The Evolution of Coronal Mass Ejection Density Structures


We present a discussion of the time evolution of the mass and energy of a model coronal mass ejection (CME), analyzing both synthetic coronograph images and three-dimensional data of the numerical ideal magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) simulation. Our global steady state coronal model possesses high-latitude coronal holes and a helmet streamer structure with a current sheet near the equator, reminiscent of near solar minimum conditions. Within this model system, we drive a CME to erupt by the introduction of a Gibson-Low magnetic flux rope that is embedded in the helmet streamer in an initial state of force imbalance. The flux rope rapidly expands and is ejected from the corona with maximum speeds in excess of 1000 km s-1 driving a fast-mode shock that propagates from the inner corona to a distance of 1 AU. We study the mass and energetics of the CME inferred from the three-dimensional results of the simulation, as well as calculated from synthetic coronograph images produced at different times. The two-dimensional plane-of-sky density structure of a CME is discussed for wide-angle coronographs, such as the Heliospheric Imager (HI-2) on board STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory), and compared with the three-dimensional density structure. We found that the CME mass derived from the synthetic coronographic images is an underestimate by about 50% of the total mass of the CME according to the three-dimensional data. Two main reasons can be invoked: the poor assumption that all the mass of the CME is in the plane of the sky and the wrapping of the front shock around the density-depleted cavity, which leads to an apparent decrease in brightness of the front shock.

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The Astrophysical Journal



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