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The hypothesis of magnetic reconnection was originally proposed as an attempt to explain solar flares. Solar flares dissipate as much as 1029 erg/s in about 30 min, the total consumed energy being ∼1032 erg. Since there was no obvious phenomenon that could be identified as the power supply process, it was assumed that the necessary energy was stored prior to flare onset and was then released and dissipated very rapidly.

Since solar flares tend to occur near complex sunspot groups, it was hypothesized that the necessary energy was stored as magnetic energy. The hypothesis of magnetic reconnection was introduced as the process that spontaneously converts the stored magnetic energy for flare processes. Thus it was hypothesized that to provide as much as 1029 erg/s, the process must also be explosive.