AAS 200th meeting, Albuquerque, NM, June 2002
Session 16. Atmospheric Heating and Dynamics I
Oral, Monday, June 3, 2002, 10:00-11:30am, Ballroom C

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[16.04] Coronal Loops: Evolving Beyond the Isothermal Approximation

J.T. Schmelz (University of Memphis), J.W. Cirtain (Montana State University), J.D. Allen (University of Memphis)

Are coronal loops isothermal? A controversy over this question has arisen recently because different investigators using different techniques have obtained very different answers. Analysis of SOHO-EIT and TRACE data using narrowband filter ratios to obtain temperature maps has produced several key publications that suggest that coronal loops may be isothermal. We have constructed a multi-thermal distribution for several pixels along a relatively isolated coronal loop on the southwest limb of the solar disk using spectral line data from SOHO-CDS taken on 1998 Apr 20. These distributions are clearly inconsistent with isothermal plasma along either the line of sight or the length of the loop, and suggested rather that the temperature increases from the footpoints to the loop top. We speculated originally that these differences could be attributed to pixel size -- CDS pixels are larger, and more `contaminating' material would be expected along the line of sight. To test this idea, we used CDS iron line ratios from our data set to mimic the isothermal results from the narrowband filter instruments. These ratios indicated that the temperature gradient along the loop was flat, despite the fact that a more complete analysis of the same data showed this result to be false! The CDS pixel size was not the cause of the discrepancy; rather, the problem lies with the isothermal approximation used in EIT and TRACE analysis. These results should serve as a strong warning to anyone using this simplistic method to obtain temperature. This warning is echoed on the EIT web page: ``Danger! Enter at your own risk!'' In other words, values for temperature may be found, but they may have nothing to do with physical reality. Solar physics research at the University of Memphis is supported by NASA grant NAG5-9783. This research was funded in part by the NASA/TRACE MODA grant for Montana State University.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.