Tracking coronal features from the low corona to earth: A quantitative analysis of the 2008 december 12 coronal mass ejection

C. E. Deforest, T. A. Howard, D. J. McComas

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We have tracked a slow magnetic cloud associated coronal mass ejection (CME) continuously from its origin as a flux rope structure in the low solar corona over a four-day passage to impact with spacecraft located near Earth. Combining measurements from the STEREO, ACE, and Wind space missions, we are able to follow major elements with enough specificity to relate pre-CME coronal structure in the low corona to the corresponding elements seen in the near-Earth in situ data. Combining extreme ultraviolet imaging, quantitative Thomson scattering data throughout the flight of the CME, and "ground-truth" in situ measurements, we: (1) identify the plasma observed by ACE and Wind with specific features in the solar corona (a segment of a long flux rope); (2) determine the onset mechanism of the CME (destabilization of a filament channel following flare reconnection, coupled with the mass draining instability) and demonstrate that it is consistent with the in situ measurements; (3) identify the origin of different layers of the sheath material around the central magnetic cloud (closed field lifted from the base of the corona, closed field entrained during passage through the corona, and solar wind entrained by the front of the CME); (4) measure mass accretion of the system via snowplow effects in the solar wind as the CME crossed the solar system; and (5) quantify the kinetic energy budget of the system in interplanetary space, and determine that it is consistent with no long-term driving force on the CME.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number43
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 20 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


  • Earth
  • Sun: corona
  • Sun: coronal mass ejections (CMEs)
  • Sun: filaments, prominences
  • Sun: heliosphere
  • interplanetary medium
  • solar wind
  • solarterrestrial relations


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