We present the detections of 18 solar flares detected in high-energy gamma-rays (above 100 MeV) with the Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) during its first 4 yr of operation. This work suggests that particle acceleration up to very high energies in solar flares is more common than previously thought, occurring even in modest flares, and for longer durations. Interestingly, all these flares are associated with fairly fast coronal mass ejections (CMEs). We then describe the detailed temporal, spatial, and spectral characteristics of the first two long-lasting events: the 2011 March 7 flare, a moderate (M3.7) impulsive flare followed by slowly varying gamma-ray emission over 13 hr, and the 2011 June 7 M2.5 flare, which was followed by gamma-ray emission lasting for 2 hr. We compare the Fermi LAT data with X-ray and proton data measurements from GOES and RHESSI. We argue that the gamma-rays are more likely produced through pion decay than electron bremsstrahlung, and we find that the energy spectrum of the proton distribution softens during the extended emission of the 2011 March 7 flare. This would disfavor a trapping scenario for particles accelerated during the impulsive phase of the flare and point to a continuous acceleration process at play for the duration of the flares. CME shocks are known for accelerating the solar energetic particles (SEPs) observed in situ on similar timescales, but it might be challenging to explain the production of gamma-rays at the surface of the Sun while the CME is halfway to the Earth. A stochastic turbulence acceleration process occurring in the solar corona is another likely scenario. Detailed comparison of characteristics of SEPs and gamma-ray-emitting particles for several flares will be helpful to distinguish between these two possibilities.
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