Suprathermal and Solar Energetic Particles – Key questions for the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Mihir Indrajit Desai, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX, United States, David J McComas, Southwest Research Institute San Antonio, San Antonio, TX, United States, Eric R Christian, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, Richard A Mewaldt, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States and Nathan Schwadron, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, United States
Solar energetic particles or SEPs from suprathermal (few keV) up to relativistic (~few GeV) speeds are accelerated near the Sun in at least two ways, namely, (1) by magnetic reconnection-driven processes during solar flares resulting in impulsive SEPs and (2) at fast coronal-mass-ejection-driven shock waves that produce large gradual SEP events. Large gradual SEP events are of particular interest because the accompanying high-energy (>10s MeV) protons pose serious radiation threats to human explorers living and working outside low-Earth orbit and to technological assets such as communications and scientific satellites in space. However, a complete understanding of SEP events has eluded us primarily because their properties, as observed near Earth orbit, are smeared due to mixing and contributions from many important physical effects. Thus, despite being studied for decades, several key questions regarding SEP events remain unanswered. These include (1) What are the contributions of co-temporal flares, jets, and CME shocks to impulsive and gradual SEP events?; (2) Do flares contribute to large SEP events directly by providing high-energy particles and/or by providing the suprathermal seed population?; (3) What are the roles of ambient turbulence/waves and self-generated waves?; (4) What are the origins of the source populations and how do their temporal and spatial variations affect SEP properties?; and (5) How do diffusion and scattering during acceleration and propagation through the interplanetary medium affect SEP properties observed out in the heliosphere? This talk describes how during the next decade, inner heliospheric measurements from the Solar Probe Plus and Solar Orbiter in conjunction with high sensitivity measurements from the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe will provide the ground-truth for various models of particle acceleration and transport and address these questions.