The Effect of Stream Interaction Regions on ICME Structures Observed in Longitudinal Conjunction


We study two interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) observed at Mercury and at 1 au by spacecraft in longitudinal conjunction, investigating the question: what causes the drastic alterations observed in some ICMEs during propagation, while other ICMEs remain relatively unchanged? Of the two ICMEs, the first one propagated relatively self-similarly, while the second one underwent significant changes in its properties. We focus on the presence or absence of large-scale corotating structures in the ICME propagation space between Mercury and 1 au, which have been shown to influence the orientation of ICME magnetic structures and the properties of ICME sheaths. We determine the flux rope orientation at the two locations using force-free flux rope fits as well as the classification by Nieves-Chinchilla et al. We also use measurements of plasma properties at 1 au, the size evolution of the sheaths and magnetic ejecta with heliocentric distance, and identification of structures in the propagation space based on in situ data, remote-sensing observations, and simulations of the steady-state solar wind to complement our analysis. Results indicate that the changes observed in one ICME were likely caused by a stream interaction region, while the ICME exhibiting little change did not interact with any transients between Mercury and 1 au. This work provides an example of how interactions with corotating structures in the solar wind can induce fundamental changes in ICMEs. Our findings can help lay the foundation for improved predictions of ICME properties at 1 au.

Publication Date


Journal Title

The Astrophysical Journal



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type