Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A | 2019
Solar energetic particles in the inner heliosphere: status and open questions
Solar energetic particle (SEP) events are related to both solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and they present energy spectra that span from a few keV up to several GeV. A wealth of observations from widely distributed spacecraft have revealed that SEPs fill very broad regions of the heliosphere, often all around the Sun. High-energy SEPs can sometimes be energetic enough to penetrate all the way down to the surface of the Earth and thus be recorded on the ground as ground level enhancements (GLEs). The conditions of the radiation environment are currently unpredictable due to an as-yet incomplete understanding of solar eruptions and their corresponding relation to SEP events. This is because the complex nature and the interplay of the injection, acceleration and transport processes undergone by the SEPs in the solar corona and the interplanetary space prevent us from establishing an accurate understanding (based on observations and modelling). In this work, we review the current status of knowledge on SEPs, focusing on GLEs and multi-spacecraft events. We extensively discuss the forecasting and nowcasting efforts of SEPs, dividing these into three categories. Finally, we report on the current open questions and the possible direction of future research efforts. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Solar eruptions and their space weather impact’.