Research ArticleSPACE SCIENCES

The source of the major solar energetic particle events from super active region 11944

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Science Advances  03 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 10, eabf0068
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abf0068


Shock waves associated with fast coronal mass ejections (CMEs) accelerate solar energetic particles (SEPs) in the long duration, gradual events that pose hazards to crewed spaceflight and near-Earth technological assets, but the source of the CME shock-accelerated plasma is still debated. Here, we use multi-messenger observations from the Heliophysics System Observatory to identify plasma confined at the footpoints of the hot, core loops of active region 11944 as the source of major gradual SEP events in January 2014. We show that the elemental composition signature detected spectroscopically at the footpoints explains the measurements made by particle counting techniques near Earth. Our results localize the elemental fractionation process to the top of the chromosphere. The plasma confined closest to that region, where the coronal magnetic field strength is high (a few hundred Gauss), develops the SEP composition signature. This source material is continually released from magnetic confinement and accelerated as SEPs following M-, C-, and X-class flares.

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