Accuracy and Limitations of Fitting and Stereoscopic Methods to Determine the Direction of Coronal Mass Ejections from Heliospheric Imagers Observations


Using data from the Heliospheric Imagers (HIs) onboard STEREO, it is possible to derive the direction of propagation of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) in addition to their speed with a variety of methods. For CMEs observed by both STEREO spacecraft, it is possible to derive their direction using simultaneous observations from the twin spacecraft and also, using observations from only one spacecraft with fitting methods. This makes it possible to test and compare different analysis techniques. In this article, we propose a new fitting method based on observations from one spacecraft, which we compare to the commonly used fitting method of Sheeley et al. (J. Geophys. Res. 104, 24739, 1999). We also compare the results from these two fitting methods with those from two stereoscopic methods, focusing on 12 CMEs observed simultaneously by the two STEREO spacecraft in 2008 and 2009. We find evidence that the fitting method of Sheeley et al. (J. Geophys. Res. 104, 24739, 1999) may result in significant errors in the determination of the CME direction when the CME propagates outside of 60°±20° from the Sun – spacecraft line. We expect our new fitting method to be better adapted to the analysis of halo or limb CMEs with respect to the observing spacecraft. We also find some evidence that direct triangulation in the HI fields-of-view should only be applied to CMEs propagating approximatively toward Earth (± 20° from the Sun – Earth line). Last, we address one of the possible sources of errors of fitting methods: the assumption of radial propagation. Using stereoscopic methods, we find that at least seven of the 12 studied CMEs had a heliospheric deflection of less than 20° as they propagated in the HI fields-of-view, which, we believe, validates this approximation.

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Solar Physics



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