Observations of solar flare ribbons show significant fine structure in the form of breaking wave-like perturbations and spirals. The origin of this structure is not well understood, but one possibility is that it is related to the tearing instability in the flare current sheet. Here we study this connection by constructing an analytical three-dimensional magnetic field representative of an erupting flux rope with a flare current sheet below it. We introduce small-scale flux ropes representative of those formed during a tearing instability in the current layer, and use the squashing factor on the solar surface to identify the shape of the presumed flare ribbons and fine structure. Our analysis suggests there is a direct link between flare-ribbon fine structure and flare current sheet tearing, with the majority of the ribbon fine structure related to oblique tearing modes. Depending upon the size, location and twist of the small-scale flux ropes, breaking wave-like and spiral features within the hooks and straight sections of the flare ribbon can be formed that are qualitatively similar to observations. We also show that the handedness of the spirals/waves must be the same as the handedness of the hooks of the main ribbon. We conclude that tearing in the flare current layer is a likely explanation for spirals and wave-like features in flare ribbons.
Wyper, P., & Pontin, D. (2021). Is flare-ribbon fine structure related to tearing in the flare current sheet?. Astrophysical Journal, 920(2), Article 102. https://doi.org/10.3847/1538-4357/ac1943