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Solar Photospheric and Coronal Abundances from Solar Energetic Particle Measurements


Breneman, Hugh Herbert, III (1985) Solar Photospheric and Coronal Abundances from Solar Energetic Particle Measurements. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/4mma-e885.


Observations of solar energetic particles (SEPs) from 22 solar flares in the 1977-1982 time period are reported. The observations were made by the Cosmic Ray Subsystem on board the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft. SEP abundances have been obtained for all elements with 3 ≤ Z ≤ 30 except Li, Be, B, F, Sc, V, Co and Cu, for which upper limits have been obtained. Statistically meaningful abundances of several rare elements (e.g., P, Cl, K, Ti, Mn) have been determined for the first time, and the average abundances of the more abundant elements have been determined with improved precision, typically a factor of three better than the best previous determinations.

Previously reported results concerning the dependence of the fractionation of SEPs relative to photosphere on first ionization potential (FIP) have been confirmed and amplified upon with the new data. The monotonic Z-dependence of the variation between flares noted by earlier studies was found to be interpretable as a fractionation, produced by acceleration of the particles from the corona and their propagation through interplanetary space, which is ordered by the ionic charge-to-mass ratio Q/ M of the species making up the SEPs. It was found that Q/M is the primary organizing parameter of acceleration and propagation effects in SEPs, as evidenced by the dependence on Q/M of time, spatial and energy dependence within flares and of the abundance variability from flare to flare.

An unfractionated coronal composition was derived by applying a simple Q/M fractionation correction to the observed average SEP composition, to simultaneously correct for all Q/M-correlated acceleration/propagation fractionation of SEPs. The resulting coronal composition agrees well with current XUV/X-ray spectroscopic measurements of coronal composition but is of much higher precision and is available for a much larger set of elements. Compared to spectroscopic photospheric abundances, the SEP-derived corona appears depleted in C and somewhat enriched in Cr (and possibly Ca and Ti).

An unfractionated photospheric composition was derived by applying a simple FIP fractionation correction to the derived coronal composition, to correct for the FIP-associated fractionation of the corona during its formation from photospheric material. The resulting composition agrees well with the photospheric abundance tabulation of Grevesse (1984) except for an at least ~50% lower abundance of C and a significantly greater abundance of Cr and possibly Ti. The results support the Grevesse photospheric Fe abundance, about 50% higher than meteoritic and earlier solar values. The SEP-derived photospheric composition is not generally of higher precision than the available spectroscopic data, but it relies on fewer physical parameters and is available for some elements (C, N, Ne, Ar) which cannot be measured spectroscopically in the photosphere.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Physics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Stone, Edward C.
Group:Space Radiation Laboratory
Thesis Committee:
  • Stone, Edward C. (chair)
  • Blandford, Roger D.
  • Whaling, Ward
  • McKeown, Robert D.
  • Burnett, Donald S.
Defense Date:24 May 1985
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASANGR 05-002-160
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10092014-111031305
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8686
Deposited On:09 Oct 2014 19:42
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

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