Why Is Non-thermal Line Broadening of Lower Transition Region Lines Independent of Spatial Resolution?

Friday, 19 December 2014
Bart De Pontieu, Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, Palo Alto, CA, United States, Scott William Mcintosh, High Altitude Observatory, Boulder, CO, United States, Juan MartĂ­nez-Sykora, LMSAL, San Francisco, CA, United States, Hardi Peter, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany and Tiago M.D. Pereira, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
Spectral observations of the solar transition region (TR) and corona typically show broadening of the spectral lines beyond what is expected from thermal and instrumental broadening. The remaining non-thermal broadening is significant (10-30 km/s), correlated with the intensity, and has been attributed to waves, macro and micro turbulence, nanoflares, etc... Here we study spectra of the low TR Si IV 1403 Angstrom line obtained at high spatial and spectral resolution with the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS). We find that the large improvement in spatial resolution (0.33 arcsec) of IRIS compared to previous spectrographs (2 arcsec) does not resolve the non-thermal line broadening which remains at pre-IRIS levels of 20 km/s. This surprising invariance to spatial resolution indicates that the physical processes behind the non-thermal line broadening either occur along the line-of-sight (LOS) and/or on spatial scales (perpendicular to the LOS) smaller than 250 km. Both effects appear to play a role. Comparison with IRIS chromospheric observations shows that, in regions where the LOS is more parallel to the field, magneto-acoustic shocks driven from below impact the low TR leading to strong non-thermal line broadening from line-of-sight integration across the shock at the time of impact. This scenario is confirmed by advanced MHD simulations. In regions where the LOS is perpendicular to the field, the prevalence of small-scale twist is likely to play a significant role in explaining the invariance and the correlation with intensity.