Effect of gravitational stratification on the propagation of a CME⋆
School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews,
St Andrews, KY16 9SS, UK
2 Dept. of Mathematics, Centre for Mathematical Plasma Astrophysics, KU Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200B, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
Accepted: 23 September 2013
Context. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are the most violent phenomenon found on the Sun. One model that explains their occurrence is the flux rope ejection model. A magnetic flux rope is ejected from the solar corona and reaches the interplanetary space where it interacts with the pre-existing magnetic fields and plasma. Both gravity and the stratification of the corona affect the early evolution of the flux rope.
Aims. Our aim is to study the role of gravitational stratification on the propagation of CMEs. In particular, we assess how it influences the speed and shape of CMEs and under what conditions the flux rope ejection becomes a CME or when it is quenched.
Methods. We ran a set of MHD simulations that adopt an eruptive initial magnetic configuration that has already been shown to be suitable for a flux rope ejection. We varied the temperature of the backgroud corona and the intensity of the initial magnetic field to tune the gravitational stratification and the amount of ejected magnetic flux. We used an automatic technique to track the expansion and the propagation of the magnetic flux rope in the MHD simulations. From the analysis of the parameter space, we evaluate the role of gravitational stratification on the CME speed and expansion.
Results. Our study shows that gravitational stratification plays a significant role in determining whether the flux rope ejection will turn into a full CME or whether the magnetic flux rope will stop in the corona. The CME speed is affected by the background corona where it travels faster when the corona is colder and when the initial magnetic field is more intense. The fastest CME we reproduce in our parameter space travels at ~850 km s-1. Moreover, the background gravitational stratification plays a role in the side expansion of the CME, and we find that when the background temperature is higher, the resulting shape of the CME is flattened more.
Conclusions. Our study shows that although the initiation mechanisms of the CME are purely magnetic, the background coronal plasma plays a key role in the CME propagation, and full MHD models should be applied when one focuses especially on the production of a CME from a flux rope ejection.
Key words: Sun: coronal mass ejections (CMEs) / Sun: corona / magnetohydrodynamics (MHD)
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© ESO, 2013