicated instruments that will probe both electrons and ions simultaneously to observe; high (seconds) temporal resolution photon spectra (4 keV – 150 MeV) with simultaneous imaging (1 keV – 30 MeV), polarization measurements (5–1000 keV) and high spatial and temporal resolution imaging spectroscopy in the UV/EUV/SXR (soft X-ray) regimes. These instruments will observe the broad range of radiative signatures produced in the solar atmosphere by accelerated particles.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental Astronomy
Early online date09 Nov 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 09 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Sources of funding acknowledged are: R.E acknowledges the support received from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) UK (grant number ST/M000826/1 at the University of Sheffield). DML is grateful to the Science Technology and Facilities Council for the award of an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship (ST/R003246/1). ROM would like to thank Science and Technologies Facilities Council (UK) for the award of an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship (ST/N004981/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Hard X-rays
  • Particle acceleration
  • Solar corona
  • Solar flares
  • γ-rays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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