Evolving Active Region Loops Observed with the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer. I. Observations
Observations made with TRACE have detected a class of persistent active region loops that have flat 195/171 Å filter ratios. The intensity of these loops implies a density that is as much as 3 orders of magnitude larger than the densities of static solutions to the hydrodynamic equations. It has recently been suggested that these loops are bundles of impulsively heated strands that are cooling through the TRACE passbands. This scenario implies that the loops would appear in the hotter (Fe XV 284 Å or Fe XII 195 Å) TRACE filter images before appearing in the cooler (Fe IX/X 171 Å) TRACE filter images. In this paper, we test this hypothesis by examining the temporal evolution of five active region loops in multiple TRACE EUV filter images. We find that all the loops appear in the hotter filter images before appearing in cooler filter images. We then use the measured delay to estimate a cooling time and find that four of the five loops have lifetimes greater than the expected lifetime of a cooling loop. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that each apparent loop is a bundle of sequentially heated strands; other explanations will also be discussed. To facilitate comparisons between these loops and hydrodynamic simulations, we use a new technique to estimate the loop length and geometry.