A numerical study of two interacting coronal mass ejections
Abstract. The interaction in the solar wind between two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) is investigated using numerical simulations. We show that the nature of the interaction depends on whether the CME magnetic structures interact, but in all cases the result is an equilisation of the speed of the two CMEs. In the absence of magnetic interaction, the forward shock of the faster trailing CME interacts with the slow leading CME, and accelerates it. When the two CMEs have magnetic fields with the same sense of rotation, magnetic reconnection occurs between the two CMEs, leading to the formation of a single magnetic structure: in the most extreme cases, one CME "eats" the other. When the senses of rotation are opposite, reconnection does not occur, but the CMEs collide in a highly non-elastic manner, again forming a single structure. The possibility of enhanced particle acceleration in such processes is assessed. The presence of strong magnetic reconnection provides excellent opportunities for the acceleration of thermal particles, which then form a seed population for further acceleration at the CME shocks. The presence of a large population of seed particles will thus lead to an overall increase in energetic particle fluxes, as suggested by some observations.