EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The magnetic flux rope structure of coronal mass ejections – 2021 Julius Bartels Medal Lecture at vEGU

Volker Bothmer
Volker Bothmer
  • University Göttingen, Institute for Astrophysics, Göttingen, Germany (

Magnetic clouds are transient solar wind flows in the interplanetary medium with smooth rotations of the magnetic field vector and low plasma beta values. The analysis of magnetic clouds identified in the data of the two Helios spacecraft between 0.3 and 1 AU showed that they can be interpreted to first order by force-free, large-scale, cylindrical magnetic flux tubes. A close correlation of their occurrences was found with disappearing filaments at the Sun. The magnetic clouds that originated from the northern solar hemisphere showed predominantly left-handed magnetic helicities and the ones from the southern hemisphere predominantly right-handed ones. They were often preceded by an interplanetary shock wave and some were found to be directly following a coronal mass ejection towards the Helios spacecraft as detected by the Solwind coronagraph on board the P78-1 satellite. With the SOHO mission unprecedented long-term observations of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) were taken with the LASCO coronagraphs, with a spatial and time resolution that allowed to investigate their internal white-light fine structure. With complementary photospheric and EUV observations from SOHO, CMEs were found to arise from pre-existing small scale loop systems, overlying regions of opposite magnetic polarities. From the characteristic pattern of their source regions in both solar hemispheres, a generic scheme was presented in which their projected white-light topology depends primarily on the orientation and position of the source region’s neutral line on the solar disk. Based on this interpretation the graduated cylindrical shell method was developed, which allowed to model the electron density distribution of CMEs as 3D flux ropes. This concept was validated through stereoscopic observations of CMEs taken by the coronagraphs of the SECCHI remote sensing suite on board the twin STEREO spacecraft. The observations further revealed that the dynamic near-Sun evolution of CMEs often leads to distortions of their flux rope structure. However, the magnetic flux rope concept of CMEs is today one of the fundamental methods in space weather forecasts. With the Parker Solar Probe we currently observe for the first time CMEs in-situ and remotely at their birthplaces in the solar corona and can further unravel their origin and evolution from the corona into the heliosphere. This lecture provides a state-of-the-art overview on the magnetic structure of CMEs and includes latest observations from the Parker Solar Probe mission.

How to cite: Bothmer, V.: The magnetic flux rope structure of coronal mass ejections – 2021 Julius Bartels Medal Lecture at vEGU, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-11152,, 2021.

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