Hard X-ray solar flare polarimetry with RHESSI


Although designed primarily as a hard X-ray imager and spectrometer, the Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) is also capable of measuring the polarization of hard X-rays (20–100 keV) from solar flares. This capability arises from the inclusion of a small unobstructed Be scattering element that is strategically located within the cryostat that houses the array of nine germanium detectors. The Ge detectors are segmented, with both a front and rear active volume. Low energy photons (below about 100 keV) can reach a rear segment of a Ge detector only indirectly, by scattering. Low energy photons from the Sun have a direct path to the Be and have a high probability of Compton scattering into a rear segment of a Ge detector. The azimuthal distribution of these scattered photons carries with it a signature of the linear polarization of the incident flux. Sensitivity estimates, based on simulations and in-flight background measurements, indicate that a 20–100 keV polarization sensitivity of less than a few percent can be achieved for X-class flares. The initial results from an analysis of data from the solar flare of 23 July 2002 indicate some modulation of the Be-scattered flux, but whether the modulation arises from polarization effects or whether it represents some instrumental effect is as yet unclear.


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Advances in Space Research



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