Using active contours for semi-automated tracking of UV and EUV solar flare ribbons

Gill, C. and Fletcher, L. and Marshall, S., STFC (Funder), European Commission (Funder) (2010) Using active contours for semi-automated tracking of UV and EUV solar flare ribbons. Solar Physics, 262 (2). pp. 355-371. ISSN 0038-0938

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Abstract

Solar-flare UV and EUV images show elongated bright "ribbons" that move over time. If these ribbons are assumed to locate the footpoints of magnetic-field lines reconnecting in the corona, then it is clear that studying their evolution can provide important insight into the reconnection process. An image-processing method based on active contours (commonly referred to as "snakes") is proposed as a method for tracking UV and EUV flare ribbons and is tested on images from the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE). This paper introduces the basic concepts of such an approach with a brief overview of the history and theory behind active contours. It then details the specifics of the snake algorithm developed for this work and shows the results of running the algorithm on test images. The results from the application of the developed algorithm are reported for six different TRACE flares (five in UV and one in EUV). The discussion of these results uses the output from an expert tracking the same ribbons by eye as a benchmark, and against these the snake algorithm is shown to compare favourably in certain conditions, but less so in others. The applicability of the automated snake algorithm to the general problem of ribbon tracking is discussed and suggestions for ways to improve the snake algorithm are proposed.