Ion Traps at the Sun: Implications for Elemental Fractionation

Gregory D. Fleishman, Sophie Musset, Véronique Bommier, Lindsay Glesener

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why the tenuous solar outer atmosphere, or corona, is much hotter than the underlying layers remains one of the greatest challenges for solar modeling. Detailed diagnostics of the coronal thermal structure come from extreme ultraviolet (EUV) emission. The EUV emission is produced by heavy ions in various ionization states and depends on the amount of these ions and on plasma temperature and density. Any nonuniformity of the elemental distribution in space or variability in time affects thermal diagnostics of the corona. Here we theoretically predict ionized chemical element concentrations in some areas of the solar atmosphere, where the electric current is directed upward. We then detect these areas observationally, by comparing the electric current density with the EUV brightness in an active region. We found a significant excess in EUV brightness in the areas with positive current density rather than negative. Therefore, we report the observational discovery of substantial concentrations of heavy ions in current-carrying magnetic flux tubes, which might have important implications for the elemental fractionation in the solar corona known as the first ionization potential effect. We call such areas of heavy ion concentration the "ion traps." These traps hold enhanced ion levels until they are disrupted by a flare, whether large or small.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number85
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 20 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by NSF grant AGS-1262772, NASA grants NNX14AC87G and 80NSSC18K0015 to New Jersey Institute of Technology, and by an NSF Faculty Development Grant (AGS-1429512) to the University of Minnesota. This work was granted access to the HPC resources of MesoPSL financed by the Region Ile de France and the project Equip@Meso (reference ANR-10-EQPX-29-01) of the programme Investissements d’Avenir supervised by the French Agence Nationale pour la Recherche


  • Sun: UV radiation
  • Sun: abundances
  • Sun: atmosphere
  • Sun: corona
  • Sun: magnetic fields

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