Radioactive positron emitter production by energetic alpha particles in solar flares

R. J. Murphy, B. Kozlovsky, G. H. Share

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Measurements of the 0.511 MeV positron-annihilation line from solar flares are used to explore the flare process in general and ion acceleration in particular. In flares, positrons are produced primarily by the decay of radioactive positron-emitting isotopes resulting from nuclear interactions of flare-accelerated ions with ambient solar material. Kozlovsky et al. provided ion-energy-dependent production cross sections for 67 positron emitters evaluated from their threshold energies (some <1 MeV nucleon-1) to a GeV nucleon-1, incorporating them into a computer code for calculating positron-emitter production. Adequate cross-section measurements were available for proton reactions, but not for α-particle reactions where only crude estimates were possible. Here we re-evaluate the α-particle cross sections using new measurements and nuclear reaction codes. In typical large gamma-ray line flares, proton reactions dominate positron production, but α-particle reactions will dominate for steeper accelerated-ion spectra because of their relatively low threshold energies. With the accelerated-3He reactions added previously, the code is now reliable for calculating positron production from any distribution of accelerated-ion energies, not just those of typical flares. We have made the code available in the online version of the Journal. We investigate which reactions, projectiles, and ion energies contribute to positron production. We calculate ratios of the annihilation-line fluence to fluences of other gamma-ray lines. Such ratios can be used in interpreting flare data and in determining which nuclear radiation is most sensitive for revealing acceleration of low-energy ions at the Sun.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Interplanetary medium
  • Sun: X-rays, gamma rays
  • Sun: activity
  • Sun: chromosphere
  • Sun: flares
  • Sun: particle emission


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