Observations of disconnection of open magnetic structures

D. J. McComas, J. L. Phillips, A. J. Hundhausen, J. T. Burkepile

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34 Scopus citations


We have surveyed the Solar Maximum Mission coronagraph/polarimeter observations for evidence of magnetic disconnection of previously open magnetic structures and have identified several sequences of images consistent with this interpretation. Such disconnection occurs when open field lines above helmet streamers reconnect, in contrast to previously suggested disconnections of CMEs into closed plasmoids. In this paper a clear example of open field disconnection is shown in detail. The event, on June 27, 1988, is preceded by compression of a preexisting helmet streamer and the open coronal field around it. The compressed helmet streamer and surrounding open field region detach in a large U‐shaped structure which subsequently accelerates outward from the Sun. The observed sequence of events is consistent with reconnection across the heliospheric current sheet and the creation of a detached U‐shaped magnetic structure. Unlike CMEs, which may open new magnetic flux into interplanetary space, this process could serve to close off previously open flux, perhaps helping to maintain the roughly constant amount of open magnetic flux observed in interplanetary space.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-76
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1991
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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