Science

The project will result in substantial advances in our understanding of the physics of energy dissipation and radiation in the flaring solar atmosphere, and calls on combined space-based and ground-based observations, plus theoretical and modeling expertise. It will also result in a catalogue and archive facility for the solar physics community to identify and access combined space- based and ground-based datasets for well-observed flare events, and a library of flare atmospheric models to aid in data interpretation.

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The synergy between space-based and ground-based observations and modeling will allow major break- throughs in our understanding of solar flares. Large field-of-view observations from space missions such as SDO (left) provide the global context of flares, and the scientific return of such observations can be maximized when combined with simultaneous ground-based observations (middle) which provide high-resolution views, plus spectroscopic information. Non-LTE chromospheric modeling of lines such as Hα (right) allows the physical processes to be disentangled.

Chromospheric flare radiation spans the whole electromagnetic spectrum, with diagnostic information at all wavelengths. Therefore, the combination of space- and ground-based data and targeted modeling will significantly enhance the usefulness of each component. In particular, ground-based data provide unique diagnostics of the flaring chromosphere, but unlike the space-based data obtained with European and International missions the ground-based data are not in the scientific mainstream. Hence, our focus on combining these data, also with modeling, will significantly enhance the use and usefulness of the space-based data. The model database that will be developed as part of this work will also be vital for the interpretation of stellar flares including the superflares which frequently occur in active solar-type stars. The main scientific and technical goals of this project are:

  • joint analysis of space-based and ground-based observations of flares to deliver improved diagnostics for plasma conditions at all levels in the flare chromosphere;
  • modeling of observationally important lines and continua for space- and ground-based flare studies;
  • synthesis of space-based and ground based data with modeling to determine the physical properties of the solar chromosphere during solar flares, and hence to constrain the all- important flare energy deposition mechanism;
  • preparation of targeted flare observing sequences for present and future major solar missions and observatories;
  • preparation of a catalogue and archive of existing and future ground-based solar flare observations, linked to available space-based counterparts;
  • production of a flare spectral model database for the solar and stellar flare community to facilitate model-data comparison.

The coming three-to-five years offer unique opportunities for solar chromospheric flare physics. The Sun will still be in its activity maximum, and though weaker than previous maxima, many flares have been observed and are to be expected. The Solar Dynamics Observatory, and the Hinode spacecraft will still be flying and will be joined in early 2013 by the Interface Region Imaging Spectrometer satellite (IRIS), which is focused on the chromosphere. Additionally the ground-based instruments Interferometric BIdimensional Spectrometer (IBIS) and Rapid Oscillation in the Solar Atmosphere Imager (ROSA) operated by team members, will be running joint campaigns on the Dunn Solar Telescope (DST), and the flare data from these will be used to understand the optimal observing plans for the planned 4m-class European Solar Telescope (EST) and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST, formerly the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, ATST), which will be the major ground-based solar observatories from late this decade, and for the next 30 years.

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