Letter | Published:

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

Nature volume 523, pages 437440 (23 July 2015) | Download Citation


This article has been updated


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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Change history

  • 22 July 2015

    The dates in Extended Data Table 1 were updated.


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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.

Author information


  1. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama 35812, USA

    • Alphonse C. Sterling
    • , Ronald L. Moore
    • , David A. Falconer
    •  & Mitzi Adams
  2. Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama 35899, USA

    • Ronald L. Moore
    •  & David A. Falconer


  1. Search for Alphonse C. Sterling in:

  2. Search for Ronald L. Moore in:

  3. Search for David A. Falconer in:

  4. Search for Mitzi Adams in:


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.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

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

Extended data

Supplementary information


  1. 1.

    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.

  2. 2.

    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.

  3. 3.

    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.

  4. 4.

    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.

  5. 5.

    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.

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