Small-scale filament eruptions as the driver of X-ray jets in solar coronal holes

Subjects

Abstract

Solar X-ray jets are thought to be made by a burst of reconnection of closed magnetic field at the base of a jet with ambient open field1,2. In the accepted version of the ‘emerging-flux’ model, such a reconnection occurs at a plasma current sheet between the open field and the emerging closed field, and also forms a localized X-ray brightening that is usually observed at the edge of the jet’s base1,3. Here we report high-resolution X-ray and extreme-ultraviolet observations of 20 randomly selected X-ray jets that form in coronal holes at the Sun’s poles. In each jet, contrary to the emerging-flux model, a miniature version of the filament eruptions that initiate coronal mass ejections4,5,6,7 drives the jet-producing reconnection. The X-ray bright point occurs by reconnection of the ‘legs’ of the minifilament-carrying erupting closed field, analogous to the formation of solar flares in larger-scale eruptions. Previous observations have found that some jets are driven by base-field eruptions8,9,10,11, but only one such study, of only one jet, provisionally questioned the emerging-flux model12. Our observations support the view that solar filament eruptions are formed by a fundamental explosive magnetic process that occurs on a vast range of scales, from the biggest mass ejections and flare eruptions down to X-ray jets, and perhaps even down to smaller jets that may power coronal heating10,13,14. A similar scenario has previously been suggested, but was inferred from different observations and based on a different origin of the erupting minifilament15.

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Figure 1: Erupting-jet example.
Figure 2: Revised jet-eruption picture.

Change history

  • 22 July 2015

    The dates in Extended Data Table 1 were updated.

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Acknowledgements

A.C.S. and R.L.M. were supported by funding from the Heliophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate through the Living With A Star Targeted Research and Technology Program (LWS TR&T), and the Hinode Project. Both benefited from TR&T discussions and from discussions with S. K. Antiochos. We thank D. M. Zarro for assistance with video development. A.C.S. benefited from discussions held at the International Space Science Institute (ISSI; Switzerland) International Team on Solar Coronal Jets (led by N. Raouafi). Hinode is a Japanese mission developed and launched by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), with the National Astronomical Observatory Japan (NAOJ) as a domestic partner, and NASA and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (UK) as international partners. It is operated by these agencies in cooperation with the European Space Agency and Norwegian Space Agency.

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Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

A.C.S. carried out the reduction, analysis, and interpretation of XRT and AIA data, software development, and manuscript preparation. R.L.M. interpreted the results and reviewed the manuscript. D.A.F. developed software, and assimilated and calibrated AIA data. M.A. discovered and analysed the seminal jet event that motivated this broader investigation, and carried out manuscript formatting and review.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Alphonse C. Sterling or Ronald L. Moore.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Emerging-flux model for the formation of solar X-ray jets.

The commonly accepted mechanism for jet formation1. Black lines represent magnetic field, with arrows indicating polarity; the yellow curve is the solar limb; the thick red curve in a represents a plasma current sheet; the red cross in b shows the location of field reconnection. a, Initial state. b, Jet formation: flux emergence purportedly forces reconnection at the current sheet (red cross), resulting in new closed-loop field (red loop), and new connections to the open coronal field (thin red line), along which the X-ray jet (purple) flows. According to this model, the new reconnection loops appear as the JBP. Previous scenarios for ‘blowout jets’13,33,45 have been variations of this model.

Extended Data Figure 2 Jet of 2010 September 9, 22 ut.

ac, XRT, and df, 193-Å AIA images of the jet. Arrows show: b, the developing JBP; c, the X-ray-jet spire; and d, the minifilament. In e, both arrows point to segments of the minifilament, which split during eruption; in f, both arrows point to the edges of a broad jet. In d, the blue bar shows our estimate of the size of the minifilament, the value of which appears in Extended Data Table 1. See Supplementary Video 2 for animations. This is event 12 of Extended Data Table 1. North is to the top and west to the right of these images (and all other solar images in this paper).

Extended Data Figure 3 Jet of 2010 September 9, 23 ut.

ac, XRT, and df, 211-Å AIA images of the jet. Arrows show: b, the developing JBP; c, the X-ray-jet spire; and d, the minifilament starting to erupt. The blue bar in d shows our estimate of the size of the minifilament. The AIA images show a smaller field of view than the XRT images. See Supplementary Video 3 for animations. This is event 13 of Extended Data Table 1.

Extended Data Figure 4 Jet of 2010 August 28, 13 ut.

ac, XRT, and df, 304-Å AIA images of a ‘standard’ jet. Arrows show: b, the X-ray jet spire; c, the X-ray jet spire, showing drift since b; d, the minifilament starting to erupt; e, ‘rolling’ filament (see Methods). The blue bar in d shows our estimate of the size of the minifilament. The grey-scale images show the filament better than the colour images for this event. See Supplementary Video 4 for animations. This is event 7 of Extended Data Table 1.

Extended Data Figure 5 Jet of 2010 August 28, 11 ut.

ac, XRT, and df, 211-Å AIA images of a ‘standard’ jet. The dark spot northwest of centre in the XRT images is an artefact. Arrows show: b, the JBP; c, the X-ray jet spire; d, the minifilament moving upwards; e, the minifilament near the apex of the jet base, with the jet spire starting to develop. The AIA images show a smaller field of view than the XRT images. The blue bar in d shows our estimate of the size of the minifilament. See Supplementary Video 5 for animations. This is event 6 of Extended Data Table 1.

Extended Data Table 1 The X-ray jets studied here

Supplementary information

Erupting-Jet Example (Figure 1)

Jet in soft X-rays from Hinode/XRT (left) and EUV from SDO/AIA 193 Å (right). The videos are synced to approximately concurrent times. See discussion in the text, and Figure 1 and corresponding legend, for details of the jet. This is event 18 of Extended Data Table 1. (MOV 9678 kb)

Jet of 2010 September 9, 22 UT (Extended Data Figure 2)

XRT (left) and AIA 193 Å (right) video of the jet. The videos are synced to approximately concurrent times. See Extended Data Figure 2 and corresponding legend for details of the jet. This is event 12 of Extended Data Table 1. (MOV 10881 kb)

Jet of 2010 September 9, 23 UT (Extended Data Figure 3)

XRT (left) and AIA 211 Å (right) videos of the jet. The videos are synced to approximately concurrent times. AIA images are zoomed-in more than are the XRT images. See Extended Data Figure 3 and corresponding legend for details of the jet. This is event 13 of Extended Data Table 1. (MOV 7637 kb)

Jet of 2010 August 28, 13 UT (Extended Data Figure 4)

XRT (left) and AIA 304 Å (right) video of a “standard” jet. See Extended Data Figure 4 and corresponding legend for details of the jet. This is event 7 of Extended Data Table 1. (MOV 11999 kb)

Jet of 2010 August 28, 11 UT (Extended Data Figure 5)

XRT (left) and AIA 211 Å (right) video of a “standard” jet. Dark spot north-west of center in XRT images is an artifact. AIA images are zoomed-in more than are the XRT images. See Extended Data Figure 5 and corresponding legend for details of the jet. This is event 6 of Extended Data Table 1. (MOV 7480 kb)

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Sterling, A., Moore, R., Falconer, D. et al. Small-scale filament eruptions as the driver of X-ray jets in solar coronal holes. Nature 523, 437–440 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14556

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