Astronomers have made a significant step toward confirming a proposed explanation for how solar flares accelerate charged particles to speeds nearly that of light. This important advance was made possible by the new capabilities of the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope.
Solar flares, the most powerful explosions in the Solar System, can accelerate large numbers of charged particles to nearly the speed of light. How they do that, however, has been uncertain.
“It has been thought that a specific type of shock produced by solar flares could be responsible for accelerating these particles, but there has been no convincing observational evidence for this mechanism. Now, using the raw power of the upgraded VLA, we have a fundamentally new result that strongly supports this shock acceleration scenario,” said first author of the study, Bin Chen, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.