Fine structures in coronal mass ejection-driven sheath regions

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Title: Fine structures in coronal mass ejection-driven sheath regions
Author: Palmerio, Erika
Contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Matemaattis-luonnontieteellinen tiedekunta, Fysiikan laitos
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Abstract: Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) often travel in the interplanetary space faster than the ambient solar wind. When their relative velocities exceed the local magnetosonic speed, a shock wave forms. The region between the shock front and the leading edge is known as a sheath region. Sheaths are compressed regions characterized by turbulent magnetic field and plasma properties and they can cause significant space weather disturbances. Within the sheath region, it is possible to find fine structures such as planar magnetic structures (PMSs). The magnetic field vectors in a PMS are characterized by abrupt changes in direction and magnitude, but they all remain for a time interval of several hours nearly parallel to a single plane that includes the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) spiral direction. PMSs have been associated to several regions and phenomena in the heliosphere, but many of them occur in CME sheath regions. This suggests that CMEs play a central role in the formation of PMSs, probably by provoking the amplification and the alignment of pre-existing discontinuities by compression of the solar wind at the CME-driven shock or because of the draping of the magnetic field lines around the CME ejecta. The presence of PMSs in sheath regions, moreover, suggests that PMSs themselves can be related to space weather effects at Earth, therefore a comprehensive study of PMS formation and structure might lead to a better knowledge of the geoeffectiveness of CMEs. This work presents the study of PMSs in the sheath region of CMEs with a magnetic cloud (MC) structure for a sample of events observed in situ by the ACE and WIND spacecraft between 1997 and 2013. The presence of fine structures is evaluated through the minimum variance analysis (MVA) method, needed for determining the normal vector to the PMS-plane. Then, the position of each PMS within its corresponding sheath region is determined and the encountered cases are divided into different groups. Eventually, a number of shock, sheath and MC properties is evaluated for each group, aiming to perform a statistical analysis. The conclusions are that PMSs are observed in 80% of the studied sheath events and their average duration is ∼5 hours. PMSs tend to form in certain locations within the sheath: they are generally observed close to the CME-driven shock, close to the MC leading edge or they span the whole sheath. PMSs observed near the shock can be associated to strong shocks, while PMSs located near the MC leading edge can be related to high density regions and, therefore, to compression.
Date: 2015-02-18
Discipline: Fysiikka

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