Search for Evidence of Alpha-Particle Beams during a Solar Flare Observed by the Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
We observed NOAA Active Region 9090 (N13°, W39°) with the Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer (CDS) and the Extreme-Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) aboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory spacecraft between 18:17 and 21:09 UT on 2000 July 24 to search for evidence of alpha-particle beams during solar flares. Theoretically, an alpha-particle beam will manifest itself during the impulsive phase of a flare through an enhancement in the red wing of the He II Lyα (λ303.782) emission line without a corresponding blue wing enhancement. This enhancement is due to downstreaming nonthermal alpha particles undergoing charge-exchange with chromospheric neutral hydrogen atoms to form downstreaming nonthermal He II ions. Lyα radiation emitted from these downstreaming ions is Doppler-shifted into the red wing of the Lyα line. Our CDS observing program acquired high time resolution (9.7 s) 4''×4' slit spectra between 590 and 630 Å, where we observed He II Lyα in second order (λ607.564). The CDS and EIT observations reveal that AR 9090 underwent significant intensity fluctuations prior to a sudden drastic increase (impulsive phase) around 20:00 UT. The GOES satellite reports a C3.8 event in this region from 19:57 to 20:05 UT. We fitted the spectral background and emission-line profiles for each CDS spectrum in our observed sequence. Density- and temperature-insensitive intensity ratios of O IV and Mg X lines generally agree with their theoretical values before and after the sudden intensity increase, which supports a reliable relative radiometric calibration for CDS, but differ significantly from their theoretical values during the flare impulsive phase. This may indicate line blending with unknown components, line blending with second-order C IV and Fe XV lines, or loss of ionization equilibrium. Most important, however, we find that although the red and blue wing backgrounds for He II Lyα remain relatively constant during most of our observation, the blue wing undergoes a more significant enhancement during the impulsive phase than does the red wing. This effect is opposite to that expected in the presence of an alpha-particle beam. Furthermore, blended spectral line features that mimic the expected nonthermal redshifted He II Lyα beam signal are understood in terms of well-known emission-line components. Thus, we find no evidence for the presence of alpha-particle beams in our observations. We estimate an upper limit of ~250 ergs cm-2 s-1 sr-1 Å-1 for the nonthermal redshifted peak spectral intensity due to an alpha-particle beam prior to the impulsive phase.