Abstract We present a study of seven large solar proton events in the current solar cycle 24 (from 2009 January up to the current date). They were recorded by the GOES spacecraft with the highest proton fluxes being over 200 pfu for energies >10 MeV. In situ particle measurements show that: (1) The profiles of the proton fluxes are highly dependent on the locations of their solar sources, namely flares or coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which confirms the “heliolongitude rules” associated with solar energetic particle fluxes; (2) The solar particle release (SPR) times fall in the decay phase of the flare emission, and are in accordance with the times when the CMEs travel to an average height of 7.9 solar radii; and (3) The time differences between the SPR and the flare peak are also dependent on the locations of the solar active regions. The results tend to support the scenario of proton acceleration by the CME-driven shock, even though there exists a possibility of particle acceleration at the flare site, with subsequent perpendicular diffusion of accelerated particles in the interplanetary magnetic field. We derive the integral time-of-maximum spectra of solar protons in two forms: a single power-law distribution and a power law roll-over with an exponential tail. It is found that the unique ground level enhancement that occurred in the event on 2012 May 17 displays the hardest spectrum and the largest roll-over energy which may explain why this event could extend to relativistic energies.
Keywords acceleration of particles — Sun: flares — Sun: coronal mass ejections
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