Relativistic electrons produced by reconnecting electric fields in a laser-driven bench-top solar flare

J. Y. Zhong, J. Lin, Y.T. Li, X. Wang, Y. Li, K. Zhang, D. W. Yuan, Y. L. Ping, H. G. Wei, J. Q. Wang, L. N. Su, F. Li, B. Han, G. Q. Liao, C. L. Yin, Y Fang, X. Yuan, C Wang, J. R. Sun, G. Y. LiangF. L. Wang, Y. K. Ding, X. T. He, Q. J. Zhu, Zheng-Ming Sheng, G. Li, G. Zhao, J. Zhang

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Laboratory experiments have been carried out to model the magnetic reconnection process in a solar flare with powerful lasers. Relativistic electrons with energy up to megaelectronvolts are detected along the magnetic separatrices bounding the reconnection outflow, which exhibit a kappa-like distribution with an effective temperature of ~109 K. The acceleration of non-thermal electrons is found to be more efficient in the case with a guide magnetic field (a component of a magnetic field along the reconnection-induced electric field) than in the case without a guide field. Hardening of the spectrum at energies ≥500 keV is observed in both cases, which remarkably resembles the hardening of hard X-ray and γ-ray spectra observed in many solar flares. This supports a recent proposal that the hardening in the hard X-ray and γ-ray emissions of solar flares is due to a hardening of the source-electron spectrum. We also performed numerical simulations that help examine behaviors of electrons in the reconnection process with the electromagnetic field configurations occurring in the experiments. The trajectories of non-thermal electrons observed in the experiments were well duplicated in the simulations. Our numerical simulations generally reproduce the electron energy spectrum as well, except for the hardening of the electron spectrum. This suggests that other mechanisms such as shock or turbulence may play an important role in the production of the observed energetic electrons.
Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Number of pages14
JournalAstrophysical Journal Supplement
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2016


  • laboratory astrophysics
  • magnetic reconnection
  • solar flares
  • general particle-acceleration
  • plasma physics


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