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Numerical simulation of the 12 May 1997 CME Event: The role of magnetic reconnection

American Geophysical Union
Publication Date
  • Astronomy
  • Physics


We perform a numerical study of the evolution of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) and its interaction with the coronal magnetic field based on the 12 May 1997, CME event using a global MagnetoHydroDynamic (MHD) model for the solar corona. The ambient solar wind steady-state solution is driven by photospheric magnetic field data, while the solar eruption is obtained by superimposing an unstable flux rope onto the steady-state solution. During the initial stage of CME expansion, the core flux rope reconnects with the neighboring field, which facilitates lateral expansion of the CME footprint in the low corona. The flux rope field also reconnects with the oppositely orientated overlying magnetic field in the manner of the breakout model. During this stage of the eruption, the simulated CME rotates counter-clockwise to achieve an orientation that is in agreement with the interplanetary flux rope observed at 1 AU. A significant component of the CME that expands into interplanetary space comprises one of the side lobes created mainly as a result of reconnection with the overlying field. Within 3 hours, reconnection effectively modifies the CME connectivity from the initial condition where both footpoints are rooted in the active region to a situation where one footpoint is displaced into the quiet Sun, at a significant distance (≈1R ) from the original source region. The expansion and rotation due to interaction with the overlying magnetic field stops when the CME reaches the outer edge of the helmet streamer belt, where the field is organized on a global scale. The simulation thus offers a new view of the role reconnection plays in rotating a CME flux rope and transporting its footpoints while preserving its core structure.

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