Composition of solar cosmic rays

Biswas, S. ; Fichtel, C. E. (1965) Composition of solar cosmic rays Space Science Reviews, 4 (5-6). pp. 709-736. ISSN 0038-6308

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The general features of the solar particle composition now seem to be clear. The two most abundant components, protons and helium nuclei, have different velocity spectra, similar, but not exactly identical rigidity spectra, and varying relative abundances. The multiply charged nuclei, on the other hand, appear to have the same spectral shape and relative abundances each time measurements are made, at least in the region from 42 to 135 MeV/nucleon. Further, these relative abundances seem to reflect those of the solar atmosphere insofar as comparison can be made. Electrons are rare, but high energy electrons are not expected to be plentiful due to the probable high rate of energy loss caused by synchrotron radiation at the sun. Energetic neutrons were also not expected in large quantity and have not been observed. Finally, there is positive evidence that very small quantities of deuterons exist, probably in an amount which is about 10-3 or less of the proton abundance. The experimental data indicate that the propagation phenomenon is not purely rigidity dependent. Although the propagation of solar particles is still not well understood, the development of theories which take into account both the general magnetic field and the inhomogeneities in the field seem to hold some promise of explaining the experimental results. The composition data have also established important restraints which any acceleration theory must satisfy, and thereby contributed greatly to the very difficult problem of determining the acceleration mechanism. The similarity of the relative abundance of the energetic solar particles and the nuclei in the sun's photosphere suggested the possibility of having a new means of estimating the solar neon and helium abundances. This very interesting possibility will have to be explored by further testing of the composition of future solar particle events. Finally, it was seen that the composition was a very strong argument against most stars being the principal source of high energy non-solar cosmic rays, and, therefore, special sources, such as supernovae or possibly quasistellar objects, should be considered as much more likely prospects for the origin of cosmic rays. The results which have been obtained thus far on the composition of solar cosmic rays have indicated that further research in this area of study should be very rewarding and of value to many fields of physics. Further data on the composition and relative, as well as absolute, energy spectra of the various components are needed throughout many events. More experiments also should be performed to determine the properties of the rare components, deuterons, tritons, He3 nuclei, electrons, neutrons, and the heavier nuclei. When these experiments are complete, the knowledge which is needed to aid in answering the solar and astrophysical problems discussed in this review should be at hand.

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