Articles | Volume 27, issue 12
Ann. Geophys., 27, 4491–4503, 2009

Special issue: Three eyes on the Sun – multi-spacecraft studies of...

Ann. Geophys., 27, 4491–4503, 2009

  10 Dec 2009

10 Dec 2009

STEREO observations of interplanetary coronal mass ejections and prominence deflection during solar minimum period

E. K. J. Kilpua1, J. Pomoell1, A. Vourlidas3, R. Vainio1, J. Luhmann2, Y. Li2, P. Schroeder2, A. B. Galvin4, and K. Simunac4 E. K. J. Kilpua et al.
  • 1Department of Physics, Division of atmospheric sciences and geophysics, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Space Sciences Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 3Solar Physics Branch, Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, D.C. 20375, USA
  • 4Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA

Abstract. In this paper we study the occurrence rate and solar origin of interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) using data from the two Solar TErrestrial RElation Observatory (STEREO) and the Wind spacecraft. We perform a statistical survey of ICMEs during the late declining phase of solar cycle 23. Observations by multiple, well-separated spacecraft show that even at the time of extremely weak solar activity a considerable number of ICMEs were present in the interplanetary medium. Soon after the beginning of the STEREO science mission in January 2007 the number of ICMEs declined to less than one ICME per month, but in late 2008 the ICME rate clearly increased at each spacecraft although no apparent increase in the number of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) occurred. We suggest that the near-ecliptic ICME rate can increase due to CMEs that have been guided towards the equator from their high-latitude source regions by the magnetic fields in the polar coronal holes.

We consider two case studies to highlight the effects of the polar magnetic fields and CME deflection taking advantage of STEREO observations when the two spacecraft were in the quadrature configuration (i.e. separated by about 90 degrees). We study in detail the solar and interplanetary consequences of two CMEs that both originated from high-latitude source regions on 2 November 2008. The first CME was slow (radial speed 298 km/s) and associated with a huge polar crown prominence eruption. The CME was guided by polar coronal hole fields to the equator and it produced a clear flux rope ICME in the near-ecliptic solar wind. The second CME (radial speed 438 km/s) originated from an active region 11007 at latitude 35° N. This CME propagated clearly north of the first CME and no interplanetary consequences were identified. The two case studies suggest that slow and elongated CMEs have difficulties overcoming the straining effect of the overlying field and as a consequence they are guided by the polar coronal fields and cause in-situ effects close to the ecliptic plane. The 3-D propagation directions and CME widths obtained by using the forward modelling technique were consistent with the solar and in-situ observations.